The Obamacare Fun Continues

While Obamacare is causing great harm to most Americans, I still find it entertaining to a degree.  This is a classic government program in that it is doing the exact opposite of its stated intent – in this case, providing affordable health insurance.  It differs from most other government programs in that people are experiencing the pain right away and know where to place the blame.
Some health industry officials are now saying that the premiums related to Obamacare could double in some parts of the country.  The Affordable Care Act should have been called the Unaffordable Care Act.
While the dysfunctional website was getting all of the attention back in October and November, it was inevitable that bigger problems lay ahead.  Then millions of people were receiving cancellation notices from the insurance companies, completely contradicting Obama’s original claims that if you like your current plan, you can keep it.
The next major problem, and probably the biggest problem, is the massive premium increases.  This includes health insurance premiums for people who already have plans through their employer.  It isn’t just people signing up for Obamacare.
But this problem is a lot different.  It isn’t like the website that was fixable.  This problem isn’t going to go away.  People will either have to forego having health insurance or else they will see the huge premium expense each month.  In addition, for those signing up for high-deductible plans, they will also get sticker shock the first time they have some kind of a medical emergency.
To top this off, Obama said in an interview that the American people just need to prioritize when it comes to things like having a cell phone.  Aside from the fact that a monthly cell phone payment is not going to cover the cost of health insurance for most people, this statement is quite amusing from someone taking million dollar vacations on the taxpayer dime.
This is going to spell major trouble for the Democrats in the mid-term elections this November.  This is one of those rare pieces of legislation that split almost unanimously along party lines.
Generally speaking, I think most Republicans are more free market oriented than Democrats.  But this doesn’t always translate into good Republican politicians, even on domestic economic issues.  There are some who probably go to Washington DC with good intentions, but those good intentions are quickly destroyed by the lust of power.
But in the case of Obamacare, it worked out for Republicans in their opposition.  Most Republicans in DC don’t really favor the free market to a strong degree and this includes the area of medical care and insurance.  But while they don’t offer much in the way of alternatives, it is universal opposition to Obamacare by the Republicans at this point.
Politicians will say that they don’t want to run a negative campaign and that they want to present their own positive agenda.  But the reality is that negative campaigns can win elections, particularly if you strike at a fear or a hot spot of voters.  It will be easy for Republicans to campaign against Obamacare and you will be surprised how many people respond.
It is not that most voters like the Republican candidates, but some voters will be absolutely furious at the Democrats for passing Obamacare.
While the large premiums (and continuing to rise) will be really harmful to the average American, it will be the gift that keeps on giving, politically speaking, at least for the Republicans.
People get mad about a lot of things politically, but they also have short memories.  By the time the election comes around, most of it is forgotten.  But the American people will be continually reminded every month of how much a disaster Obamacare is when they have to pay for it.
The whole healthcare and insurance system was a disaster when Obama entered office.  But Obamacare has made it far worse and that is what people will blame, with the exception of a few loyal Democrats.
There will be a push for a full government takeover of the medical industry.  It may or may not work.  But right now, Obamacare is not well liked and it is only going to get worse, even with Obama arbitrarily changing the law by himself.
As I continue to say, the Republicans are not going to defeat Obamacare.  Obamacare is going to defeat Obamacare.  It is already happening.

The Legacy of Harry Browne

It is hard to believe, but this world has been without Harry Browne for over 8 years now.  He passed away on March 1, 2006.  While he is no longer physically with us, he did leave quite a legacy with his thoughts and ideas.  While most Harry Browne material will be found in written form in books and articles, there are also some great speeches and radio shows that he did.

Harry Browne, while perhaps most famous as the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000, was far more than a politician.  In fact, I would say that he was the anti-politician.  But his talents were not just in politics and libertarianism.  He became somewhat known in the early 1970’s for his investment advice.  He also wrote How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, which was more of a self-help book.  If you’ve never read it, you may want to see if you can pick up a used copy somewhere.

