Pens and Phones, Then and Now

A pen and a phone. That’s what President Obama recently said he had which could circumvent Congress on policy topics he wanted to get moving. Conservatives, like me, compared him to a king, giving orders and expecting everyone to jump. The Left took this opportunity to show that the number of executive orders that have been issued by Obama was less than any President in at least the last half-century. True enough, but as is usual, it’s a cherry-picked data point. There is more than one way to dictate.

Take ObamaCare, please. The number of times Obama has delayed, changed, or outright repealed parts of the law is staggering. If the law has that many problems, fix the law. Instead, he’s doing the very thing he campaigned against when running for President. He said that George Bush had taken too much power into the executive branch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuCUGXFsEn4

And now, with his pen and with his phone, he’s changing laws that he has no Constitutional powers to change.

Lately, he’s been doing the same thing with marijuana laws. John P. Walters, writing at the Weekly Standard, observes:

First, the administration made a unilateral decision to curtail enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in states where smoked marijuana has been defined as medicine (the only “medicine” that cannot meet modern medical standards). Next, the administration announced it would not enforce the federal law when the states of Colorado and Washington sought to permit the open sale of marijuana.

Ted Cruz, in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, had more examples:

When Mr. Obama disagreed with federal immigration laws, he instructed the Justice Department to cease enforcing the laws. He did the same thing with federal welfare law, drug laws and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

None of these are executive orders, but they are just as empowering of the Executive branch, and are, in fact, worse, because you can’t easily count the number of times these power grabs have been done. Executive orders are numbered. Sitting on your hands and not enforcing something goes below the radar of the average American.

When we say we are a nation of laws, not men, we mean that it is the laws that govern us, not the whims of a particular man or group of men that have no accountability. If you’re a Democrat, would you be fine with this sort of behavior from a Republican? If not, make your voice heard. Because if you don’t, we will once again get the government we deserve. The government only has what power we give it. If you want a king, you’d better be happy with a king from either party.

    Wedding Cakes and Conscience

    Is it un-Christian-like to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding? If so, isn’t it then hypocritical if the baker doesn’t look into every other wedding ceremony to see if any sin is being committed?

    No, says Russel D. Moore. The two questions are completely different issues. The former defies the Biblical definition of marriage. He discusses the difference, complete with citations from the apostle Paul, in "On Weddings and Conscience: Are Christians Hypocrites?"

      "Doc Shock" Occurs As Predicted

      As predicted, that is, by Megan McArdle:

      In December, I predicted that “doc shock” was going to be a major problem for the U.S. health-care overhaul, as people found out that the narrow networks insurers use to keep premiums low often don’t cover the top-notch doctors you’d like to see if you get really sick:

      And indeed, it’s already started, according to the Wall Street Journal:

      Health-care wonks can insist that narrow networks aren’t news, but clearly, these networks are news to the folks in the plans — and now that they know, they aren’t happy.

      Read the whole thing. They’re trying to fix this by passing laws, but that’s been done before with the whole HMO thing years ago. The result was costs continuing to rise.

        A Loose Definition of "Law"

        I mean, if you can make it say whatever you want, if you can change it on a moment’s notice, is it really a law?

        Most employers won’t face a fine next year if they fail to offer workers health insurance, the Obama administration said Monday, in the latest big delay of the health-law rollout.

        The Treasury Department, in regulations outlining the Affordable Care Act, said employers with 50 to 99 full-time workers won’t have to comply with the law’s requirement to provide insurance or pay a fee until 2016. Companies with more workers could avoid some penalties in 2015 if they showed they were offering coverage to at least 70% of full-time workers.

        It’s such a great law, we have to keep delaying it! Well, for big employers. For the small ones and the individual, you’re stuck with it.

        Oh, and why was this done?

        The move came after employers pressured the Obama administration to peel back the law’s insurance requirements. Some firms had trimmed workers’ hours to below 30 hours a week to avoid paying a penalty if they didn’t offer insurance.

        Because the administration saw the effect it was having on the economy, that’s why. It was causing such problems, that it just had to be delayed. Until after the mid-term elections.

          How Did Wisconsin Run a $1 Billion Surplus?

          Scott Walker, the governor of the state of Wisconsin, survived a recall effort by unions in his state. I’d hope, though I wouldn’t bet, that they are glad that effort failed.

          Because since then, he and the Republicans in his state legislature, have been busy cutting taxes and balancing their budget. The result has been that, over 3 years, they’ve cut taxes by about a billion and a half dollars, and the economy is chugging along a good clip, such that just this year they have almost a billion dollar surplus.

