January 17, 2019

Diana Kastenbaum’s support of Obamacare more outlandish than anything Trump or Clinton has said

kastenbaumJames Madison warned New Yorkers that in a representative republic, Congress posed a much greater threat to liberty than the presidency. Proving his point, here is a jewel from Diana Kastenbaum’s website. She’s the Democratic Party Nominee to represent New York’s 27th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“For Diana, health care reform is about giving American families and small businesses — not insurance companies — control over their health care. For far too long, America’s health insurance system has made health care more costly, less accessible, and less efficient for families and small businesses. No one in America should have to declare bankruptcy because they can’t afford to pay their medical bills. Premiums should not be increasing at a rate of six times the rate of our GDP. That is why Diana is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act.”

Statements like this have a way of washing over most people without making more than a vague, emotional impact. Let’s unpack what she’s said here.

First, she says health care reform is about giving American families and small businesses – not insurance companies – control over their health care. This in support of a law requiring every soul in America to purchase health insurance, whether they want it or not. Not only does the ACA mandate insurance, but it mandates the services insurances will cover, meaning a smaller portion of total healthcare is left outside the purview of insurance companies.

Does this give insurance companies more or less control over health care?

She claims insurance companies have “made health care more costly, less accessible, and less efficient for families and small businesses.” Even if that were true, the ACA would only make things worse. But have insurance companies made health care more expensive? No.

Insurance companies reflect rising healthcare costs; they don’t drive them. Health insurers have all the same self-interested motivations of home insurers, automobile insurers and liability insurers.  But we don’t see the premium rates of those other insurers outpacing inflation like health insurance premiums. Why?

Kastenbaum isn’t at all curious about this. But clearly, something besides the profit motives of health insurers is increasing the cost of healthcare disproportionately. Assuming the same laws of supply and demand apply to the price of healthcare as to other products, could it be the artificial limitation of supply caused by medical licensing laws, the FDA and other disproportionate regulatory burdens on healthcare? Could it be the gross artificial stimulation of demand by huge entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid?

If the government gave a trillion dollars to clothing shoppers next year, would you expect the price of blue jeans to go down, remain the same or go up?

Kastenbaum says health insurers have made health care less accessible and efficient. But the ACA hasn’t increased the supply of doctors and hospitals; it’s decreasing supply. And major insurers are dropping out of the program en masse, specifically because of the burdens imposed upon them by the ACA. In many states, there will be only one insurance option for consumers next year. All this in exchange for subsidizing coverage for a tiny portion of previously uninsured consumers, some of whom were uninsured by choice.

As for efficiency, the law imposes a one size fits all plan on everyone in the country, prohibiting efficiency-enhancing discrimination on the basis of gender, medical history and local risks. Is it really more efficient to force men without dependents to purchase OB/GYN coverage? Wouldn’t healthcare be less expensive for society as a whole if they weren’t?

Kastenbaum then makes the emotional appeal, “No one in America should have to declare bankruptcy because they can’t afford to pay their medical bills.” Agreed. How is this an argument for the ACA?

Finally, Kastenbaum says, “Premiums should not be increasing at a rate of six times the rate of our GDP. That is why Diana is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act,” which is driving premiums up faster than ever before our very eyes. Media everywhere are reporting premiums increasing as much as 25% for many next year, also specifically because of the ACA.

While Kastenbaum’s ideas on healthcare markets might be particularly obtuse, electing her less delusional Republican opponent is by no means a silver bullet. If Americans truly want to make healthcare affordable again, they’ll have to change their expectations. As long as massive entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid make demand virtually unlimited and massive regulatory burdens severely limit supply, the price of healthcare is going to continue to skyrocket. And as long as we keep sending people like Kastenbaum to Washington, Congress will remain the greatest threat to our liberty.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The Federal Reserve runs the economy, not Congress or the President

federal-reserve-building.top

BUFFALO, March 18, 2015 – Janet Yellen told the markets what they wanted to hear today and the indexes rocketed out of negative territory to finish up over 1 %. As usual, speculation abounds on precisely what was in the minds of investors.