I find it important to bring up Harry Browne’s name every once in a while.  I probably refer to him the most in investing because I am a big advocate of the permanent portfolio as he described in his book Fail-Safe Investing.  But while he was influential to me in the investment world, he also had a great impact on shaping me as a libertarian, especially in matters of foreign policy.

It is important for me to let others know about Harry Browne because a lot of new people to the libertarian community are not familiar with him, or at least not much.  They may know his name and they may know that he was on the LP ticket, but they haven’t read his material.

The libertarian movement has exploded since 2007 when Ron Paul first ran as a Republican in the presidential primaries.  Ron Paul woke up a small (but significant) minority of people that we didn’t really know existed.  Or maybe they didn’t exist but only found themselves by listening to Ron Paul.  I think the turning point was when Ron Paul was criticized by Rudy Giuliani for his remarks on foreign policy and 9/11 during a debate.

While the Ron Paul followers are a diverse group, it is safe to say that the majority of them are new to the libertarian movement (within the last 7 years) and they are relatively young (under 30).  Many of these people are really solid libertarians, probably because they have listened to Ron Paul.  But they are reading other works such as Tom Woods, Bob Murphy, Tom DiLorenzo, Lew Rockwell, and Peter Schiff, just to name a few.  They may also be reading people who are no longer living, such as Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises.

Unfortunately, I don’t think a great deal of the Ron Paul followers today are reading Harry Browne.  That is why I think it is important to mention his name.  He influenced quite a few people in his lifetime and I think libertarians today who are unfamiliar with him would benefit greatly in reading some of his work.

Harry Browne had a way of not coming across too radical, while still maintaining a radical position, in a good way.  He never offered a government solution to a problem.  One of his books is titled Why Government Doesn’t Work.

But Harry Browne also offered a very positive message.  I had the pleasure of meeting him in 2004 and he gave a speech on the prospects for liberty in the future.  He said that most libertarians didn’t understand that despite everything seemingly working against us, that we had human nature on our side.  He said that most people generally want to be free to make their own decisions.

He was very positive and believed that we can change the world.  You have to realize that this was before the surge of libertarianism that happened starting in 2007 with Ron Paul’s campaign.  If Harry Browne were around today, I think he would be pleasantly surprised at how popular libertarianism has become, but not shocked either.

He always believed in education and that is why he ran for president.  He had no illusions of winning and he even said so during his campaigns.  He just wanted to teach others on the benefits of liberty.

If you haven’t read anything by Harry Browne, I urge you to do so.  Read some of his articles.  Even better, get one of his books.

Is Your Property Safe From the EPA?

There was a recent story about a family in Wyoming that is experiencing the ruthlessness of government bureaucrats the hard way.  The family built a pond on “their property” in 2012 and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is telling them it violates the Clean Water Act.
The government is claiming that the family is in violation of building a dam or creek without a permit, as well as claiming that contents from the family-built pond are running into other waterways.
The EPA is now threatening fines of up to $75,000 per day for the supposed violation.  That is not a misprint.  It isn’t $75 per day, which would seem harsh enough.  It is $75,000 per day, which is a completely ridiculous figure.  The family is refusing to pay.
Property Rights
There are so many questions that can be asked here, but the obvious one is in regards to property rights.  Why is the government allowed to tell others what they can and can’t do with their own property?
If government has any role to play (in a free and just society), it is only to protect property rights and enforce contracts.  In this case, not only is the government not protecting property rights, the government itself is violating the property rights.
Although this can be said about most things that government is involved in, this is a particularly egregious example, particularly when it comes down as so totalitarian.
If the property owners were polluting or infringing on other people’s property, then there would be a legitimate dispute.  But there would also be an actual victim, which would be the owner or owners of the property being infringed upon.  In this particular case in Wyoming, the EPA claims seem to be non-specific.
The next question is why the EPA has the power to simply dictate orders and fines people on demand.  Shouldn’t the Wyoming family at least have their day in court to show that their pond is on their property and not violating anyone else’s rights?
Government-Owned Land
A third question, that is perhaps related to this case, is why the government owns so much land.  Why are there vast areas, particularly in the west, that are fully owned and controlled by the government, particularly the federal government?
I suppose the answer to this question is because not many people strongly oppose it.  But this should really become more of an issue for liberty advocates.  When the government owns so much land, then it gives these bureaucrats more power and more excuses to control others.
There is no valid reason for the government to own vast amounts of land.  Even parks and forests can be owned by private individuals.  We have been trained to think that if it weren’t for the government, then there would be no beautiful parks or forests to visit.
In reality, land would be much better cared for in the hands of private owners.  It would be in their own interest to take care of the land.  That is why, when you see forest fires raging, it is usually on government-owned land that was not being take care of or watched over properly.
When property is taken out of the hands of government, then disputes are actually less likely to happen.  In this case of the Wyoming pond, another property owner could dispute an encroachment through the courts.  There would have to be an actual victim for there to be any dispute.
Property rights should be sacred in a free society.  The government should sell its vast amounts of land and the EPA should be shut down.

