Tag Archives: Obamacare

Arthur Brooks: why is the American public shifting from optimism to envy?

Labor Force Participation down to 62.8%
Labor Force Participation down to 62.8%

An editorial by Arthur Brooks appeared today in the leftist New York Times. His topic is the shift from optimism to envy, why it is happening, and whether envy makes us happier than optimism.

Excerpt: (links removed)

The Irish singer Bono once described a difference between America and his native land. “In the United States,” he explained, “you look at the guy that lives in the mansion on the hill, and you think, you know, one day, if I work really hard, I could live in that mansion. In Ireland, people look up at the guy in the mansion on the hill and go, one day, I’m going to get that bastard.”

[…]Unsurprisingly, psychologists have found that envy pushes down life satisfaction and depresses well-being. Envy is positively correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility it breeds may actually make us sick. Recent work suggests that envy can help explain our complicated relationship with social media: it often leads to destructive “social comparison,” which decreases happiness. To understand this, just picture yourself scrolling through your ex’s wedding photos.

My own data analysis confirms a strong link between economic envy and unhappiness. In 2008, Gallup asked a large sample of Americans whether they were “angry that others have more than they deserve.” People who strongly disagreed with that statement — who were not envious, in other words — were almost five times more likely to say they were “very happy” about their lives than people who strongly agreed. Even after I controlled for income, education, age, family status, religion and politics, this pattern persisted.

It’s safe to conclude that a national shift toward envy would be toxic for American culture.

Unfortunately, in the wake of the Great Recession, such a shift may well be underway, given the increasing anxiety about income inequality and rising sympathy for income redistribution. According to data from the General Social Survey, the percentage of Americans who feel strongly that “government ought to reduce the income differences between the rich and the poor” is at its highest since the 1970s. In January, 43 percent of Americans told the Pew Research Center that government should do “a lot” to “reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else.”

Why the shift? The root cause of increasing envy is a belief that opportunity is in decline. According to a 2007 poll on inequality and civic engagement by the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, just 30 percent of people who believe that everyone has the opportunity to succeed describe income inequality as “a serious problem.” But among people who feel that “only some” Americans have a shot at success, fully 70 percent say inequality is a major concern.

People who believe that hard work brings success do not begrudge others their prosperity. But if the game looks rigged, envy and a desire for redistribution will follow.

This is the direction we’re heading. According to Pew, the percentage of Americans who feel that “most people who want to get ahead” can do so through hard work has dropped by 14 points since about 2000. As recently as 2007, Gallup found that 70 percent were satisfied with their opportunities to get ahead by working hard; only 29 percent were dissatisfied. Today, that gap has shrunk to 54 percent satisfied, and 45 percent dissatisfied. In just a few years, we have gone from seeing our economy as a real meritocracy to viewing it as something closer to a coin flip.

There is a good lesson in this for people who want what is best for the poor. Simply receiving money from others is not going to make poor people happy. What we need to focus on is providing the poorest people with opportunities.

One way to help the poor is by giving poor children a better education. Conservatives support school choice, which takes money away from government and puts it back in the hands of parents, letting them choose the best school for their child. Schools have to produce good outcomes in order to earn the money, just like private businesses have to compete for customers. But Democrats oppose school choice, as when they killed the D.C. voucher program that helped poor black students. Less school choice helps public schools to be insulated from competition, which provides worse outcomes to students, especially poor minority students. If we really cared about poor, minority students, we would put pressure on public schools to compete with private schools. But the Democrats don’t want that, they prefer to give favors to their teacher union allies.

Democrats also want to punish job creators with high taxes and burdensome regulations. Democrats passed Obamacare, which punishes businesses with taxes if they allow part-time workers to work for more than 30 hours a week. Many jobs were lost because of this, and many people are now struggling to pay higher premiums for plans with higher deductibles and co-pays. Obamacare is a nightmare of intrusive regulations, too. Now the Democrats are talking about raising the minimum wage, which is going to put even more pressure on employers to lay off workers, because they can’t afford to pay them more money for the same work. For Democrats, this is all to the good, though. Because if the poor don’t have jobs, or can’t work enough hours, they start to see the economic game as “rigged” and they are more responsive to “envy rhetoric”. They start to look to big government for handouts, rather than trying to prevent the government from taxing and regulating job creators.

