Topic: Regulatory Studies

The Fed’s “Central Planning” Woes

Given the financial/regulatory system that we have – which is a very important pre-condition – I grant the Fed and Treasury a TEMPORARY “coordinating” role to help tide over the current crisis.  However, the initiatives and actions implemented so far appear unlikely to succeed.

I agree only with its role in the Bear buyout by JPMorgan.  It is, by nature, a one-time action that does not protect Bear’s shareholders and operators but protects the financial system from unraveling further – similar to it’s actions re: LTCM. Even if it is repeated for another investment bank, it does not raise the issue of moral hazard because no such bank wants to end up like Bear.

However, the Fed’s new and almost direct support of mortgage backed securities through its primary dealers introduces another moral-hazard potential – likely to be a huge problem down the road, and especially because of the interest rate policy it is adopting.

Interest rate cuts are being overdone. Large cuts are continuing the Fed’s past mistakes of introducing greater uncertainty in market participants’ expectations. It is using the wrong (inflation fighting) tool to achieve its goal of systemic stability which has arisen from poorer visibility of asset quality. The added uncertainty will prolong the resolution of current credit/liquidity shortages.

The longer that credit/liquidity problems last, the more likely is the introduction of PERMANENT new financial market regulations – which would hinder efficient operation – in the very function that is key to resolving current credit shortage problems – the generation of price information.

Finally, Prof. Cowen’s recent NYT oped (“It’s Hard to Thaw a Frozen Market”) compares market pricing under capitalist and socialist systems.  In brief, the argument is that socialist systems’ poor market pricing abilities appear to be reflected in the current credit-market woes of the American “capitalist” system. This comparison appears misplaced to me. The general U.S. economy may be relatively free and capitalist – but financial and credit markets are not quite so free.

Current credit market problems are not the result of pure and free market operation/competition.  We have a fiat currency whose supply and purchasing power is controlled by Fed interest rate policies. And it appears to have made serious mistakes in the process. This involves larger issues of whether asset prices should be objects for setting Fed policy and whether and how the Fed should respond to supply/oil shocks. Fundamentally, however, financial market participants naturally don’t look to “the free” market to set their expectations about the dollar’s future purchasing power. Those expectations are set by a “central planner” – the Fed.

Who’s Coddling These “Greedy Bastards”?

A letter to the editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal just came to my attention.  It reads:

In his Sunday commentary, “On the road to health care hell,” Steven Miller quoted Michael F. Cannon of the Cato Institute, hardly a person who could be trusted to give an even evaluation of government spending on health care, considering that the Cato Institute wants to limit government.

It is wonderful of Mr. Miller and Mr. Cannon to place all responsibility for Southern Nevada’s public health crisis on the government and none on the greedy bastards who violated their oath to do no harm, and to line their pockets with as much wealth as they could squeeze out of the public. Those who treated Mr. Duke Breuer and sent him home with an IV needle in his arm all had licenses from the state of Nevada, so I guess that Mr. Miller and Mr. Cannon would, by their twisted logic, place the blame solely on the state of Nevada.

However, I hold the state of Nevada responsible for not providing the level of regulation that is currently required, and in view of the level of greed that these doctors have shown, it is high time to level the playing field. We should strip them of every nickel that they have.

Wallace Eastman

LAS VEGAS

Whuh? There’s a public health crisis in Southern Nevada? I’m an apologist for greedy bastards? They sent some guy home with the needle still in his arm?? Yikes!

I went back and read the original Las Vegas Review-Journal op-ed by Steven Miller, vice president for policy at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. Actually, Miller provides a more responsible critique of the U.S. health care sector than most free-market advocates. For example, Miller takes seriously the alarming number of medical errors that Eastman decries. 

Eastman may be surprised by how much he and Miller have in common. Nevada’s physician-licensure laws obviously are not doing enough to protect patients from low-quality care. While Eastman argues that more stringent regulation would fix things, I suspect Miller would argue that licensing simply does not work that way; that physicians inevitably come to control the licensure process and manipulate it to protect themselves from competition, including competition from delivery systems that would reduce medical errors.

My guess is that Eastman and Miller agree that there are greedy bastards out there trying to squeeze as much wealth as they can out of the public, but that Miller would argue it’s the very regulations Eastman supports that’s letting the greedy bastards get away with it.

