Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Government stupidity’

If you had to pick the most inane, pointless, and intrusive example of government stupidity, what would you pick?

We have lots of examples of regulators running amok.

But we also have really absurd examples of wasteful spending.

We even have examples of government stupidity that can be characterized as a combination of wasteful spending and foolish regulation, such as one part of the government squandering money on research about how to encourage condom use by providing prophylactics of different sizes while another part of the government has regulations preventing the private sector from providing prophylactics of different sizes.

Today’s post, however, could win a prize for the most profound and disturbing example of government stupidity. It mixes foolish red tape with over-the-top political correctness.

Here are some jaw-dropping details of the federal government running amok in Michigan.

A set of seating is being torn down outside the Plymouth Wildcats varsity boys’ baseball field, not long before the season begins, because the fields for boys’ and girls’ athletics must be equal. A group of parents raised money for a raised seating deck by the field, as it was hard to see the games through a chain-link fence. The parents even did the installation themselves, and also paid for a new scoreboard. But, after someone complained to the U.S Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, an investigated by the department determined the new addition was no longer equal to the girls’ softball field next door, which has old bleachers and an old scoreboard.

This is utterly absurd for several reasons, most notably that the federal government shouldn’t have any role in education, much less efforts to micro-manage high school sports facilities.

But even if one accepts that Washington bureaucrats should interfere in such matters, it’s important to understand that it is bureaucratic lunacy to interpret “Title IX requirements to offer equal athletic opportunities to both boys and girls” to somehow mean equal seating.

Sexist bleachers?!?

What happens if there are fewer people who want to watch female sports? Should there be a requirement to build bleachers that are mostly empty?

Or maybe we can blend Obamacare to Title IX and create a mandate that parents and others in the community have to attend female sporting events 50 percent of the time?

Actually, I shouldn’t even joke about such an idea, lest some bureaucrat think it’s a serious proposal.

P.S. The Keynesians will be happy. They like it when wealth and/or capital is destroyed since that supposedly forces “stimulative” rebuilding exercises.

Read Full Post »

Last year, I conducted an informal poll at a conference in Paris.

I explained to the audience that the public sector consumed about 57 percent of the French economy and I asked them whether they got more services and better government than the people of Germany (where government consumed 44 pct of GDP), Canada (41 pct), or Switzerland (34 pct).

Unsurprisingly, not a single hand went up.

But maybe we should ask the same question in America. Are we getting the government we want?

That’s the message of this clever video.

I have a couple of editorial comments.

1. The video made a very good point about health insurance not being real insurance in a world of government intervention.

2. I also agree that much of the federal government is illegitimate, but that point is irrelevant since we have Justices on the Supreme Court who don’t care that the federal government is supposed to be limited to those functions listed in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution.

3. The system is based on coercion. If you don’t pay taxes, you go to jail. If you resist, they shoot you. Only in Washington is that type of system known as “voluntary compliance.”

4. The video is absolutely correct that the nation did just fine for most of our nation’s history with no income tax.

But enough of my commentary. Let’s think for a few minutes of what would happen if we could use our tax returns to allocate our tax dollars. How many people would voluntarily finance the waste at places such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development or Department of Agriculture?

Reason Waste Poll But even the legitimate parts of government are riddled with waste. I believe in national defense, for instance, but that doesn’t mean I want to pay for stupid statues, subsidize green fuel, or prop up Europe’s welfare states by keeping outmoded military alliances.

That’s why I’m not surprised to see that Americans think, according to a new Reason-Rupe poll,  that 50 cents out of every tax dollar is wasted.

My leftist friends, when confronted with this type of polling data, are generally dismissive. They say ordinary people are misinformed and stupid because fraud rates for government programs (as shown in the P.S. of this post) tend to be far lower than 50 percent.

But their definition of “waste” is far too narrow. I don’t care if every single dollar of food stamps goes to people who are “eligible” or if the rules are followed for every mass transit subsidy. Those are not legitimate and proper functions of Washington.

When government is taking money from some people and using those funds to buy votes from other people, every penny is being wasted.

Read Full Post »

I’ve been asked whether I’m a hypocrite because I support decentralization while at the same time being critical of state and local governments.

I don’t think there’s any inconsistency in my position. Here’s some of what I wrote last July.

I’m a strong believer in federalism, but not because I think state and local governments are competent. Politicians and interest groups are a toxic combination in all circumstance. But at least people have considerable ability to cross borders if they want to escape greedy and despotic governments at the state and local level. And when the geese with the golden eggs can fly away, this facilitates competition between governments and forces politicians to restrain their appetites.

Maybe I’m just daft (as my leftist friends often claim), but I think that’s a perfectly defensible position.

Anyhow, I feel compelled to give that bit of background because it’s once again time to mock state and local governments.

Here’s an excerpt from the Detroit News that tells you everything you’ll ever need to know about the stupidity of government. The city actually loses money on parking enforcement.

The city is paying $32 to issue and process a $30 parking violation, and it hasn’t adjusted rates since 2001. On top of that, about half of Detroit’s 3,404 parking meters are not operating properly at any given time, says Orr’s spokesman, Bill Nowling.

Wow, this must be an all-time record. A local government can’t even fleece people competently.

The only thing more shocking is when the government is too incompetent to give away money, which actually happened with one boondoggle in the United Kingdom.

Now let’s travel a few thousand miles and look at another example of how Washington isn’t the only place where government does strange things.

I’ve written many times about the lavish pay and gold-plated benefits of bureaucrats, but cops in Hawaii may have set a new record for fringe benefits. Or maybe this is a new version of friends with fringe benefits, to coin a phrase.

Here are the fun (and PG-13-rated) details in Jacob Sullum’s article in Reason.

Hawaii’s prostitution law includes an exemption for “any member of a police department, a sheriff, or a law enforcement officer acting in the course and scope of duties.” …That’s right: Cops insisted that they must be free not just to receive blowjobs and handjobs from prostitutes but also to engage in vaginal and anal intercourse with them. Evidently the police also need permission to engage in “flagellation or torture by or upon a person as an act of sexual stimulation or gratification” (Hawaii’s definition of “sadomasochistic abuse”). Just in case. Since an entire chamber of the state legislature agreed to this request, the cops must have had a pretty persuasive argument.

Hmmm…makes me wonder if the legislators also added an exemption for themselves. Based on the state’s tax rates, we already know they screw taxpayers for money, so it’s not much of a leap to suspect they’re doing the same thing on a one-on-one basis.

Though, as shown in this cartoon, they’re not used to spending their own money.

All kidding aside, Jacob makes the very sensible point that the real problem is that politicians have enacted laws against a victimless crime.

…the double standard demanded by police highlights the utter absurdity of prostitution laws. Police do not commit murder to catch killers or knock over banks to catch robbers. Yet here they are insisting that they need the leeway to have sex with prostitutes in order to stop people from having sex with prostitutes. Even if cops never take advantage of that freedom, they routinely commit the crime of agreeing to pay for sex, except that in their case it is not treated as a crime. That exemption is considered acceptable only because exchanging money for sex, unlike murder and robbery, does not violate anyone’s rights. But if so, why not broaden the exemption to cover everyone?

I agree. I find the whole business of prostitution very distasteful, just as I feel nothing but disdain for illegal drugs. But prohibition just makes matters worse.

P.S. Since this post looks at both parking meters and prostitution, you’ll be amused by the way the Germans combined those two topics.

P.P.S. I periodically share polling data that strikes me as significant. Most recently, for instance, I noted that crazy left wingers openly admitted they want higher tax rates even if the government doesn’t raise any revenue. That was a depressing result, but I was encouraged to see that a vast majority of Americans view big government as a threat to the nation’s future.

Here are a couple of new polls that caught my attention.

1. I’m rather worried that a new Rasmussen poll found that “for the first time, fewer than half of voters believe tax cuts help the economy.” For what it’s worth, I suspect this is because politicians often gravitate to “tax cuts” that fail to reduce the burden on productive activity. Instead, they make the code more complex by expanding credits, deductions, exemptions, preferences, and exclusions.

If they started pushing for lower marginal tax rates or fundamental tax reform, the polling numbers would probably be better.

2. Let’s now cross the ocean and look at some remarkable Gallup data on the role of government in thwarting small businesses.

Gallup Europe Entrepreneurship

I already knew Greece had stunningly absurd barriers to entrepreneurship (click here for an unbelievable example), so one can only imagine the types of nonsense imposed by Italy’s feckless government.

3. Let’s close with some very good news. It seems that young people are beginning to realize that Ronald Reagan was right (see second video) when he said government is the problem rather than the solution.

Check out this excerpt from a report by National Journal.

Millennials who may have voted with youthful exuberance in 2008 seem to have grown fatigued with the government’s inability to get things done. In 2009, 42 percent of millennials said government programs are usually inefficient and wasteful, according to Pew data. By 2012, that number had increased to 51 percent. And young people say they’re losing trust in the government to Do the Right Thing. In 2009, 44 percent of millennials said they trust the government to do what’s right all or most of the time. By 2013, that dropped to 29 percent.

Makes me think maybe these youngsters finally figured out that programs like Social Security are empty Ponzi schemes.

By the way, here are the best poll numbers I’ve ever seen.

Read Full Post »

Every so often, I share stories about the ridiculous and outrageous way in which the federal government squanders our money.

So when I saw this New York Post story about the feds pissing away a six-figure sum on condom research, I figured this would be a perfect addition to my collection of government waste stories.

The federal government is stretching your tax dollars — in search of the perfect condom. The National Institutes of Health will spend $224,863 to test 95 “custom-fitted” condoms so every American man can choose the one that fits just right.

And it’s a good match with this story about Washington flushing away more than $400K on research about men not liking to wear condoms.

Do we really need to spend other people’s money to figure out that guys, if they have to wear condoms, would like them to fit?!?

But then I found something in the story that genuinely surprised me. Apparently there are federal regulations that restrict the types of condoms that can be sold in the United States!

The NIH blames US “regulatory guidelines” for American men having to choose from a “narrow range of condom sizes.” The six-figure grant was awarded to TheyFit of Covington, Ga., which offers a wide variety of condoms that vary in length — from a bit more than 3 inches to nearly 9 ¹/₂ — and in width. They’re available in European Union countries, but not in the United States, where they would have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

I’m flabbergasted. I can vaguely understand why the government might regulate some aspects of condom production, such as durability rules to limit breakage. I don’t think such red tape is necessary because companies already plenty of incentive – because of both reputational risk and preemptive legal protection – to maintain good standards.

But at least you can see a rationale for bureaucrats to intervene.

I can’t imagine, though, what excuse regulators came up with when they decided to limit the variety of condom sizes. Maybe this is a literal example of the one-size-fits-all mentality of Washington?

Condom UNAnd isn’t it embarrassing that Europeans have a more market-friendly approach on this issue?

Though none of us should be surprised that the Keystone Cops at the United Nations want to create a human right to obtain taxpayer-financed condoms.

At least Sandra Fluke will be happy about that.

