Rationed

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Which is the most efficient way to bring down prices: government dictate, or free market?

Warren Buffet seems to be saying government is a more efficient way to bring down prices, therefore America should embrace the single-payer model of health care used in Britain, Canada, Cuba, the Veteran’s Administration, etc.  He is mistaken.  He’s great at reading balance sheets, lousy at political economic theory.

I agree that government-run health care could theoretically control prices.  They’d simply pass a law: nobody can charge more than $1.00 for any medical procedure, device or drug.  There, see?  Prices contained.  Aspirin.  Heart transplant.  Everything’s a dollar.  In theory.

In practice, it won’t work.  People who provide medical services can’t afford to provide them at that price.  Either they stop providing medical services, or they go off-book somehow. Maybe all the doctors move to Mexico where they can charge fair prices.  Maybe all the medical device companies move to Poland where the government welcomes investment and doesn’t try to kill it.  Capital – including human capital – is mobile.

Hillary recognized this problem when she invented Hillarycare in 1992.  Her solution: draft all the doctors and treat them as members of the military.  You want to practice medicine in America?  Then you go where you’re told and do as you’re told.  In the past, you may have been a plastic surgeon making millions in Hollywood; today, you’re a gynecologist on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation making the same pay as any other Captain in the Army.  Don’t like it?  Turn in your medical license. This is not an incentive for people to study 10 years to become a doctor.

It doesn’t work on the other end, either.  People who desire medical services have no incentive to forego care under a single-payer system.  Got a sniffle?  Run to the doctor, it’s free.  So the lines get longer and longer until patients die waiting for an appointment, which already has happened at the VA.  Or health care committees decide which patients are deserving of medical treatment and which should be denied treatment, which already has happened in Britain.  Or doctors decide which patients should be helped to die and thereby reduce caseloads, which some Dutch doctors already are doing.  The rich can afford to fly to wherever the doctors are, and to pay out of pocket for medical care.  The poor and middle class will be promised free medical care but won’t get it, facing endless waiting lists and rationed care.

“Single-payer” is simply another way of saying “wage-and-price controls.”  They didn’t work when Diocletian tried them and never have worked since.  I confidently predict they won’t work now.

Joe Doakes

They did wonders for the US economy in the seventies.

You remember what a greaet time the seventies were, rigtht?

Lather, Rinse, Poison, Repeat

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Some experts believe the policies that led to the 2008 real estate collapse are still in place leaving us as vulnerable to a real estate bubble as before. They are mistaken.  We’re worse off than before because now we have newer and even stupider ideas to help preferred minorities qualify for home loans such as counting all incomes in the household toward the loan.

The problem was explained in 2010 by Glenn Reynolds:

“The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.”

And that’s the best-case scenario, when the government isn’t actively working to destroy middle-class values by subsidizing bad decisions and penalizing good (but politically incorrect) decisions.

The divide between the wealthy and the wretched ever widens and Liberals cannot fathom why.  It’s because of Berg’s 21st Law: Liberal Policies Destroy Liberal Values.

Joe Doakes

That one’s almost beyond mere “law.

Not The Dumbest Idea They’ve Had

Venezuela responds to US moves to deal with the unraveling of Venezuelan economic life:

“The ‘contact group’ you’re proposing is completely useless and unnecessary,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez fumed at a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Cancun, Mexico.

“The only way you could impose it would be to send in your Marines — who would meet with a crushing response from Venezuela if they dared make such a misstep.”

Getting conquered may be the only way to save Venezuela.

“It’s Not True Socia…Well, You Know…”

The media are barely covering the political and human catastrophe unfolding in Venezuela:

Out of approximately 50,000 total evening news stories on ABC, CBS and NBC combined in the last four years, just 25 have covered the ongoing crisis in socialist Venezuela, according to a Media Research Center study published Tuesday….

…and they certainly aren’t slopping the blame over to…well…you know…:

…out of the 50,000 total evening news stories on the three networks, just 25 covered Venezuela, and only seven mentioned “socialism.”

For many journos, it’s the “ideal” they were raised to revere (minus all the misery and bloodshed;

And for others ? Free markets are a lot harder to cover than planned ones; covering a free market would involve learning, rather than talking with highly-placed planning officials.

For The Millennial In Your Life

Animal Farm, a Brit animated feature from the fifties, looks like a Disney feature – but it’s a pretty faithful re-telling of Orwell’s classic tale of the inevitable results of socialism.

