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Posts Tagged ‘Government-run healthcare’

During the big-spending Bush years, economic and fiscal people inside the Administration often would sympathize with my complaints about bad policy, but say that there was nothing they could do since all the big decisions were being made by the political types in the White House.

In other words, Karl Rove and his crew were the ones who helped encourage Bush to hurt the country for short-run political gain.

So you can imagine I’m reluctant to give favorable attention to anything associated with Rove, but this new video from one of his organizations is too good not to share. The Department of Health and Human Services has a video contest to sucker gullible young people into signing up for Obamacare, and here’s the satirical gem put together by Crossroads GPS.

And since we’re mocking the Obama Administration’s wasteful video contest, let’s enjoy a great Lisa Benson cartoon on the same topic.

Cartoon Obamacare Video Contest

Perhaps not quite as good as my all-time favorite Benson cartoon, which perfectly captures Obama’s fiscal policy, but still an excellent contribution to the debate.  I also very much like her fiscal cliff cartoon, this Keynesian economics cartoon, and this one about jump-starting the economy with tax hikes.

In conclusion, let’s remember that young people are suffering for reasons other than Obamacare. Here’s a video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation that looks at four examples of how Obamanomics is especially bad news for those under age 30.

Though, to be fair, everyone is suffering from the President’s statist policies. As shown by these charts from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, the United States is enduring the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression.

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Want to know why – as shown by this map – most of America’s richest counties are part of the metropolitan DC region?

Part of the answer is that federal bureaucrats are overpaid. Another part of the answer is that the Washington area is filled with consultants and contractors, and this shadow government workforce also is overcompensated by taxpayers.

But I’m guessing that DC’s vast population of lobbyists and influence peddlers dominate the upper end of the income spectrum.

And that community of back scratchers and deal makers are getting even richer thanks to Obamacare. Here’s some of what The Hill is reporting today.

ObamaCare has become big business for an elite network of Washington lobbyists and consultants who helped shape the law from the inside. More than 30 former administration officials, lawmakers and congressional staffers who worked on the healthcare law have set up shop on K Street since 2010. Major lobbying firms such as Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, The Glover Park Group, Alston & Bird, BGR Group and Akin Gump can all boast an ObamaCare insider on their lobbying roster — putting them in a prime position to land coveted clients. …The voracious need for lobbying help in dealing with ObamaCare has created a price premium for lobbyists who had first-hand experience in crafting or debating the law.  Experts say that those able to fetch the highest salaries have come from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or committees with oversight power over healthcare.  Demand for ObamaCare insiders is even higher now that major pieces of the law — including the healthcare exchanges and individual insurance mandate — are being set up through a slew of complicated federal regulations.

You’ll also be happy to know that beltway insiders can expect years and years of undeserved loot thanks to rules, regulation, and red tape that will be unveiled for another seven years.

…the healthcare law has generated steady work — a trend that is likely to continue for years to come. That’s because ObamaCare runs on a long timeline, well into the next administration. Unless the law is severely crippled, the reform’s rules and requirements will be rolling out through at least 2020. That’s good news for lobbyists who want to sign up clients for the long haul.

This is the social science equivalent of a kick-in-the-you-know-what. A bunch of political hacks pass legislation that increases both the fiscal burden and the regulatory burden on the rest of us, but they make it very convoluted so that they can cash in and make big bucks navigating the law for deep-pocket clients.

This is a win-win for the political elite and a lose-lose for America’s productive sector.

And it’s a perfect example of what I was trying to get across in this video I narrated about the link between big government and corruption.

There are lots of specific examples of Obamacare’s corruption.

Michael Barone has exposed the sleaziness of the waiver process, Tim Carney revealed the special deals for politically connected companies, and I suggested the process was eerily similar to a passage from Atlas Shrugged.

But don’t forget Obamacare is just one example of the sleaze that defines Washington. Maybe the best way of understanding the game is to watch Andrew Ferguson explain DC’s parasite economy.

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We have a very interesting question from a reader in Nebraska. Is Obamacare such a cluster-you-know-what that the law will self-destruct?

Well, I’ve already explained why I’m optimistic about the possibility of turning Obamacare lemons into free-market lemonade.

Simply stated, the law took a healthcare system that already was a mess because of government intervention and subsidies and it doubled down on that misguided approach!

And since it’s highly unlikely that more government is the solution to problems created by government in the first place, I think we’ll have great fun being able to highlight all the bad consequences of Obamacare and make a principled case for pro-market reform (meaning not only Medicaid reform and Medicare reform, but also tax reform to help deal with the third-party payer crisis).

That being said, I don’t think Obamacare will collapse on its own. We’re going to have to give it a push. A big push.

This is because legislation will be required to undo all the taxes and subsidies in the law. And even though we have the bizarre situation of the Obama Administration deciding to deliberately ignore a legal requirement to impose an employer mandate beginning in 2014, we’ll also need legislation to undo both the individual and the employer mandate.

In other words, the fact that the law won’t achieve any of its goals (such as lower costs and universal insurance coverage) won’t cause the bad policy to disappear.

But it will make the law even more unpopular – particularly if we do our job.

That’s why we should relentlessly highlight examples of wasteful Obamacare spending. The Washington Post, for instance, is reporting on “the extreme measures states are taking to get young people signed up for Obamacare programs.”

And when even the Washington Post thinks politicians and bureaucrats are going above and beyond in their efforts to waste money, you know it’s something especially foolish. But when you’re trying to trick young people into signing up for insurance policies designed to subsidize richer seniors, you don’t really have much choice.

Oregon might do branded coffee cups, for example, whereas Seattle is looking at doing outreach at music festivals. It only makes sense, then, that Kentucky would be doing outreach at multiple bourbon festivals across the state.

From a big picture perspective, this type of waste in just a penny or two on the dollar, but it’s very symbolic of a law that is poorly designed and unworkable.

I also think political cartoonists are very helpful allies since they’re so effective at illustrating some of the worst parts of Obamacare. So let’s wrap up this post with a new batch of cartoons.

We’ll start with a couple that skirt the edge of appropriateness by playing off the recent airline crash in San Francisco. The first one is by Steve Breen.

Obamacare Cartoon July 15 1

And the second one is by Eric Allie.

Obamacare Cartoon July 15 2

The donkey pilot blaming the elephant passenger is a good touch, and you find that theme in this Gary Varvel gem.

Obamacare Cartoon July 15 3

Let’s close with a great Rick McKee cartoon that focuses on exploding costs, a message near and dear to my heart.

Obamacare Cartoon July 15 4

One final warning. We’re not guaranteed of victory simply because Obamacare is leading to bad results. The statists are going to try and seize control of the narrative by asserting that the higher costs and greater inefficiencies could be fixed by squandering more money in the short run and imposing a single-payer system in the long run.

That’s a very perverse example of Mitchell’s Law and it surely doesn’t make sense to normal people. But it’s an approach that plays to the worst instincts of politicians, many of who will grab any excuse to increase the size and scope of Washington.

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With so many scandals percolating, there are lots of good cartoons being produced.

But I think this Chip Bok gem deserves special praise.

It manages to weave together both the costly Obamacare boondoggle with the reprehensible politicization of the IRS.