What we need to see is that it’s not the Democrats’ objective to help people find jobs. They gain when people become more envious, like in European countries, and start to vote to grow the size and power of government to redistribute wealth. Speeches about income inequality never have the goal of giving people jobs. None of Obama’s policies aim to do that. That’s why he won’t build the Keystone XL pipeline, or boost domestic energy development here at home. Instead, they want to extend unemployment benefits and pass the costs on to the next generation. Their goal is to get you unemployed or on disability or on welfare, so that you will vote for the government to continue to take your neighbor’s money to give it to you. That manufactured envy is what keeps the Democrats in power.

This plan to borrow from young people to buy the votes of old people today works for a while, until the money runs out. But by then, the politicians who put in place the redistribution programs are usually long gone .

How well is Obamacare working, and will Ted Cruz or Donald Trump fix health care?

Obamacare Bronze plans: and don't forget the $6850 deductibles
Obamacare Bronze plans

Two stories, then we’ll see whether Trump or Cruz is more likely to repeal Obamacare.

The Daily Signal lists 4 problems with Obamacare:

  1. Rising Costs
  2. Higher Taxes
  3. Unstable Enrollment
  4. Hostility to Personal Liberty

Let’s look at the first two:

Rising Costs

Contrary to repeated administration promises, Obamacare has not only failed to lower costs, but has also imposed additional expenses on millions of already over-stretched individuals and families.

Premiums in the government created exchanges were an initially jolting experience for Americans who did not qualify for taxpayer subsidies, and it appears that in 2016 premium increases in the government’s health insurance exchanges will again hit enrollees in the double digit range.

When it comes to average job-based premiums, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that they, too, are climbing, and will rise almost 60 percent between now and 2025. Deductibles in the Affordable Care Act exchanges have also jumped higher than officials anticipated, discouraging the purchase of the Obamacare coverage among the poor and the young.

[…]Today, based on CBO data, the net cost of Obamacare’s coverage provisions—subtracting the taxes and penalties—will amount to over $1.4 trillion over the next ten years.

Higher Taxes

Obama promised he would not raise taxes on the middle-class. But Congressional Budget Office data indicates that Obamacare’s numerous taxes, fees, and penalties will cost about $832 billion over the years 2016 – 2025. And middle-class Americans are going to be hit—directly and indirectly.

Even lower-income workers will get hit by Obamacare taxes, including the so-called Cadillac tax on expensive health plans offered by large firms, as well as the individual mandate tax penalty.

For 2016, that mandate tax penalty for a single adult is $695 and up to $2,085 for a family.

We also need to remember how many companies took their employees off of the full-time work week to keep them below the 30 hours, so that they wouldn’t have to buy them this expensive health care with all the new minimum coverages (drug addiction therapy coverage is mandatory now?) that raised the price of health care insurance premiums.

But there’s more than just more government spending, higher premiums, higher deductibles and higher tax penalties for those who opt out of the individual mandate. There’s also the regulation side of things. Doctors are now being regulated by the government to the point where they are dropping out of the field. And there are fewer people who want to become doctors, because of the regulations.

Primary care doctor shortage
Primary care doctor shortage

So, how do we fix it? Well, one person who will not fix it is Donald Trump. Trump isn’t aware of any of the problems with Obamacare – he wants to expand government control of health care. Make it cover more people, for more mandated coverages (toupees, wigs, Viagra, hair replacement surgery?)

When government pays for all the health care provisioning, we call that a single-payer system. And Trump is for it – that clip is from September 27, 2015. In the Fox News debate in August, he said that single payer health care “works in Canada“.

Do you think more government-control of health care will make things better? Look at how things are going in the single-payer system for our armed forces veterans in the VA single-payer system – they are dying while bureaucrats collect fat bonuses for concealing the waiting lists. Just as in Canada and the UK, the patients are dying on waiting lists while waiting for care. They pay into the Trump health care system their whole lives, then when they are old and of no use to the government, they are denied care and left to die.

Single-payer health care wait times in Canada
Single-payer health care wait times in Canada

How much do Canadians pay in taxes, in order to wait on waiting lists for the government to decide to give them health care?

This Toronto Sun article explains:

Canadians retain just 21% of their income after paying the taxman and covering the cost of necessities, according to a Fraser Institute study.

Taxes gobble up a whopping 42% of the average Canadian family’s income. About 37% of income goes to cover housing, food and clothing.

