July 16, 2018

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.

Buffalo Billion Indictees: Scapegoats of the Empire State?

cnse-solarcity-grnd-level-render-08sep14-copyToday’s Buffalo News print edition devotes its entire front page to the indictment of prominent Buffalo businessman Louis Ciminelli and eight others on federal charges of bribery and fraud in relation to their participation in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” program. The news story is accompanied by the usual “perp walk” photograph, showing Ciminelli following his attorney past the metal detector and conveniently under the “Probation and Pretrial Services” sign at the federal building downtown.

It all seems just a little too convenient for those of us who have long predicted a disastrous end for the governor’s billion-dollar boondoggle. Since the plan was first rolled out in February 2013, Solar City’s stock has skyrocketed from around $15 per share to a peak of $84 a year later (just as Cuomo’s subsidies kicked in) and then plummeted to back to Earth after several quarters of dismal earnings reports.

Solar City is the recipient of 75% of the Buffalo Billion’s largesse and its failure to produce products people buy voluntarily, without government incentives, has it looking like another Solyndra before its state-subsidized Buffalo factory is even built. Should it blow up soon after the governor handed it $750 million in taxpayer funds, the peasants just might get out their pitch forks. At that point, heads will have to roll and nothing satisfies a mob like the fall of a successful businessman.

But let’s not forget the real cause of this disaster, whenever it finally occurs: central economic planning by the government (whether federal, state or local). That’s what killed Buffalo during the post-WWII era and that’s what could kill it again, despite the organic revival happening outside Cuomo’s crony capitalist debacle.

When the government directs capital, whether towards “green energy,” manufacturing or “infrastructure,” it is overriding the choices of millions of people who have already decided not to spend their dollars on those projects. It should come as no surprise, then, that when the government finally stops intervening and allows people to spend money as they wish, the government’s “investment” turns sour.

Not only has society lost the money wasted on the government’s unsustainable project, but it has lost the viable projects consumers would otherwise have funded had their money not been taxed and spent by the government. That’s called “opportunity cost,” something college freshman learn on about their third day in Economics 101.

Lest anyone remember those lessons when the Buffalo Billion goes up in flames, we now have an alternate narrative the perpetrators can promote to avert attention from themselves. “It was all those greedy businessmen and a few bad apples in the government who ruined everything,” they’ll say. “Otherwise, it would have worked.”

Sure. For the first time ever.

This writer is reminded of Martin Sheen’s immortal quip from the classic Apocalypse Now, “charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500.” So, too, is charging businessmen with bribery when the government starts handing out hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds.

Businessmen, like everyone else, respond to incentives. In a free market, they innovate and improve because pleasing customers is the only way for them to make profits. But in a government-directed economy, it’s not customers they have to please, but politicians. And politicians don’t need innovation or improvement. They need campaign contributions, kickbacks and other kinds of political support.

An even closer Hollywood analogy might be A Few Good Men, where a high-ranking colonel orders two enlisted men to carry out unofficial discipline on a fellow marine and then cuts them loose to face charges alone when the marine is unintentionally killed.

That movie loosely follows the story of the real-life British soldiers charged with murder in an earlier film, Breaker Morant. There, it is a high-ranking British commander, Lord Kitchener, who orders his troops to take no prisoners and then turns his back on them for political reasons when they are brought up on charges.

The latter film was based on a book written by Edward Witton, one of the defendants, called Scapegoats of the Empire.

Ciminelli and his fellow defendants just might be Scapegoats of the Empire State, fall guys for yet another in a long line of politicians who visited economic destruction on Western New York.

We don’t know if the defendants are guilty or not. They’re indicted, not convicted. But whatever the facts of the case turn out to be, one thing is certain. We’ll never see a picture of the architect of this disaster walking under a “Probation and Pre-trial Services” sign.

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 only effective active shooter plan: Shoot back

gun free zonesWednesday’s  Buffalo News print edition features a front page piece by News Staff Reporter Gene Warner entitled, “Everyone should have a personal plan to survive in case of ‘active shooter.” As one might expect from this far left wing, Hillary Clinton mouthpiece, the ‘personal plan’ recommended by Warner’s full-page word blizzard leaves out the most effective, proven plan for dealing with an active shooter: shoot back.

Warner’s advice isn’t necessarily bad, but it only applies in a specific environment: the so-called “gun free zones” where all mass shootings in recent history have taken place. Orlando was no exception. Florida law prohibits firearms to be carried in any establishment serving alcohol.

The News writer trips over himself to avoid dealing with the obvious: active shooters aren’t able to commit mass shootings in places where the right to bear arms is respected because they get shot themselves.

That somewhat invalidates Warner’s assertion that workplaces face “the dilemma” of balancing an open environment with more stringent security measures. It’s only a dilemma when one assumes there is not a third alternative – to allow employees and/or visitors to carry personal firearms if they choose to.

