Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

For "a human being, the question 'to be or not to be,' is the question 'to think or not to think.'" Ayn Rand

22 September 2016

Prof. Walter E. Williams on Cruelty to Black Students and Freedom of Speech in Colleges

My undergraduate college, Brown University, is tooting its horn that its new freshman class is nearly half "people of color."  I earned my Ph.D. in Physics from Case Western Reserve University, which is mentioned in the second Prof. Williams column below for the ignominy of having safe spaces to protect students from ideas that make them uncomfortable.  Brown University is no better than Case Western Reserve University in discouraging freedom of speech on campus.  Along with most universities and colleges, they have forgotten their true mission, which should be encouraging students to think rationally, creatively, and independently while learning substantial portions of the knowledge of mankind.

In his first column, Prof. Williams points out that "the average black student 12th-grader has the academic proficiency of a white eight- or ninth-grader."  He notes that this may cause many black college students to feel discriminated against just as a group of average white eighth- or ninth-graders would feel if they were shoved into a college with average white twelfth-graders.  They really are not prepared to compete.  The failure of education was long before college and that failure must be addressed much earlier in the education system.  Colleges that try to pretend the failure is redeemable with affirmative action are only doing further harm to the unprepared students they are admitting.  They are humiliating them so that the college administrators, faculty, and alumnae can all falsely claim they are remedying past discriminations.

As is so often the case, Prof. Williams wants his readers to deal with reality and he will rub their noses in it no matter how much they want feelings of  moral superiority purchased by denying reality. Please read his columns and do his bidding - think about them.

05 September 2016

The ObamaCare Disappearing Act

ObamaCare is not disappearing as a horse-collar around our necks, but it is disappearing as a provider of actual decent health care.  Many taxpayers are opting to pay the tax penalty rather than pay exorbitant health insurance premiums, only then to find out that the very high deductibles prevent them from using their health insurance at all.  Indeed, many with ObamaCare health insurance cannot afford to actually go to the doctor for health care after their impoverishment by the high premiums.  As a result, insurers operating in the ObamaCare exchange health insurance market are generally suffering huge losses.  Far too few healthy people are signing up for the ObamaCare abomination, while unhealthy people are signing up.

Consequently, Aetna, United Healthcare, Humana, and others have made huge reductions in the number of markets they plan to serve in 2017.  According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 31% of the counties in the U.S. will be served by only one insurer in 2017, while another 31% of the counties will have only two insurers under ObamaCare exchanges.  19% of enrollees will have but one insurer to choose from and another 19% will have only two to choose from.  Once again, an Obama promise to increase competition in the health insurance market turns out to be a lie. Yes, he might only have made a wrong prediction, but given the known history of his known lies, it is more likely that he knowingly lied about this as well.

As John Goodman has noted, the only plans that have avoided losses are those that offer services after the fashion of Medicaid and are operated by Medicaid contractors.  Medicaid level service is well known for its awfulness.  About 75% of the plans to be offered in 2017 are estimated to be for either Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) or Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPOs), according to a McKinsey & Co. analysis of regulatory filings for 18 states and the District of Columbia (reported in Wall St. Journal, 1 Sep 2016).  So only 25% of the plans will offer a wider choice of health care providers as are usually found in Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs).  About 15% of ObamaCare exchange users will have no choice of a PPO available to them at all.  This is another case of the falsity of the statement that "If you like your doctor (or hospital), you may keep him."

As recently as March 2015, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was claiming that in 2016 there would be 21 million ObamaCare exchange enrollees.  However, in January 2016 the CBO reduced its estimate of 2016 enrollees by 8 million people to 13 million, of whom 11 million would receive subsidies.  What is more, the CBO, despite increasing tax penalities, expects the ObamaCare exchange enrollment to maximize at 16 million in 2018 and remain at that level through 2023, despite a growing U.S. population.  The White House has now projected an even lower level of 2016 exchange enrollees at 10.4 million.

For the 2014 tax year, 7.5 million taxpayers paid the ObamaCare penalty tax, which was far in excess of government estimates.  H&R Block said the average ObamaCare tax penalty was $172 in 2014. The average penalty paid in 2015, was up to $383.  While the IRS had released the information on the number of taxpayers paying the penalty for 2014 by early July 2015, that information does not seem to be available yet for the tax year 2015.  Perhaps it is too embarrassing to the Obama administration.

In the Fall of 2015, we knew that there were 10.5 million 2014 tax returns eligible for ObamaCare exchange insurance which did not claim having it.  12 million tax returns claimed exemptions from ObamaCare insurance, 5.1 million failed to check having qualifying insurance and paid no penalty tax, and 4.5 million taxpayer tax filings received ObamaCare subsidies.  Note that the number of taxpayers paying the ObamaCare fine or penalty tax exceeds the number of taxpayers receiving a subsidy by 3 million returns.  About 6% of taxpayers are covered by insurance under ObamaCare exchanges.

About 300,000 taxpayers in 2015 apparently paid the tax penalty despite being eligible for an exemption.  This is about all we know about 2015 tax returns on this subject.

According to the CBO, the 11 million receiving ObamaCare subsidies in 2016 represents 3.4% of the population of about 324.4 million people.  Many of these people had insurance without a subsidy prior to ObamaCare.

Much of the grief of the insurance companies is due to the fact that about 8 million fewer people have signed up for ObamaCare exchange health insurance in 2016 than had been projected in March of 2015 by the CBO and presumably by the health insurers.  These 8 million abstainers are generally much younger and much healthier than those who have signed up.  The premiums they were to pay were supposed to act like a transfer payment to those who had more health problems.  Even those who by age may be subject to more health problems, but are not now experiencing them, are often not signing up since they know they can do so whenever their health deteriorates.  Of course, such people used to actually pay for insurance because they could afford.  Thanks to ObamaCare many of them cannot afford it now, so they simply wait to sign up when they need it.

ObamaCare has lowered the quality of health care in the USA greatly.  It is now in large part limited to the low quality of Medicaid.  People on it have decreasing choices of doctors and hospitals, more limited care due to a greater need for cost-cutting, and they are excluded from many of the better hospitals and doctors, who rightly charge more for their services.  These terrible costs, as well as the terrible cost in our liberty, have been incurred in the name of a very small percentage of the population.  Meanwhile, 7.5 million taxpayers are paying ObamaCare penalty taxes for absolutely no value to their lives.  Another 2 million people are suffering under the higher premiums and deductibles of ObamaCare without getting any subsidy in return.

Prior to the passage of ObamaCare by an undemocratic Democrat dominated Congress and President, the justification in the socialist press was largely based on a claim that 47 million Americans had no health insurance.  Now we have ObamaCare and only some unknown fraction of the 13 million people on it in 2016 might have been without insurance if it did not exist.  We know from a McKensey & Co. survey in April 2014 that only 22% of the enrollees then signed up and who had paid their premiums had been previously uninsured.  If we suppose that the number of previously uninsured on ObamaCare is now 30%, that number is only 3.9 million people or 1.2% of the population.  The claim that a problem for 47 million people was to be addressed was almost certainly more than a ten-fold exaggeration.

It is a very sad commentary on Americans that they have not insisted on making this abysmal boondoggle a much greater factor in the 2016 elections than they have.  The self-ownership of our minds and bodies deserves much more diligent attention, as does the destruction of much of our health care system.

13 Nov 2016 Update:  Very late in the 2016 election campaign, Trump finally started to make a consistent issue of ObamaCare.  Had he not done so, it is easy to speculate that he would not have won in several of the states in which his margin of victory was very slender.

02 September 2016

Atlas Shrugged Day!

This is a reprint of a post I wrote on 2 Sep 2010, with some updates on evolved times:

On September 2, 1946, Ayn Rand began writing Atlas Shrugged and she finished her great novel in time for publication in 1957.  Throughout the novel, September 2 is the date of a number of events:
  • In the opening scene of the novel, a bum asking Eddie Willers for a handout, asks "Who is John Galt?"  This and the way it was asked bother Eddie.  As he walks through NYC he is also bothered by the gigantic calendar hanging from a public tower and announcing the date as September 2.    
  • On that date, Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart decide to take a vacation together.  On that vacation they discover an abandoned motor that should have revolutionized the use of energy in the world.
  • Francisco D'Anconia makes his speech on money on September 2.  He proclaims money to be the tool of free trade and the result of noble effort, not the root of evil.  Those who call money evil choose to replace its use with the force of the gun.
  • D'Anconia Copper is nationalized on 2 September, but the date on the calendar is replaced by "Brother, you asked for it!"
So, on this day of 2 September 2016, let us give thanks to Ayn Rand for her incredibly dedicated effort in writing this path-breaking novel we are finding so important in our lives 59 years after its publication date and 70 years after she started it on 2 September 1946.  This should be a day celebrated much as Thanksgiving Day is celebrated, but without any religious overtones, as a day to respect the creativity and productivity of all the heroic men and women that Ayn Rand's heroic novel commemorates.  At the top of our list of respected heroes and heroines, we should recognize Ayn Rand herself.