SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision Proves Flaw of Employer Based Health Insurance

Although I support the Hobby Lobby decision rendered by the US Supreme Court, the decision merely points to a bigger problem: employer based health insurance. As an IT professional I have frequently switched jobs or worked for myself, and the health insurance coverage available to me is expensive and often non-existent. I have bought health insurance on the individual market exactly as I do with my car insurance, and the fact that the individual market is regulated to death, provides little competition unlike the auto insurance market and is outrageously more expensive is puzzling. I can spend 15 minutes to save 15% on car insurance yet it would take me twice as long to find a provider in my area and determine which insurance products were available to me then cost me twice as much just doesn’t make sense.

Paul Waldman writing for the Washington Post points out that employer based health insurance is rare in the industrialized world and is the result of an accident of history.

 

The system has its real roots in World War II, when the government imposed wage and price controls. Although there had been some health insurance plans sold through employers before, when companies couldn’t offer increased wages during the war, they began offering health benefits instead. When the IRS ruled that those benefits didn’t count as income and so were tax-free, the momentum toward employer-sponsored insurance was all but unstoppable (the deduction for employer-provided coverage is now the largest tax expenditure in the federal budget, dwarfing even the mortgage interest deduction).

 

Waldman points out that through employer based health insurance I use pre-tax dollars to pay for the insurance whereas when I buy on the individual market I have to use post-tax dollars. This makes any health insurance I purchase on the individual market more expensive depending on my tax bracket.

Now we have the IRS involved in our health insurance system. What next? The EPA to regulate the amount of carbon dioxide we exhale? The NSA to handle our medical records? How about the VA to handle appointment scheduling?  It seems to me you couldn’t design a worse health insurance system than the one we have today.

So conservatives shouldn’t cheer the Supreme Court’s decision to loudly and liberals should stop freaking out. Instead they should work together to end this crazy legacy of World War 2 so that companies can focus on making money and employees can take care of themselves as they see fit.

Update: Laurie Rice, writing for the Atlas Society, adds this:

(G)overnment involvement in the market is the reason why so many women have to get insurance through their employer in the first place. That government involvement in women’s health means today’s contraception victory is tomorrow’s political bargaining chip, to be traded by people like Kathleen Sebelius. That state power is more inescapable, more inflexible, and more insidious to women’s freedoms than any Hobby Lobby conservative craft store could ever be. Feminists need to embrace free-market capitalism.

 

Feminists need to embrace free-market capitalism? Given the alliance with Big Government and Leftism I’m not holding my breath.

The Council Has Spoken: June 27, 2014

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Council Submissions: June 25, 2014

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Immigration For Idiots

Because Evidently Smart People Have Gotten Really Stupid About the Subject

Imagine you arrive at work one morning to find a group of people standing around your desk or workstation. You notice similar groups standing around the desks of your colleagues. Everyone is perplexed. Finally your boss arrives and explains, “These are your potential replacements.” She points to one, “See Miguel here? He’s actually a harder worker than you are and is willing to work for half of what I pay you. Sure his English isn’t the best, but Rosetta Stone Spanish is half-price on Amazon right now, Eso es mucho, ¿eh Miguel?” Miguel nods vigorously.

“The only thing holding me back from hiring him is immigration reform,” she says, “But since both parties are committed, I guess it’s only a matter of time…” She walks away, then says over her shoulder, “Oh, and until it’s passed you might want to remember Miguel and his amigos when you come to my office for your next evaluation.”

We like to believe we are indispensable in our jobs, that the company cannot run without us. The truth is that unless you work for yourself your company CAN run without you, and in many cases may do so better. The only reason you have a job is that the company you work for gains more from your labor than the cost of employing you. So if it pays you $20 an hour, it expects to make at least that back through your labor. If it doesn’t you won’t have a job for long because the company will go out of business. Say it makes a 25% return on your employment, netting the firm $5 an hour after paying you your wage. Would it pass up an opportunity to pay less for your position, say turning that 25% return into a 100% return by paying $12.50 an hour?

