Monthly Archives: September 2013

ObamaCare Round-Up

The ObamaCare exchanges are set to open 0n 01 October.  In the final week before that happens, I’ll post several collections of links on the subject.

Da TechGuy explains how the House Republicans can keep the government moving during a shutdown and not fund ObamaCare. (I will note that there are rules for a government shutdown, which involve only marginally more pain than the sequester.)

The “price” of some insurance plans is dropping, but that is only because the actual insurance plans are less comprehensive than they were before.  More on that subject from Avik Roy of Forbes.

Bill Clinton explains that ObamaCare depends on fleecing the young, whoops, I mean, getting the Young Invincibles to buy insurance.  His comment about “maybe a hundred bucks a month or so” is completely disingenuous: I’m a 32-year-old woman with no preexisting conditions, a non-smoker, and of a very healthy weight, and I pay $353 per month.

I’m not alone in that; Fox News details the story of a family whose insurance premiums are skyrocketing under ObamaCare.   His family used to pay $333 per month, but is now paying $965 per month.  Who really needs an extra seven thousand dollars every year?  That’s only the cost of a decent used car.

Amanda Marcotte writes that ObamaCare does not involve Uncle Sam policing anyone’s sex life.  (A quick debunking: the Politi”fact” rating is based on conflating a lot of semi-relevant questions, e.g. about electronic health records being part of the ARRA, not the PPACA.  Nowhere does it address the fact that electronic health records will be a massive violation of privacy.)

Prof. William Jacobson compares ObamaCare to Medicaid: the “right” to medical treatment, without any doctors who are willing to provide it.  (As I keep saying, there is no such thing as a positive right in a free society: such ‘rights’ require someone else to provide the good or service, and eventually, no free person will do so under the pricing and regulatory structure of the government.)

Paul Rahe on the value of Ted Cruz’s filibuster.

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Filed under Economics, Individual Mandate, ObamaCare

Eighteen Hours and Counting

Ted Cruz has been speaking about ObamaCare since 2:41 pm on 24 September 2013.  He has promised to “speak until he can no longer speak,” and his speech has included reading “Green Eggs and Ham” to his children, excerpts from “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead”, and tweets and messages from Americans.

This is great stuff – at this point, over eighteen hours of expostulation about freedom, the proper role of government, the limits of the Executive Branch, and the flaws in ObamaCare.

The quiet hero in all this is Gov. Sarah Palin. Senator Ted Cruz almost didn’t win his primary; he gained momentum when the lady from Wasilla flew down to Texas to campaign for the man.  Cruz’s campaign took off; he cruised (Cruzed?) to primary victory; and then he won the general election.  Without the Barracuda, we wouldn’t be watching this. Thank you, Sarah.

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Joyless Schadenfreude

For the last four years, conservatives have been decrying the dangers of ObamaCare.  Now it looks like we are right, but this blogger takes no joy in being Cassandra.

The New York Times describes how lower health care premiums will be the result of reduced choice: people who were once able to access a wide variety of doctors and hospitals will be restricted to cost-effective (i.e. often lower-quality) institutions.  In related news, PPOs are turning into HMOs.  I have long said that one of the beautiful things about the American medical system is that middle-class people can access the best medical care in the world.  Adele went to MGH to get surgery on her vocal cords; only the uber-wealthy Britons are able to get the same quality of care that American teachers, secretaries, and small business owners have access to. Now, only the super-wealthy will get MGH-level care.  This is “compassionate” and “progress”.

As Da TechGuy explains, the best way to provide care for the poor and needy is to set up free clinics, staffed by doctors and nurses who are in their residencies or just out of school; such a system is politically untenable, as it is a medical system and not a spoils system.  I will again point out that efficiency is an issue, not just how much money is actually spent.  A dollar spent on a bureaucracy is a dollar not spent on medical treatment.

As I’ve long said, none of this is good for women.  As just one example, Penn State required its faculty to fill out an online questionnaire; women were asked, inter alia, if they planned on having children within the next year.  Non-compliance resulted in a $100 fine.   Just what every woman seeking tenure wants to divulge.  “Hey, don’t bother giving me grants, support, or research funds; I’m going to get knocked up in a few months anyway.”  Women have a lot more to lose through invasive government regulations, procedures, and data-gathering – but it’s really Republicans who are waging a war on women. Or something.

