Category Archives: Obamacare

Outrage du Jour: I’m on board!

I’m still not all that passionate about the idea President Obama broke the law.  I mean, maybe he did.  So what…  It’s not a big deal in this age of executive branch power.

The proper critique as I see it is:  this 5 for 1 deal has been acceptable to the Taliban for a while.  So it was basically a foreign affairs card for the Obama Administration to play in the course of constructive engagement with the Taliban, but it was always to be subject to the hurdle of vetting and pushback from various stakeholders.  …Congress, the intelligence people, the military….

But the VA thing came up, so the White House cut the institutional stakeholders out of the loop and went ahead on a moment’s notice.  This effort was made to create out of thin air a PR coup that would neutralize the VA story.    They set out on a victory lap that played on various vet / military jingoisms.  They painted the younger Bergdahl as a returning hero and trotted out the specious elder Bergdahl as a sympathetic character.

This…. has not gone well…..

They panicked and got it wrong.  Not that they had a chance to get it right, but they did have an opportunity to chill and do nothing.

Shinseki fires himself, the President accepts

Correct result.  Atrocious analysis and decision making by the WH, horrific press conference by the President.

I accept, by the way, that Shinseki is an earnest servant.  His experience reminds me of Truman’s warning to Ike as a military man coming into govt:  You’ll expect to give orders and have them executed, and it won’t happen.

It wasn’t his fault, but he had to go, and this was discernible a week ago.  And it is actually because of the ‘distraction’ nature that President described Shinseki as identifying.  Thing is, the President ought to have known that, and not have to be told that by Shinseki.

I do think there’s a lot to be said for having a President with the scholarly knowledge of law, history, and justice that the President Obama has.  But I have my doubts he has any experiential knowledge that would allow him to make a pragmatic, day to day, nuts and bolts management decision.  I am very cautious to embrace conservative memes, but this one is true.  He’s not a manager or executive, no matter how much his fans like to tell you otherwise.

The VA slow walk goes on for lack of an exception process

We talked about this before, there’s a process the White House has embraced to deal with its ‘scandals’.  Loosely defined, that process is:

  1. President says he never heard about govt corruption / incompetence from cabinet, says he heard hears about scandal on the news
  2. President is outraged, but notes a) scandal is not systemic, it’s because of rogue bureaucrats in the field b) scandal started under Bush
  3. Scandal is slow walked for a couple months, at which point it becomes a “phony scandal”.  This is done with some assistance of sycophantic lefty media, who take cues from the Whitehouse to argue a) Republicans are misconstruing scandal facts because they are dumb b) Republicans are misconstruing scandal facts because they are racists
  4. Scandal is slow walked for a couple years, at which point it becomes ‘old news”.

Ya figure at its core this is largely just a plain old news management process, good, bad or indifferent.  It’s a methodical process, process is good, and process is what you use for consistency of execution and results.  Insofar as it’s wholly insincere and often a bunch of lies, that’s PR and news management for ya.  But it’s fair to note this is also driven by a knee jerk instinct to protect the myth of Obama Administration hyper-competence… which they are a bit mental about for various reasons.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/05/barack-obama-undecided-on-eric-shinseki-107201.html

In any event, as I say, process is good, but it’s a universal truth that sometimes you encounter problems that make themselves impervious to standard process.  In that case you have to do something else.  In life we call these “exceptions”.

I’m mystified the White House didn’t figure out here early that the VA / Shinseki is ripe for an exception to the standard process.  Especially because they would seem to be recipient of advanced insight, ie discrediting facts that will eventually come out to make impossible the ability to sell “not systemic / rogue bureaucrats” and “phony scandal.”  You figure also they ought to have some sense for the limits of what their media sycophants can be asked to parrot vis a vis who’s ox is gored right now.  In that analysis you’d understand that it’s Carney’s douchetalk pitted against veterans.  Veterans are on one of the highest pedestals in our society.  It’s a very awkward ask here to make the sycophantic media choose douchetalk over vets.

