Yes, Virginia, There Is a GOP Plan

Many people, including several on this very site, have claimed that the Republicans don’t have a proposal for replacement of the PPACA. Those people are wrong. On the House Republican website, an official healthcare reform bill was posted during the 111th Congress.

So, rather than continuing to shadow box, let’s take a look at their official proposal, shall we?

Here’s a high-level rundown of what’s in the bill:

  • Require high-risk pools (or some equivalent) be available in all states, with a maximum premium of 150% the average general-risk insured. The high-risk pools must be adequately funded by the states, with $1.5B per year subsidy from the federal government. Non-citizens are prohibited from participation in the high-risk pools if those pools have any funding from the $1.5B/year bucket.
  • Elimination of annual and lifetime spending caps.
  • Make rescission more difficult for insurers, by disallowing inadvertent disclosure as a justification for rescission. Disputes are to be reviewed by a third party, with rules established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  • Bonuses are to be paid from the federal government to states that show significant reductions in average premiums, or reductions in the percentages of uninsured.
  • States would be required to provide insurance plan finding services, though they may choose to contract with a private company to provide the service. The service may cover multiple states. The insurers would be required to standardize the descriptions of their offerings to enable comparison shopping. The service provider cannot also offer insurance.
  • Requires that children who are eligible for coverage continue to be eligible up to their 25th birthdays.
  • Allows for purchase of health insurance across state lines. In such cases, the laws in effect are those of the insurer’s state, not the insured’s. The insurer is required to clearly inform the insured of the state under whose jurisdiction the insurer falls. The insurer is also required to offer insurance in the insurer’s state.
  • Prohibits insurers from reclassifying the insured as higher risk, regardless of the changing health of the insured, provided the insured has maintained a current policy with the insurer. The premiums can still rise, either for everyone in the same class, or due to increased age of the insured.
  • Some minor expansions of HSAs.
  • Tort reform. There’s nothing new here; it’s the same thing Republicans have been pushing in nearly every industry for decades. Punitive damages would be allowed only if there was intent to harm, not if there was gross negligence. Statutes of limitations are tightened, and maximum awards are reduced, with no provision for inflation adjustment.
  • The $1.1B comparative effectiveness program in the ARRA is discontinued.
  • No federal funds can be used to cover abortions. This would effectively preclude any member of a high-risk pool from having abortion coverage.
  • Finally, there’s some stuff in there to ease approval for new drugs, by reducing the required amount of clinical evidence of efficacy and safety.

It’s a big list, though not as substantial as the number of bullet points would suggest. Several of them are either identical or very close to elements of the PPACA. The major differences are adding tort reform and interstate insurance, and removing the minimum standards, pre-existing condition coverage, insurance mandate, and low-income subsidy.

In a few days, I’ll discuss my expectations on the impact of a hypothetical replacement of PPACA with the Republican proposal, as well as thoughts on what a more ideal hybrid might look like.

In the meantime, the floor is yours. Talk about the real proposal, instead of insisting there isn’t one.


About Michael Weiss

Michael is now located at http://www.logarchism.com, along with Monotreme, filistro, and dcpetterson. Please make note of the new location.
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127 Responses to Yes, Virginia, There Is a GOP Plan

  1. Bart DePalma says:

    Michael:

    Good post.

    To start, this is not a coverage bill for anyone apart from those unable obtain insurance because of preexisting conditions. Given the almost complete lack of interest in the Obamacare high risk pools, even this provision would be insignificant. The GOP is not proposing to cover the wealthy, young and illegal aliens.

    This is for the most part a cost containment bill. I say for the most part, because the GOP included high polling Obamacare provisions which will raise rates like eliminating caps and extending dependent coverage to 26. However, there are two ideas which will substantially eliminate government imposed health inflation, which have the potential of more than making up for these Obamacare giveaways.

    By far the most useful is the creation of a true interstate insurance market to bypass local state insurance coverage mandates. As Michael noted, the policy requirements would be set by the state where the insurer is based. This allows insurers to base in the freest states (which itself is a big incentive for state legislatures to free up their insurance regs) and for insured anywhere to obtain less expensive insurance with fewer mandates. If you want to get low earning young folks to buy into insurance, you have to allow them to buy just cheap catastrophic insurance, which many states outlaw. This lowers the free riders and indirectly lowers our insurance premiums again.

    The second cost containment feature is tort reform. This also serves the purpose of keeping doctors from being chased out of the profession by insane liability insurance rates to cover runaway jury verdicts. There is no evidence whatsoever that punitive damages makes insured doctors less likely to commit malpractice because the insurance pays for the damages. Instead, it is a lottery for plaintiffs and attorneys which jacks up our medical bills. The savings here would be a bit less than advocates claim, but far more than the bogus spin put out by the plaintiffs’ bar. The CBO estimate appears to be reasonable.

  2. shortchain says:

    I love the GOP attitude about states being free to do their own thing, set their own rules. Except when it might interfere with the relentless pursuit of corporate profits, it seems.

    This plan isn’t a plan for health care reform. This is a plan to shove even more restrictions on abortion down the throats of the poor, free doctors from having to pay for their negligence, and pretend to do something while doing essentially nothing.

  3. Bart DePalma says:

    SC:

    Nothing in the GOP plan keeps one from purchasing an abortion or frees doctors from paying the actual damages of their negligence. If you are done with the red herrings, why not offer the standard left talking points concerning what is actually in the bill?

  4. Jungle Jim says:

    This appears to do nothing to contain the ballooning cost of health care in America, already double what it is across the border. But at least they’re starting to address it. That’s progress, I suppose.

  5. Bart DePalma says:

    Jungle Jim says: This appears to do nothing to contain the ballooning cost of health care in America, already double what it is across the border.

    Canada’s government rations care to control costs. See how that one flies in the United States.

    Canadians can come to the US to get treatment. If the US takes Canada’s path, where will Americans or Canadians get medical care?

  6. Jungle Jim says:

    How many Canadians come here for medical care, Bart, and for what services? Since the vast majority of Canadians are very happy with their system it must work pretty well. They’ve had it for what, 40 years plus? If it didn’t work I think they would have changed it by now; and I think you’re the one one who’s bringing up red herrings.

  7. erik says:

    I don’t see dead people, but I see a lot of bureaucracy here (bullets 1,4,5 and those that require close government oversight to have any value). We can reel back the regulations for drug safety a bit, however–no problem there it seems for the drug companies or their political allies. . . I thought Republicans hated regulations and the paperwork that comes with it.
    Several bullets seem to put the lie to the conservative claim that none of their ideas got into PPACA (bullets 2 and 6).

    Bart–“There is no evidence whatsoever that punitive damages makes insured doctors less likely to commit malpractice because the insurance pays for the damages. Instead, it is a lottery for plaintiffs and attorneys which jacks up our medical bills.” So, magically, the aggrieved party and his legal representative are the bad guys and the repeat- offender doctor and his unfortunate but more competent colleagues are the victims. I see things differently. I have a simple solution: Let’s get the medical profession to police its ranks and kick incompetents out of operating rooms and doctor’s offices. That will go a long way toward solving the problem of tort reform. Fewer lousy doctors, fewer claims, less drain on the insurance money pool. If the insurance company considers something other than the bottom line, rates should plummet.

    Let the citizen and his legal representative decide how much they want to sue for. Let the jury decide. That way, a bit of empathy and common sense will enter the process. The guy who loses his wife because a “specialist” has his mind on his avocation while he’s operating will have a fair chance of just recompense for his loses.

  8. Number Seven says:

    Medicare for all, raise taxes and tariffs back to pre Reagan levels. Enough of this trickle on our backs economics.

  9. shortchain says:

    Bart,

    The reason I’m not offering “talking points” from the left is simple.

    I’m not a mirror image of you. I form my opinions by a thought process, rather than by mindlessly appropriating them from others.

  10. NotImpressed says:

    I agree with you, #7.

    A big problem with Republican proposal is the interstate sale of insurance. It means all insurance companies will move to the state with the least restrictions. Goodbye any real coverage. Premiums through the roof. This is a prescription for complete disaster. That one provision will bankrupt Americans while insurance company profits soar.

    The PPACA doesn’t cover abortions. It follows the Byrd Rule. The GOP plan is simply mean. I think we should begin a non-profit Foundation that simply pays for abortions (i.e., makes them free for the patient) and is funded through voluntary contributions.

    Reducing the awards when a doctor is negligent or incompetent is a bad idea, and will do nothing to reduce medical costs. It is an unnecessary government intrusion into our lives. Juries of The People make these awards. The GOP “Tort Reform” is really just TYRANNY.

    No minimum standards, no control of pre-existing conditions, and no low-income subsidy means that poor people or people who are already ill will be unable to purchase meaningful insurance. This plan will do nothing to decrease the number of uninsured. It will do nothing to lower insurance or medical costs. It is a giveaway to insurance companies, nothing more. It can be summarized thus:
    “Don’t get sick. If you do, die quickly.”

