An Incomplete Headline

The headline is Millions Paying Less Than $100 Per Month For Obamacare.

But.

Now the numbers are coming in, and it appears that for many Americans the health-insurance plans bought under the new government program are fairly affordable. Almost seven out of 10 people who bought plans through federally run marketplaces and who receive tax credits are paying monthly premiums of less than $100, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Wednesday.

So the real headline should be something like Millions Paying So Millions Can Pay Less Than $100 Per Month For Obamacare.

I’m surely in the former millions. I’m not even paying less than $100 a week on insurance these days.

Optimism Must Be Educated Out Of The Populace Or Regulated

Dustbury links to a story about the Feds worrying about the uninformed masses who must be shepherded: Study: Nearly Half Of Consumers Fooled By “Up To” Claims In Advertisements:

The Federal Trade Commission recently commissioned a study that looked out how consumers perceive and comprehend the “up to” conditional in advertisements.

The researchers used different versions of an ad for windows — one that stated that the windows were “proven to save up to 47% on heating and cooling bills,” and one that simply stated, “proven to save 47%.”

Of those who looked at the “up to” version, 45.6% mistakenly said the ad promised to save 47%. Meanwhile, only 58.3% of consumers who saw the unconditional version said the ad promised to deliver 47% savings. According to the FTC, the small difference between the two results indicates that the use of “up to” did little-to-nothing to change consumers’ perception that the ad was promising the maximum level of performance.

Friends, Americans, and countrymen under the DREAM thing, this results from the Lake Woebegone Effect and self-esteem based educational curricula. People all believe they are better than average, better looking than average, smarter than average, and in the tops in whatever they’re measured. Whether they are or not.

So of course they believe that the absolute best possible result of a product applies to them. Some people, not just in Chicago, spend their winters thinking the Cubs might win the World Series. People like blood sausage, too.

Now that the FTC has discovered this fact, what does the FTC want to do about it? Solve the problem of optimism, no doubt.

Federal Government Again Recommends Fewer Medical Tests

In a stunning turn of events, the Federal Government has decided that women are getting too darn many pap smears:

Many women will need to get Pap smears only every five years under new national guidelines released this month.

“We’re going to be able to identify a subset of women that we can put at ease,” said Dr. Rosanna Gray-Swain, a obstetrician/gynecologist with BJC HealthCare. “If they have normal Pap smears and are negative for (human papillomavirus) … they have essentially zero chance of developing cervical cancer in five years.”

Essentially zero is not equal to zero. Following these guidelines, a small number of women will develop cervical cancer that could have been caught by more frequent pap smears. To the United States government, these are acceptable losses.

This new recommendation to cut testing that would catch cancer earlier mirrors the 2009 guideline that also recommended fewer mammograms which would mean breast cancer would go undetected longer in some women.

One wonders why we don’t hear about the United States Preventive Services Task Force’s War on Women, since its governmental actions put women at greater risk of advanced cancer and death.

Contrast this with the Republican “war on women” which thinks men and women should pay for their own contraception and abortifacients or insurance plan that covers them.

(Fun fact: Abortifacients in animal breeding are called mismating shots. How would it frame the debate if we used that term instead of the scientific and rational sounding “abortifacient”?)

The Large and Loving Mamma Government: Manufacturing Hypocrites, One Conservative at a Time

HotAir links to story about Rick Perry’s prudent participation in his employer’s retirement program:

Rick Perry has done something his opponents have been hoping he’d do for years: retire. But it’s not what the governor’s detractors had in mind.

Perry officially retired in January so he could start collecting his lucrative pension benefits early, but he still gets to collect his salary — and has in turn dramatically boosted his take-home pay.

Perry makes a $150,000 annual gross salary as Texas governor. Now, thanks to his early retirement, Perry, 61, gets a monthly retirement annuity of $7,698 before taxes, or $6,588 net. That raises his gross annual salary to more than $240,000.

