Tag: huffington post

Aside From That, Mrs. Lincoln, How’s ObamaCare Implementation Going?

The Washington Post has published a remarkable exposé on the Obama administration’s foundering efforts to implement ObamaCare.

The article paints a picture of a White House that did not know what it was getting into, either in terms of public opposition or the technical challenges of implementation. It likens the task of getting young adults to buy ObamaCare’s health plans to getting young adults to vote, despite a glaring difference between those challenges. (Hint: one of them requires young adults to shell out hundreds of dollars per month.) But this exposé is most remarkable for not exposing two lawsuits that by far pose the greatest challenge to ObamaCare’s survival.

One indication that implementation is not going well is what the Post quotes ObamaCare’s supporters as saying:

“In 2011, there was this ‘we’re going to save the world’ mentality. In 2013, it focuses more on how do we deliver on the requirements of the law.”

“It’s pretty much a black box.”

“They tell us, ‘It’s freakishly on schedule.’ They use those exact words. But only the people who work in this can tell you if it’s actually running on time.”

“Advocates on the ground are really struggling with that group. They want to have a positive message but don’t know what to say.”

“We’re in an environment [now] where 40 percent are against it, 35 percent are for it and neither side knows what’s actually in it.”

“How hard does the insurance department or Medicaid department in a red state [that opposes the law] make it to implement this?”

“Everybody is having sleepless nights given the magnitude of the effort and the short amount of time.”

“It’s like building a bridge from both ends and hoping, in the end, they connect.”

“I read [the delay of the employer-mandate] as an admission that not all of the components of the [data] hub are working.”

“Some of the guidance from the federal government is still coming. That means we can’t get to our wishlist.”

As bad as these evaluations are, things are actually quite a bit worse.

For one thing, the HuffingtonPost/Pollster.com polling aggregator currently shows that 52.5 percent of Americans are against ObamaCare, compared to 40.5 percent are for it. That’s a 12-point gap, not a five-point gap. It’s also the largest gap that aggregator has ever measured.

For another, the Washington Post acknowledges that if young adults don’t sign up for ObamaCare’s over-priced insurance “the law will fail,” and acknowledges the difficulty of getting young adults to over-pay for insurance. But it still downplays that challenge:

When…asked in a recent survey whether a $210 premium was affordable, only 29 percent of likely marketplace enrollees said yes. [Marketers then told] participants that, with their tax credits, they would save “$1,908 a year compared to what you would pay on your own.”

All of a sudden, 48 percent of the participants thought that insurance was affordable. But 48 percent is still less than half.

That number will turn out to be even lower when young adults realize they’re still shelling out that $210 they already said they cannot afford.

But the Post neglects to mention the greatest threat to the law’s survival: those tax credits may not even be there in two-thirds of the country.

The attorney general of Oklahoma, and a group of small employers and individuals from various states, have each filed lawsuits challenging the Obama administration’s plans to issue those tax credits in the 34 states that have opted not to establish one of ObamaCare’s health insurance “exchanges” themselves. The statute quite clearly authorizes those credits (and related subsidies) only “through an Exchange established by the State.” Nowhere, and in no way, does federal law allow the administration to issue entitlements through the 34 state-based Exchanges established and operated by the federal government. Yet the White House is trying to spend an estimated $700 billion over 10 years in those states without congressional authorization.

Both the non-partisan Congressional Research Service and Harvard Law Review have acknowledged these lawsuits are credible. Plaintiffs in one of the suits have asked the court to block that illegal spending before it begins in 2014. Supporters of the law admit that if that happens, ObamaCare doesn’t just fail, it collapses.

So the question this supposed exposé really answers is: aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how’s ObamaCare implementation going?

Common Core Caught In Its Own Tangled Web

At this point, I probably don’t need to rehearse all the deceptions that have been central to the triumph of national curriculum standards. (If for some reason you need a refresher, check out this op-ed.) Unfortunately, what we are dealing with now are the slowly emerging costs of all that deception. We are indeed entering a tangled web.

