New Prager University Video: Do Higher Taxes Raise More Money?

In Prager University’s latest video, UCLA economics professor debunks one of the Left’s favorite economic fallacies.

A Vital Healthcare Roadmap for Mitt Romney

Though constitutionally indefensible, Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision to save ObamaCare might prove to be a blessing in disguise. By guaranteeing that the intensely unpopular law stays relevant through November, the ruling could ultimately save the Constitution by securing Barack Obama’s electoral defeat.
That is, if Mitt Romney seizes the opportunity.
Therein lies the problem: so far, Team Romney has played it dangerously safe, campaigning on a one-note economic message that has frustrated many of his supporters into asking him, as the Weekly Standard’sBill Kristol did on July 5, “to get off autopilot and actually think about the race he’s running.”
The problem is amplified on healthcare. Throughout the primary, conservative activists excoriated Romney for the mandate-based plan he enacted in Massachusetts, decrying it as statism and fearing it would make Romney a hypocrite in attacking ObamaCare, leaving the campaign terrified of getting specific enough to invite comparisons of the two laws.
But that caution isn’t just excessive—it’s suicidal. As dissatisfied as voters are with the status quo, they know there’s more to it than the economy. And the case against the dangers of Obama’s second term is fatally incomplete without ObamaCare.
Contrary to the wisdom of overpaid GOP strategists, Mitt Romney can forcefully, comprehensively make that case—and contrary to the hysterics of the Anybody-But-Mitt crowd, he can do it without flip-flopping on RomneyCare.
First, stress that ObamaCare is full of outrages that have no parallel in RomneyCare. For instance, the Congressional Research Service says it’s impossible to count how many new agencies and boards the law creates, making their potential harm unknowable and their accountability impossible. Hammer the scandalous irresponsibility of Democrats inflicting on us something noneofthemevenread, much less understand. Note that the Congressional Budget Office now says the whole shebang is now projected to cost anywhere from $1.76 trillion to $2.6 trillion over the next decade—considerably higher than its original $900 billion price tag. Think that’ll help our $15+ trillion debt, America?
Second, sound the alarm on how ObamaCare will worsen healthcare. Trumpet the results of surveys like the one Jackson Healthcare releasedin June, which found that 70% of doctors don’t think it’ll control costs, 61% doubt it’ll improve the quality of care, and 66% expect it to take decisions out of physicians’ hands; or the one the Doctor Patient Medical Association releasedin July finding that ObamaCare has led 83% of American doctors to consider quitting. Point out that it makes completely dropping insurance the most affordable option for many employers. Explain how it makes insurance costlier to micromanage what services plans must cover.
Third, debunk the lie that Romney and Obama’s healthcare records are equivalent. For example, Romney’s proposal would only have required Massachusetts residents to purchase basic catastrophic insurance, to offset the cost of their federally-guaranteed right to emergency care, and would not have included any employer mandate—vastly different from ObamaCare’s much broader (and therefore far pricier) mandate, which imposes on employer and employee alike broader plans covering things like birth control, maternity care, and drug abuse treatment. It was Massachusetts’ 85% Democrat legislature, overriding Romney’s vetoes, which pushed RomneyCare leftward on these points (Romney also unsuccessfully vetoed the final bill’s coverage for non-citizens and a new bureaucracy it created, the Public Health Council).
Finally, point out the biggest difference of all: while Romney was merely out to insure the uninsured, Obama sees ObamaCare as one step on the longer road to a full-blown single-payer system. Demand the president explain what he meant when he said, “I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There’s going to be potentially some transition process.” Ask how that squares with “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”
Rather than a liability, the true story of RomneyCare contrasts sharply with ObamaCare and illustrates the formidable expertise Mitt Romney would bring to healthcare reform as president. But only Romney can tell it.

Would Mitt Romney Shrink Government?