(As for my trustworthiness: Sure, I want to limit government. When I claim government is ineffective, readers should bear in mind my viewpoint. That’s fair, and doesn’t worry me.)

California Attempts to Silence State Contractors

Imagine that you do business in California.  Maybe you’re in construction, or health care, or auto repair.  Now imagine some or all of your income comes from state contracts; using the above examples, perhaps you build schools, or take care of patients on Medi-Cal, or fix broken-down LAPD squad cars.  Now imagine that the state comes in and says, aha, because we pay your bills – again, on contracts relating to construction, health care, auto repair, etc. – and we love unions, you can’t talk to your employees about any negative aspects of unionization.  Ridiculous, right?  Who is a customer to tell you what to do with money that’s already in your pocket?

Well, that’s precisely what the great state of California is trying to do with a new statute that small businesses are challenging in the case of Chamber of Commerce v. Brown.  It’s a little bit more complicated than I outline above because the case implicates highly technical provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (and previous Supreme Court interpretations thereof), but the gist is that California is attempting to silence employers by tying speech restrictions to unrelated state spending.  For reasons that the petitioners ably present in their briefs and that I summarize in a podcast and in Cato’s own amicus brief, the Supreme Court should strike down this statute.

In any event, that’s the background to my trip to the Court to hear argument in Chamber v. Brown today.  (The plaza in front of the courthouse steps was remarkably free of demonstrators after yesterday’s hoopla surrounding the DC Gun Ban case.)  I’ll save you the detailed summary of the argument, but suffice it to say that the outcome will almost certainly go against California.  It’s always dicey predicting the scorecard, but based on oral argument it will probably be 7-2, 6-3, or maybe 6-1-2.  On one side, Justices Scalia and Alito and Chief Justice Roberts were safely on the side of free speech; Justices Justice Souter surprisingly led the charge against California’s interpretation of labor law; Justice Breyer, though skeptical, will likely write his own opinion agreeing in the Court’s opinion for separate reasons or possibly calling for remand rather than strict reversal; and Justice Thomas was silent but is expected to join the majority.  On the other side, Justices Stevens and Ginsberg seem to have no problem with California’s regulation.  On his own side as usual, Justice Kennedy’s vote seems to be up for grabs, but – based on his decisions in previous labor and regulatory preemption cases – I would bet on him siding with the majority.

In short, California employers will live to speak another day.

Who Serves the Public Interest?

The Washington Post refers to Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen as “a public-interest group” in an article on costly federal regulations that the group is defending. So I wondered: Does the Post think federal regulation is always in the public interest? Or that groups that defend regulation are really acting “in the public interest”? What about groups that work to reduce the burden of government on consumers or taxpayers? Are they “public interest groups”? Certainly, as a member of the public, I don’t really see bigger, costlier government and more expensive products as being in my interest.

So I went to Nexis to investigate. Sure enough, in the past year the Post has used the phrase “public interest group[s]” 41 times. In every case (except one Associated Press story), the groups were on the political left. They demanded more spending or regulation by the federal government, actions that some but not all people would say are in the public interest.

I don’t always disagree with these “public interest groups.” For instance, one story quoted the Media Access Project. They almost always support more regulation of media companies, except when the question is regulation of obscenity or profanity. In this story MAP, “a public interest group,” applauded a court ruling striking down an FCC ruling that the use of profanity on a Fox News broadcast was indecent. Hear, hear. Now if only MAP would defend the rights of media companies to make their own decisions on non-obscene broadcasting.

But how about the National Taxpayers Union, which works to eliminate wasteful spending and reduce the burden of government? Was it a public interest group? Not in the Post. How about the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which works for competition and more choice for consumers? Not a public interest group.

The Post seems to have a very consistent but arguably wrong-headed view about just what is in the public’s interest.

The Toilet Paper Police

This story from a Florida TV station probably calls for some serious analysis about over-regulation and the need for cost-benefit analysis. But that presupposes a level of maturity that I don’t have. Instead, I’ll just note that it’s about time that politicians address issues where they have genuine expertise:

A proposed law currently making its way through the Florida legislature might help you with what can be an embarrassing problem. Here’s the bottom line, the bill would be a mandate that all eating establishment must have enough toilet paper when you go into the restroom. The only problem is the bill doesn’t dictate how much toilet paper is “enough.” State Senator Victor Crist, a Republican from Tampa, felt the problem was so important, a law must be passed to protect the backsides of anyone in Florida. The measure will also try to regulate the cleanliness of restrooms in eating establishments.