“We’ve found … that over the last five decades or so, the tax bill for the average Canadian family has grown dramatically,” said study coauthor Charles Lammam.

Well, what about Ted Cruz? Has he got any sort of plan for Obamacare and consumer-centered health care reform?

Ted Cruz

Yes, he’s going to repeal Obamacare on day one, and then work to replace it with this:

Main points:

Ted Cruz's health care plan: choice and competition
Ted Cruz’s health care plan: choice and competition

Cruz explains it himself here:

At the eighth Republican presidential primary debate on February 6, 2016, Ted Cruz discussed repealing Obamacare: “Socialized medicine is a disaster. It does not work. If you look at the countries that have imposed socialized medicine, that have put the government in charge of providing medicine, what inevitably happens is rationing. … If I’m elected president, we will repeal every word of Obamacare. And once we do that, we will adopt common sense reforms, number one, we’ll allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines that will drive down prices and expand the availability of low cost catastrophic insurance. We’ll expand health savings accounts; and we will de-link health insurance from employment so that you don’t lose your health insurance when you lose your job, and that way health insurance can be personal, portable and affordable and we keep government from getting in between us and our doctors.”

Those of you who like to read consumer-centered health care policy scholars like me (Sally C. Pipes, Regina Herzlinger, Michael D. Tanner, Michael F. Cannon, John C. Goodman, Ilya Shapiro, Avik Roy, etc.) will recognize a lot of what he is proposing – he stole it all from the conservative and libertarian policy experts.

To me, that sounds better than Trump’s plan of expanding government-run health care into universal government-run health care. If I wanted that, I’d go to Canada or the UK, and just die on a waiting list after paying 42% of my salary into the system for my whole working life.

ABC, CBS and NBC silent about bill that repeals Obamacare and defunds Planned Parenthood

Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood
Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood

Life News reports about an astonishing story of left-wing media bias in the mainstream media. (H/T Mary from Marin)

Excerpt:

On Wednesday night, the major network evening newscasts all failed to cover the first full,successful Congressional vote to repeal of ObamaCare and defund of Planned Parenthood that will go to President Obama’s desk where he’ll likely veto the measures seeking to undo his health care law and strike federal funding from the nation’s largest provider of abortions.

Despite the final vote in the House coming late in the afternoon, ABC’s World News Tonight, the CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News chose not to even muster a news brief informing their viewers of this action by the Republican-led Congress (with the Senate vote coming via reconciliation).

Providing a more balanced contrast, FNC’s Special Report had a full segment with host Bret Baier and chief congressional correspondent Mike Emanuel live on Capitol Hill providing the details.

Baier returned from commercial break by noting that “Republicans are making history and making their point with their latest attempt to overturn the President’s health care law, but they still are not actually successfully repealing ObamaCare.”

Emanuel mentioned that the House vote was 240-181 and while “House lawmakers have voted dozens of times to repeal ObamaCare,” all the previous attempts ended because “Senate Democrats have successfully filibustered the measures.”

The FNC correspondent then explained how the legislation passed the Senate and that it also included language to defund Planned Parenthood: “But this time, the Senate used a procedure known as reconciliation to pass this bill. House leaders noted it would strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood and force the President to defend his signature law.”

After soundbites from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Paul Ryan, Emanuel ruled that Republicans “recognize the President will veto the bill and they’re not expected to have the votes to override it” as Speaker Ryan has instead “urg[ed] his colleagues to come up with an ObamaCare alternative to provide a contrast.”

Instead of highlighting this story, ABC and NBC both devoted full stories to hyping the $500 million PowerBall jackpot set to be drawn late Wednesday night.

I am personally not a fan of Fox News, but there are two exceptions. Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. The bipartisan panels on those shows is worth the time to watch it. But the main thing I want to say about this story is about the mainstream media’s silence. When you look in the mainstream media, you will not find any pro-life voices there. And this is despite the fact that half the country is pro-life. I just think it’s important for us to not sit there in front of the television and absorb the values of these carefully coifed and made-up “journalists”. They are there to promote secular leftism, and nothing more. So be critical when you watch.

New study: Obamacare will decrease workforce by 2 million full-time worker’s hours

He voted for Obamacare, and he got it

He voted for Obamacare, and he got it… good and hard!

The study was done by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and reported by Fox News.

