Hillary Clinton’s Health Plan

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled a sweeping health care proposal Monday that would require everyone to carry health insurance and offer federal subsidies to help reduce the cost of coverage. Cato scholar Michael D. Tanner responds: “Here we go again. HillaryCare is back, and its apparent that Sen. Clinton has learned little since the American people overwhelmingly rejected her last attempt to overhaul the U.S. health care system. Once again her plan, which would cost $110 billion per year in new taxes, calls for greater government control over American health care. If her plan were to pass this time, it would mean higher taxes, lost jobs, less patient choice, and poorer quality health care.”

“SCHIP Is Not Eroding Private Health Coverage”

So claims Jared Bernstein of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. 

Bernstein is an ambitious fellow, picking this fight with the Bush administration.  And the Congressional Budget Office.  And the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  And that notorious right-winger Jonathan Gruber.

Summarizing data from the Urban Institute on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Bernstein shows a near-complete misunderstanding of the dynamics of crowd-out:

Most SCHIP enrollees (72%) were not covered by private coverage six months before enrollment in the public program.  Another 14% lost coverage within a six month period prior to SCHIP enrollment, due to a lost job, an employer dropping coverage, or change in family structure that led to the child’s coverage being dropped (as in a divorce, separation, or death of covered spouse). 

This leaves only 14% of SCHIP cases that substituted the public program for private coverage.  But the Urban Institute’s study points out that more than half of these cases (8%) cited an inability to afford private coverage as the reason for shifting over to SCHIP.  That is, the cost of the family premium through their job was prohibitively high.

Bernstein appears to be under the impression that crowd-out occurs only when someone enrolls in a public program on the very day that person dropped private coverage.  In fact, crowd-out also occurs:

  • When workers (or their employers) drop coverage in response to the worker becoming eligible for a public program – even if the worker doesn’t enroll until seven months later;
  • When eligibility for a public program encourages workers to leave a job with health benefits for a job that pays higher cash wages;
  • When workers’ eligibility for a public program encourages employers to drop health benefits entirely, or encourages employers to increase the “employee portion” of the premium so that eligible workers will decline that benefit.

Most importantly, crowd-out does not require (and empirical studies of crowd-out do not assume) that the same people who drop private insurance are enrolling in public programs.  If a Medicaid or SCHIP expansion increases the cost of private insurance, and that leads someone to drop their private coverage and go without, that too is crowd-out.

Americans Shifting to Zero-Income Tax States

A story in the Kansas City Star reveals that millions of Americans are moving to states without income taxes. Not surprisingly, politicians and revenue bureaucrats from high-tax states are monitoring escaping taxpayers in hopes of retaining the ability to seize a portion of their income:

No-income-tax states such as Florida, Nevada and Texas are looking increasingly attractive to people getting ready for retirement. …But before you move to a tax haven, it’s important to pay attention to the fine print of how to move. It’s easy to make seemingly minor mistakes that can trigger a painful audit — and a hefty bill — from the high-tax jurisdiction you thought you had left behind. …Some relatively high-tax states are increasingly cracking down on individuals who claim to have moved out of state, but still maintain strong connections to their former homes. Massachusetts plans to hire additional tax examiners in the next few months, some of whom will be assigned to a special “domicile unit” as part of its tax-audit program. … state income tax rates can run as high as 10.3 percent in California and 8.97 percent in New Jersey. Besides Florida, Nevada and Texas, other states with no state income tax for individuals include Washington, Alaska, South Dakota and Wyoming. New Hampshire and Tennessee don’t have a broad wage-based income tax but do tax interest and dividends. …from April 2000 through June 2006, there was a net migration of 2.3 million people moving from states with income taxes to states with no income taxes, an average of more than 1,000 people moving per day, says Richard Vedder, an economics professor at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, based on an analysis of census data.

Greenspan Condemns Profligate Republicans

The Wall Street Journal reports that the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board strongly criticizes President Bush and congressional Republicans for wasting so much money on ill-conceived government programs:

In a withering critique of his fellow Republicans, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan says in his memoir that the party to which he has belonged all his life deserved to lose power last year for forsaking its small-government principles. In “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” published by Penguin Press, Mr. Greenspan criticizes both congressional Republicans and President George W. Bush for abandoning fiscal discipline. …Mr. Greenspan, who calls himself a “lifelong libertarian Republican,” writes that he advised the White House to veto some bills to curb “out-of-control” spending while the Republicans controlled Congress. He says President Bush’s failure to do so “was a major mistake.” Republicans in Congress, he writes, “swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose.” …”Little value was placed on rigorous economic policy debate or the weighing of long-term consequences,” he writes.