On a swing through Cherokee, Iowa, Perry was asked why the Employee Retirement System should be paying his retirement while he’s still collecting a salary.

“That’s been in place for decades. … I don’t find that to be out of the ordinary,” Perry said. “ERS called me and said, ‘Listen, you’re eligible to access your retirement now with your military time and your time and service, and I think you would be rather foolish to not access what you’ve earned.’”

Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said the governor’s early collection of his pension benefits is “consistent with Texas state law and Employee Retirement System rules.”

Allahpundit is displeased:

He “retired” back in January, months before he decided to run for president. Had he known he was going to jump in and take withering fire from Romney on his entitlements rhetoric, I assume he’d have waited to start collecting. But it is what it is, and it’ll be thrown in his face every time the subject of Medicare or Social Security reform comes up. I don’t blame him for his logic: He paid in, he worked hard, he followed the rules, and now he wants his money. Problem is, that’s the same attitude seniors take towards federal entitlements, and if Perry beats Obama, he’ll suddenly be the guy tasked with convincing them to relax that attitude a bit in the name of our common fiscal good. How does he rally them to take one for the team and wait until, say, age 68 to enroll in Medicare if he couldn’t wait until finishing his term as governor to start taking his own pension?

You know what? It does open one up to attack for participating in a system one might eventually want to alter.

But by the same token, “conservatives” are open to–and often suffer–attacks from big government revolutionaries because the conservatives sometimes participate in big government programs. Follow the logic here:

  • Receive welfare benefits but oppose welfare? Hypocrite! Yes, government checks covered my expenses in the early 1980s when I lived in the housing projects, and I ate the government cheese. In my defense, I was a minor and not responsible for the situation.
     
  • Take government help for college but think the program might deserve reconsideration? Hypocrite!
     
  • Receive retirement or death benefits from the estate of a Federal employee but think they might get too many benefits? Hypocrite! My mother was a long-time Federal employee, and after she passed, I got a couple checks as part of her retirement death benefit.
     
  • Take tax credits but oppose the stimulus? HYPOCRITE!!! Although, in my defense, I did not end up taking stimulus money for my washing machine because it seemed a bother to fill out the paperwork.
     
  • Go to public schools, but think too much is spent on them? Hypocrite!
     
  • Eat agricultural products, but oppose agricultural subsidies? Hypocrite! Actually, I’m not sure how that would follow, but you can bet the charge would follow.
     
  • Drive on public roads, but think billions of dollars in Federal spending in omnibus transportation bills is a bad idea? Hypocrite!
     
  • Obey the law of gravity, but think space travel is vital? Hypocrite! Okay, I’m tripping into ad absurdum with the list here, but the illogic is very similar.

Frankly, I must be the walkingest hypcrite there is. I believe that the Federal government is large, but welfare fed me, government checks fed me, then Pell Grants educated me, and I claim deductions of any sort on my annual tax returns, I must hate myself or something.

Instead of merely being part of the system I’d like to change for the better.

Freedom Update: Slaughtering Horses Now Okay, 100 Watt Incandescent Bulbs Not So Much

Obama, Congress restore horse-slaughter industry:

President Obama last month quietly signed into law a spending bill that restores the American horse-slaughter industry, just a few months after a government investigation said the ban on slaughtering was backfiring.

The domestic ban didn’t end horse slaughter but instead shifted the site of butchery to Mexico and Canada – which meant increased abuse or neglect as the horses were shipped out of the country and beyond the reach of U.S. law.

The ban had been imposed in 2006 when Congress defunded the government’s ability to inspect plants that butchered horses for consumption. Without inspections, the meat couldn’t be sold, and the industry withered.

But the Agriculture spending bill Mr. Obama signed the week before Thanksgiving dropped the prohibition on inspections, and the administration said it now stands ready to conduct them should anyone open a horse-slaughter plant.

Congress is in the pockets of Big Horsemeat!

Actually, not so much. On the whole, I don’t see why horses differ from other livestock that prompted this ban except some people like horses as more than an animal.

