ObamaCare: Things Fall Apart

English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Prot...

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare,” was intended to dramatically increase the number of Americans with health coverage while “bending the cost curve” (that is, reducing the expected increases in price over time).

The plan managed the first goal, at least in the short term. Unsurprising, isn’t it, that more people get coverage when the law requires them to buy it, penalizes those who won’t, and subsidizes those who can’t afford to?

But the progress on that metric is beginning to disintegrate and we’re moving in the other direction. Bloomberg reports that 1.4 million Americans in 32 states will lose their health plans next year as major providers pull out of the ObamaCare “exchanges” because they’re losing money. Apaprently a business has to take in more than it spends if it wants to remain a going concern. I’m sure I’ve read that somewhere.

As far as “bending the cost curve” is concerned … well … according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, cited by US News & World Report average premiums rose by 7.5% last year and will rise by 25% in 2017.  Price inflation for most consumer goods over the 2015-2016 period averaged a little more than 1%. Forgive me for thinking that when costs increase at 7-25 times the rate of inflation, that’s not really a lot of “bend” to the “curve.”

In 2009, I described (the then notional, yet to be passed into law) ObamaCare as “[g]overnment feeds you to the insurance companies, while simultaneously feeding the insurance companies to you. The state takes home a doggie bag.” Which is about the size of it, and I was far from the only person who noticed and warned that the plan not only wouldn’t work, but COULDN’T work, if the goal was reducing costs and increasing access to health care. Artificially increasing demand relative to supply can only have the opposite effects.

Since 2010, Republicans (who, by the way, first proposed the “individual mandate” scheme) have slowly but surely retreated from the idea of repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with nothing, instead proposing various schemes for keeping government as involved as possible in health care while pretending to “return” it to “the free market” (there hasn’t been a free market in health care for more than a century, since the American Medical Association got licensing schemes imposed by the states so that it could limit the number of doctors and thereby keep their salaries high).

Most Americans are now worse off vis a vis health care than they were six years ago. The only winners have been government health bureaucrats. And unfortunately, the politicians don’t seem to be interested in getting out of the way and letting the market fix things. Next stop: “Single payer.”

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Election 2016: Who I’m Not Voting For, And Why

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That’s what this election is about, isn’t it? Daily, I’m warned by Democrats that I mustn’t vote for Donald Trump, by Republicans that I mustn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, and by supporters of both that I mustn’t vote for a third party, independent or write-in candidate.

If I take all that advice to heart, I won’t be able to vote for any of Florida’s 12 balloted or write-in candidates for president , will I?  And I admit that it’s tempting to sit this one out.

I know I won’t waste my vote on Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Call me picky, but in my view pathological liars who hate freedom and love war shouldn’t get to live in the White House, sign and veto bills, have access to nuclear launch codes,  and all that other president stuff. I’ve narrowed it down THAT much, anyway.

The easy out for me — and I may take it — would be to vote for Gary Johnson. I’m a partisan Libertarian and he’s my party’s candidate. He’s seriously flawed, but on the plus side he’s probably not irredeemably evil like the two major party picks. He’s kinda, sorta, a little bit in favor of my own top political values, freedom and peace. America could do worse. In fact it mostly has.

The other third party candidates — the Green Party’s Jill Stein, the Reform Party’s Rocky de la Fuente, and the Constitution Party’s Darrell Castle — also seem like decent folks but they’re just a little too far afield on issues I care about. If we MUST have a president, I could live with one of them. But not vote for any of them.

I only recognize the names of two of the six write-in candidates — independent Laurence Kotlikoff and the Transhumanist Party’s Zoltan Istvan Gyurko. Of those two, only Istvan appeals to me. He’s all about immortality, which sounds good. Also, wouldn’t it be cool to have a president named “Zoltan?”

Of course, there’s something to be said for the write-ins I DON’T recognize. Maybe we should start picking presidents at random from a pile of all the phone books in America. Speaking of which, do they still even print phone books?