FOMC Statement – March 19, 2014

The FOMC released its latest statement on March 19, 2014.  The tapering has continued, with another reduction in monthly purchases of $10 billion.  Since the end of 2013, the FOMC has announced tapering 3 times in a row, going from asset purchases of $85 billion per month, now down to $55 billion per month.

Surprisingly, this is not what got the most news.  The media is instead focusing on the change in the FOMC statement regarding the federal funds rate.  Before, the FOMC had guidelines of likely keeping the federal funds rate where it is (targeted between 0% and .25%) as long as unemployment stayed above 6.5% and inflation expectations stayed at or below 2%.

The latest statement removed the 6.5% unemployment guideline.  When Janet Yellen was asked about this in her press conference, she indicated (unconvincingly) that the federal funds rate could go up as soon as 6 months after the end of the taper.  This sent markets down.

Peter Schiff is speculating that this 6.5% trigger was removed because the Fed is going to find excuses to delay raising rates.  Schiff says (correctly) that the unemployment rate has been drifting down in large part because people have stopped looking for jobs.

In this instance, I am taking an opposite view, speculating that the Fed may be concerned that the unemployment rate won’t fall below 6.5% and does not want to be bound by this guideline.  The Fed never said that it had to raise rates if unemployment fell below 6.5%, but only that it would not anticipate raising rates as long as it was above this mark.

Either way, I think everyone is focused on the wrong thing.  The federal funds rate doesn’t matter right now.  The thing that matters is the so-called quantitative easing and the tapering of it.

The Fed has inflated a lot since 2008, but there have also been periods of relative monetary stability.  It hasn’t made any difference in the federal funds rate, which is the overnight borrowing rate.  This is because the banks have piled up massive excess reserves and have little need for borrowing overnight funds to meet reserve requirements.  They are already way in excess of the reserve requirements and they have been since the end of 2008.

What is the Fed going to do to raise the federal funds rate?  It can’t control this with monetary policy right now, therefore it doesn’t have that great of an effect on us.  It can change the federal funds rate by dramatically increasing reserve requirements.  It can also change it by increasing the interest rate it pays for excess reserves, which is the reverse of what most people think.  But monetary policy is not going to change the federal funds rate as long as there are massive excess reserves in the banking system.

Let’s not lose focus.  The big news is the taper and whether the Yellen Fed will continue with it, even if the economy starts to show more signs of weakness.  Yellen is a Keynesian, but she is also a political figure.  Will she be able to continue tapering even if the stock market starts falling dramatically?  It hasn’t happened yet, but it will be entertaining to watch if and when it does.

Can the Government Now Give Us Overtime Pay?

