The 2016 Republican nominee better have an alternative to Obamacare

July 27, 2014

There is a lot of discussion about the effects and wisdom of the Halbig decision, including some amusement at the site of a leading Obamacare architect turn himself into a rhetorical pretzel (VV). However, one thing that has not really been addressed is the need to be serious about “repeal and replace.”

Republicans need to remember that if the Supreme Court actually follows the D.C. Circuit Court panel and knock down all subsidies in states that do not have their own exchanges, millions will find themselves with unaffordable health insurance – and likely go back to the ranks of the uninsured. When that happens, the GOP needs to be ready with an alternative health care reform plan that brings these people back into the insurance market, while reducing the effect of the government’s “invisible foot” in health care in general.

The earliest the Court will hand down a decision is the summer of 2015 (and it could be the summer of 2016). Either way, it will land somewhere in the presidential campaign, meaning the Republican candidate(s) need to spend some time addressing this issue, or get drowned out by the Democrats screaming, “Republicans ended the subsidies and deprived millions of health care just to score political points against Obama.”

Of course, there is plenty of space for right-of-center health care reform: ending the tax-favoritism towards group plans, breaking the AMA’s de facto monopoly on health care prices (handed to them by the federal government), addressing the health-care-provider shortage with supply side economic reforms specific to that industry, etc.

If the defeat of 2012 taught us anything (besides never nominated a TARP backer again), it taught us that an unpopular plan (Obamacare) still beats no plan (Romney’s complete lack of an alternative). The dynamics of a post-Halbig American will drive that lesson home even further. The Republican ticket in 2016 will either learn that lesson, or lament their defeat.

Cross-posted to VV


Elizabeth Warren backs the Bank of Boeing

July 20, 2014

To her supporters, Senator Elizabeth Warren is a champion of the downtrodden and bane of the wealthy.

To those of us who know better, she’s a government-always-first leftist who is quite fine with helping the biggest and wealthiest corporations in America so long as the government grows.

We have the Heritage Foundation to thank for this. As Timothy Carney (Washington Examiner) pointed out, Heritage reached out to Warren to see if she would help them fight the Export-Import Bank. No dice: “Senator Warren believes that the Export-Import Bank helps create American jobs and spur economic growth.”

Never mind that so many of the products financed by the bank are intermediate products for foreign firms competing against Americans. Never mind that export subsidies are far and away the worst type of trade intervention for an economy. Never mind that the Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting Office have laid waste to the arguments the Bank itself peddles (The Corner). Never mind the numerous examples of fraud (Daily Signal). Never mind that it is such a profit-padder for Boeing that it’s nickname is “the Bank of Boeing.”

Clearly, for Elizabeth Warren, some corporate welfare is better than others.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


Did T-Mac just hand northern Arlington to the Republicans?

July 14, 2014

For obvious reasons, the more watched of the two special elections to take place on the 19th of August will be the State Senate election in Southwest Virginia. Control of the State Senate depends upon that outcome. However, the other race – for a House of Delegate seat in northern Arlington and (mostly) McLean – could provide an upset, thanks in no small part to Governor McAuliffe himself.

Late last week, the Guv decided to offer a financial lifeline to the problematic (and very controversial) Arlington trolley (Washington Post):

Virginia will increase state funding for the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar project by up to $65 million, the state transportation chief told officials in Arlington and Fairfax counties this week, allowing the streetcar line to be built at least a year faster and without federal funds.

Reaction to this has largely agreed with Norm Leahy‘s: “A less charitable view would say that the Governor’s office has done a solid for its folks in Arlington…” Except it’s not that simple.

The Columbia Pike trolley was a symbol of government incompetence and arrogance when John Vihstadt used it to break the Democrats’ monopoly on the County Board in last spring’s special election, and just in case anyone thought the issue had died down…(back to the WaPo):

Vihstadt said the state rushed to respond to the funding request that Fisette and Bulova made a month ago. “Had the Commonwealth done its homework, it would have learned that a modified form of bus rapid transit could be implemented much more cheaply, more quickly, with greater regional connectivity,” Vihstadt said in a statement.

