Archive for Socialism

Has Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend Hugo?

Aw, woozums:

The mural above Ana Caona’s head in the gritty Caracas slum known as 23rd of January is no ordinary depiction of the Last Supper. Instead of disciples, the figures flanking Jesus Christ are rebel figures such as Mao, Lenin and Hugo Chávez.

Yet despite these symbols of revolutionary commitment, Ms Caona is disenchanted with Venezuela’s socialist government as it grapples with falling oil prices and an economy ravaged by inflation, shortages and corruption.

“There are internecine fights, micro-powers within the revolution, everyone defending their interests,” complains this member of one of Venezuela’s militias, called colectivos, which consider themselves keepers of socialism’s sacred flame and also sometimes act as auxiliary state security forces.

Ms Caona illuminates a growing public disaffection with President Nicolas Maduro’s government as oil prices have slid 40 per cent since June. She says her colectivo has taken to delivering food staples around the neighbourhood so that supplies are not “mishandled by corrupt forces”.

“Socialism’s sacred flame”: I think I see your problem. Their ain’t nothing sacred about socialism. Since when did The Last Supper depict Jesus sitting at a table full of Judases?

Rather the article makes clear that Venezuela’s system is the croniest of crony capitalism. Which worked (up to a point) when oil was at $130 a barrel, but not so much when it’s less than half that. Enjoy the fall, commies. It’s not half bad until the end.

PS: Why is Ben Stiller at the table, three seats to the left of Jesus?

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Coming Soon to a Health Care System Near You

They say smoking and obesity are bad for your health—and they aim to prove it!

Obese patients and smokers face an immediate ban on routine operations according to a major NHS clinical commissioning group.

In a statement it said: ‘The CCG decided that for those patients undergoing hip and knee operations with a body mass index of more than 35 (morbidly obese) they patient would be required to have a BMI of under 35 or to lose five per cent of their weight before planned surgery, whichever is the lesser weight loss.’

The new restrictions will be extended to all non-urgent surgical procedures, however, it will not apply to cancer treatment or urgent cases.

I would say that’s big-hearted of them, but that might lose them their coverage. I can sort of understand the joint replacement requirement to lose weight. Recovery from the operation might be nigh on to impossible if one is morbidly obese. But how does smoking matter? Of course no one should smoke. But it’s not illegal.

Dr Burke said that he was being forced to curtail some services because the CCG is currently running a deficit of £14.5 million.

He said he was now going to restrict access to second hearing aids as well as certain expensive drugs.

Put down the chip butty, Nigel, or kiss that hearing aid goodbye.

‘The CCG has a legal duty to live within its financial resources and the prioritisation of services is helping us to do that.’

My waking nightmare is that the last words I hear on this earth are are those, from Kathleen Sebelius’s mouth.

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Another ObamaCare Success Story [UPDATED]

Right up there with Supreme Court fights, canceled plans, un-kept doctors (period), and the fiasco that was and is Healthcare.gov:

One in three Americans say they have put off getting medical treatment that they or their family members need because of cost. Although this percentage is in line with the roughly 30% figures seen in recent years, it is among the highest readings in the 14-year history of Gallup asking the question.

Last year, many hoped that the opening of the government healthcare exchanges and the resulting increase in the number of Americans with health insurance would enable more people to seek medical treatment. But, despite a drop in the uninsured rate, a slightly higher percentage of Americans than in previous years report having put off medical treatment, suggesting that the Affordable Care Act has not immediately affected this measure.

Then there’s this nugget:

If the goal of ObamaCare was to give the poor more access to health care, Mission Accomplished: those making less than $30,000 and those on Medicaid showed improvement on these scores.

And if the goal was to give that access to the poor at the expense of the middle class, Mission Also Accomplished. Everybody else suffered. Everybody. These numbers explain not only the truth of ObamaCare, but the story of the recent elections.

Yet again, I am forced to ask: what was the point of ObamaCare? More and more I am forced to answer, to take from the barely-making-it and give to the hardly-even-trying. Even if we thought that was noble or even worthwhile, did we need to hijack one-six of the nation’s economy?

Silly BTL, hijacking one-sixth of the nation’s economy was the goal. Any benefit to the poor—which could have been accomplished by any number of easier fixes—was merely the means to an end.

PS: It ain’t just hangnails we’re postponing:

If these stats make you sick to your stomach, I wouldn’t put off seeing your doc.

UPDATE
How could I forget this success?

Health insurance giants are eating up a bigger slice of the marketplace in most states, despite intense efforts under ObamaCare to increase competition.

The three largest insurance companies held an average of 86 percent of customers in the individual market last year, up from 83 percent in 2010, when the healthcare reform act was passed, according to a Monday report from the Government Accountability Office.

The report found that the marketplace remained highly concentrated from 2010-2013, the latest year data was available, which shows the nation’s slow progress to dislodge long-standing insurance monopolies under the Affordable Care Act.

The findings are a blow to the Obama administration, which has touted lower costs and more options for millions across the country under the healthcare law.

Bull[bleep]. “A blow to the Obama administration”? They wrote the damn bill, and interpret it any damn way they choose. This is by intent, by design. How dare you insult this wise and marvelous man by declaring his signature achievement an abject failure. That’s my job.

Obama couldn’t have passed the law without the consent of the insurance companies. They had to know that their profits were assured—and what fat-cat would oppose the mandated addition of more clients to their roster? If it weren’t for crony capitalism, Obama wouldn’t believe in capitalism at all.

They’ll rue the day, however, they ever got into bed with him. Whatever the capitalist equivalent to herpes, crabs, HPV, HIV, and chlamydia, they’ll get them all. Those valued profits will be their undoing, and socialized medicine will be all that’s left.

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Great Orators of the Democrat Party

Move over, Stephen (Kansas Nebraska) Douglas and Robert (Exalted Cyclops) Byrd—this is a new generation:

Elizabeth Warren:

Barack Obama:

And now Hillary Clinton:

I don’t know if Bill Clinton brought arithmetic to Washington, but he brought a ruler. Maybe six inches on a good day, and slightly bent to the left.

I don’t scare easy, but this is straight Marxist-Leninist ideology. What else of that toxic creed do they secretly, or not so secretly, think? I mean, when do the firing squads commence?

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Kinda Ironic

Don’t you think?

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has defended the seizure of a factory owned by US-based company Clorox.

“Socialist formula: any company that’s abandoned will be taken over by the working class,” Mr Maduro said.

Cleaning products maker Clorox closed its production facilities in Venezuela last week, saying government-imposed price freezes were crippling it.

Not even bleach can clean the caked grime on the “socialist paradise” that Chavez built.

Clorox, which sells bleach and other household cleaning products in Venezuela, announced in a statement on 22 September that it would cease its operations there immediately and try to sell its assets.

It cited as its reason government price controls on its products, which it said had led to millions of dollars in losses.

The statement said that for nearly three years, the company had had to sell more than two-thirds of its products at fixed prices which did not cover its production costs, which had been driven up by skyrocketing inflation.

It also said recent price increases “were nowhere near sufficient”.

Venezuela earlier this month announced that its annual inflation rate had reached 63.4%.

We want three digits! We want three digits! (They’ll probably have it by the time you read this.) Only a socialist country could have 63% inflation when prices are “fixed”.

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Number 32 With a Bullet

To the head:

On Monday the Tax Foundation, which manages the widely followed State Business Tax Climate Index, will launch a new global benchmark, the International Tax Competitiveness Index. According to the foundation, the new index measures “the extent to which a country’s tax system adheres to two important principles of tax policy: competitiveness and neutrality.”

A competitive tax code is one that limits the taxation of businesses and investment. Since capital is mobile and businesses can choose where to invest, tax rates that are too high “drive investment elsewhere, leading to slower economic growth,” as the Tax Foundation puts it.

The index takes into account more than 40 tax policy variables. And the inaugural ranking puts the U.S. at 32nd out of 34 industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

One small correction: the authors of the study list Slovenia and Slovakia separately when everyone knows they’re the same thing. And is there really a Switzerland and a Sweden? Someone should clean that up.

Aside from that, however:

Any day now the White House and Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) will attempt to raise taxes on business, while making the U.S. tax code even more complex. The Obama and Schumer plans to punish businesses for moving their legal domicile overseas will arrive even as a new international ranking shows that the U.S. tax burden on business is close to the worst in the industrialized world. Way to go, Washington.

With the developed world’s highest corporate tax rate at over 39% including state levies, plus a rare demand that money earned overseas should be taxed as if it were earned domestically, the U.S. is almost in a class by itself. It ranks just behind Spain and Italy, of all economic humiliations. America did beat Portugal and France, which is currently run by an avowed socialist.

