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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Per Curiam Means They All Agree

Since the Supreme Court ruled that President Trump's executive order barring entry to the USA for 90 days for people from six countries that have particular problems with terrorism could go into effect for the most part, the media has been doing its best to downplay this enormous victory for Trump.  Some of what the mainstream media has been pushing is just totally phony.  For example, the Court ruling was issued "Per Curiam".  That phrase means that this is the order of the court and the opinion was not written by a particular judge.  It also indicates that the decision is unanimous.  There was a partial dissent on a small point, but on the major issue of whether or not the president has the power to issue this order and have it enforced, there was unanimity.  In other words, despite the weeks and months of the media and "experts" telling us how the Trump order discriminated or was unconstitutional, the entire Supreme Court just blew away that position.  Think about that.  It means that justices Kagan, Sotomayor and the other liberals all ruled in favor of the President.

The media, however, has been reporting that we don't know the breakdown of the Court because it was not announced.  This is either a blatant lie or the report of an ignoramus who knows nothing of how courts work.  We know the ruling was unanimous on the key points.

One has to wonder if the reporters and "experts" who told us how the President would surely lose in the Supreme Court will now take a step back to consider how they got it so wrong.  My guess is that by tomorrow we will see the first story in either the NY Times or the Washington Post about how Russia hacked the Supreme Court decision.

Let's Hope The Warning Is Enough

The White House announced last night that intelligence indicates that the Assad regime in Syria is getting ready for another chemical attack and that, should that attack take place, the regime would pay a very heavy price.

Think about that for a moment.  It's an incredibly scary announcement.  A few months back when Assad launched a sarin gas attack on civilians in a town held by the Sunni rebels, President Trump responded by destroying the airbase from which that attack had been sent.  In ten minutes, Assad lost over 20% of his air force.  It was a crushing blow.  And yet, Assad is once again preparing a chemical attack.  What does it mean?

First of all, we do not know the intended target of the chemicals.  It could be another site held by the non-terrorist Sunni rebels.  It could be a position held by the Kurdish forces.  It could be an ISIS position.  There's no way to know right now.  Indeed, it is even possible that the attack could hit a position where there are American special operations troops.  Or maybe Assad has decided to drag Israel into the mix and he will hit the Israelis with the chemical attack.  Any of these moves would be crazy, yet, any are possible.

Right now, the Assad forces are winning in their battles in Syria.  Further, the non-Assad forces around Raqqa are slowly recapturing that city from ISIS.  It will not be all that long before all of the ISIS forces will be destroyed.  There will still be ISIS terror attacks, but the ISIS threat will no longer justify an American presence in Syria.  That would end US air strikes which protect many of the rebels who have been helping us defeat ISIS.  It would also swing the balance or power much toward the Assad regime.  In other words, Assad ought to be happy with his current position and not want to roil the waters.  Nevertheless, he is preparing for a chemical attack.

What has happened?  Is Assad embarrassed that he sat by while the USA took out an airbase after the last chemical attack?  Is Assad embarrassed that in recent days each time Syrian artillery spilled over into Israeli territory the Israeli air force struck back ten times stronger than the Syrian attack?  Is Assad worried that the USA and its coalition partners are planning to help the Kurds and the Sunni rebels set up separate regions within Syria that will remain outside the control of Assad?  Are the Iranians, Assad's main ally, telling Assad what to do?  We don't know, we just don't know.

Then there are the Russians.  They have already protested against the White House announcement.  In typical fashion, the Russians have even denounced the statement's calling this "another" chemical weapons attack because they refuse to accept that the attack which led to the US cruise missile strike ever occurred.  If Assad uses chemical weapons again (sorry Vladimir), will the Russians sit by when the US launches a punitive strike?  One would hope so, but that's far from clear.

This is a very perilous situation. 

One thing is certain, however.  America is no longer in the ostrich response mode.  During the Obama years, Assad used chemical weapons seventeen times before president Obama would even acknowledge that these attacks had happened.  Obama kept his head in the sand hoping that the chemical attacks would just go away.  President Trump and his team have adopted a much more proactive approach.  America is warning Assad not to go ahead with a second attack.  Maybe this will dissuade Assad, maybe not.  At least, though, the USA is now trying to shape events, not run from them.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Funny Thing About Economics....