Oops.

So how would this impact the 48th District special election? Well, for starters, the trolley would parallel Columbia Pike, which runs through southern Arlington. The 48th, by contrast, is anchored in northern Arlington, which would suffer the costs of the trolley without the benefits. Lest you, dear reader, think I’m reading too much into this, I went through the election data from the April special election, and found the following.

  • Overall results: Vihstadt (I, R-endorsed) 57%, Howze (D) 41%
  • Precincts in 48th District: Vihstadt 65%, Howze 35%

In fact, Vihstadt’s advantage in the 48th was nearly triple that outside it (55%-43%).

Meanwhile, Republican nominee David Foster “said his first order of business if elected would be to introduce legislation allowing voters in Arlington to hold a referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project” (Inside Nova).

In other words, Governor T-Mac just dumped $65 million worth of fuel on a fire that has already burned local Democrats, and that Foster is making a key issue in the campaign.

Keep a close eye on northern Arlington, folks.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


Egregious Ex-Im Deal of the Day

July 12, 2014

I basically copied and pasted the title from Veronique de Rugy, who got it herself from the Blog of the House Financial Services Committee – where Chairman Jeb Hensarling is leading the fight against the Export-Import Bank.

The Bank’s defenders insist that it’s all about helping American exporters, but they largely ignore the fact that most of the exports are intermediate products, which foreigners get with discounted loans from market rates. Thus, these firms have a leg up in competition against their American counterparts. The largest (and loudest) victim of this is Delta Airlines, which much compete with a slew of foreign airlines that get Ex-Im funded deals on Boeing airplanes that aren’t available to the American firm.

Lest anyone think this is the only example of Ex-Im run amok, the HFSC began daily highlights of the Bank’s loans. The first one was yesterday (I’m assuming they’ll continue on Monday). Here was the “Egregious Ex-Im Bank Deal of the Day” (HFSC, emphasis in original):

Hardworking American taxpayers, who are paying more for gas (“Gasoline prices at six-year high – AAA”) and “more for almost everything this year” (CNBC), might be wondering why President Obama refuses to approve the Keystone Pipeline but is using their tax dollars to finance foreign corporate welfare — like the nearly $5 billion in direct loans to help build a venture developed by Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company.

This is the same Saudi Aramco, by the way, that one report this week said is “pulling the rug out from under the U.S. gas industry” and has announced plans to spend its money to build 11 45,000-seat capacity stadiums by order of King Abdullah.

Here are the deal details:

In 2012, the Ex-Im Bank provided a record-breaking $4.975 billion in direct loans to help build Sadara Chemical Company, developed by the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco). Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia, is the world’s biggest oil company, with total assets reportedly in the trillions. – (Sources:  Export-Import Bank press release, 4/4/13:  “Sadara Chemical Company Transaction is Awarded Ex-Im Bank Deal of the Year”;Saudi AramcoForbesUniversity of Texas)

Please note the description of Saudi Aramco - the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia. Are we really supposed to believe that they needed Ex-Im’s help for financing?

Reminder: Senator Mark Warner joined all of his fellow Democrats in voting for the Ex-Im Bank’s reauthorization in 2012 (vote). His Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, has called for it to be shut down.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


Ed Gillespie says GOP “learned a lesson,” then proves it by opposing Ex-Im Bank

July 9, 2014

Roughly a month after he earned the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, Ed Gillespie – consummate Establishment man – spoke to Rick Sincere (a.k.a., the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner) about his campaign going forward. He addressed head on complaints about his former employer, President George W. Bush (emphasis added).

“The difference between Republicans and Democrats,” he told the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner at Claudius Crozet Park, “is, I think, Republicans have learned a lesson.”

Continuing, he noted that “the fact is, I agree that when Republicans had the House, the Senate, and the White House that we spent too much money.”