The new ranking is especially timely coming amid the campaign led by Messrs. Obama and Schumer to punish companies that move their legal domicile overseas to be able to reinvest future profits in the U.S. without paying the punitive American tax rate. If they succeed, the U.S. could fall to dead last on next year’s ranking. Now there’s a second-term legacy project for the President.

And people wonder why Recovery Summer V has been no more successful than Recover Summers I-IV. (People wonder, but the media seem not to.)

But get a load of this remedy. Are you sitting down?

Rather than erecting an iron tax curtain that keeps U.S. companies from escaping, the White House and Congress should enact reform that invites more businesses to stay or move to the U.S.

OMG! You are one bad-ass newspaper, WSJ. Next you’ll be arguing for a cut in the capital gains tax rate:

A rising tide lifts all boats, but Obama warned us that the tide would stop rising if he were elected president. One promise he kept.

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Cherokee Note Speaker

I clicked on this link to read about Liz Warren’s latest populist screed, and a Geico commercial featuring a pig named Maxwell started playing. Not kidding.

Of course, when you think about it…

It must be Maxwell’s high cheekbones.

Senator Elizabeth Warren says she picked up a lot of her feistiness from reading Nancy Drew novels as a kid. Today she believes the most important mystery to solve is how to get the American economy working for someone other than billionaires.

It’s a message she’s been taking all over the country, and she isn’t afraid to call banks, credit card companies and some employers cheats and tricksters.

“The biggest financial institutions figured out they could make a lot of money by cheating people on mortgages, credit cards and payday loans,” she told a packed auditorium at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she spoke alongside New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. [I bet that duo sold more tickets than did Simon and Garfunkel’s Central Park reunion. Ed.]

The Democrat from Massachusetts even said the market is broken in many regards.

Actually, Lieawatha, they make more money on regular mortgages, credit cards, and loans. Especially when you figure in the enormous fines incurred by the “bad apple” financial institutions. The “market” sounds like it’s working fine.

But let’s [yawn] hear her out:

Warren was the driving force behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after the 2008 financial crisis. The agency has returned billions of dollars to Americans who were wronged.

“Traffic works better with traffic lights,” she explained.

What about if the traffic cops are crooked?

The Washington Times, citing congressional investigators, internal documents, and interviews with employees, reports that workers at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed 115 official grievances through the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) in 2013 alone.

Among the complaints are that managers retaliated against employees for comments or questions that they didn’t like by denying vacation time, refusing internal requests for promotion, and hiring unqualified acquaintances who would have to be trained by employees in lower positions.

“Certain managers have adopted an authoritarian, untouchable, unaccountable and unanswerable management style,” CFPB enforcement attorney Angela Martin told Congress earlier this year.

More seriously, according to the Times, Martin’s testimony alleged the existence of an entire department at the CFPB nicknamed “The Plantation” that is staffed almost entirely of black workers supervised by white managers with no obvious promotional track.

“There is an entire section in Consumer Response Intake that is 100 percent African-American, even the contractors, and it is called ‘The Plantation,'” Martin said. “And people tell me it’s very hard to leave The Plantation. You must be extremely savvy, or you must [have] somebody else [help you] to get out.

Not even the traffic cops in Ferguson, MO talk this way!

And this only makes our case better than we could ourselves: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”

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The People Who Brought You the Weekend…and Low Productivity

I could not let Labor Day pass without my own tribute to the sacrifices made by the working men and women of this country.

I’m so sorry you had to sit through this:

Vice President Joe Biden railed against corporations in a combative Labor Day Parade speech in Detroit with union bosses and their members in attendance – speaking with such passion that even when he made up the name of a fictional historical American president the crowd applauded.

“Why do CEO’s now make 333 times more money than the line worker when back when [WAGER?] was president, they made 25 times what the line worker,” Biden said (10:40). “What happened? What happened?”

President who? Wager? President Way-gur? Did the vice president start saying “Reagan” and then realize halfway through that he shouldn’t? Or did he just make the name up?

But it wasn’t the text that tripped Biden up. It was the optics.

Untitled

Even on Labor Day, it’s not a good look to appear next to someone named “Jimmy” and “Hoffa”.

This is how you do populism for the folks:

We used to call that a “work shirt”. I don’t know what made it a work shirt, but it had to be blue. Check.

But what about the background guys, so heavily vetted by the Obama PR machine? AFSCME I get: American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. SEIU in green shirts, instead of purple.