Obama has decided, once again, that there is such a thing as a free lunch.  He is proposing new regulations that would mandate overtime pay for certain job classifications.  There are a lot of things wrong with this proposal, but unfortunately some Americans still believe in the dream of a government-provided free lunch.
First, aside from the merits or faults of the actual proposal, how is Obama going to enact these changes?  He needs the approval of Congress, right?
Actually, Obama is planning to make this change through the Department of Labor.  He wants to avoid the mess of actually getting approval from your so-called representatives.
This is one of the major problems with Washington DC.  Congress will pass a law that delegates power to the executive branch, where the president then delegates that power to one of the bureaucracies, such as the Department of Labor.
It is little realized that most of the laws and regulations that we are subjected to are not actually written and voted on by Congress.  The thousands of new pages of laws and regulations that go into effect each year are written and implemented outside of Congress.
As a side note, this is not just a recent thing with Obama.  It was done under George W. Bush and most prior presidents, particularly of the 20thcentury.  In fact, this change in overtime pay would be based on the authority of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.  This is not surprising given the fact that the American welfare state really got traction under FDR.
Does Mandated Overtime Help?
Aside from the practice of how these new regulations will be implemented, are the changes themselves a good thing?
Before you get too excited that your employer will have to start paying you overtime, first realize that this is limited to certain job classifications and salaries.  If you are a loan officer, computer technician, or fast-food manager, then you may get a benefit, if you meet the salary qualifications.
But even here, you have to consider that your employer may make changes based on the new rules.  Employers are not ATMs that can just spit out more money based on the newest government dictates.
If an employer has a large number of employees that it must now pay for any overtime work, then you can be sure that adjustments will be made.  This could come in many forms.
The employer may actually cut staff and let go some of its workforce.  Another possibility is that the employer may just eliminate all overtime work.  Another interesting scenario is that employers may actually decrease the salary of these positions.
When an employer hires someone, it will generally determine its costs associated with hiring someone versus the productivity that will be obtained.  If the costs are too high, then the employer may not fill certain positions.  But in this case, an alternative is to reduce the base salary so that the employer can hire more people or pay for the necessary overtime that is now mandated by the government.
The employer may or may not be able to do this, but it is a likely outcome that the salaries for these positions will be forced down in the marketplace because of these new rules.  Employers may not instantly cut salaries for these workers, but it may reflect in lower future benefits, less pay raises, and lower starting salaries for new employees.
Should There Be Any Overtime Pay?
This newest Obama dictate raises an interesting question about overtime pay in general.  Should anyone be paid overtime?
I actually don’t have an answer for that except to say that it should be a voluntary contract between an employee and an employer.  The government should not be interfering in this contract.
I find that this issue goes hand-in-hand with the minimum wage laws.  It is an interference of the government between two consenting parties.  Just as minimum wage laws do not require that an employer hire someone, overtime pay laws do not require that employers offer overtime.
There may be some people who would be happy to work overtime, just to land the job that they desire.  Some employers might offer to pay overtime to its employees, even if there were no government mandates.  It can be beneficial for an employer to have an employee work extra hours rather than having to hire additional people who may not have the same experience or skills.
If there were no government rules about overtime pay, some employers might offer to just pay the same rate for each additional hour worked, instead of the government-mandated time and a half.  Some employees would likely be happy with this arrangement, being able to make some extra money.  But with the expense of time and a half, it is often not an option for most employees.
Of course, some people will always question the free market’s ability to function.  They think that employers will control everything and abuse their employees if the government doesn’t step in and tell them how to operate.  But in actuality, it is in our current environment, where good jobs are difficult to find, that employers are able to demand more out of their employees simply due to the lack of other options by the employees.
If we operated in a true free market system, which would include no laws regarding the minimum wage or overtime pay, then jobs would be far more plentiful and there would be greater competition.  When employees have more options, then it forces employers to compete to get and retain good employees.  This in itself would encourage employers to treat employees better, which could include overtime pay, higher salaries, or less demanding hours.
We must not delude ourselves that the government can simply raise our living standards by implementing new laws and regulations.  Our standard of living goes up due to productivity.  We will get higher productivity in a free and competitive market, not one where the government makes all of the rules.