So BOHICA, my friends.

IRS Obamacare

If you want other Chip Bok cartoons, click here, here, here, here, here, here (my favorite), here and here.

And for cartoons that mix the IRS and Obamacare, click here, here, and here.

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I get upset by a lot of what happens in the corridors of power, but two things really irk me.

First, I hate it when the rich and powerful use the coercive power of government to screw ordinary people. That’s one of the reasons I hated the TARP bailout.

Second, I hate the utter hypocrisy of the political elite exempting themselves from the bad policies that get imposed on everyone else. That’s why, for instance, it galls me that the pro-tax bureaucrats at the OECD get tax-free salaries.

Well, now we have a new example of political hypocrisy. Behind closed doors, the crooks in Washington are seeking to exempt themselves from Obamacare.

Here are some of the sordid details reported by Politico.

Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said. The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers — are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said. …if Capitol Hill leaders move forward with the plan, they risk being dubbed hypocrites by their political rivals and the American public. By removing themselves from a key Obamacare component, lawmakers and aides would be held to a different standard than the people who put them in office. …There is concern in some quarters that the provision requiring lawmakers and staffers to join the exchanges, if it isn’t revised, could lead to a “brain drain” on Capitol Hill, as several sources close to the talks put it.

Well, to be thoughtful and analytical, my reaction is boo hoo and cry me a friggin’ river.

Obamacare is a fiscal disaster and a healthcare disaster. Our best bet to get the law repealed is to make sure the politicians and their underlings are subject to all of the law’s bad provisions. Period.

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I’m going to make an assertion that seems utterly absurd.

The enactment of Obamacare may have been good news.

Before sending a team of medical attendants to cart me off to a sanitarium, allow me to elaborate. I’m not saying Obamacare is good policy. After all, I’ve written over and over again that it is a budget-busting boondoggle that will exacerbate our real healthcare crisis of third-party payer.

What I am saying, though, is that Obamacare may turn out to be a major political mistake for the left, one that sets the stage for sweeping free market reforms.

Here’s my six-part hypothesis.

  1. Our healthcare system as a mess before Obamacare. Normal market forces were crippled by government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and also undermined by government intervention in the tax code that resulted in pervasive over-insurance that exacerbated the third-party payer problem.
  2. These various forms of intervention led to all sorts of problems, such as rising prices and indecipherable complexity, and most people blamed that the “free market” and “private” healthcare.Health Freedom Meter before Obamacare
  3. Obamacare was enacted in 2010, and it was perceived to be a paradigm-shifting change in the healthcare system, even though it was just another layer of bad policy on top of lots of other bad policy. Immediately after the legislation was approved, I offered a rough estimate that we went from a system that was 68 percent dictated by government to one that was 79 percent dictated by government.Health Freedom Meter after Obamacare
  4. Not surprisingly, all of the same problems still exist, but now they’re exacerbated by the mistakes in Obamacare.
  5. But because people think we’ve had a paradigm shift and government now is in charge (pay attention, since this is my key argument), they will be much more likely to blame “Obamacare” and “government” for all the warts and inefficiencies of the healthcare system.
  6. This means the public will be more receptive to pro-market policies, such as Obamacare repeal, tax reforms to reduce over-insurance, as well as the Medicaid and Medicare reforms in the Ryan budget.

All this will be much easier said than done, of course, and it is disconcerting that we’ll probably have to rely on feckless Republicans to implement these reforms.

But at least there’s a plausible scenario for systemic reform, and that wasn’t the case before Obamacare was enacted. In other words, the President’s signature achievement may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for the left.

P.S. Watch this excellent video from Reason TV to see how a genuine free market could deliver health care at lower cost and with greater efficiency. For another example, here’s a report from North Carolina on free-market healthcare in action.

P.P.S. This post is part of my let’s-be-optimistic series. Previous editions include:

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I’ve posted some horrifying examples about what happens when you put politicians and bureaucrats in charge of health care.

The story that makes every guy wince comes from Sweden, where a man wound up having his penis amputated because of government incompetence.

And I’ve shared numerous examples of substandard care from the United Kingdom, in part because I can’t resist mocking Paul Krugman.

Speaking of the U.K., here’s a story that may lure some young men into supporting government-run healthcare.

Did taxpayers get good value for their money?

…22-year-old Josie Cunningham recently was approved for breast enhancement surgery that cost more than $7,000, and paid for entirely by taxpayers, reports Opposing Views. Why? Because she told her General Practitioner that being flat-chested was causing her emotional distress. “My GP referred me for the operation because I wasn’t just flat-chested — I didn’t have any boobs whatsoever,” Cunningham said. “I could never go on holiday as I lived in terror of ever being seen in a bikini and could never set foot outside without a padded bra.” Her doctor’s prescription to counter the “emotional distress” was to enhance her breast size from a 32A to 36DD.

I’ve never heard of the website that contains this story, and I’ve never heard of Opposing Views, where it supposedly originated, so I confess to being a bit skeptical of this story.

Then again, who would have guessed that the government in the United Kingdom would provide taxpayer-financed sex trips to Amsterdam? Or that the bureaucrats at the European Commission would be able to get penile implants at public expense?

Closer to home, let’s not forget that Obamacare allows taxpayer-subsidized viagra for sex offenders! And Medicare pays for penis pumps, which creates frightening visual images.

So even if this specific story isn’t true, I have no doubt that the British government has squandered money in similar ways.

P.S. Speaking of breast augmentation, one of the few well-functioning parts of the American healthcare system is cosmetic surgery. Why? Because consumers largely pay out of pocket and, as a result, costs are restrained.

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I’m not sure why political cartoonists have been revisiting the issue of Obamacare in recent days, but I’ve been enjoying their humor.

I shared three funny cartoons a couple of days ago, adding to my collection of Obamacare humor (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Now let’s enjoy three more, beginning with this gem from Lisa Benson.

Obamacare Cartoon 4

Though we shouldn’t laugh at this cartoon. As we saw with both Medicaid and Medicare, entitlement programs routinely cost far more than original projections.

If you somehow think Obamacare might be different, watch this video.

Gary Varvel hits a different part of Obamacare, noting that the President’s promise of lower premiums is an utter fantasy.

Obamacare Cartoon 5

And Michael Ramirez looks at the big picture.

Obamacare Cartoon 6

I want to close with an optimistic point about the prospect of changing this terrible law.

Thanks to government programs and other forms of regulation and intervention, we had a bad healthcare system before Obamacare.

And even though it was government that was causing the system to malfunction, many people blamed the free market. And the President took advantage of that misunderstanding to push he legislation.

So now we have Obamacare, which has made the system a bit more statist.

But most people think Obamacare was much bigger than it actually was, with some actually thinking we used to have a free market!

Anyway, this flawed perception works to our advantage since it will now be possible to blame any bad news in the healthcare world on  Obamacare.

As such, I expect that Obamacare will remain unpopular.

The real question will be whether reformers will rally behind proposals to not just repeal Obamacare, but to actually restore a free market.

If you want to understand what needs to happen, I encourage you to watch two short videos, one from Reason TV and the other from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

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I’ve shared a nightmarish flowchart to show the Byzantine complexity of America’s healthcare system under Obamacare. Sort of makes you wonder whether the healthcare system will now be more complicated than the internal revenue code.