Journalists tend to overstate the causal importance of breaking news when the market makes big moves. Often, those moves were predicted months in advance by serious traders and what happened that day had little to do with what the market did. Not true for the Fed’s announcements. They do move the markets immediately.
What most people don’t know, or at least don’t acknowledge, is that the Federal Reserve really runs the entire economy. When the Fed inflates the supply of money and credit, indexes go up, growth occurs and the economy “improves.” When it deflates the supply of money and credit, indexes go down, contraction occurs and the economy “slows.”

That’s really the whole story of the American economy. Think about that for a moment.

It doesn’t matter who is president, which party controls Congress or what any of those people do or don’t do. Yes, regulations and tax rates have some effect on the economy. Liberals might say more regulation is a good thing, conservatives might say it is bad.

But taxes and regulations haven’t really had much effect at all in the past 40 years. Before that, when taxes were at 90%, they mattered, but not when the top rate fluctuates between 35% and 39%. Do the math. It’s not that significant.

Read the rest of the article at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

$1.1 trillion budget deal doesn’t change fiscal cliff

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

TAMPA, January 15, 2014 – The Associated Press reported today that Republicans and Democrats are ready to support a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would fund the federal government through its current fiscal year, which ends September 30, 2014. Citing a perceived mandate from voters to put aside their differences, Congress largely abandoned the superficial cuts remaining from sequestration.

Those widely reported “cuts” weren’t really decreases in spending. They were merely promises to increase spending less than planned.

Out in the real world, when an employee making $18.00 per hour gets a 5% pay cut, his new hourly wage is $17.10. That’s not how it works in Washington, D.C. When a federal program funded at $3 billion in 2013 is “cut,” it’s funded for $3.1 billion in 2014 instead of $3.2 billion.

What have been called “draconian cuts” and “gutting the military” by hysterical politicians and media are, for the most part, increases in spending that beneficiaries deem inadequate. Now, even that infinitesimal restraint is gone.

Depending upon which poll one cites and the wording of the questions in it, there is some evidence that the public was unhappy with last autumn’s government shutdown and desires more “bipartisanship” in Congress. Representatives on both sides of the aisle were eager to comply in an election year.

“There’s a desire to show people we can do our job,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

However, no poll attempts to separate net taxpayers from net tax collectors. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the latter group would be unhappy with any interruption in government spending. A poll exclusively querying the former group may have yielded far different results.

Regardless of how any part of the public feels about federal spending, it is going to be cut dramatically. The fiscal realities that prompted sequestration and the shutdown have not gone away. Playing nice in Congress hasn’t changed that.

The federal government can only service its $16 trillion debt while its interest rate remains artificially low. The Federal Reserve has attempted to keep it near zero since 2008. It has only been successful because other buyers of federal debt have continued to buy while the Fed has pumped liquidity into the economy with its own purchases.

Should China, the Fed or any other buyer of federal debt cease or even significantly decrease its purchases, interest rates will begin to rise.

When interest rates rise on home mortgages, it hurts. When interest rates rise on $16 trillion, chaos ensues.

According to the White House’s fiscal year 2014 Budget proposal, interest in fiscal year 2013 was $220 billion or 6.2% of all federal spending. That was with interest rates below one half of one percent. It doesn’t take a Nobel Laureate to imagine what happens if the rate begins creeping up to the modest 3-6% levels of the last decade, much less the double digit rates accompanying the crises of the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Annual interest due on federal debt would increase hundreds of millions of dollars.

That would amount to de facto cuts in federal spending on everything else. We’re not talking about make believe “cuts” where spending is still more than the year before. We’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars less available to spend than the year before. We’re talking about cuts.

Increasing tax revenues isn’t the answer because taxes revenues are already maxed out. The only real debate left on tax rates is whether the top rate on the wealthiest should be 33% or 39%, which is inconsequential to the debt problem. If tax rates are raised significantly overall, revenues go down. That’s already been proven.