Yes, I know that you people are going to pick Clinton or Trump. But that’s on you, not me. And it proves that we really need a better way of going about this politics thing. Just sayin’.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


“Rigged Election” Rhetoric: A Dangerous Two-Way Street

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Google News returns (as of October 18) 285,000 search results on the phrase “rigged election.” It’s a trending topic, run up the flagpole of public consciousness by media coverage of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s mouth. Sample, from an October 17 rally in Wisconsin:

“Remember, we are competing in a rigged election …. They even want to try and rig the election at the polling booths, where so many cities are corrupt and voter fraud is all too common.”

Three observations:

First, this kind of rhetoric is dangerous, and not just in a notional manner. More than one country has descended into riot, revolution, coup or civil war territory over disputes about the integrity of its elections. Think it can’t happen here? Think again.

Secondly, this kind of rhetoric isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination. In the United States, the claim has enjoyed growing persuasive power ever since 2000 when a Florida vote recount was halted by the US Supreme Court, thereby awarding the office of president to George W. Bush, who probably didn’t actually win the election. Many Democrats ascribed John Kerry’s 2004 defeat to voting machine manipulation in Ohio. In 2012, Republicans threw in with complaints over apparent voter intimidation at urban polling places in support of Barack Obama’s re-election.

Finally, Trump is not the only presidential candidate claiming that this presidential election is rigged. As far back as August, we have Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton saying things like this:

“I think laying out the facts raises serious issues about Russian interference in our elections, in our democracy …. For Trump to both encourage that and to praise Putin despite what appears to be a deliberate effort to try to affect the election I think raises national security issues.”

The Clinton version is a bit more subtle (and even less well-supported by anything resembling actual evidence) than Trump’s. It’s also at least as dangerous and possibly more so to the extent that it might serve as a casus belli for World War III.

Trump is preemptively positioning himself to claim that a victorious Clinton and her party rigged the election. That could lead to fireworks.

Clinton is preemptively positioning herself to accuse a foreign power of rigging — or at least unduly influencing — the outcome to her loss. That could lead to fireworks of a nuclear variety.

Third party and independent candidates have the strongest complaints of election-rigging — the Republicans and Democrats have colluded in suppressing all other parties for lo on 130 years now with restrictive ballot access laws and other dirty tricks. But those complaints aren’t quite the gasoline-soaked pile of tinder that happens when the two wings of the ruling oligarchy have this type of falling out.

We certainly live in interesting times.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Sandy Hook Suit Victimized Families Yet Again for Political Gain

First Generation Bushmaster Assault Rifle - Wo...

First Generation Bushmaster Rifle – Wooden stock shown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been nearly four years since Adam Lanza murdered his mother at the Newtown, Connecticut home they shared, then assaulted Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children, six staff members and, finally, himself.

Naturally the usual suspects — including but not limited to US president Barack Obama — immediately began rolling around in the victims’ still-wet blood and dancing on their graves, screeching for more of the very laws which had made Lanza’s atrocity possible in the first place (for example, the Gun Free School Zones Act, which virtually ensured that he enjoyed an extended timeframe in which to murder with impunity before facing an armed response).

The ghouls have marked time since the massacre with chest-beating ritual designed to keep the victims traumatized and periodically reopen their wounds. Newtown made a spectacle of acquiring Lanza’s home and demolishing it. The school district spent more than $50 million closing, demolishing, and rebuilding Sandy Hook Elementary.

And of course the victim disarmament lobby deployed one of the perennial favorites in its propaganda arsenal (pun intended): Malicious litigation in the form of “lawfare” (“the abuse of Western laws and judicial systems to achieve strategic military or political ends”).

Freedom won an important battle on the lawfare front on October 14, when Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis dismissed a lawsuit filed in the names of 10 of the Sandy Hook victims’ families against Remington Arms, Camfour Holding LLC, and Riverview Sales — respectively the manufacturer, distributor and retail seller of the Bushmaster rifle Lanza used in his killing spree.