But what about the guy in the red shirt with the clenched fist? What’s that all about? I thought Obama was the first Post-Clenched-Fist™ president.

And the symbolism! Soviet Communism, anyone?

A-ha!

Now it all makes sense.

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“Whose Ass to Kick?”

Rush is having fun with Obama’s shock (shock!) over the VA scandal. (Boy, you should have heard how mad he was when he found out the stimulus didn’t work!)

But remember this famous occasion of Obama flashing his temper:

So, whose derriere will it be this time, sir? We just learned (below) that someone we’ve never heard of was forced to retire a month early, but surely there are other asses? Other boots to put into them?

But you know what else Rush and a caller said? What we said two days ago:

But you know why I think I overlooked this story?

It sounds so much like other stories of government-run health care, I assumed I already had covered it.

I followed with some recent nightmare from Britain’s NHS.

A caller, a vet, noted that the VA is a single-payer system. The nature of the vets’ health issues render their care too costly for private insurers.

Sound like anything else you know?

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Who’s Up for a Little Single-Payer News?

You haven’t eaten yet, have you? Good.

Just some headlines:

Mum who lost baby hits out at NHS staff shortages after two more newborns die at same hospital

One in 16 patients in NHS hospitals picks up infection, warns watchdog

Labour considers raising national insurance to fix £30bn NHS ‘black hole’

NHS bosses shut walk-in centres as A&E crisis deepens while desperate hospitals want to turn away patients

NHS faces strike threat as 500,000 healthcare staff to be balloted

‘I was accused of fraud, sexual impropriety and assault': Whistleblower cardiologist details decade-long NHS bullying campaign after he exposed deadly hospital failings

All of which demands this be asked:

Who would now dare put their trust in the NHS?

Well, one person:

‘This time next year I won’t have a baby. I’ll be famous instead': Four-months’ pregnant woman who had £4,800 boob job on NHS wants abortion so she can appear on Big Brother

These scandalous headlines come from the liberal and conservative press. They highlight some of the whopping lies Obama has spewed (bending the “cost curve”; universal coverage); they betray the folly of government-run health care being about health care rather than about government.

But the boob-job lady who wants to terminate her baby so that she can appear on Big Brother is the face of Socialized Medicine. She takes no responsibility for her actions—she’s a wholly owned subsidiary of the NHS. She takes silicon implants and returns an aborted fetus. And it’s all free, free, free! (If you call now, we’ll abort your twins for no extra cost!) She’s a monstrous extension of Sandra Fluke, who (as a 30-year-old, remember) wanted a Jesuit institution to cover birth control and abortifacients. It’s one thing to want that—it’s quite another to testify at a fake hearing to demand it.

All of these crushingly depressing headlines are as much a feature of socialized medicine as bed sores and MRSA epidemics.

In case you think I’m being unfair to Britain:

Sweden’s problem is access to care. According to the Euro Health Consumer Index 2013, Swedish patients suffer from inordinately long wait times to get an appointment with a doctor, specialist treatment or even emergency care. Wait times are Europe’s longest, and Swedes dependent on the public-health system have to wait months or even years for certain procedures, or are denied treatment.

For example, Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare reports that as of 2013, the average wait time (from referral to start of treatment) for “intermediary and high risk” prostate cancer is 220 days. In the case of lung cancer, the wait between an appointment with a specialist and a treatment decision is 37 days.

This waiting is what economists call rationing—the delay or even failure to provide care due to government budgetary decisions. So the number of people seeking care far outweighs the capabilities of providers, translating into insurance in name but not in practice. This is likely to be a result of ObamaCare as well.

Look at it this way, maybe we’ll all look as hot as Swedes.

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Oh, That’s “Social Justice”!

I asked the other day what the hell the term meant, and concluded: “’social justice’ would seem to mean a vicious cycle of liberal nonsense”, in which a do-gooding government would stick its nose into the marketplace of labor and management for the benefit of the former and the detriment of the latter (that’s the justice part), only to see its heavy-handed, anti-capitalist efforts lead to layoffs and economic sclerosis.

I kinda talk that way sometimes.

But God bless Prager University (and Professor Jonah Goldberg) for taking a crack at the question too.

The video won’t play for me, but here are selections from the transcript:

Try this at your next party. Ask your guests to define the term Social Justice.

Since everyone on that side of the spectrum talks incessantly about social justice, they should be able to provide a good definition, right?

But ask ten liberals to tell you what they mean by social justice and you’ll get ten different answers.