Why I Love Michael Kinsley

Though he often disagrees with libertarians and other free-marketeers, Kinsley is one of the few critics who appears to understand the argument for free markets and who acknowledges that there’s something to it:

Student loans are the clearest example of the common Republican confusion between free-market capitalism and business. Capitalism is an economic system that is held, with some justification, to be the best guarantor of prosperity. Business can be capitalism in action, or it can be something entirely different. There is very little about the student loan program that has anything to do with free-market capitalism. Yet whenever the student loan system comes under criticism, lobbyists, “industry” leaders and supportive politicians haul out the same old cliches, as if they were defending Adam Smith’s famous pin factory itself.

I would add, however, that many on the Left likewise confuse government activism with “power to the people.”  Typically, government activism just ends up giving power to business. 

Either way, business wins!

Might Want to Remove the Plank from Your Own Eye First

Somehow I missed New York Sun journalist Eli Lake’s op-ed column earlier this week pooh-poohing NYU professor Barnett Rubin’s startling suggestion that the Vice President’s office was trying to take the debate on Iran in the direction of war. Mr. Lake’s snarky opinion column (and when did journalists start writing regular opinion pieces, anyway?) leaves a lot to be desired. Lake ascribes numerous claims to Rubin that Rubin never made, and has certain problems with sketchily leaked tidbits of his own that bear on his standing to judge others.

First, Lake introduces a claim as Rubin’s that Rubin never made. Lake’s second sentence is this, characterizing Rubin’s claims:

Any day now divisions of American tanks will be rolling toward Tehran as President Bush and the neoconservatives plunge the world into yet another disastrous war.

This would be an easy allegation to deflate, except Rubin never claimed that a ground war was imminent. Readers can view Rubin’s post here and decide whether Lake accurately characterized his claims. The terms “tank” or “ground war” don’t appear, far as I can see.

Mr. Lake appears to fabricate another supposed view of Rubin’s.

[T[he charge from Mr. Rubin amounts to an accusation of bad faith. In Mr. Rubin’s world, you see, Michael Ledeen, Newt Gingrich, or William Kristol do not write about Iran’s support for confessional murderers in Iraq because they have weighed the evidence, considered the regime’s history, or analyzed the testimony of experts.

No, anything these people say about Iran in September will be because Dick Cheney gave instructions, as if anyone who speaks plainly about Iranian supported terrorism or the regime’s nuclear-bomb making reflects a hidden agenda — for the Left it’s either oil or Israel, so take your pick.

This, again, bears no resemblance to the actual post that Prof. Rubin wrote. He didn’t say anything about Israel, anything about oil, or anything about bad faith. A rather less conspiratorial reading of Rubin is that he says nothing about the good faith of the above commentators, but rather thinks that their influence on U.S. national security policy over the past several years has been disastrous, that replicating their strategic malfeasance in Iran would be more disastrous, and that he hopes it doesn’t happen. As Barnett himself writes in the end of his post:

I hesitated before posting this. I don’t want to spread alarmist rumors. I don’t want to lessen the pressure on the Ahmadinejad government in Tehran. But there are too many signs of another irresponsible military adventure from the Cheney-Bush administration for me just to dismiss these reports. I am putting them into the public sphere in the hope of helping to mobilize opposition to a policy that would further doom the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and burden our country and the people of the Middle East with yet another unstoppable fountain of bloodshed.

The only imputation of bad faith is from Eli Lake.

Then, Lake moves from attributing to Rubin claims and views that Rubin doesn’t state and doesn’t seem to hold, to accusing him of making a similar claim to one that Seymour Hersh made previously and pointing out that Mr. Hersh’s prediction was wrong. I don’t think Mr. Lake wants to start lining up the predictions of people who agree with him about foreign policy against those of the rest of us and assessing them side-by-side for accuracy. But in any event Lake should know enough that criticizing one person for having bad information and then attempting to use that fact to discredit someone else sounds an awful lot like the bad faith that he falsely accuses Professor Rubin of ascribing to people who agree with him.

Finally, I suspect Eli Lake may want to be careful about pointing out how frequently false information insinuates itself into debates about security policy. Take, for one example, the July article authored by Mr. Lake titled “Iran Is Found To Be a Lair of Al Qaeda.”