Power Corrupts: Elliot Spitzer’s Record as N.Y. Attorney General

In 2002-2005 I documented in some detail what today’s Wall Street Journal editorial referred to as Eliot Spitzer’s “consistent excesses as Attorney General.”

A January 2003 piece on “Spitzer’s Shakedown” revealed the fatuous nature of his inquisition against Wall Street.

In 2004, there was Spitzer’s ridiculous “Mutual Fund Fee Fantasy.” In 2005, in “Trial by Press Release,” I unraveled Spitzer’s flimsy case against the insurance brokerage arm of Marsh & McClellan.

Shortly after one of these articles appeared I received a phone call at home from an investigative reporter with one of the largest New York newspapers. He prodded me for quite a while to find out if I had been influenced or bribed by one of the companies Spitzer had attacked. Did I know anyone at, say, Merrill Lynch? (Nope). Do I own stock in the company? (Not then, and I’m currently shorting financials.)

I explained that nobody has accused me of any breach of integrity since I began writing in 1971. Besides, it would be very expensive to bribe me, I joked, because I had accumulated more money through investing than I know how to spend. I asked the reporter where he had gotten this very bad tip. He told me he had been contacted by Mr. Spitzer’s office. Hardball was their favorite game.

What follows is an unpublished February 2005 speech I gave to some small group in D.C. (which paid me less than half what Gov. Spitzer apparently spent for far less entertainment). Excerpts later appeared in my “Trial by Press Release.”

——

Regulation by Litigation
By Alan Reynolds

“I was asked to say a few kind words about Eliot Spitzer. But that would be such a difficult chore I would be compelled to charge an exorbitant fee for an extremely short talk. In the interest of frugality, I’ve decided to tell you what I really think.

Conflict of interest might be a good place to start.

When travelers use a travel agent, the agent is apt to be paid a commission only by certain hotels, tours and cruises. If customers view that as “a conflict of interest,” they might worry about being steered to an overpriced vacation at some place they don’t really want to visit.

When jobseekers use an employment agency to find a job, the commission is likely to be paid by the employer. If customers view that as a “conflict of interest,” they might worry about being steered to the wrong job at the wrong salary.

When consumers go to a State Farm office to inquire about home or car insurance, the agent they talk to is paid by State Farm. If customers view that as a “conflict of interest,” they may worry about being steered to the wrong policy at an inflated price.

When homebuyers buy a house, the realtor is usually paid a commission by the seller. If customers view that as a “conflict of interest,” they might worry about being steered to the wrong house and paying an inflated price.

In fact, consumers are neither naïve or gullible, so they don’t share Mr. Spitzer’s paranoia about conflicts of interest. On the contrary, the fact that many sorts of brokers and agents are often paid by sellers rather than buyers suggests this is a method of compensation all parties must find mutually satisfactory, otherwise it would not have survived in the competitive marketplace.

“Conflict of interest” does not depend on whether brokers are paid by sellers or buyers, because any broker who did not continually earn a good reputation by taking care of customers would soon lose clients to those who do. Insurance companies have no incentive to pay contingent fees to brokers who cannot attract and retain moderate-risk corporate customers for their policies, for example.

PRESUMPTION OF GUILT

Moving on to Eliot Spitzer’s lucrative backroom deals with financial firms, mutual funds and insurance brokers, we have to start with a big question: Why do companies like Merrill Lynch or Marsh & McLellan rush to settle if they’re not guilty?

Answer: The Martin Act. The 1921 Martin Act gives New York’s AG unique power to smear a company, industry or profession in the press, and to threaten to unleash interminable class action suits unless the target companies write a big check to Albany. Power corrupts and Mr. Spitzer has too much of it. From his point of view, power is delightful and absolute power is absolutely delightful.

The Martin Act has been called “the legal equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction.” Writing in Legal Affairs last June, Nicholas Thompson explained that the Martin Act empowers the New York attorney general “to subpoena any document he wants from anyone doing business in the state… People called in for questioning during Martin Act investigations do not have a right to counsel or a right against self-incrimination… . To win a case, the AG doesn’t have to prove that the defendant intended to defraud anyone, that a transaction took place, or that anyone actually was defrauded. Plus, when the prosecution is over, trial lawyers can gain access to the hordes of documents that the act has churned up and use them as the basis for civil suits.”