The fastest growing hullabaloo is over how much fiction versus nonfiction English teachers – or is it schools? – must teach. Many English teachers  are just now learning about seeming Common Core dictates that no more than 30 to 50 percent of what they teach – depending on  the grade level – be fiction. You know, Fahrenheit 451 or Animal Farm. The specific reasons for their concern are two tables in the Common Core ELA document  (p. 5) that appear to lay out just such percentages.  And needless to say, despite the Common Core’s air of omniscience about what and how kids should learn, there is big disagreement about the relative value of fiction and nonfiction.

But hold on! Common Core crafters David Coleman – now head of the SAT-makin’ College Board – and Susan Pimentel insist that’s all off base. The standards are very clear, they say,  that the percentages apply to all reading in a school, not just English classes. As they wrote in the Huffington Post yesterday:

The Standards could not be clearer: ELA classrooms must focus on literature – that is not negotiable, but a requirement of high school ELA. On page 5 of the Standards – where the distinction between literature and informational text is introduced – there is an explicit, unambiguous statement regarding the balance of texts relative to the disciplines covered by the Standards:

“… the ELA classroom must focus on literature (stories, drama, and poetry) as well as literary non-fiction, [and] a great deal of informational reading in grades 6-12 must take place in other classes…”

I sure hope the Common Core doesn’t have lessons on ambiguity, because I don’t think the crafters grasp the concept. This explanation couldn’t be much more ambiguous, stating that English classes must focus on literature “as well as” nonfiction. Sure sounds like a 70-30 or 50-50 split could be mandated under that.

This is, of course, exactly the kind of obtuse mumbo-jumbo one should expect from a document – and overall effort – that tries to simultaneously be revolutionary and innocuous. And wouldn’t it have been wonderful if this sort of thing had been hashed out before states were cajoled into adopting the standards? But then there would have been public disagreements, and all the silliness of people holding different opinions is exactly what destroyed past efforts to impose uniform standards on the country.

The good news is that, absent further federal efforts – which are the huge, looming threat – there is no mechanism that can actually make states adhere to these confusing time allocations, or anything else in the Common Core. And, of course, states can move in a wholly better direction by instituting private school choice programs that don’t include centralized standards. Then individual children – you know, unique people – could seek out educational models tailored to their specific needs provided by educators with the freedom to use different and innovative standards and methods.

Even if that happens, though, the lesson is becoming clear: Practice to deceive, as Common Core supporters have, and you could get caught in a very sticky web.

 

Olympic Myths, Ancient and Modern

The Olympics are starting, which means that alongside the parade of athletes, we face a parade of grandees trying to use the Games for their own purposes.  The International Olympic Committee thinks that this multi-billion-dollar sports spectacle is really some sort of movement for world peace, while domestic politicians see the Olympics as a canvas on which to project their views on economics, international trade, environmental policy, and anything else they can dream up.

They’re all full of it.  As I explain in the Huffington Post,

The ancient reality could not have been further from these modern misconceptions, as Greek armies routinely violated the Olympic truce, sometimes battling in the Olympic sanctuary itself. Individual achievement was valued much more than participation, and wealth superceded ideology.

Pindar, the lyric poet whose odes tell us much of what we know about the early Olympians, wrote at the behest and patronage of wealthy athletes, who sought personal glory rather than the vindication of their city-state and its political system. The great champion Alcibiades used his prestige to gain fame and riches, often at the expense of “national interest.”  … .

Under today’s conditions of globalization – cultural homogenization, economic interdependence, decline of the nation-state even with respect to our enemies in war – international athletic competition assumes an ever-more parallel course to that of the world at large. As with all sporting events, the Olympics of the past two decades have become exponentially more entertainment-oriented. Even the proliferation of crass commercialism is a positive step because it returns the Olympics to the role they fulfill best: providing a forum for the globe’s finest athletes to show the rest of us a good time.

The Olympics now bring us the absolute best, without regard to color, creed, contract, or the Iron Curtain. The nature of the Olympic “movement,” meanwhile, has returned to the entertainment, ritual, and indeed athletic value of the original Games.

Ira Stoll makes a similar point at Reason.

Which isn’t to say that the Olympics are no good – I love them so much that I wrote my master’s thesis on their post-Cold War transformation – but that in enjoying them you shouldn’t read in anything other than that you’re watching the best athletes in the world show their stuff.