In that story, Lake published a claim purportedly leaked to him that the National Intelligence Estimate judged that one of two senior al Qaeda leadership councils “meets regularly in eastern Iran.” Lake wrote that “there is little disagreement that a branch of al Qaeda’s leadership operates in Iran, [but] the intelligence community diverges on the extent to which the hosting of the senior leaders represents a policy of the regime in Tehran or the rogue actions of Iran’s Quds Force, the terrorist support units that report directly to Iran’s supreme leader.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Lake, the story was tersely refuted later that day by the National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats, Edward Gistaro. Asked at a National Press Club briefing whether the judgment Lake described was in the final draft report, Gistaro replied “No, it is not. I don’t think it was ever in the draft…. I read [the Sun article] this morning, and I thought, ‘I don’t know where this comes from.’” The transcript of the conference describes “laughter” in the briefing room after this revelation.

In the wake of such developments, and particularly in the wake of easily-drawn analogies to recent controversies, I think those of us who are concerned about the prospect of attacking Iran can be forgiven for at least a twinge of trepidation.

Solutions Day!

Newt Gingrich has always been an irrepressible, gushing font of ideas and information: ”My name, Newt, actually comes from the Danish Knut, and there’s been a major crisis in Germany over a polar bear named Knut,” he told the crowd that had come to hear him debate global warming with Sen. John Kerry back in April. 

But now he’s seeking your input. In just two weeks, Gingrich’s group American Solutions will be hosting an online extravaganza called “Solutions Day.” You may not be interested in Solutions Day, but Solutions Day is interested in you:

On September 27, the anniversary of the Contract with America, we will have the first annual “Solutions Day.”

Solutions Day will be a day of citizen activism. It will be devoted entirely to positive solutions based on positive principles to enable us to transform government and public policy so America can win the future.

Solutions Day will feature an online workshop available to every American.

Since September 27 is a Thursday, we will repeat Solutions Day via the Internet on Saturday, September 29, so people who have to work can be involved.

Which is a smart move, lest we end up with a bunch of solutions heavily skewed toward retirees, stay-at-home moms, the unemployed, and day traders. After all, real change requires input from a broader cross-section of Americans. Real change requires the involvement of informed citizens. Real change requires…, er, real change. That’s the slogan of Gingrich’s effort: “Real Change Requires Real Change.” And it has the virtue of being true both backwards and forwards.

Solutions Day will also feature a series of workshops, like “The End of Government… As We Know It” and “Space — The Race to the Endless Frontier.” And if you miss it both times around, don’t fret: ”All events will be made available on-demand on the Internet.”

Newt being Newt though, he’s full of Big Ideas even now, two weeks before Solutions Day. He unveiled some of those ideas Monday in a war-on-terror speech at AEI.  

This isn’t your typical right-wing stemwinder. It’s classic Gingrich, chock full of chunky idea-nuggets, like peanut brittle for the mind. Here’s Gingrich framing the debate fairly:

America is currently trapped between those who advocate “staying the course” and those who would legislate surrender and defeat for America.

Here he is making clear that the debate should proceed in sober, rational terms, without hysterical fearmongering:

 We need a calm, reasoned dialogue about the genuine possibility of a second Holocaust….   

and here he is taking a long view of the threats we face: 

The Iranian dictatorship had been at war with America for 22 years before 9/11.

That last point may confuse you. For instance, the first thing I thought was: that must be embarassing for them. At war with us for over two decades and we barely notice? Then I thought, wait: if Iran’s at war with us, then why did we just topple their major regional enemy and clear the way for a country dominated by Iran’s close allies? But that just shows I’m not a foreign policy expert, let alone a genius. These things are complicated. Real change requires real change. 

And this is a speech about real change. As in those alternate-history novels he’s famous for, Gingrich presents a bold vision of “An Alternative History of the War since 9/11.” The former Speaker’s biggest ideas for ending terrorism center around continuously warning Americans that we may all be killed; among other things, he’d have us run ”highly publicized simulations of two nuclear and one biological attack each year.” 

Another key idea for Gingrich is that the U.S. should think seriously about launching wars with up to three additional countries. Risky? Sure. But as Newt puts it, “we must adopt a spirit that it is better to make mistakes of commission and then fix them than it is to avoid achievement by avoiding failure.” Just imagine how different things could have been if the Bush administration had been animated by that spirit these last six years.