Too late to defuse the health care bomb

Stephen Green on the GOP’s proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA):

I’m still not convinced that a bad law with GOP fingerprints on it is an improvement over a worse law with Democrat fingerprints on it. Politically it could be much worse.

This is the bind the Republicans find themselves in. For seven years they have promised to repeal ObamaCare if voters would only put them in power. Now, voters have delivered, giving the GOP control of both houses of Congress as well as the presidency, and they are expecting Republicans to step up and deliver as well.

And that’s a problem, because Republicans can’t deliver, and the truth is they never could.

Once ObamaCare was passed, the cake was baked. Though ObamaCare remains as unpopular now as it ever was, the political reality is that once you’ve given people some benefit, it’s nigh impossible to take it back.

Americans are rightly outraged with ObamaCare. They had it forced on them along a strict party line vote. Then they watched as, despite Obama’s repeated promises, their premiums skyrocketed and they lost both their doctors and their health care plans. The mandates, regulations, and extra taxes that came with it just added insult to injury.

You’d think, given it’s unpopularity, ObamaCare would be easy to repeal. And it would be, except for one thing. Amidst all the mandates, broken promises, and runaway costs are a couple of things that people actually want– the biggest of these being that ObamaCare forced insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions.

People love that. And now that they have it, they aren’t going to give it up. Ever.

The thing is that covering preexisting conditions is hugely expensive. If we’re talking about cancers and other terminal illnesses, treatments can easily cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Traditionally, insurance was meant to actually insure against something that may or may not happen in the future. You pay (relatively) small payments up front in order to transfer the risk of a very expensive treatment that may be needed in the future to someone else.

As soon as you throw preexisting conditions into the mix, you’re no longer talking about insurance. You’re no longer asking (or, in the case of ObamaCare, forcing) a company to assume the risk that you might need expensive treatment in the future; you’re now expecting them to absorb the costs of something that is certain, ongoing, and very expensive.

The scam of ObamaCare is that it demands that “insurance” companies provide a much more expensive product to a much larger number of people without charging more for it. It’s not hard to do that math and realize that it doesn’t add up.

ObamaCare was doomed from the start, which is why the “death spirals” we are now experiencing were predicted from the start.

It’s also why any ObamaCare replacement that forces companies to cover preexisting conditions will fail as well. Either premiums will have to skyrocket to cover the extra costs, or (if they are not allowed to charge more) insurance companies will close up shop and seek more profitable ways to invest their money. (Which will force us into “single payer” — i.e. fully socialized health care, which will be even worse than what we have now.)

Economist Thomas Sowell has spent years pointing out that there are no “solutions,” only trade-offs. The trade-off here is that we can have coverage for preexisting conditions or we can have cheaper health “insurance.” But we can’t have both.

That said, no one ever said that people are rational. They want what they want, and they don’t want to pay for it. So they will continue to demand the impossible, and they will continue to vote for politicians that promise the impossible.

And that’s the bind Republicans are in. Because there is no way to win this game. And they will get the blame when it all blows up in our face. Already, the new bill is being referred to as “GOP-care,” “Ryan-care,” and “Trump-care” by various talking heads. Eventually we’ll settle on one of those names or something similar. And, the re-branding done, “ObamaCare,” which lit the fuse in the first place, will fade from memory, leaving Republicans holding the bomb when it goes off.

 

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Lock ’em up, then kick ’em out

On immigration, Andrew McCarthy writes:
On one end, everyone knows that it is neither possible nor desirable to deport the entire illegal immigrant population (estimated at 11 million-plus); on the other, there is strong consensus that serious criminals and those in defiance of deportation orders should be deported forthwith, but we know this is just a minority subset of that population.
I’ll leave the first part of this alone, except to note that, while it may be impossible to deport all illegal immigrants, it’s not clear to me why it would be undesirable.
It’s the second part, the strong consensus that serious criminals should be deported forthwith, that I want to chew on, as I’ve never understood the thinking on this.
Let’s say we catch a rapist, a child molester, or a murderer and determine that he is here illegally. How is simply shipping him back across the border a sufficient punishment? Why should he get away with a very serious crime simply because he committed a less serious one?
If we simply round him up and send him home, there are no consequences for his rape, molestation, or murder. He’s free to prey on people in his own home country, or sneak back into ours and prey on people here. That makes no sense.
The just thing to do is to convict him of his (serious) crime and make him serve out his full sentence, just as any other rapist, child molester, or murderer would. Once he’s released from prison, then he can be “deported forthwith.”
I’d actually take a similar approach to illegal entry into the country. We routinely read stories of people who have illegally crossed our border several times. We kick them out; they sneak back in. And why wouldn’t they? They pay virtually no price for doing so? If they get caught and sent home, they are no worse off for having tried. That’s not a deterrent.
What if when we pick up an illegal immigrant, we give them 30 days in jail, then deport them? If we catch them again, we give them 60 days in jail before sending them home, and so on. (If they’ve committed other crimes, they serve time for those as well.)
It’s true that locking people up, providing room and board for them, is expensive. But people respond to incentives. A strong enough deterrent will stem the flow, and an escalating deterrent would ensure that even the most determined border crossers would eventually have to take heed.
Note: I don’t know what’s going on with WordPress, but it’s not allowing me to put white space between my paragraphs. Hopefully this is some type of glitch that will sort itself out.
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Department of Homeland Insecurity