This is an oversimplification of course. Many employees don’t make their firms any money at all. If you are in infrastructure, whether a middle manager or an IT developer, you are only employed until your company figures out how to get rid of your position. Somewhere within your company someone is trying to figure out how to do away with your job in the name of “streamlining” or “efficiency.” It’s no different to what you do at home when you look at your bills and try to figure out how to make your money go farther. Your position is an expense, and right now it’s necessary, but it won’t be forever of course. And in the meantime your firm will do whatever it can to maximize profits while minimizing costs, and your salary or wage is a cost that it will work very hard to minimize.

The Labor Market is no different than any market. The price of anything on the market is determined by its supply and demand. If the supply is plentiful, it’s price will be relatively cheap. As it becomes rarer, the price rises. For those of us who have grown up in free(ish) market economies we take this fact for granted for everything from gasoline to gold. But for some reason when it comes to jobs we get stupid about it.

In a free market whenever there’s a shortage of something, whether it’s pork bellies or Playstations, the price skyrockets. For the past 15 years high tech firms have been complaining about labor shortages in the STEM fields, and call for increased numbers of H-1B and J visas to fill the supposed shortage. If this were true we would expect that the salaries for such jobs would be sky-high.

The Chronicle for Higher Education investigated the STEM field labor shortage claims and concluded the STEM labor shortage is a myth. Salaries in these fields have been stagnant and in many cases, in decline. So why do so many people believe the myth? “The claims about STEM shortages come from employers, along with their lobbyists and trade associations, claims Michael Teitelbaum, who a fellow in science policy at Harvard University and a senior advisor at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.”

There is no labor shortage, just a shortage of labor willing to work for the wages set by companies. Companies want to pay their employees less, and the only way to do that in a free(ish) market economy is to boost the potential supply of its workforce. Why wouldn’t it support immigration reform if it meant more aspirants for your job? This potential pool of applicants allows it to find a cheaper replacement for you or at the very least keeps you from asking for a raise.

Why Unions Support Immigration Reform

Today’s unions aren’t your father’s grandfather’s unions. Back in the day unions raised wages and working conditions for their members because they controlled the supply of labor either directly, by determining whether their members worked, or indirectly by making crossing a picket line dangerous to one’s health. They also fiercely resisted immigration, viewing immigrants as increasing the labor supply and driving down wages for their members.

Today’s unions are pale shadows of their former selves, representing only a sliver of the non-government workforce. Because they can no longer control the supply of labor in most industries, it only makes sense for them to focus on the low paying service industries where they can still exercise some control. These industries happen to employ the most illegal immigrants, so starting a decade or so ago, the unions gave up their resistance to immigration and embraced it.  Now unions like the SEIU see each illegal immigrant from Honduras or Mexico as a dues paying member. Since the minimum wage provides a floor to wages, the unions no longer have to worry about decreasing labor supply to boost wages; they’ll just push for a higher minimum wage, and that’s exactly what the unions have done. The primary weapon of unions is no longer a picket line, but the cash desperately needed by politicians to win elections.

By expanding their rank and file with immigrants, the unions then have the cash to provide to politicians who can then raise the minimum wage to boost the salaries of its members. From the perspective of the rank and file, the union leadership and the politicians who receive their cash, everybody wins. The only losers are the middle class consumers who pay more for goods and services provided by unionized companies as well as pay the higher taxes required to support the large cheap labor pool, and the constituents of the politicians who are in the pockets of the unions.

 Why Liberals Support Immigration Reform

Let’s face it, these immigrants aren’t coming from places where Ayn Rand and Adam Smith are cultural icons. They are coming from collectivist societies where Che Guevara is more than an image on a t-shirt, used to living under strong states, albeit ones with failed policies bad enough to drive them to risk everything to cross our border. The teeming masses awaken the natural impulse within liberals to help, and that help in the liberal’s mind can only come through a strong, all-encompassing State. Liberals also don’t like borders, viewing nationalism as a scourge that will eventually disappear along with such barbarities as the Plague and GMO food. Modern liberals are by nature trans-nationalists, and nothing is more trans-national than a bunch of brown people who have suffered under the neo-colonial policies of the Western Powers flooding into the USA. Each Mexican or Honduran represents a chicken of past colonial aggression coming home to the United States to roost.