          We ought to be asking our federal government to look at this. How did they do it? Let’s listen to Governor Walker describe it.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuzZRgEAw1k

          Tough decisions, predicted by his detractors to destroy the economy, instead turned the economy around, gave them a surplus, more in their rainy-day fund, and which will be returned to the people instead of turned into a slush fund.

          Now, you might not have heard about this from your typical media sources. A Republican governor, hated by the unions, putting conservative policies into place, with the result being a booming economy, just doesn’t fit the narrative. And when it comes time to vote again in Wisconsin, I hope the people there remember who fixed their economy, and who opposed those very policies.

          Heck, I hope the rest of the country remembers that, if they get to hear about it. A state that generated a billion dollar surplus without mortgaging their future is a model that Washington, DC should be following. If they really cared about the economy.

            Wal-Mart Out-ObamaCares ObamaCare

            One of the big promises of ObamaCare was that, with a much larger pool of insured people, the cost to the average individual or family would go down. That’s how insurance works, right? You spread out the risk over a bigger population, and the required payouts become less than the premiums taken in. More people, less risk, lower costs.

            You’d think so. But as it turns out, the insurance offered by one of those eeevil corporations, Wal-Mart, beats the equivalent ObamaCare plan handily. David Todd, an independent insurance agent based in Little Rock, Ark., compared the health plans.

            Todd looked at a 30-year-old woman who could qualify for the government subsidy. “The nonsubsidized premium is $205 a month for this 30-year-old. If they get a subsidy, then the premium is zero. But that person has to come up with $6,300 if something catastrophic happened,” he said.

            The Walmart monthly premium for the same 30-year-old woman would be about $40. Her deductible would be $2,750, minus $250 in cash advance, for a total net deductible of $2,500.

            Todd said some Obamacare exchange family plan deductibles can go as high as $12,000 before benefits kick in.

            This is what the government considers “subsidized”; pay thousands up front and get your money back, depending on when you spent it, over a year from now. OK, but what is the actual coverage like? Very good question. Let’s take a look at some of the particulars.

            Walmart also offers a free preventive health plan that mirrors the Obamacare plan. Its employees can take advantage of a wide range of free exams and counseling, including screenings for colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, chlamydia, diabetes, depression and special counseling for diet and obesity.

            Their children can get more than 20 free preventive services, ranging including screenings for genetic disorders, autism and developmental problems to obesity, lead poisoning exposure and tuberculosis. There are also 12 free vaccinations, and free hearing and vision testing.

            Walmart employees pay as little as $4 for a 30-day supply of generic drugs and only $10 for eye exams through a separate vision plan.

            Oh, and in Chicago, where this comparison was done, Wal-Mart employees have access to about 2 ½ times as many doctors than those with ObamaCare do. What does it say about ObamaCare that doctors and hospitals would rather do business with a private company than with the government?

            Well, it says that we’re going about this all the wrong way.

              Live By the CBO, Die By the CBO

              Dana Milbank explains that the Congressional Budget Office issued glowing reports years ago about how ObamaCare was going to save money. The Obama administration trumpeted those findings far and wide. I noted at the time that the system was gamed because the administration knows the rules by which the CBO comes up with estimates, and wrote the bill to get the best looking numbers at the start. It wouldn’t matter that later estimates would be worse; it would have already been sold to the American people.

              But now, things are looking much worse.

              The congressional number-crunchers, perhaps the capital’s closest thing to a neutral referee, came out with a new report Tuesday, and it wasn’t pretty for Obamacare. The CBO predicted the law would have a “substantially larger” impact on the labor market than it had previously expected: The law would reduce the workforce in 2021 by the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers, well more than the 800,000 originally anticipated. This will inevitably be a drag on economic growth, as more people decide government handouts are more attractive than working more and paying higher taxes.

              This is grim news for the White House and for Democrats on the ballot in November. This independent arbiter, long embraced by the White House, has validated a core complaint of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) critics: that it will discourage work and become an ungainly entitlement. Disputing Republicans’ charges is much easier than refuting the federal government’s official scorekeepers.

              The President’s spokesman, Jay Carney, tried to spin it as people who would "spend more time with their family", or perhaps become entrepreneurs. The latter guess is just that; a guess trying to make it sound wonderful. The former is a euphemism for living off the dole because the benefits are better.

              Carney noted that these were "personal choices", but he conveniently neglects to mention that they are personal choices spurred on by the government. People respond to incentives; that’s why things like tax deductions work the way they do. ObamaCare is pushing people to dependency.

              The CBO numbers prove it.

                Escaping Canada (Temporarily)

                I knew that many Canadians were leaving their borders to come to the US to avoid the long waits they have to endure up there. I just didn’t know how many. Well a free-market think tank, the Frasier Institute, has published the numbers for 2013. Turns out just under 42,000 folks fled the country, at least temporarily, to jump the line and get the timely care they needed. That was down just slightly from the just over 42,000 that came here in 2012.