Let the Games begin!

HuffPo Oped: ‘The Illiberality of ObamaCare’

My latest:

On Friday, President Obama tried to quell the uproar over his ongoing effort to force Catholics (and everyone else) to pay for contraceptives, sterilization, and pharmaceutical abortions. Unfortunately, the non-compromise he floated does not reduce by one penny the amount of money he would force Catholics to spend on those items. Worse, this mandate is just one manifestation of how the president’s health care law will grind up the freedom of every American.

The Petition of the Blogmakers

In his famous “Petition of the Candlemakers,” the great classical liberal thinker Frederic Bastiat lampooned the protectionist arguments of his day by imagining a campaign—launched by the producers of artificial illumination—against “ruinous competition” from that “merciless” scab… the sun. Via In These Times and the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog, I see that someone forgot to explain to the Newspaper Guild and National Writers Union that Bastiat’s petition was, you know, satire.

Borrowing a page from writer Jon Tasini, whose meritless lawsuit against the Huffington Post was roundly and justly ridiculed back in April, those two groups are advocating a boycott of the opinion and news site. They complain that, though HuffPo pays salaries to an enormous number of staff writers, reporters, and editors—apparently more than the New York Times does, if you count the whole AOL newsroom—the site also has the temerity to run lots of unpaid essays and blog posts from volunteer writers, comprising a motley assortment of entertainment celebrities, elected officials, veteran journalists, academics (both famous and obscure), and political activists. As we can see from the millions of individuals clacking away at their keyboards for lesser-known personal or group blogs—or, for that matter, signing up for open-mic nights or posting photos on Flickr—there’s no shortage of people who want the opportunity to share their ideas or their creativity with an audience, but aren’t necessarily looking to make a career of it. Isn’t it great that some companies have found a way to make a profit by providing so many amateur writers, photographers, moviemakers, and artists with a platform?

Not so great, apparently, if you’re among those who feel entitled to be paid for what many happily do gratis—but can’t improve on the amateurs enough to demand a premium for their copy (And all those heartless people in consensual sexual relationships—won’t someone think of the escorts!?). Since their target audience isn’t hugely sympathetic to a “sharing is evil” message (isn’t that what we Rand-besotted Cato folks are supposed to believe?) they’re doing their best to persuade folks that if someone is making a buck, somebody else must be getting exploited:

Ultimately, HuffPo is surviving on the adjunct model. Like higher education with its hordes of PhDs with no job prospects, there is a huge supply of writers who want to make a living in journalism. HuffPo offers the promise of gaining valuable experience and readership so that someday, maybe, you can make it big.

This is a dishonest proposition by HuffPo. It is almost impossible in 2011 to go from a no one to a big name blogger. The blogosphere is ossified. During the explosion of the medium from 2004-06, young writers could produce excellent work and become big name people. Then, by 2007, those were the only blogs people read. Today, those are the prominent and still young writers of the progressive blogosphere. And they aren’t going anywhere.

Now, on a random Thursday evening at The Passenger in DC, I could probably pick out half a dozen successful young progressive writer-bloggers who were unknown in 2007, but let that pass. Skimming the site’s current blog sidebar, I spot such naifs as veteran CBS News correspondent Bob Simon, American Prospect co-founder Bob Kuttner, longtime Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham—all, apparently, hoping for their big break at the Huffington Post! Not to mention UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, movie star Nia Vardalos, or Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, all dreaming wistfully of an internship offer from the New Republic. And will nobody shed a tear for poor, powerless Sen. Claire McCaskill? Was Jerusalem builded here, among these dark satanic mills?

The reality, of course, is that lots of industries are finding it hard to adapt to an age where the Internet’s ability to harness, aggregate, and distribute so much amateur effort and creativity is creating disruptive abundance where scarcity once promised a steady income. How many of your friends have bought a hardcover dictionary or encyclopedia in the last five years? When did you last need to buy a map on a long car trip? How many of us have decided that, with so many clever people sharing their creative visions on YouTube (and the best of television available for purchase a-la-carte), paying for a cable subscription is a mug’s game? You can love the new reality or hate it, but it seems perverse to blame it on Arianna Huffington, who’s been among the few to find a viable model for turning a profit by fusing amateur contributions and paid professional content.

