Energy Policy Hooch

It what might be the quote of the week, Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, warned the House Energy & Commerce Committee yesterday in an open hearing that removing the U.S. tarriff on Brazilian ethanol would send “a very negative signal to our marketplace.”

So there you have it.  According to the loony-fuels lobby, positive signals to the market = trade barriers and negative signals to the market = uninhibited global trade.  Say this stuff enough times and you too might be able to work for the renewable energy business.

Kiddie Mac

Pop Quiz:

“Kiddie Mac” is:

     A. America’s next great hip-hop star

     B. a cheesy new dish from Kraft

     C. a youth-oriented computer by Apple

     D. a foolish idea floating around the halls of Congress

I assume most people identified the correct answer. Kiddie Mac is in fact, the informal title of a the proposed Children’s Development Commission—a federal agency that would provide loan guarantees for child daycare centers. The ridiculousness of this proposal speaks for itself. Yet, Rep. Carolyn Maloney recently introduced a bill to create Kiddie Mac, and has done so repeatedly since 1999. 

With Supporters Like This….

In today’s Washington Post, columnist E.J. Dionne becomes the latest liberal to endorse Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s health care reform legislation. The plan has also been endorsed by Sens. Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton.  

Since Governor Romney and the Heritage Foundation (which helped to write the bill) keep insisting that it is “free market” reform, one has to wonder about their strange new bedfellows.

While much of the attention has been focused on the legislation’s unprecedented individual mandate requiring all Massachusetts residents to purchase health insurance, the heart of the reform is the creation of a new state entity, the Connector, to manage the state’s individual and small group markets. The Connector is a form of managed competition similar to the failed Clinton health reform of 1993. It would create an artificial marketplace where individuals could purchase a limited number of “approved” and regulated products. This is not a free-market reform. As University of Chicago Law Professor Richard Epstein says, managed competition is “an oxymoron. One can either have managed health care or competition in health care services. It is not possible to have both simultaneously.”

Liberals must also love the bill’s massive subsidies. Subsidies would be available for those with incomes ranging from $30,480 for a single individual to as much as $130,389 for a married couple with seven children. A typical married couple with two children would qualify for a subsidy if their income is below $58,500. Subsidies at this level will extend dependence on government well into the middle class.

This bill is a pretty clear example of big government conservatism on the march. No wonder the Left is so happy.


They Don’t Call It Taxachusetts for Nothing

In the Boston Herald, I wrote that Gov. Mitt Romney’s new health reform law includes “not just [an] individual mandate but also some hefty tax increases.” Romney’s secretary of health and human services, Tim Murphy, responded with a letter to the Herald claiming that “the law includes no new taxes to accomplish its objectives.” 

Oh, really?

  • The individual mandate is itself a tax on Massachusetts residents. Their freedom to choose not to purchase health insurance has been replaced by a tax equal to half the price of a typical insurance policy. 
  • The $295 per-employee levy on employers who do not offer coverage is another tax. 
  • There is a mandate (i.e., a tax) on employers that they set up what is called a Section 125 plan. (This is necessary to participate in the “connector.”)
  • If an employer has an uninsured worker who runs up a huge hospital bill, the employer must pay a tax of up to 100% of hospital charges in excess of $50k. 
  • The law includes a “slacker mandate” (another tax) that requires insurers to cover dependents up to the age of 25. That tax gets passed on to everyone through higher premiums. 

I have personally expressed to Murphy admiration about what the connector attempts to do. However, the connector tries to remedy a federal problem (the federal tax treatment of health insurance) at the state level.  Massachusetts might as well try to reform the FDA

Thus even the “good” part of this legislation is a costly distraction from real health care reform.

Scotland Ups the Nanny Ante

By my measure, the United States trails the United Kingdom by about three to five years when it comes to aggressively paternalistic public policy. Get ready for this one:

First the Scottish Executive wanted people followed home if they breached the smoking ban.

Now there are fears its health crusade could spell the end of traditional pie and chips in Scots pubs.

In two years time, bar and pub owners will be asked to provide ‘sensible eating’ policies as a condition of their licences.


Glasgow MSP Bill Aitken complained: “Scotland will soon be a place where what’s not compulsory is forbidden.

“The Executive should butt out of people’s lives. It’s still—only just—a matter for individuals what they choose to eat.”

And Paul Waterson, head of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: “There’s potential for extreme interference and major problems.”

I’ll say. 

Such ideas aren’t unprecedented here in the United States, of course. A few months ago, a physician wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune calling on the Surgeon General to set national portion size standards for restaurants—and to enforce them.

Reagan Alert

Tonight (5/12) at midnight EDT (11 p.m. Illinois time, 9 p.m. Bel Air time) Turner Classic Movies will broadcast “Knute Rockne, All American.” Win one for the Gipper!

BlogEditor’s note: An additional reason for liberty-lovers to tune into TCM: Cato H.L. Mencken Research Fellows Penn & Teller will serve as TCM guest programmers on May 22nd. Among the films they have spooled up: The Marx Brothers’ oft-overlooked 1939 gem At the Circus.


A Heckuva Job

Yesterday, President Bush said “the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities.” Why didn’t he just say, “I think federal agencies are doing a heckuva job protecting the privacy of ordinary Americans”? An argument can be made that terrorists pose a unique threat, etc., but stop it already on how fierce the state is protecting our privacy.