Sunday, July 29, 2012

The federal government is a "bargain"?

Idiots at U.S. News & World Report claim,
If you could buy a Toyota Camry or an Apple iPad for 20 percent off the regular price, you'd probably consider it a great deal. Savvy buyers haggle for much smaller discounts on quality merchandise.

Few consumers have noticed, but the federal government has essentially been on sale, with taxpayers paying about 20 percent less than they used to for what Washington does. Yet unlike satisfied customers, taxpayers are increasingly fed up with the government they finance. This could make them downright surly when the price of government goes back up, which is a near certainty over the next few years.

The price we pay for government, of course, is taxes, and despite what inflammatory political rhetoric might suggest, they are at modern lows. A new report published by the Congressional Budget Office shows that the average household paid 17.4 percent of its income to the federal government in the form of taxes in 2009, the latest data available. Today's rate is probably comparable.
This is so disingenuous, so based on statistics, that it's beyond horseshit lies.

Tax rates haven't gone down, so how are families paying "20 percent less than they used to"? They're not. Their taxes as a percentage of total federal spending has gone down, because the federal government is borrowing much more than it has in 70 years -- over $1 trillion annually, to be specific. Don't take it from me, take it from the federal government's own data (table 1.1). This claim of the "sale" is akin to saying a spendthrift family's paychecks are a lower part of its total spending, when in fact the family hasn't cut spending and is running up a great deal of debt.

If taxes were really like cars or technology, first, we're being forced to buy the item, and second, we're still paying full retail price, just not right now. We, our children and all future generations will be paying for the "discount," plus interest. Some "sale."

It was a dark and stormy night

We only lost one tree Thursday night, at least not two as I initially feared. The high winds didn't last very long, maybe 15 minutes as they passed over my neck of the woods, but it was enough.

The brush is too thick for me to see the base, but I don't think it snapped. It's 19 inches across where it was cut, and even thicker approaching the base. I think it simply fell over, since it grew by the stream separating us from the neighbors, where the perpetually wet soil is weaker and roots can't grow as deeply.

The tree had fallen halfway across the road, and much more horizontally than this picture would indicate. After cutting off the top half and branches on the lower half, a crew used steel cables (you can still see them) to pull the lower half back onto our property. Even if we used our fireplace, it would be a lot of work for me to go at it with a chainsaw. Maybe a company with a woodchipper will come cut it up if we let them have the wood.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Obamacare simplified: 961 pages to one paragraph

From Richard Nikoley's blog, something that has been floating around anonymously (incorrectly attributed to Donald Trump):
Let me get this straight. We're going to be "gifted" with a health care plan we are forced to purchase and fined if we don't, which purportedly covers at least ten million more people, without adding a single new doctor, but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that didn't read it but exempted themselves from it, and signed by a President who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, for which we'll be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect, by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that's broke!!!!! What the hell could possibly go wrong?
The actual law is here with its addition here, and the regulations created afterward could be five times as long as the Obamacare statutes!

A lot of Americans wanted their free health care. Now they're going to get it "good and hard," as H.L. Mencken would have predictedIt shouldn't surprise us a whit that so many somehow think this gives them "health care," when all it does is make them pay for insurance that they were free to get in the first place. "Tax credits" to help people pay? Paid for by whom, a government that is already $1 trillion in debt each year? "The rich" who already pay two-thirds of income taxes, and will readily repatriate to Singapore or Switzlerland?

Somehow people think that their premiums won't go up now that health insurance providers must pay a "fee." Think on that irony: Obamacare was declared "constitutional" because it's a tax (though Obama said before the fine for not having insurance is not a tax), but it's fine for the federal government to assess a "fee" on health insurance providers.

Somehow people think their premiums won't go up after they add to their existing policy their 26-year-old "children" -- who likely didn't have insurance before and now will have less hesitation to visit a doctor, for the very fact that they now have insurance. How do they think doctor bills and insurance payouts won't go up and be passed on to the family?

Somehow people think their premiums won't go up even though Obamacare is making them pay for the riskiest, sickest patients. It's not the government who's paying, it's the holders of private insurance policies. When someone who has cancer, who never had insurance, finally decides to get a policy and cannot be turned away under Obamacare, and gets to pay the same as anyone else, then gets tens of thousands of dollars of chemotherapy treatment each year for a few thousand dollars a year in premiums, how can insurance companies not pass the costs to everyone else?

The argument "but you already pay premiums for sick people" does not count. It's actually that premiums pay for those who aren't so sick that the insurance company will lose money. It's different if a person already had a policy, because the insurance company's actuaries already factored the person in. If you've had years of cancer treatments, no actuary would take a risk, because you're a guaranteed loss. Some will say that it's "cold" to deny someone treatment by not giving a policy because of pre-existing conditions. In fact, an insurance company is not denying the treatment, for which a person can try to find other means. The type of charity I prefer is when some local kid needs an operation, and the family prays they can raise the money by fliers and word of mouth. What's actually "cold" is forcing a company to lose money, or make its other customers pay more. If the company can't charge more to its other clients, then workers get paid less, and some may be laid off while others' efficiency is squeezed.

Even when I was a teenager, simple logic made it evident that legislation against so-called "drive-by births" necessarily meant higher insurance premiums. A mother with insurance and her newborn stay in the hospital longer, the hospital bills the insurance company, and the insurance company pays out more. Or, a mother paying cash and her newborn stay in the hospital longer, and the hospital bills them more because the first mother's insurance company is balking. "So let's just have the government stop the hospitals and insurers from billing more!" people think. Do they think their grocery stores, clothes retailers and auto mechanics don't raise prices when their operating expenses do? Or do they think "higher taxes on the rich" will pay for it?