But some people may be skeptical because this flowchart was prepared by Republicans from the Joint Economic Committee.

Well, here’s a flowchart from the pro-Obamacare Washington Post, and it shows how just one small piece of the law will require complicated gymnastics.

It’s hard to feel anything but misery about this situation. The Obamacare taxes largely took effect earlier this year and a big chunk of the Obamacare spending starts next year.

So let’s with a great cartoon from Henry Payne showing the Secretary of Health and Human Service force-feeding Obamacare to states.

Obamacare Cartoon 1

I would have replaced “states” with “patients,” but you get the point. We’re being saddled with a one-size-fits-all monstrosity that will cripple what little is left of a functioning marketplace for health care and health insurance.

Next we have a Lisa Benson cartoon, showing the very unhealthy meal we’re expected to digest. Where’s Mayor Bloomberg when we actually need him?!?

Obamacare Cartoon 2

Both Benson and Payne were part of the political cartoonist contest, so you can see their best work by clicking here.

Last but not least, here’s Steven Breen’s take on the third birthday of Obamacare. As you can see, there’s not a lot to celebrate.

Obamacare Cartoon 3

Indeed, this is a good opportunity to share my video explaining why Obamacare will be a budget buster.

P.S. Lawmakers did repeal one of Obamacare’s tax provisions, a 1099 reporting rule that would have buried everyone under a blizzard of paperwork (here’s the cartoon version of that issue). And the Democratic-controlled Senate recently voted 79-20 to repeal the medical devices tax. So there are small reasons for optimism. And I think the bulk of Obamacare spending could be repealed as part of a Medicaid block grant if and when Washington is controlled by lawmakers who are serious about addressing the entitlement crisis.

P.P.S. If you want to enjoy some more Obamacare humor, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

P.P.P.S. If you want to know how to restore a functioning market-based healthcare system, this video from Reason TV is must watching.

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That’s a trick question, of course, as illustrated by this biting Henry Payne cartoon.

But let’s look at one of the commonalities of Romneycare and Obamacare – higher premiums, thanks to mandates and third-party payer.

Here’s a quick look at what’s been happening to premiums in Massachusetts.

Romneycare Premiums

The same thing is already happening with Obamacare, as explained in a Wall Street Journal column by Merrill Matthews and Mark Litow.

The congressional Democrats who crafted the legislation ignored virtually every actuarial principle governing rational insurance pricing. Premiums will soon reflect that disregard—indeed, premiums are already reflecting it. …Guaranteed issue incentivizes people to forgo buying a policy until they get sick and need coverage (and then drop the policy after they get well). While ObamaCare imposes a financial penalty—or is it a tax?—to discourage people from gaming the system, it is too low to be a real disincentive. The result will be insurance pools that are smaller and sicker, and therefore more expensive.

How bad will it be? Well…

Many actuaries, such as those in the international consulting firm Oliver Wyman, are now predicting an average increase of roughly 50% in premiums for some in the individual market for the same coverage. …Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming and Virginia will likely see the largest increases—somewhere between 65% and 100%. Another 18 states, including Texas and Michigan, could see their rates rise between 35% and 65%.

Which is why 2014 is the “Year of the Snake” in more places than just China.

Obamacare Snake Cartoon

If you like Ramirez cartoons, you can see some of my favorites here, here, here, here, and here.

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During the Obamacare debate, Paul Krugman told us we could ignore stories about what was happening across the ocean, writing that “In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.”

Every so often, I wonder how Krugman would define a “scare story.” How about starving babies to death, as I wrote about last month? Would he say that’s “false,” or simply not a “scare story”?

Let’s look at some new information from the U.K.’s government-run system and see whether we can expect our healthcare to improve or deteriorate now that Obamacare’s beginning to get implemented.

We’ll start with a look at how the overall British system is performing, including the remarkable and depressing fact that more than 1 in 10 patients are victimized by “basic errors,” leading to 5.2 percent of deaths.

The largest and most detailed survey into hospital deaths has revealed that almost 12,000 patients are needlessly dying every year as a result of poor patient care. The researchers from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine based the study on 1,000 deaths at 10 NHS trusts during 2009. The study revealed that basic errors were made in more than one in 10 cases, leading to 5.2% of deaths, which was the equivalent of nearly 12,000 preventable deaths in hospitals in England every year. The research published in the British Medical Journal’s Quality and Safety publication found that errors occurred when hospital staff made an incorrect diagnosis, prescribed the wrong drugs, failed to monitor a patient’s condition or react when a patient deteriorated. Errors in omission were more frequent than active mistakes. The majority of patients who died were elderly suffering with multiple health conditions, but the study found that some patients whose deaths were preventable were aged in their 30s and 40s.

Now let’s look at healthcare – if you use the term loosely – at one Government-run hospital. The UK-based Telegraph has the stomach-turning details.

Hundreds of hospital patients died needlessly. In the wards, people lay starving, thirsty and in soiled bedclothes, buzzers droning hopelessly as their cries for help went ignored. Some received the wrong medication; some, none at all.Over 139 days, the public inquiry into the Stafford hospital scandal has heard testimony from scores of witnesses about how an institution which was supposed to care for the most vulnerable instead became a place of danger. Decisions about which patients to treat were left to receptionists…and nurses switched off equipment because they did not know how to use it. …patients were left so dehydrated that some began drinking from flower vases. By the time the hospital’s failings were exposed by regulators, in 2009, up to 1,200 patients had died needlessly between 2005 and 2008. …on the wards, patients – most of them elderly – were left in agony and screaming for pain relief, as their loved ones desperately begged for help. The human toll was dreadful. In the course of 18 months, one family lost four members, including a newborn baby girl, after a catalogue of failings by the hospital. …Patients were left without medication, food and drink, and left on commodes. Basic hygiene was neglected: a woman was left unwashed for the last four weeks of her life. Relatives tried to keep their loved ones clean, scrubbing down beds and furniture and even bringing in clean linen. One consultant described how amid the chaos, it seemed at though nurses became “immune to the sound of pain”.

It’s disturbing to read something like this, but can you imagine the horror of having a sick child in one of these wretched British institutions?

I’m not saying there aren’t mistakes and instances of sub-standard care in U.S. hospitals. I’m sure that’s the case. And regular readers know that I’ve complained about the absurd government-caused inefficiency of the American healthcare system.

The point I’m making is that horror stories are more common from the U.K. because the entire system is a bureaucracy. The nurses and doctors on that side of the Atlantic are akin to clerks at the Postal Service and DMV on this side of the Atlantic.

P.S. If you want more horror stories about government-run healthcare in the United Kingdom click here, here, here, here, herehereherehereherehereherehere, here and here.

P.P.S. And to close on an upbeat note, click here to learn how we can save America’s healthcare system.

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When I travel, particularly overseas, I run into a lot of people who are totally confused about the American healthcare system.

For all intents and purposes, they think the United States relies on the free market and that government (at least in the pre-Obamacare era) was largely absent.

So they are baffled when I tell them that nearly one-half of all health expenditures in America are directly financed by taxpayers  and that the supposedly private part of our healthcare system is massively distorted by government interference and intervention.

