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Archive for March 25th, 2010

I don’t seem to be as depressed as everyone else about Obamacare, in part because our system is already so distorted and controlled by government that (this is my rough guess, to be sure) all we did was move from a system that is 68 percent run by government to a system that is 79 percent run by government. Nonetheless, any movement in the wrong direction is terrible. But there is one group that will celebrate the passage of the reconciliation portion of Obamacare. As noted by an Oklahoma newspaper, the Senate of the United States voted to kill an amendment that would deny subsidies for erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted child molesters, rapists, and other sex offenders.

The Senate on Wednesday killed a proposal by Sen. Tom Coburn to prevent convicted sex offenders from getting Viagra or similar prescriptions in the insurance markets to be established under the new health reform law. …Coburn, R-Muskogee, called the new health reform law “the greatest assault on liberty this country has ever had,” as he put Democrats in the position of voting down his proposal to prevent convicted child molesters, rapists and other sex offenders from getting federal drug coverage for erectile dysfunction drugs. The amendment was killed by a vote of 57-42. …”This amendment will prohibit prescriptions for recreational drugs for rapists and child molesters,” Coburn said. “Nobody can disagree with that … If this bill goes through without this amendment, your tax dollars are going to be paying for Viagra for child molesters. That’s what’s going to happen.”

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I realize that the “Taxpayers vs. Bureaucrats” series is rather depressing, with only two tiny pieces of good news out of 18 installments, so I’m almost reluctant to unveil a new series. But odious and corrupt deal-making is a fundamental – and probably unavoidable – feature of government, and we need to shine a spotlight on the way government really works. This is especially important since the bigger the government, the more rampant the sleaze. Our first post in the series highlights a Wall Street Journal column exposing how one Congressman is funneling some of the loot from a new government monopoly to a campaign contributor:

President Obama and Congressional Democrats have been criticized for being antibusiness. But Washington is about to bestow a huge gift upon one particular type of business—the type that doesn’t pay taxes. Despite bipartisan opposition, this week the Democrats hope to use budget reconciliation in the Senate to ram through changes to the health-care bill the House passed on Sunday. Coming along for the legislative ride is a federal takeover of the student-loan market. …All such loans will now come directly from the U.S. Department of Education. …But while Democrats are eliminating a revenue stream at for-profit companies, they are simultaneously creating another one for a handful of favored nonprofit companies. Currently, for loans that the government makes directly to students, the Department of Education conducts competitive bidding and hires private companies to service the loans. But in the pending bill, several dozen nonprofit firms will be eligible to receive no-bid servicing contracts on up to 100,000 student accounts for each firm. Which nonprofit organizations will qualify? California’s ALL Student Loan looks to be a big winner, thanks to language written by Representative George Miller of California. ALL Student Loan may have helped its cause by retaining the services of Vincent Reusing, a lobbyist whom the Chronicle of Higher Education has described as a “personal friend” of Mr. Miller. …According to OpenSecrets.org, Mr. Reusing has contributed more than $80,000 to various Democratic campaigns, including Mr. Miller’s.

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I thought it was an outrage when it was reported that the unfunded liability for state government pension plans was about $500 billion, or perhaps even $1 trillion. I’m not even sure what to say about this item. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Andrew Biggs from the American Enterprise Institute estimates that the shortfall for overly-generous pensions for state government bureaucrats is about $3 trillion:

Pension plans for state government employees today report they are underfunded by $450 billion, according to a recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. But this vastly underestimates the true shortfall, because public pension accounting wrongly assumes that plans can earn high investment returns without risk. …In a recent AEI working paper I’ve shown that the typical state employee public pension plan has only a 16% chance of solvency. More public pensions have a zero probability of solvency than have a probability in excess of 50%. When public pension assets fall short, taxpayers are legally obligated to make up the difference. The market value of this contingent liability exceeds $3 trillion.

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