When asked by Jay Leno which federal agencies he’d cut, Mitt Romney said:
I’m going to go through it piece by piece, combine — when I was secretary, excuse me, when I was governor of Massachusetts, and we looked at the Secretary of Health and Human Services, we had 15 different agencies.  We said, let’s combine those into three.  We’re not going to get rid of the work that each do, but we’re going to combine the overheads, we’re not going to have as many lawyers and press secretaries and administrators, and that saves money and makes it more efficient.  And I hope to be able to do the same thing in Washington […] We’ll look agency-by-agency and look where the opportunities are best, but I’ll take a lot of what Washington does and send it back to the states.
Byron York characterizes Romney’s answer as “not less gov’t, more efficient gov’t,” and Mark America takes it as an illustration of “why conservatives do not trust Romney”:
Mitt Romney isn’t interested in reducing the reach of government into Americans’ lives, but instead making it more efficient.  That’s part of the message Romney delivered to Jay Leno’s audience on Tuesday evening, and what you need to realize about all of this is that Romney is not a conservative.  He’s a technocrat, and he’s a businessman, but his interest in making various programs and agencies of government more efficient does not make him conservative.  Conservatives realize that to save this nation, we must re-make the government in a smaller, less intrusive, and less-encompassing form.  We need to eliminate programs, bureaus and agencies, and discard their functions.  Romney won’t do any of that, and in fact, he will likely extend their reach.
Of course, nowhere above did Romney actually say he wouldn’t make government smaller, that he “isn’t interested in reducing the reach of government,” or that he’d extend its reach. At most, he gave one example of how he cut government at the state level which offers a general idea of his approach – and while that could be interpreted by those unfavorably predisposed to Romney as meaning he wouldn’t shrink government, you can’t simultaneously read so much into that statement while completely ignoring the part in the very same interview where Romney says he’d also “take a lot of what Washington does and send it back to the states.”
While the blemishes in Romney’s limited-government record are undeniable, let’s not sell him short on that front – Romney’s been against a federal takeover of healthcare since not just 2007, but 1994(!), he’s spoken about getting education back to the states, and as Ann Coulter explained last week, his governorship of Massachusetts was much more conservative than you may have heard from some bloggers:
He cut state spending by $600 million, including reducing his own staff budget by $1.2 million, and hacked the largest government agency, Health and Human Services, down from 13 divisions to four. He did this largely by persuading the Legislature to give him emergency powers his first year in office to cut government programs without their consent.

Although Romney was not able to get any income tax cuts past the Democratic Legislature, he won other tax cuts totaling nearly $400 million, including a one-time capital gains tax rebate and a two-day sales tax holiday for all purchases under $2,500.

He also vetoed more bills than any other governor in Massachusetts history, before or since. He vetoed bills concerning access to birth control, more spending on state zoos, and the creation of an Asian-American commission — all of which were reversed by the Legislature.

As Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said, “What else could he do?” 

Maybe a President Romney would capitulate to big government. But what he told Jay Leno isn’t evidence of that.

McCarthy on the Secret History of Medicare

There’s nobody I agree with 100% of the time, but I honestly can’t remember ever finding Andy McCarthy’s commentary lacking. You should take the time to read his take on what Medicare’s architects were really thinking, and why the system deserves to die:
Medicare was a scam from the start. It had to be a scam because its ostensible purpose — providing health insurance for the elderly — was never the objective of its proponents. Instead, Medicare was a stepping stone to a utopia its champions dared not acknowledge: A compulsory universal-health-care system administered by government experts. FDR’s Committee on Economic Security initially intended to issue a health-care plan in conjunction with its universal, compulsory Social Security proposal in 1934. As Cato’s Charlotte Twight recounts, the former was dropped due to fear that pervasive opposition among the public and the medical profession would jeopardize passage of the latter. But Roosevelt got right back to it the day after he signed the 1935 Social Security Act, empowering the new Social Security Board to study the “related” area of health insurance.
There followed three decades of progressive proposals, each shot down by lawmakers animated by fierce public dissent. The Left realized the dream of socializing the health-care sector was not attainable in one fell swoop, so an incremental strategy was adopted: Get a foot in the door with less ambitious proposals; establish the precedent of government control while avoiding debate over the principle of government control. “Incremental change,” said Medicare scholar Martha Derthick, “has less potential for generating conflict than change that involves innovation in principle.” […]

More shrewdly, proponents misrepresented Medicare as an “insurance” program, with a “trust fund” into which working people paid “contributions” and beneficiaries paid “premiums” that would “entitle” them to claim “benefits.” In reality, there is no “trust fund.” Workers pay taxes — at levels that can no longer satisfy the pay-outs for current beneficiaries. This state of affairs was entirely predictable when Medicare was enacted in 1965 with the Baby Boom well underway. Back in the early days, when the program was flush, the surplus of taxes passed from the “trust fund” into the federal treasury, which redistributed the money to whatever chicanery Washington happened to be heaping money on. In return, the “trust fund” got an IOU, which would ultimately have to be satisfied by future taxes (or by borrowing from creditors who’d have to be repaid by taxpayers with interest). And the “premiums” largely turned out to be nonsense, too: The pols endeared themselves to elderly voters by arranging for Uncle Sam pick up more and more of the tab, or by using the government’s newfound market power to demand that providers accept lower payments.
When Medicare was enacted in 1965, the inevitability of its many adverse consequences was crystal clear. The system was grossly underfunded. The fee-for-service structure (expertly described by Capretta) was certain to increase costs exorbitantly with no commensurate increase in quality of care (indeed, care is mediocre, or worse). But most palpably, the fact that government was at the wheel made Medicare instantly ripe for political gaming and demagoguery. The ensuing 46 years have not only made the obvious explicit; Medicare and its tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities are actually worse than even its most fearful early critics predicted it would be.
McCarthy also throws some cold water on Paul Ryan fanboys like Bill Kristol and Charlie Sykes:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich steered the break-out of his presidential campaign into a ditch a couple of weeks ago by suggesting that the Ryan Medicare reform was “right-wing social engineering.” He was wrong, but not for the reason cited by his critics. To be more precise, Representative Ryan’s plan is a surrender to left-wing social engineering on terms the right wing naïvely believes it can accept. Ryan is the darling of a Washington breed of conservative wonk convinced that we can make the welfare state work if we just incorporate a few free-market, family-friendly tweaks […]