When explaining how government has screwed up private health insurance, I talk about third-party payer and  how genuinely private insurance works for home ownership and automobiles. And I cite examples of genuine free markets for cosmetic surgery and even (regardless of your views) abortion.

But from now on, I think I will simply tell people to watch this superb video from Reason TV.

This shows how a true free market operates. Efficiency and low prices are the norm, and consumers get a good deal.

My only quibble is that the video doesn’t explain how government policies – such as the healthcare exclusion in the tax code – should be blamed for the grotesque waste, inefficiency, and featherbedding in most parts of the medical industry.

But that’s a minor gripe. You should share this post with any and all fuzzy-headed friends and colleagues and tell them this is how smoothly the market would work if the government simply would get out of the way.

And if they want another example, here’s a report from North Carolina on free-market healthcare in action.

If we want this kind of system to be the rule rather than the exception, we need to scrap the healthcare exclusion in the tax code as part of a switch to a simple and fair flat tax. That will help bring some rationality to the health insurance market and address the part of the third-party payer crisis caused by indirect government intervention.

Then we also should reform Medicaid and Medicare to help address the part of the third-party payer crisis caused by the direct government intervention.

P.S. As this poster cleverly illustrates (and as Ronald Reagan correctly warned in the second video of this post), government is the problem, not the solution.

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Paul Krugman assured us back in 2009 that, “In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.”

If that’s the case, then the British press is filled with liars who deliberately make up horror stories about their nation’s healthcare system, as you can see here, here, herehereherehereherehereherehere, here and here.

We now have another nightmare to add to this list. Here are some of the horrific details from the UK-based Daily Mail.

An elderly woman died alone after doctors failed to tell relatives they were ending her life on the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway. Olive Goom, 85, passed away with no one by her side after medics neglected to consult with her family about her treatment at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. …As Miss Goom lay dying alone, staff reassured relatives on the phone just hours before her death that there was no urgent need to visit – even though doctors had already removed tubes providing vital food and fluids. Her family discovered that she had died only when her niece went to visit her and found she was already being prepared for the mortuary. They said last night that they will never be able to stop feeling guilty that no one was there in her final hours. The Mail has been contacted by several families who claim that relatives were put on the Liverpool Care Pathway – the controversial system designed to ease the suffering of the dying in their final hours – without any consultation. Some said they found out that their relatives were on the pathway only after they happened to read their medical notes; and by that time it was too late.

Keep in mind, by the way, that the Liverpool Care Pathway is sort of akin to the IPAB “death panel” in Obamacare.

Defenders of government-run healthcare say that’s nonsense and assert that there won’t be any rationing, denial of care, or requirements for euthanasia. That’s technically true, but the Obamacare death panel will be determining what’s an acceptable treatment and what’s the government-approved payment schedule.

Crushed by Obamacare?

So it’s sort of like holding a rock in your hand, standing over a kitten, letting go of the rock, watching it hit the kitten, but then claiming that you did nothing wrong because gravity caused the rock to fall.

Okay, that’s a morbid example, but you get the point. And my concern isn’t that rationing only exists with a government-run system. Any healthcare system will involve rationing. The real issue is whether individuals are part of a free society so they can make the choice of how to ration.

(h/t: Ben Domenech)

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I’ve often complained that government-created third-party payer is the main problem with America’s healthcare system, and I was making that point well before Obamacare was imposed upon the country.

Simply stated, people won’t be smart consumers and providers won’t compete to keep costs low when the vast majority of expenses are paid for either by government programs or by insurance companies.

That’s why I want to see reforms to Medicare and Medicaid, not only to save money for taxpayers, but also because that’s one of the steps that is needed if we want market forces to bring down the cost of healthcare.

And I want to see a flat tax, not only for the pro-growth impact of lower tax rates, but also because it gets rid of the internal revenue code’s healthcare exclusion, thus ending the distortion that encourages over-insurance.

With all that in mind, I’m obviously a big fan of this new video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

Narrated by Julie Borowski from FreedomWorks, the video explains that third-party payer has been a growing problem for decades and that it would have required fixing even if the Supreme Court hadn’t botched the Obamacare decision.

And now that we’re stuck with Obamacare, at least temporarily, it’s more important than ever to deal with this underlying problem.

P.S. This new video expands upon the analysis provided in a previous CF&P video.

P.P.S. Setting aside the debate about whether it’s right or wrong, the abortion market also is an interesting case study of how prices don’t rise when consumers pay out of pocket.

P.P.P.S. Government-created third-party payer also is screwing up the market for higher education.

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I recently posted a bunch of cartoons about the Supreme Court’s shameful Obamacare decision (which was terrible, but probably not as awful as the Kelo decision).

Most of those cartoons, as well as the ones I posted here, focused on how Chief Justice Roberts put politics above the Constitution, but let’s return today to the broader issue of why Obamacare is bad news.

Let’s start with this cartoon, which deals with the pointless and irrelevant debate about whether the Obamacare enforcement mechanism is a tax or a penalty.

What we do know (and what we knew back when Obamacare was being debated) is that the IRS will be in charge of enforcement, which is what makes this next cartoon funny – albeit in a painful way.

Returning to the debate about taxes or penalties, this cartoon will be very painful for GOP partisans.

Very appropriate, since this cartoon from back in 2011 shows that there is no meaningful difference between the two plans.

And this also explains why I’m still predicting an Obama victory in November, even though his economic record is awful.

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I posted five good Obamacare cartoons last week (and included two others in this post and this post), and was planning on stopping there.

But the cartoonists have come out with a lot of good material, so let’s enjoy this new material. After all, we deserve a few laughs before we deal with the pain of more spending and higher taxes.

Let’s start with my favorite, which is very appropriate for today.

Sticking with that theme, here’s one that uses the Constitution instead of the Declaration of Independence.

Here’s one that should be in this same group. It’s very good as is, but I would have replaced the Tea Party flag with either the Constitution or Declaration of Independence (yes, I’m becoming an armchair cartoonist, as you can see here and here)

Since the last two cartoons have mocked Chief Justice Roberts, let’s continue with that theme.

By the way, I can’t resist adding a bit of what Thomas Sowell just wrote.

…there are people in Washington — too often, Republicans — who start living in the Beltway atmosphere, and start forgetting those hundreds of millions of Americans beyond the Beltway who trusted them to do right by them, to use their wisdom instead of their cleverness. …ObamaCare was an unprecedented extension of federal power over the lives of 300 million Americans… These are the people that Chief Justice Roberts betrayed when he declared constitutional something that is nowhere authorized in the Constitution of the United States. …What he did was betray his oath to be faithful to the Constitution of the United States.

Powerful, but accurate.

Now let’s go with the theme of mocking Both Roberts and Nancy Pelosi.

She’s an easy target, having become infamous for utterly inane comments, so let’s pile on with another.

Now let’s look at another good cartoon, but this one should worry us because it shows the door that Roberts opened.

This seems over the top, but 15 years from now, we’ll look back at this cartoon with better (and bitter) understanding.

Last but not least, here’s a cartoon that should worry Republican readers.

I’ve already explained why Mitt Romney is not a proponent of liberty. This cartoon underscores that sentiment and also shows why he will have a problem going after Obama on this issue.