  11. shortchain says:

    Au contraire, mes amis, the GOP “plan” does control costs…for the insurance companies and the doctors. For the rest of us — not so much.

  12. NotImpressed says:

    DePalma:
    “the policy requirements would be set by the state where the insurer is based. This allows insurers to base in the freest states (which itself is a big incentive for state legislatures to free up their insurance regs) ”

    Creating a “race to the bottom.” We will only have policies that cover the fewest conditions, cost the most, pay the least, and don’t actually provide insurance so much as profits for insurance companies. What a horrible suggestion.

  13. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Anybody have a clue as to how FEW doctors and practices accept TRICARE?

    At a time when on 5% or so of Americans have been impacted in ANY way by the wars we’re fighting, except when we read/see the news, just how “patriotic” are these medical professionals.

    They let the paperwork and lower payments get in the way of helping servicepeople and their families. While these people are fighting, and dying, their families, and veterans, are told “Take a hike. We don’t want your kind in here.”

    Sad.

  14. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    I’ll sat it again, for those out there who want to take away the right to punish those who negligently harm others when we can’t send them to jail:

    Only “Tort Reform” needed:

    1 – All civil suits, federal and state, MUST come under comparative negligence. All defendants AND plaintiff will be adjudged to what percentage each contributed to the damage.

    2 – Joint and several theory where EACH defendant can be 100% liable for all other defendants would be eliminated. Each defendant found at fault will be limited to percentage of award apportioned comparatively negligent.

    3 – Defendant’s attorney will pay all legals costs and fees for any plaintiff dismissed from suit prior to trial.

    4- Assets up to the amount defendants found liable, plus estimated interest and defendants appellate legal costs and fees, will be frozen by the Court immediately upon judgement and during any appeals. No bonds for greater than 50% of award allowed during appeal.

    Maybe, from a lawyer’s perspective, Bart can give a summation for us.

  15. drfunguy says:

    Insurers in the US ration care but do it by denying coverage in various ways because it is _always_ in their interest to reduce costs by denying claims. Care in the US is notoriously expensive, the highest per capita in the world, roughly 30% over the next highest (Canada).
    Canada covers everyone, with care not measureably different than the US in terms of outcomes, at about 2/3 of the per capita cost of the US system (which of course covers a lower proportion of the population).
    Much of the higher cost of US health care is administrative overhead. I don’t see that this Republican proposal would significantly affect that.
    I’d be curious to see an impartial analysis of relative impacts on federal spending and total cost per capita for this proposal vs. the current law. Anyone seen a source for such?

  16. shortchain says:

    drfunguy,

    Try here or, for a boiled-down version, here.

    The CBO is probably as impartial as possible and still reside within the USA.

  17. mostlyilurk says:

    Thanks for posting this, Michael. I’m wondering, though, if this is the actual replacement that Republicans are proposing and if it’s been scored by the CBO.

  18. Bart DePalma says:

    SC: This is how you offer old moldy left talking points attacking a bill promoting freedom:

    BD: “the policy requirements would be set by the state where the insurer is based. This allows insurers to base in the freest states (which itself is a big incentive for state legislatures to free up their insurance regs) ”

    NI: Creating a “race to the bottom.” We will only have policies that cover the fewest conditions, cost the most, pay the least, and don’t actually provide insurance so much as profits for insurance companies. What a horrible suggestion.

    Increasing competition lowers prices and maximizes the benefits consumers desire. In contrast, government mandates increase costs and lessen choice by either outlawing benefits consumers desire or making them unaffordable by larding policies up with benefits they do not require or desire.

    BTW, given the average 2.2% profit margin for health insurers, there is not much room to cut there.

  19. Bartbuster says:

    Increasing competition lowers prices and maximizes the benefits consumers desire.

    If that were true we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re currently in. Government mandates don’t come out of thin air, they come because insurance companies started screwing people over. Screwing people over doesn’t hurt the insurance companies because the people they’re screwing don’t have any other options (due to pre-existing conditions).

    Government is in place to protect people from getting screwed (Obama plan), not to make it easier for insurance companies to do the screwing (GOP plan).

  20. dcpetterson says:

    DePalma
    “BTW, given the average 2.2% profit margin for health insurers , there is not much room to cut there.”

    “Profit” is what a company has left over after paying all its employees and all the inefficiencies of its processes and all its stock options to CEO’s, etc. Health insurers spend only 70% – 80% of the premiums they take in on actual health care. Medicare spends 98% on health care. This means 18% – 28% of the money health insurers take in is wasted. There is a lot of room to cut there. And you know this. So why do you insist on repeating statements that you know are false and misleading?

    And you did not answer the point about insurance companies racing to the bottom if they are allowed to relocate to the state that lets them screw the consumer most. Instead, you blarted empty right-wing platitudes. Try answering the point made instead of deflecting into irrelevant nonsense.

  21. shiloh says:

    Talk about the real proposal, instead of insisting there isn’t one.

    hmm

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican said today that the repeal vote will be followed up tomorrow by a House vote instructing committees “to begin work to construct an alternative health-care vision,” that will be “our so- called replacement bill.”

    Although Republican leaders didn’t offer specific alternatives, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio told reporters replacement legislation would aim to “bring down the cost of health insurance for the American people and expand access.”

    Deadline Issue

    The Republicans haven’t provided a timeline for moving forward with their proposals. Boehner said the House need not set “artificial deadlines” for committee action.

    Cantor told reporters yesterday, “We’ll do everything we can to delay and defund the provisions of the bill so that we can get some discussion going on how we can replace it.”

    The health-care law, enacted in March 2010 after being passed by the House and the Senate with no Republican support, was the top domestic priority for Obama and congressional Democrats. It extends coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans, imposes new taxes on the highest wage-earners, calls for taxes on health-care companies and provides hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare savings.

    ‘Can’t Go Backward’

    In a statement yesterday, Obama said he was “willing and eager” to work with Congress on improving the existing law. “But we can’t go backward,” he said.
    ~~~~~

    >
    >
    >

    So Michael Weiss’ premise of a faux Republican official health care reform bill is totally incorrect since boehner/cantor are not acknowledging it in any way, shape or form.

    Repeating:

    This posts premise of a faux Republican official health care reform bill is totally incorrect since boehner/cantor are not acknowledging it in any way, shape or form.

    hence, ergo, therefore all of Bartles posts in this thread are totally irrelevant.

    ok, ok, all of Bart’s posts are always frickin’ irrelevant! regardless 😛

    take care, blessings

  22. Bart DePalma says:

    DC:

    Insurers in a free market have every incentive and a fiduciary duty to minimize administrative costs to maximize their shareholders’ profit. The administrative costs which private insurers assume, but of which governments do not assume enough, are to minimize unnecessary and fraudulent procedures.

    In contrast to insurers, Medicare and Medicaid have a 14% fraud rate according to the government’s own analysis. Additionally, government employees are given compensation packages nearly twice that of comparable private employees. If Medicare was turned into a government run non-profit insurer without taxpayer money in a competitive market, it would be out of business in a year.

  23. shiloh says:

    Did I mention Bartles is totally irrelevant ~ but, but, but persistent!

  24. Mr. Universe says:

    Off-topic but important. Senate reached a handshake deal on filibuster rules. No more secret holds. Republicans have promised to cut back on abusing the filibuster if the Democrats will let them introduce more amendments.

    I don’t expect this agreement will last long.

  25. dcpetterson says:

    Bart:

    Insurance companies have a responsibility only to increase income to shareholders. They thus have a responsibility to reduce payouts to the insured. Therefore, their only incentive is to reduce payments, and increase premiums. This is what they do.

    You haven’t shown why insurance companies won’t run to the states that allow them to maximize profit while minimizing expenditures (i.e., payments to the insured. In fact, since maximizing profit is the fiduciary responsibility of an insurance company, this is pretty much what they would have to do.

    You are free to quote somewhere a government analysis that shows 14% of the Medicare budget goes to fraud. Otherwise, you’re blarting more nonsense.

    If indeed “government employees are given compensation packages nearly twice that of comparable private employees”, then Medicare is even more efficient than it would appear. They still get by on a 2% overhead, as opposed to the 20% – 30% overhead of private insurers. These supposedly excessive compensation packages clearly don’t impact on the ability of Medicare to give 98% of its budget to health care, instead of the mere 70% – 80% of private insurers.

    Your meme about government compensation is, of course, nothing more than another meaningless right wing talking point. Punishing our dedicated public servants by slashing their compensation packages simply to satisfy your vindictive anti-American arrogance will do nothing to substantively impact the Federal deficit, nor to improve service provided to Americans. It is no more than hateful scapegoating rhetoric to pretend otherwise.

  26. shiloh says:

    Senate reached a handshake deal

    Rachel mentioned the song, Michael Row the Boat Ashore, an African-American spiritual sung during the American Civil War, on Tuesday. Interesting as it became a hit in 1961 and Rachel was born in 1973.