So the obvious, alternate path would have been to fire Shinseki and clean house, almost immediately.  Yes, you would have to sort of allow an Obama administration competence issue to escape there into the wild.  But this is actually remediated somewhat or perhaps entirely by the appearance of swift, executive action.  It gets rid of the “Obama never holds anyone accountable’ meme.   Most importantly, it actually has the appearance of taking the side of vets.  That’s always a winner, no matter what the circumstances are that prompt you to do it.

Conservative Outrage Du Jour: VA Scandal

Conservatives like to make wry observations about the lifecycle of an Obama administration scandal.  The lifecycle, wryly deconstructed, is:

  1. President hears about scandal on the news
  2. President is outraged, but notes a) scandal is because of rogue bureaucrats in the field b) scandal started under Bush
  3. Scandal is slow walked for a couple months, at which point it becomes a “phoney scandal”.  This is done with some assistance of sycophantic lefty media, who take cues from the Whitehouse to argue a) Republicans are misconstruing scandal facts because they are dumb b) Republicans are misconstruing scandal facts because they are racists
  4. Scandal is slow walked for a couple years, at which point it becomes ‘old news”.

With the VA, we’re still at the early stages.  The President is still finding out about it on the news that all these regional VAs have eerily / ironically similar patterns of misbehavior.  How weird!

http://hotair.com/archives/2014/05/19/video-anyone-want-to-guess-how-obama-allegedly-found-out-about-the-va-scandal/

Conservatives also like to complain that the Obama Administration never fires anyone for incompetence or malfeasance.  Truly I have mixed feelings on this.

On one hand, I know it’s fair and wise that the Administration doesn’t overreact to conservative hysteria, and that they should have an instinct to keep faithfully executing their duties / platform.  And as a conscientious but hysterical conservative, I’m mindful that with a cabinet secretary termination I should want something more than a bloodlust for ideological schadenfreude.  Things need to be fact based.

On the other hand…. Holder / Sebelius / Clapper are / were incompetent / duplicitous, and could have been justifiably fired for cause at any point after 2010.  That they remained so long lends credence to the observation that the President won’t ever fire anyone lest any critique be affirmed and the myth of Obama Administration hyper-competence be jeopardized.  Mind you, this is a myth that only the most partisan of Democrat’s believe anyway, but as a weird pander to the base it’s apparently got to be zealously protected, along with an assertion of competence for the President himself.  There’s also some racial and gender dynamics in there where people get a very long leash…

Anyway, inasmuch as wanting an Administration head to roll is a binary proposition, ie, its either warranted by the facts or is rather the bloodlust of conservative hysteria…its clearer here than in those other examples that a demand for Shinseki’s firing is completely appropriate.  He’s earned it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/veterans-affairs-secretary-eric-shinseki-should-go/2014/05/16/fb2a0948-dd02-11e3-bda1-9b46b2066796_story.html

And it’s not opaque.  Thus it’s its enormously dispiriting that we have to go through the lifecycle again,   where the President’s obliviousness and the obnoxious douchebaggery of Jay Carney and the blogging sycophants are the method by which VA is slow walked to irrelevance..

Thing is, I don’t think it’s going to work.  There’s not an obvious narrative here that Chait / Vox / TNR can carry without being absurd.  So they might as well fire Shinseki now.

Memewatch: PPACA, employee headcounts, mandate avoidance.

This was percolating yesterday:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2014/02/11/the-insiders-obamacare-creates-new-ways-to-prosecute-american-business/

I certainly can get as red meat indignant as anyone on the right, but I do pride myself for a discerning eye.  IE, it’s gotta be true.  You don’t want to be a hopeless, pathetic chump for the equivalent of this:

http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2014/02/if_english_was_good_enough_for_jesus_when_he_wrote_the_bible_michele_bachmann_quote_coke.php

So apparently, there is now a ‘self certification’ requirement for employee headcounts that the IRS will enforce.  If you have employees, you have to attest that your personnel counts are not made with Obamacare headcount thresholds in mind.