The dismissal was clearly mandated by a specific law, the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” passed by Congress in 2005 to protect gun manufacturers from litigation of this sort. But that law shouldn’t have even been necessary. Such litigation is meritless and frivolous on its face. The attorneys who drummed up the suit on behalf of (or to pitch to) the plaintiff families should be denied any monetary compensation from the families for their morally reprobate “work,” personally financially sanctioned by the court to recoup the costs of this farce  to the taxpayers,  and disciplined by their state bar association for ethics violations (e.g. barratry, “vexatious litigation or incitement to it”).

Remington Arms manufactured an indisputably legal item of a type available for general sale for more than a century. Camfour Holding LLC distributed that legal item to retailers. Riverview Sales legally sold that legal item Lanza’s mother.

The item was not defective, at least in any way which incited, encouraged, or brought about the killings. It was an inanimate object.

The cause of the killings — the ENTIRE cause of the killings — was Adam Lanza’s intent to kill, full stop. None of the defendants bears so much as an iota of responsibility for Lanza’s actions. But the ambulance-chasers who brought this suit bear full responsibility for THEIR actions. They should be made to feel that responsibility, preferably in the form of finding themselves destitute, unemployed, and unemployable (other than, perhaps, at a “would you like fries with that?” level).

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


War Crimes: John Kerry’s Really Got Some Kind of Nerve

Detention report and Mugshots of Joachim von R...

Detention report and Mugshots of Joachim von Ribbentrop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

US Secretary of State John Kerry opined (in an October 7 appearance with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault) that Russian military actions in Syria “beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes.” French President Francois Hollande echoed the sentiment.

Kerry might want to keep the fate of his German predecessor, Joachim von Ribbentrop, in mind when making such statements. Ribbentrop, Hitler’s Foreign Minister, was hanged after trial at Nuremberg.

Kerry complains that Russian forces — in Syria helping that country’s government put down a rebellion backed by the United States and al Qaeda (yes, that al  Qaeda) — are pursuing a “targeted strategy to terrorize civilians and to kill anybody and everybody who is in the way of their military objectives.” Maybe he’s right. I certainly harbor no love for Vladimir Putin or Bashar al-Assad.

But where, one might ask, has John Kerry been for the last 15 years as the US has pursued a “targeted strategy to terrorize civilians and to kill anybody and everybody who is in the way of their military objectives” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia at the cost of hundreds of thousands, possibly more than a million, civilian lives?

Why did Secretary Kerry’s conscience go untroubled by possible war crimes repercussions when US  forces killed at least 42 civilians in an AC-130U gunship attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan a year ago this month?

Where  has his deep concern over war crimes been during the decade-plus US terror campaign of drone assassinations across the Middle East, Africa and Asia? Jeremy Scahill, writing for The Intercept, reports that in a  two-month sampling of drone strikes in Afghanistan, nearly 90% of those killed were not the actual targets. For some reason, US drone killers seem particularly attracted to wedding parties and other noncombatant civilian activities.

Did the whole war crimes thing perhaps come into perspective for Mr. Kerry on October 12, when US Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA)  notified him in a letter that the US may be (read: is) culpable for its involvement in Saudi war crimes in Yemen (the US provides arms and aerial refueling support to the Saudi invaders)?

There seem to be plenty of potential war crimes investigations to go around, don’t there? Maybe enough to merit renting a hall in Nuremberg.

Fortunately for Russia, Syria and the US, those three regimes haven’t ratified the Rome Statute and placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court for war crimes. The US also lucks out with Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia, none of which are party to the ICC treaty either.

Afghanistan, however, is a Rome Statute party. War crimes there come under ICC jurisdiction, regardless of who commits them. Perhaps an investigation of the Kunduz attack will fulfill Kerry’s desire to see war crimes punished.

And perhaps pigs will fly. Every nation’s ruling class considers itself exceptional and proves it by sheltering its own war criminals from justice whenever possible. Here’s hoping they all end up like Ribbentrop.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.