    Soooo, unlike palin, Rachel knows her history ~ Hallelujah!

    Kumbaya!

  27. Bart DePalma says:

    DC:

    I don’t have the time to hunt up the government report to which I have linked before, but googling medicare fraud will get you plenty of data. See for example…

    http://www.insurancefraud.org/medicarefraud.htm

    Here is the public vs. private employee data:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-03-04-federal-pay_N.htm

    Companies have a contractual responsibility to their insured which courts aggressively enforce.

  28. dcpetterson says:

    Bart, you can’t find the government report showing 14% of Medicare udget is fraud, because it doesn’t exist.

    Public vs. private employee “data” does not address the criticism. Punishing public employees by cutting their benefits will neither improve the service the public gets, nor substantively reduce the Federal deficit. You’re creating a scapegoat for the purpose of creating class warfare and avoiding the true issues. You are free to show how cutting benefits for these dedicate people will trim $1.5 trillion in annual Federal costs. Or you are free to drop the subject.

    We’re going around in circles, and as usual, you’re just repeating empty talking points. It was amusing.

  29. Mr. Universe says:

    “There is a Principle of Conservation of Government: If conservatives succeed in cutting government by the people for the public good, our lives will still be governed, but now by corporations. We will have government by corporations for corporate profit. It will not be a kind government. It will be a cruel government, a government of foreclosures, outsourcing, union busting, outrageous payments for every little thing, and pension eliminations.

    The moral missions of government include the protection and empowerment of citizens. Protection includes health care, social security, safe food, consumer protection, environmental protection, job protection, etc. Empowerment is what makes a decent life possible – roads and infrastructure, communication and energy systems, education, etc. No business can function without them. This has not been discussed adequately. Government serving those moral missions is what makes freedom, fairness, and prosperity possible. Conservatives do not believe in those moral missions of government, and when in power, they subvert the ability of government to carry out those moral missions.”

    – George Lakoff, professor of linguistics, UC Berkeley

  30. shortchain says:

    Mr, U.,

    What Lakoff describes is what I’ve termed “corporate feudalism”. Anybody who wants to live under such a system is, ipso facto, an Altemeyer authoritarian follower.

  31. Mr. Universe says:

    @SC

    I had a truck once with an alignment problem. If you ever let go of the wheel it pulled hard to the right. Really annoying.

  32. Bart DePalma says:

    U:

    Most socialists like Barack Obama believe as does Prof. Lackoff. Most Americans do not.

  33. Bartbuster says:

    Most socialists like Barack Obama believe as does Prof. Lackoff. Most Americans do not.

    Blankshot, is that why Social Security and Medicare are so unpopular?

  34. shortchain says:

    Bart,

    No doubt you can provide polling data that shows that “most Americans” would like to live in such a dystopia.

    Otherwise, you are just listening to the voices in your head. As usual.

  35. Mr. Universe says:

    Most Americans do not.

    Feel free to drop this inaccurate pretense any time and join the rest of America in reality.

  36. Mr. Universe says:

    Bart, are you receiving SS? Are you participating in the VA for medical stuff (based on your assertions of service)?

    Just curious.

  37. Bart DePalma says:

    Folks:

    Once again, a majority of Americans support social insurance to protect the income of the unemployed, disabled and elderly where all put in and all are eligible to pull out.

    A majority of Americans have never supported government direction of the economy or redistribution of income (aka socialism).

    The left lost their electoral majority when their policies transitioned from the former to the latter.

    BTW, after intensive, headache inducing research of Euro and American socialist writings for my book, I have discovered the socialist sources for my contention that socialism has evolved from government ownership of the means of production to government abuse of its police and tax powers to direct the economy and redistribute wealth. This “de facto” socialism where business owners are reduced to civil servants was discussed at length in France in the 60s and moved to America in the 70s, including by advisors to Barack Obama. Bingo! I am not disclosing this content before the book is published because it has been nowhere else discussed to my knowledge.

  38. shortchain says:

    So in other words, by redefining “socialism” to fit what he wants, Bart has managed to see “socialism”.

    What a shock. This is so unlike his usual shtick. OK, you tell me it is his usual methodology?

    Never mind.

    I’m sure Bart’s redefinition will provide the desperately-needed bias confirmation the right wing has been searching for ever since 2008.

  39. Bartbuster says:

    A majority of Americans have never supported government direction of the economy or redistribution of income (aka socialism).

    The left lost their electoral majority when their policies transitioned from the former to the latter.

    Blankshot, that’s a complete load of crap. The “transition” is completely in your imagination.

  40. Bartbuster says:

    This “de facto” socialism

    aka Whatever Blankshot feels like calling socialism.

  41. Jean says:

    It appears that the GOP is much too busy to find the time to put together their own health care plan. They’re busy writing legislation to re-define American citizenship.

    http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/140723-sens-paul-and-vitter-introduce-citizenship-resolution

  42. Mr. Universe says:

    Most socialists like Barack Obama believe as does Prof. Lackoff. Most Americans do not.

    Wrong. Most Americans believe as President Obama does. That’s just normal. Your bombast, your delusion, your attempt to create some twisted reality makes you an enemy of the state. You are the McCarthy of this generation and you’re no more helpful now than he was then.

    The sooner you call into question your immoral beliefs, the better.

  43. dcpetterson says:

    Interesting that Bart has again changed the subject of the thread, away from the destructive and hateful Republican “plan” to un-insure Americans, and to enrich the insurance companies.

  44. mostlyilurk says:

    Who’s publishing your book, Bart?

  45. Mule Rider says:

    The quibbling over how exactly to define “socialism” misses the point….from liberals/progressives who somehow either go into denial about the reality of this administration’s push for more federal control of the economy, act like it’s not a goal of theirs or this administration’s when nearly every economic policy objective from the left clearly says otherwise, or they simply want to play the sophist’s game of “I know my dictionary better than you”….and from many conservatives who just need a crutch to oppose the president on but are too intellectually lazy to articulate their actual beefs with his policy objectives and who don’t take the time to understand the full context of what words mean.

    No, this president isn’t “socialist” in the strictest sense….but he is a statist and his administration clearly has statist objectives….and so does his far left base. And I find that (being a statist) equally or more troubling than meeting the textbook definition of “socialist.”

    Wanna call Obama something? Don’t call him a socialist. He’s a statist. Through and through.

  46. Mule,
    There is a difference between control and influence. When it comes to an economy, influence to address imbalances that lead to negative feedback loops is hardly a bad thing. If that’s being statist, then I’m all for statism.

  47. shiloh says:

    you are just listening to the voices in your head.

    Let the record show there may be some audio activity in between Bartles’ ears.

    Bart, one of your voices 😛 can have the last word!

  48. Mule Rider says:

    “There is a difference between control and influence.”

    Agreed. I used control above when influence would’ve been more appropriate. But the premise of my post remains the same.

    “When it comes to an economy, influence to address imbalances that lead to negative feedback loops is hardly a bad thing.”

    Government influence in the economy should be limited to the extent that rules/contracts are enforced and abided by and that competition is protected and encouraged by preventing/busting monopolies and removing barriers to entry. Increasingly, that’s not what we have in this country. You can take one look at our convoluted tax code and figure that out. Our government is increasingly in the business of picking winners and losers (I hate repeating that “talking point” but it’s the damn truth), and it just matters who’s in office to decide which way the scale is tilted. I don’t want either Democrats/liberals or Republicans/conservatives picking winners and losers. That’s a recipe for disaster.

    If that’s being statist, then I’m all for statism.

  49. Mule Rider says:

    “If that’s being statist, then I’m all for statism.”

    Whoops that last part should be in quotes. And to address the point you made, common sense and practical regulation to enforce the rules, prevent/bust monopolies, and encourage competition is NOT statism.

  50. Mule,

    Government influence in the economy should be limited to the extent that rules/contracts are enforced and abided by and that competition is protected and encouraged by preventing/busting monopolies and removing barriers to entry.

    That’s a good start, but there’s also reason to protect unwilling third parties from the damages that can be suffered as a consequence of commerce between two parties.

    Picking winners and losers should not be a targeted affair, but no matter what government does, it will impact who the winners and losers are. Protect against monopolies, and you “hurt” the erstwhile monopoly. Alternatively, leave it alone and you “hurt” the potential newcomer businesses. If one has the power to affect the result, one cannot avoid affecting the result.

  51. shortchain says:

    Mule,

    You’ve got it exactly backwards. Increasingly, our corporate masters are picking the political leadership we are allowed to elect. Look at the amount of money spent in the last election by the Chamber of Commerce, “Americans for Prosperity”, and all the other corporate whore fronts.

    It isn’t the government that picks the winners. It’s the corporate winners — who backed the candidates who won, that is — who get the spoils and get to install their people in the positions of power.

  52. dcpetterson says:

    Government influence in the economy should be limited to the extent that rules/contracts are enforced and abided by and that competition is protected and encouraged by preventing/busting monopolies and removing barriers to entry.

