Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘regulation’

Regulation Reality Tour hits Colorado

Posted by Richard on April 19, 2010

Americans for Prosperity is bringing its Regulation Reality Tour to Colorado April 19-21. It sounds like a fun event with a serious message. "Carbon Cops" in SMART cars will drive home the message that the EPA's efforts to regulate carbon emissions (without congressional action) threaten to burden us with onerous regulations, taxes, and fines for activities that harm no one, further harming our economy.

I plan to drop by the Denver event at the State Capitol Monday evening (5-6 PM) after work. There'll be free hot dogs and something called "moon bounce." I don't know about the latter, but I'll definitely grab a free hot dog. If you're in the neighborhood, please join me.

Other Colorado events are scheduled in Ft. Collins and Aurora on Monday, Highlands Ranch and Colorado Springs on Tuesday, and Montrose, Grand Junction, and Wheat Ridge on Wednesday. All offer free food and most offer the mysterious "moon bounce." Get more info and sign up to attend here (you don't have to sign up to attend, but the free food supply is more likely to be adequate if you do). Bring the family — I'm guessing "moon bounce" is something the kids will like. 

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Offshore drilling sleight of hand

Posted by Richard on April 1, 2010

Don't get too excited about the news that President Obama has embraced "Drill here, drill now." The initial MSM reports sounded good, but just a bit of digging reveals this to be the administration's April fool's joke. Or, as the Competitive Enterprise Institute put it, "sleight of hand":

Most of Alaska, all of the Pacific coast, and other areas that could yield affordable energy for American consumers are still closed off from any development. Rather than a painful compromise, this is therefore actually a step back from what the American people thought had been achieved in 2008.

"When gas reached four dollars a gallon, the American people were shocked to discover that most of our domestic oil reserves were locked up by the federal government. They demanded change," said Competitive Enterprise Institute Director of Energy Policy Myron Ebell.

In 2008, President George W. Bush revoked his father's executive order barring new offshore energy development and the Department of the Interior prepared a five year offshore leasing plan. The Democratic Congress co-operated by dropping the long-time moratorium which banned offshore oil production everywhere except in the western Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean off Alaska. The Obama administration, however, suspended the Interior plan and delayed a planned lease auction scheduled for 2011. It is now proposing a new plan that is much more limited.

So in a nutshell, the areas they're bragging about opening up were already open (pre-Obama). And some of the areas they're closing down were already open, too. The net effect is to reduce access to domestic reserves, not increase it. 

The editors of National Review Online think they know the true purpose of this new plan:

The limited drilling is clearly being offered as a bargaining chip, a way to give soft Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and oil-state Democrats such as Mary Landrieu (D., La.) cover in exchange for their votes on legislation that caps or taxes emissions. Graham and Landrieu were members of the Gang of Ten, the senators who proposed limited drilling in exchange for lots of new subsidies for green-energy companies and, in the process, nearly derailed the effort that undid the congressional ban. Unsurprisingly, the Obama's drilling proposal looks a lot like the one the Gang of Ten put on the table. … We argued at the time that the amount of oil that the Gang's proposal might yield wouldn't be worth the cost to taxpayers of even more subsidies for politically influential but commerically lame green industries. It certainly wouldn't be worth it now that carbon caps have been added to the broader policy mix.

Just like "no middle-class tax increase," "reducing the deficit," "shovel-ready jobs," and "transparency," the claim of "opening coastal waters" deserves a Joe Wilson type of response. 

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Controlling the people and redistributing the wealth

Posted by Richard on March 26, 2010

For a long time, the Socialist Democrats have hidden their true agenda from the American people. No more. They're now so cocky and confident (and so contemptuous of their opposition) that they're dropping the facade of moderation and centrism.

On Tuesday, Rep. John Dingell (SD-MI) was asked on a Michigan radio program why Obamacare would not be fully implemented until 2014 when so many people are dying each year due to lack of insurance (a claim based on a totally bogus study, BTW). Dingell explained that "it takes a long time to do the necessary administrative steps that have to be taken to put the legislation together to control the people."

The same day, a New York Times story (I'll link to the excellent fisking at Sweetness & Light) made it clear that the government takeover of the health care industry is "the federal government's biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago" and the centerpiece of Obama's plan to reverse the Reagan Revolution and redistribute wealth. 

And just today, as the Senate was preparing to pass the "reconciliation" bill containing the House "fixes" for Obamacare, Sen. Max Baucus (SD-MT) addressed the Senate as follows: 

Too often, much of late, the last couple three years the mal-distribution of income in America is gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind. Wages have not kept up with increased income of the highest income in America. This legislation will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America.