But that’s a depressing way to end this post, so put all the statists out of your mind. Go out and enjoy the 4th, ideally with some illegal fireworks to show that the spirit of rebellion still exists.

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I’m not sure whether this is a post about America’s dismal future if Obamacare is allowed to take root or whether this is a post about bureaucrats ripping off taxpayers.

But I do know that it shows that the insiders take care of themselves quite nicely when the government seizes more control of a nation’s healthcare sector.

Here’s a report from the UK-based Telegraph about how bureaucrats at a Scottish branch of the National Health Service are bilking taxpayers.

National Procurement, a branch of the NHS National Services Division, arranged for staff who are deemed to be “regular users” of cars for business to get the cars through a taxpayer-backed vehicle-leasing scheme. …Figures provided by National Procurement in response to a Freedom of Information request showed that…one in eight members of staff, had used the 4x4s and convertibles to drive to work. Much of the insurance, petrol, road tax and leasing is funded by the state.

And we’re not talking cheap automobiles. Keep in mind, when you read this next passage, that £25,000 is almost $40,000.

One employee was leased a £27,000 Mercedes, while three other workers have been driving £23,000 S-line Audi A3 sports cars. Another employee received a £28,300 Audi TT. Since the beginning of this year, five new cars have been leased to staff, including a four-door BMW worth more than £30,500. Other leased vehicles include another Audi sports car worth more than £25,000 and three Range Rover Evoques costing up to £29,500.

So how do they work this scam? Simple, they take needless trips.

…staff have had to clock up a minimum of 5000 business miles during office hours to qualify for the scheme. …A department source told the Herald newspaper that some members of staff were using their leased cars for 80-mile round trips between National Procurement’s two offices, in Larkhall, Lanarkshire, and South Gyle in Edinburgh, even though there are adequate video conferencing facilities at both locations.

One hopes that this scandal in a Scottish branch is an exception and that most bureaucrats don’t behave in a similarly reprehensible fashion.

But given the bloated size of the National Health Service bureaucracy, it’s more likely that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is an entitlement culture in most government bureaucracies, and I would be shocked in the paper pushers and memo writers hadn’t figured out how to manipulate the system

And since there are more than 1.6 million of them, the magnitude of the fraud is presumably enormous.

The obvious follow-up question is whether taxpayers in the United Kingdom are getting some good value from this army of cosseted bureaucrats?

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Here are some chilling excerpts from a story in the Daily Mail.

NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday. Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia… There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP. Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’.

Here are a couple of horrifying examples.

Professor Pullicino revealed he had personally intervened to take a patient off the LCP who went on to be successfully treated. He said this showed that claims they had hours or days left are ‘palpably false’. In the example he revealed a 71-year-old who was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia and epilepsy was put on the LCP by a covering doctor on a weekend shift. Professor Pullicino said he had returned to work after a weekend to find the patient unresponsive and his family upset because they had not agreed to place him on the LCP. ‘I removed the patient from the LCP despite significant resistance,’ he said. ‘His seizures came under control and four weeks later he was discharged home to his family,’ he said.

In other words, government-run healthcare in the United Kingdom is a great scam if you’re an insider. But not such a good deal if you’re someone who needs, well, healthcare.

Sort of makes you wonder what Paul Krugman was thinking when he wrote, “In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.”

I guess the English newspapers are making up stories to denigrate their own nation. If you want to see more of these “false” stories, click here, herehereherehereherehereherehere, here and here.

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One of my very first blog posts was about the link between big government and big corruption.

For the rest of my life, I can now cite the Obamacare travesty as an example.

Here’s some of what Tim Carney wrote for the Washington Examiner.

Chief Justice John Roberts’ judicial sleight of hand, transforming Obamacare’s mandate into a tax, was a fittingly twisted save for a law of such grisly provenance. Born of tawdry liaisons between industry lobbyists and political hacks, passed through naked logrolling and legislative skullduggery, Obamacare wasn’t finalized until Thursday, when the chief justice, in effect, amended the bill so that it would become constitutional.

Tim recounts some of the sleaze and corruption that allowed Obamacare to move through Congress.

…within weeks of his inauguration, Obama started playing the game. An early Obamacare confab was held at the headquarters of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — showing how this was a political exercise as much as a policy one. At this April 2009 meeting, top lobbyists from the drug industry and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina hammered out a deal — exposed by recently released emails — whereby the drug industry would pay for pro-Obamacare ads basically written by the White House. Big Pharma would also spend big to re-elect Democrats who voted for the bill. …The Senate bill was authored mostly by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Majority Leader Harry Reid, probably the two senators most notoriously cozy with lobbyists. To win over wavering Democrats, Reid loaded the bill up with special favors. Nebraska’s Ben Nelson got the “Cornhusker Kickback,” and Reid bought Mary Landrieu’s vote with the “Louisiana Purchase” — both deals giving those states extra Medicaid money. … Democratic staffers who wrote the bill cashed out to K Street nearly immediately, becoming health industry lobbyists. Democratic Reps. Bart Stupak and Earl Pomeroy, who both lost their seats (Stupak retired, Pomeroy was defeated) thanks to their votes for Obamacare, were also rewarded with lobbying gigs for health care companies.

The combination of a politically motivated Chief Justice and a tawdry legislative process led Tim to this conclusion.

If this is how a bill becomes a law, our kids are going to need new civics textbooks.

Since this is a very depressing topic, we need to add some levity. I already did a post with several good Obamacare cartoons, but I can’t resist adding this one.

Returning to our unpleasant topic, Richard Epstein opined last Friday in the New York Times about the Obamacare decision and explained (as I noted last week as well) that the power to tax does not create a power to spend.

By giving Congress independent powers over taxation and other revenue sources, the Constitution ended that dependency. But as a quid pro quo, the Constitution also restricted the use of these revenues to classical public goods — benefits that must be given to all citizens, if given to any — like paying off national debts and paying for the nation’s defense. General welfare, mentioned in parallel with these two phrases, is best read as covering only matters that advance the welfare of the United States as a whole. The redistribution of income, or “transfer payments” among citizens, like those mandated under the Affordable Care Act, doesn’t qualify for taxation in this originalist reading of the Constitution. Through the early 20th century, the Supreme Court was cognizant of this tight relationship between the power to regulate an activity directly and to the power to tax it. The basic idea relies on a simple economic insight: taxation and regulation are close substitutes, so a limitation on one power matters little if the other power is still available. There is no practical difference between ordering an action, and taxing or fining people who don’t do that same thing. If the Constitution limits direct federal powers, it must also limit Congress’s indirect power of taxation.

Unfortunately, Supreme Court Justices sometimes don’t care what the Constitution says.

P.S. This is the second time the Obamacare Frankenstein monster has appeared on this blog. He was with his twin brother last time.

P.P.S. This is a post about the unseemly genesis of Obamacare, but I’m a fiscal policy wonk, so I want to remind everyone that this new entitlement will be a budget buster.

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I’ve already thrown in my two cents on yesterday’s disappointing decision, and I was planning on ignoring the issue for a few days because I’m so irked by the result.

But they say laughter is an effective part of grief therapy, so let’s take some solace in these cartoons.