Mandatory Sentencing is Not a Solution

Mandatory sentencing, which began to take root in the 1970’s, became more popular through the 1980’s and 1990’s.  It was really around the turn of the century that this trend started to reverse.
Since 2000, 29 states have changed their mandatory sentencing laws, generally curtailing them.
The U.S. has the highest prison population in the world on a per capita basis.  Is it that there are a lot more crimes committed in the U.S.?  Is it that law enforcement is really efficient?  Or is it that a lot of people are thrown in jail and kept there for things that wouldn’t be considered horrible crimes in other countries?
It may be a combination of all of these things, although I think that law enforcement efficiency is probably at the bottom of the list.
The problem with discussing mandatory sentencing laws is that there are different things classified as crime.  A murderer or rapist is put into the same category as a drug pusher who has not forcibly harmed anyone else.
The biggest problem with the American justice system (some would say “injustice system”) is that there are a lot of victimless crimes that are enforced.  The situation is made worse with mandatory sentencing laws that hold these so-called criminals in jail for long periods of time.
Even in the case of a violent crime, there are still valid arguments against mandatory sentencing.  Not all crimes are created equal.
There are a lot of odd situations that occur where someone may have been negligent or making a bad decision without intending to hurt someone else.  There are many cases with gray areas.  There are cases where a person may be convicted for bad judgment, even though he may have thought he was using self-defense.
The point is that there really should be flexibility in determining punishment when each case is unique.
Ironically though, mandatory sentencing laws can actually lead to more violent crime.  If the prisons are filled up with people serving long terms because of drugs, then it can often lead to the actual violent criminals getting out sooner.
Prison crowding is a real problem.  In our world today of tightening budgets, many state governments simply don’t have the resources to keep so many people locked up at one time.  But mandatory sentencing laws are keeping many non-violent people behind bars and forcing out violent criminals.
This increases the likelihood of repeat violent crimes, as these are the people who tend to do the same thing over again.  Personally, I would much rather have a person out of jail who is smoking crack in his house than a violent criminal out of jail, ready to prey on his next victim.
As a libertarian, I am against jailing anyone involved in drugs unless they actually hurt another person or encroach on another person’s property.  But mandatory sentencing for victimless crimes is especially appalling, as it frees actual criminals and puts an unnecessary burden on society.
The more recent trend in relaxing these laws is a good thing.  Let’s hope that more states continue with it.
If there is going to be any mandatory sentencing at all, it should be for actual criminals that hurt other people.