So. Now that it's a done deal, the Socialist Democrats are proudly proclaiming what they previously and angrily denied, what they previously denounced as right-wing lies and fear-mongering: the government takeover of the health care industry is intended to control the people and redistribute the wealth. It's intended to turn citizens into subjects and to ensure equality of misery.

They're slightly less crazy-sounding, but fundamentally not all that different from Hugo Chavez.

But don't worry about the constitutionality.  Rep. John Conyers (SD-MI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and noted constitutional scholar, has assured us that it's all authorized by the Constitution's "Good and Welfare Clause."

Costa Rica's looking better all the time. Or maybe Honduras, where they still respect the rule of law.

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The “vicious heart” of Obamacare

Posted by Richard on December 10, 2009

Robert Tracinski urges opponents of government-controlled health care to stop being distracted by all the blather about abortion funding and the "public option." Those are merely sideshows:

Three provisions constitute the vicious heart of the Democrats' health-care overhaul.

The first is "guaranteed issue" and "community rating." This is the requirement that insurance companies have to offer coverage to people who are already sick, and that they be limited in their ability to charge higher rates for customer who pose a higher risk. The extra expense to the insurance companies of covering people with pre-existing conditions will get passed on to existing customers in the form of higher premiums. But why spend years paying these inflated premiums for insurance you're not using, when you can get exactly the same benefits by waiting until you actually fall ill? …

Rather than increasing the number of insured by making health insurance more affordable, this bill makes health insurance more expensive and increases the incentive to simply drop your insurance until you need someone to pay for your medical bills. …

Following the usual pattern of government intervention, the health-care bill offers another intervention as the solution for the problem created by the first. The "individual mandate" requires everyone to buy health insurance and subjects us to a tax if we fail to do so. …

… Congress didn't have the guts to make this new tax very large—only $750. Yet actual insurance can cost more than $3,000 per year—and as we shall see, this legislation goes out of its way to drive up those rates by mandating more lavish coverage. So we end up getting the worst of both worlds. This provision won't actually drive anyone to buy health insurance and prop up the risk pools for those who are insured. All it will accomplish is to create a brand new form of tax.

But the biggest power-grab in the bill is the government takeover of the entire market for health insurance. The bill requires all new policies to be sold on a government-controlled exchange run by a commissioner who is empowered to dictate what kinds of insurance policies can be offered, what they must cover, and what they can charge.

Right now, your best option for reducing the cost of your health insurance is to buy a policy with a high deductible, which leaves you to pay for routine checkups and minor injuries (preferably from savings held in a tax-free Health Savings Account) …

But the health-insurance exchange is intended to eliminate precisely this kind of low-cost catastrophic coverage. Its purpose is to force health-insurance companies to offer comprehensive coverage that pays for all of your routine bills—which in turn comes at a higher price. So under the guise of making health insurance more affordable, this bill will restrict your menu of choices to include only the most expensive options.

So there we have the real essence of this bill. It restricts our choice of which insurance to buy and pushes us into more expensive plans. At the same time, it destroys the economic incentive to purchase insurance in the first place and replaces insurance with a free-floating tax on one's very existence. 

Forget Harry Reid's nonsense about a "compromise" that eliminates the "public option." This monstrous (in every sense of the word) bill, even without the much-debated "public option," is guaranteed to destroy the insurance industry and eventually drive us all into the functional equivalent of Medicaid. It will lead to single-payer with a vengeance, turning health care into a gigantic welfare program. We'll have no choice but to be its "beneficiaries." Ask someone on Medicaid or a health care provider serving Medicaid clients how desirable that is. 

This isn't about "choice" or "affordability" or even "access." It's about control, folks. They want more control. It's unconstitutional as hell, dangerous as hell, and evil as hell. Call or write your senators and tell them not just "No," but "Hell, no!"

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters. 

— Daniel Webster

Full disclosure: I have exactly the kind of coverage that Tracinski has — a high-deductible health insurance policy coupled with a Health Savings Account. I love it. I think encouraging more people to embrace this option would go a long way toward addressing the problems with our current health care system.

Does your car insurance cover oil changes, tire and battery replacements, and other routine maintenance? Of course not! Insurance should be for unanticipated expenses. A high-deductible health care plan works just like your car insurance — it covers unanticipated or "catastrophic" expenses (my United Health Care policy also covers "preventative care," including annual physicals — like paying for oil changes to encourage you to do them to minimize future costs). 

In any case, both the Senate and House versions of Obamacare go out of their way to eliminate such patient-centered, consumer-controlled choices. They're determined to substitute their choices for yours. The Senate's POS "compromise" legislation would outlaw such an option.

Even if you're not sure such a plan would be right for you, don't you think that option should be available? Email or phone (PDF) your senators! Now!