It's a funny thing about economics:  certain rules always apply no matter what the politicians and the ideologues say.  For example, if you raise the price charged for something, people and businesses will try to use less of it in order to save money.  This is basic economics, and nothing and no one is immune to the rule's effect.

I was reminded of this tonight when I read about a study done regarding the effect of the new $15 per hour minimum wage in Seattle.  The study was done by a local college professor who is quite liberal in his politics.  His findings were that after Seattle raised the minimum wage to fifteen bucks per hour, businesses responded by cutting hours for employees, automating certain jobs, and (in small businesses) having the owners do more work themselves.  The hourly wage went up for those on the minimum wage, but as a group their weekly incomes went down substantially.  The new minimum wage made labor more expensive, so employers found ways to use less of it.

Think about that.  For the last five years, the only proposal that Democrats have had regarding how to deal with income inequality and a stagnant economy has been to raise the minimum wage.  Seattle, which is part of the liberal Democrat homeland, went all in and raised the minimum wage by a lot.  And what did it do?  It caused greater income inequality as the poor saw their incomes DECLINE.  It had no effect on the Seattle economy.

The real truth is that no matter what lie the Democrats push, the basic rules of economics still apply to life.  These are rules that cannot be dismissed or reversed with legislation.  Hopefully, some day the Democrats will realize this.

The CBO Follies

The Congressional Budget Office released its report on the Republican senate healthcare bill today.  There's only one way to describe the CBO's findings:  RIDICULOUS!!

Let me explain:

According to the CBO, if the bill were passed, there would be 15 million fewer people insured in 2018 than would be the case under Obamacare.  The CBO says that this number would increase to 22 million fewer people with insurance by 2027 under the senate bill than under Obamacare.

Those are the numbers in the headlines, but few people actually know how the CBO comes up with those figures.  Here's something that essentially no one has heard:  the CBO estimates that between 8 and 9 million people who the agency claims would have coverage under Obamacare in 2027 would get that coverage when their states decide to expand Medicaid coverage.  That is crazy.  When Obamacare was passed, states were required to expand the eligibility for Medicaid or lose certain benefits.  That rule was challenged, and the Supreme Court struck it down.  The Court held that states had the choice whether or not to expand Medicaid coverage, and that the states that kept the old definition could not be penalized for making that decision.  As a result roughly half the states did not expand Medicaid coverage.  These states have kept the old Medicaid coverage standards for the last five years.  The CBO, however, assumes that all of these states will suddenly decide to adopt the wider Obamacare standards even though the cost of doing so would be high.  Simply put, that's crazy.  States that didn't opt for wider coverage during the period when the federal government pays the entire cost, are unlikely suddenly to change their minds when the feds no longer pay the whole cost.  What all this means is that just under half of the supposed increase in the number of uninsured is the result of a crazy assumption by the CBO.

Here's another little known fact:  the 15 million additional uninsured in 2018 simply cannot be.  Under the senate bill, Medicaid coverage is unchanged in 2018.  Since Medicaid remains free for those who qualify, no one is going to drop out of the program because of a change in the law.  There are only just over ten million people with policies purchased on the Obamacare exchanges in 2017.  Surely some will choose not to renew their policies once the individual mandate is gone, but that is highly unlikely to be more than one or two million people.  Most of the people buying individual insurance will want to keep being insured, and remember that under the Senate bill, there will still be subsidies in 2018 for those who need help with the premiums.  So where does CBO come up with its 15 million figure?  The answer is that CBO assumes that private employers who now provide healthcare coverage will drop that as soon as the law no longer requires it.  Indeed, some 13 million employees are supposedly going to lose that coverage.  Again, that's ridiculous.  For the last four years, premiums have gone up and up and up.  Employers with fewer than 50 employees were not required by law to keep providing insurance, yet between 98 and 99% have done so.  There have been almost no employees who lost coverage as a result.  The employers realize that they must provide coverage if they want to keep their employees from leaving for other jobs.  This will be the same once the employer mandate is gone.  It is crazy to assume that large employers will drop coverage when small employers who find it harder to finance the costs have not dropped coverage.  Remember, the CBO itself says that premiums under the senate bill will be 30% lower than under Obamacare, so there is a clear reason why MORE employers would provide coverage under the Senate bill than under Obamacare.