P.S. Here’s a Glenn McCoy cartoon about Obama and subsidized condoms.

P.P.S. Since I started this post with examples of wasteful spending, but then decided that this story might belong in the category of absurd regulation, let’s close by sharing some examples of foolish red tape.

Addendum: A friend with a warped sense of humor emailed to suggest a unflattering link between the condom research and the note left on my windshield right before Christmas. So I can only imagine what my enemies are saying.

Read Full Post »

When you work in Washington (and assuming you haven’t been corrupted), you run the risk of being endlessly outraged about all the waste.

But not all waste is created equal. Some examples are so absurd that they deserve special attention.

We now have another example to add to the list. Russian diplomats have been busted for bilking the Medicaid program of more than $1 million.

This is so outrageous that it may actually be the impetus for some desperately needed reform, as I suggest in this interview with Neil Cavuto.

But is fraud really a problem? Defenders of the Medicaid entitlement presumably would like us to think that this latest story is just an anomaly.

That would be nice, but the experts who have looked at the issue have come to a much different conclusion.

While food stamp fraud is significant, especially with a record-high 47 million Americans now on food stamps, it pales in comparison to what is stolen from Medicare and Medicaid. …It is widely accepted across the political spectrum that upwards of $100 billion of that amount is fraud and abuse. Recently, a report from the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the US House of Representatives outlined many billions of dollars being wasted every year just in New York’s Medicaid program. Grossly inflated payments to intermediate care facilities and excessive salaries were just the tip of the iceberg in a $53 billion program that easily bleeds  more than $10 billion annually to criminals.

So what’s the best way of dealing with the Medicaid mess? Fortunately, we have a simple answer. As I mentioned in the interview, the entire program should be block granted and turned over to the states.

That doesn’t automatically eliminate fraud, but it does create much better incentives for sound governance since state taxpayers would be the ones picking up the tab if a state program is riddled with fraud. Under the current system, by contrast, the cost of waste and malfeasance is spread among taxpayers from all 50 states.

This video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity explains how block grants would work.

One final point to emphasize is that fraud reduction is really just a fringe benefit if we reform Medicaid.

The main reasons to decentralize the program are fiscal sanity and better health care policy.

But the one common thread is that third-party payer facilitates problems, whether we’re looking at excessive costs, health inefficiency, or rampant fraud.

P.S. Don’t forget the other two big entitlements that need reform, Social Security and Medicare. Like Medicaid, Medicare has major challenges with fraud. From what I understand, the retirement portion of Social Security doesn’t have major fraud issues, but the disability program is a huge problem.

Read Full Post »

The government’s monopoly education system is a travesty mostly because taxpayers spend record amounts of money and we get very poor results.

But I’m also irked at the way government schools engage in absurd displays of political correctness, particularly when it comes to make-believe weapons.

Terrorist!!

A little boy was suspended for throwing an imaginary grenade while playing by himself in Colorado.

A school wanted to force a deaf child to change his name because, when using sign language to say who he is, his fingers looked like a gun.

Speaking of which, a six-year old in Maryland was suspended for saying “pow” while having his fingers shaped like a gun.

All this sounds crazy, but at least school bureaucrats are consistent in their nuttiness. Not only are they against non-existent grenades and imaginary guns, they all have a zero-tolerance approach for bows and arrows that don’t exist.

Here are some of the details about what happened at a Pennsylvania school.

A ten-year-old boy has reportedly been suspended from school after he ‘fired’ an imaginary bow and arrow at another pupil. Johnny Jones, a fifth grader at South Eastern Middle School in Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania, is said to have been suspended for one day after making the gesture and now faces expulsion. According to the Rutherford Institute, which is defending the youngster, Johnny was accused of breaching the school’s regulations on using weapons, even though the bow and arrow were not real. He was reprimanded after the girl he ‘fired’ the bow at notified a teacher.

It’s ridiculous that the little boy was suspended, but you also have to wonder about the mental stability of the little girls who ratted him out. Is she just a run-of-the-mill tattle tale? Or is she in training to become a tax bureaucrat in Chicago? Or maybe she went through training on how to be a snitch in the United Kingdom?

But we also have another story of political correctness run amok in government schools. Bureaucrats in Colorado have nabbed a sexual predator.

Are we talking about a 17-year old gang member who was raping and sexually assaulting other students.

Well…not quite. Here’s what Fox News is reporting.

A 6-year-old boy has been suspended from a Colorado school for kissing a girl on the cheek. School officials in Canon City are accusing the boy of sexual harassment and they want it on his school record. The boy’s mother tells KRDO-TV…the girl did not object to being kissed. She told the station that the two children like each other.

To be fair, maybe the boy is genuinely pestering the girl and – notwithstanding what his mother says – the attention is unwelcome. In that case, some punishment is warranted, particularly since it happened twice.

Though I’m not sure I would categorize it as sexual harassment. This is what makes this story worth sharing. It illustrates the lack of common sense that seems inevitable when bureaucrats are in charge of anything.

And since we’re talking about a lack of common sense, here are previous examples of school bureaucrats going overboard for political correctness.

You’ll notice that all these examples involved non-imaginary objects. Real toy guns. Real army men. Real pencils. Real motion detectors. Real Lego pieces.

Aren’t we lucky that government is there to protect us! Sort of the same way they protect us with regulations, as Dave Barry has explained.

Read Full Post »

There are many reason I don’t like Obamacare, including its punitive impact on taxpayers and the way it takes our healthcare system even further from a market-based approach.

But now I’m increasingly worried Obamacare also is creating a playground for hackers and identity thieves – and the rest of us will be the victims.

Simply stated, the results probably won’t be very pretty when you mix together these two items.

1) Typical government incompetence.

2) Massive data collection by government.

I pontificate on these issues in an interview with Neil Cavuto.

To elaborate, the internal revenue code is filled with double taxation of income that is saved and invested. As such the IRS insists on knowing extensive details on our income-producing assets, as well as any capital gains we earn.

And, if you’re subject to the death tax, they’ll want to know about everything you own. None of that would be necessary if we had a flat tax or a national sales tax.

Heck, they wouldn’t even need to know about your bank account since there’s no double taxation of interest with real tax reform.

But we’re on the other side of the pendulum, with the government wanting to know just about everything about our financial affairs. That’s good news for statists who want more redistribution…and it’s good news for other thieves who also want to take our money (but without using government as a middleman).

If you think I’m needlessly worried, check out this CNBC report. Here are some key excerpts.

Serious security weaknesses in the Internal Revenue Service’s data system have left millions of taxpayers’ sensitive financial information vulnerable to hackers. The agency claims it has fixed the problem, but its auditors beg to differ. A new report released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that although the IRS claimed it had implemented 19 fixes to secure the system recommended by the auditor in previous years, at least eight (or 42 percent) of them “had not been fully implemented,” and should not have been checked off as completed. The auditors said the IRS never tracked its progress on the repairs, and in many cases, it closed cases without submitting documentation to prove the fix was complete. …The report also found that the agency didn’t properly scan servers—which contain taxpayer information—for “major vulnerabilities,” or properly lock user accounts, and it did not update software on databases. “When the right degree of security diligence is not applied to systems, disgruntled insiders or malicious outsiders can exploit security weaknesses and may gain unauthorized access,” Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George said.

That’s not exactly reassuring.

But it gets worse. Obamacare exchanges are a disaster waiting to happen, as explained in a USA Today column by the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Every day, personal information is the subject of hundreds of thousands of hacking attempts from all over the world. …On October 1, a major component of Obamacare made you even more vulnerable to devastating attacks on your personal information and the administration is doing too little about it. The Federal Data Services Hub (Hub), a component of the health insurance exchanges created by Obamacare, connects seven different government agencies and establish new access points to the sensitive personal information of the American public. Social Security numbers, employment information, birth dates, health records and tax returns are among the personal data that will be transmitted to this hub, consolidating an unprecedented amount of information. Every shred of data one would need to steal your identity or access your confidential credit information would be available at the fingertips of a skilled hacker, producing a staggering security threat. …These potential vulnerabilities are a dream of faceless international hackers and hostile foreign intelligence services.

Heck, you may as well put all your credit card info on your Facebook page.

More seriously, any sensible person will stay far away from Obamacare. Though if you don’t sign up on an Obamacare exchange, the White House wants you to get fined. So you lose no matter what.

Gee, isn’t big government wonderful?

P.S. I should have mentioned the huge privacy risks that will be created if politicians succeed in imposing an Internet sales tax cartel. Such a system will require a database of every online purchase and it will be accessible by bureaucrats from state and local governments.

P.P.S. I also failed to mention how high-tax governments such as France and Germany (with assistance from the Obama Administration) are pushing to create a global network of tax police that would collect and share information among governments – regardless of their level of corruption or pattern of human rights abuses!

NSA Yes We ScanP.P.P.S. Last but not least, we can’t have a discussion of privacy without mentioning our inquisitive friends at the NSA. Some of you may think it’s a non-story that the NSA is spying on just about all communications. The government, we are told, is merely trying to fight terrorism. Sounds okay in theory, but I’m not that sanguine for the simple reason that I don’t trust government. Indeed, all of us should worry that the NSA was just busted for spying on the web-surfing habits of its critics. Moreover, it doesn’t take much imagination to think the Obama White House would misuse that power to spy on political enemies. If you think I’m being paranoid, just consider how the IRS has been used as a partisan political tool in recent years.

P.P.P.P.S. I’ve been asked whether I’m worried that the NSA will snoop through my web history. As a matter of principle, I would object, but I’m not overly concerned because I’m a relatively boring person. That’s true even when I search for “libertarian porn” and “libertarian sex fantasies.”

Read Full Post »

It’s no secret that I have very little faith in the competence and good will of government.

I focus primarily on the fecklessness of Washington, but I also can’t resist highlighting malfeasance and stupidity by local governments, state governments, and foreign governments.

Indeed, I’ve even had to create special categories to keep track of some of the more amazing episodes of bureaucratic blundering. Here are just a few that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief.

A bizarre collection of examples showing anti-gun political correctness in schools.

A local government stupidity contest.

A bunch of supposed victories in the Drug War.

A comparison of government stupidity in the United States and United Kingdom.

A list of new “rights” concocted by governments.

A pick-the-dumbest-regulation poll.

And even a strange collection of stories about anti-Bambi persecution by bureaucrats.

Today, we’re going to add to this collection. But I’m not sure how to categorize this story. Is is a great moment in local law enforcement, like when cops bust little girls with lemonade stands, or they arrest young men for the horrible crime of saving people from drowning?

Or is it an example of the regulatory state run amok, like when the FDA conducted a raid to stop consenting adults from buying and selling unpasteurized milk,  or when the Greek bureaucracy required submission of stool samples in order to set up an online company.

You’ll understand why it’s hard to decide after reading this story. The issue is (gasp!) unregulated topless hair cutting. Here’s some of what was reported by the New York Times.