That last feature – the fact that Spitzer’s e-mail collections are irresistible bait for class action lawyers– makes it suicidal for any company to challenge a Martin Act accusation. The vagaries of the law make it too easy to be found guilty of fraud for simply being careless or unclear. And any admission or finding of guilt would soon bring an unbearable flood of class actions suits.

In the ULR complaint, for example, the company stands accused of not making “appropriate” disclosure, and of misrepresenting “the reasonableness of their compensation.” Since “appropriate” and “reasonableness” are matters of opinion, so too is the alleged criminality.

Don’t be too surprised if Mr. Spitzer’s run for governor turns out to be largely bankrolled by trial lawyers. Eliot Spitzer is the best gift to trial lawyers since the invention of asbestos.

There is no way to know beforehand if you have committed fraud under the Martin Act. The only sure way to find out is to read the papers and see if Mr. Spitzer has put out a press release about your company.

TRIAL BY PRESS RELEASE

Trial by press release has certain predictable effects:

1. First, the accused company’s stock will lose half its value in a few days, largely because of the threatened expense of endless litigation.

Daniel Gross, writing in Slate last October, noted that “Spitzer doesn’t like taking cases to trial. Instead, he has developed a more powerful tactic: He exploits the threat of stock declines and business losses to force industries to change… .He didn’t simply indict. He issued press releases.”

In the first Spitzer assault by press release, Merrill Lynch’s stock fell by $10 billion, making it look like a relative bargain to pay $100 million in ransom.

Marsh & McLellan’s stock likewise lost half its value, for a while, and the firm laid off 3000 people.

“A Spitzer blitz,” wrote Henry Manne, “with its inevitable stock price decline, calls for a fast triage response in order to stave off a calamity on the scale of Arthur Anderson or Enron.”

Incidentally, finance and insurance are (or were) important industries in New York City. By some strange coincidence, the unemployment rate in New York City has been remarkably high ever since the Spitzer blitz began – 7.9 percent in 2002, 8.4 percent in 2003, and still 6.1 percent at the end of 2004 (compared with 5.3 percent for the State). This raises another big question: Can New York City afford Eliot Spitzer?

2. Second, unproven accusations about misdeeds by a few individuals are invariably described as proof of and industry-wide “scandal” or “corruption.” Spitzer’s press release about Marsh was titled “Investigation Reveals Widespread Corruption in Insurance Industry.” But smear words such as corruption and scandal have no legal meaning.

In his testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Spitzer complained that “favoritism, secrecy and conflicts” rule the insurance industry. But favoritism, secrecy and conflicts are purely imaginary crimes. Mr. Spitzer might actually hope to criminalize such open-ended sins, along with corruption and greed. But that would replace the rule of law with the rule of lawyers.

3. Third, it’s all about money. Eliot Spitzer has become a tax farmer for Albany, raising close to $4 billion in hush money with only the vaguest hints about disgorging any of it alleged victims. Spitzer deals are always settled in cash without formal charges, due process or even admission of guilt. I hesitate to call this a shakedown or extortion – because neither term seems quite strong enough.

Write a big enough check, or get into bed with Spitzer’s teammates, and the most dramatic threats and accusations will magically disappear.

Marsh & McClellan quickly fired CEO Jeffrey Greenberg because Spitzer asked for his head. And their new CEO, Michael Cherkasky, just happens to be an old friend and former colleague of Spitzer’s. On the same day Mr. Chekasky was hired, Spitzer stopped threatening criminal charges against the company and quietly dropped the complaint’s explicit demand for punitive damages. Did someone speak of corruption?

To invest in similar anti-Spitzer insurance, Morgan Stanley prudently hired one of Spitzer’s top lawyers, Eric Dinallo. Bear Stearns hired another, Beth Golden who, the Washington Post explained, “can help explain the Martin Act.” As if anyone could.

4. Fourth, Spitzer has apparently appointed himself the nation’s wage and price control czar – three decades after Richard Nixon abandoned that policy. Has involved himself in tinkering with mutual fund fees, Dick Grasso’s employment contract, Marsh & McClellan’s commission structure, and (I’m not making this up) the fact that New York City washroom attendants worked for tips rather than wages.