That experience from the first decade of the 21st century, he added, “pales in comparison to what the Democrats did when they got control of all three – the House, the Senate, and the White House – but that’s not enough.”

What was far more important, however, was Ed’s first example of a government program that needs to go:

One (program) that I have said already that I believe should not be reauthorized and doesn’t deserve to be continued in funding is the ExIm Bank.

If Gillespie has talked about winding down Ex-Im, I missed it, but that’s my problem, not Ed’s.

The point is this: Ed Gillespie’s willingness to put the “Bank of Boeing” on the chopping block is a sign he really has “learned a lesson” about the Republican Party’s mistakes. For a fellow of his Establishment pedigree to openly oppose the Bank is an excellent sign.

I had my concerns (driven by TARP) about Gillespie before the nomination, but he is the party standard bearer now, and more importantly, his opposition to Ex-Im reveals that he does indeed know the party needs to go in an anti-corporatist direction.

Good for him, good for the Republican Party, and very good for Virginia.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon


Hobby Lobby wins, but the rest of us already lost

June 30, 2014

The Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby cannot in fact be forced to pay for abortifacent coverage for its employees after all. Last I checked (about an hour ago) Facebook was just beginning to pile up its usual combination of delight and outrage. By the time you see this, dear reader, it will certainly be in full bloom.

Yet I can’t help but feel anti-climactic about it all, for the “contraception mandate” has problems far, far deeper than this – problems that have been completely lost in the culture battle.

Somehow, with hardly a whimper of objection, we all supposedly acquiesced in the notion that the government can and should force firms to provide a service to their employees (contraception insurance); that said service must have a price ceiling; and that said price ceiling must be zero.

Forget religious objections; anyone who believes in a genuinely free market should be appalled at this kind of intervention.

For those upset about employers having any influence on birth control availability, I have news for you: they’d rather not be involved either. This is the result of earlier distortions – starting with Congress making health insurance a deductible expense for firms, but providing no such deduction or credit for individuals, combined with the requirement that birth control require a prescription. Addressing either would make it easier to leave the employer just where (s)he would rather be – out of this discussion.

Instead, we get the “mandate,” which makes a distorted market even more distorted, vaporizes the incentive to buy generic birth control…and thus leads to the real purpose in my view – a nice payoff to Big Pharma for its heavy lifting in getting the Patently Deficient and Unaffordably Careless Act through Congress in the first place.

In short, this was simply 21st Century corporatism by another name, and thanks to everyone’s eagerness to fight the Kulturkampf, Big Business and Big Government got away with it…again.

So while I’m glad Hobby Lobby won, the simple fact is that the rest of us (save Big Pharma) already lost.

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift


New House Majority Leader: Kill Ex-Im Bank

June 23, 2014

The primary defeat of Eric Cantor continues to reverberate in unexpected ways, as his incoming successor as Majority Leader tells Fox News that he supports shutting down the Export-Import Bank (Washington Examiner):

On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace asked McCarthy if he agrees with “conservatives who say that the Export-Import Bank is a form of crony capitalism and it should be put out of business — allowed to expire.”

McCarthy responded by tying Ex-Im to “one of the biggest problems with government,” using taxpayers’ “hard-earned money,” to do things the private sector can do. McCarthy supported Ex-Im’s reauthorization in 2012, but he argued on Fox News Sunday that this was a vote to “wind down the Ex-Im Bank.”

Wallace put the question more directly: “You would allow the Ex-Im Bank to expire in September?”

McCarthy immediately said “Yes. Because it’s something that the private sector can be able to do.”

That’s a dramatic change in view from Cantor, and a refreshing one. If McCarthy is serious about it (and that bizarre explanation for his 2012 vote should give us some pause), it would strike a strong blow against corporatism.

Ex-Im’s defenders have three months to save their special interest, and they will throw everything including the kitchen sink to do so. McCarthy’s stance is to be praised, and we should help him hold his newfound ground.


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