It’s actually easy enough to find links to the film – most of which link back to sketchy download sites.  This version – Arabic subtitles and all – is the only full-length freebie I’ve found.

And it’s worth a watch:

Although you can pretty much watch video from Venezuela today and get the same results.

Life Imitates Blog

Ten years or so ago, during the heyday of the political blog, some of us – conservatives with fond memories of the punk era in music – quipped “conservatism is the new punk”.

In places like Minneapolis and Saint Paul, it’s still pretty true; conservatives and conservatism are the counterculture, the disruption, the sound of the gleeful underdog that makes the establishment froth with rage.

And life today is imitating us.

Continue reading

That Which Can’t Be Sustained, Won’t Be

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Every year for the last 40 years, the United States has run short of money in the budget.  To fill the shortfall, the General Fund borrowed from the Social Security fund, but that still wasn’t enough.  To make ends meet, we borrowed even more.  The total accumulated debt is now $20,000,000,000,000.  That’s twenty trillion, with a T.

 That number does not include the cost of promises the government will be obligated to pay in the future such as Social Security and Medicare, the 20 trillion number is only the total of the promissory notes signed to fund government operations in the past.  Covering the cost of all government promises is closer to 100 trillion, give or take, depending on who you talk to.

 We’re not paying down the debt.  We’re making the minimum monthly payments on existing debt while running up ever more debt, month after month, with no end in sight.

 I don’t care whose fault it is.

 No, I really don’t care whose fault it is.  Finger-pointing and blaming is useless blather, at this point.

 I want to know what we’re going to do about it.

 The reason it comes up is because Republicans in Congress are talking about reforming Obama-care to make it affordable enough that the government can continue to offer the program, but Democrats are screaming the reforms will make the program unaffordable for individual citizens.  Both have fair points.  Both fail to address my point.

 Can government programs run in the red forever?  Can public debt be accumulated forever?  Is there literally no limit to how much debt we can run up?

If so, why?  That’s not true for private individuals or corporations.  If it’s true for government, there must be a reason why it’s true.  What’s the reason?

 Joe Doakes

Let’s ask Paul Krugman.

For The Miseducated Liberal In Your Life

We’re in the opening stages of a mayoral race in Saint Paul.

Now, the various stakeholders and activists are doing what they do – thinking big talks, dreaming big dreams via the political system.  As to what I think this city  actually needs from a new mayor?  It’s irrelevant.   We can want whatever we want – but Saint Paul is a one-party town, and what we will get is someone who’s kissed enough DFL-special-interest ass to rise to the top of the oligarchy,   Someone who will give a vigorous speech or two declaiming how his or her repackaging of 1960s liberal orthodoxy is fresh and new and will bring all the changes that the previous mayor’s repackaging of orthodoxy didn’t.  

Leading to 4-12 years of big government-driven stagnation

Part of the problem is that Saint Paul DFLers think that prosperity is something that government, at any level, can bring via careful planning.   It’s a common conceit on the left.

To speak to that, I’d like to make the essay “I, Pencil” mandatory reading for everyone in this country.  The 1958 essay by Leonard Reed, talks about the impossible complexity of building that humblest of tools of the modern world, the #2 Pencil, and how there is not a single person on the entire planet that can create and assemble a pencil, from scratch, with all of its precursors (cedar, graphite, clay, wax, zinc, tin, rubber and petroleum paint, plus the materials and labor that go into producing each of them).  And this complexity is multiplied, and exponentialized, with things that are more complicated – bicycles, cell phones, trains, cars, the Internet.  

And if  you were waiting for the movie?  Here it is:

The idea that a bunch of “political scientists” can legislate, plan or dictate this failing city to prosperity, even if they focus on that (rather than “inclusion” and other social justice fripperies) is…

…well, the status quo in Saint Paul.

It Worked For Kirk

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Volkswagen takes over from Toyota as number one carmaker in the world, despite the scandal of being caught cheating on emissions tests.

 

“Despite” the scandal?  Or because of it?  Emissions tests are idiotic and anyone clever enough and bold enough to beat them probably has other good qualities.

From what I understand, it’s standard practice when dealing with the EPA that the actual total emissions are not lowered, they are simply diluted by forcing more clean air or water or whatever through the same discharge outlet.  Too many parts per million of soot coming out the smoke stack?  Don’t lower the total pollutants per pound of fuel used, or per erg of power generated, just increase the total air moving up the smoke stack by installing huge blowers to force more air into the final exhaust.  Tried and approved methods, used widely throughout industry, approved by the EPA.  