That’s because Social Justice means anything its champions want it to mean.

“The mission of the AFL-CIO is to improve the lives of working families — to bring economic justice to the workplace, and social justice to our nation.”

In short, “social justice” is code for good things no one needs to argue for — and no one dare be against.

This very much troubled the great economist Friedrich Hayek.

This is what he wrote in 1976, two years after winning the Nobel Prize in Economics.

“I have come to feel strongly that the greatest service I can still render to my fellow men would be that I could make the speakers and writers among them thoroughly ashamed ever again to employ the term ‘social justice’.”

Pro or con, good or bad, it still has no concrete meaning (which is Goldberg’s point).

So what the hell does it mean?

Hayek understood that beneath the political opportunism and intellectual laziness of the term “social justice” was a pernicious philosophical claim, namely that freedom must be sacrificed in order to redistribute income.

Ultimately, “social justice” is about the state amassing ever increasing power in order to, do “good things.” What are good things?

Well whatever the champions of social justice decide this week.

But first, last and always it is the cause of economic redistribution.

Well, “Professor” Goldberg, that’s what you say, you reactionary killjoy. Maybe it means flowers and butterflies to other people.

You don’t have to take my word for it.

That is precisely how a UN report on Social Justice defines the term:

“Social justice may be broadly understood as the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth.

Social justice is not possible without strong and coherent redistributive policies conceived and implemented by public agencies.”

I repeat: “Strong and coherent redistributive policies conceived and implemented by public agencies.”

And it gets worse.

The UN report goes on to insist that: “Present-day believers in an absolute truth identified with virtue and justice are neither willing nor desirable companions for the defenders of social justice.”

Translation: if you believe truth and justice are concepts independent of the agenda of the forces of progress as defined by the left, you are an enemy of social justice.

Yet again, if you scratch a liberal, you find a fascist underneath. (And probably need a tetanus shot.)

The self-declared champions of social justice believe the state must remedy and can remedy all perceived wrongs.

Anyone who disagrees is an enemy of what is good and right.

And the state must therefore coerce them to do what is socially just.

And that, as Hayek prophesized, is no longer a free society.

It is, rather, ObAmerica.

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Simple Truths

The Fed has pumped so much money into the economy, yet the economy is still… the economy.

What gives?

In her first Congressional appearance as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen cheered Wall Street with her promise to continue the easy-money policies of predecessor Ben Bernanke. But Judy Shelton warns in our pages that “when the low-grade fever of perpetual inflation becomes a full-blown economic malady—when the next financial bubble bursts with horrible consequences for the real economy—average Americans will pay the biggest price.”

While Ms. Yellen’s Senate testimony today is likely to attract more media attention, we’d say this week’s most important speech from the Federal Reserve system came last night in Texas. Before a gathering of financial executives, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher quantified how much money the central bank has been pumping into the economy. Mr. Fisher said that total reserves of depository institutions “have ballooned from a precrisis level of $43 billion to $2.5 trillion.” He added that “the amount of money lying fallow in the banking system is 60 times greater now than it was at year-end 2007. One is hard pressed to argue that there is insufficient money available for businesses to put people back to work.”

“It is my firm belief,” he continued, ” that the fault in our economy lies not in monetary policy but in a feckless federal government that simply cannot get its fiscal and regulatory policy geared so as to encourage business to take the copious amount of money we at the Fed have created and put it to work creating jobs and growing our economy. Fiscal policy is not only ‘not an ally of U.S. growth,’ it is its enemy. If the fiscal and regulatory authorities that you elect and put into office to craft taxes, spending and regulations do not focus their efforts on providing incentives for businesses to expand job-creating capital investment rather than bicker with each other for partisan purposes, our economy will continue to fall short and the middle-income worker will continue being victimized, no matter how much money the Fed prints.”

Game. Set. Match.

This is why I don’t believe the US is a completely lost cause; why our best days are behind us. Federal government policy is completely at odds with “providing incentives for businesses to expand job-creating capital investment” or “creating jobs and growing our economy”. This administration wouldn’t know how to grow the economy if you held a gun to its head (metaphorically speaking, of course). Candidate Obama didn’t want to create wealth, he told Joe the Plumber, he wanted to spread it.

On that, and that alone, he has kept his promise. But if the dry rot hasn’t penetrated too deep, the house divided may still be saved. Put another way, if my faith is in capitalism, that faith has not been shaken. What we have had lately is crony socialism, quite a different thing.

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