Economies work the way they do because production is finite (in fact, economics is simply the study of what people produce and why). Putting aside the immorality of seizing people's property, as I've explained since the very beginning of my blog, taxing "the rich" just means they have less to spend on other things. People of lower incomes might get "tax credits" that are "paid for" by "higher taxes" on high incomes, but it will be exactly offset by "the rich" spending less on all sorts of products, especially luxury products. This means companies will have reduced sales, requiring them to cut back on employees' hours or simply employees. Most Americans are just too ignorant to realize this, instead wanting to believe in a mythology that somehow it only takes a "brave" politician to make companies "do the right thing."

I've said from the day Obama flip-flopped on the "individual mandate"

"When Clinton says a mandate, it's not a mandate on government to provide health insurance, it's a mandate on individuals to purchase it. Massachusetts has a mandate right now. They have exempted 20% of the uninsured because they have concluded that that 20% can't afford it. There are people who are paying fines and still can't afford it, so now they're worse off than they were. They don't have health insurance and they're paying a fine. To force people to get health insurance, you've got to have a very harsh penalty, and Clinton has said that we won't go after their wages." - Barack Obama, February 21, 2008
that it's all a ploy. The whole of Obamacare was specifically designed to make insurance so expensive so that the federal government would come to the rescue with a "public option," further driving insurance companies into the ground and eventually leaving us with just the feds.

And John Roberts can stick a rectal probe up himself. I'm acquainted with his mother-in-law and see her a few times a year, and if she weren't such a sweet lady, I'd have some choice words to say about her son-in-law.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The facts about Duke Energy's CEO departure

I noticed an especially boneheaded comment here about Duke Energy's CEO:
It was just reported that the CEO of Duke Energy was just paid $44 million for one days work and then he resigned. How do you like your regulated utility rates? Write your state utility commission and demand a rate cut to return this money!!! Stop the good ol boys and robber barrons.
It should be revolting to any thinking person that an idiot like "Yak," so truly uninformed, can vote. First, energy prices are high because of regulation. Companies can't tap energy sources where they'd like, and now with all the measures to make them more "green," of course they have to sell at higher prices than otherwise. It's a simple point of logic that if "green" energy, or "greener" ways of producing the same energy, were cheaper, then companies would already do it. Who would bother to produce energy with high pollution if the methods really did cost more? There are no two ways about it: to claim "green" or "greener" production is cheaper is to claim that companies not using "green" or "greener" are deliberately engaging in more production because it pollutes more.

Now, the second purpose of my post is not to discuss Duke Energy, Progress Energy, their merger and the regulatory scrutiny behind it, or Bill Johnson. But these are the plain facts that anyone can read about in the news. Yak and his ilk, such as the liberal twits over at Think Progress, think Bill Johnson somehow worked for just one day:
Hours after new Duke Energy CEO Bill Johnson assumed his new position following the Duke/Progress Energy merger this week, he resigned his post. But Johnson can still qualify for up to $44.4 million for his time and effort:
Actually, Johnson had been the CEO of Progress Energy before the merger (for a number of years in the highest leadership), then approved by all involved (including regulators) as CEO of the new company. But it appears that there was a sudden power struggle on day one, and Johnson was ousted. "Resigned," yes, but ousted. This triggered all the respective clauses in the employment contract he'd signed as part of the merger, and we can certainly expect the $44 million included extensions of everything he'd earned in his Progress years. The Powers That Be simply decided that it was worth buying him out to change leaders (to Duke's CEO). And Johnson wasn't the only one.

That's how companies work. If you don't like it, then don't buy their products, and don't invest in them or their business partners. But many of their clients have no others to buy from, liberals are sure to counter with. There's just the problem: it's the government, through all these regulations, that artificially restricts competition.

It should also be mentioned that the new CEO said that the cost of Johnson's severance will be borne by its shareholders (meaning reduced dividends), instead of being passed onto customers. So what are the liberals complaining about, unless they're disgruntled investors that are masquerading as outraged consumers?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Andy Griffith, RIP

See you on the other side, sir.

I had been thinking the other day about adding "No Time for Sergeants" to our Netflix queue, and now it's a necessity.

Update: someone has informed me of something extremely disappointing. Griffith once sold out and did a commercial for Obamacare:

Sunday, July 01, 2012

There's no lie too low for liberals when advocating their socialized health care

On "Face the Nation" this morning, some jackass threw out the lie that we spend 17% of our economy on health care cost increases, and that that's more than what we pay in taxes. I should not need to explain the difference between costs and cost increases.

It's a statistic commonly thrown out that health care is17% of U.S. GDP, which would be about $2.6 trillion of a $15.5 trillion economy's annual output. Federal tax revenue is about $2.3 trillion, which is ignoring the $1 trillion that the federal government is borrowing in the name of John and Jane Taxpayer. Nonetheless, I for one would rather pay 17% of my income on health care I want and need, than any amount to a government that spends my money any damn way it pleases.

On the McLaughlin Group, some sensible fellow had a point I've made for years: this isn't about people paying for things with their own money, but with someone else's. Even private insurance works that way, undeniably, but at least I have the choice of paying in.