Additionally, hard core Leftists believe the Marxist interpretation of Capitalism that inequality deepens as wealth follows its natural tendency to accumulate with the upper class, and that it’s the job of the State to confiscate that wealth and redistribute it to the lower classes. Marx himself viewed this as an untenable state of affairs that would eventually lead to communism and the concept of wealth would disappear and vegan unicorns would frolic in a low-carbon world.  Until that time the State would tax the bejeezus out of the wealthy and hand it over to the poor in welfare payments. More poor immigrants require more taxes from the wealthy, helping make that Communist Paradise one-step closer to reality.

Of course all liberals aren’t steeped in liberation ideology and the politics of identity. To Democrats each immigrant is a potential Democratic voter. Immigrants traditionally vote Democrat at least for a generation or two until they assimilate. Pew Research finds 31% of illegal immigrants self-identify with the Democratic Party vs. 4% for the Republican Party. Converting those illegal immigrants into voters has the potential to make the Democratic Party the majority party in the US and consign the Republican Party to History’s wastebasket. Given the potential payoff Democrats would be stupid not to support immigration reform, and for all its faults the Democratic Party has never been known for its stupidity.

The Stupid Party of American Politics

And why is the GOP establishment keen on immigration reform? Because the Republican Party is the Stupid Party in American politics. The GOP’s Big Business/Big Government wing is determined to push through reform in order to provide its corporate base with the cheap labor it demands even if it means the party’s suicide. While the libertarian/populist/small government wing of the party fights back in primaries, showing its power in Eric Cantor’s primary loss, the GOP establishment believes that it must pass immigration reform to continue receiving support from its corporate patrons and to counter the Democrats charge of racism. It pins its hopes on the social conservatism of the Hispanic community, that the community will see what swell, non-racist guys the party is and will switch party affiliation. This has about as much chance of happening as Joe Biden winning the presidency in 2016.

So there you have it. Hopefully this article adds some clarity to the issue. Where your opinion falls should reflect whether you compete with immigrants for your job or not. If you don’t, then you should favor their arrival. But if you do, you should think twice about supporting immigration reform you racist.
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In 2003 after being forced to train his own replacement on an H-1B visa, Scott Kirwin made the cover of Wired Magazine and founded the IT Professionals Association of America and worked for 3 years to counter the myth of the high-tech labor shortage. In 2006 he threw up his hands and quit, having received little support from IT professionals and lots of badly written though amusing threats from Indian workers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Cooling Since 1930s

More proof the science on the man-made cause of global warming isn’t as settled as some would like us to believe.

The Council Has Spoken: June 20, 2014

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WSJ: IRS Scandal Worse Than Watergate

Having grown up with Watergate, even watching the congressional testimony on the network news instead of episodes of Match Game or the TV clown on the local UHF station, I agree with this assessment voiced by the Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Daniel Henninger.

 

“The Watergate break-in was the professionals of the party in power going after the party professionals of the party out of power. The IRS scandal is the party in power going after the most average Americans imaginable.”

 

Council Submissions: June 18, 2014

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2000 Years Ago Today

In Rome Augustus Caesar was in the final days of his rule. August 19 will be the 2000th anniversary of his death. Augustus was the first Roman emperor, the adopted son of Julius Caesar who pretty much had stuck a fork in the Roman Republic and paid for it with his life. Augustus would establish a peace throughout the Empire, Pax Romana, that would last for 200 years.  He also spread the empire from Egypt to Spain and across the continent to Germany.

Augustus Caesar died at age 75 – either of natural causes or by poison figs given to him by his wife Livia depending on who you believe. While the histories and writings of dead white men have fallen from popularity, Augustus Caesar’s legacy lives on in modern Europe and from that continent to ours today. It’s woven into the very fabric of our identities.