But Congress managed to restore a freedom opposed by PETA and the HSUS through and signed by the President. A bit of how it really happened:

This year, the House version of the Agriculture spending bill maintained the slaughter-ban language, but the Senate did not. When the two chambers reconciled their bills, the language was not in the final version.

Mr. Obama signed the spending bill by autopen on Nov. 18. He was traveling in Asia at the time the bill was presented to him, so he used the automated signature machine for the second time in his presidency.

Make no mistake: this restoration of freedom was not brought to you by the Republican-controlled House, but by the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Cynically, one could posit that the Republicans in the House are not that eager to start restoring freedoms and overturning bans, whether they’re esoteric issues like slaughtering horses or more everyday-life-affecting decisions to compel usage of little glass mercury bombs throughout your home. Maybe that’s a good question for your Republican Congressman if you have one.

(Link to the Washington Times story seen on Instapundit.)

Tax The Rich States

Courtesy of Instapundit, we have this story:

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced Thursday that Virginia has finished its fiscal year with a surplus of $544.8 million through higher-than-expected tax revenue and savings.

And suddenly, the idea comes to me: The Federal Government should tax the rich states!

I mean, why should the fiscally prudent legislators and governor in Virginia get to keep that surplus? I believe when you spread the wealth around states, it’s good for everyone, especially California, New York, Illinois, and other blue state fiscal disaster areas.

Plus, it punishes the mostly red states and encourages them to spill every drop of taxpayer sweat they can.

Damn, it’s a good thing I’m not a Democratic strategist. I’m awful devious.

Obama Administration Increases Health Insurance Costs

The headline is all about the free candy: Women’s contraceptives must be fully covered soon. Lots of free candy:

The Obama administration issued new standards on Monday that require health insurance plans to cover all government-approved contraceptives for women, without co-payments or other charges.

The standards, which also guarantee full coverage of other preventive services for women, follow recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences and grew out of the new health care law.

The article gives proper talking points about who will get the free candy and why free candy is good:

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said, “These guidelines will save countless dollars and lives, and send a hugely powerful message about the importance of women’s preventive health care.”

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., also praised the requirements, saying they would “ensure that women have increased access to the services they need to be healthy.”

Christers oppose it:

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and conservative groups, including the Family Research Council, oppose any requirement for coverage of contraceptives.

If enough people don’t take free candy, the federal government will spend money creating and running ads and marketing to shout “FREE CANDY!!!!”:

Researchers have found that people who have coverage of preventive services, under Medicare or private insurance, use them much less than recommended. Federal officials said they would try to promote their use by publicizing the fact that wider, cost-free coverage is now available.

The article explains how this mandate will be funded:

 

Allow me to ‘splain: Health insurance premiums will go up so insurance companies can buy the candy that Sugar Daddy Sam mandates that health insurance providers give to you at no cost to you.

Evil insurance companies will arbitrarily raise your monthly bills. Because they’re evil. And the saintly unelected boards in Washington, D.C., are good. QED.

A Lesson Unlearned

The President spoke to calm the citizenry recently:

Sorry, did I say “calm the citizenry”? I meant to “rile those subjects receiving alms from his most beneficent largesse”.

It would be a good exercise in imagination for those who receive these giveaways to think about what they would do if those benefits actually stopped. And I don’t mean “stopped” in the sense of “went on furlough for a couple weeks or months, only to come back with additional sugar to make up the shortfall.” I mean, what if the Tea Party people are right and this rate of expenditure is unsustainable and eventually the huckster’s constant motion machine falls to a pile of gears and pistons. Then what will they do? Get some sort of job even with their chronic back pain? Perhaps pick up some craft they can barter? Attend a church that can help out? Maybe cultivate some family relationships and bear some children so they have someone to take care of them in their old age?

The rhetoricians–and I apologize to Cicero for calling them that–on one side of the debate seem to want to carve different channels for imaginations to run. Instead of self-reliance, some leaders preach that while some citizens don’t have it, someone (“the rich”) does have it, and someone must take it from the haves and give it to them. It’s a Mad Max mentality where the government is The Humungus, liberating gasoline for its followers. We don’t need deserts, leather, and collanders. We might already be there.

(Video conveniently seen on Real Debate Wisconsin as I was thinking about this post.)

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Tam. Hey, VFTP readers, you can get the trade paperback version of my novel John Donnelly’s Gold, which Roberta X. mentions here, for 20% off today (Friday, July 15, 2011) by entering the secret code BIG305 at checkout.

Building An Empire

Remember when we used to have a republic, where elected officials at the lowest level of government handled the immediate needs of citizens? I almost do, too.

Which is why I find this development deeply disturbing:

The Obama administration is launching a pilot program designed to spark economic growth in urban America by partnering federal officials with local decision-makers in six cities, the U.S Housing and Urban Development secretary announced Monday.

The idea, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said, is to create what he called Community Solutions Teams, which will include employees from several different federal agencies, and have them work directly with local officials in Detroit; Chester, Pa.; Fresno, Calif.; Memphis; Cleveland and New Orleans.

The federal staffers will in effect be embedded in the cities, working on issues the mayors have identified as important, such as developing transportation infrastructure, improving job-training programs and the like. In Detroit, Donovan said, up to a dozen “federal folks” will be in town for a year or two.

Sure, a year or two.

And suddenly, the elected officials in these cities will do what the federal staffers want if the local officials want the money. The old way of doing it, where the feds offered dollars with lots of strings, was bad enough. Now they will be directly directing things at the local level.

British Journalist Misses The Point

Ed Driscoll and Instapundit link to this Independence Day column in the British The Telegraph paper where the journalist describes the American Revolution but misses the point by a little, and a lot:

On this day in 1776 a group of 13 colonies broke away to found a new nation free to govern itself as it saw fit, pledging that each citizen would have the unalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. A nation, as Americans are apt to declare without equivocation, which became the greatest on the face of the earth. [Emphasis added.]

Erm, no.

Let’s go to the text:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Understand these rights are inalienable and bestowed by the Creator. They are not proffered nor pledged by citizens, the founding fathers, or whatever government or governing documents they and we write or elect.

I don’t know if this is the Continental or the Transnational mindset or what, but certain people–not necessarily this journalist–would like you to believe that the government is the source of rights and can manufacture them or remove them at will. Strangely enough, a lot of those certain people are in or would like to be in the governmental Department of Rights Management.

We need to be sure that we educate people to the proper, and intended by the framers of our nation’s founding documents, defintion of right.

The Incandescent Rapture

Instapundit has spent some pixel inches recently covering the year-end ban on 100-watt incandescent light bulbs. Some of the things he links to, such as this Investors Business Daily piece, talk about people up in arms about it. However, the people who get linked by Instapundit and who pay attention year-round to the governments’ actions tend to remain a minority. I fear most people don’t know about what the government does in its omnipotentbus bills and their eventual effects years later.

Remember, the bill banning light bulbs was passed four years ago. Long enough for cause to be forgotten when effect rolls around. Did the Department of Energy send its armed SWAT units into stores to forcibly remove them from the shelves on the day the law went into effect? Of course not.

But at Instapundit’s reminder, I stopped by the light bulb aisle to pick some more up (remember, I am a noted stockpiler). Even as I was in the aisle, the store employees were completing a reset of the shelf space. Gone were the 24-packs of incandescent bulbs. Instead, the aisle was given over to a wider selection of LED and fluorescent bulbs.

And when the year-end arrives, the 100-watt bulbs will just be gone without fanfare or explanation. In coming years, the same will happen to the remainder of incandescent bulbs. Consumers not engaged in the political process will not know why; they just will not have the chance to buy them and will have to spend a couple bucks on a nice expensive toxic-waste-to-be glass corkscrew instead. Kind of like how all the old timey used children’s books with “Good vs. Bad” or “Building Things Is Good” style plots disappeared, leaving only the new timey “Love Those Who Are Different From You” and “Unspoiled Nature Is Better Than Any Human Activity” plots remain available.

The government acts, time passes, and the citizen’s choice just seems to evaporate years later with no clear reason why. Maybe, sometimes, a consumer will say, “Hey, I remember when I could get a 25 cent light bulb,” but that thought doesn’t necessarily translate into sustained political action.

So pardon me if I’m not sanguine on the prospects of a government reversal. The bureaucracy in charge does not want to lessen its control. The Democrats in the elected government don’t want to anger their activists. The Republican professionals might not want to take away a galvanizing issue that gets the dander of its voters up–after all, if Republican elected officials were to solve the problems they were elected to solve, why would Republican voters vote next election?

No, I guess I’m with Instapundit. Stock up while you can, if you can anymore.

(Cross-posted on 24th State.)

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! If you work in IT, check out my software quality assurance blog QA Hates You.

UPDATE 2: Thanks for the link, Ms. K.

Department of Education SWAT Teams

If those words aren’t enough to make you vote for smaller government, perhaps the full headline will. Dept. of Education breaks down Stockton man’s door [This headline and story have been removed]:

Kenneth Wright does not have a criminal record and he had no reason to believe a S.W.A.T team would be breaking down his door at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Education issued the search and called in the S.W.A.T for his [estranged] wife’s defaulted student loans.

The federal Department of Education should be abolished and have all its cowboys lay down their arms.

Somehow, though, being a Tea Party conservative makes me a fascist, but supporting a regime that kicks in doors for debts incurred pursuing useless -Studies degrees is humanitarian or something.

UPDATE: An updated story doesn’t reassure me much:

U.S. Department of Education spokesman Justin Hamilton confirmed for News10 Wednesday morning federal agents with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), not local S.W.A.T., served the search warrant. Hamilton would not say specifically why the raid took place except that it was part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Hamilton said the search was not related to student loans in default as reported in the local media.

OIG is a semi-independent branch of the education department that executes warrants for criminal offenses such as student aid fraud, embezzlement of federal aid and bribery, according to Hamilton. The agency serves 30 to 35 search warrants a year.

My point remains: The Department of Education has no point busting down doors with its own SWAT team for any reason.

UPDATE II: My update tracks with Tam’s.

The Harpies In Washington Pluck The Strings

When the government holds out the dollar, you dance like the government likes or you don’t get the dollar:

Now, the federal Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to oust Solomon from his job. According to the company, the agency’s Office of Inspector General advised Solomon, a Yale Law School alum, last week that it planned to exclude him from doing any business with federal Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The move — similar to the government’s exclusion of KV Pharmaceutical’s former chairman, Marc Hermelin — is part of a new effort by regulators to use this enforcement tactic to root out “untrustworthy individuals” who knew or should have known that health care fraud was being committed on their watch.

But some experts, who point out that Solomon was never charged with a crime, question whether regulators have overreached, bypassing the court system in favor of banishing drug company executives without having to prove a case against them.

This seems an unethical and unconstitutional device circumventing the court system tht requires a burden of proof. Instead, we have regulators as judge, juries, and banishers. This is a nation of bureaucrats, not of laws.

Imagine the government saying that your employer should fire you or else it won’t be able to do business. “But, Brian J., I am not a fat cat wealthy evil drug company executive!” But if the government can do this to a wealthy fat cat evil capitalist, why can’t the government do it to you? Because you’re obscure or because you’re a right-thinking Democrat voter?

One Ring To Rule Them All

Hey, where have I heard this before?

Imagine–one secure credential that you can use to shop online, bank, even get quick information about what to do during natural disasters or other emergencies.

Good idea? The Obama administration thinks so and announced a plan on Friday to achieve it.

It’s a little thin on details, but the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace envisions a day when people conducting online activity no longer have to rely on passwords, which can be hard to remember or can be hacked.

Instead, people will be able to get a secure credential in the form of a smart card or a USB thumb drive, which will carry their personal information and can be used to authenticate their identity online.

Instead of your papers, please, it will be your plastic, please. Make no mistake, this is a national ID sneaking in the back door.

I know, there are reasonable arguments for a national ID card, but I don’t think they trump the risk of abuse by government officials who would have a great deal of ability to track the citizens. Whether as a matter of policy or simply because bad apples could, they would dip into that data with less innocent intent than proponents would argue.

Thanks, but I’ll stick with using my children’s names as passwords and writing them on Post-It notes so I don’t forget.

Cathartic, But Unconvincing

Larry Correia goes off on government spending:

Government can’t balance a checkbook. They’re idiots. I know finance math. I do it for a living. And when I look at the numbers involved here, (and the interest!) it makes my head swim. Okay, for you non-accountants, when they start bandying numbers about on the news of 4 trillion such and such, and a hundred billion this and that, I know that your eyes glaze over. You think to yourself, “Oh, it is just the same old same old, bunch of politicians spending too much money, blah blah blah.”

NOOOOO!

Saying that this is the same old same old, is like saying that gophers digging up your lawn is the same level of disaster as Krakatoa. Over the last couple of years we’ve reached a whole new level of crazy. Our spending has gone insane. We’re spending more money, faster, than all of mankind, throughout all of recorded human history. Economists aren’t sure what’s going to happen, because this has never happened before. Ever. On Earth. We’ve strayed into strange new territory here and there are many possible outcomes if we don’t stray the hell back out. And don’t for a second think that any of those possible outcomes are remotely good. No. They range somewhere between the Great Depression and Mad Max.

He’s right, of course, but the only way to convince somewhere between 51 and 80 percent of the country is for the end to occur, suddenly and unexpectedly!

And it will be the fault of the doomsayers even then. Cassandra will be the first to the guillotine.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

Stunning, the Perfidy

Forget the eagle, forget Uncle Sam. With this current administration, we have a new mascot.

Stunning, the Perfidy.

Whenever I think the president and his smartest-people-in-the-universe have reached the utmost limit in selling out, nay, for selling out, you get something; whenever I think the president and his collegiately credentialed Marxist studies professionals have reached the limit in giving out our nation’s long time allies, they broaden my understanding.

Witness this:

Information about every Trident missile the US supplies to Britain will be given to Russia as part of an arms control deal signed by President Barack Obama next week.

Defence analysts claim the agreement risks undermining Britain’s policy of refusing to confirm the exact size of its nuclear arsenal.

The fact that the Americans used British nuclear secrets as a bargaining chip also sheds new light on the so-called “special relationship”, which is shown often to be a one-sided affair by US diplomatic communications obtained by the WikiLeaks website.

In two years, I wonder if the United States will have any standing in the world or any allies left.

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Ms. K.

“Daddy, Are Monsters Real?” The Little Boy Asks

I have this Q&A frequently with my four-year-old. I tell him about various monsters, stories about monsters, and fictional monsters and add a great depth of complexity to his world that he does not understand. The end result, though, is I assure him that monsters do not exist.

But I’m lying to him.

It saves me from having to try to explain this:

Gosnell Williams Moton

I haven’t written anything about the Women’s Medical Society atrocities in Philadelphia because abortion isn’t one of the hot buttons for me. I’ve been historically reluctantly pro-choice governmentally while pro-life morally (fun fact: I belonged to the Students for Choice group at the University, which confused my sisters-in-arms who knew me as an arch-conservative from my student paper column).

But I’ve read some of the “abortions” performed there (as recounted on Pundit and Pundette), and it becomes harder to remain governmentally pro-choice. It’s clear that, to some people, that lump of tissue remains nothing but a lump of tissue even after it’s viable, even after it’s born because abortion is okay.

Sadly, monsters are real, and most of the time they think they’re doing the right thing.