On 'Breaking Bad' and Obamacare
Christopher J. Conover in The Weekly Standard : “Breaking Bad” is the story of a seemingly well-intended but very misguided man who turned to cooking meth in order to amass enough wealth to provide for his family once he dies of cancer. The consequences of that unfortunate decision — not to mention the lies and deceptions to keep it on track — pyramid alarmingly over the course of five seasons, culminating in mayhem and a head-spinning body count.
Obamacare isn’t a TV drama. But it will unleash its own tsunami of unintended consequences: more than a million jobs lost, an economy increasingly made up of part-time workers, higher health spending (at least a half-trillion dollars just over the next decade), a decline in medical innovation (and attendant loss of life). While Obamacare undoubtedly will do a modest amount of good, the urgent question is whether the law’s supporters will come to see that the good pales in comparison to the damage. Obamacare may still crash and burn (see Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988), or it may endure as a monument to government ineptitude and inefficiency.
While there are many cooks who spoiled this particular broth, there’s little question that but for Barack Obama himself, this monstrosity would unlikely ever have been signed into law. Health policy scholars have known a dirty little secret for decades: When it comes to “universal coverage,” Americans have never been willing to put their money where their mouth is. Public opinion polls going back to the 1940s rather consistently show a majority of Americans in favor of “national health insurance” (as it was called then) or “universal coverage.”
But such opinions were in response to open-ended questions that gave no sense of how such a program might affect respondents’ taxes.
Stop the pseudo government crises
Mark Steyn in National Review Online : Way back in January, when it emerged that Beyoncé had treated us to the first ever lip-synched national anthem at a presidential inauguration, I suggested in this space that this strange pseudo-performance embodied the decay of America’s political institutions from the real thing into mere simulacrum. But that applies to government “crises,” too — such as the Obamacare “rollout,” the debt “ceiling,” and the federal “shutdown,” to name only the three current railroad tracks to which the virtuous damsel of Big Government has been simultaneously tied by evil mustache-twirling Republicans.
This week’s “shutdown” of government, for example, suffers (at least for those of us curious to see it reduced to Somali levels) from the awkward fact that the overwhelming majority of the government is not shut down at all. Indeed, much of it cannot be shut down. Which is the real problem facing America. “Mandatory spending” (Social Security, Medicare, et al.) is authorized in perpetuity — or, at any rate, until total societal collapse. If you throw in the interest payments on the debt, that means two-thirds of the federal budget is beyond the control of Congress’s so-called federal budget process. That’s why you’re reading government “shutdown” stories about the PandaCam at the Washington Zoo and the First Lady’s ghost-Tweeters being furloughed.
Nevertheless, just because it’s a phony crisis doesn’t mean it can’t be made even phonier. The perfect symbol of the shutdown-simulacrum so far has been the World War II Memorial. This is an open-air facility on the National Mall — that’s to say, an area of grass with a monument at the center. By comparison with, say, the IRS, the National Parks Service is not usually one of the more controversial government agencies.
But, come “shutdown,” they’re reborn as the shock troops of the punitive bureaucracy. Thus, they decided to close down an unfenced open-air site — which oddly enough requires more personnel to shut than it would to keep it open.
Detroit gets plenty of state money
James Hohman in Michigan Capitol Confidential : One of the common complaints about the state’s management of Detroit’s insolvency is that the situation was preventable if only the state had provided more money. But Detroit already gets more state assistance than every other municipality in Michigan, and indeed, it receives the majority of state discretionary payment. This is neither justified nor fair to the rest of state taxpayers.
Michigan redistributes state tax money to local governments through its revenue sharing programs. The state constitution guarantees that a portion of the state’s sales tax revenue goes to local governments and this payment is distributed based solely on population.
The state interpreted the population measure to be determined by the decennial census. So from 2001 to 2009, when Detroit was shedding a substantial portion of its population, the state was still paying the city as if it had nearly 1 million people. Reflecting the substantial outflow of people out of the city would have meant that the city would’ve received $86.4 million less in constitutional revenue sharing.
The state’s other revenue sharing program is optional and determined by state statute and approved through the budget. That is, state policymakers are free to alter the terms of the payments however they see fit. Regardless of how policymakers have sliced this pie, however, Detroit received the majority of funding.