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It does a disservice to holiday treats to refer to Judith Gille as a fruitcake

New York Times writer Judith Gille apparently took parenting lessons from Catherine Newman.  Here is the train wreck of an opinion piece about having her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend trash her apartment, have sex in her bed, and treat her like a servant.

Then in May, the school year ended and my daughter came home for the summer. After being away for so long, she could barely wait to see her boyfriend. He moved into her bedroom the night she arrived and hardly ever left, except to attend his last few classes of high school. [….]

The biggest problem was that my daughter and her boyfriend brought with them a level of messiness I had grown unaccustomed to. They shed clothing like dogs shed fur, peppering the apartment with sweatshirts, T-shirts and underwear. They preferred my shower to hers and soon the drain was clogged with hair.

While I was out of town on business, they moved into my bedroom, too; I have a king-size bed and they found it roomier. They produced mounds of laundry, garbage and recycling. The water and electricity bills both shot up.

Gille blames her overly conservative, Midwestern upbringing for her inability to be a parent to her daughter. (No, I’m not kidding; read page 2.)

Ironically, Gille ends up writing an opus to conservative values – not deliberately, of course, but it is reductio ad absurdum.  What she presents is so untenable that the alternative(s) must be the appropriate answer.

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Owning a home is “cheaper” than renting one, so long as you can afford it

The Wall Street Journal reported that, on the average, it is 35% cheaper to own a home than to rent one.  Obviously, landlords price their homes at the cost to them (i.e. that of homeownership) plus a profit, so it’s “cheaper” to own than to pay someone to own and earn a profit.  

Let’s dig into the problems with this “average”.  First, the cost of home ownership can be expressed as an average, but rarely occurs as one.  While property taxes and insurance payments are fairly stable, many costs of home ownership occur sporadically (e.g. replacing the roof or the furnace) or entirely by chance (e.g. having your house partially destroyed by a hurricane or a flood).  While insurance will cover most of the costs of repair, most policies have a very high deductible (often around ten thousand dollars). 

While the average cost of owning a home might be less expensive than renting, the distribution of costs is anything but even. Hypothetically, if one in twenty people have more than $10,000 in damage every year, they are not each paying a $500 deductible for repairs: one is paying ten thousand dollars, and the other nineteen people pay nothing.  Likewise, if one in thirty people lose $150,000 on their homes when they sell, and the others all break even, the person who sells at a loss sells at a six-figure loss, not the average loss of $5,000. The same analysis can be applied to a house with extensive termite damage, a basement that floods during every rain storm, or any other high-value cost that occurs infrequently.

That is why many people with little liquidity should rent: they simply cannot afford the risk of owning a home.  As a renter, I view the “extra” rental costs as risk-shifting: I pay fixed costs every month, and pay my landlord to assume the risk of expensive repairs.

Some renters live in houses with underwater mortgages, but the equity:value ratio is irrelevant: the landlord is able to afford the mortgage payments. However, an owner whose home is underwater is forced to either stay in that home (and forgo opportunities elsewhere) or sell at a loss.  Renters are mobile and have liquid net worth – a benefit that is not easily calculated, let alone for the “average” person.

Ultimately, if you cannot afford a six-figure loss of home equity, a high deductible for repair, or to own one home while you live elsewhere for a better job, it is not “cheaper” for you to own, because nothing is “cheap” that you cannot afford.

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Gender Equ(al)ity at Harvard

A note on the title of this post: recently, there has been less talk about equality and more about equity.  Now, as someone who thinks of “equity” as a finance topic, not a sociological one, I was curious as to what the difference was.  Basically, “equality” isn’t good enough for modern ‘feminists’, so they are now demanding ‘equity’.

So a newspaper article that is entitled “Harvard Business School Case Study – Gender Equity” is bound to deviate from basic anti-sexist philosophy.  Consider:

Nearly two years earlier, in the fall of 2011, Neda Navab sat in a class participation workshop, incredulous. The daughter of Iranian immigrants, Ms. Navab had been the president of her class at Columbia, advised chief executives as a McKinsey & Company consultant and trained women as entrepreneurs in Rwanda. Yet now that she had arrived at the business school at age 25, she was being taught how to raise her hand. [….]