 As I understand it, that’s essentially what VW did to pass the test.  But they turned off those useless blowers anytime there was no monitor testing the output since by shutting off the blowers they saved the energy that doesn’t alter the total pollutants one iota, and that energy was diverted to actual work product that moves the car, hence better miles per gallon.  

 The EPA is pissed because VW beat the Kobayashi Maru.

 Joe Doakes

It’s not, fooling Mother Bureaucracy.

Unexpected!

Last summer, when the people of the UK voted to leave the EU in the fabled “Brexit”, the same pundits who routinely Americans for “voting against their best interests” took a time out to chide Brits for voting…against their “best interests”.   The Brit economy was going to tank, returning the UK, if not to the Third World, at least into an impemetrable economic fog.

The landed punditry hasn’t been doing so well this year:

Business activity hit a 17-month high last month, meaning that the economy grew by 2.2 per cent last year — more than the six other leading nations, including the US, Germany and Japan.

Far from slowing after the referendum in June, as predicted by the Treasury and Bank of England, [and a rogue’s gallery of American pundits with portfolio – Ed.] growth appeared to have improved. GDP grew at 0.3 per cent and 0.6 per cent in the first two quarters of last year, compared with 0.6 per cent and an estimated 0.5 per cent in the final period.

On the one hand, time will tell.

On the other hand, our departing president wishes he’d had two consecutive quarters as good as that particular “failed experiment”.

I Have Seen The Future…

“Living Wage” activists carp that without labor, there’d be no business.  To follow that logic, one would assume if you gathered ten drive-through and fry-line workers together, a fast food restaurant would spontaneously form around them.

Less facetiously, we note that a “marxist” restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which promised “vegan, vegetarian and raw food” and promised no bosses or managers and a “Living wage” for its employees collaborators, has closed.

Worse still, while the food earned Bartertown a spot on VegNews’s “10 Hot New Vegan Restaurants” list, customers complained that it was almost impossible to get a meal at the diner.

People frequently noted on the restaurant’s Facebook page that they waited more than 40 minutes for a sandwich—and that’s when the diner was even open. Because the employees set the shop’s hours by group decision, the restaurant opened and closed at random times, leaving potential sandwich buyers totally confused.

Oh, don’t laugh.  With its minimum wage and sick time ordinances, Minneapolis is about to follow suit.  Saint Paul is rarely far behind.  And the only thing standing in the way of Bloomington following blindly behind would be the Mall of America – the only notable thing in Bloomington – saying “um, no”.

Good News, Bad News

Good News:  After five years of “economic growth” under Obama, the economy might actually take off again.

The US economy will grow by 2.3 percent in 2017 and 3.0 percent in 2018, said the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, revising its earlier forecast.

That compares to gross domestic product growth of 1.5 percent this year, according to the OECD.

Bad News:  Because Keynesianism:

The Republican property tycoon’s team has said he will devote $550 billion to rebuilding decrepit infrastructure.

Really Bad News:  And that’s all presuming the Democrats don’t call in their markers with Janet Yellen.

Let That Cycle Spin

Leftist parties in Europe are facing declining membership, electoral routs, and a general malaise:

The sick list is headed by Britain’s Labour Party, where veteran radical Jeremy Corbyn last week easily won a leadership challenge by centrist MPs angry at his part in the shock Brexit vote.

But political analysts say the venerable party — founded in 1900 — faces electoral oblivion despite his victory.

Its dismal standing in the opinion polls is mirrored across Europe.

As with Labour, Spain’s Socialist Party is in the grip of a fratricidal war over the performance of its leader, Pedro Sanchez, at a time of national crisis.

In Germany, the Social Democratic Party has lost half its members since 1998.

In France, President Francois Hollande is the most unpopular president in his country’s modern history and would be routed if he stands in next year’s presidential elections, according to opinion polls.

Centre-left parties recently lost power in Denmark, a stronghold of social democracy, and registered their worst-ever results in Finland and Poland. In Greece, support for the once dominant Pasok has plunged to just six percent.

“Social democracy is a shadow of itself,” German political analyst Albrecht von Lucke said on NDR television channel. “We are dealing with decline of historic proportions.”

The bad news?  While the center right and populist parties are benefitting, many near-left voters are moving even further left.