Reformers such as Representative Ryan always ignore this inevitable trajectory of entitlement politics. They rationalize that they can make a government-sanctioned bribery system run better, or at least preempt Democrats from making it run worse. Hoping to stave off Medicare, congressional moderates in 1960 passed a bill to provide means-tested medical assistance to the elderly. It only greased the wheels for not only Medicare but Medicaid. In Massachusetts, Romneycare was another well-meaning attempt to install a compulsory statewide health-insurance system that would be less autocratic and costly than the one the Left would have imposed. It is, predictably, a disaster that tends toward ever-more-suffocating government control.
Go read the whole thing, as well as McCarthy’s rebuttal to critic Peter Wehner.

New on RedState – Video Gamers: The Latest Pawns of Big Government

My latest RedState post:
A recent Fox News segment concerning federal funding for video games has provoked outrage from gaming news websites, and while the hyperventilating of professional nerds might not seem noteworthy at first glance, the sad spectacle deserves to be revisited because it offers a troubling window into how liberals consolidate political influence over apolitical constituencies.
The National Endowment for the Arts has decided that video games of particular artistic or educational merit can qualify for federal grants, so Fox ran a debate on the decision between Icrontic.com editor-in-chief Brian Ambrozy and conservative radio host Neal Asbury. Admittedly, the Fox anchor wrongly suggested that big-budget action games like “Call of Duty” were the NEA’s focus rather than smaller projects by independent developers, and Asbury didn’t perform particularly well, having little more to offer the discussion besides generic platitudes about runaway spending. But the geek brigade saw something more nefarious at work.
Kotaku.com’s Owen Good complained that Fox had “no intention of” respecting the “gaming-as-art point of view.” CJ Smillie of GameRant.com criticized Fox for “attacking” the “idea of games as an art form.” At EscapistMagazine.com, Tom Goldman accused Fox of “using the general ignorance of the public” about video games “for their own ends.” Ambrozy himself later called the segment “media brainwashing of the highest order,” through which Fox was poisoning its viewers’ minds against “our world and our generation.”
Speaking as both a member of Ambrozy’s generation and an avid gamer, I feel a special obligation to call out nonsense spouted by pompous hacks claiming to represent me. 

New on RedState – The Fate of Independence

My first RedState post:

As many of us celebrated the birth of our nation this weekend, our pride and gratitude were tempered by the fear that America might have a dwindling number of future Independence Days to look forward to. A survey of the political landscape reveals that such pessimism regarding the survival of our Founding principles and institutions is not without cause.

The Left’s cancerous influence over our politics, media, and culture remains widespread, and the Right’s efforts in curing it leave much to be desired:

  • Over one million unborn children are slaughtered every year, yet when the Susan B. Anthony List asks those running to be the nation’s next president for the most basic and mild of pro-life promises, National Review decides they ask too much. Reason’s Matt Welch claims that only 30% of professed libertarians apply their philosophy of liberty and unalienable right to those most in need of their protection.
  • Despite all the this-time-we-really-mean-it promises from Republicans after their 2010 victory, it’s still doubtful that the GOP has the fortitude or savvy to right our fiscal ship. Speaker John Boehner settled for a budget deal that began with far smaller spending cuts than America needs and turned out to be far, far less than even the announced numbers. Signs of further disappointment suggest the GOP still hasn’t kicked its addiction to compromise.

Read the rest on RedState.

Yes, Let’s Emulate the UK on Healthcare

Another healthcare horror story from across the pond (hat tip to WISN):
Nurses casually stepped over a patient as he lay dying on a  hospital floor.
Peter Thompson, 41, was left in a corridor for ten hours before someone noticed he had passed away.
In a final act of indignity, hospital auxiliaries pulled his lifeless body across the floor in a manner his family described as like ‘dragging a dead animal’.
The scenes which shame the NHS were all captured on CCTV. Staff thought Mr Thompson was merely drunk and left him to ‘sleep it off’.
Yesterday a coroner condemned the death as ‘wholly preventable’.
An inquest heard that the father-of-one, who had consumed a cocktail of drink and drugs, could have been saved had he received emergency treatment.  
The hospital’s accident and emergency department was just 200 yards away.
As WISN’s Justin Earl rightly notes, “these hospitals, doctors, and caregivers are overwhelmed, underfunded, and understaffed.” But those things can’t fully explain a dead body left unattended in a hallway for ten hours. Indifference to, or willfull avoidance of, human suffering ultimately stems from a crisis of moral decency.