Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Me v. William Cannon, Part II: The Jonathan Gruber Canard

Okay, well, as all you AB regular readers know, yesterday I posted a post deconstructing—and, yes, that’s what I did—a blog post on the Forbes website by William F. Cannon.  He blogs there on “health, freedom, and other uncertainties,” but his day job is Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.

The studies apparently entail mostly studying such things as YouTube video of Jonathan Gruber speeches and interviews.  Which, at least in this instance, is academic.

Gruber, Cannon explained in a Jul 28, 2014 opinion piece on Politico, is “the MIT economist who helped congressional Democrats write the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2009.”  Or, as Wikipedia says, “In 2009–10 he served as a technical consultant to the Obama Administration and worked with both the administration and Congress to help craft the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).”  I’ll let Cannon, in his Politico piece, help me explain further:

[Gruber] has been sharply critical of Halbig v. Burwell, a lawsuit alleging the Obama administration is illegally subsidizing health insurance for 5 million Americans in the 36 states with exchanges established by the federal government. The PPACA offers those subsidies to only those who enroll through an exchange “established by the State.” (Disclosure: I helped lay the groundwork for Halbig and three similar lawsuits.)

The occasion for his Forbes blog post yesterday was that:

Last week, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subpoenaed documents from the Treasury Department and IRS that could have a huge impact on Pruitt v. BurwellHalbig v. BurwellKing v. Burwell, and Indiana v. IRS – four lawsuits that could have a huge impact on ObamaCare.

Those cases challenge the federal government’s ability to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s major taxing and spending provisions in the 36 states that failed to establish a health insurance “Exchange.” The federal government established fallback Exchanges within those states, but the PPACA says the IRS can implementthe law’s Exchange subsidies, employer mandate, and (to a large extent) its individual mandate only “through an Exchange established by the State.” Nevertheless, the IRS issued a regulation implementing those taxes and expenditures in states with federal Exchanges anyway. That regulation that is being challenged as illegal by taxpayers, employers, school districts, and states, who claim the IRS is taxing them without congressional authorization.

The occasion for my blog post here at AB yesterday was to point out that the issue is not whether some IRS administrator or HHS official initially used the statute’s “through an Exchange established by the State” phrase in drafting the agency regulations to implement the ACA.  The issue is instead, uh, what “established by the State” means within the statutory scheme.  The question, more specifically, is whether mandatory default delegation, by a state to the federal government, of the setup and operation of a state’s exchange is, y’know, the establishment of an exchange by the state.  Sorta like whether the delegation of, say, prison operations by a state to a private for-profit company is the establishment of a prison system by the state or is instead a rogue operation with coopted police powers to hold people against their will.  Which I think would be called false imprisonment, in tort law.

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The Halbig Subpoena. Oh, the Fright!

Last week, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subpoenaed documents from the Treasury Department and IRS that could have a huge impact on Pruitt v. BurwellHalbig v. BurwellKing v. Burwell, and Indiana v. IRS – four lawsuits that could have a huge impact on ObamaCare.

Those cases challenge the federal government’s ability to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s major taxing and spending provisions in the 36 states that failed to establish a health insurance “Exchange.” The federal government established fallback Exchanges within those states, but the PPACA says the IRS can implementthe law’s Exchange subsidies, employer mandate, and (to a large extent) its individual mandate only “through an Exchange established by the State.” Nevertheless, the IRS issued a regulation implementing those taxes and expenditures in states with federal Exchanges anyway. That regulation that is being challenged as illegal by taxpayers, employers, school districts, and states, who claim the IRS is taxing them without congressional authorization.

The Halbig Subpoena, Michael F. Cannon, Forbes.com blogger on “health, freedom, and other uncertainties,” today

Oh, dear.  Scaaaaary.

I’m pressed for time, so for background I’ll quote from a Jan. 30 post of mine about Halbig:

Hmm.  Okay, let me take a crack at this.  The law gives each state the option of running its own exchange or instead allowing the federal government to run an exchange for the state–an operation that must be done separately for each state, because each state has its own insurance companies offering different policies than other states, and subject to state insurance laws and state agency oversight.