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Roots of mortgage crisis

Posted by Richard on September 30, 2008

Ralph Reiland wrote a nice, succinct history of how we got into the current mess. The roots of the current crisis go back to Jimmy Carter's 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, which gave poor people and minorities greater access to mortgage credit by punishing lending institutions that didn't meet "equal credit" guidelines.

In 1995, the Clinton administration greatly accelerated the flood of easy home loans by expanding both the carrots and the sticks.

One of the biggest sticks in the 1995 Treasury regulations involved letting left-wing advocacy groups essentially extort large pools of mortgage money from banks (along with hefty fees for the advocacy groups) in exchange for a satisfactory CRA rating.

The most successful of these radical left-wing groups was ACORN, today better known for its widespread voter registration frauds that have led to indictments in more than a dozen states. In the 90s, ACORN made a vast fortune extorting mountains of mortgage money from banks and parceling it out in the poor and minority communities over which it exercised influence (emphasis added): 

In addition to setting the stage for giving money for mortgage payouts to ACORN and other lending amateurs, CRA authorized those organizations to collect fees from the banks for their "marketing" of loans.

"The Senate Banking Committee has estimated that, as a result of CRA, $9.5 billion so far has gone to pay for services and salaries of the nonprofit groups involved," reported Husock.

There's big money, in short, in "nonprofit" activism — and upward mobility. A guy carries a sign advocating "Change" in front of a bank and the government turns him into a salaried protester, credit analyst and dispenser of mortgage money.

"The changes came as radical 'housing rights' groups led by ACORN lobbied for such loans," reports Investor's Business Daily, regarding the Clinton era. "ACORN at the time was represented by a young public-interest lawyer in Chicago by the name of Barack Obama."

Change you can bank on.

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Bipartisan opposition killed bailout bill

Posted by Richard on September 30, 2008

The Paulson power grab, a.k.a. the $700 billion bailout bill, was defeated in the House today, 205-228. Both sides are blaming partisanship and pointing fingers. But when I look at the voting breakdown — 95 Democrats and 133 Republicans voted Nay — I see a pretty bipartisan rejection of this ugly monstrosity.

As for the man behind the massive bailout, Hank Paulson, he's nominally a Republican, but his plan appeals to Eastern country-club Republicans and establishment liberal Democrats — the big-government types who have cozy symbiotic relationships with the big-finance types on Wall Street.

In fact, Paulson has been more in tune with liberal Democrats than Republicans, and that's not a new development. About a year ago, Bob Novak pointed out that Paulson had put two strong Democrats — former associates from Goldman Sachs — into important positions at Treasury. Novak also noted that Paulson himself, although a big Bush fundraiser in 2004, had also contributed to Clinton, Schumer, Bill Bradley's presidential campaign, and the very liberal Emily's List. 

Michelle Malkin collected some statements from Paulson over the last 18 months regarding the subprime mortgage mess. They don't reflect well on his financial acumen and judgment.

Paulson isn't the only person who's been denying that there was any problem with subprime mortgages. Democrats have successfully fought off repeated efforts to reform and regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac since 2001. Here's a 3½-minute special report from Fox News summarizing the 8-year history of ignored warnings and failed efforts to stop the impending crisis. 

 

Here's an 8½-minute compilation of C-SPAN clips from a 2004 hearing into Fanny and Freddie. The regulator warns of the inevitable collapse, while Democrats denounce the critics, defend the agencies, and insist there's nothing wrong. Near the end, Franklin Raynes himself insists that Fannie's subprime mortgages have "zero risk."

 

Sen. McCain warned in 2006 about the "enormous risk" that Fannie and Freddie posed to the economy, but Democrats blocked his reform and oversight bill.

 

Plenty of people in both major parties benefited from Fannie and Freddie's house of cards. But virtually all the people enriching themselves on the inside were Democrats (Raines, Johnson, Gorelick, Mudd). And the majority of the politicians raking in big contributions and using the easy credit scam to further their political careers were Democrats (Dodd, Kerry, Obama, Clinton).

It's more than a bit unseemly for Sen. Obama (who took $105,000 from Fannie and Freddie in just 2 years) to blame the mess on the "failed Bush policies."

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Protecting freedom of choice

Posted by Richard on March 8, 2008

Today's Wall Street Journal featured a fine opinion column defending freedom of choice and challenging paternalistic efforts to address three current issues. The author addressed three things in the news lately: subprime mortgages, health insurance, and payday loans. In each case, he argued, efforts to protect people from themselves with more regulation are wrong-headed and counter-productive.

Regarding the "mortgage crisis," the author argued that liberal credit, subprime loans, and adjustable-rate mortgages made home-ownership possible for countless people who otherwise couldn't have achieved it. And for most of them, this was and still is a very good thing: 

According to the national delinquency survey released yesterday, the vast majority of subprime, adjustable-rate mortgages are in good condition,their holders neither delinquent nor in default.

There's no question, however, that delinquency and default rates are far too high. But some of this is due to bad investment decisions by real-estate speculators. These losses are not unlike the risks taken every day in the stock market.

The real question for policy makers is how to protect those worthy borrowers who are struggling, without throwing out a system that works fine for the majority of its users (all of whom have freely chosen to use it). If the tub is more baby than bathwater, we should think twice about dumping everything out.

Regarding health care, the author argued that paternalism has denied people access to affordable options and restricted them to "gold-plated health plans" that they don't want and can't afford:

Buying health insurance on the Internet and across state lines, where less expensive plans may be available, is prohibited by many state insurance commissions. Despite being able to buy car or home insurance with a mouse click, some state governments require their approved plans for purchase or none at all. It's as if states dictated that you had to buy a Mercedes or no car at all.

Regarding payday loans, the author noted that these services, although expensive, allow people of modest means to cope with emergency needs at a far lower cost than the alternatives of bouncing checks or missing payments. The effort to restrict, regulate, or outlaw these services could cause great harm to their supposed victims:

Anguished at the fact that payday lending isn't perfect, some people would outlaw the service entirely, or cap fees at such low levels that no lender will provide the service. Anyone who's familiar with the law of unintended consequences should be able to guess what happens next.

Researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York went one step further and laid the data out: Payday lending bans simply push low-income borrowers into less pleasant options, including increased rates of bankruptcy. Net result: After a lending ban, the consumer has the same amount of debt but fewer ways to manage it.

The "less pleasant options" also include loan sharks with mob connections who break legs when payments are late.

The author concluded with words that made me cheer:

Since leaving office I've written about public policy from a new perspective: outside looking in. I've come to realize that protecting freedom of choice in our everyday lives is essential to maintaining a healthy civil society.

Why do we think we are helping adult consumers by taking away their options? We don't take away cars because we don't like some people speeding. We allow state lotteries despite knowing some people are betting their grocery money. Everyone is exposed to economic risks of some kind. But we don't operate mindlessly in trying to smooth out every theoretical wrinkle in life.

The nature of freedom of choice is that some people will misuse their responsibility and hurt themselves in the process. We should do our best to educate them, but without diminishing choice for everyone else.

If you're reading this on your computer, you're probably already seated. Good. If not, sit down. The author of this wonderful column? George McGovern. Yes, the George McGovern.

Now, listen up, all you doom-and-gloom libertarians and libertarian-conservatives. You whine about how we're losing more and more of our freedoms, about the inexorable growth of Leviathan. You think we're losing the battle for liberty. You speak with contempt about the "sheeple" among whom you live, who are all too eager to "trade their birthright for a mess of pottage." You're wrong. In terms of the intellectual climate, the culture, the prevailing values and beliefs, we've made tremendous progress in the last 40 years.

No, we're not yet on the verge of a libertarian nirvana or a shining city on the hill. But we're not descending into darkness, either. Things have changed, and they've mostly changed for the better.

Except for in a few primitive backwaters and on college campuses, the superiority of "free minds and free markets" is almost universally acknowledged (even if grudgingly, by some). 

And the most radical leftist in my lifetime to be a major-party presidential candidate, the man who in 1972 advocated essentially democratic socialism and a cradle-to-grave welfare state, is today arguing for economic liberty and freedom of choice in a column entitled "Freedom Means Responsibility."

I think that's just way, way cool. Thanks, George! And cheer up, my friends — we're winning the war of ideas, and the future is bright!

(This message brought to you by Denver's most Pollyanna-ish curmudgeon — or curmudgeonly Pollyanna. Something like that. A tip of the hat to Rick Sincere, who had some good comments of his own.) 

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Cost of Government Day

Posted by Richard on July 12, 2007

Remember Tax Freedom Day? According to the Tax Foundation, if you're quintessentially average, on April 30 you finally finished paying your tax burden for the year and started to work for yourself instead of the government. Hooray, right?

Not so fast, bubba. Americans for Tax Reform thinks the Tax Foundation overlooked a big chunk of change — the cost of government regulation. So ATR calculated the total cost of government and when you, the average wage slave, have finally earned enough to pay your share. And they determined that July 11 is Cost of Government Day.

Congratulations. From here on — for the remaining 47.4% of the year — you're paying for your own Cheetos and beer instead of someone else's. Rick Sincere has the whole story, including how much worse the situation has become in the past century.

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