The individual mandate is an example of why I believe the Affordable Care Act was a bunch of dumb ideas that were poorly implemented. The individual insurance market as envisioned by the ACA depended on a carrot and stick approach. The carrot was affordable health insurance for the unsubsidized healthy people to lure them into the market willingly. This is how insurance companies make the money to pay for their unprofitable customers. The stick was the individual mandate. The individual mandate was designed to be scary, not effective. It would never have an influence on healthy customers like affordable health insurance. In 2010 individual insurance rates were already too expensive so healthy people made their adjustments. Some stuck with their grandfathered plans. Some went to alternative insurance products. Others dropped their insurance because they were exempt from the mandate because health insurance premiums would exceed 8.15% of their adjusted gross income. Insurance companies lost their best customers but were largely protected by the Risk Adjustment, Reinsurance, and Risk Corridor provisions. There is no free lunch. Like all dumb ideas that are poorly implemented, the American government got stuck with the bill.
The only portion of the ACA that must continue to exist for the subsidized individual health insurance market to continue to exist is the Risk Adjustment, Reinsurance, and Risk Corridor provisions. If we want to continue to subsidize health insurance premiums for those people earning less than four times the federal poverty level then it will be born the general population rather than the unsubsidized healthy customers. For the unsubsidized healthy customers, this is sweet revenge. The individual mandate has always been a moot point.
Back in 2016, I wrote a post, The Health Exchange Transformation Is Almost Complete, in which I made the argument that the individual health exchange had a better chance of reverting back to a high-risk pool exchange than a market-based exchange. It all depended on the affordability of health insurance for unsubsidized healthy customers. If you do not keep your best customers, the government will be left holding the bag. When it comes to the individual mandate, the people who wrote the ACA were not that smart. The most important thing that matters to a customer who might get penalized is not the penalty but affordable unsubsidized health insurance. Affordable health care has always been the primary objective of the Affordable Care Act and the American people. Our politicians seem to have forgotten that aspect of the ACA. If the individual mandate has always been a moot point then severability has always been a moot point, too.
When you look at the timeline of the events leading up to the FISA warrant request on Carter Page, you see an embarrassed FBI that let down not only the United States but the presumed next president of the United States, Ms. Clinton. When Wikileaks posted the Podesta emails on the 7th of October, the FBI was embarrassed and the Clinton campaign was horrified. One of the major goals of the FBI in 2016 was to prevent Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The DNC hack earlier in the year was a grim reminder of what the Russians were capable of. Despite this warning, the FBI failed on the biggest stage, the Presidential election. A foreigner with ties to Russia claimed responsibility for the Podesta hack but this hack would not have been so important if it wasn’t for the idiots emailing embarrassing stuff to Mr. Podesta. Thanks, Comrade Donna! You are much better at embarrassing America than the Russians. Now the American people had another reason to not trust Ms. Clinton with the presidency.
Another major goal for the FBI was to discreetly monitor the Trump campaign for Russian collusion. As far as I can tell, the FBI spent several months and an untold amount of money trying to entrap Mr. Papadopoulos. Was it more embarrassing that the investigation did not find any Russian collusion or that Mr. Papadolous figured out that the FBI was trying to entrap him? This investigation was so ineffective it reminded me of Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame. Worst of all, Mr. Papadopoulos wrote a book that paints the investigation in unflattering terms. Obviously, the FBI did not learn anything since they moved on to Mr. Page.
Probably the most embarrassing problem for the FBI and the Clinton campaign was that the Clinton Email Server Scandal was going to rear its ugly head again. Around the 29th of September, the New York Police Department notified the FBI that they found several hundred thousand emails from the Clinton email server on Mr. Weiner’s laptop. The FBI sat on the information until early in October when the NYPD notified the FBI that they were going to arrest Mr. Weiner and release the information about the emails to the press. This forced FBI Director Comey to re-open the email server case just two weeks before the election. The Clinton campaign felt the FBI stabbed them in the back.
Considering the preceding events, it should not be surprising that the Department of Justice would ask for a FISA warrant on the 21st of October even though they knew that some of the information was incorrect. The Woods Procedures were created to prevent FISA abuses like this. The investigation of Mr. Papadolous yielded nothing but embarrassment. On the 26th of October, Admiral Rogers was due to appear before the FISA Court to explain why numerous unauthorized searches were committed from November 2015 through April 2016. Were these unauthorized searches used to spy on political opponents? If these searches were part of actual counter-intelligence work I do not think Admiral Rogers would be apologizing to the FISA judges in October. There was no time for the FBI and DOJ to get the facts right for this warrant. This warrant was about damage control before the presumed next President assumed office. Kathleen Kavalec ‘s notes show that the deadline for getting adverse information released about Mr. Trump was political. This also explains why someone at the DOJ/FBI leaked information about the wire-tap on Trump Tower to Louise Mensch. They owed the Clinton campaign some good news and they were not afraid to put their finger on the scale to help out the Clinton campaign.
I am amazed at the efforts the FBI put into entrapping Mr. Papadopoulos. Considering he had little if any Russian contacts and was a low-level foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, most normal people would think he was an unlikely person the Russians would choose to collude with. Obviously, the “Russian Collusion” investigators are not normal. When you look at the Papadopoulos timeline, the “Russian Collusion” investigators had Professor Mifsud meeting with Mr. Papadopoulos just three days after the Trump Team announcement. It is almost as if the “Russian Collusion” investigators were reading the Trump Team emails. When you look at the timeline in its entirety, it reminds you that the “Russian Collusion” investigators were looking for collusion in all of the wrong places. Sacre bleu, they failed to find any Russian collusion! This behavior is both sad and comical, kind of like Inspector Clouseau.
As a conservative-leaning libertarian, I think I can do a better job spending my money than the government can. Naturally, I was skeptical that the Trump Tax Cuts would actually result in a lower tax rate for us. Most tax cuts are in name only. Seeing a tax cut in 2018 would be particularly difficult. 2018 was a good income year for us. In addition to my salary, we had some capital gains and our side gig had its best year ever. This should be the year we jump into the next tax bracket. Yesterday I completed my tax return using TurboTax. Since I have been using TurboTax for five years, the Tax History Report shows that both the 2018 Effective Tax Rate and the Tax Bracket are lower than any time in the last four years! Wow, that was a pleasant surprise!
One of the unanswered questions is who told Mr. Halper to go after Mr. Page, Mr. Papadapolous, and Mr. Flynn? If in 2019 there is not enough evidence to indict anyone for Russian collusion, what evidence actually triggered this “matter”. According to an article by Sara Carter, Mr. Halper “received roughly $1 million in tax-payer funded money to write Defense Department foreign policy reports “. If Mr. Halper was actually being paid for intelligence gathering evidence of Russian collusion in the 2016 election, one would suppose that Mr. Halper would have the evidence that led him to suspect Mr. Page, Mr. Papadapolous, and Mr. Flynn of Russian collusion. After all, he was being asked to spy on American citizens for the American government. The Magna Carta and the United States Bill of Rights is part of our common history. Instead, Mr. Halper and Mr. Mifsud started out with various attempts to entrap Mr. Page, Mr. Papadapolous, and Mr. Flynn. It was as if evidence gathering did not matter. These men were guilty until proven innocent. That was a strange tactic if this “matter” was actually a counter-intelligence investigation sanctioned by the CIA or the FBI. The United States frowns on the CIA or the FBI spying on American citizens without due cause. It is the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution. Hey Mr. Clapper, does contracting the spying of an American citizen to a foreigner somehow make this legal?
I was intrigued by this chart in the Instapundit post, PAUL KRUGMAN, MEET DATA. DATA, MEET PAUL KRUGMAN. The chart says that modern day anti-semitism is predominately coming from people who have a Muslim-extremist or left-wing view. This is a serious accusation with economic implications if true.
The source for this chart is the document, Antisemitic Violence in Europe, 2005-2015. That document was jointly published by the Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities and Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX), University of Oslo. The source data for that document was a 2012 survey by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) on discrimination and hate crimes against Jews in the EU. I could not find the original document but I did find a recently completed update to the original survey. Sadly here are their key findings:
Antisemitism pervades everyday life Antisemitism pervades the public sphere, reproducing and engraining negative stereotypes about Jews. Some Member States responded by appointing coordinators on combating antisemitism, while others adopted or endorsed a non-legally binding, working definition of antisemitism(link is external) agreed on in May 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and welcomed by the European Commission as a useful initiative aiming to prevent and combat antisemitism.
Pervasive antisemitism undermines Jews’ feelings of safety and security Many Jews across the EU cannot live a life free of worry for their own safety and that of their family members and other individuals to whom they are close. This is due to a risk of becoming targets of antisemitic harassment and attacks.
Antisemitic harassment is so common that it becomes normalised People face so much antisemitic abuse that some of the incidents they experience appear trivial to them. The normalisation of antisemitism is also evidenced by the wide range of perpetrators, which spans the entire social and political spectrum.