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Rush Limbaugh Says Tax Money Pays For Students’ and Employees’ Jogging Pants As A Welfare Entitlement

Seriously.  In the rambling press release that he self-styled an apology to Georgetown U. law student Sandra Fluke for calling her a slut and a prostitute, Limbaugh groused:

Amazingly, when there is the slightest bit of opposition to this new welfare entitlement being created, then all of a sudden we hate women. 

He then explained his position thusly:

I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities.  What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit?

So even as late as yesterday afternoon when he released the statement, he’s claiming that taxpayerswould be paying the part of employee and student healthcare premiums that cover contraceptives.  And that taxpayers pay for running pants, shorts and tank tops for employees and students who jog, but don’t pay for the Nikes and Reeboks. 

He apparently doesn’t read Angry Bear (see “Will ‘We’ Really Be Paying Sandra Fluke’s Healthcare Insurance Premiums?”, below.)  He should, though.  Dana Loesch, though, clearly does.

What? You’ve never heard of Dana Loesch?  Well, you’re in good company.  Mine.  I’d never heard of her until this morning, when I read the New York Times articleabout Limbaugh’s statements.  The article says:

At least one conservative commentator, Dana Loesch, appeared to back Mr. Limbaugh’s original sentiments, writing on Twitter on Saturday, “If you expect me to pay higher insurance premiums to cover your ‘free’ birth control, I can call you whatever I want.”

So, whatever the merits of her claim to a right to libel anyone whose medical insurance coverage and use raises “her” insurance premiums, Loesch at least does recognize the difference between private insurance premiums and coverage and taxpayer-funded welfare entitlements.  Limbaugh does not.   

Happily, a mainstream media pundit understands this non-trivial distinction, too, and mentions it.  In her New York Times column today, Maureen Dowd writes:

[Limbaugh] said insuring contraception would represent another “welfare entitlement,” which is wrong — tax dollars would not provide the benefit, employers and insurance companies would. And women would not be getting paid just “to have sex.” They’d be getting insurance coverage toward the roughly $1,000 annual expense of trying to avoid unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and to control other health conditions.

So, AB readers, do you think Dowd reads AB?  Nah.  She probably figured it out all by herself. But Loesch probably reads AB.  Okay, or Forbes online. (Thanks for linking to it, Tim Worstall!) For better or worse.  I mean, I’d hate to be, say, (as Bruce Webb points out in a comment to my earlier post) a skier or mountain climber who works for the same employer that Loesch does, or at least has the same insurance carrier that she has.

Wouldn’t want Loesch to accuse them of having murdered their mother, or something. 

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Why I Will Not Read Forbes Magazine

We’ve had a lot of fun with stuff written by Steve Forbes here at Angry Bear. But the magazine that bears his (or his father’s) name publishes humor by others as well.

I was going to respond to Sammy’s post in the comments to that post, but figured my response could stand alone. Sammy quotes this article in Forbes by Jim Clifton, CEO of the Gallup Organization and C. L. Max Nikias, Provost of the University of Southern California. They tell us:

A quarter of a century ago, most leading economists–whether liberal or conservative–predicted that American economic growth would fall behind Japan and Germany by 2007. They typically estimated that Japan’s annual gross domestic product would be roughly $5 trillion by now, with Germany at around $4 trillion, and the U.S. lagging behind at roughly $3.5 trillion.

The predictions for Japan and Germany were reasonably accurate. But America grew to $13 trillion.

The BEA tells us that the nominal GDP for the US in 1983 was 3.5 trillion. I wonder if the authors or Forbes magazine would care to produce a list of these leading economists who were predicting that the US’ nominal GDP would not grow at all in 25 years, especially considering the early 80s were characterized by fears of high inflation. I do remember predictions from that time of how Japan was going to take over the world. I don’t have time to look any of ’em up right now, but I do wonder how many of those predictions appeared in Forbes magazine at the time.

One final observation – since they’re looking for reasons why the US has not performed badly in the past twenty-five years, and considering that the positions of authority these guys are in, I would humbly suggest they scratch “meritocracy” from their list.

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