Daily News:

Eleven passengers strolled through a security lane without being screened at Kennedy Airport early Monday after Transportation Security Administration agents left the area unsupervised, law enforcement sources said.

Instead of following protocol and notifying Port Authority cops, it took the TSA two hours to tell police about the frightening breach, the sources add. […]

Rather than notifying the police, who are specifically trained to handle those situations, the TSA used its own agents to search for the unscreened passengers.

“The TSA tried to mitigate the situation by sending their screeners through the terminal in violation of all the protocols,” a source said. “The protocol says law enforcement is immediately notified.”

When they were finally alerted, Port Authority cops flooded the terminal equipped with surveillance photos of the travelers, but none of them could be found, the sources said. […]

“What you have is 11 people, unscreened, who boarded unknown flights to unknown destinations,” a law enforcement source said. “This is the failure of the TSA to do its job.” […]

The TSA said it was “confident” the incident represented “no threat to the aviation transportation system.”

“TSA works with a network of security layers both seen and unseen,” the statement said. “Once our review is complete, TSA will discipline and retrain the employees as appropriate.”

I have a several thoughts on this:

  1. From a national security standpoint, this single incident probably isn’t as scary as it sounds. A bad actor would have had to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to take advantage of the lapse. Unless this type of thing happens routinely, it’s doubtful that bad guys are just hanging out at airports waiting for an opportunity to slip through security. We can’t say for sure that no bad guys got through, but unless there is more to the story, it’s extremely unlikely.
  2. The TSA’s promise to “discipline and retrain” the employees involved is entirely inadequate. These people abandoned their posts. This was not a simple oversight, as we are all prone to make. They made a decision to leave a gate unguarded. If the TSA is, as we are told, vital to national security, this is unacceptable. Even mere termination doesn’t seem sufficient. If your sole job is to secure a vulnerable location in order to prevent the next 9/11, and you willfully leave that location unsecured, there ought to be more to it than simply losing your job. Whether that should be jail time, a stiff fine, or something else, I don’t know. But if we aren’t serious enough about airport security to hold those responsible for it truly accountable, then securing our airports isn’t as vital as we pretend it is.
  3. The same goes for whoever chose to ignore protocol and wait two hours before notifying law enforcement. Either the TSA is performing a vital service and should be held accountable, or we need to rethink the whole thing.
  4. The TSA’s statement that they are “confident” there is “no threat to the aviation transportation system” is a joke. How can they be confident when they still haven’t identified the people who strolled through security? How can they say anything definitive when they haven’t even finished their review? Maybe the person who made this statement needs to be “disciplined and retrained.”
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Dangerous Times

The decision was made two hours before the Wednesday night event because a crowd of more than 1,500 had gathered outside the venue, the university said in a statement. […]

The 32-year-old Greek-born British journalist is a senior editor for the conservative news and opinion website. He’s been called a spokesperson for the so-called “alt-right” movement for his extreme views on Islam, social justice, and political correctness.

He’s a self-proclaimed “internet troll” who has been widely criticized for being racist and misogynistic. […]

The protests turned violent shortly before 5 p.m. as the event approached, with demonstrators lighting fires and fireworks on the Cal campus. […]

Yiannopoulos’ talks have sparked protests, shouting matches and occasional violence at stops around the country. A man was shot and wounded at protests outside his Jan. 21 talk at the University of Washington.

Rowdy protests at UC Davis Jan. 13 prompted campus Republicans to cancel his appearance at the last minute. His final stop was supposed to be UCLA on Thursday but the invitation was rescinded, making Berkeley his grand finale. [ABC-7]

The danger I refer to in the post title is not a reference to the violence at this event, though that is, of course, a concern. Far more dangerous is that violence and intimidation have become the “go to” move for cultural and political discourse in America.