To deny that this would have saved lives in Orlando last weekend is to sever all connection with reality. Certainly, the perpetrator would have killed someone, probably multiple people, even if some of the patrons were armed. One cannot expect even trained professionals to react before a single victim is shot.

But this man shot over 100 people, killing 49. If even 5% of the several hundred people in that nightclub were armed and reasonably proficient civilians, they would have put him down before he reached anywhere near that number.

No argument against this scenario holds water. Would the environment have been more dangerous with 8 or 10 people returning fire in a crowded club? No. Certainly, they may have hit innocent bystanders while shooting at the perp. But we’re talking about a body count of 49 with an unarmed clientele. Do the math.

The politicians and media currently demanding the government “do something” about Orlando would like to make the entire nation, including your home and all public spaces, “gun free zones.” In other words, they want to create the same conditions everywhere that allowed a single shooter to open fire on hundreds of people with no expectation of resistance.

The right to bear arms is not just some academic principle to be debated in an auditorium by professors. The right to bear arms is inextricably tied to the right to life itself, which is not the right not to die under any circumstances, but specifically the right not to be killed by another person. The only way to exercise the right to life here in the real world is by defending yourself against someone trying to kill you.

Denying individuals the right to bear arms eliminates their ability to exercise their right to life in a world where bad people are going to get guns, even when the law prohibits them from doing so.

In the wake of the tragedy in Orlando, we’ll hear much about a “national conversation” that “we” have to have about “sensible gun control.”

Allow this writer to translate that sentence. “We” means politicians and their media mouthpieces. “National conversation” means a nonstop, multi-media attack on the right to bear arms. “Sensible gun control” is about increasing the restrictions on gun ownership as part of the long, incremental march towards banning them entirely.

The Buffalo News is just the local affiliate of this massive political force which wants to control all aspects of your life, from the way you educate your children to the way your run your business to the people you choose to associate with to the amount of water in your toilet. Since many Buffalonians innocently rely on this left wing propagandist for all of their news, let me pose a few questions it’s safe to assume the Buffalo Pravda won’t:

  1. How many lives would have been saved if guns weren’t banned in Florida bars and at least a dozen or so (possibly more) patrons of Pulse were armed?
  2. How do the actions of less than a dozen “active shooters” justify infringing the rights of 315 million other people who haven’t shot anyone?
  3. If an individual is legally denied the right to own a gun and is subsequently killed by a home invader or even a criminal in a public space, do those who prohibited his or her gun ownership have some responsibility in the wrongful death?
  4. Why don’t the lives saved in Philadelphia, Plymouth, Spartanburg and Atlanta by civilians carrying guns matter? Why are “we” willing to sacrifice their lives in the name of “gun control?”
  5. Why are all of these shootings occurring in “gun free zones?”

The writers at The Buffalo News don’t have to agree with gun proponents, but the failure to even acknowledge the existence of another point of view is further proof that what this publication is selling isn’t news; it’s propaganda. Maybe it’s time they had some healthy competition. Take the survey the below to let us know what you think.

 

Does Buffalo need another voice on politics besides the Buffalo News?

Yes
No
I don’t know

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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.

Buffalo News Political Coverage Belongs in the Fiction Section

clinton valentineToday’s Buffalo News print edition features five articles on the Hillary Clinton campaign, including a front page, feel-good piece about how Clinton’s (almost) nomination has inspired other women. The News also chose to run a Politifact piece that endorses Clinton’s criticism of Trump’s trade policies, a criticism this writer happens to agree with.

The other three pieces could at best be described as neutral/supportive, although one questions whether the media has been too quick to pronounce Clinton the nominee. Nothing in these or any other recent articles the News has run on Clinton, outside of reader letters, can be described as remotely critical. This despite a large constituency within her own party that views Clinton as wholly-owned by Wall Street and a war hawk.

There are also five articles on Trump, including the Politifact article. Four of the five are negative. One is neutral, a reprint from Bloomberg News which reported Trump “distanced himself from his own fundraising estimate of $1 billion.”

Even this article could be construed as an attempt to cast a negative light on what Trump’s supporters consider a positive – that he’s not bought off by powerful special interests, as many on both the right and the left believe of Mrs. Clinton.

There is nothing in the Buffalo News that remotely suggests Trump might be better on foreign policy than Clinton, who has a lot to answer for regarding her role in the chaos raging throughout the Middle East and now spilling into Europe. Neither would readers of solely this paper know Trump set a record for votes in the California primary on Tuesday.

This is what passes for reporting on the 2016 presidential election in Buffalo’s only newspaper.

Make no mistake, this writer has no problem with a newspaper being biased. All media are biased and always have been. But there is a difference between bias and severing all connection with reality. Anyone relying on the News for their understanding of national politics might as well go to the fiction section of the nearest public library.

Full disclosure, I won’t be voting for Trump or Clinton in the November elections. I plan on voting for Gary Johnson.