The Council Has Spoken: June 13, 2014

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The Fall of Baghdad – The Sequel

As a former supporter of the Iraq War I was none too pleased to see Obama fail to negotiate a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government in 2011, nor was I thrilled to watch the country we freed fall into the orbit of Iran after we left. Watching Sunni Islamic militants sweep southward and threaten to topple the Shiite led government though does fill me with a smidgen of schadenfreude though. The New York Times is reporting the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki asked the US to strike militant positions last month, but the Obama administration declined.

Good.

Other nations must be taught the US is not the world’s policeman nor is it an empire. When we are asked to leave, we leave.  We do not act the way extremists on the right (Ron Paul) and left (Noam Chomsky) claim. If you want us out, we’ll go. The Iraqis wanted us gone, and much to the dismay of many on the right including myself, we went.

Now the Iraqis are reconsidering when they have a band of beheading jihadis in pickup trucks heading their way. Too bad. Instead of asking Washington DC PM al-Maliki needs to ask Teheran for help. Sure I’d rather not see Iraq become a failed state run by terrorists, but actions have consequences and the current leadership which won a free and fair election we created must face the consequences of their actions. After they do, then perhaps we’ll consider our options but not before then.

A Warp Drive Might Be Possible, and More Importantly, Practical

More of this please.

Dr Harold White is famous for suggesting that faster than light (FTL) travel is possible.
Using something known as an Alcubierre drive, named after a Mexican theoretical physicist of the same name, Dr White said it is possible to ‘bend’ space-time, and cover large distances almost instantly. This, in essence, would allow a spaceship to travel almost anywhere in a tiny fraction of the time it would take a conventional spacecraft.

Hope to see this in action sometime before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

Open vs Concealed Carry

Reason.com has a pretty good (but brief) take on the open vs conceal carry debate. Personally I tend towards the conceal side simply because people who aren’t familiar with guns tend to freak out whenever one is in sight. At the same time, however, there have been times when I’ve needed to open carry a long-gun or sidearm, but these times have been few and far between and never involved populated places like schools,  malls or shopping centers.

Council Submissions: June 11, 2014

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The Fact the GOP Leadership Is Stunned Says it All

For five years now the GOP leadership has fought the grassroots of the party, both the conservatives and libertarians who make up the core wings of the party. In 2010 they ignored the message of the Tea Party revolt, and worse, blamed the Tea Party for the loss of the senate. In 2012 they ignored the enthusiasm shown by the core for the “anybody but Mitt” search, shoving the establishment candidate down the throats of the party rank and file. The leadership then ignored the resulting lack of enthusiasm that kept a good chunk of the party core at home, allowing Obama to win re-election.

The party faithful want the leadership to attack the administration on the immigration fiasco, the VA scandal and the Bergdahl – Terrorist Swap – and the leadership wants to make a deal with the president on immigration reform. It’s even turning its back on attacking Obamacare even as the law grows worse and less popular.

So the party spends a shed-load of cash on what was supposed to be a coronation of Eric Cantor, and the rabble in Virginia’s 7th grabbed their pitchforks instead, leaving the leadership “absolutely stunned.

And that says everything there is to say about  the GOP leadership.

Update: Fellow online writer and member of the Watcher’s Council VARight, who has played an active role in unseating Cantor as well as fighting the GOP establishment in his home state of VA, wrote about Dave Brat in a personal note:





The man teaches ethics and is an expert in third world economics. His platform was simple. The Republican Creed.
They are calling him TEA Party. He is not. He never attended a TEA Party meeting to my knowledge other than to speak. He is simply a guy that gets it.
This also spells the end of John Boehner. Not tomorrow, but his much talked about retirement will come sooner rather than later. I believe this will mark the day Boehner’s hold on power started a downhill spiral.
The implications of defeating a sitting House Leader losing a primary are huge. Not since 1994 with … Tom Foley – has this happened.
It has been a long road to get here, but Eric Cantor’s defeat sends a strong message to the world, but especially to Washington. There are consequences for your actions.




This fits a report by the Washington Examiner which showed Brat received no funding from Tea Party groups.