    I disagree. But since what the government’s influence “should be” is merely a matter of opinion, there isn’t any objective answer to the question.

    To my mind, the government’s role “should be” whatever We The People want it to be. We get to decide. Because we are “the government.”

    We’ve seen what happens when we don’t regulate the greed and depredations of business. It’s not pretty. I’m not willing to give up meat inspections, or child labor laws. Some regulation of the airwaves is a good idea, or else the richest company would simply broadcast in ALL frequencies and drown out everyone else. Having air traffic controllers being Federal employees is also a good idea. There is an enormous influence that the government has on commerce that is absolutely essential.

    I also really like the new financial regulations on credit card companies. They don’t go nearly far enough, but they’re a very good start.

    Basically, when government protects us from corporations — that is a Very Good Thing, and we need more of it. Not less.

  53. Number Seven says:

    Getting caught up on this thread.

    A handshake deal? Are they kidding?

    How can one measure medicare fraud? I can see the survey now… Dear Dr. Whoever, how much are you ripping off medicare? Politifact Article

    Our two party system is like opposite sides of a worthless wooden nickel.

  54. # 7,
    Yes, a handshake deal. Worth the paper it’s printed on. A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  55. Mainer says:

    You know folks at least to some point I suspect many of us have a hard time understanding what the conservatives are doing and why (I still place my question of a bit ago as to what the conservative end game is) because we keep thinking of them as the Republican party we grew up around not the god awful mess it has become. It is time we cleansed our thoughts of what it was (ok and at times what it wasn’t) but give that up……..let it go for it is gone.

    We hear much about the tea party and obviously we slam back and forth about what the nature of the group is or isn’t to little common understanding and debate if indeed it is now the Republican Party or if it is the corporritists or the Social Conservatives or what ever that is now heartless and soulless core of the movement right in this country.

    I propose then that we need a new title for that same rightward lurch in this country for the old lables are either misleading, misused or just so much propaganda. Let us consider two potential replacements:

    Paranoid Anarchist Party or Corporate Libertarian Anarchist Party. While this is being proffered as an effort to try and wrap my own head around what is happening I also have to resort back to what gets me through many days…….laughing at myself and others for the dumb as a stick things we do. But think of it a party that lives by the bumper sticker slogan could use names like these. Think of the possibilities. My favorite would probably be that all this country needs to sort itself out is a good dose of………the other is probably less offensive but would certainly be truth in what is being offered as was offered just the other night in rebutal. Just a couple of thoughts because some of the back and forth between the eleven sides of this is enough to make one want to retch.

  56. Mule Rider says:

    First of all, dc, you’re as tone deaf as ever. It’s like you didn’t read a word I said but just needed a launching point to get back on your pulpit and rail on All Things Conservative.

    “I disagree. But since what the government’s influence “should be” is merely a matter of opinion, there isn’t any objective answer to the question.”

    I don’t know what you’re basing your analysis on what the government’s role “should be” but mine is on several hundred years of economic thought, and we have example after countless example of economies that were under heavy influence from the state turned into miserable failures. So there is an objective answer to this question. State-planning leads to failure which is BAD. Individual rights and decision-making are protected leads to success and is GOOD.

    “To my mind, the government’s role “should be” whatever We The People want it to be. We get to decide. Because we are “the government.””

    An empty talking point trying to invoke democratic idealism vis a vis “the government is simply what we make out of it” but ignoring the blatant reality that increasing government influence on individual lives is antithetical to freedom.

    “We’ve seen what happens when we don’t regulate the greed and depredations of business.”

    First of all, I’m not arguing against any/all regulations. Only those outside of what is practical to protect individual rights (by enforcing rules/contracts) and encourage competition, fairness, and transparency in the marketplace. Secondly, you can’t “regulate” greed. Let me go a step further and say you shouldn’t regulate greed. You can regulate and punish the ill-effects of greed, but only if a line has been crossed and a law has been broken. Greed is nothing more than a vice, a mental/emotional shortcoming. Of and by itself, it’s not against the law nor does it do anyone else harm by being greedy/selfish. Only when greed crosses those lines and does cause harm to others should it be punished/regulated. Same thing with lying.

    “It’s not pretty. I’m not willing to give up meat inspections, or child labor laws.”

    Nobody said you should. And when you start playing this card (the meat inspection/child labor law one), it tells me you don’t have the faintest clue what we’re talking about when discussing state influence over the economy. There are rules in place. And we have every right as a citizenry to demand that meat bought and sold in this country is healthy and safe and that persons under the age of 15/16/17 (you pick) shouldn’t be exploited. Again, those are normal, practical RULES. And the government does have a place enforcing those rules.

    “Some regulation of the airwaves is a good idea, or else the richest company would simply broadcast in ALL frequencies and drown out everyone else.”

    Guess you didn’t even read what I said about preventing/busting monopolies and encouraging competition. Thanks for wasting my time.

    “Having air traffic controllers being Federal employees is also a good idea. There is an enormous influence that the government has on commerce that is absolutely essential. ”

    Did I say it was a bad idea to have air traffic controllers be federal employees? No, I didn’t. I could probably come up with a decent argument why they could be privatized and we’d still be alright, but that’s a more specific discussion for another day, and has very little to do with the broader points I was making.

    “I also really like the new financial regulations on credit card companies. They don’t go nearly far enough, but they’re a very good start.”

    Again, there’s nothing wrong with rules protecting people from being exploited. A fair set of rules that are ENFORCED is necessary in the financial sector. That you feel the need to preach to me about this speaks to your tone-deafness on what I’ve been saying.

    “Basically, when government protects us from corporations — that is a Very Good Thing,”

    I couldn’t agree more. The only way we’ll prosper as a country is if everyone is treated fairly and we have a market that is transparent and free from rampant and unfair corporatism.

    “….and we need more of it. Not less.”

    We don’t need “more” or “less” of anything. We just need to enforce a fair set of rules that (nearly) everyone agrees on. Oftentimes we find that the rules we yell about that are necessary to protect us are already on the books. The people enforcing them are just asleep at the wheel – or they are intentionally/maliciously derelict so that some people (their cronies) benefit at the expense of others.

  57. dcpetterson says:

    Mule, thanks for an interesting and civil conversation.

    Unfortunately, I found most of your comments to be baseless platitudes, not really reasoned arguments.

    ” … we have example after countless example of economies that were under heavy influence from the state turned into miserable failures. So there is an objective answer to this question. State-planning leads to failure which is BAD. Individual rights and decision-making are protected leads to success and is GOOD.”

    We’re not talking about “state planning” of economies. We’re talking about sensible regulations. that protect the public from powerful corporate interests who want to make profits, and don’t care at whose expense. Cost-cutting can lead to dangerous products, for example. We have a right to expect the food in our supermarkets to be safe.

    “An empty talking point trying to invoke democratic idealism vis a vis “the government is simply what we make out of it” but ignoring the blatant reality that increasing government influence on individual lives is antithetical to freedom.”

    It is interesting that you castigate me for “an empty talking point”, and then, in the same sentence, provide an empty talking point. You fail to differentiate between sensible regulation and “increasing government influence on individual lives.” Your talk of “freedom” is a meaningless bit of blather. Today’s “threats to freedom” rest in the Citizen’s United ruling, and the Patriot Act — not in affordable health care.

    “First of all, I’m not arguing against any/all regulations. Only those outside of what is practical to protect individual rights (by enforcing rules/contracts) and encourage competition, fairness, and transparency in the marketplace.”

    I would agree with this. Things such as the new PPACA address precisely these issues. Health insurers have proven they will act in a predatory manner without this sort of sensible regulation.

    “Secondly, you can’t “regulate” greed. Let me go a step further and say you shouldn’t regulate greed. You can regulate and punish the ill-effects of greed, but only if a line has been crossed and a law has been broken.”

    True. Which is why we need laws such as the PPACA to address harmful acts and loopholes that the insurance industry has been engaging in.

    “There are rules in place. And we have every right as a citizenry to demand that meat bought and sold in this country is healthy and safe and that persons under the age of 15/16/17 (you pick) shouldn’t be exploited. Again, those are normal, practical RULES. And the government does have a place enforcing those rules.”

    Exactly. The question is, Are the existing rules sufficient? And the answer, in some cases, is No.

    “Again, there’s nothing wrong with rules protecting people from being exploited.”

    Precisely. And health insurers were exploiting their customers. For the same reason that you feel some other regulations are necessary, I argue that the PPACA was necessary. For precisely the same reasons.

    You haven’t given any examples of how you think anything that the current Administration or the 111th Congress did infringes on “freedom.” You’ve merely given some common rightist rhetoric that doesn’t actually convey any meaning.

    Me: “Basically, when government protects us from corporations — that is a Very Good Thing,”
    You: “I couldn’t agree more. The only way we’ll prosper as a country is if everyone is treated fairly and we have a market that is transparent and free from rampant and unfair corporatism.”