Just Another Government Boondoggle

There are thousands of stories on government waste.  I could literally write an article every single day on some wasteful government program.  While this would get tiresome, I think it is important to point out some of the more egregious cases every once in a while, just to remind people of what happens when government spends our money.
One of the latest cases involves a special facility in South Carolina that could transform nuclear material from weapons and convert it into fuel that could be used for civilian nuclear reactors.
That sounds like a great idea, right?  Many government programs sound good when they are first presented, but politicians aren’t spending their own money.  There is no profit or loss system with government spending in order to tell us whether it is meeting market demands.  The only profits and losses involve losses for the general taxpayer and profits for the special interests.
In this particular case, the Department of Energy is putting this multi-billion dollar project on hold because of the cost overruns and the need to reduce federal spending in some areas.  The project, pushed by the big government Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, was going to cost $10 billion to continue, instead of something closer to $1 billion.  Estimates showed that the South Carolina plant would need another $24 billion to operate it over a period of 15 years.
I would say that this is a typical government program, except there may be one difference in this particular case.  The government, at least for the time being, is cutting some of its losses instead of ramping up spending even more to finish the facility.  While they are not halting all spending on the project, the funding is actually being reduced.
Some people will point to the approximately 2,100 workers at the plant as a positive benefit because it provides employment, but this is just bad economics.  The money to pay these workers is capital and resources that are being taken out of the private sector.  In addition, spending $10 billion for 2,100 workers would have seemed rather silly, as that would work out to more than $4.5 million per worker.
It is important not to point fingers at just one of the major political parties.  Republicans and Democrats in Congress are both to blame.  This project was actually first proposed back in the 1990’s as a piece of negotiations with Russia to reduce nuclear weapons.
Obama has been particularly bad in promoting government boondoggles.  In his case, some of the new and more obvious failures have been in so-called green energy.  Think about the political process and the government failure of Solyndra and Fisker.  A business or entrepreneur does not invest in such things, so the government steps in with its central planning in an attempt to create a product where there is a lack of consumer demand.
I have no problem if an entrepreneur wants to sell electric cars or some form of new clean energy.  But it should not be subsidized by the government.  If the project is worthy, then it should require no government funds and should be profitable because it meets consumer needs and wants at a price they are willing to pay.
And while government boondoggles constantly happen under both major parties, the Republicans even promote energy projects, although with a little less alarmism about the earth being destroyed by humans and capitalism.
There was a clean coal “FutureGen” project that began under the George W. Bush administration, first proposed in 2003, and since re-funded under the Obama administration.  It has been another money pit where the special interests profit and the taxpayers lose.
In a sense, all government spending is a misallocation of resources.  If people were going to spend their money in a certain way in the first place, then you don’t need the government spending it for them.  This just tells us that most government spending is on programs that most people would not have voluntarily spent their own money on.  Otherwise, it would not have been necessary for the government to fund it.
These examples of government trying to “invest” money in energy sources are just particularly destructive forms of domestic welfare spending.  Much of the money is going to special interests and into areas that are providing little long-term benefits.
The government keeps flushing wealth down the toilet while the American middle class continues to struggle to pay for health insurance and other basic needs.  The only answer is for the American people to demand a dramatic decrease in the size and scope of government, particularly at the federal level.
As long as there is major power and money residing in Washington DC, we should not be surprised when resources are continued to be wasted.

A Prepping Strategy

One of the hottest trends today is prepping.  There is a huge population of people that would consider themselves preppers or survivalists.  This may be offensive to some, but I consider the terms interchangeable.  Perhaps survivalists are more hardcore than preppers.
You can meet two different preppers and they may be preparing for completely different things.  Prepping can be for anything – terrorist attacks, hurricanes, earthquakes, nuclear war, asteroids hitting the earth, an economic meltdown, or any number of other things.  Preppers will differ in their top fears, but their strategies are often similar.
I do not consider myself a prepper, at least as the term is used today.  However, I do learn from reading and watching what other preppers do and I think there are useful lessons for everybody.
I do not have the time, energy, or dedication to be prepared for a terrible scenario where the entire division of labor economy breaks down.  If you think this is a likely scenario, then you pretty much have to devote your life to it.  Storing some extra food and water isn’t going to save you.  You better move out of the country or move to a rural part of the U.S. that is isolated and self-sustaining.
On the other hand, I do think it is important for everyone to take some action in preparing for a temporary breakdown.  This could be for a weather related event, an electrical grid failure, or any number of possibilities.
It is always a good idea to have a couple of weeks’ worth of food available, along with water.  It doesn’t have to be bottled water.  It just needs to be clean enough to drink.  You should also have some other basic necessities for light, cooking, and heat, particularly if you live in a cold climate.  You should also build up a small extra supply of any medication you need and just remember to rotate it so that it doesn’t get old.
One other thing that people forget about is cash.  It is a good idea to always have some cash available in case ATMs don’t work and stores and gas stations can’t take credit cards.  You don’t need to have a lot, but a few hundred dollars is probably a good idea.  It should be somewhere that is safe, but accessible.  You will also want to keep most of it in smaller denominations, particularly one-dollar bills.  You don’t know if others will be able to make change.
Aside from some common sense necessities to hold you over for a couple of weeks, I’m not sure it is worth it to go beyond that, unless you are really going to go hard core.
I’m not sure that people really think through a worst-case scenario of a total economic breakdown.  If there are no longer any stores available to do your shopping, then you really better be a hardcore survivalist to have a chance.  I’m not sure how many people would want to survive in such a world.
It isn’t just a matter of providing food and shelter.  There is sanitation and plumbing.  There is medical care.  There is heat and air conditioning.  There is refrigeration.  There is communication.  You can live without these things, but imagine a world without them.  What will you do after a year when your sneakers have worn out and you don’t have any reliable shoes?  If you sit there and think about it for a while, you could probably list a hundred things easily that you would no longer have available and miss dearly.  Again, it wouldn’t be much of a life.
There probably are some preppers and survivalists who really would be prepared for a worst-case situation, but there would also be many that would fall short.
Interestingly, one piece of investment advice I give to people with lower income levels and savings is to buy things in bulk and store them, if possible.  This could include things such as paper towels, toilet paper, razor blades, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, bottled water, or really anything with a decent shelf life.
When you find a good sale on something, buy more than you need at that time and store it.  What are the chances that the price will be any lower a year from now?  Most likely, the prices will be higher.  You will save money by buying in bulk, buying sale items, and hedging against price inflation.  And for the sake of this article, it also will make you more prepared for an unexpected event where you may not be able to get to the store for a few days.
In conclusion, while I don’t adopt a prepper lifestyle, I think anyone can learn some good useful strategies from preppers.  You should always prepare for a situation where you may not have access to a store for a two-week timeframe.