The Economics Of Duh

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Liberals think 2% inflation is a good thing, it keeps the economy growing.

That’s insane.

The definition of “money” is “a store of value.”  The whole point of using a monetary system instead of a barter system is to maintain the

value of money.  Inflation erodes the value of money.

If there’s 2% inflation and you get no cost-of-living adjustment in your wages, then at the end of the year you can buy 2% less stuff because the

money you earn isn’t enough to buy the same amount of stuff at the new, higher prices.  Everybody knows this but they accept it because we’re

conditioned to accept it.

Suppose instead there was 0% inflation, but your employer cut your wages 2% each year.  End result would be the same – the smaller amount money

you earn isn’t enough to buy the same amount of stuff.  But would people shit a brick?  Damned right.  They’re working just as long, just as

hard, but they’re losing ground.

To me, it’s so obvious I want to scream.  How can Liberals not see this?

Joe Doakes

“Liberal economist” is another word for “economic phrenologist”.

Gotta Hand It To The Brazilians

The Brazilians just finished impeaching their first female leader, Dilma Rousseff, for corruption.

As Kevin Williamson points out, her corruption was pennies on the American “Progressive” dollar; the sort of creative accounting that the left (has been foisting on the American public for decades (with the connivance of way too many Republicans in DC, naturally), and why it, at this point, really matters anyway:

Corruption leads to poverty. It leads to poverty in Brazil, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Philadelphia, in Los Angeles, in Upstate New York, and in the Rio Grande Valley. Capitalism — the awesome productive capacity of free people — can bear many burdens and defray many costs, but it can be perverted and misdirected, too. From the state-run enterprises in Brazil and Venezuela to the green-energy fantasies of U.S. progressives, we see that the real threat to capitalism is not domination but seduction. Brazil seems to be hearing that gospel. We refuse to listen.

Is it because the media wouldn’t call Hillary (or any) Clinton “corrupt” if they caught her walking out of Fort Knox with a stack of gold bars in her purse?  Or because Americans favor the corruption – the looting of the public treasury – that benefits them?

We’ll see – sooner than later:

In November, the people of the United States almost certainly are going to elect Hillary Rodham Clinton their next president. Like Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, she will be the first woman to hold the office. Like Dilma Rousseff, she is an old-fashioned party-machine pol who is deeply and consistently corrupt, habitually dishonest, funny with money, and prompt to dismiss any and all efforts at holding her to some basic standard of decency and accountability as — remember the words, which could have been Rousseff’s — “a vast right-wing conspiracy.” We had to impeach the president the last time we had the poor national judgment to send a member of this hilljack crime syndicate to the White House, and Mrs. Clinton already has been acting as a one-woman crime wave when it comes to the laws that regulate how sensitive government information is handled and how official communications are archived for the purposes of accountability and oversight. Mrs. Clinton has argued that this all stems from her being too stupid to understand how to operate a mobile phone: “I used one device,” Mrs. Clinton lied. (She used many and has a talent for nesting lies within her lies.)

Americans may one day – soon – envy the corrupt, malarial hellhole that had the common sense to show at least one member of that class the door.

Finally.

A Rhetorical Question

MINNESOTA CONSERVATIVE:  If a conservative, libertarian or Republican gets hit, spit on and otherwise attacked, and no media reports on it, did it really happen?

MINNESOTA LIBERAL:  If what happened to who?  Huh?

MINNESOTA CONSERVATIVE:  I said, if a conservative, libertarian or Republican gets hit, spit on and otherwise attacked, and no media reports on it, did it really happen?

MINNESOTA LIBERAL:  If what happened to who?  Again, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

MINNESOTA CONSERVATIVE:  Well, you got that part right

Clairvoyance

So it looks like all the people who were caterwauling about doom and gloom for British trade in the wake of the “brexit” were unreservedly correct, and the English economy is going to spiral into the toilet like an airplane missing both wings…

… I’m sorry. I got something caught in my throat. As I was trying to say, the lesson is clear: without the guidance of “experts” who’ve never run a business, and whose entire frame of reference is nothing but being bureaucrats, a sovereign peoples’ hopes of a decent living or just wind and sales…

…hopes of a decent living are just wind and sales…

… No, that’s just something in my throat still…

… Oh, who am I kidding?   It’s been less than two weeks, and countries are lining up to cut trade deals with Britain, independent of the EU.