THE MARSH COMPLAINT

Spitzer’s charges have never been tested in a court of law, for good reason. Trial by press release does not have to let any court making findings of fact, or let the accused face their accusers (usually competitors), or prove anything beyond reasonable doubt. Spitzer’s complaints merely have to dig up a few seemingly juicy e-mail tidbits to be echoed uncritically by the gullible media.

In the Marsh & McLellan and ULR (Universal Life Resources) complaints, Spitzer tries to depict a world in which professional buyers of insurance at the world’s largest corporations are mindless sheep and insurance brokers are their evil shepherds. He told a Senate panel, “the ordinary purchaser of insurance has no idea that the broker he selects is receiving hidden payments from insurance companies, that the advice he receives from the broker may be compromised.” In ULR’s case, these supposedly clueless purchasers include Intel, Colgate-Palmolive, Eastman Kodak, Marriott, United Parcel and Dell. Nearly all of Marsh’s clients are also Fortune 100 firms. These are scarcely innocent babes in the woods. They can and do switch brokers or deal directly with insurance companies.

Mr. Spitzer’s belief that such sophisticated corporate buyers could be routinely overcharged for insurance by one or two insurance brokers without anyone catching on or shopping around is literally unbelievable.

Fortunately, Spitzer’s office eventually put the exhibits online for the Marsh case. That lets us check to see if quotations used in the Complaint against Marsh were ripped out of context. It turns out they often were.

Paragraph 55 of the Complaint claims “Marsh asked ACE to refrain from submitting a competitive bid because Marsh wanted the incumbent, AIG, to keep the business.” This is followed by a quote that seems to suggest that ACE “could get to $850,000 if needed” – the same bid as AIG. But the next sentence of that quote is suspiciously omitted. What is said was, “Apparently both Marsh Atlanta and Client are extremely unhappy with AIG and if we can put offer on table at $800,000 we’ll get it.”

Paragraph 66 lists assorted complaints with the New York office solicited from Marsh regional managers. One is quoted asking, “What are the rules on pricing – are we to quote our numbers or what MGB (Marsh Global Booking) wants us to quote?” The next sentence, however, is curiously omitted. What it said was, “We get more price-driven deals from them [MGB] than anyone. The local offices don’t push us for price the way they do!” This regional manager’s anxiety about pricing was obviously not about being pushed too hard to raise prices (as Spitzer implied) but to lower prices – to make price-driven deals.

Paragraph 63 claims Munich-American Risk Partners disclosed to a client “contingent commissions that were being passed on to the client.” But that is not what the cited letter says. What it actually complains about is that the commissions cannot be passed on, and are therefore burdensome to Munich. The letter said Munich and Marsh should “find a way to share in the financial impact rather than having Risk Partners share the entire burden.”

Paragraphs 64 to 66 echo other self-interested gripes from Munich about not getting much business from Marsh, so why should they even bother to show up at client meetings. Yet the undisclosed part of this same letter admits Marsh wasn’t recommending Munich because Munich’s bids were too high. The business was instead going to Zurich, which did not pay contingent commissions to Marsh. The Munich executive wrote, “Zurich is currently very aggressively pricing umbrella business … We currently stand almost no chance of competing with Zurich … Their pricing approach seems to be just what MGB is looking for… . Pricing still drives that operation [namely, MGB].” The undisclosed complaint from Munich was not that Marsh was charging clients too much, but that Munich’s competitors were charging too little.

Many of the most serious assertions are just unverifiable hearsay, supported by no evidence at all. A key complaint, for example, asserts that, “Typically, Hartford’s underwriters were told to price the quote or indication 25% above a particular number, and that by doing so Hartford need not worry that it would get the business” (59,60). Why would Hartford worry about getting the business? Don’t they want to sell insurance? If Hartford typically quotes too high a price, then Hartford need not ever worry about selling any insurance. Why would they go along with a deal like that?

The complaint says, “A cast of the world’s largest insurance companies … have paid hundreds of millions of dollars for Marsh to steer business their way.” Yet Marsh cannot steer business to one without steering it away from another, so why don’t the others complain?