Should We Fear Socialized Medical Care?

As the disaster of Obamacare continues to progress, there is much debate about the merits of socialized (nationalized) healthcare.  When we say healthcare, it is really referring to medical care, because the system certainly isn’t taking care of our health.
Some critics of Obamacare correctly stated, even prior to its implementation, that it could be a stepping stone to fully socialized healthcare.  Ironically, it is because Obamacare is such a disaster that it is possible it could end up being true.
Millions of people have been kicked off of their insurance plans because they were made illegal by Obamacare.  Meanwhile, the people who have enrolled in an insurance plan are finding out just how expensive it is, even with a government subsidy.
The proponents of socialized healthcare will blame the current system on capitalism and free markets.  Of course, there is almost no such thing in our current system.  Even before Obamacare was passed and implemented, the U.S. system of healthcare was nothing close to capitalistic.
The current system is more fascist/ corporatist.  It is not fully socialistic because the government doesn’t own the means of production.  It just dictates nearly every little thing and it extracts money to pay for the majority of the medical care that takes place.
If you want to see anything resembling a free market system in healthcare, you would have to go back to the 1950’s in the United States, although it was not a fully free market at that time either.  But it was a much more capitalistic system then, and it showed in the quality and price of medical care.
Not only is health insurance and medical care really expensive today, it isn’t all that great either.  The advancement in technology has been wonderful, although not nearly as great as it would have been in a free market environment.  And if you need emergency care, there is probably no better place to be in the world than a big city in the United States.
With that said, the prevalence of diseases and disorders, particularly in the U.S., is staggering.  And the medical establishment’s solution in the majority of cases is to push drugs on the patients.  Even worse, doctors push drugs on patients for problems that the patient wasn’t even complaining about.  I hate to sound like a leftist here, but the profits of the doctors and the pharmaceutical companies are put ahead of the well being of the patient.  But it is important to know that this is the environment created by a government-controlled healthcare system.
In this sense, there are actually advantages of a socialist healthcare system over the fascist one we have now.  I think in some cases, it would actually be beneficial for some people to stay away from the doctor when they have a little ailment, or even sometimes a bigger one.  Going to the doctor can sometimes lead to a worse outcome.  And going to a hospital is really dangerous, as thousands of people die every year from going into a hospital from some kind of an infection or ailment that they didn’t suffer from upon entering.
In a socialized healthcare system, people are actually less likely to seek medical treatment, simply because it isn’t as available.  So while this would generally seem like a bad thing, it can actually be less harmful to a patient, at least in some cases.
The other advantage a socialist healthcare system would have over our current one is that your insurance would no longer be tied to your employer.  The U.S. system is a total disaster just from this alone.  People have to worry about switching jobs because their health insurance is tied to their job.
While the U.S. is supposed to be the land of opportunity and entrepreneurship, the health insurance system strongly discourages entrepreneurship.  It makes it far harder to start a business and quit a full time job because of the threat of losing health insurance.  It is actually far easier to be self-employed in Canada because you don’t have to worry about your health coverage status changing if you leave your job.
Again, this was all the case before Obamacare ever came into being.  Obamcare has just made everything worse in the U.S.
This is by no means a call for socialized healthcare.  I am just saying that people shouldn’t be so fearful of such a system because we already have a really bad system.
The one thing I am thankful for in our current system is that it is still legal to choose a doctor of your choice and make an agreement to pay that doctor for his services.  At least the government isn’t telling you who you have to see or can’t see, at least not directly.
The only way we will see a significant improvement in the U.S. healthcare system is if we move in a direction of freer markets and less government.  It should start with a repeal of Obamacare, but it can’t stop there.  We need to get the government to back off in many ways and that includes both the federal government and state governments.
If we returned to a more free market system such as that of the 1950’s, coupled with today’s technology, we would see medical care that would be extremely cheap and effective.  It would mean countless saved lives and likely a much higher life expectancy.