So put all this together and you find that in 2018, the CBO has overestimated the number who lose insurance by something like 13 million people.  Add to this the 8-9 million who come from the CBO's imaginary assumptions about more states adopting new Medicaid qualification rules, and you find that nearly the entire 22 million people that the CBO estimates will lose coverage by 2027 are not really there.

This analysis is clearly too complicated to interest most people.  They just hear the bogus total number.  The truth is something quite different.  We need to get the word out.

Pulling Security Clearances

It's time to start pulling the security clearances of people who worked in the Obama administration.  It's now been made clear that there have been a whole series of leaks by former Obama staff people who retain their clearances.  It is normal practice to allow people from former administrations to keep those security clearances, but the ongoing avalanche of leaks requires that this policy be modified.  The leaks have gotten to the point where they damage national security or the security of our allies.  They need to be stopped.

Let's be clear, pulling the security clearance for someone like Ben Rhodes won't end the leaks even if Rhodes is the leaker.  Nevertheless, it will make clear to the people doing the leaking that the administration is serious about the problem and that they may soon find themselves on the wrong side of the law for leaking classified info.

More Media Misrepresentations

I just read an article about a change that the Republicans are making in the senate to their healthcare bill.  Under the change, anyone who goes without health insurance for more than 63 days will have to wait for six months before they can get new insurance.  According to the media, this is a "heartless" proposal designed to protect insurance companies from having to sell insurance to those who are sick.

This is total nonsense.  Let's look at this for a moment.

First, let's suppose that right now, under Obamacare, a 26 year old person decided not to buy insurance for 2017.  That person is uninsured, and Obamacare requires that he or she pay a fine for failing to have insurance.  Now let's assume that this person decided in April finally to buy insurance.  Can he or she just go on the exchange and purchase a policy?  The simple answer is NO.  Under Obamacare, once you drop insurance coverage by your own choice, you cannot buy a policy until the next open enrollment period.  That means that once you do not have insurance you cannot get insurance again until January first of the next year.  In other words, the person who dropped coverage under Obamacare last February will be barred from getting insurance for eleven months and has to pay a fine on top of that.  That makes the existing Obamacare law much harsher than the proposal put forward by the Republicans in the senate.  Strange, isn't it, that the media doesn't call the existing Obamacare law "heartless".

Second, there's a very good reason for this provision.  If someone could buy insurance only once he or she got sick, there would be no reason for anyone to purchase insurance.  It would make more sense to keep the premiums and go to get insurance only once it is needed.  Sure, you might have a few days of expenses to deal with before the insurance kicked in, but most people could live with that.  The problem is that if many people opted for a buy-as-needed insurance plan, the premiums for the rest of us would go through the roof.  The six month waiting period is meant to provide an incentive to people to buy insurance. 

So we have a perfectly sensible new law with a less harsh alternative to the existing Obamacare law.  The media calls it "heartless".  The truth is that the media is wrong.  The law isn't "heartless"; the media is "mindless".

 

A Summary of a Year's Worth of Efforts

In 2016, before the national political conventions, American intelligence agencies began an investigation into the activities of the Russians in connection with our elections.  Very quickly, those investigations started looking for collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  After the election, the investigations got much more intense.  Since the inauguration, we have seen investigations by various House and Senate committees which have joined the FBI, CIA, and NSA investigations.  The media has also gone all out looking for collusion or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Since it has been over a year since these investigations began, I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to try to summarize the evidence which has been found that supports the existence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  Here is a rather exhaustive list of all of that evidence:

1.

That's right.  After more than a year, there is still not a single piece of evidence to show collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  Nothing, nada, zilch, zero.

It really is time for this waste of time to end.