                This brings up a question in my mind. With the advent of ObamaCare down here, where will these folks go now? And I guess the next obvious question would be, where will we go?

                  Voter Fraud: Proven to be Easy and Undetectable

                  One of the reasons used against the idea of requiring ID to vote is that there has been so little voter fraud detected, that this is a solution looking for a problem. Well, the Department of Investigations in New York City recently finished up a report that shows that voter fraud can be pretty darn easy. Worse, we would have no idea at all that it was actually happening.

                  Undercover agents from the DOI tried to cast ballots as felons or dead people at 63 polling places last fall. Of the 63 attempts, 61, or 97%, were successful. Now, when they voted, they did so with a write-in for a fictitious “John Test” to keep from affecting the vote count. Ultimately, the DOI published its findings a few weeks ago in a 70-page report accusing the city’s Board of Elections of incompetence, waste, nepotism, and lax procedures.

                  Of the two attempts that failed, in the first case, a poll worker followed the agent outside and the “voter” was advised to go to the polling place near where he used to live and “play dumb” in order to vote. In the second case, the investigator was stopped from voting only because the felon whose name he was using was the son of the election official at the polling place. So basically, we’re talking about a 100% success rate, completely undetectable, with just a few changes in circumstances.

                  So the Board of Elections immediately got down to business and started coming up with ways to avoid this in the future. Heh, no, of course not. This is government we’re talking about! John Fund, who wrote the article I’m referring to, put it this way. “The Board approved a resolution referring the DOI’s investigators for prosecution. It also asked the state’s attorney general to determine whether DOI had violated the civil rights of voters who had moved or are felons, and it sent a letter of complaint to Mayor Bill de Blasio.”

                  Yup, they pointed fingers instead of fixing the problem. That’s why the legislature needs to deal with this, so entrenched bureaucracies don’t stick us with a broken system that’s easily gamed. And, as I’ve noted before, when Georgia got its voter ID law, minority participation went up, and higher than majority participation did. A win-win situation, and one that gets around a government board that is too busy with their little fiefdom to do the right thing. Who could be against that?

                    Who Really Killed the Incandescent Light Bulb?

                    This year, the traditional incandescent light bulb is becoming extinct. There was a big push by environmentalists to force the change to higher efficiency bulbs, like Compact Fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs. The idea was that they light with less energy, and so everyone should use them. Never mind the market; coercion was necessary.

                    And one of the things they like to trumpet about this was that the light bulb industry supported this move. The thought is that if even they think it’s a good idea, government ought to force the issue. But not one of those environmentalists ever considered this:

                    Competitive markets with low costs of entry have a characteristic that consumers love and businesses lament: very low profit margins. GE, Philips and Sylvania dominated the U.S. market in incandescents, but they couldn’t convert that dominance into price hikes. Because of light bulb’s low material and manufacturing costs, any big climb in prices would have invited new competitors to undercut the giants — and that new competitor would probably have won a distribution deal with Wal-Mart.

                    Basically, with a low-cost light bulb, the major players in the market couldn’t just jack up the price on their wares. Someone else could step in and, with a low cost of entry into the light bulb market, build a better mousetrap, so to speak, and the world would beat a path to their door.

                    Unless. Unless the light bulb companies could push government regulations that would make the bare minimum light bulb incredibly more expensive. They’d get their price hike, and they’d further their hold on the industry by keeping out competition, because start-up costs are now much higher.

                    Now, you may be saying, “See, Doug? Eeevil corporations are to blame for this! And you’re always defending them!” Two things. First, the law itself is the problem, and the blame for that comes, not from corporations, but from a big government with the power to pass such a law, and which is more than willing to stick its hand into your wallet. Government did this, not corporations. And I’ll reiterate that, if you don’t like a corporation, you can stop buying from them immediately. If you don’t like your government, you’ll have to wait for the next election cycle, and hope there are enough people who agree with you.

                    Second, I don’t blame corporations at all for trying to lobby the government for things that will benefit them. If I did blame them, then I’d have to blame every single grassroots organization that does the same sort of lobbying, even those environmentalists. Is lobbying the government an evil thing to do? Not at all! But government should know its boundaries and should stay within them. That’s why we have a constitution. But these days, the Constitution has been reinterpreted to say, for example, that you must buy a particular financial instrument. If the government can force you to buy something, I think it’s gone far beyond what the framers of the Constitution ever intended, and that power is for sale to the highest bidder.

                    Oh, and consider this. If anyone claims that certain government policies are required because the free market has failed, just let them know that we really haven’t had a “free market” in decades. Light bulbs and ObamaCare are only the two most recent examples.

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