Women at Harvard did fine on tests. But they lagged badly in class participation, a highly subjective measure that made up 50 percent of each final mark. Every year the same hierarchy emerged early on: investment bank and hedge fund veterans, often men, sliced through equations while others — including many women — sat frozen or spoke tentatively.

Ms. Navab is entirely correct: this is Harvard Business School, not high school algebra class.  These women are all incredibly successful college graduates who were able to impress the admissions committee with their accomplishments.  If they can’t raise their hands in class, then feminism was a massive waste of everyone’s time.

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This could end badly for the Obama Administration

No, I’m not talking about Syria; I’m talking about the recent revelation that the Obama Administration removed Bush-era privacy controls and restrictions on NSA spying.

The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material. [….]

What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.

In 2008, the Bush Administration urged the surveillance court to impose this ban; Obama then moved to repeal it.  As Instapundit pointed out, he also repealed it before the 2012 elections.

This is, IMHO, the tip of the iceberg.  We are expected to believe that an unpopular President who narrowly retained his seat during a reelection campaign did not use any of these vast datasets to win – despite the fact that the IRS openly targeted his opponents and helped his friends.  Sure, the IRS did those bad things, but the NSA data was only for official use, right?

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Swanning around in the Hamptons

The new craze among the moneyed Hamptons set: giant inflatable swan pool toys. These guys, right here:

I’m a little sad that the Wall Street Journal article, despite a plethora of puns, didn’t manage to work in how people “lament” the presence of giant inflatable swans.  Lamentation regarding the swans… get it? (Okay, I think I’m funny.)

No word yet on what the carbon foot wingprint of the swans is.

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Filed under Miscellanea

Miscellanea

The “Affordable” Care Act will cause marginal tax rates to rise approximately five per cent, which is the equivalent of doubling the employer and the employee payroll taxes for the half of the population that will be paying for this.  To put it another way, it is five times as large an increase as we saw when the payroll tax reduction expired.

Increasing the marginal tax rates discourages people from working more, and those who continue earning at the same level find that their discretionary income drops rather radically.  “Five percent” doesn’t sound like a lot – it makes it sound like if you had $1,000 left over at the end of every month, you would then have $950 left over – but once federal, state, and local taxes are paid, and food, shelter, and transportation are purchased, the effect on discretionary income is much larger than 5%.

The S&P alleges that its prosecution for fraud is brass-knuckled [okay, my phrsae] retaliation for stripping the U.S. government of its AAA credit rating.  Anyone ever played a sport wherein the referees or umpires were also part of the game?  Didn’t think so.

Rand Paul opposes war in Syria and pens an Amendment to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s resolution – and uses Obama’s own words to do it.  Ouch.

Speaking of holding the government accountable, two Congressmen are co-sponsoring the IRS Abuse and Protection Act, which would enable citizens to know when their records were being accessed, for what purpose, and what information was disclosed.

Sally Haslanger writes about the dearth of women in philosophy. I’ve read The Euthyphro in the original Greek, and am here to tell you that women aren’t always interested in becoming philosophers because of the intense navel-gazing.  Now, philosophy might be a better choice of major for a woman, particularly a policy-oriented woman who wants to really change the world, than would English or Gender Studies, but few women want to make a career out of it.

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Filed under Academia, Economics, Law, ObamaCare

Karma’s a bitch, scared rapist edition

On 20 July, Richard Thomas broke into a woman’s house and raped her while she slept.  (She woke up halfway through the incident.)  He was high on a cornucopia of drugs during the crime, but was sentenced to five years in prison.  The woman is HIV-positive, and there is a chance that the rapist caught the disease from her.

Every woman who is raped lives in fear that the horrific crime is not over: she may be pregnant or have gotten a deadly (or incurable) disease.

[Thoma’s’ barrister] Miss Hayton told the court that Thomas will not find out the result of his HIV test until Friday and has had the worry of the outcome hanging over him.

While I don’t wish bad things on people, I don’t feel sorry for this guy – or for any rapist who reads this article and wonders if he could have contracted HIV from raping a woman.  I also find it to be a valuable object lesson for men, who cannot get pregnant and who can use sex as a weapon: your crimes can cause really bad things to happen to you.

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