Buffalonians reading this just started making owl noises, because in the fictional Buffalo News universe, neither Johnson nor the Libertarian Party exists. A search on the paper’s website yielded no headlines – ever – mentioning the candidate’s name, despite Johnson polling in double figures in three polls before his nomination and 16% in the latest poll in Utah. Even the left-leaning Washington Post describes the Libertarian Party as “so hot right now.”

Now, I’m just spit-balling here, but in a year where the candidates in both major parties have record-high negative ratings, wouldn’t a presidential ticket featuring two former two-term governors (of New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively), nominated by the only third party with ballot access in all fifty states, be at least newsworthy enough for its existence to be acknowledged?

Not to the Buffalo News.

That’s not bias. That’s misleading the public. And it’s a disservice to the good people of Buffalo, who may not be receptive to the messages of campaigns other than Hillary Clinton’s, but certainly have an expectation that their only newspaper will acknowledge they exist.

Unlike Mr. Trump, I would never support any legal action against the News, no matter how poorly they serve the public. As a libertarian, I truly believe in free speech. I don’t even support libel laws if a newspaper outright lies (which I’m not suggesting is going on here). I believe the market can sort this out, when it’s allowed to work.

So, maybe it’s time the Buffalo News had some competition. What do you think? Let us know in the online poll below. Who knows? Perhaps an alternative is waiting in the wings (wink).

Does Buffalo need another voice on politics besides the Buffalo News?

Yes
No
I don’t know

Survey Maker

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.

Tom Mullen Speaking/Book Signing Event Feb. 17, 2016 Buffalo, NY

Click on image to enlargeBook signing flyer 20160217 Daily Planet

Job growth in WNY has speed, but does it really have credibility?

Pair_of_2009_SolarCity_Dodge_SprintersA July 26 article in the Buffalo News rejoiced, “Job growth in WNY gains speed, credibility.” There is no doubt about the speed. The credibility may be another story.

Writer David Robinson gave due credit to “high-profile projects, from the Medical Campus to Solar City’s 1,500-employee solar panel factory, that are giving a jolt to the local job market, first because of all the construction associated with those projects, and eventually with the hiring that will take place as those businesses ramp up.”

What he didn’t mention was why those two sectors were enjoying such spectacular growth: tax breaks and other incentives provided by local, state and federal governments.

It has become fashionable to call tax breaks “subsidies,” based on the perverse idea the government not only has a legitimate claim to all wealth you’ve created in the past, but any you may create in the future. Tax breaks aren’t subsidies, but they are part of a larger economic system that has never worked.

Step One is to tax and regulate everyone into a state of complete economic paralysis. Buffalo’s local governments perfected that fifty years ago. They never got around to Step Two until now.

Step Two is to grant limited relief to those businesses who either represent something politicians like or who promise to deliver something politicians need. Solar City does both. They represent the green energy movement, the cause célèbre of politicians everywhere. They have also promised to create a significant number of jobs, which helps politicians get reelected.

This may seem like a win-win for everyone, until that buzzkill called “economic reality” turns on the lights and turns off the music. Growth created by government privilege almost always turns out to be temporary. Viable business plans don’t need government assistance to make a profit and create new jobs. They produce products customers are willing to pay for at a price that supports the company’s costs and profits.

Solar City may or may not have a viable business plan. We don’t know, because it is presently riding government “subsidies” in all its markets, not just in Buffalo. We do know its stock is down over 8% since it reported earnings in May. We’ll get another report later this week.

The risk is Solar City turns out to be another Chevy Volt, a product that never would have made it to market without similar assistance from the government. Despite that assistance, the product’s sales have consistently failed to materialize. The government continues to help keep the product alive, but if jobs were actually dependent upon producing it, they’d cease to exist. Chevy’s sales of viable products are what actually subsidize the Volt.

Not only does this form of central economic planning promote unviable business ventures over viable ones, it encourages businesses to do economically idiotic things, like hire more people than it needs. A June 11, 2015 article in the News lamented, “Billed by officials as creating 400 jobs, FedEx center in Hamburg will fall short of that tally.”

The article attempts to incite outrage that Fedex has reneged on its promise of 400 jobs in return for the tax incentives, although it acknowledges it may have been politicians who made that promise, not Fedex. Lost in all of this is the basic economic principle that a business venture is supposed to produce its product at the lowest cost possible. It’s economically harmful to everyone when it intentionally raises its costs for political reasons.

That the other significant contributor to WNY jobs is the medical sector is ominous for all the same reasons. Medical care was already the most subsidized economic sector in human history before Bush and Obama subsidized it even more. It receives real subsidies, meaning direct cash payments from the government that represent about half of all U.S. health care spending. What happens when those subsidies run out?

Central economic planning doesn’t work. They found that out the hard way in the Soviet Union and China, where tens of millions literally starved to death because of it. Central Economic Planning Lite as practiced in this country doesn’t work, either. If tax breaks stimulate growth, they should simply be granted to all businesses, no strings attached. Then, the market will allow viable businesses to create permanent jobs.

Buffalo should try this approach and lead the nation in demonstrating the power of the free market, instead of following Washington to another disaster.

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.