So, the federal government tiptoes forward on a fiscal tightrope, dependent upon a set of artificially-created conditions that could change at any time. An overpriced stock market could crash on its own. China could decide to cease or decrease its debt purchases. A natural disaster could occur. Any of these could start the dominoes falling towards higher interest rates, recession for the economy and an unserviceable federal debt.

Even if none of the above occur, the end is inevitable. If printing money to buy your own debt were sustainable, the government could legalize counterfeiting and everyone would be rich. Sooner or later, economic reality will assert itself and the United States will be forced to consume less than it produces. The only question on federal spending is whether it will decrease due to a deliberate act of Congress or the way Greece’s did.

The current budget deal may provide an answer.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Congress is not authorized to start a war with Syria, either

congress

TAMPA, August 29, 2013 – The British Parliament is debating the U.K.’s response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government against rebels and civilians. This prompted Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to tweet a picture juxtaposing the ongoing debate in Parliament with the empty U.S. Congress building.

Cruz and others have expressed the opinion that President Obama cannot take military action against Syria without consulting Congress first.

They’re wrong. Congress doesn’t have the power to start a war with Syria, either, under present circumstances.

Most people misunderstand the declaration of war power as “permission” to start a war. It’s not.

The Constitution grants Congress the power to declare that a state of war already exists. This can only be true if the nation in question has committed overt acts of war against the United States.

This is supported by each and every declaration of war in U.S. history. Each declaration has followed the same format.

1. Congress cites the overt acts of war committed by the nation in question against the United States.

2. It recognizes the existence of the war because of those overt acts.

3. It directs the president to utilize the military to end the war.

The process is somewhat analogous to a criminal trial. The president “makes his case” to Congress that certain actions by a foreign nation amount to acts of war. Congress then deliberates, renders its verdict and passes sentence. The president is directed to execute the sentence.

When James Polk asked Congress to declare war on Mexico in 1846, he said,

“But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are now at war.

As war exists, and, notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it, exists by the act of Mexico herself, we are called upon by every consideration of duty and patriotism to vindicate with decision the honor, the rights, and the interests of our country.

In further vindication of our rights and defense of our territory, I invoke the prompt action of Congress to recognize the existence of the war, and to place at the disposition of the Executive the means of prosecuting the war with vigor, and thus hastening the restoration of peace.

After deliberating, Congress issued the following declaration of war,

“Whereas, by the act of the Republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that Government and the United States: Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, That for the purpose of enabling the government of the United States to prosecute said war to a speedy and successful termination…”

Note the italicized words. The state of war already exists because of the act of the Republic of Mexico.

Most people remember FDR’s Pearl Harbor speech during which he rattled off the acts of war committed by Japan. “Last night, Japanese forces attacked Wake Island. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Midway Island, etc.” Roosevelt concluded,

“I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”

The framers of the Constitution intended that the president would never initiate planned military action until this process took place. Yes, the president could deploy the military if the British or Spanish were discovered marching through Maryland, a very real possibility at the time.

Otherwise, acts of war had to be committed against the United States before the president directed a military response.

Syria’s government may or may not have used chemical weapons against its own people. It has not committed any acts of war against the United States. Therefore, there is no basis upon which to declare a state of war between Syria and the United States.

The constitution assumes that the only justification to utilize U.S. military resources is to defend U.S. citizens after another nation has initiated a state of war. The only exception is to defend a nation with whom the United States has signed a treaty establishing one of those entangling alliances the founders told us to avoid.

The Syrian conflict meets none of those requirements. Neither Congress nor the president have any constitutional authority to attack.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Republicans as wrong as Democrats on Sandy Relief

TAMPA, January 5, 2013 – There is yet another faux debate raging in Congress. According to Fox News, the House and Senate have passed a $9.7 billion aid package for Sandy victims. Most Democrats and Republicans are calling for an additional $51 billion.

Some Republicans are dragging their feet.