    I’m very glad to find another point of agreement!

    “We don’t need “more” or “less” of anything. We just need to enforce a fair set of rules that (nearly) everyone agrees on. Oftentimes we find that the rules we yell about that are necessary to protect us are already on the books. The people enforcing them are just asleep at the wheel – or they are intentionally/maliciously derelict so that some people (their cronies) benefit at the expense of others.”

    Again, I agree with this as well. Enforcement of a lot of important regulation has been rather lax. We need to adequately fund the enforcement agencies, and aggressively prosecute those who break the rules. You and I may well be on the same page on that one.

  58. Mainer says:

    Guys after listening to a piece on the group that has been looking into the financial collapse and then doing a little diging on line I would invite all of you to do the same. I would find it hard to believe any one can look at what has been realeased and argue the problem was either too many rules or too rigerous enforcement. We as a people got snookered and it is going to happen all over again and neither party is going to do any thing meaningful to prevent it because they are already bought off and paid for by the very people that cause the last economic disaster.

  59. Todd Dugdale says:

    Any of these provisions in the Republican plan that regulate insurers are, for all practical purposes, negated by the provision to sell insurance across state lines.

    One state will basically let the industry write its own regulations, as part of ‘competition’.
    When those state regulations conflict with the federal provisions in the Republican plan, we will hear about “job-killing federal regulation”, states’ rights, the Tenth Amendment, etc. and those federal regulations will be neutered.

    High-risk pools are also a joke. Without subsidies, the high-risk people will just go to the emergency room without insurance, because it will be too expensive. And we will be back to where we started.

    Aside from all that, this is just “government-approved health insurance”, which we all know is socialism. You won’t get to keep your current policy. If you want to have health insurance, you will have to buy a government-approved policy that conforms to the regulations listed – until they are rescinded, waived, or made ‘voluntary’, of course.
    In other words, this Republican plan is a government takeover of the health care industry.

  60. Mainer says:

    I just keep waiting for new regulations that will allow the hospitals to actually turn people away for not having the money. You wait it will happen as an answer to cutting cost.

  61. Mule Rider says:

    “We’re not talking about “state planning” of economies. We’re talking about sensible regulations.”

    Where did you see me say anything insinuating there is “state planning” in the US economy? I’ll save you the time. I didn’t. I talked about “heavy influence,” which is a very different thing than full-blown central planning.

    You’re putting words in my mouth so that you can fulfill your agenda of spreading lies, misinformation, and propaganda. It speaks to your crass and disgusting tone-deafness and I won’t tolerate it.

    Don’t speak to me ever again unless you can have an intellectually honest debate.

    I mean it. Just keep your mouth shut (to me, at least) as long as you’re going to lie, distort, put words in my mouth, set up straw men, misrepresent, etc.

  62. Number Seven says:

    Actually, you can regulate greed. That is what progressive tax rates do. I see nothing wrong at all with a 90% tax on incomes over 100 million dollars.

    How much money does one person need?

  63. Mainer says:

    But remember #7 that would be wealth redistribution and we are told that is a bad thing. Interestingly enough while so much of the nations wealth was being redistributed to a relative few at the top that was ok but to level the playing field and just try and get things sort of back where they were that is bad. Guess as one of those lower class types I’m just being a socialist. Damn I never knew.

  64. Mule Rider says:

    “Actually, you can regulate greed. That is what progressive tax rates do.”

    Actually, you can’t. And, no, that’s NOT what progressive tax rates do. Greed can manifest itself from the top of the income ladder all the way to the bottom. You’ve made the classic mistake of assuming there is a direct linear correlation between income and greed. Not all wealthy people are greedy and not all greedy people are wealthy.

    “I see nothing wrong at all with a 90% tax on incomes over 100 million dollars.”

    In spite of your grotesque ignorance about greed, wealth, and progressive tax rates, I do have to agree, in a broader sense, with this sentence. We should re-institute a millionaire’s and multi-millionaire’s tax bracket and those rates should be very high – at least above 50%.

    How much money does one person need?

  65. Mule Rider says:

    “How much does one person need?”

    Sorry. Forgot to respond to this. Not that I had much to add.

    Yeah, there comes a point when an individual’s power and influence becomes a threat to the free market because they literally have so much money that they can corner almost any market. That should never happen in a truly free society.

  66. Number Seven says:

    MR, at least we can come to some sort of consensus about the level that can be debated. That is one hell of a lot better then I read from many on the right, not that I am putting you in that bracket. Despite your past rhetoric, I am actually thinking you are someone that can be reasoned with.

    And yes, wealth concentration can be can be as much of a threat to the free markets as it can be to a truly free society.

    Right on, bro.

  67. Number Seven says:

    I still think that greed can be regulated. Think about it. When an uber wealthy reaches the point where his income is taxed at 90%, he reaches the point of ‘why bother, time to retire”.

    They then retire to the good life as is their due, leaving others to replace them, and so on and so on, as was the original American Dream. A cycle of wealth building.

    But now we have ‘the dream is gone’….

    Yes, yes, yes, I know the song ‘Taxman’, but seriously, do you think high taxes would have really stopped The Beatles from creating great music? No, they just found a way around the high taxes. It took Yoko Ono to break up The Beatles. Way to go John, I hope she was worth it…. ‘YEAARYGYSRGGGYYYYSSSSSSSSS’ (Yoko’s quote)

  68. Jungle Jim says:

    #7 and MR: if you notice, our budget problems started when Kennedy reduced the top tax rate in the early 60’s and excellerated when Reagan reduced them again in the early 80’s. It may be that only a return to 90% for the top earners will allow us to ever have another balanced budget. On the bright side, merely suggesting it could cause some of our more unstable types to completely lose it; thus forcing us to institutionalize them. 2 birds with 1 stone…..hmmm

  69. Number Seven says:

    Jim, you make a very valid point: both parties have done their best to create a race to the bottom.

    And yet, Clinton made a very minor change to give us a brief lived surplus…..

  70. Jungle Jim says:

    I believe the Clinton budget would only have worked during an economic boom, otherwise it would have been unsustainable. Furthermore, wages, adjusted for inflation, have been flat since 1980. I suspect this is also due to dropping the top tax rate. If you want to see real income increase, the Clinton budget is not the way to go.

  71. Mule Rider says:

    “Despite your past rhetoric, I am actually thinking you are someone that can be reasoned with.”

    Right back at ya. Despite my ragging on you (and some of the others in here), I think you’re very smart cookies and find myself increasingly finding more common ground with some of you guys than someone like Bart. He makes conservatism look bad most days. Anyway, sorry about the “ignorance” comment above. While I understand and agree, to some degree, with your point about a progressive tax rate keeping the uber-wealthy “in check,” it’s still pretty ineffective at preventing greed/exploitation by people at lower income levels, and it is rampant. I’ve seen people making $50,000/year with only modest assets be 100s of times more greedy/selfish than people making $500,000/year and living comfortably. Just because someone doesn’t have much of it (money) doesn’t mean they aren’t doing everything they can to screw their fellow man to get more. And a progressive tax rate doesn’t slow down the screwing at those levels. Anyway, just my 2 cents…

    Good (and funny) comments from Jungle Jim too….I laughed at the 2 birds/1 stone thing…

  72. dcpetterson says:

    Mule Rider:
    Where did you see me say anything insinuating there is “state planning” in the US economy?

    You are the one who brought it into the discussion. You made a statement about what you thought the role of the government in the economy should be. I pointed out that “should be” is a matter of personal preference. You responded:

    Mule Rider says:
    January 27, 2011 at 16:44

    I don’t know what you’re basing your analysis on what the government’s role “should be” but mine is on several hundred years of economic thought, and we have example after countless example of economies that were under heavy influence from the state turned into miserable failures. So there is an objective answer to this question. State-planning leads to failure which is BAD. Individual rights and decision-making are protected leads to success and is GOOD.

    Perhaps you did not mean to imply that “State-planning” was part of the current or future plans of anyone or anything relevant to the US economy or the current discussion. But you certainly did so imply.

  73. Mule Rider says:

    “Perhaps you did not mean to imply that “State-planning” was part of the current or future plans of anyone or anything relevant to the US economy or the current discussion. But you certainly did so imply.”

    Channeling The Captain from Cool Hand Luke….what we have here is a failure to communicate. Anyway, my bad, I can see where my very casual prose making comparisons to the current and future direction of the US economy and past examples regarding statist economies might have been a little confusing and led you to think what you did. So I’ll try and clarify:

    I believe there are numerous examples from the past where economies slowly devolved to the point where they ran almost exclusively on government planning. And I believe history shows they were failures.

    I don’t believe the US economy is there yet, but the government’s role and influence has expanded such (and not just under Obama but over past administrations and Congresses) that we seem to be headed in that direction. Like I said, I don’t want a government having too much influence over decision-making other than to stand in and protect what’s right/fair and punish what’s wrong/unfair. I see instances where the government goes beyond that now, and it concerns me.

  74. Bartbuster says:

    I see instances where the government goes beyond that now, and it concerns me.

    You got any examples?

  75. dcpetterson says:

    Thank you for clarifying, Mule. Sorry for misunderstanding. We’re cool.

  76. Bart,
    Over six hours after the Free Forum Friday topic opens, you feel compelled to post a comment about the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report in the discussion on the Republican plan for healthcare reform.

    Is this how you treat everyone, or are we just special targets of your utter disregard for decorum?

    Anyway, I dumped that whole subtopic from the comments here. Feel free to take it up in FFF if you want.

  77. Bart DePalma says:

    MW:

    Sorry for being off topic, however, I was following the thread going off topic to whether the government directs the economy. I was responding to that new topic.

    I do not notice you taking anyone else to task for wandering off course or deleting their posts. Why the targeted censorship?

  78. dcpetterson says:

    Three items mentioned in the Republicans proposals stand out for me:

    # The $1.1B comparative effectiveness program in the ARRA is discontinued.

    (I assume you meant int he PPACA as opposed to ARRA?) I’d like to hear the arguments for discontinuing this program. The whole point is to determine which treatments are both most effective and lowest cost. Why would this be opposed, other than for reasons of propping up the purveyors of treatments that are less effective or more expensive?

    # No federal funds can be used to cover abortions. This would effectively preclude any member of a high-risk pool from having abortion coverage.

    Oh yes, what we really want is for people in high-risk pools to have more children. Childbirth for people in high-risk pools never has expensive complications that raise the medical costs for everyone else.

    # Finally, there’s some stuff in there to ease approval for new drugs, by reducing the required amount of clinical evidence of efficacy and safety.

    Safety oversight is one of the things the Federal government does best. It’s also one of the things only government can effectively do. This has got to be one of the stupidest places to cut.

  79. dcpetterson says:

    Bart, I can’t speak for Michael, but the conversation on government control was had in relation to the idea of government controlling health care, and the economic ramifications of that. My comments, for example, frequently referred back to health care. I can’t speak for Mule Rider either, but it seemed to me (I could be wrong) that he intended his comments on “government control” to refer back to the health care topic.

  80. Mule Rider says:

    “You got any examples?”

    Yes.

    Farm subsidies. The government shouldn’t be paying people to raise/grow (or, in some cases, to NOT raise/grow) anything.

    Ethanol subsidies. Another mess similar to above but this has the added nightmare of diverting a vital food source towards energy production for a substance that takes nearly as much energy to produce as it yields when burned. It’s almost immoral that this is going on and is criminal that the administration isn’t trying to stop it immediately.

    Mortgage interest deduction. Again, an example of one class of people (homeowners – who generally tend to be wealthier than the average citizen) being favored by government policy over another.

    Beyond the mortgage interest deduction, I could list another dozen examples in the tax code where the government is unduly exerting influence over the marketplace. That is just the most obvious and common example.

  81. DC,
    It was part of ARRA.

  82. Bartbuster says:

    Farm subsidies. The government shouldn’t be paying people to raise/grow (or, in some cases, to NOT raise/grow) anything.

    Ethanol subsidies. Another mess similar to above but this has the added nightmare of diverting a vital food source towards energy production for a substance that takes nearly as much energy to produce as it yields when burned. It’s almost immoral that this is going on and is criminal that the administration isn’t trying to stop it immediately.

    Mortgage interest deduction. Again, an example of one class of people (homeowners – who generally tend to be wealthier than the average citizen) being favored by government policy over another.

    Beyond the mortgage interest deduction, I could list another dozen examples in the tax code where the government is unduly exerting influence over the marketplace. That is just the most obvious and common example.

    You haven’t provided any evidence that the government influence is “unduly exerted”, just that you don’t like these policies. Let’s take the ethanol example. I agree that it’s a bad idea to use food to power our automobiles, but what if the subsidy was for algae? There are many scientists who think that algae is the future of renewable energy. If that’s going to happen we’re going to need government subsidies to help the process along. Doesn’t it seem like ending our dependence on oil is a good way for the government to spend our money? It sure does to me.

  83. Bartbuster says:

    By the way, we wouldn’t be having this conversation without government subsidies. The internet was initially used to link computers at different universities who were doing DoD related research.

  84. dcpetterson says:

    Thanks, Michael. I learned something new 🙂

  85. Mule Rider says:

    “You haven’t provided any evidence that the government influence is “unduly exerted”, just that you don’t like these policies.”

    I don’t have time to write a thesis on these things and was hoping that the distortions would be self-evident enough. Go back and learn about the price distortions and other messes caused over the past 70+ years by the government stepping and paying farmers to grow/raise (or NOT grow/raise) certain crops/livestock. An elite few that were part of a protected class became filthy rich. The government policies helped ensure that acreage (and animals – don’t you guys bitch all the time about the big/mean/nasty meatpackers?) kept getting concentrated into fewer and fewer hands and made it more difficult for others to step in and farm because farmland values were driven sky high. In those cases, the government didn’t protect competition. They made the market less competitive. And, again, they made some people filthy rich in the process. Like I said, look at the corn-for-ethanol subsidies as an example of a huge clusterfrick…something the government got involved in but had no business doing so.

    “but what if the subsidy was for algae?”

    That depends. But would still most likely be a no-no. First of all, if you’re talking about generic investments into scientific research on algae-for-energy, then that’s a different story….and it’s not really a subsidy. I don’t have a problem with government funding research for innovation/technology. But I do have a problem with them paying a protected class of people for something that they feel is right when the market signals say otherwise. The algae-for-energy people should be able to stand on their own two feet and not use the government as a crutch to survive. If their product is not economically feasible, then we’re wasting money by throwing millions of dollars at it trying to fund it. The government does have a responsibility, however, to protect these advanced biofuel sources from undue influence from oil companies. I support that level of protection as a necessary role for the government in upholding the sanctity of competition in the marketplace.

    “There are many scientists who think that algae is the future of renewable energy. If that’s going to happen we’re going to need government subsidies to help the process along.”

    Again, no, we don’t need subsidies. If it’s not economically feasible (even if it will be some day), the government shouldn’t be wasting money trying to get it there. Its role is simply to protect from outside threats (oil companies, car companies, etc.) but not fund it when it doesn’t make economic sense.

    “Doesn’t it seem like ending our dependence on oil is a good way for the government to spend our money? It sure does to me.”

    No, it seems like ending our dependence on oil is a good way for private investors to spend their money and have the government protect those investments from outside threats.

    You’ll learn in due time, grasshopper.

  86. Bart,

    Why the targeted censorship?

    For a couple of reasons which immediately come to mind. One, you’re the most egregious commenter on the site when it comes to topic hijacking. Two, on occasion it’s OK if there’s no relevant current topic to house it, but that wasn’t the case here.

  87. Mule,
    I agree that farm subsidies (including the ethanol) are some of the worst uses we have of tax dollars. It made some sense during the dust bowl, but certainly not today.

    The mortgage interest deduction is the last remaining piece of the much larger interest deduction that used to be allowed, which was intended to encourage investment. I wouldn’t feel bad about it going away, though.

    These two examples illustrate the importance of good sunsetting of laws intended to address a short-term problem.

  88. Bartbuster says:

    That depends. But would still most likely be a no-no. First of all, if you’re talking about generic investments into scientific research on algae-for-energy, then that’s a different story….and it’s not really a subsidy.

    Yes, it is a subsidy. When the government invests money in something being developed by private companies, it is a subsidy.

    I don’t have a problem with government funding research for innovation/technology.

    Then you don’t have a problem with subsidies.

    But I do have a problem with them paying a protected class of people for something that they feel is right when the market signals say otherwise.

    The internet was developed by some of this country’s elite universities. It’s now being exploited by virtually every company in the world.

    The algae-for-energy people should be able to stand on their own two feet and not use the government as a crutch to survive. If their product is not economically feasible, then we’re wasting money by throwing millions of dollars at it trying to fund it.

    New products are rarely are able to stand on their own, especially when they have powerful enemies. Who do you think is more likely to have the nation’s best interests in mind, the US government or Big Oil? If you said Big Oil, you’re an imbecile.

    The government does have a responsibility, however, to protect these advanced biofuel sources from undue influence from oil companies. I support that level of protection as a necessary role for the government in upholding the sanctity of competition in the marketplace.

    Then you support subsidies, because that’s the only way to protect alternative energy sources from Big Oil.

  89. Mule Rider says:

    “These two examples illustrate the importance of good sunsetting of laws intended to address a short-term problem.”

    Agreed.

  90. Mule,
    We’re going to have to stop agreeing so much. People will think you’re a closet liberal.

  91. Mr. Universe says:

    Mule argued,

    “There are many scientists who think that algae is the future of renewable energy. If that’s going to happen we’re going to need government subsidies to help the process along.”

    Again, no, we don’t need subsidies. If it’s not economically feasible (even if it will be some day), the government shouldn’t be wasting money trying to get it there. Its role is simply to protect from outside threats (oil companies, car companies, etc.) but not fund it when it doesn’t make economic sense.

    I would argue that we do. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to anticipate national interests. Agree that ethanol was not smart but sometime we have to pursue things that we didn’t initially think were dumb to find out that they weren’t worth pursuing. The algae thing may be a good idea but I personally think renewable investments (subsidies) are a lot smarter. If you wait for the market to demand it, you risk being in a position to be unable to address it.

    Meatpacking? I haven’t taken a poll but I don’t think we’re overrun with vegans here.

  92. Mr. Universe says:

    Think of it this way, Mule. Any company with the goal of long term survival necessarily needs to do R & D. Government is no different.

  93. Bartbuster says:

    People will think you’re a closet liberal.

    Or vice versa.

  94. dcpetterson says:

    I think advanced battery technology is a good example. Many nations (China and Korea and Japan among them) are investing heavily, at the national level, in this alternate energy technology. When the next few generations of electric cars are built, and when they are affordable and powerful and have good range, they’ll be powered by foreign batteries. And America will be playing catch-up.

    Actually, we probably won’t be. We’ll simply be buying foreign batteries, and we will have given up a promising industry, and thousands (possibly millions) of jobs. The only thing that’s standing in our way is the idea that government shouldn’t be subsidising new technologies.

    The argument is that if it was worth doing, a company would already be doing it. But this has never been the case with new ventures. Columbus had to go to King Ferdinand to get his expedition funded, even though, over time, a lot of companies made a great deal of money off of Columbus’ “discovery.” I hesitate to bring up interstate highways and railroads and the Internet yet again, because they’ve been mentioned so often and are so obvious. But government “subsidies” has a long and important and useful history.

    I understand the distinction between “investing in primary research” and “continuing subsidies in existing industries.” The problem is it’s not the clean line we want it to be. And even if we stick only to “investing in primary research,” the truth is, it is exactly those new technologies that companies don’t want to invest in that the government should be spending money on. (By the way, the same conservatives who object to “subsidies” often support the idea of accelerated write-offs for business “investment”. Yet that i>is a subsidy.)

    The conservative argument is right, but they draw the wrong conclusions. Yes, if it was profitable today, someone would already be doing it. The fact that they aren’t doing it proves it isn’t profitable today (and/or that there are powerful corporate interests opposing it). That’s exactly why the government should be funding it — or at least, should consider funding it.

    I’m speaking in general terms. Obviously, more nuanced thought should be given to any particular suggested new technology. (I don’t think we should yet be spending all that much on advanced teleportation, for example. But it is time for a space elevator, and for wind power.)

    We shouldn’t let “subsidy” become a four-letter-word, and shouldn’t allow calling a thing a “subsidy” to be seen as sufficient reason for not doing it.

  95. Mr. Universe says:

    People will think you’re a closet liberal.

    Or vice versa.

    A liberal closet?

  96. Mule Rider says:

    “I would argue that we do. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to anticipate national interests.”

    I will add (concede?) that because of the national security implications of our oil/energy supply, the government’s role in ensuring that it’s stable, safe, abundant, and (relatively) cheap is much more important than in other, “normal” circumstances and calls for more “intervention” than you would typically expect. That’s why it’s not as cut-and-dried as you see in a textbook example. I stand by my critique of (outdated) farm subsidies and egregious corn-for-ethanol studies.

    “We’re going to have to stop agreeing so much. People will think you’re a closet liberal.”

    Few have believed me (when I’ve said this before) because I’ve been, at times, a fairly vocal and staunch defender of conservatism, but I do have a progressive streak. Is it possible to be a progressive conservative? Is that an oxymoron? Anyway, I’d like to think I’m in a similar vein as Theodore Roosevelt, who was able, depending on the issue, to occupy both ends of the political spectrum. For him, it was more a matter of right and wrong, not right and left. That’s what I want to be about.

    “Or vice versa.”

    The snark at me (or Michael) aside, I’d much rather be finding common ground with someone like him (based on his impressive resume) than on someone renown for stalking another individual (loathesome as he may be) on the internet and using vile or inane epithets against those he disagrees. I’ve never heard Michael call anyone “Blankshot,” nor do I expect I ever will.

  97. shortchain says:

    In regard to the issue of subsidies, consider the economics of the situation. Should the government be subsidizing research into treatment of Alzheimer’s, for example, given that it is likely that, over the next 40 years, that disease is likely to eat our medical-care lunch? Or should we leave it to big pharm, whose interest in it will be to milk it for the maximum profit — likely at public expense?

    Now, I happen to know that some people think that you get more bang for the buck by offering prizes — but that means that many groups might compete and only one will win, in all probability. That’s suitable for some goals, but IMHO, most health care issues are better handled through subsidies or even grants to do basic research.

  98. Bartbuster says:

    A liberal closet?

    A closet conservative.

  99. Mule Rider says:

    “Then you support subsidies, because that’s the only way to protect alternative energy sources from Big Oil”

    Subsidies aren’t the only way the government can support alternative energy industries from Big Oil and other outside influences. They can protect competition and a fair marketplace WITHOUT investing money. That’s all I’m saying.

    Stop making this a pissing match when it doesn’t have to be.

    Besides, while you’re hung up on subsidies, but you’re overlooking the countless other examples where the government has undue influence in the market via the individual tax code.

  100. Bartbuster says:

    That’s why it’s not as cut-and-dried as you see in a textbook example. I stand by my critique of (outdated) farm subsidies and egregious corn-for-ethanol studies.

    Whether you agree with farm or ethanol subsidies is irrelevant. Your original claim was that subsidies were bad. Now it appears that you think they are bad, unless you decide that they are good.

  101. Bartbuster says:

    They can protect competition and a fair marketplace WITHOUT investing money. That’s all I’m saying.

    How? Oil will be cheaper than algae based fuel for many years to come. Algae can’t compete unless it is subsidized.

    Stop making this a pissing match when it doesn’t have to be.

    It only seems like a pissing match because you’re obviously wrong. If you were right you’d probably feel pretty good about the way this discussion is going. I certainly don’t feel like it’s a pissing match.

  102. Mule Rider says:

    “Whether you agree with farm or ethanol subsidies is irrelevant.”

    No, it’s not. Understanding very critical issues such as these and their economic significance very much is relevant.

    “Your original claim was that subsidies were bad. Now it appears that you think they are bad, unless you decide that they are good.”

    And you’ve mischaracterized my position. I never said that “subidies were bad” and left it at that. You asked for examples where I felt government was overreaching into markets and exerting undue influence with deleterious consequences, and I listed two very specific examples general farm subsidies (mostly to crop farmers for corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton) and subsidies targeting ethanol production from grain corn. I (specifically) didn’t list other subsidies because they don’t rise to the egregious level of wrongful influence that I’m railing about. You were the one who brought up alternative energy subsidies. There can be a rational/reasonable level of debate about government support for an up-and-coming market that might have national security implications, which is why I didn’t put it on my initial list.

    “How? Oil will be cheaper than algae based fuel for many years to come. Algae can’t compete unless it is subsidized.”

    Bingo. That’s the point, highlighted by the simple phrase “oil will be cheaper.” We can make sure the technology (and infrastructure) is in place when algae-for-energy can compete, but we shouldn’t be throwing billions away now trying to make it compete now. Our economy will more readily flourish with the cheaper energy source.

    “It only seems like a pissing match because you’re obviously wrong. If you were right you’d probably feel pretty good about the way this discussion is going. I certainly don’t feel like it’s a pissing match.”

    No, I’m not wrong. I laid out above why it seems like a pissing match. Because you’re putting words in my mouth and bringing up topics that I didn’t talk about and are using them to smack me around. You asked for examples where I felt the gov’t was overstepping its influence in the market. I mentioned farm subsidies, ethanol subsidies, and mortgage interest deductions (as well as other tax loopholes benefitting some over others). You’ve addressed exactly ZERO of those points and continue to rail me on something I didn’t list. You say my understanding of the “other” subsidies is “irrelevant” and you won’t even address the mortgage interest deduction but insist on blasting me on a topic you pulled onto the table.

    You asked for examples. I gave them. And you’ve ignored them. Either address those or STFU.

    Can I get an independent third party to confirm this dude’s sophistry? Or am I just imagining this?

  103. Bartbuster says:

    No, it’s not. Understanding very critical issues such as these and their economic significance very much is relevant.

    It would only be relevant if you were arguing the merits of certain subsidies. You weren’t. You simply declared that subsidies are bad.

    Now you’re saying that some subsidies are good, which means you lost the argument.

    We can make sure the technology (and infrastructure) is in place when algae-for-energy can compete

    That is done with subsidies, sparky.

    but we shouldn’t be throwing billions away now trying to make it compete now.

    Like the money we threw away to develop the internet?

    Our economy will more readily flourish with the cheaper energy source.

    It seems to me like we’d flourish even more with a renewable energy source that we’re not having to import from other countries (who mostly hate us).

    I mentioned farm subsidies, ethanol subsidies, and mortgage interest deductions (as well as other tax loopholes benefitting some over others).

    Mortgage interest deductions are intended to promote home ownership. Is there something wrong with that?

    Ethanol was probably a mistake. I’d replace it with algae. Just because one type of subsidy does not work as intended, that doesn’t mean you throw them all out.

    Farm subsidies were probably a good idea in the era of family farming. Again, still not a reason to end subsidies.

    Can I get an independent third party to confirm this dude’s sophistry?

    You can’t feel pretty good about your arguments if you’re searching for support from others.

  104. Bartbuster says:

    You asked for examples where I felt government was overreaching into markets and exerting undue influence with deleterious consequences

    Ethanol wasn’t an example of that, it was just an idea that did not work as well as intended. Do you think the Market never has bad ideas?

  105. Bartbuster says:

    Mule Rider, if your view is that we should stop subsidies once we realize that they’re a bad idea, I can only congratulate you on your grasp of the obvious.

  106. Mule Rider says:

    “You can’t feel pretty good about your arguments if you’re searching for support from others.”

    No, I feel just fine about what I’m saying, but it’s nice to have independent confirmation – and from people who supposedly share your point of view – that you’re an ass who is twisting this argument and using sophistry for deviant purposes just to have an excuse to rail on me and/or conservative ideals.

    I’m not going to address the rest of your inanity because I’ve made it clear where I stand. Again, to recap, you asked for examples of government overreach into markets where they don’t belong. I listed farm subsidies, ethanol subsidies, and the mortgage interest deduction. You’ve skirted around those or outright ignored them just so you can try and slam me over alternative energy investments. You took the conversation on a tangent, created a straw man, and beat me over the head with it. Don’t act like I did anything wrong or have a misguided point of view.

    Again, unless you’re willing to grow up and approach these topics with intellectual honestly, you can be safely ignored. So whether or not you STFU, you won’t be hearing from me again.

    Feel free to have the last word to further bloat your overinflated ego you twisted little freak.

  107. Well, damn, Mule…I was just getting ready to use Blankshot. Ruined my day. 8)

  108. Bartbuster says:

    You’ve skirted around those or outright ignored them

    No, I responded to them.

  109. Mule Rider says:

    “No, I responded to them.”

    That was the last word?

    Damn, I expected more snark than that. Lame.

    You can do better.

    Give me one more bitter, pure asshole comment. I know you have it in you.

    Might as well. I’m done talking to you about economic matters because it’s obvious you want to ignore, obfuscate, misrepresent, etc.

    Just be an a-hole and insult me. That’s all you really want to do in here so just do it. Why even pretend like you want to have dialogue about anything important, especially something about economics.

    I’m comfortable with my knowledge on the subject and am confident I have you outclassed and outsmarted given my education and experience in the field.

    You’re good in other areas – like being an ass – so why don’t you just stick with that.

  110. Number Seven says:

    My problem with ethanol is not the concept but the product used. Brazil is now energy independent because they used a crop like sugar cane which is a far more efficient plant to use.

    Farm subsidies used to go to the family farm but now go to big agro. They should be ended as well as oil subsidies. These kinds of companies can survive without them.

  111. Bartbuster says:

    I’m comfortable with my knowledge on the subject and am confident I have you outclassed and outsmarted given my education and experience in the field.

    Palin is also pretty confident. Confidence doesn’t make you right.

    Your views can be summarized very simply: You don’t like subsidies unless you think they are a good idea.

    The only mystery now is where you get your confidence.

  112. Mr. Universe says:

    @#7

    Yep, you’re right. I’ve been working with a group to develop a fuel alternative from the leftovers of grass stalks (sometimes referred to as switchgrass).

    Brazil is almost completely energy independent due to their sugar cane fuel efforts. We can do something similar here without driving up the price of corn. The research requires subsidies. I spend a lot of time trying to get those resources.

  113. Mule Rider says:

    “Palin is also pretty confident.”

    Yeah, and she’s also a booger-eating moron. Don’t confuse me with her as my resume is far more impressive. While (well, not at the same time) she was flunking out and/or transferring from 5 different colleges majoring in underwater basket-weaving, I graduated with honors from two different and respected universities with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Economics with an emphasis on Agricultural and Resource Economics. And while (this time we are on the same timeline) she was mayor of Hickbilly, AK and otherwise making an ass of herself, I was becoming a respected analyst and consultant for a top-tier firm in my field of study.

    “Confidence doesn’t make you right.”

    I agree. And neither does snark and put-downs, both of which are used frequently to bolster your arguments.

    “Your views can be summarized very simply: You don’t like subsidies unless you think they are a good idea.”

    That would be an incorrect summary.

    “The only mystery now is where you get your confidence.”

    I listed my credentials above.

    The only mystery to me is where you get the chutzpah to accost people on the internet while coming off like such an asshole.

    Just change your name to Mulebuster and stalk me for a little while you little prick. Let’s see where that takes you.

  114. Number Seven says:

    Mr. U., I have heard of that. A commercial plays on Progressive 1090 AM here in Seattle mentioning that. Looks like it has great potential and deserves subsidies for further research. Best of luck! 🙂

  115. Bartbuster says:

    The only mystery to me is where you get the chutzpah to accost people on the internet while coming off like such an asshole.

    Between the two of us, I appear to be the only one who knows what “last word” means.

  116. Mule Rider says:

    “Between the two of us, I appear to be the only one who knows what “last word” means.”

    No, I know what it means. And I also know, just like Pavlov’s dogs, that no matter what I type – hell, it could be a string of incoherent key strokes like ‘a8fgh890fg34hn4;ina890eh40ga89’ – that you’re going to come back with one more retort and put-down. How does it feel, then, knowing you’ve got the same mindless conditioning as a dog? Except you’re not salivating over food, just salivating over one more chance to be an asshole.

    You’ll have the last word. I’m confident of that. Just after I decide what the final thing is I want to say to you. I feel like I’ve put you down – and in your place – enough with this post that this just might be it. So go ahead and have the last word.

    Or prove me wrong.

  117. shortchain says:

    Mr. U.,

    I see switchgrass mentioned a lot, but I wonder about indian grass. Closer relative of sugar cane, and, having tasted both, I suspect it would produce more alcohol with less effort.

  118. Bartbuster says:

    Mule Rider, that’s a pretty impressive pantload. Let’s try this again when you can come up with some coherent ideas on government subsidies.

  119. Mr. Universe says:

    @SC

    We’ve been grappling with the leftovers of rye grass.

  120. shortchain says:

    Mr. U.,

    Thanks. I don’t want to hijack the thread, but I’d be interested in seeing more about the subject. Apropos of which, there was a piece in the Science Daily a couple of days ago about a study that said that, by 2030, with an Apollo Program level of effort, we could transition to a renewable energy economy.

  121. rjwalker says:

    @Bart

    >>Canada’s government rations care to control costs. See how that one flies in the United States.

    And our “system” rations health care based on wealth, income and job opportunity. And, to an extent, whether or not one’s insurer can find a reason to deny coverage.

    Some people don’t like the idea of a “government bureaucrat” deciding their coverage. Other people don’t like the idea of a corporate bureaucrat whose bonus rides on how his/her allowed/denied claims ratio deciding their coverage.

    Corporations and capitalism have done many fine things for our society and country.

    A corporations’ first obligation is to its shareholders.

    Because of that, the decisions they make cannot and will not always )or,arguably, frequently) be what is best for the most people.

    Some things in life are perfect for the private sector and Adam Smith’s invisible hand, some things aren’t.

    I submit that, for “we the people” in aggregate, health care insurance is not best provided by the private sector and its required allegiance to maximized profit.
    = = =
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
    = = =
    I believe that denial of health care to many is a denial of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  122. rjwalker says:

    >>Allows for purchase of health insurance across state lines. In such cases, the laws in effect are those of the insurer’s state, not the insured’s.

    In other words, let insurance companies find the state with the fewest regulations and worst consumer protections and raid into other states. Sort of a Somalia for insurance pirates

    We’ve seen this with credit cards. Do you think the banks are treating you fairly? Do you think it is coincidence that they are all based in Delaware which has no interest limits?

  123. Number Seven says:

    No doubt you have all heard that the HCR has been declared unconstitutional and may end up in SCROTUS.

    Should we continue the discussion here or will a new thread be started soon?

  124. #7,
    I have something in the early works, but probably won’t be ready within the next day. Life intrudes.

  125. Pingback: The GOP Healthcare Alternate Universe | 538 Refugees

  126. Bart DePalma says:

    Looks like the GOP freshmen are driving the budget train. After a rebellion by the frosh complaining that the GOP needed to keep their $100 billion cut campaign promise, the leadership gave in.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-10/republicans-promise-100-billion-in-spending-cuts.html

    Excellent.

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