There is no statutory text for this in PPACA.  So if true, it’s all the lawlessness and mendacity everyone on the right might say it is.  Only problem is, the only source is “administration officials” say.

So it could be a crock, something of a false flag.  We’ll see.

“Job lock” unchained

The effect of ObamaCare is supposed to be that health insurance is made affordable in some way such that working less or not working will become a realistic option for people.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/02/10/obamacare_work_incentives_two_ways_in_which_work_becomes_less_likely.html

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/02/how-obamacare-became-the-new-welfare.html

If you are Democrat, this is an expansion of social welfare benefits, and a good thing.  This is ostensibly a simple premise, but I see conflicts, and I have questions about that.

Over several years I evolved from a Rand-ian, Horatio Alger bootstrap libertarianism.  I accepted taxes and the social safety net, which I came to comprehend and appreciate with the onset of age and wisdom.  As I grew older, my empathic senses sharpened.  My wisdom was then derived from ‘there but for Grace go I” experiences.  You know… I became more worldly as an adult, and encountered people who could not fruitfully work.  I was moved by their material impoverishment.  I understood I should be happy to pay for that out of my taxes.

And this is how it works.  People who can’t work are enrolled in social benefits, and the money that pays for that is taxed from people who work or are in commerce.  In addition to being logical on its face, it also complies neatly with that old truisim ‘to each according to his needs, from each according to his needs.’

I don’t know if there are more people on benefits now.  It seems like it, though I am mindful to note ‘things have always (or often) been thus’ and ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’.  In any event, I don’t really care if there are more people on benefits, as long as they need them.  And my definition of ‘need’ is very ‘liberal’.  At the extremes it encompasses chemical dependency or merely some sort of inability to hold a job.

Include those people or not, there are a lot of people on benefits, right?.  Which requires a broad tax base of people and businesses to throw off money to fund the social safety net.

Going back to “job lock”…  The benefits of Obamacare eliminating job lock are illustrated by saying, well someone might be needed as a care giver.  So here they’ll be able to quit their job and be a caregiver.  Or, with ObamaCare they might be able to quit or retire early so they can pursuit their ‘dream job’.

First illustration you might grant as a positive goal of public policy.

Is the second illustration not extravagant, given limited tax paying resources?

I go back to contrast that “there but for Grace go I.”  What is with this encouraging people to go on benefits when they have an avenue where they do not need them?

More so, I am piqued by the conflict with ‘to each, from each”.   Thing is, the welfare state is very expensive.  What is with this thing where we encourage able bodied people to drop out of the value producing sector so that they can move to the value consuming sector?   We’re ostensibly going to make the from eaches into to eaches, with fewer from eaches to pay for all of this.

Now I know there’s an answer for this: tax the rich.  But they only have so much money, and they don’t make up the broadest part of the tax base.  So my question is, what gives with turning middle class taxpayers into net tax receivers.  Is that constructive?

Insofar as we talk about income inequality, there’s the rich and the rest of us who work, for which there is an enormous material chasm.  But there’s also the rest of us who work, and those on social benefits, for which there is an enormous material chasm.

If you can work, do you not have any obligation to avoid being on the social welfare rolls?  So that you can both contribute to its funding and not contribute to its depletion?  If you can work, aren’t you obligated to act in a manner that mitigates the income inequality of the welfare enrollee by contributing to the safety net as a tax paying worker?  Isn’t that how you act in a manner that conforms to ‘to each, from each?”

What gives people the temerity to think they can drop out, take their benefits, and pursuit their muse before their time?

Conspicuous Veblen reference

In Powerline, yesterday:

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2014/02/theory-of-the-new-leisure-class.php

My beef with Veblen:  You get the feeling he was real cheesed off his newly arrived countrymen from Scandinavia had the temerity to order fanciful things from the Sears catalogue after their first bumper crop.

Hey Thorstein – they had been eating dirt sandwiches in the immediate years prior.  I think you might do the same once you worked up to real food with a little money left over.