Why, it’s almost as if all those jeremiads from the wonks, and the wannabee wonks in the media, the American and European left, and National Public Radio, we’re just trying to scare people into acquiescence with the wishes of their self-appointed betters or something.

Cop Resident

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is buying topsoil at Kern Landscaping in Saint Paul.    Busily loading his car, he doesn’t notice Avery LIBRELLE climbing out of an oil-belching Subaru wagon to make a deposit.  

LIBRELLE:  Merg!  If we elect Hillary, we’ll get Bill Clinton for co-president!

BERG:  So?

LIBRELLE:  That means the economy will boom!

BERG:  Wait – didn’t NPR tell me the economy is already booming?

LIBRELLE:  It’ll boom even more!

BERG:  OK.  So we’ll get Bill Clinton.  Will we also get Newt Gingrich?

LIBRELLE:  No.  Why?  Hisssssssssssssss!

BERG:  Because it was the Gingrich Congress’s enforcement of fiscal discipline on the Clinton Administration after the 1994 Republican Wave that kept the Feds out of the way of the economic boom.  By the way, speaking of boom – will there be any empires falling, paving the way for a massive transfer of resources from the military?

LIBRELLE:  Huh?

BERG:  The “Peace Dividend”.  When the USSR collapsed – thanks to Ronald Reagan – the US was able to move a lot of defense spending to civilian uses.  Which dumped a ton of money, skill and technology into the civilian market.   Which led, after a brief recession, to the beginning of a boom that ran until 9/11.

So – if Hillary plans to bring back a conservative Congress and has another “peace dividend” in her purse, we might have ourselves a deal.

LIBRELLE:  (Stands, mutely flapping jaw)

BERG:  Have a nice day, Avery.

(And SCENE)

I’m No Longer From The Government, And I’m Here To Help

There is an actual, credible move underway to privatize air-traffic control (ATC) – a long-overdue move to modernize a system where government’s hide-bound, politically-driven intellectual sclerosis isn’t merely slow, annoying and exquisitely expensive, but directly threatens lives:

Air-traffic control (ATC) is operated by the Federal Aviation Administration and funded by a combination of aviation taxes and a subsidy from general revenues. Ever since the Reagan administration, the FAA has been trying to modernize the ATC system, taking advantage of new technology to unclog the congested airways. Yet the system still relies on 1960s technology: radar instead of GPS to keep track of planes, paper flight strips with handwritten changes instead of electronic data on controllers’ screens, and unreliable voice radio instead of digital communication. Tens of billions have been spent on new computer systems and minor technology upgrades, but three decades of reports by the GAO and the Department of Transportation’s inspector general have documented repeated cost overruns and late deliveries and an ever-receding target date for true modernization.

The push isn’t new:

Dating back to Reagan’s transportation secretary, Jim Burnley, a growing consensus has emerged that air-traffic control is better viewed as a 24/7 high-tech service business than as a tax-funded, federally subsidized bureaucracy. National commissions, think-tank reports, and industry studies have all reached this conclusion, but reform efforts have gotten nowhere in Congress — until this year. In February, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a bill that would remove the Air Traffic Organization (the operational arm of the FAA) from the FAA and reconstitute it as a self-funded, nonprofit, private company. It would be governed by a board representing all segments of aviation and regulated for safety — at arm’s length — by the remaining FAA, just as that agency regulates airports, airlines, and private pilots.

Read the entire article – which notes that many of the other nations that both the left and right admire have done the same, with great success (and arrested and diminishing cost (!) in recent years.

And then stop and think – where else would this work?

Swedish Style

The things Bernie Sanders – and, to be fair, every single one of his American supporters – miss about Scandinavian socialism today (as opposed to the seventies-era variety that Sanders seems to think still applies), via Johan Norberg:

“Sanders is right: America would benefit hugely from modeling her economic and social policies after her Scandinavian sisters. But Sanders should be careful what he wishes for. When he asks for ‘trade policies that work for the working families of our nation and not just the CEOs of large, multi-national corporations,’ Social Democrats in Sweden would take this to mean trade liberalization — which would have the benefit of exposing monopolist fat cats to competition — not the protectionism that Sanders favors. … Being more like modern Sweden actually means deregulation, free trade, a national school voucher system, partially privatized pensions, no property tax, no inheritance tax, and much lower corporate taxes. Sorry to burst your bubble, Bernie.”

If there’s one thing the American left can build, it’s shatterproof intellectual bubbles.