It’s rare to go more than a day or two anymore without seeing a similar scene played out somewhere. It’s like the flash mob phenomenon never truly died out, but instead turned ugly, with troupes of fascists touring the country and inflicting their particular brand of grotesque performance art on the rest of us.

And make no mistake, though it pretends at tolerance, peace, and opposition to hatred, it is indeed fascism. Turn on the news, mute the talking heads, and just observe for a while. What do you see? Which side is shutting down dialogue with force and intimidation? Which side is calling for and resorting to violence, often against innocent people and their property? Which side is using terrorism rather than persuasion to compel the thoughts and behaviors they deem appropriate? Which side lacks tolerance for the mere ideas of others?

Why is it important to mute the talking heads? Because they are part of the performance. They act as narrator, showing you only what they want you to see, while nudging you to see it and react to it in a desired way.

Look at the “protesters,” they say… beating people and setting cars on fire. Without that audio loop in your head constantly reminding you that you are watching “protests,” you might otherwise conclude you are watching what used to be called a “riot.”

Violence broke out today, they say… using the passive voice to redistribute the blame from the attackers to their victims. (What’s the world coming to?, we lament, generalizing the problem rather than recognizing that the violence is coming from one side.)

And that’s the intent. Many decent people are being manipulated into silence and inaction by the narrative that has been created. If we become convinced that The whole world has gone to hell or that Both sides are equally to blame, we (understandably) tend to want to withdraw to insulate ourselves from the madness. But the fascists count on that. They count on decent people concluding that the best course is to just stay out of it. And then the fascists win.

Unfortunately, this has gone on so long that it has become the norm. Many of us routinely and automatically assume the most vile motives of friends, neighbors, and strangers who may have formed different opinions for perfectly reasonable reasons. Then we use the ill motives we have projected onto them as a rationalization to “protest” their opinions by beating them senseless and destroying their stuff.

They are the “haters,” after all. They are the “intolerant” ones. This is what “peace” looks like

Update: Here is Milo’s response to the violence that shut down his speech. His observation that the intent is to equate and blur the lines between ideas and action is what I was getting at above. The fascists cast his ideas as a threat to safety in order to justify their use of violence to prevent him from voicing them.

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Scientists Create A New Kind Of Matter: Time Crystals

Popular Mechanics:

Crystals are structures in which a pattern of atoms or molecules repeats in space. Now, two teams of researchers have figured out that crystals’ repeating patterns can also exist through time. These “time crystals,” detailed in a new paper in Physical Review Letter, are an entirely new kind of matter, one that can never reach equilibrium.

To create the time crystals, researchers at University of Maryland hooked together 10 ytterbium atoms and hit them with two lasers multiple times to keep them out of equilibrium. Though the atoms did settle into a pattern, they could not reach equilibrium, meaning that the crystals perpetually remain in motion, though they don’t contain any energy. Almost all of physics is based in studying matter that is at equilibrium, so the ability to create these non-equilibrium crystals is a huge deal for the future of physics.

[…]

The researchers say that time crystals resemble Jell-O. When you tap Jell-O, it jiggles. The only difference is that the crystals are jiggling without using any energy, without any tap. By definition, time crystals can never stop oscillating, no matter how little energy they contain.

Articles like this, which attempt to describe some new scientific discovery in terms a layman can understand, often make me scratch my head. On the one hand, this sounds very cool. On the other hand, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, so how would I know?

Take the observation that these “crystals perpetually remain in motion, though they don’t contain any energy.” I don’t remember much from my high school physics class, but I do remember that perpetual motion is supposed to be impossible. Have these researches just done the impossible? I gather not, since that would be a pretty big deal, and the author doesn’t really milk it. (I imagine a headline like “Scientific Consensus Shattered!” might do the trick in today’s environment, where appeals to consensus have replaced the scientific method as the arbiter of truth.)

I’m not sure what it means that the crystals “don’t contain any energy.” Doesn’t everything contain energy? I assume these things are made of molecules, meaning they’ve got electrons and the like bouncing all around inside of them. Isn’t that energy? I assume these crystals have mass. Again, I’m weak on my science, but I thought Einstein showed us that mass and energy are the same thing.

By the time I read through an article like this, the “cool factor” has often melted away for me. I still have sense that something cool, perhaps very cool, went down, but that I somehow missed it. (I never was one of the cool kids. See what I did there?)

And I’m never quite sure why I missed it. Maybe I’m not smart enough, or don’t have the scientific foundation to understand what’s going on. Or maybe the author is a poor writer, or can’t explain it well because she doesn’t understand it herself. Maybe the scientist she interviewed didn’t explain it well. It can be tough to reduce complex things to layman’s terms.

It could be any, or all of these things, but whatever the case, I feel a little bummed. Because damn that sounds cool, and I missed it!

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Should California Split Off or Split Up?

John Fund thinks California secession is a bad idea, and that splitting the state in two makes more sense.

The first time I remember hearing the idea of splitting California into two states — Northern and Southern — was back in the ’70s when I was in junior high school in Los Angeles. I assume the idea was tossed around before that, but that  was when it showed up on my radar.

The idea made a lot of sense to me at the time. Even at my age — probably 12 or 13 — it was obvious that northern and southern California were different places with different cultures. Also, I’d just started to recognize the wisdom of federalism (though I didn’t know the word then), and how it made more sense to try to manage things as close to home as possible, where people shared more narrowed interests and could keep a better eye on those interests. It seemed silly to try to manage something as massive and diverse as California with a one-size-fits-all approach from a city at the other end of the state.

I thought at the time that splitting the state into three parts — Northern, Central, and Southern — would be even better than two. I’d had a chance to travel to, and through, northern California a few times by then. My brother and I were in a youth band that traveled to the World’s Fair in Spokane, Washington in 1974, and to Vancouver, British Columbia, a few years later. My family had also made a road trip one summer to visit a friend of my mother’s who had moved to Napa to pick up a job picking grapes in the vineyards.

This was long before the days of cell phones, tablets, and iPods. There wasn’t a lot to do for a teenager on a multi-day road trip, except stare out the window for hours at a time. But these trips gave me a chance to see my state, and it impressed on me just how big it was, and how different it looked and felt as we moved up and down it.

What made sense to me was to cut the state up into thirds, with one border just above Los Angeles and another just above San Francisco. That would give Central and Southern California their big, metropolitan areas. And Northern California could be free of the big cities with which they seemed to have nothing at all in common.

I realize, all these years later, that mine was a simplistic solution. I didn’t, and still don’t, know enough to balance out all the demographic and economic factors to ensure that the newly formed states could look after themselves and make a go of it.

But I also realize that my basic impulse, that people do better when they can manage their own interests in small communities with others who understand and share those interests, was a correct one. And to ask a small group of people — no matter how smart they are — in a city far removed from those communities to govern them under the same set of rules and assumptions is to ask the impossible.

So I still endorse the idea of splitting up California, or perhaps letting it go it’s own way, if it came to that. But I’d defer to people like Fund or Victor Davis Hanson on the best way to do it.

But it’s all a pipe dream, anyway. The very people that are pushing secession as a response to the rest of the country vetoing their choice for president would never let it happen. They are statists, through and through, and the idea of small, local government is anathema to them.

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The road to government-run health care

The promise of ObamaCare — more stuff for more people at a lower cost — has always defied common sense. I like to think that, at some level, the American people understood that from the start. But people are capable of embracing all manner of nonsense when they want something badly enough. So while ObamaCare was, and remains, unpopular, nearly half the nation still pretends we’re better off now than we were before, despite skyrocketing premiums and collapsing health care markets.

Once it became clear that Democrats would push ObamaCare through without a single Republican vote, the promises of repeal from Republicans began. I always thought that was wishful thinking. Once you give people something, they rarely will allow you to take it back, even if it’s something they didn’t want in the first place. They will find something about it they like and are unwilling to part with, even if that something comes at unsustainable costs. In the case of health care, people are unwilling to part with coverage of pre-existing conditions. They just don’t want to pay for it. They want to be rid of the mandates and the skyrocketing premiums, but they aren’t willing to give up the benefits those things pay for.

So Republicans are in a bind. And they know it. The talk has already shifted from repealing ObamaCare to replacing it. They will claim we can keep “the good parts” of ObamaCare (i.e. the “free” stuff) and eliminate “the bad parts” (i.e. the costs). But this is the same snake oil the Democrats sold us in the first place, the idea that they have come up with a way to defy the laws of economics and deliver the proverbial free lunch.

The question is what happens when they can’t do that?

My guess is that the Democrats will make hay by comparing the failed Republican solution to the fantasy of how much better things would have been if we’d only stayed with ObamaCare. And that the solution is to move to fully government-run (so called “single payer”) health care, which will give more people more stuff at a lower cost.

And people will believe that too. Because they will really, really want to.

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