Eminent Folly

In the most recent outrage over the abusive use of eminent domain, the Village of North Hills in New York is attempting to seize a private golf course. Amazingly, the mayor of the town attempting this heist has said that the government should be able to take over the course simply because, if public, it would be “a nice amenity.”
With everything else going on in the world, it is easy to forget that less than one year ago the US Supreme Court decided that any government should be able to take anyone’s property, for most any reason, at any time they like. We cannot rest until every state and the federal government has acted to restore individual property rights.

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I’m Back

There is a reason for my lack of posts recently; I got caught. Sorry, ladies, if you want to snuggle up under a radical right wing you’ll have to look elsewhere.
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More On Mass Confusion re Health Insurance

Arnold Kling wonders: Imagine that Mitt Romney were about to sign legislation that said that from now on, all citizens of Massachusetts may leap from the edge of a cliff, flap their arms real hard, and fly. All I can say is, “Try it and see what happens.”
He goes on to raise his specific objections to the new Massachusetts Health Plan:

1. Because it is a political compromise it is not a clean experiment. It is certainly not a market-oriented healthcare reform, but neither is it pure single-payer. I would like to see them try single-payer, since they are hot to do so. Instead, their experiment has been disowned by single-payer advocates, who will blame its failure on the fact that the private sector was left standing.
2. It completely denies that there is any need to re-consider the cost-effectiveness of health care procedures in order to address the issue of affordability of healthcare. All of the painstaking research I did for my book suggests that if there is anything to be done to significantly slow the growth in health care spending, it has to involve cutting back on discretionary spending, particularly on specialists and high-tech diagnostic procedures.
3. A market-oriented health care system would have health insurance policies with high deductibles. For the most part, this plan goes in the opposite direction.
4. It projects a myth that policy wonks can, with sheer cleverness, come up with a way to make health care affordable for everyone. It overstates the benefits of wonkish solutions like electronic medical records. Again, I take great pains in my book to point out that we will have to make difficult decisions to address health care, rather than use wonkish tricks.
Suppose that five years from now, everyone in Massachusetts has health insurance and the cost of the state subsidy is minimal. In that case, I am wrong about the program, and I will gladly admit it. Meanwhile, since none of the critical details have been implemented, I am in the awkward position of telling people who really want to fly that I think they will wind up smashed at the bottom of the cliff.

Read the whole thing here.

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This ACORN Needs To Be Squashed

Check out Paul’s great article about the socialist interlopers from ACORN in today’s ABQ Journal (SR). Some excerpts:

But bowing to ACORN’s demands without so much as a fight is exactly what this radical outfit wants and, like an unruly child who throws a tantrum until his parents give in, ACORN will view this “compromise” as a sign of weakness. It will quickly move to impose the rest of its far-left agenda on Albuquerque residents and businesses.
First and foremost, ACORN and its activists are, by and large, not locally based, so most of them don’t really care what happens to Albuquerque’s economy once they have their “victory.” ACORN was founded in Little Rock, and has offices spread around the country and Latin America.
While portraying itself as a humble advocate for the poor, ACORN actually promotes an agenda of anti-capitalism, central planning, victimology and government handouts.

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How Govt Reduces Prosperity

Here is a picture of the relative size of state and local governments relative to the private sector in our region. It is the ratio of the state and local government component of gross state product to the private component. Note how the prosperity driving force of markets is crowded out by big government in New Mexio:
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How much of a difference does the heavy hand of big government make? Check this picture of disposable income for the same states in our region:
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Continue reading “How Govt Reduces Prosperity”

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Mass Confusion Regarding Health Insurance

Massachusetts’ new universal health care plan reminds me of a quote from P.J. O’Rourk that goes, “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.!” Let’s hope New Mexico has the sense to postpone being a Massachusetts copycat until we see how the new law pans out. We know that Tennessee’s big-government attempt to universalize health insurance was a disaster.
Thanks to Grace Marie Turner for sending us this excellent assessment of the law:
April 13, 2006 The new Massachusetts health plan has dominated the policy conversation over the past week, causing more division among conservatives than liberals.

The law, designed to make the state the first in the nation to achieve universal health coverage, was signed on Wednesday by Gov. Mitt Romney. He was flanked at the invitation-only ceremony by the Democratic leaders of the Massachusetts legislature and by Sen. Ted Kennedy, a long-time advocate of universal health coverage.
The biggest concern among conservatives is the requirement that every individual in the state must purchase health insurance or face financial penalties.
Mandates are almost impossible to enforce, even with the fines and other enforcement provisions in the law. Further, the state must specify what kind of insurance people are required to buy and how much they should pay, taking away the ability of markets to freely compete and for people to purchase the coverage of their choice.
We were also concerned about the back-door employer mandate. The legislature wanted to force employers with 11 or more employees to pay a $295 annual fine for any employee without health insurance. The Governor vetoed the provision, but leaders of the heavily Democratic House and Senate have said they will override.
House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi called the veto disingenuous, saying the law was crafted with concessions and compromise. “To change anything will disturb the delicate balance that made this law possible,” DiMasi said. Note to employers: $295 is only the beginning.
While many conservative groups, like the Pacific Research Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, have been highly critical of the plan, The Heritage Foundation has been very involved in helping the Governor craft the legislation. The Governor credits Heritage with creating the new FEHBP-like insurance connector to offer insurance options and collect and distribute premiums. Bob Moffit of Heritage stood behind the Governor at the signing ceremony. [Harry’s note: yes, you read that correctly; Heritage is partially behind this abomination.]
An integral provision is the requirement that every employer with more than 10 employees – think your local automotive garage – must offer a Section 125 cafeteria plan so employees can use pre-tax money for their insurance premium contributions.
And that’s only the beginning of the reporting requirement, mandates, penalties, and other enforcement provisions in the new law, for example:
The law requires every employer and employee in the state to sign “under oath” a Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure form, testifying to whether the employer has offered insurance and whether the employee has accepted or declined.
It creates at least 10 new boards and commissions to create and run the new health system, such as the Health Care Quality and Cost Council, the Payment Policy Advisory Board, and the Health Access Bureau.
New and existing state agencies will be checking on individuals’ insurance status, monitoring their income to see if they qualify for subsidies, and tracking individual health habits (like smoking and wellness activities) to determine their insurance rating category.
There also is a major expansion of Medicaid and S-CHIP to cover children up to 300% of poverty, and the state makes it clear that it is doing all it can to maximize collection of federal matching funds to help finance the new plan.
My biggest concern is over the financing. The state says it is just moving money around – redirecting about $1 billion in uncompensated care money to subsidize health insurance for those under 300% of poverty (about $50,000 a year for a family of four).
But there is nothing in the law to keep health insurance costs from soaring. Policies offered through the new health insurance Connector must have first dollar coverage and include all of the 40 coverage mandates on the books, with none of the provisions that are working in the private sector to engage consumers as partners in managing health costs. Estimated premiums are unrealistically low and will quickly lead to higher taxes and “assessments” on individuals and employers.
Nonetheless, newspapers around the country are falling over each other in their effusive praise of a Blue state, led by a Republican governor, building a bridge across the political chasm to go where no other state has gone before.
Gov. Romney’s term ends this year, and he is likely to be spending a lot more time in Iowa and New Hampshire than in Massachusetts as this plan gets up and running. But I worry that he has laid the foundation for what can become a very intrusive, onerous, and expensive health plan for Massachusetts. Other states, which are firing up their Xerox machines now, should wait to see how this works out before rushing to follow the Bay State’s lead.

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Human Events Panel Chooses “10 Worst Government Programs”

Recently, I had the privilege of serving on a panel convened by Human Events Magazine that was assigned with the task of naming the 10 worst government programs. Other panelists included such luminaries as Larry Kudlow of Kudlow and Cramer fame, Walter Williams, one of the best-known economists in the country, and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (among others). The votes are now tallied and here is what we came up with. This was a weighted vote that included some 50 federal programs. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the panel’s choices, but it is a good listing and should provoke discussion.

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