A woman who allegedly offered topless hairstyling services in northern Colorado faces criminal charges. But police say the problem isn’t cutting hair without a top. …46-year old Suzette Hall was arrested Wednesday night on suspicion of practicing cosmetology without a license.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to sleep better tonight knowing that the dangerous scourge of unlicensed haircutting in Colorado has been stifled.

Aren’t we lucky that the government is protecting us from such dangers!

Interestingly, the Rebel Barber (who is not the same person as the Rebel Economist) actually tried to comply with the government’s regulatory demands. But there was no license for her particular form of business.

Hall’s ex-husband told police she set up shop in Loveland and offered services as “Rebel Barber.” He told police she applied for “a nude license for hairstylists,” but no such license exists.

Perhaps we can get some federal legislation requiring all states to have new bureaucracies for the purposes of licensing and regulating nude hairstylists?

Actually, I shouldn’t even make that kind of joke. Some politician might take the suggestion seriously.

Better to leave such matters in the hands of local governments. That way, the potential damage is limited by borders.

Speaking of which, the politicians of Snohomish County in Washington have created special licensing rules for adult coffees shops.

Though that’s amateur hour compared to the Germans, who have figured out how to use parking meters to tax prostitutes.

In other words, governments don’t mind sex so long as they can figure out how to regulate it or tax it.

P.S. The all-time record for government incompetence was set by Fall River, Massachusetts in 2011.

P.P.S. As you might imagine, Dave Barry is very funny when he decides to mock government.

Read Full Post »

Back in 2009, before Obamacare, the United States had a healthcare system that was plagued by excessive government intervention, which led to a third-party-payer crisis and massive inefficiencies.

Perversely, the President thought the way to solve these problems was even more intervention, even though lots of people were warning that additional government spending and added intervention would make a bad situation even worse.

Now that it’s 2013 and Obamacare is being implemented, it seems (what a surprise!) that critics were right.

Allie Obamacare CartoonAmazingly, even the New York Times is being forced to acknowledge that Obamacare is turning into a typical government cluster-you-know-what.

…the chief digital architect for the Obama administration’s new online insurance marketplace, told industry executives that he was deeply worried about the Web site’s debut. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience,” he told them. Two weeks after the rollout, few would say his hopes were realized. For the past 12 days, a system costing more than $400 million and billed as a one-stop click-and-go hub for citizens seeking health insurance has thwarted the efforts of millions to simply log in. The growing national outcry has deeply embarrassed the White House, which has refused to say how many people have enrolled through the federal exchange.

Not exactly the launch the President was hoping for, huh? Eric Allie’s cartoon is a much more accurate portrayal of what’s happening.

And contrary to what the White House is claiming, the problems go way beyond opening-day glitches.

“These are not glitches,” said an insurance executive who has participated in many conference calls on the federal exchange. Like many people interviewed for this article, the executive spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not wish to alienate the federal officials with whom he works. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.’ ” Interviews with two dozen contractors, current and former government officials, insurance executives and consumer advocates, as well as an examination of confidential administration documents, point to a series of missteps — financial, technical and managerial — that led to the troubles.

Benson Obamacare CartoonBy the way, notice how people don’t want to speak on the record, presumably because of concern about vindictive persecution by the Obama Administration. By itself, that should be a huge story.

But let’s stick with the coverage of the Obamacare disaster. As you can see, the Lisa Benson cartoon is right on the mark.

…just a trickle of the 14.6 million people who have visited the federal exchange so far have managed to enroll in insurance plans, according to executives of major insurance companies who receive enrollment files from the government. And some of those enrollments are marred by mistakes. Insurance executives said the government had sent some enrollment files to the wrong insurer, confusing companies that have similar names but are in different states. Other files were unusable because crucial information was missing, they said. Many users of the federal exchange were stuck at square one. A New York Times researcher, for instance, managed to register at 6 a.m. on Oct. 1. But despite more than 40 attempts over the next 11 days, she was never able to log in. Her last attempts led her to a blank screen.

But it’s not just the people trying to obtain insurance that are having an unpleasant experience.

The people who already have insurance are experiencing Obamacare sticker shock.

A North Carolina newspaper reports on bad news for health insurance consumers in the Tarheel State.

The Buncombe County resident, who along with her husband is self-employed, had been buying a policy from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The couple paid $341 a month for a policy with a $10,000 deductible. Recently, Campbell, 53, got a letter informing her that her plan was not compliant with the Affordable Care Act and would no longer be available. It suggested a new plan with an $11,000 in-network deductible and $843 monthly premium. …John Wingerter, director of health insurance information services at the Council on Aging of Buncombe County, says he’s gotten at least a dozen calls from people who say their rates have increased dramatically.Some have said their rates have doubled or more than doubled.

Bok Obamacare CartoonAnd the Albuquerque Journal reports on some unfortunate people in New Mexico who have been victimized by Obamacare.

Robert Hare was happy with his insurance. So were Gregory Rothrock and his family. Yet, their insurance must change, and it will cost them more money. …Hare said his individual plan now costs him $87 a month and has a $5,000 deductible. The new plan will cost $211 and includes benefits, such as maternity coverage, that are required by the ACA but which Hare doesn’t want. …As for Rothrock, depending on which of the three levels of coverage he chooses, coverage for his family of three could be as much as 360 percent more costly.

Hmmm…I thought Obamacare was supposed to bring insurance rates down?!? And didn’t the President promise that people could keep their plans?

Does this mean – gasp! – that the folks in Washington have been lying to us!?!

The Chip Bok cartoon above is an amusing – and disturbing – look at what’s happening.

And when you add it all up, this Glenn Foden cartoon is a good summary of what we’ve been saddled with.

Foden Obamacare Cartoon

Which explains why I’m glad some lawmakers are still fighting Obamacare, even though they face very difficult odds.

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

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.

P.P.P.S. If you want to know where Obamacare will probably take us, peruse the horror stories about the U.K. system linked at the bottom of this post.

Read Full Post »

The politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists and interest groups in Washington are hyperventilating that the federal gravy train may get sidetracked for a day or two by a shutdown fight between Republicans and Democrats.

I’m not sure why they’re so agitated. After all, the shutdown is really just a slowdown since only non-essential bureaucrats are sent home. And everyone winds up getting paid for those unplanned vacations, which is why the bureaucrats I know are crossing their fingers for a lengthy confrontation.

But that describes what may happen when the new fiscal year begins tomorrow. What’s been happening in recent days, culminating today, is a feeding frenzy of end-of-the-fiscal-year wasteful spending.

Here are some details from a Washington Post expose.

This past week, the Department of Veterans Affairs bought $562,000 worth of artwork. In a single day, the Agriculture Department spent $144,000 on toner cartridges. And, in a single purchase, the Coast Guard spent $178,000 on “Cubicle Furniture Rehab.” …All week, while Congress fought over next year’s budget, federal workers were immersed in a separate frantic drama. They were trying to spend the rest of this year’s budget before it is too late. …If they don’t, the money becomes worthless to them on Oct. 1. And — even worse — if they fail to spend the money now, Congress could dock their funding in future years. The incentive, as always, is to spend. So they spent.

If you’re a taxpayer, you’ll be especially delighted to know that the “use it or lose it” spending orgy is so intense that federal contractors have to cater lunches for their sales staff. Can’t have them away from their desks, after all!

It was the return of one of Washington’s oldest bad habits: a blitz of expensive decisions, made by agencies with little incentive to save. Private contractors — worried that sequestration would result in a smaller spending rush this year — brought in food to keep salespeople at their desks. Federal workers quizzed harried colleagues in the hallways, asking if they had spent it all yet. …“Use it or lose it” season is not marked on any official government calendars. But in Washington, it is as real as Christmas. And as lucrative. …In 2012, for instance, the government spent $45 billion on contracts in the last week of September, according to calculations by the fiscal-conservative group Public Notice. That was more than any other week — 9 percent of the year’s contract spending money, spent in 2 percent of the year.

The IRS may win the prize for the most egregious example of last-minute waste.

In 2010, for instance, the Internal Revenue Service had millions left over in an account to hire new personnel. The money would expire at year’s end. Its solution was not a smart one. The IRS spent the money on a lavish conference. Which included a “Star Trek” parody video starring IRS managers. Which was filmed on a “Star Trek” set that the IRS paid to build. (Sample dialogue: “We’ve received a distress call from the planet NoTax.”)

But it’s not just tax collectors who flush our money down the toilet in creative ways.

One recent study, for instance, found that information technology contracts signed at year’s end often produced noticeably worse results than those signed in calmer times. …they listed dumb things they had seen bought: three years’ worth of staples. Portable generators that never got used. One said the National Guard bought so much ammunition that firing it all became a chore. “When you get BORED from shooting MACHINE GUNS, there is a problem,” an anonymous employee wrote.

Impressive examples of waste, though I confess I’m curious about the part about ammo and the National Guard. Does this mean bullets are like milk and have to be fired before an expiration date?

Beats me, but at least someone in the government acknowledged that (at least up to a point) it’s cool to fire a machine gun. Maybe that person should hook up with the Texas cop who likes tanks.

Oh, and you’ll be happy to know that spendaholic bureaucrats and crafty interest groups keep track of time zones so they can squander money until the very last second.

On Monday, Richer’s people will sell until midnight. Then they will keep selling. “Money rolls across the continent,” the feds say. Cash not spent in Washington might be spent by federal offices in California in the three hours before it is midnight there. When it is midnight in California — 3 a.m. in Washington — they will keep on. There are federal offices in Hawaii, after all. And it will still be three hours until midnight there.

Makes me think that we may need a slogan for the bureaucracy. Perhaps this modification of the Postal Service’s unofficial motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night – nor even different time zones – stays these bureaucrats from spending every possible penny of other people’s money.”

But let’s close on an upbeat note. Whether you give credit to the Tea Party, to Republicans, to gridlock, or to Obama, the good news is that the federal government in the past two years has been wasting money at a slower rate.

So taxpayers can smile…or at least not frown as much. The bureaucracy and contractors may be throwing a party today, but not with the same reckless abandon they displayed between 2001 and 2010.

Read Full Post »

I’m a big fan of school choice. If we bust up the government education monopoly and create a competitive education market, we’ll get a much better education system at much lower cost.

This isn’t just idle theorizing. The evidence shows that competition produces better results.

That will be especially good news for children from poor and minority neighborhoods, as even the Washington Post has admitted.

There’s even good evidence for school choice from other nations, such as Chile, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

And since we’re looking at international evidence, it’s worth noting that America spends more per student than any other nation, yet gets very mediocre results.

However, there’s also a non-educational argument for busting up the government school monopoly. Simply stated, we have to rescue kids from brainless school bureaucrats who impose crazy forms of anti-gun political correctness.

What am I talking about? Well, check out these excerpts from a Fox News report.