What is Wrong With Government Education?

I’ve noticed changes taking place in the American education system.  While I am critical of the American education system, it is not always for the same reasons as others.
First, I am willing to realize that government education is a form of welfare.  I don’t blame anyone for using it, just as I don’t blame anyone for collecting Social Security.  They are being forced to pay for it, so it is understandable to “redeem” some of your lost money.
The average middle class person hates it when I compare government schools to food stamps.  But in reality, they are both a form of welfare and virtually everyone is forced to pay for the benefits of a select group.  There is nothing sacred about education where it has to be a government function.
But aside from the fact that the government schools are funded with taxpayer dollars, I have another major issue with the schools, although it is somewhat related.
I am different than many others on this topic.  I am not concerned that children aren’t learning enough; I am concerned about what children are learning.  Or more precisely, I am concerned that children are being taught to be obedient, nationalistic, and overall good little citizens of the state.
While many parents wish for obedience, there is a difference between being respectful towards others and never questioning authority.  I fear that too many children are being taught to never question authority.
There has been a lot of criticism of the American education system over the past few decades, and for good reason.  Children in the U.S. rank well below many other countries in the world in language skills, math, and science.
In my view, the American education system is trying to step it up and demanding more.  If you have seen the “Common Core” curriculum, you will likely know what I am talking about.  They are pressuring kids to learn all of these things at an early age, in most cases before the children are ready for it.
Personally, I don’t see the point in struggling to teach a 2ndgrader how to multiply or do complicated word problems when he or she will easily be able to learn the concept in a couple of years.
It is almost as if the government schools are trying to promote a much more strict teaching environment where kids are supposed to constantly work hard and study.  They are trying to adopt something similar to a Japan model of education.
But I don’t really care that many kids in Asian countries score really well in math and science.  I don’t really care that kids in other countries know how to read and write at an earlier age.  I only care in the sense that it is important for all children to eventually learn how to read and write and do some math.  But it should be taught when the child is ready, not because they happen to be in a grade where they have to learn it for a standardized test.
The thing that has made America great through its history is the sense of individualism, entrepreneurship, and creativity.  Americans have not historically been obedient people, at least relative to the rest of the world.
It is no coincidence that it is the government schools trying to teach children to be obedient.  They want them to grow up to be obedient citizens of the state and to not question government authority.  I am not saying that all teachers are purposely promoting this, but the system itself is promoting it.
The best thing we can teach our children isn’t math and reading.  Those things are certainly important, but they will likely learn that no matter what.  The best thing is to teach them to think independently and to be their own person.