Heritage and Prop. 19

Over at the Huffington Post,  I scrutinize a recent Legal Memorandum published by the Heritage Foundation on the Prop. 19 ballot initiative.

Here is an excerpt:

The Heritage memorandum claims that if Prop 19 were approved, it would conflict with the federal criminal statute, the Controlled Substances Act and thus “invite litigation that would almost certainly result in [Prop 19] being struck down” as unconstitutional. This legal claim is dead wrong. While it is true that the supremacy clause of the Constitution makes it clear that federal law will override a conflicting state law, that clause simply has no application here. The federal law on marijuana remains in force, but that does not mean that a state government is under any obligation to assist the feds. As the Supreme Court noted in New York v. United States (1992), the state governments are neither “regional offices nor administrative agencies” of the federal government. Let’s take another example. Suppose Congress were to criminalize, say, cotton candy–would California be in violation of the Constitution because its police agents are not now empowered to arrest people producing and possessing cotton candy? No. Nor could Congress compel the California legislature to move against cotton candy producers and consumers. Here again is the Supreme Court: “Even where Congress has the authority to pass laws requiring or prohibiting certain acts, it lacks the power directly to compel the States to require or prohibit those acts.” (New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 166 (1992)). Prop 19 is consistent with the constitutional principle of federalism.

For additional Cato scholarship on drug policy, go here and here.

My Overdue Response to Jesse Larner

Back in August of 2007, I issued a challenge to Jesse Larner, who blogs at HuffingtonPost.  One week later, Larner took up my challenge in a post that I’ve just finished reading.

Larner very graciously admitted to a couple of misstatements, and I must reciprocate.  I wrote, “I challenge Larner to show where a Cato scholar … describes America’s as a ‘free-enterprise system of health care.‘ “  Sure enough, Larner found an oped where one of my colleagues wrote, “I live in a country with a free-market health-care system.”  Obviously, I disagree with that claim.  But Larner was right, and I will have to look into this.

A few remaining areas of disagreement:

  • I wrote that Larner “claims that people don’t die on waiting lists in Canada’s health care system.”  Larner responds: “Actually, that’s not what I claimed. I claimed that people don’t often die on waiting lists.”  Canada’s Supreme Court writes that “in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care.”  Is some as many as often?  I hope not.
  • Larner: “the Canadian system has problems … [but] it worked better before a series of conservative provincial governments began to de-fund it.”  This isn’t the first time that advocates of socialized medicine have blamed its shortcomings on politicians who (supposedly) oppose socialized medicine.  But it is an inherent feature of such systems that they will inevitably fall into the hands of whatever viable political parties exist in that nation.  As I explained to Paul Krugman, “Unless you have a plan to abolish Republicans, they’re part of your plan.”
  • Larner writes: “a public health care plan is a public good.”  Public good is an economic term with a specific meaning.  A public health care plan is not a public good.
  • Larner: “is Cannon saying that we do not have rationing in the US?”  Hardly.
  • Larner: “In a free-market system, what mechanisms would prevent insurers from cherry-picking their customers, and denying coverage to those who are likely to require expensive treatment?”  The question presumes that insurance should do something that insurance cannot do: insure the uninsurable.  In this chapter of the Cato Handbook on Policy, I explain the (amazing) things that health insurance can accomplish, and why “health insurance markets are completely justified in not covering preexisting conditions.”
  • “So here’s my challenge to Cannon: show me a way that a true free-market system can provide decent coverage to everyone, regardless of ability to pay, without rationing.”  Elsewhere in his post, Larner acknowledges this is an impossible task.  In this magazine article, I explain that there is no way to reform health care that can guarantee that no patients will fall through the cracks.  In this Cato paper, I explain how a free market would minimize the number of people who do.
  • “Cannon is not in favor of universal coverage as a social right.” True, that.  “As a libertarian, he doesn’t even recognize the concept of social rights.”  I believe it was Friedrich Hayek who said there’s no better way to strip a word of its meaning than to place the word “social” in front of it.  Try it yourself .  I suggest using words like security, contract, justice, responsibility…