It would be encouraging if even a single Republican articulated the principle at issue here, but none have. Republicans in Congress couldn’t find a principle if it were slid under their doors with envelopes full of lobbyist cash.

For the record, the principle is this: Citizens in Wyoming shouldn’t be taxed to rebuild the houses of other people in Wyoming, much less New York or New Jersey. This is another bedrock American principle that has completely vanished from the minds of most Americans.

Instead, Republicans object on the grounds that not all of the proposed funding is necessary for immediate relief. In fact, there is some considerable pork built into both the House and Senate versions of the bill, including “$150 million for fishery disasters in a range of states — including Alaska and Mississippi” and “nearly $45 million was included for work on NOAA’s hurricane reconnaissance aircraft.”

Rep. Tim Huelskamp voted against it, saying, “We have to talk seriously about offsets,” he said. “We can’t take $60 billion off budget, that’s my problem with it.”

The common sense and acknowledgement of reality are refreshing, but Huelskamp still avoids the main issue.

Property is a right, just like free speech. It was recognition of the right of each individual to keep the fruits of his own labor and dispose of them as he saw fit that made the United States the richest nation in the world, relatively overnight.

While the immediate cause for the outbreak of hostilities during the American Revolution was the British attempt to disarm the colonists, the long term cause was the British threat against property rights.

American schoolchildren are taught that the colonists’ only grievance was “taxation without representation.” That’s convenient for big government progressives on both sides of the aisle, because they can then say, “You are represented, so we can tax you however we please.”

Those schoolchildren are not taught that the colonists also did not want representation in the British Parliament. Jefferson said so in his Summary View of the Rights of British America. Benjamin Franklin was strictly instructed not to accept any deal with the British that involved colonial representation in Parliament.

The colonists wanted no part of any political system whereby they could be taxed and the money spent for the benefit of other parts of the empire. Representation in a Parliament where they were hopelessly outnumbered would only add the veneer of legitimacy to this armed theft.

Read the rest of the article…

>A Familiar Strategy?

>Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty. [1]

– John Basil Barnhill (1914)

Americans should be experiencing “déjà vu all over again” as Congress prepares for another weekend incursion into their rights via another two-thousand page bill that must be voted on before anyone has had a chance to read it. This time, it is H.R. 3962 “To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.” The next law that should be passed is that legislators and bureaucrats shall not be allowed to work on weekends.

That working Americans will rise early on Monday to begin another week with less protections of their rights and more of their property stolen is not all that should seem familiar. If anyone can remember as far back as the Bush administration (this new regime has been so bad that I am afraid people have forgotten most of the outrages of the last), a very similar dynamic played out. The very first bailout – of the banking industry – met with resistance similar to that against the proposed government takeover of the health care industry. The first attempt to pass the TARP bill failed.

For those watching the statements made by their representatives while opposing that bill, one thing should have been obvious. Those representatives feared their constituents. It was in their eyes and in their voices as they explained their opposition. I do not mean that they feared violence. They feared for their jobs and they feared whatever other consequences there might have been if they deliberately defied the wishes of those thousands of voters who had angrily called their offices. For a moment, our government worked as it was designed to work. The people spoke and their representatives heeded their wishes, however reluctantly.

Then, the uproar died down. President Bush emerged from his long, unnatural silence during the financial crisis and gave a speech designed to put that fear back into the hearts of the citizens, where our government prefers that it permanently reside. If the banking bailout wasn’t passed, Americans could lose their homes, their jobs, or their retirement savings. Financial Armageddon awaited if the bankers were not saved – for it is really the bankers that provide those things to everyone. Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke joined the chorus to help paint the terrifying picture of unspeakable horrors that awaited us if we did not give almost $800 billion to the Treasury Secretary to be redistributed to his friends on Wall Street.

It is unclear if Americans really believed the government or if they just ran out of energy to protest. Either way, the bill passed the second time it came up for a vote. Those same representatives who only days before were too afraid to pass it were now somehow emboldened and it sailed through with barely a whimper from the victims. What was different the second time around?

Hopefully, Americans took notice of the fact that their representatives do not possess the courage to pass a bill that they actively oppose, even if that opposition amounts to nothing more than angry phone calls. It is difficult to ascertain what reassured those congressmen enough to vote for the bill the second time. Perhaps the calls to their offices changed after the government’s scare campaign intensified. Perhaps some of the people who had called before the first vote called back and told those congressmen that they had changed their minds.

However, there is another possibility that is infinitely more disturbing. Perhaps by the time of the second vote, the pressure had died down out of sheer inertia. After all, there is probably some limit to just how long Americans can make calls, march in protests, or write letters while trying to do their jobs, raise their families, and live their lives. If I were trying to develop a strategy to pass a bill that most Americans oppose, I would consciously plan for exactly what happened during the banking bailout bill in 2008. I would let them scream, let them march, let them carry signs and write letters, and even let the bill fail to pass. And once the citizenry was sufficiently exhausted or had turned their attention to something else, I would put it up for another vote.

Personally, I would be surprised if this were truly a conscious strategy by most of our representatives, although I am sure that the dynamic has not escaped the notice of the most devious of the professional political crowd. However, whether intentional or not, this is exactly what happened with the banking bailout and it is exactly what is about to happen with so-called “health care reform.” All summer long, Americans called their representatives, marched in the streets, and even showed up in the capitol city itself in numbers far too large to support the claim that it was some sort of Republican PR campaign. At one point, the idea of a government-run public option was all but pronounced dead on non-arrival by media outlets, whether conservative or liberal in their bias. It has found new life.

The American Revolutiony War was by no means encouraging for the Americans for the great majority of the time that it was being fought. The Americans lost almost every battle, constantly outclassed by the greatest military force in the history of the world at that time. However, there was one advantage that the Americans had over the British – they were relentless. No matter how many battles they lost (and they lost most of them), the American army would not go away. After being repeatedly schooled by superior British generals at New York, Brandywine, and elsewhere, Washington showed up at Monmouth and fought the British to a standstill. In the end, it was he and the Americans that emerged as the victors.

This weekend, the British are back. However, this time they are not wearing red coats but instead masquerading as representatives of the people. They are bringing with them the same tyranny that they did in the 18th century – unjust taxes, illegitimate government power, and violations of the rights of every individual American. It is imperative that Americans once again refuse to go away. Millions have sacrificed time, money that they could ill afford to spend, and days, weeks, and months of their lives to write, call, march, and shout with all of their might against the destruction of our liberty that this government has accelerated with increasing brazenness over the past few years (under presidents from both major parties). It all goes for naught if our representatives learn that they need only wait for us to exhaust our energy before ignoring our wishes and trampling upon our rights as they please.

There is a disturbing sound in the air – silence. There is a feeling that the outrage has subsided and that the coast is clear for another weekend theft of our liberty and property. Let us not let last summer’s tremendous demonstration of the American spirit go to waste. If you opposed this bill the first time, if you traveled to Washington, spent money you didn’t have, took time away from your job or family to be sure that your voice was heard, it will have all been for nothing if they pass this bill this weekend.

Now is the time for Americans to be relentless. Call your representatives and let them know that what happened in New Jersey and Virginia a few days ago has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats – it is the fate of all incumbent politicians, from any party, that abandon their duty to protect the rights of the people. From now until Saturday evening, we must shout louder, march longer, and get angrier than we have ever been before. Do not underestimate the power that you wield and do not let this government monster outlast you. As we said over two hundred years ago to a government that had marched against our liberty, let us shout to our representatives as loudly and for as long as it takes – this far shall you go and no farther.

[1] Barnhill, John Basil (1914). “Indictment of Socialism No. 3” (PDF). Barnhill-Tichenor Debate on Socialism. Saint Louis, Missouri: National Rip-Saw Publishing. pp. p. 34. Retrieved on 2008-10-16.