Natural Born Killers

Two seventh-grade students in Virginia Beach, Va., were handed long-term suspensions Tuesday that will last until the end of the school year for playing with an airsoft gun in one of their front yards while waiting for the school bus. WAVY-TV reports that 13-year-old Khalid Caraballo and Aidan Clark will face an additional hearing in January to determine if they will be expelled for “possession, handling and use of a firearm” because the guns were fired at two others playing in Caraballo’s yard. …Khalid claims he never took the toy gun to the designated bus stop or Larkspur Middle School, according to the report. Two other students who fired guns were also suspended.

Your eyes are not deceiving you. The kids were punished for playing with toy guns while on private property.

Yet apparently school bureaucrats don’t think their power is limited by school boundaries.

A neighbor saw Khalid shooting the airsoft gun in his yard and called 911, telling the dispatcher, “He is pointing the gun, and it looks like there’s a target in a tree in his front yard,” the station reported. …The school’s so-called “zero-tolerance” policy on guns extends to private property, according to the report.

At least one of the parents has the right view of things.

If you outlaw Zombie Hunters, only outlaws will have Zombie Hunters

Khalid’s mother, Solangel Caraballo, said it’s ridiculous that her son and his friends were suspended because they were firing the airsoft gun on private property. “My son is my private property. He does not become the school’s property until he goes to the bus stop, gets on the bus, and goes to school,” Caraballo told the station.

Now let’s add some important caveats. Even though the toy guns only shoot little plastic pellets, it seems that the boys may have shot at some kids who weren’t part of their play. That’s something that should be punished.

And it’s also possible that the boys are troublemakers and the school was simply using this episode as an excuse to get rid of them.

So maybe there’s some sort of “rough justice” happening behind the scenes. Simply stated, there’s probably a back-story.

But there’s no question that we’re seeing a bad trend.

It’s almost to the point where sending your kids to a government school could be considered a form a child abuse.

Read Full Post »

The bad news is that governments do a lot of things they shouldn’t do. The good news is that I never run out of material.

I’ve even created some sub-categories, such as my U.S. vs U.K. government stupidity contest and my great-moments-in-local-government series.

But I never thought I would have a special category about bureaucrats vs. Bambi.

1. Bureaucrats in Virginia filed three misdemeanor charges against a man for the horrible crime of rescuing a deer that was hit by a car.

2. Bureaucrats in Maryland fined two men $90 each for not having life jackets when they had the gall to rescue a deer that fell through some ice.

3. Bureaucrats in Indiana are threatening prison time for a family that rescued a baby deer from coyotes.

The paper pushers of the world seem to harbor a special grudge against these harmless ruminants, since we now have another story about a baby deer. But this time, Bambi was the victim, not the family.

Here are some of the unbelievable details from a local news report.

Two weeks ago, Schulze was working in the barn at the Society of St. Francis on the Kenosha-Illinois border when a swarm of squad cars arrived and officers unloaded with a search warrant. “(There were) nine DNR agents and four deputy sheriffs, and they were all armed to the teeth,” Schulze said. The focus of their search was a baby fawn brought there by an Illinois family worried she had been abandoned by her mother.

My first reaction when reading this was “what the @#$*?” Is he public sector really so bloated that 13 bureaucrats have nothing better to do than to serve a search warrant for a baby deer?

And why on earth were they heavily armed? Were they expecting Osama Bin Bambi?

But don’t answer yet, because it gets more absurd.

The Department of Natural Resources began investigating after two anonymous calls reporting a baby deer at the no-kill shelter. The warden drafted an affidavit for the search warrant, complete with aerial photos in which he described getting himself into a position where he was able to see the fawn going in and out of the barn.

I’m not sure what part of this excerpt gets me more upset, the fact that some snitch informed on the shelter for having a baby deer, or the fact that the government is so wasteful that bureaucrats went through the cost of arranging aerial surveillance!

Dangerous criminal executed

As a taxpayer, I get agitated about the waste of money. As a decent human being, this next part bothers me even more.

“I was thinking in my mind they were going to take the deer and take it to a wildlife shelter, and here they come carrying the baby deer over their shoulder. She was in a body bag,” Schulze said. “I said, ‘Why did you do that?’ He said, ‘That’s our policy,’ and I said, ‘That’s one hell of a policy.’”

The local cops justified the overkill approach by equating an animal shelter with a crack house.

“Could you have made a phone call before showing up, I mean, that’s a lot of resources,” WISN 12 News investigative reporter Colleen Henry asked. “If a sheriff’s department is going in to do a search warrant on a drug bust, they don’t call them and ask them to voluntarily surrender their marijuana or whatever drug that they have before they show up,” Niemeyer said,

Horrified citizens are complaining and fighting back, though I’m not holding my breath that justice will be served.

Schultz said she plans to sue the DNR for removing Giggles without even a court hearing. She also questioned what such an operation costs taxpayers. “They went way over the top for a little tiny baby deer,” Schultz said,

Remember, though, that this type of government thuggery is hardly unusual.

The Food and Drug Administration raided a dairy for the terrible crime of selling unpasteurized milk to people who prefer unpasteurized milk.

New York City imposed a $30,000 fine on a small shop because it sold a toy gun.

The pinheads at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission went after Hooters for not having any male waiters in hot pants and tight t-shirts.

An unlucky guy wound up in legal hot water for releasing some heart-shaped balloons to impress his sweetheart.

Yup, our tax dollars at work. And Obama thinks government is too small and needs more of our money so it can do even more things.

Read Full Post »

I’ve conducted a handful of polls in the past four-plus years of writing this blog.

* Michael Ramirez won the contest for best political cartoonist.

* In the government-thuggery contest, readers overwhelmingly selected the organic farmer being harassed by local bureaucrats.

* I was surprised that Romney easily won the 2012 election poll, but even more surprised that Obama wasn’t that far behind Gary Johnson.

* For my poll on why (or if) people support the Second Amendment, my choice came in fourth place.

 * We got a wide range of responses in the poll about the guy who took revenge in a very unique way against local law enforcement.

Now let’s do another poll. Our contest today will be to select the worst example of the regulatory state running amok.

1. Our first option deals with the Orwellian Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which seeks to impose bad American tax law on things that happen outside America’s borders.

The good news is that Obama has unified the world, just like he promised in his campaign. The bad news – from the U.S. perspective – is that the world is now united against this horrible piece of legislation.

Here’s some of what a law professor just wrote about FATCA for the Wall Street Journal Europe.

Beware the sledgehammer used to crack the nut. In this case, the nut is the U.S. government’s laudable goal of catching tax evaders. The sledgehammer is the overreaching effect of legislation that is alienating other countries and resulting in millions of U.S. citizens abroad being forced to either painfully reconsider their nationality, or face a lifetime of onerous bureaucracy, expense and privacy invasion. The legislation is Fatca, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Ms. Graffy provides a very powerful example of why FATCA is an absurd extraterritorial application of bad U.S. law.

To appreciate its breathtaking scope along with America’s unique “citizen-based” tax practices, imagine this: You were born in California, moved to New York for education or work, fell in love, married and had children.IRS Thuggery Even though you have faithfully paid taxes in New York and haven’t lived in California for 25 years, suppose California law required that you also file your taxes there because you were born there. Though you may never have held a bank account in California, you must report all of your financial holdings to the State of California. Are you a signatory on your spouse’s account? Then you must declare his bank accounts too. Your children, now adults, have never been west of the Mississippi but they too must file their taxes in both California and New York and report any bank accounts they or their spouses may have because they are considered Californians by virtue of one parent’s birthplace.

Sounds utterly ridiculous, but FATCA applies these rules to American citizens in other nations – with predictably awful results.

Extrapolate that example to the six million U.S. citizens living around the globe. Many, if not most, don’t know about these requirements. Yet they face fines, penalties and interest for not complying—even if they owe no U.S. taxes, own no U.S. property, have no U.S. bank account and haven’t lived there in years—if ever. …Foreign financial institutions trying to avoid these new requirements have two alternatives: to drop American clients, or don’t invest in the U.S. Neither scenario benefits America.  …This infringement on the sovereignty of other nations has not gone down well abroad and has only served to reinforce the most negative stereotypes of America. …It forces honest people with affection for their ties to America to either keep quiet about their heritage, or spend potentially thousands of dollars a year to prove that they owe no U.S. taxes. Or, as is increasingly occurring, it forces them to give up their U.S. citizenship. The result is that the U.S. is turning millions of “good will” ambassadors into “bad will” ambassadors. Can any of this be good for America?

Of course it’s not good for America, but greedy politicians are perfectly happy to impose enormous costs on the private sector in exchange for trivially small amounts of additional revenue. And those projections of additional revenue almost surely won’t materialize because of Laffer-Curve effects on investment in the American economy, so even the politicians won’t come out ahead when the dust settles.

Maybe the crowd in Washington will even learn the right lesson and support Senator Rand Paul’s legislation to undo some of the worst parts of FATCA, but don’t hold your breath.

2. Here’s the second choice. I thought I had learned never to be surprised by examples of foolish government intervention, but even I did a double take when I learned that the federal bureaucracy was regulating rabbits in magic shows.

Not just regulating them, but even requiring disaster plans in case of calamities such as “Fire. Flood. Tornado. Air conditioning going out. Ice storm. Power failures”. I’m not joking. Here are some excerpts from a Washington Post report.

This summer, Marty the Magician got a letter from the U.S. government. It began with six ominous words: “Dear Members of Our Regulated Community . . .” Washington had questions about his rabbit. Again. …Hahne has an official U.S. government license. Not for the magic. For the rabbit. The Agriculture Department requires it, citing a decades-old law that was intended to regulate zoos and circuses. Today, the USDA also uses it to regulate much smaller “animal exhibitors,” even the humble one-bunny magician. That was what the letter was about. The government had a new rule. To keep his rabbit license, Hahne needed to write a rabbit disaster plan. …For Hahne, the saga has provided a lesson in one of Washington’s bad old habits — the tendency to pile new rules on top of old ones, with officials using good intentions and vague laws to expand the reach of the federal bureaucracy. …“Our country’s broke,” Hahne said. “And yet they have money and time to harass somebody about a rabbit.”

What if regulators are committing crimes against common sense?

Just in case you think this is merely a case of bureaucrats concocting silly rules from their comfortable perches in Washington, I’m sure you’ll be delighted to learn that our fearless public servants are venturing outside the beltway.

Hahne…has been doing magic shows full time for 27 years, on cruise ships and on land. That means he has experienced most of the troubles a magician can expect… But he did not expect the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “She said, ‘Show me your license.’ And I said, ‘License for . . .?’ ” Hahne recounted. This was after a 2005 show at a library in Monett, Mo. Among the crowd of parents and kids, there was a woman with a badge. A USDA inspector. “She said, ‘For your rabbit.’ ” Hahne was busted. He had to get a license or lose the rabbit. …Hahne has an official USDA license, No. 43-C-0269, for Casey — a three-pound Netherland dwarf rabbit with a look of near-fatal boredom. The rules require Hahne to pay $40 a year, take Casey to the vet and submit to surprise inspections of his home. Also, if Hahne plans to take the rabbit out of town for an extended period, he must submit an itinerary to the USDA. The 1966 law that started all of this was four pages long. Now, the USDA has 14 pages of regulations just for rabbits. …the law applies only to warmblooded animals. If Hahne were pulling an iguana out of his hat — no license required. Now, he needs both a license and a disaster plan.