This first one is about the very serious issue of increased authority and power for the IRS.

Technically, the Supreme Court decision didn’t give the IRS any more power than it already had been given under the legislation, but the cartoon isn’t claiming otherwise, so it gets points for being accurate and (tragically) amusing.

By the way, here’s a cartoon making a similar point from back in 2010 when Obamcare was being debated.

Next we have a cartoon about Chief Justice Roberts and his new BFF status with Obama. I almost didn’t include it because Roberts deserves nothing but scorn, but I don’t want my feelings to interfere.

Speaking of Roberts, this next cartoon is accurate in many ways.

It’s designed to blame Bush for appointing a Justice who would put establishment approval before fealty to the Constitution, but I think it’s also true because Obama might not have won – and the Democrats certainly wouldn’t have picked up so many seats in the House and Senate – if Bush had not imposed so much statist legislation and weakened the economy, thus paving the way for big Democrat victories in 2006 and 2008.

And here’s a cartoon making the obvious point that Obama prevaricated.

I’ve saved my favorite for last, showing how the Supreme Court botched its responsibility.

But even though it’s my favorite of the five cartoons, I would make a change (just like I suggested alterations to a very good Chuck Asay cartoon back in April).

In this case, I also would amend this gem by replacing “economy” with “Constitution.”

I hope all these cartoons make you feel a bit better. If not, you can look at some R-rated Obamacare humor here, here, and here. And, just for the heck of it, here’s a PG-rated Obamacare joke to end on a more subdued note.

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I’m not a lawyer, or an expert on the Constitution, though I sometimes play one on TV.

But I can read, and I’ll agree with my friends on the left that the federal government has a broad power to tax. I wish the 16th Amendment had never been ratified, but its language gives the federal government a green light to rape and pillage.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

That being said, the power to tax is not the same as the power to spend. And at the risk of sounding old fashioned, my big objection to the Obamacare decision is that health care is not listed as one of the federal government’s enumerated powers in Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution.

Sadly, that horse got out of the barn many decades ago, culminating in a horrible 1942 Supreme Court decision that said a man couldn’t grow crops on his own land to feed his own animals for consumption by his own family.

But let’s look at the bright side. Even though the Obamacare case was decided incorrectly, at least the judiciary is beginning to reconsider these issues, thanks in large part to the work of the Cato Institute’s legal scholars and adjunct legal scholars.

P.S. While the federal government has a broad power to tax, I should add that this doesn’t – or at least shouldn’t – vitiate other provisions of the Constitution. This is why it is so disappointing that we’ve seen the erosion of key civil liberties such as the presumption of innocence and the 4th Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

P.P.S. This Michael Ramirez cartoon about Obamacare and the Constitution is amusing, though that’s not much solace given what happened. And here’s another one of his cartoons, this one on the broader theme of Obama vs. the Founding Fathers.

P.P.S. Speaking of cartoons, this one seems especially appropriate today.

If you like that one, you can see another Breen cartoon here.

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I was born 54 years ago in the People’s Republic of New York.

Back then, all I wanted was a new baseball glove

But I don’t mention that because I want you to send me a present or to say Happy Birthday.

Instead, I’m hoping at least five of the Justices on the Supreme Court will make this day special by rejecting Obamacare.

And I mean the entire legislation, not just the mandate. I want them to throw out all the new taxes, all the new spending, all the new subsidies, and all the new market distortions.

My video on Obamacare, for instance, completely focused on how the legislation would expand the burden of government. The mandate is a bad idea, without question, but it’s also a big mistake to impose more spending and taxes when government already is far too big.

I’m worried, though, that the Court will reject the mandate and decide the rest of the law is okay. Not only does this mean we’ll be stuck with bigger government, but it also creates a scenario where politicians – including squeamish Republicans – may decide to enact other bad laws.

John Stossel shares my concerns about what may happen after a Supreme Court decision.

I’m scared. I fear that even if the Supreme Court overrules most of Obamacare (or did already, by the time you read this), Republicans will join Democrats in restoring “good” parts of the law…parts of Obamacare are popular. People like getting what they think is free stuff.

John elaborates, noting that politicians may enact laws that destroy the insurance market.

…discrimination is what makes insurance work. An insurance regime where everyone pays the same amount is called “community rating.” That sounds fair. No more cruel discrimination against the obese or people with cancer. But community rating is as destructive as ordering flood insurance companies to charge me nothing extra to insure my very vulnerable beach house, or ordering car insurance companies to charge Lindsay Lohan no more than they charge you. Such one-size-fits-all rules take away insurance companies’ best tool: risk-based pricing. Risk-based pricing encourages us to take better care of ourselves. Car insurance works because companies reward good drivers and charge the Lindsay Lohans more. If the state forces insurance companies to stop discriminating, that kills the business model. No-discrimination insurance isn’t insurance. It’s welfare. If the politicians’ plan was to create another government welfare program, they ought to own up to that instead of hiding the cost.

And since big business has a dismaying habit of getting into bed with big government, John isn’t expecting the insurance industry to defend markets.

Women go to the doctor more often than men and spend more on medicines. Their lifetime medical costs are much higher, and so it makes all the sense in the world to charge women higher premiums. But Sen. John Kerry pandered, saying, “The disparity between women and men in the individual insurance market is just plain wrong, and it has to change!” The industry caved. The president of its trade group, Karen M. Ignagni, said that disparities “should be eliminated.” Caving was safer than fighting the president and Congress, and caving seemed to provide the industry with benefits. Insurance companies wouldn’t have to work as hard. They wouldn’t have to carefully analyze risk. They’d be partners with government — fat and lazy, another sleepy bureaucracy feeding off the welfare state. Alcoholics, drug addicts and the obese won’t have to pay any more than the rest of us. But this just kills off a useful part of insurance: encouraging healthy behavior. Charging heavy drinkers more for insurance gives them one more incentive to quit. “No-discrimination” pricing makes health care costs rise even faster.

I’ve repeatedly written that the only way to fix healthcare is to get rid of the government-created third-party payer problem.

Unfortunately, that will be very difficult precisely because people like the illusion that they don’t pay (even though they do bear the costs in the form of lower take-home wages and higher taxes).

So while I want a full-repeal birthday present from the Supreme Court, that will only provide fleeting happiness unless we solve the third-party payer problem caused by Medicare, Medicaid, tax distortions, and other forms of government intervention.

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I’ve narrated a video on the fiscal nightmare of Obamacare and written several times about the serious problem of government-caused third-party payer – including just as few days ago while nit-picking about an otherwise excellent column by Robert Samuelson (and I’ve even used the abortion market to make the point that prices don’t rise when consumers are spending their own money).

But, other than mocking E.J. Dionne’s sophomoric understanding of America’s political system and making a general point about how the judicial branch is supposed to protect us from untrammeled majoritarianism, I haven’t said much about the constitutional issues being discussed at the Supreme Court.

Simply stated, I’m not a lawyer or an expert on the Constitution, so I try not to pontificate too much where my knowledge is lacking. Fortunately, though, I can turn to others who are competent to discuss such matters, and this new Learn Liberty video is a great introduction to the key issue that the Justices must decide.

Seems pretty straightforward. For all intents and purposes, the Justices are being asked to decide whether the Founding Fathers were serious when the outlined the limited powers of the federal government.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that the Court will imminently announce that the entire law is unconstitutional.

P.S. The Learn Liberty videos are superb. Here’s one on protectionism and here’s another about how excessive federal spending is America’s real fiscal problem.

P.P.S. Just in case the Court makes the wrong decision, here’s some Obamacare humor to cheer you up, including one on a new medical device the Administration is introducing, a cartoon about the real impact of the new health system, an R-rated explanation of the difference between private health care and government health care, the White House’s new motto for Obamacare, and (ouch!) a look at vasectomies once the government is in charge.

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Writing for the Washington Post, Robert Samuelson has a column on “The Folly of Obamacare.” This piece criticizes the President’s signature achievement for many good reasons, including increased uncertainty, the negative impact on job creation, rising levels of red ink, and generational unfairness.

I agree with all those complaints, but then Samuelson makes another point that rubbed me the wrong way because he’s complaining about a symptom and overlooking the underlying problem. Here’s what he wrote.

Uncontrolled health spending is the U.S. system’s main problem — and the ACA makes it worse. Spiraling health costs crowd out other government programs and squeeze wage increases by diverting compensation dollars into employer-paid insurance. Because insured people use more health services than the uninsured, the ACA (covering an estimated 30 million more) raises spending. As for the ACA’s cost-control provisions, even the government’s own actuaries don’t believe they will do much. By their latest projection, total health spending — government and private — rises from 17.9 percent of the economy (gross domestic product) in 2010 to 19.6 percent in 2021. In 1980, health care was 9 percent of GDP.

I assume all his facts are correct, but Samuelson is missing the point. The reason we have “spiraling health costs” is because of something called third-party payer. As the chart shows, nearly 90 percent of health care costs in America are financed by someone other than the consumer. And when folks get to consume with other people’s money, they have very little reason to care about costs.

In my speeches, I frequently cite myself as an example. When my kids were small and it seemed like there was an earache or sore throat every other week, I was always at the pediatrician. But I never cared about the bill because I knew my employer-provided coverage limited the out-of-pocket amount I would pay.

The same is true for the tens of millions of other Americans with health plans provided by their employers, and it’s also true for the tens of millions of Americans who use Medicare, Medicaid, or some other government program.

By the way, this is why undoing Obamacare – either legislatively or through a Supreme Court decision – doesn’t solve the problem. Third-party payer was a huge problem even before the President made the problem a bit worse with his misguided scheme.

This video explains why free-market reform is necessary to solve the problem of third-party payer.

One final point is that there are parts of our health care system where consumers still pay out-of-pocket, and you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that those are areas – such as cosmetic surgery (or even abortion) – where costs are restrained and quality keeps rising.

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I have to give the Washington Post credit. It may have a bias for statism, but at least they have some diversity on the op-ed pages. Less than two months after E.J. Dionne wrote an embarrassing column showing he didn’t understand the difference between untrammeled majoritarianism and a constitutional republic, the Post publishes a terrific piece by George Will on the proper role of the Supreme Court.

Here’s some of what George Will wrote.

…a vast portion of life should be exempt from control by majorities. And when the political branches do not respect a capacious zone of private sovereignty, courts should police the zone’s borders. Otherwise, individuals’ self-governance of themselves is sacrificed to self-government understood merely as a prerogative of majorities. The Constitution is a companion of the Declaration of Independence and should be construed as an implementation of the Declaration’s premises, which include: Government exists not to confer rights but to “secure” preexisting rights; the fundamental rights concern the liberty of individuals, not the prerogatives of the collectivity — least of all when it acts to the detriment of individual liberty. Wilkinson cites Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes as a practitioner of admirable judicial modesty. But restraint needs a limiting principle, lest it become abdication. Holmes said: “If my fellow citizens want to go to Hell I will help them. It’s my job.” No, a judge’s job is to judge, which includes deciding whether majorities are misbehaving at the expense of individual liberty. …The Constitution is a document, one understood — as America’s greatest jurist, John Marshall, said — “chiefly from its words.” And those words are to be construed in the bright light cast by the Declaration. Wilkinson worries about judges causing “an ever-increasing displacement of democracy.” Also worrisome, however, is the displacement of liberty by democracy in the form of majorities indifferent or hostile to what the Declaration decrees — a spacious sphere of individual sovereignty.

I offered my two cents on this issue, rhetorically asking why the Founding Fathers would have bothered listing enumerated powers if the interstate commerce clause was designed to be a blank check for politicians in Washington.

But Thomas Sowell, as usual, wrote about the issue with greater eloquence and clarity.

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I’ve repeatedly said that Michael Ramirez is a good political cartoonist (see here, hereherehere, here, and here), and he’s proved his worth in this cartoon that cleverly mocks the cavalier attitude that statists have about America’s founding principles.

And here are two more Ramirez cartoons, including one that also uses the theme of Obama vs the Founding Fathers.

Finally, for those who want some analysis of why schemes like Obamacare are inconsistent with the Constitution, here’s some good analysis by Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Philip Klein and Damon Root, and yours truly.

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A few days ago, I wrote about Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution, which lists the “enumerated powers” of the federal government. That post included a reference to Wickard v. Filburn, an infamous Supreme Court case that opened the door to unlimited intervention from Washington.

Why was this case important? As is so often the case, Sowell’s analysis is a model of clarity and common sense.

Thomas Sowell

Roscoe Filburn was an Ohio farmer who grew some wheat to feed his family and some farm animals. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture fined him for growing more wheat than he was allowed to grow under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, which was passed under Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce. Filburn pointed out that his wheat wasn’t sold, so that it didn’t enter any commerce, interstate or otherwise. Therefore the federal government had no right to tell him how much wheat he grew on his own farm, and which never left his farm. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution says that all powers not explicitly given to the federal government belong to the states or to the people. So you might think that Filburn was right. But the Supreme Court said otherwise. Even though the wheat on Filburn’s farm never entered the market, just the fact that “it supplies a need of the man who grew it which would otherwise be reflected by purchases in the open market” meant that it affected interstate commerce. So did the fact that the home-grown wheat could potentially enter the market. The implications of this kind of reasoning reached far beyond farmers and wheat. Once it was established that the federal government could regulate not only interstate commerce itself, but anything with any potential effect on interstate commerce, the Tenth Amendment’s limitations on the powers of the federal government virtually disappeared.

So why was this case such a disaster? Sowell continues.

The implications of this kind of reasoning reached far beyond farmers and wheat. Once it was established that the federal government could regulate not only interstate commerce itself, but anything with any potential effect on interstate commerce, the Tenth Amendment’s limitations on the powers of the federal government virtually disappeared. Over the years, “interstate commerce” became magic words to justify almost any expansion of the federal government’s power, in defiance of the Tenth Amendment. That is what the Obama administration is depending on to get today’s Supreme Court to uphold its power to tell people that they have to buy the particular health insurance specified by the federal government.

Sowell identifies the bottom line.

The power to regulate indirect effects is not a slippery slope. It is the disastrous loss of freedom that lies at the bottom of a slippery slope.

Many people have identified Plessy v. Ferguson, which allowed the racist imposition of separate-but-equal policies, as one of the worst decisions in Supreme Court history.

They’re right, but Wickard v. Filburn deserves a place on that list as well, only it enabled statism rather than racism.

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My daily email containing the editorials and opinion columns from the Washington Post included an item written by E.J. Dionne entitled “Supreme Court activists: Conservative justices forget we’re a democracy.”

Surely this was a mistake.

I suspect he does understand, at least with regard to the first question. For instance, I’d bet a lot of money that he was correctly in favor of the Court’s decision to protect flag burning as a form of political speech, notwithstanding public opinion and congressional approval.

But he seems to join with other leftists in treating the interstate commerce clause as some sort of blank check for federal intervention into every aspect of our lives. And it shows up in various ways in his column.

…conservative justices are prepared to act as an alternative legislature…discussing whether parts of the law could stand if other parts fell… Sotomayor asked what was wrong with leaving as much discretion as possible “in the hands of the people who should be fixing this, not us.” It was nice to be reminded that we’re a democracy, not a judicial dictatorship. …This is what conservative justices will do if they strike down or cripple the health-care law. …a court that…sees no limits on its power, no need to defer to those elected to make our laws.

At the risk of being blunt, the conservative justices are doing exactly what they should be doing. They’re deciding if a law enacted by Congress is consistent with the powers granted to Congress by the Constitution.

America has a democratic form of government, but we are not a democracy. At least not in the sense that 51 percent of the people have the unlimited right to rape and pillage 49 percent of the people.

I have no idea of the Supreme Court will make the right decision, but I am overwhelmingly confident that the Founding Fathers didn’t envision mandated health insurance as a function of the federal government.

But maybe I’m just too old fashioned, because when I peruse the enumerated powers, I don’t see any authority for a Department of Energy either. Or a Department of Agriculture. Or a Department of Commerce. Or Department of Housing and Urban Development. Or Department of Education. Or a Department of Transportation. Or…well, you get the idea.

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I think Obamacare is bad policy because it exacerbates the main problem with the current healthcare system, which is third-party payer. And as a public finance economist, I’m obviously not happy about the new taxes and additional spending in Obamacare.

But those issues are temporarily on the back burner now that the Supreme Court is deciding whether the underlying law is constitutional.

I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on TV. But I can read, and when I look at Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution, I don’t see that Congress has the power to coerce me into buying a health insurance policy. Heck, I don’t see any role for the federal government in healthcare.

The statists say that the commerce clause (“To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”) is a blank check for federal intervention, but that’s a bastardization of the original meaning and purpose of that passage, which was inserted to prevent states from imposing protectionist barriers.

What matters, though, is how the nine Justices on the Supreme Court interpret that passage. Here’s some of Philip Klein’s analysis for the Washington Examiner.

…the outcome of the case, and fate of the president’s most significant legislative achievement, will likely hinge on how the court views the Commerce Clause. One of the most widely debated parts of the Constitution, the Commerce Clause grants Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states.” And as the size and scope of the federal government has grown throughout the nation’s history, the Supreme Court has grappled with how broadly or narrowly to interpret the phrase. …If the court allows the mandate to stand, opponents claim, it would effectively give the federal government unlimited power to regulate individual behavior.

And here’s some of what Damon Root penned for Reason.

Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power “to regulate commerce…among the several states.” The framers and ratifiers of the Constitution understood those words to mean that while congress may regulate commercial activity that crossed state lines, Congress was not allowed to regulate the economic activity that occurred inside each state. As Alexander Hamilton—normally a champion of broad federal power—explained in Federalist 17, the Commerce Clause did not extend congressional authority to “the supervision of agriculture and of other concerns of a similar nature, all those things, in short, which are proper to be provided for by local legislation.” In other words, the Commerce Clause was not a blank check made out to the federal government. Yet in its decisions in both Wickard v. Filburn andGonzales v. Raich, the Supreme Court held otherwise, allowing Congress to regulate the wholly intrastate cultivation of wheat and marijuana, respectively. Those decisions cannot be squared with the original meaning of the Commerce Clause. As Justice Clarence Thomas remarked about the majority’s reasoning in Raich, “If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything—and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.”

When I read all this material, my amateur legal analysis is pretty simple: Why would the Founding Fathers have bothered to list enumerated powers if the commerce clause gave the federal government a blank check to control our lives?

Like I said, I’m not a lawyer, much less an expert on constitutional law. Then again, this amusing poster shows that the same thing can be said about the President.

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I like to think people in the United States still believe in liberty, and I’ve cited some polling data in support of American Exceptionalism.

And it seems like that philosophical belief in individualism and limited government sometimes has an impact in the polling booth. According to a recent study, Obamacare was poison for Democrats in 2010.

Here’s an excerpt from a report in The Hill.

Voting for President Obama’s healthcare reform law cost Democratic incumbents 5.8 percentage points of support at the polls in 2010, according to a new study in the journal American Politics Research. The study helps explain why Democrats lost 66 House seats, significantly more than the median academic forecast of 44 to 45 seats, study co-author Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College writes on his blog. Democrats in the lead-up to the elections took a number of tough votes — notably on the Wall Street bailout, the stimulus and cap-and-trade — but none was as unpopular as their support for the healthcare reform law. “We show that the roll-call effect on vote share was driven by healthcare reform. Democratic incumbents who voted yes performed significantly worse than those who did not,” Nyhan writes. “We then provide simulation evidence suggesting that Democrats would win approximately 25 more seats if those in competitive districts had voted no, which accounts for the gap between the academic forecasts and the observed outcomes.”

As with any statistical study, you should take the results with a big grain of salt. That caveat aside, the conclusions of the study seem quite plausible. And since I’m not a fan of Obamacare and think the law will be much more costly than advertised, I’m not shedding any tears for politicians who lost their jobs after voting for the new entitlement.

But the 2010 election may have been a Pyrrhic victory – a short-run victory that paves the way for long-run defeat.

I think the left made a clever calculation that losses in the last cycle would be an acceptable price to get more people dependent on the federal government. And once people have to rely on government for something like healthcare, they are more likely to vote for the party that promises to make government bigger.

One of the most-viewed posts on this blog is the set of cartoons drawn by a former Cato intern, one showing how the welfare state begins and the other showing how it ends.

This is why Obamacare – and the rest of the entitlement state – is so worrisome. If more and more Americans decide to ride in the wagon of government dependency, it will be less and less likely that those people will vote for candidates who want to restrain government.

Europe is a good example. The supposedly “conservative” leaders of major nations such as SpainGermanyFrance, and the United Kingdom are a bunch of big-government statists.

That being said, I’m not a complete pessimist. The Medicaid and Medicare reforms in last year’s Ryan budget would largely solve the problem, especially since any Obamacare subsidies presumably could be eliminated as part of such reforms.

I’m just not holding my breath that we’ll get real entitlement reform in the next four years.

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I’ve already posted some humor about Sandra Fluke and the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate, including this set of four cartoons and posters.

But the folks at Reason TV always do things worth sharing, so here’s a video about a cough drop mandate. As you can see, a healthy dose of sarcasm.

By the way, if you want something more serious about the issue, including a discussion of third-party payer and the proper role of insurance, check out the excellent analysis of Prof. Cochrane in this post.

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