Antisemitic discrimination in key areas of life remains invisible The very low reporting rate for antisemitic discrimination, combined with the apparent normalisation of incidents, prevent the true extent of antisemitic discrimination from coming to the attention of relevant authorities, equality bodies or community organisations.
I think the second survey is sending a warning message to people like Mr. Krugman because he is normalizing antisemitic harassment by the Muslims with extremist views and the left. The lack of action by the left already has had economic consequences for Europe. As I said in my comment to the original post:
It should not be a surprise that in “2015 around 10,000 Jews left western Europe for Israel, the largest number to do so since 1948.” It is kind of hard to make Europe’s economy great again if a lot of your best talent is leaving for Israel.
“McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence” according to Wikipedia. Listen to part of this interview with Erin Burnett of CNN.
Nadler: “If we’re going to do anything, you have to have proof.”
Erin Burnett: “So, that’s what this is about, you don’t yet have proof?”
Ms. Burnett is expressing the frustration that after two years of Democrats talking about impeaching President Trump the Democratic party still does not have the evidence needed to make the case for impeachment. The American people are expecting impeachment hearings and the Democrats are not ready! Instead, they are getting promised more investigations. The Mueller investigation is almost over. The last thing the American people wants is more investigations!
The Democratic party could lose badly in 2020 if the impeachment hearings are botched. So it looks like we will be getting impeachment-like investigations. Unfortunately, these investigations could be a gift to the Republican party, too. If Congressman Nadler’s investigations become a political circus like they did under Senator McCarthy, the Democrats will have no one to blame except themselves if independent voters abandon them in 2020. It is a lose-lose situation. You lose if you conduct impeachment hearings you are not prepared for and you lose if you conduct investigations that look more like partisan attacks than congressional oversight. It is easy to see these investigations becoming a prime-time circus and President Trump getting the sympathy vote.
I hate to criticize other people’s plans without offering a better alternative. Democrats in Congress should be talking about reforming the Affordable Care Act to have affordable health care before they have burned all bridges to a compromise. That issue is more likely to get them re-elected in 2020 than impeachment investigations. Unfortunately, history has shown that the Democrats cannot multi-task when they are talking about impeaching President Trump.
I brewed Midwest Supplies Bourbon Barrel Old Ale and Karl’s Ninety 90 Shilling last year and they finally are fun to drink. I knew the Old Ale was going to take three months to mature but Karl’s Ninety 90 took a long time to carbonate. The Old Ale has some wonderful oak flavors but the bourbon flavor is too small. Although I like it, the Old Ale was too much work. There are just too many outstanding stouts available commercially.
Karl’s Ninety 90 Shilling is a brown ale that I find competitive with the commercial varieties. I like it enough that I may brew it again.
Recently I found out that my brokerage account offers a money market fund, SWVXX, that yields 2.3%. That is even higher than the 2.1% rate offered by Discover Online Savings. Both of these rates are much better than the rate on the sweep account attached to my brokerage account. That account yields about 0.1%. Unlike investments in short term bond funds, there is no risk to the principal if the Federal Reserve continues to increase rates in 2019. This money market rate is even higher than the Consumer Price Index(1.6%). A positive real interest rate on a money market fund is rare. This is such a rare occurrence you have to wonder what is the Federal Reserve thinking! Regardless, this money market fund looks like the perfect way to put your money to work while you wait for the next stock market pullback. Low-interest rates courtesy of the Federal Reserve was a massive gift to investors in the stock market over the last ten years. During this time there was no viable alternative to the United States stock market. We even had a name for it, There Is No Alternative (TINA). Are higher returns on money market funds the answer to the TINA question? The Federal Reserve giveth and the Federal Reserve taketh away.
Governor Northam is a huge Michael Jackson fan. In a recent news conference, someone asked whether he could demonstrate his moonwalk and Governor Northam flipped his head around looking for an appropriate place to demonstrate his dance moves. Fortunately, wiser minds prevailed and his wife talked him out of it.
In the fall of 1982, Michael Jackson’s career went from superstar to supernova with the release of Thriller. By 1983 I bet Northam’s interest in everything Michael Jackson had become unbearable to his friends. So they submitted a totally inappropriate photo to the yearbook and looked forward to the shock on Northam’s face. They probably never thought their attempt at humor would backfire on them 36 years later. Although this is pure speculation on my part, I would not be surprised if the person wearing Ku Klux Klan outfit is a black person. Irony is a dish best served cold.