I’ve complained about a bloated and overpaid government workforce, but I’ll redouble my efforts now that I know we have bureaucrats going to one-man magic shows to check people for licenses.

On the other hand, I’m surprised that rabbit rules only 14 pages of regulations? That’s pretty spartan compared to the 74,000 pages of rules for the tax code.

The good news – relatively speaking – is that rabbit regulations don’t threaten to drive investment and jobs from the U.S. economy. But for sheer stupidity on the part of government, can you think of a more pointless set of regulations?

3. Now let’s consider our final example, which manages to combine the nanny state with domestic protectionism with an attack on the First Amendment.

This trifecta of red tape insanity comes from Kentucky, where the local state-protected cartel of psychologists wants to stop a newspaper columnist from giving free advice.

Here are some of the details from the Associated Press.

John Rosemond has been dispensing parenting advice in his newspaper column since 1976, making him one of the longest-running syndicated columnists in the country. But some Kentucky authorities want to put him in a time out. In May, Kentucky’s attorney general and its Board of Examiners of Psychology told Rosemond his parenting column — which regularly offers old-school advice and shows little tolerance for any kind of parental coddling — amounts to the illegal practice of psychology. They want him to agree to a cease-and-desist order. In particular, they want Rosemond to stop identifying himself as a psychologist, because he is not a licensed psychologist in Kentucky.

To his credit, Mr. Rosemond is fighting back.

Rosemond, an author of 11 parenting books who has a master’s degree in psychology from Western Illinois and is a licensed psychologist in his home state of North Carolina, sees the board’s letter as an effort at censorship and is filing a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court seeking to bar the state from taking any action against him. …He is represented by the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, which has filed multiple lawsuits challenging what they see as overreach by government licensing boards. Institute for Justice lawyer Paul Sherman says that under Kentucky’s logic, columnists like Dear Abby and television personalities like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz are breaking the law any time they offer advice, because the content is aired in Kentucky and meets the state’s broad definition of psychological advice.

And the newspaper that publishes his column also is standing up for the First Amendment.

Peter Baniak, editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, which ran the column that prompted the psychology board’s cease-and-desist letter, said Monday that his paper has not been contacted by the board or the Kentucky attorney general, and that the paper intends to continue publishing the column. “I would find it troubling for a state board to suggest or think it has the ability to say what should or shouldn’t run in an advice column,” Baniak said.

By the way, if you watch this video, you’ll see that Rosemond’s home state of North Carolina also is guilty of trying to undermine the First Amendment as part of efforts to protect certain professions from competition.

Now it’s your turn to pick the most foolish example of regulation from this list.

By the way, just in case there are skeptics who think I’ve shared isolated examples and that regulation is generally beneficial, check out these staggering numbers.

So whether we’re looking at anecdotes or big-picture data, the message is the same. Red tape is strangling the productive sector of the economy.

Read Full Post »

As I explained back in April, I’m cautiously optimistic that Obamacare will fall apart for the simple reason that it’s impossible to have a workable government-run healthcare system without the type of brutal rationing and sub-standard care found in places like the United Kingdom.

So part of me is happy that the White House has bumped into reality and now admits that it hasn’t been able to come up with a workable plan for the employer mandate.

But another part of me is unhappy.

One of the defining characteristics of a civilized government is adherence to the rule of law. Clearly written laws, applied equally and enforced fairly, are a big reason why nations such as Denmark can endure a big welfare state while countries like Argentina suffer from long-term relative decline even though it appears they have a smaller burden of government.

With this in mind, I’m rather troubled that the Obama Administration thinks it has carte blanche to arbitrarily disregard a legal requirement to implement the employer mandate beginning January 1, 2014. Even though it’s a bad law that should be completely repealed!

(This quandary reminds me of the old joke that the definition of mixed emotions is when your mother-in-law drives off a cliff…in your new car.)

My Cato colleague Michael Tanner is an expert on Obamacare, and here’s some of his analysis from The Daily Caller.

The dominoes are falling. The administration’s decision to postpone implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate until after the 2014 midterm elections is just the first to fall. More will be falling soon thanks to the administration’s belated recognition that the health care law will be a job-killing burden on business. In fact, this is actually the second major part of Obamacare to be postponed in the past few months. This spring, the administration announced that the ACA Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) would be postponed until at least 2015. …Or perhaps we should call this the third major part of the law to fall apart. In 2011, the administration was forced to permanently postpone implementation of the CLASS Act, Obamacare’s long-term care program.

So far, so good. Obamacare is imploding, just as many of us predicted.

Oh, it’s worth noting that there’s another shoe ready to drop.

The administration is also struggling to implement Obamacare’s federally run insurance exchanges. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has insisted that the federal government will be able to set up and run exchanges in some 33 states where state governments have chosen not to, but Sebelius has been unable to provide Congress or the public with a credible plan for doing so. A new report from the Government Accountability Office questions whether the exchanges will really be operational by their October 1 deadline.

Gee, I’m totally shocked to learn that government is incompetent. Knock me over with a feather!

But let’s focus on the part of the law that the White House just decided to ignore. Mike explains the meaning of the delayed employer mandate.

…the administration’s decision to postpone the employer mandate may make a bad situation worse, at least for workers. The postponement affects only the mandate that employers (with 50 or more workers) provide insurance. The individual mandate remains in place, requiring nearly all Americans to have insurance or pay a fine. Individuals who would otherwise have gotten insurance through their employers may now be forced to purchase their own insurance. It increasingly looks as though that insurance will be very expensive, especially for the young and healthy. In fact, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported, some consumers “could see insurance rates double or even triple when they look for individual coverage under the federal health law later this year.”

However, the White House has concocted a “solution” for the problem of providing subsidies to individuals in the absence of information from employers.

They’re going to offer people big piles of free money and rely on the honor system.

I’m not joking. Here’s how the editors at the Wall Street Journal describe the new system.

HHS now says it will no longer attempt to verify individual eligibility for insurance subsidies and instead will rely on self-reporting, with minimal efforts to verify if the information consumers provide is accurate. …People are supposed to receive subsidies only if their employer does not provide federally approved health benefits. Since HHS now won’t require business to report those benefits or enforce the standards until 2015, it says it can’t ask ObamaCare’s “exchange” bureaucracies to certify who qualifies either. …In other words, anyone can receive subsidies tied to income without judging the income they declare against the income data the Internal Revenue Service collects.

Needless to say, this will mean far higher costs for taxpayers, just as many of us warned even before the law was approved.

…that is the system Democrats installed when they passed the law, which is not supposed to be optional due to administrative incompetence. HHS promises to develop “a more robust verification process,” some day, but the result starting in October may be millions of people getting subsidies who don’t legally qualify. This would mean huge increases in ObamaCare spending. Some of these folks could be fraudsters, much as 21% to 25% of Earned Income Tax Credits flow to people who aren’t eligible, according to the Treasury inspector general. The same error rate for ObamaCare would amount to as much as $250 billion in improper payments in its first decade.

Here’s the bottom line.

HHS’s logistical challenges are real. But our bet is that the Administration is also using them as a pretense in a deliberate bid to make it much easier to join the exchanges. That’s because the health planners are terrified that enough healthy, low-cost people won’t sign up and therefore the Affordable Care Act’s strict regulations on underwriting and risk-pooling will blow up insurance markets. As more and more of ObamaCare tumbles, the Administration is resorting to anything that can salvage the goal of permanently expanding the U.S. entitlement state.

In other words, the White House is willing to sacrifice the rule of law (not to mention quality health care) in order to achieve a political goal of expanded dependency.

Let’s close on a humorous note with some great cartoons, starting with this gem from Gary Varvel.

Obamacare Cartoon July 2013 2

If you like the “train wreck” theme, you can see a great Steven Kelley cartoon by clicking here.

Next we have a Nate Beeler cartoon that makes the very obvious connection between the latest White House decision and the 2014 midterm elections.

Obamacare Cartoon July 2013 3

The Democrats lost 25 House seats in 2010 because of Obamacare according to one academic study, so maybe Obama is being clever by postponing part of the law.

Here’s a Lisa Benson cartoon that captures the haphazard and sloppy way the law was put together.

Obamacare Cartoon July 2013 4

I guess Nancy Pelosi was right when she said that the law had to pass before we discovered what was in it (though as Gary Varvel illustrates here, all the surprises are bad).

Let’s conclude with two cartoons that take a big-picture look at Obamacare, beginning with one from Chip Bok that was very appropriate on July 4.

Obamacare Cartoon July 2013 1

Last but not least, we have a great cartoon from Rick McKee.

Obamacare Cartoon July 2013 5

If I haven’t exhausted your interest in Obamacare cartoons, you can enjoy some more by clicking here, here, here, here, and here.

Read Full Post »

What’s the worst example of bureaucrats harassing and persecuting parents?

Was it the Texas woman who was arrested because her children were playing outside?

Government Stupidity SignOr how about the Michigan woman who was threatened for looking after her neighbor’s kids?

Those are egregious examples, but here’s another example of government run amok.

Lenore Skenazy has a column in today’s Wall Street Journal on the topic of whether it should be a criminal offense to leave your kids in a car, even if just for a few minutes.

Here’s how she describes the issue.

One mother is hauled off to the police station. Another is clapped in handcuffs. The mothers’ offenses? They let their kids wait in the car while they ran a quick errand. Yes, these moms did just what yours probably did back when you were a kid. That age-old practice has been criminalized in 19 states in recent years, thanks to a world that seems increasingly unable to distinguish between negligence and normal parenting. …The impulse behind these laws is not evil, just excessive. Many people and politicians—I suppose the categories overlap—believe that whenever children are left alone in a car they could easily die of heat exhaustion or be kidnapped.

She then looks at the data. Kidnapping doesn’t even merit an asterisk, while death from heat is very rare and overwhelmingly caused by factors other than a quick stop to get a gallon of milk.

While the kidnapping fear is beyond absurd (doubters, please look up the stats), the heatstroke fear is based on the fact that cars do get hot. Just not in the time it takes to buy a gallon of milk. …each year about 40 children die of hyperthermia in automobiles. …But according a group that tracks these statistics, kidsandcars.org (“Love Them, Protect Them”), the overwhelming majority were either forgotten in the car for hours (54%) or climbed into an empty vehicle without anyone’s knowledge and got stuck (31%). This, in a country with 32 million children under age 8 taking billions of car trips annually. Any child’s death is a terrible tragedy. But the reflexive call to 911 the minute a child is spied alone in a car is lunacy. Why not wait a minute to see if the parent comes back?

I don’t necessarily blame strangers for calling 911. After all, maybe the time you see kids alone in a car is one of those one-in-a-million instances of tragic forgetfulness by a parent.

But I do blame cops for overreacting. Ms. Skenazy has a couple of examples in her column. Here’s the one that I found most outrageous.