Excerpt:

ObamaCare will reduce work hours equivalent to 2 million jobs in the next decade amid a host of incentives not to work or to work less, a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report says — the latest blow to President Obama’s signature health insurance plan.

The report estimates the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, will make the labor supply shrink by 0.86 percent in 2025. This amounts to a shrinkage equivalent to approximately 2 million full-time workers.

The nonpartisan CBO estimates that the decline will come primarily due to workers responding to changes made by the law to federal programs and tax policy. The agency points to the introduction of health care subsidies tied to income as a key factor — which in turn raises effective tax rates as someone’s earnings rise, therefore reducing the amount of work Americans choose to do.

“Subsidies decline as income increases, reducing the return on earning additional income,” the report says. “That decline is effectively an increase in recipients’ effective marginal tax rate, so it generally reduces their work incentives through the substitution effect.”

Since the subsidies also reduce the burdens attached to unemployment, the CBO predicts that the law will create additional “work disincentives” for those who are unemployed for part of the year. It concludes that the exchange subsidies will contribute to half of the overall reduction of the labor supply.

The report also points to direct taxes, such as ACA’s hike of the payroll tax on high earners for Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Program, as a reason for discouraging some from working. Another pressure on wages will come from the employer mandate, which imposes a penalty on employers if they have more than 50 employees and do not provide insurance. The CBO predicts that within a few years this charge will be passed on to employees in the form of lower wages.

[…]The report comes at an awkward time for the Obama administration: just days after the Senate passed a bill that would repeal key parts of the law. The White House has said that President Obama will veto the legislation.

Oh well. It’s not like workers need to be paid fairly for their labor, right? I’m really not seeing how Obama expects the next generation to pay for the $10 trillion he’s added onto the national debt. If they are working less, then they are paying less in taxes. It’s fun to give speeches where you promise your gullible supporters a lot of goodies, but then, if the goodies discourage their employers from giving them work hours, then how will the spending be paid for?

More than anyone in modern politics, Barack Obama is a man who has perfected the art of sounding confident about things he literally knows nothing about. When elect a clown, you get failure. It doesn’t matter how confident a candidate sounds. It matters whether he has a record of solving the problems that he is talking about. Results, not rhetoric.

Senate Republicans vote to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal major parts of Obamacare

Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood
Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood

Life News reports on some very good news for conservatives.

Excerpt:

The Senate voted today for a bill that would de-fund Planned Parenthood after it was caught selling the body parts of aborted babies. Hearings have exposed how the abortion company likely violated federal laws to sell the body parts.

The bill would block, for one year, most federal payments to Planned Parenthood. At least 89% of federal funding of Planned Parenthood would be blocked by this bill. The bill would repeal a number of major components of the Obamacare health law, including two of the major provisions that will lead to rationing of lifesaving care — the “Independent Payment Advisory Board” and the “excess benefits tax.”

Senators voted 52-47 (see below for roll call) for the reconciliation bill which would de-fund Planned Parenthood and repeal major portions of Obamacare.

The bill now goes back to the House and will head to President Barack Obama once the House approves the measure. Though Obama will veto the bill, the vote makes it clear that, under a pro-life president, Congress can get a de-funding bill approved with a majority vote that the president would sign into law.

Now, I actually don’t want to look that far into the future, because as long as Mitch McConnell is Senate Majority Leader, nothing is for sure. However, there are immediate benefits to passing this bill and sending it to the White House in spite of that caution:

  1. We now have all the Democrat senators on record about where they stand with respect to repealing major parts of Obamacare, and de-funding Planned Parenthood. This information can and will be used to defeat them in the 2016 Senate races. Republicans face a major challenge to their Senate majority in 2016, and every little bit helps.
  2. Republican candidates for President will be able to use the veto of health care reform and de-funding Planned Parenthood to distinguish themselves from Democrat presidential candidates. Obamacare and Planned Parenthood funding are both really unpopular. I personally know some Christians who think that Obama is pro-life and who think that Obama is in favor of fixing Obamacare. With this veto on record, Republican presidential candidates will be able to clearly show that a Republican president is required in order to fix health care and defund Planned Parenthood.

Look, if you don’t like Obamacare – higher deductibles, higher premiums, fewer doctors, less health care – then Republicans are the only game in town. And now, everyone has shown whose side they are on with respect to funding abortion, too. Going forward, expect the Republicans to be reminding people about these votes and vetoes over and over again.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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