The only alleged evidence of “steering” is in the final paragraphs 70 through 74, concerning the Greenville South Carolina School District. The choice among four bids came down to ACE and Zurich. ACE paid contingent commissions to Marsh but Zurich did not. Zurich won the bid. If that was steering, Marsh needs driving lessons.

Spitzer does not claim the highest bid won in this case or any other, yet the antitrust portion of the case nonetheless asserts (without a shred of evidence) that “clients purchased insurance at prices higher than they would have paid.” Where’s the proof?

Paragraph 42 asserts that “insurance carriers pass the cost of contingent commissions directly on to the clients in the form of higher premiums” If it that were true then carriers like Zurich who refused to pay such commissions could charge lower premiums and win the bid, as Zurich did against ACE and Munich. No carrier can pass on any cost if another carrier wins the bid.

CONCLUSION

In short, to make his case, Mr. Spitzer had to rely on what the Martin Act refers to as deception, concealment, suppression and false pretense.

The cash pay-off in the Marsh case doesn’t matter much – a capricious Spitzer tax has become price of doing business in New York, at least for finance and related middlemen. But the resulting unlegislated change in the way brokers are compensated, on the other hand, is likely to injure clients and insurers alike – if it spreads and sticks.

Methods of compensating people for their services evolve for good reasons and should not be meddled with lightly.

Contingent fees in the insurance business are often based on the profitability of the business, so that brokers who keep bringing high-risk clients to insurers will not be rewarded for doing so. This solves what economists call an “agency problem” – just as CEOs need incentives to act in the stockholders’ interest rather than their own, independent brokers need some incentive to act in the carrier’s interest rather than their own. Contingent fees for renewing policies likewise provide a clear incentive for brokers to keep clients satisfied, to minimize needless churning, and to communicate special client needs to insurers. It is not at all clear that any alternative incentive system would work as well.

Yet Mr. Spitzer’s myopic vision of “conflict” demands that insurance brokers stop collecting such fees from carriers, so Marsh and some insurers have capitulated. If all brokers and carriers did the same, however, that would leave only two alternatives. One possible alternative would be to virtually eliminate independent brokerage, reverting to captive single-company agents and direct negotiations between insurance companies and clients. Another alternative might be to charge higher brokerage fees to clients, but high client fees would also tend to eliminate a lot of independent brokerage. So would underpaying brokers.

If Spitzer succeeds in regulating and legislating insurance commissions arbitrarily by the threat of bad publicity and endless litigation, Henry Manne predicted in the Wall Street Journal that “we may witness the demise of specialized insurance-brokerage firms … [with] a decrease in market specialization … [and] economic efficiency.”

In a CNN interview, Spitzer once referred to himself as a “prosecutor-slash-regulator.” He’s become a guerilla regulator, operating with no legitimate authority, rewriting laws and regulations through public threats and private deals. He has appointed himself the nation’s regulatory czar, price controller, legislator and judge.

I am told that Eliot Spitzer is running for Governor of New York. He cannot count on my unqualified support.”

The Crazy Talk Express

… just keeps rolling along. The other day, the topic of conversation turned to autism and vaccines. “There is strong evidence,” John McCain said, “that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

Strong evidence, eh? If so, that evidence has escaped the attention of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, which recently published a thorough review of the data available on this matter and, well, shot John McCain’s opinion to pieces. But what do they know? John McCain has been studying this issue for years - in between his investigation of human growth hormones in baseball, of course, and a panoply of other pressing medical and scientific matters.

Seriously, what the …? Is John McCain the political equivalent of Cliff Clavin? Or will he say just about anything to get a vote?

It’s one thing when Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. peddles this nonsense. He’s a Deep (very deep)-Green-Environmentalist, and environmentalists like him are at eternal war with the Periodic Table. This narrative of mercury-killing-kids-for-drug-company-profit comes naturally to him, so one makes allowances in his case. (Fun aside: the next time RFK Jr. talks about the moral and intellectual imperative to defer to the consensus of science when it comes to global warming, ask him [or his image on television] to square that instinct with the dangerous nonsense he’s spouting about vaccines. But I digress.) But for John McCain to offer the same tripe is something else entirely. How many kids have to die in Boulder, Colorado, to deliver John McCain to the White House?

Okay, perhaps that’s a little unfair (emphasis on “perhaps” and “little”), but the question remains. John McCain: cynical panderer or dangerous crackpot? We report, you decide.