A typical story is the one I heard about from a mother of two who lives in a small town near Utica, N.Y. Last summer, on a 69-degree night, she ran into a grocery store to get some chicken breasts at 6:54 (she had just spoken to her husband on her cellphone). In the car she left her 5-year-old girl and 6-month old boy, who was asleep. At 7:03 (it’s on record) a passerby called 911. Then he pulled a truck behind her car so she couldn’t drive away—which she dearly wanted to do when she emerged from the store moments later. Instead, she had to wait for the police. The officer, rather than informing the busybody stranger that he shouldn’t prevent the free movement of citizens, told the mother that she was in big trouble. He searched her purse for dangerous objects. Then she had to call her parents to come get the kids, because the cop was taking her to the police station. Her daughter cried as she left. After that? Three visits from child-protective services to her home. The workers found nothing amiss, but “they have told me if it ever happens again, they will move the courts to have my children placed in foster care,” she said.

First, what sort of jerk blocks the women from leaving? Since this happened in New York, I wonder if it was Michael Wolfensohn, who has a track record of being a certain unmentionable orifice.

More important, why didn’t the cop simply ask the women what happened, take a minute to ascertain that certain common-sense precautions were taken (such as the car doors being locked while she was in the store), and then let her go home after some friendly advice about being careful?!?

At least we should be relieved that the poor woman wasn’t arrested, though I can only imagine how galling it would be to have some bureaucrats come to your house over and over again with immense powers to disrupt your family if you don’t kowtow to them.

Whatever happened to common sense? Oh, wait, never mind. We’re talking about government, that delightful entity that arrests kids for throwing snowballs, arrests a heroic young man for rescuing a child, and treats failure to file a form as a more serious crime than child pornography.

Read Full Post »

I’ve generally said nice things about Canada on this blog.

Our neighbors to the north have been role models on how to fulfill my Golden Rule, imposing genuine fiscal restraint during the 1990s. The Canadians even privatized their air traffic control system, which is a lot more than can be said for the United States.

But this doesn’t mean Canadian politicians and bureaucrats are immune from senseless decisions and hypocritical venality. I’ve shared stories about the Quebec language police and also nominated a Canadian politician for a hypocrite-of-the-year award.

Now we have a new story from Canada. It reminds me of what happened recently in Washington, where a man was fined $1,000 for saving a child from a pack of pit bulls.

In Canada, a kid was scolded for saving another child from a knife-wielding bully. I’m not joking. Here are some of the details from Canada’s National Post.

ODonnellMacLean1.jpg

Kid got scolded for acting bravely while government officials failed to maintain order

Briar MacLean was sitting in class during a study period Tuesday, the teacher was on the other side of the room and, as Grade 7 bullies are wont to do, one kid started harassing another. …“He put him in a headlock, and I saw that.” He added he didn’t see the knife, but “I heard the flick, and I heard them say there was a knife.” …The rest was just instinct. Briar stepped up to defend his classmate, pushing the knife-wielding bully away. The teacher took notice, the principal was summoned and Briar went about his day. It wasn’t until fourth period everything went haywire. “I got called to the office and I wasn’t able to leave until the end of the day,” he said. That’s when Leah O’Donnell, Briar’s mother, received a call from the vice-principal.

Was the vice-principal calling to praise Briar, and perhaps also to tell his mother that he would be given some sort of commendation?

Don’t be silly. We’re talking about officials from a government school.

Ms. O’Donnell was politely informed the school did not “condone heroics,” she said. Instead, Briar should have found a teacher to handle the situation. “I asked: ‘In the time it would have taken him to go get a teacher, could that kid’s throat have been slit?’ She said yes, but that’s beside the point. That we ‘don’t condone heroics in this school.’ ” Instead of getting a pat on the back for his bravery, Briar was made to feel as if he had done something terribly wrong.

No good deed goes unpunished.

I don’t know if this story – and the others – are enough to qualify Canada to participate in the US-vs-UK government stupidity contest, but surely this merits an honorable mention trophy.

I’m baffled, by the way, about the teacher’s actions. Was he or she so clueless that a kid could be put in a headlock – without the incident being noticed – during class?!?

Though at least the kid with a knife was suspended (the same penalty dished out to little kids with breakfast pastries, pencils, fingers, and empty hands in the United States, so that doesn’t reflect well on America).

P.S. Canadians do have a sense of humor, as indicated by this parody about leftists sneaking across the border.

Read Full Post »

What’s the most absurd “health” expenditure by government?

Your tax dollars at work

There are lots of potential responses, including $240 million for penis pumps. Or how about the fact that Obamacare allows taxpayer-subsidized viagra for sex offenders?

But another potential answer is cosmetic surgery for “droopy eyelids.” Here are some of the details from a Miami Herald report.

Aging Americans worried about their droopy upper eyelids often rely on the plastic surgeon’s scalpel to turn back the hands of time. Increasingly, Medicare is footing the bill. Yes, Medicare. The public health insurance program for people over 65 typically does not cover cosmetic surgery… In recent years, though, a rapid rise in the number of so-called functional eyelid lifts, or blepharoplasty, has led some to question whether Medicare is letting procedures that are really cosmetic slip through the cracks — at a cost of millions of dollars. …From 2001 to 2011, eyelid lifts charged to Medicare more than tripled to 136,000 annually, according to a review of physician billing data by the Center for Public Integrity. In 2001, physicians billed taxpayers a total of $20 million for the procedure. By 2011, the price tag had quadrupled to $80 million. The number of physicians billing the surgery more than doubled. …surgeons also acknowledge an increased awareness of the surgery fueled by reality television, word-of-mouth referrals, and advertising that promises a more youthful appearance. And doctors concede they face increased pressure from patients to perform eyelid lifts, even when they do not meet Medicare’s requirement that peripheral vision actually be impaired.

Yet even though the Medicare requirements aren’t being met, these surgeries are still taking place. Why? Well, because the doctors and old people both realize that Uncle Sam will pay the bill so long as you make a nebulous claim that peripheral vision is affected.

Just like doctors and scammers will agree on a diagnosis of “bad back” or “mental illness” in order to get somebody on the taxpayer-financed disability gravy train.

In other words, once politicians create a pile of free money, people will figure out ways of getting their hands on that money.

That’s true for all programs.

But because of the amounts of money involved, Medicare is a far bigger problem than other programs, as explained in this video.

Which is why we desperately need the right kind of entitlement reform.

P.S. You won’t be surprised to know that other nations also have crazy government-financed health systems. In the United Kingdom, for instance, you can get a boob job at taxpayer expense. The government in the United Kingdom also provides taxpayer-financed sex trips to Amsterdam. And the bureaucrats at the European Commission get penile implants at public expense.

Read Full Post »

I’ve shared some bizarre horror stories about adults being victimized by anti-gun fanaticism, including the Washington, DC, man who got fined $1,000 for saving a child’s life and a British man who got arrested for finding a gun and turning it over to the police.

But I get more worried about the future of the country when I read reports of children being subjected to this kind of politically correct nonsense.

Consider, for instance, these absurd details from a local news report.

Lego gunA Massachusetts kindergartener has been given detention and could be suspended from the bus after bringing a Lego-sized gun to school last week. …the incident happened on an Old Mill Pond Elementary School bus in Palmer last week. A 6-year-old had the toy gun, which is slightly larger than a quarter, on the bus and it was seen by another student, who alerted the bus driver. The boy’s mother, Mieke Crane, said her son had to write a letter of apology to the driver, was given detention and could be temporarily suspended from the bus.

Reading that passage, I don’t know whether to be more angry with the bratty tattle-tale kid who told the bus driver, or with the bus driver who obviously must have informed the school.

Both of them could use some serious counseling.

But that’s just part of the story.

The school sent home a letter to parents explaining what happened, stressing no gun was on the bus and there was never any danger. “(The driver) said he caused quite a disturbance on the bus and that the children were traumatized,” Crane told WGGB.

A letter to parents about a tiny plastic toy gun?!? Are the bureaucrats in this school so under-worked that they have time to waste on such nonsense? If I was a parent in this school district, I would put my kids in a private school.

Especially if it’s true that “children were traumatized” by a piece of Lego. I wouldn’t want to take the risk that wimpiness and poor cognitive skills could be transmitted by proximity to my kids (perhaps causing them to need “emotional support” animals in college).

By the way, this is not an isolated example. To get depressed about the future of the country, read these posts about children being exposed to foolish thinking.

Stories like this make me wonder whether I should emigrate, though the rest of the world tends to be in worse shape so the moral of the story is that we need to save the United States from the brainless (and overpaid) bureaucrats who are trying to ruin our children.

Read Full Post »

This story belongs in my “Great Moments in Local Government” series, which features examples of bureaucratic and political stupidity (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) that will make you laugh, cry, yell, or all of the above.

Not surprisingly, the deeply dysfunctional local government in Washington, DC, wants to be part of this collection.

We have what at first seems like a feel-good story. A little boy is attacked by some vicious pit bulls. Other people in the neighborhood flee to protect themselves. But one man acts quickly and saves the child’s life.

Here are some details from the Washington Times report.

…11-year-old Jayeon Simon and his friend rode bicycles near Eighth and Sheridan streets Northwest in the Brightwood neighborhood. According to court records filed in D.C. Superior Court, three unleashed pit bulls pounced on Jayeon and attacked him. Seeing the attack, Mr. Srigley went inside his home to get his Ruger 9 mm pistol while several other men hopped over fences to get away from the dogs, court records state. From behind the wooden fence of his front lawn, Mr. Srigley began firing at the dogs. His shots attracted the attention of a Metropolitan Police Department officer on bicycle patrol nearby, and he also opened fire on the dogs, killing the other two. The boy survived the attack but now bears scars on his elbow, torso and leg as a reminder.

Mr. Srigley seems like a great guy. Or at least a guy who did something great. Surely he was rewarded, right?

Did he get a commendation from the police department? A ceremonial key to the city from the Mayor?

Mr. Srigley should have been a good liberal, called 911, and relied on the cops to arrive after the child was dead

Don’t be silly. We’re talking about Washington, DC.

…Benjamin Srigley, 39, was required to pay a $1,000 fine…for the three unregistered firearms and the ammunition that investigators found in his possession, said Ted Gest, a spokesman for the office of the attorney general.

But showing great mercy, they decided not to try to send him to prison.

“We took it into account that he saved this boy’s life,” Mr. Gest said.

Gee, what a bunch of swell guys in the DC government. Mr. Srigley is “only” hit with a $1,000 fine.

One hopes that this won’t cause a potential Good Samaritan to let some kid get killed or some woman get raped in the future.

P.S. At least the pit bulls weren’t in a dorm room providing federally-mandated “emotional support.”

P.P.S. One of the comments below reminds me that Mr. Srigley should have been a housebroken journalist since that entitles you to a get-out-of-jail-free card for gun offenses in Washington, DC>

Read Full Post »

I was a bit of a juvenile delinquent.

  • I semi-confessed that I may have set off fireworks in a stairwell at my high school.
  • And I’ve already confessed my role in an “attack” on a float during a homecoming parade.
  • So I may as well admit that I got in trouble during college for having a pet snake in my dorm room.

Given that last bullet point, you would think I would sympathize with people who want to bring pets to school.

And I do, but I don’t sympathize with the notion that the federal government should compel colleges to allow pets – even if they’re for “emotional support.”

Yet that’s exactly what’s happening, thanks to some bureaucrats at a Department that shouldn’t exist. Here are some blurbs from the Wall Street Journal about a new breakthrough in human rights.

College freshman suffering from separation anxiety, take heart: The federal government says universities have an obligation to admit “emotional support” animals into school housing. …emotional support animals (dogs, mostly) provide therapy through companionship and affection.

The pinheads at the Department of Housing and Urban Development say this is required by the Fair Housing Act.

Housing providers must offer people with disabilities a “reasonable accommodation” for emotional support animals under both the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said in a notice to its regional offices late last month. …The April 25 notice was sent about a week after a federal judge ruled that student housing is covered by the Fair Housing Act, in a lawsuit filed by HUD against the University of Nebraska, on behalf of a student there.

Meet Fido, your new dorm neighbor

Best of all, you can bring any animal you want so long as it doesn’t have a track record of bad conduct.

Housing providers can’t exclude animals based on breed, size or weight. They can, however, refuse an animal that poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or would wreck havoc on the property, but such refusals must be based on “objective evidence about the specific animal’s actual conduct – not on mere speculation or fear,” the notice says.

So that doberman pinscher is innocent until proven guilty!

Another great development in “human rights” around the world. Indeed, it belongs with these momentous breakthroughs.

Speaking of subsidized birth control, you can enjoy some laughs at Sandra Fluke with this great Reason video, this funny cartoon, and four more jokes here.

Read Full Post »

Here’s another entry for our UK vs US Government Stupidity Contest. Or perhaps it belongs in the great-moments-in-government-waste category.

The spendaholics in Washington have squandered $400,000 on underwear that detects cigarette smoke.

I’m not joking. Here are some details from CNS.

Coming Soon to Victoria's Secret: Trendy and Sexy Government-Funded Underwear

Coming Soon to Victoria’s Secret: Trendy and Sexy Government-Funded Underwear

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded more than $400,000 to a research project involving underwear that can detect when a person smokes cigarettes. …the project…so far has produced a “very early prototype” of the monitoring system, which — in its current state — fits like a vest. …“The modern methods of monitoring smoking, primarily you rely on self-report,” said Dr. Edward Sazonov, an associate professor at the University of Alabama… The PACT Sazonov created is a “very early prototype,” that fits like a vest with multiple straps and wires, far from the “non-invasive, wearable” underwear the project developers had in mind. “It’s not very user friendly,” Sazonov said.

And it’s definitely not taxpayer friendly either.

Why is Uncle Sam wasting $400,000-plus on ugly and clunky underwear? The excuse for this boondoggle is that it will help monitor whether people smoke.

I fail to see how this would promote smoking cessation. I assume 99.99 percent of smokers are aware that they smoke.

Or are we going to have some sort of nanny-state program with the government forcing people to wear the underwear so the snoops in DC can monitor our private lives.

But even if that type of intrusive system would work, why is smoking any business of the federal government? It’s certainly not one of the enumerated powers in Article I, Section VIII.

This is yet another reason why there shouldn’t be any discussion of tax increases. Any government that has $400,000 to spend on a cigarette vest obviously has far too much money on its hands.

P.S. An odious and ridiculous subset of the UK-US Stupidity Contest is anti-gun political correctness. You can read absurd examples here.

Read Full Post »

I wouldn’t blame foreigners for thinking the United States is a bit schizophrenic.

This is a nation where you can own a tank or a machine gun, and it’s a country where there are probably more guns than people.

Yet it’s also a country where little kids get suspended for throwing imaginary grenades while playing alone on a playground. A country where cops arrest 10-year olds for having toy guns. And a country where small children get kicked out of school for pretending their hands are guns and saying “pow, pow.”

And now, apparently, it’s a country where kids can’t point a pencil at a buddy and make shooting noises.

Oh my God, It’s an assault pencil!

Here are some of the absurd details from a local CBS news report.

Two Suffolk second graders have been suspended for making shooting noises while pointing pencils at each other. Media outlets report the 7-year-old boys were suspended for two days for a violation of the Suffolk school system’s zero-tolerance policy on weapons. They were playing with one another in class Friday at Driver Elementary. “When I asked him about it, he said, ‘Well I was being a Marine and the other guy was being a bad guy,’” said Paul Marshall, one of the boys’ fathers. “It’s as simple as that.” Marshall, a former Marine, said he believes school officials overreacted. …Bradshaw said the policy has been in place for at least two decades. It also bans drawing a picture of a gun and pointing a finger in a threatening manner. Marshall said his son has good grades and no history of being disruptive in class. On the suspension note, the teacher noted that the boy stopped when she told him to do so. He said school administrators failed to use common sense.

I’m almost at a loss for words. This wasn’t just one brainless bureaucrat. At the very least, both a teacher and an administrator were involved in this farce.

These are the people we want educating our children?!?

At least the dad had the cojones to criticize the bureaucrats.

With apologies to Martin Niemöller, I can’t resist this bit of satire.

First they came for the pop tarts,
and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t care for breakfast pastries.

Then they came for the pink bubble blowers,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a bubble blower.

Then they came for the cupcakes,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a cupcake eater.

Then they came for pencils,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

By the way, the United States is not the only nation suffering from a pathetic and wimpy form of political correctness. Here are some examples of how our cousins across the ocean have gone bonkers about guns.

These are all example from my series comparing brainless policies in the United States and United Kingdom. Though I’m ashamed to say that this latest story puts the United States in the lead in this government-stupidity contest.

Read Full Post »

National defense is one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government, but that doesn’t mean the military should get a blank check to spend unlimited amounts of money.

To make sure taxpayers get the best bang for the buck (no pun intended), there should be a sober assessment of threats to national security and a plan to defend against those threats without adding superfluous expenditures.

That being said, America already accounts for close to 50 percent of world military spending, with another 25 percent of the global total coming from nations that are allied to the United States, so I’m fairly confident that we’re not under-spending on the Pentagon.

That’s one of the reasons I don’t worry that much about the sequester, particularly since military spending actually climbs by about $100 billion over the next 10 years.

But I would like the Defense Department to have some flexibility to reallocate funds so that we spend money on national security rather than boondoggles.

And there are some absurd examples of waste at the Pentagon, including “green” jet fuel that costs 15 times as much as regular fuel. Here are some of the mind-boggling details from the Washington Examiner.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently warned that sequestration would cause “suspension of important activities, curtailed training, and could result in furloughs of civilian personnel” but the spending cuts haven’t killed the green fuels program, as the Pentagon has continued purchasing renewable fuel at $59 per gallon. “In March, Gevo entered into a contract with the Defense Logistics Agency to supply the U.S. Army with 3,650 gallons of renewable jet fuel to be delivered by the second quarter of 2013,” Gevo announced this week in its first quarter financial report. “This initial order may be increased by 12,500 gallons.

This is even worse than the bizarre $600,000 frog statue than the Defense Department selected to adorn a new $700 million office building.

Military Frog SculptureI realize that the $700 million office building should be the bigger issue, but I can’t help but be irked by the thought that taxpayers are being raped and pillaged for the frog.

In any event, the $700 million for the office building is pocket change compared to the amount of money we misallocate to subsidize Western Europe to protect against a Warsaw Pact military alliance that no longer exists!

Yes, it’s true that America’s main fiscal problem is entitlement spending. And, yes, domestic discretionary spending is a bigger problem than the defense budget.

But wasting money in those areas is not a reason to also have waste at the Pentagon.

Read Full Post »

The bad news is that there are despicable and evil people seeking to kill innocents.

The worse news is that some of these pathetic excuses for protoplasm are subsidized by taxpayers.

It’s happened in France, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

And we now know that the Tsarnaev family was on he dole as well.

Which makes this cartoon funny, but at the same time not funny at all.

Welfare Terrorism

I used to think it was outrageous that the welfare state funded bad behavior (as illustrated by this humorous poster), as well as general laziness and moral depravity.

But there should be a special wing of the Moocher Hall of Fame for taxpayer-subsidized terrorists.

Read Full Post »

A recurring feature on this blog is the US vs UK government stupidity contest, which features examples of idiotic behavior by politicians and bureaucrats on both sides of the Atlantic.

Recent winners of this dubious honor include a rather amazing example of British road painting and a horrid incident of anti-gun political correctness by American school bureaucrats.

Our neighbors to the north must be envious that they’re not part of this contest. Based on what just happened in Quebec, Canada probably deserves to be in the conversation.

Mon Dieu!

First some background, courtesy of a story from the Guardian. It seems that the provincial government actually has language police.

They are known as the language police, a unit within the regional Quebec government that seeks to protect French from the rising tide of English. It deploys inspectors to rein in recidivist anglophones, take on big corporate transgressors such as Guess, the Gap and Costco and conduct spot checks to follow up thousands of public complaints.

But sometimes, these tax-funded Keystone Cops go too far.

Le Crime

Now, however, zealots in the Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec Board of the French Language) may have gone a step too far in picking a fight with an Italian restaurant… After a five-month investigation into an anonymous complaint, Massimo Lecas received a letter from the board telling him that his establishment, Buonanotte, had broken the law by including the words “pasta” on the menu and “bottiglia“, the Italian word for bottle, instead of the French word bouteille. Outraged, Lecas posted the letter for 2,500 of his Facebook friends to see. In doing so, he unleashed a political tempest over one of the most sensitive topics up for debate in the province. The outcry has forced the Quebec government to rein in its language inspectors, ensure exceptions to the rules are made for ethnic food and restaurant menus and order a review of how it handles public complaints.

Job security

By the way, this is not an isolated incident.

Lecas’s decision to go public with the letter from the language inspector has prompted other restaurateurs to come forward. One told how he was ordered to cover his microwave’s on/off switch and the redial button on a telephone with tape because they were in English. The chef’s grocery list, which was written on a kitchen chalkboard, was also found to have broken the law: steak frites may be a staple of Parisian bistros but, according to Quebec law, biftek is the only acceptable term. …Quebec’s recent budget included one notable increase: the yearly allotment for the language police.

So Canada definitely can make a claim that it belongs in the government stupidity contest. Though, to be fair, I should acknowledge that other governments also merit consideration.

  1. In Germany, the government misplaced the sensitive blueprints of its new $2.3 billion spy headquarters.
  2. In Italy, the government of supposed technocratic experts managed to appoint the wrong person to a job that shouldn’t exist.
  3. In the European Union, watching free soccer broadcasts is now a human right.
  4. In Greece, bureaucrats actually demand stool samples from entrepreneurs applying to set up online companies.

The moral of the story is that government – in all nations – is a festering black hole of waste. And if you ever feel that these incompetent and foolish people deserve more of our money, then I suggest you move to France, where the nation’s President generously has promised that nobody will have to surrender more than 80 percent of their income to the government.

Read Full Post »

I just saw a headline that made me think that libertarian fantasies somehow had turned into reality.

As you can see, 24 IRS employees were just arrested for stealing. But what about the other 105,976 bureaucrats at the Internal Revenue Service who seize our money under the implied threat of violence?

Shouldn’t they be arrested for stealing from us as well?

IRS Employees arrested

But then my bubble burst. The story has nothing to do with the injustice of the internal revenue code and the shakedown of American taxpayers.

It turns out that these IRS bureaucrats were busted for getting unauthorized government handouts.

…authorities say Internal Revenue Service employees in Tennessee were stealing unemployment and other benefits while fully employed. On Thursday, 13 of those employees were indicted on federal charges that they lied to get unemployment, food stamps, welfare and housing vouchers. An additional 11 have been indicted on state charges of theft greater than $1,000.

In other words, these “public servants” were guilty of a form of triple dipping.

  1. They took money from taxpayers as part of their excessive compensation packages.
  2. Their day job was to then enforce a coercive and reprehensible tax system that took money from taxpayers
  3. And they then bilked taxpayers yet again by mooching from various handout programs.

I’m actually surprised that they got arrested. Based on Keynesian economics, they should get medals for “stimulating” the economy.

P.S. All humor aside, non-anarchist libertarians face an interesting mental challenge. Many of them view the tax system as a form of theft. And there’s no question that it is enforced – ultimately – at the point of a gun. But with the exception of anarcho-capitalists, libertarians support the kind of limited government envisioned by the Founding Fathers. So how do you justify the taxes needed to finance that limited public sector? Most people would justify tax systems if they’re the result of a democratic process, but libertarians believe in rights rather than untrammeled majoritarianism. So how can they rationalize taxation? I freely confess that I don’t have the right answer. As I’ve noted before, I’m a practical libertarian, not the theoretical type. My job is to somehow figure out how we can shrink the federal government back to 3 percent of economic output. After that, the theoretical libertarians can figure out the thorny issues.

Read Full Post »

I periodically compare the actions of brainless politicians and bureaucrats in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

One of the most bizarre examples I cited was from England. It showed how a local government decided to install the most pointless sign in the history of the world.

Our British friends are famous for their sense of humor (as illustrated by this glossary of financial terms and this guide to terror alerts in selected nations), so perhaps the sign was meant to be a joke.

Nonetheless, taxpayers picked up the tab.

And now we have another example of incomprehensible government stupidity. Taxpayers in one community just paid to have road markings painted in an alleyway.

I’m not kidding. Check out the photo and this excerpt from a BBC report.

Lines have been painted on both sides of the passageway, off Newhall Street in Swindon, leaving a gap of just 13in (33cm). Nathalie Fisher, a local resident, said it was a “bit of a mystery” as “you couldn’t even fit a motorbike down it.” …The council said local residents had asked the authority to “deal with illegal parking in alleyways”.

Gee, I hope the guy in the picture is being careful. He may get a traffic ticket since his left foot is almost on the double yellow line.

To be sure, I’m not sure this story means that U.K. government official are worse than U.S. government officials. Just look at some of these examples of PC-run-amok and you’ll have plenty of evidence of foolishness on this side of the Atlantic.

The moral of the story is that bureaucrats and politicians want to run our lives, but they’re some of the world’s least competent people.

P.S. While it’s amusing to highlight examples of government stupidity, let’s not forget there are real-life victims of bad government policy in the United Kingdom, particularly if you look at the healthcare system and welfare system.

Read Full Post »

Let’s assume you didn’t understand how a garbage disposal worked and, for whatever reason, you decided to stick your arm in one and turn it on. You would do some serious injury to your hand.

The rest of us would wonder what motivated you to stick your arm down the drain in the first place, but we would feel sympathy because you didn’t realize bad things would happen.

But if you then told us that you were planning to do the same thing tomorrow, we would think you were crazy. Didn’t you learn anything, we would ask?

Seems like a preposterous scenario, but something very similar is now happening in Washington. The Obama Administration is proposing to once again put the economy at risk by subsidizing banks to give mortgages to people with poor credit.

“Let’s party like it’s 2006!”

Even though we’re still dealing with the economic and fiscal damage caused by the last episode of government housing subsidies!

Here are some of the unbelievable details from a report in the Washington Post.

The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit…officials say they are working to get banks to lend to a wider range of borrowers by taking advantage of taxpayer-backed programs — including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration — that insure home loans against default. Housing officials are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.

Brings to mind the famous saying from George Santayana that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

But what’s especially amazing – and distressing – about this latest scheme is that “the past” was only a couple of years ago. Or, to recall my odd analogy, one of our hands is still mangled and bleeding and we’re thinking about putting our other hand in the disposal.

Some people understand this is a nutty idea.

…critics say encouraging banks to lend as broadly as the administration hopes will sow the seeds of another housing disaster and endanger taxpayer dollars. “If that were to come to pass, that would open the floodgates to highly excessive risk and would send us right back on the same path we were just trying to recover from,” said Ed Pinto, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

What’s also discouraging is that the government already is deeply involved in the housing market – even though this is an area where there is no legitimate role for the federal intervention.

Deciding which borrowers get loans might seem like something that should be left up to the private market. But since the financial crisis in 2008, the government has shaped most of the housing market, insuring between 80 percent and 90 percent of all new loans, according to the industry publication Inside Mortgage Finance. It has done so primarily through the Federal Housing Administration, which is part of the executive branch, and taxpayer-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, run by an independent regulator.

So I guess the goal is to have taxpayers on the hook for 100 percent of loans.

“Don’t worry, it’s not our money”

Anybody want to guess whether this will end well?

By the way, this is bad policy even if we somehow avoid a new bubble and big taxpayer losses. Even in a”best case” scenario, the federal government will be distorting the allocation of capital by discouraging business investment and subsidizing residential real estate.

And as shown in this powerful chart, that will have adverse consequences for wages and living standards.

The part of the article that most nauseated me was a quote from the head bureaucrat at the Federal Housing Administration.

“My view is that there are lots of creditworthy borrowers that are below 720 or 700 — all the way down the credit-score spectrum,” Galante said. “It’s important you look at the totality of that borrower’s ability to pay.”

Gee, isn’t that nice that Ms. Galante thinks there are lots of borrowers with good “totality” measures? But here’s an interesting concept. Why doesn’t she put her money at risk instead of making me the involuntary guarantor on these dodgy loans?

I’ve already said on TV that we should dump Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the Potomac River. And I’ve  argued that the entire Department of Housing and Urban Development should be razed to the ground.

But perhaps this cartoon best shows the consequences of the Obama Administration’s new subsidy scheme.

P.S. We also should get rid of housing preference in the tax code. Our economy should cater to the underlying preferences of consumers, not the electoral interests of politicians.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Taxpayers all across America send lots of money to Washington, DC, in part because we’re supposed to believe that redistribution is a legitimate and desirable function of the federal government.

But this is a very perverse form of redistribution. All that money going to Washington helps subsidize a network of overpaid bureaucrats, fat-cat lobbyists, corrupt politicians, and well-heeled interest groups.

Indeed, as shown in this map, 10 of the 15 richest counties in the country are in the Washington metropolitan area.

One of those wealthy areas is Arlington County, VA, just across the river from Washington. Home to thousands of federal bureaucrats and other DC insiders, Arlington is similar to Washington in that there is a lot of wasteful spending. Sort of makes you wonder if local bureaucrats and federal bureaucrats ever meet at bars after work and brag about who wasted the most money that day?

Anyhow, here are some sordid details from a Washington Post story.

A wall made of etched glass opens the rear vista to newly planted landscaping. Embedded in the floor are heating elements intended to ward off the cold weather and keep winter-weary feet cozy. …And the price tag: $1 million. “Is this made of gold?” asked commuter Yohannes Kaleab, examining the concrete-and-stainless-steel bench that is part of the new, seven-figure bus shelter. “What?” asked Robin Stewart as he learned of the cost of the structure while waiting for a bus there last week. “That’s ridiculous. From a citizen, from a voter, whoever put that budget through needs to get their butt canned. It’s an outrage.” The “super stop,” which opened March 11, is the first of 24 new bus stops that will also accommodate Arlington’s long-planned streetcars. …It will shelter 15 people at a time.

Boondoggle Bus Stop

$1 million for this bit of glass, metal, and concrete?!?

That sounds kind of expensive, but we can be comforted by the fact that thoughtful public servants predict future savings.

“When you do a prototype, you end up heavily front-loading on the costs,” said Dennis Leach, Arlington’s transportation director.

So how much will taxpayers save on the remaining 23 stops? Well, the good news is that they won’t cost $1 million each. The bad news is that the government doesn’t exactly save a lot of money when doing bulk purchases.

“Our goal if at all possible is to do it for less,” Leach said. The county has budgeted $20.8 million for the remaining 23 stops, or about $904,000 for each one.

Gee, knock me over with a feather. The additional bus stops will “only” be $904,000!

That’s not counting cost overruns, which are an inevitable reality with government budgeting, so I think it’s safe to assume that the final cost will be far higher.

So why do governments waste money like this?

Part of the answer, of course, is that politicians are inherently wasteful. But there’s another factor at play. Politicians are especially wasteful when they can spend money that isn’t collected from their own taxpayers.

And readers from other parts of America doubtlessly will be overjoyed to learn that their paying for a big chunk of this boondoggle.

Federal and state transportation money paid 80 percent of the costs.

With taxpayers outside of Arlington paying such a high share of the cost, we should think of ourselves as lucky that the bus stop didn’t cost $10 million!

But here’s the most amazing part of the story.

What’s the most important part of a bus stop? In theory, a bus stop can be nothing more than a sign indicating the spot where you should wait for a bus.

But if you’re going to build a structure, the most valuable feature – at least from the perspective of riders – is that you will be protected from the weather. So what sort of protection are riders getting as a result of this $1 million boondoggle? Meh, not so much.

…the bus shelter is “pretty, but I was struck by the fact that if it’s pouring rain, I’m going to get wet, and if it’s cold, the wind is going to be blowing on me. It doesn’t seem to be a shelter. It doesn’t really shelter you very much . . . you can get pretty soaked in two minutes.” Her opinion was shared by some on Columbia Pike trying it out.

Gee, isn’t this wonderful. Some contractors doubtlessly lined their pockets building this white elephant. Some consultants doubtlessly fattened their bank accounts with all the nonsense that is now part of the “planning” process.

But taxpayers, as usual, got the short end of the stick. They got taken for a ride, figuratively. And if they actually use the bus stop, they can get taken for a ride, literally, so long as they don’t mind getting wet.

P.S. And let’s not forget that Obama wants some more class-warfare tax hikes to finance more of this “investment.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,288 other followers

%d bloggers like this: