Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Worst President? II

I'm not repeating my intro every time. Just that Obama is the worst president in my lifetime. Read the first part on this topic from 7/2/14 to get the overarching point.

#9 Obamacare. If you forget all my other reasons, Obamacare is by far the most important. And, I will not dwell on any topic because it has been so well covered. Though I very often find my opinions contrary to that of the general populous, not in this case. Virtually every poll taken about the loathsome Act shows it to be unpopular, though no doubt on the left for different reasons than on the right (e.g., some on the left want single payer, and some politicians admit they see this as just a stepping stone to it). Though no doubt it is more conservatives than liberals who dislike the law, it is also a larger number on the left than for almost any other issue where opinion is relatively split along party lines (unlike say, the NSA issues - where disapproval crosses ideological lines). Some provisions are quite popular, they are those which give from insurance companies to individuals and which costs are passed on to everyone, like allowing children at home to stay on their parents insurance and more so, those which require coverage despite pre-existing injury.  Nevertheless, the law has been so long unpopular in its entirety, I do not need to write a book here.  
In general, Obamacare is one of the worst laws ever passed in this country other than ones that are intentionally racist or the like. It was well intentioned in the large - its authors think this is better. In doing so, they personified the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Arguably, it is the single most unpopular big law ever passed.  It was

- badly drafted. Is it a surprise that a law a couple thousand pages long can't hang together. The recent ruling from one court that those who use the federal exchange are not entitled to tax subsidies (which I find wrong to begin with as it is basically an unconstitutional head tax not proportionately divided as required - this is not an argument the Supreme Court has recognized though). Though you can find many articles where supporters of the law claim that this is obviously not what was meant - that you would be entitled to a tax subsidy no matter what exchange you used, all you need to do is listen to the words of one of the architects of the plan, Jonathan Gruber, who is an MIT economist:

Questioner: You mentioned the health-information [sic] Exchanges for the states, and it is my understanding that if states don’t provide them, then the federal government will provide them for the states.

Gruber: Yeah, so these health-insurance Exchanges, you can go on and see ours in Massachusetts, will be these new shopping places and they’ll be the place that people go to get their subsidies for health insurance. In the law, it says if the states don’t provide them, the federal backstop will. The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it. But you know, once again, the politics can get ugly around this.

Of course, he now says it was a mistake to say that and he doesn't remember why he said it, but such is the stuff comedy routines and legal testimony are made of. Please. It is also

- uneconomic. Apparently, the expectations of how much it will cost us go up and up - the CBO's estimates for the decade have essentially doubled - big shocker, huh? Why anyone would think the initial estimates could possibly be given the time of day is a mystery to me, given the history of estimates? It was also

- passed in the worst, most political way, including attempts to "buy" votes with political favors to a few states. It was

- unread by the legislature before voted upon (leading to one of the most intelligence insulting, cynical and loathsome statements a congressperson has made in decades by Nancy Pelosi, who said that we have to pass it before we know what it is in it must go down as ). It is also

- intrusively coercive, in that it not only requires individuals to buy insurance, but will not allow you to buy it if you do not do so on their time frame; requires some large companies to provide coverage for employees (though this is on hold); and prescribes what must be in the policy, which had been previously the domain of the individual states according to our federal system. It is also

- morally corrosive (any bill where politicians cheer as Medicaid increases - how can that be good?) It has also

-created an entirely new federal bureaucracy, obviously paid for by taxpayers now and in the future. It was also

- based on the lie that it would save us all $2500 a year, something else the president has now had to concede wasn't true. It has also

- created an ungodly large amount of paperwork for the healthcare industry which costs health care providers more and, of course, are passed on to us either as customers or taxpayers. For an article on this, try and The crushing federal regulations have hurt all businesses, which is, of course, not all Obama's doing. But, it has increased so in the last few years that I need to have its own section later to cover it. Back to Obamacare, it was also

- written on the backs of the youth of this country who pay more so others can pay not at all or less. It also

- doesn't do what it was meant to do. The amount of new insureds from it - the whole point of the law, is terrifically small. So small, in fact, that the administration would not even release numbers at first. It also

- literally destroyed the relationship between millions of people and their doctors or insurance companies, which they wanted to keep and were promised they could keep. This has now been admitted by the administration when they could no longer deny it, that it was well aware of this when they sponsored the bill that this would not be possible. That's called lying in the real world, although the betrayal seems to be forgotten as life sweeps on and the administration goes from one problem to the other - but it should be shocking. It is also

- so defective it cannot even be fully put into effect, as if the employer mandate was activated, would cause widespread un- or underemployment. It also

- was partially found to be unconstitutional with respect to its Medicaid expansion (and we also know that Justice Robert's fifth vote finding the rest of the act constitutional left many if not most analysts gasping in its self-contradictory nature). It is also

- called by some Obama's signature achievement, though it turned out that he wasn't even personally familiar with it and said it wasn't a tax when his administration was saying it was (he was somewhat bailed out by Justice Roberts whose majority opinion decision included that it was a tax and not a tax - sigh?). It also has

- resulted in a deplorable breach of the government's duty to treat similarly situated people the same in permitting waivers for some, which is the opposite of equal protection of the law. 
I will not even rely on the famously terrible rollout to make my point as to the undesirability of the law itself. Those things do happen. But, you would think, with their signature achievement - they would have concentrated on making it work is something worth noting and which I may revisit on a later date. 

Have some people benefitted from Obamacare? Of course. This is often where bad government leads us - to picking the winners and losers rather than simply providing a level playing field.  

I'm not in the least against safety nets. I do believe we can do them, and should, but they should be insurance and charity based as much as possible. Funding it by taking from one group and giving to another is not a good way to make a lasting society work well together. Some call it plunder. That may be too much in the modern world, where ideals about what is a societal concern and what isn't has changed dramatically since the founding, but, if we do this, it should be used sparingly done, with the will of the people and not in the face of them.

What will be the end result? Recently, I hear more people, including some I know personally, speak about becoming resigned, in order to save money and become one of the people who take advantage of the law rather be burdened by it, and stressed by the cost of policies becoming more unaffordable or not having insurance at all, to decide to humble themselves and get Obamacare - Medicaid, because they feel they no longer have a choice if they want insurance. When enough people do this, it will mean exactly what Obama's super critics claimed - the plan was meant the entire time to destroy insurance and force people to rely on the government. 

To be fair, I think those who claim that it interferes with religious liberty are dead wrong. It interferes with everyone's liberty in general, but not their religious freedom.

In the long run, I believe some aspects will continue, but, eventually, the law will be so changed as to no longer be recognizable.

#8 The economic crisis - I am in no way blaming the debacle in 2008 on Obama (though I have heard some of his political adversaries do so - that's idiotic). But, the kind of policies he backs which lean towards socialism and income redistribution (the latter of which he has at least acknowledged) lead exactly to results we are seeing. And, we know that it is well documented that Bush, on his way out the door, gave both Obama and McCain a respectful hearing with respect to what should be done. McCain (a long favorite of mine for his general attitudes, may know even less about the economy than Obama) remained silent and Obama took over.  Many of the worst policies were initially Bush policies, but Obama championed them and continued them. And, they were also at best, ineffective and at worst, ruinous. Like TARP, like the so-called Stimulus, like the bailouts, they did not rescue our country, as many like to claim. We've seen the bankruptcy of Detroit as our proof of this way of doing business. They call what we are in a recovery, but regular people certainly do not think so.

What all of these supposed wonderful techniques to "save the economy" did was stop the natural correction of terrible business and banking policies, permitted their continuance (e.g., like making mortgages affordable for people who can't afford them - and doing it in a selective manner so that not all debtors are treated equally), brought in new laws that over-regulate and strangle business (e.g., Dodd-Frank) and continued to fund institutions that should fail and eventually will fail. This will not us get us on a sane economic path or stop poorly run banks that engage in too much risk and Wall Street will continue on its way unabated.

All of this is based upon bad ideas that have never worked. One of the worst of these ideas is that our "pointy-heads," as Obama calls them, are smart enough to manage or plan the economy, though it has been shown over and over again that almost every effort comes to failure and is only supported on the backs of a few taxpayers. Another is that we can re-distribute wealth so everyone will have the same access to power and money (how this is not seen as communism or at least socialism is unknown to me), when doing so would cripple the capitalist system; that the way to save a failing economy is by government spending (which the even the Roosevelt administration admitted during the Great Depression, did not work) and others.

At this stage of American history, both Democrats and Republicans are heavily invested in these ideas and thus there is little chance of rational policies no matter who is president. But, some are worse than others, and Obama is one of the worst (only if given a choice between him and Kerry, would I take him). Listen to his first inaugural address. The underlying premise was, now we are going to spend money the right way. Hasn't worked out so good though. The stimulus didn't stimulate; bailouts don't do much except take more money from us and cut off competition and frustrate the natural economic processes of supply and demand.

Of course, there are plenty out there cheering this on - Paul Krugman comes first to mind. I never get tired of reading his columns with mouth dropped open - so pervasive is his European democratic leanings (he keeps using them as examples), so biased his cherry-picked facts, so willing is he to ignore facts that don't fit his world view. He keeps saying it - it all worked, but he rarely tells us why we should believe it. 

We are a very rich country determined to be a poorer one. Like gravity, economics pervades everything, but its power to plan or predict is incredibly weak because life is complicated, apparently far beyond our power to determine. Instead of hard work, marketing, fortune and fair play determining what businesses succeed and what fail, the intrusion of government into ever facet of it makes their support the deciding factor. We will talk about this again when we discuss the regulatory state that is destroying business in this country.

Terrible president. Maybe a nice guy. So signs he wants the country to succeed. But, almost everything he does is wrong. When that happens, even nice guys end up being bad guys to enforce their will and justify themselves. That's what is happening now.


  1. President Obama must be awful. If you, Don, and I can all agree on something how can it be untrue? You and I completely disagree on economic theory. I am a Keynesian and think Krugman is usually right on, but yet I still agree with you that the President has terribly screwed up his attempts to manage the economy. I also agree that "Obamacare" is a terrible law. But my overall low rating for him is due to his complete ineptness, inability to lead. He cannot impact any national decision or policy through the force of either his will, his personality, or his position. And a President, at minimum, ough to be able to do that whether one agrees or disagrees with whatever position he takes. I was personally repelled by Ronald Reagan, yet that SOB found a way to shmooze Tip O'Neil and get his policies enacted. Our current President can't lead us out of a paperbag and that is his biggest failing.

  2. So, we agree he's terrible. We agree Obamacare is terrible. And we agree about his lack of leadership abilities. I probably should stop there but. . . I don't see leadership as being his no. 1 problem. To be fair, I'm not sure how much a leader anyone can be these days short of an existential crisis. Is there anyone out there who can appeal across the divide or with a substantial number of independents? Rand Paul is trying like hell but I don't think he can do it.

    With respect to the economy, you believe (I think based on what you wrote) that the economic ideology is fine, but it is the execution that is lacking. I say the poor execution is based upon the poor ideology (though, there is always dumb luck). In other words, I think you mean if someone was a better leader and planned better, things would be better. I believe he is failing because he is trying to plan the economy in ways that do not and cannot work. Which brings us to Keynes. I'm not sure how the degree to which you are a Keynesian and I am not, but I am definitely less so than you and Don probably less so than me. I would have to know what you mean exactly to say more. But, if you are conflating Keynes with Krugman, then definitely en garde, because I almost always think he is wrong.

    As for Reagan, we've discussed him before. I used to loathe him too, but I admit that was when I was a partisan liberal and I believed that all conservatives were evil or stupid. Somewhere around the beginning of his second term was the beginning of my real political education as I wondered why so many people disagreed with me. I now feel much more "meh" about him. I did not think he was great the way conservatives tend to (and he'd be a Mitt Romney conservative nowadays) but I no longer think he was terrible. Some of his acts I greatly approve of (firing the FAA strikers being no. 1). But, Irangate was a travesty and if we had a system where someone could really have investigated, he would have been impeached. He is also responsible for some of the upswing in partisanship and probably was incapable of doing his job at some points too. As to Reaganomics, I agree with David Stockman. He didn't understand it and it was not really tried for long.

  3. It is rather startling that we 3 are in general agreement. I'm sure we would emphasize different things as to what we find worst but the agreement is there. Perhaps this our opportunity to form a triumvirate and seek to take over the country like Caesar, Crassus and Pompey. On the other hand that didn't work out so well. Fortunately, there is a relatively short time left in Obama's term and it is highly unlikely that he will be able to inflict much more damage except possibly through executive orders. Unfortunately, even if he is unable to do much more damage he will prevent, just by his presence, the necessary steps to repair the damage already done.

    1. Not sure if that was optimistic or pessimistic, but, what will be done in the coming two years will be as predictable as the weather.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .