Gun Rights Trump ‘Studies’

At the Clinton News Network, Fareed Zakaria reports on a new study on guns by liberal professors in Boston. The study claims that having a gun in the home makes people statistically less safe.

The study was apparently funded by anti-gun organizations, so I doubt the results are credible. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume the results are accurate–owning a gun makes you statistically less safe. I suppose that means that people should think carefully before buying a gun. But Zakaria seems to believe that the result implies we must infringe on the public’s right to bear arms.

Saving lives is a very strong argument in favor of public policy. But saving lives is not a sufficient argument for abrogating the right of self defense, which is a fundamental human right. You could show me incontrovertible proof that banning guns would save lives, and I would still oppose banning guns.

It would probably be feasible to demonstrate convincingly that banning cars and forcing everyone to ride public transportation would save lives. But banning cars would also significantly reduce people’s freedom, and so I would oppose it. Just as I would also oppose banning ladders and swimming pools and many other things that would save lives.

Saving lives is important. But it’s not the only thing. Life also has to be worth living.

If Fareed Zakaria thinks that owning a gun will make him less safe, then he’s free not to own one. But if I decide I still want to own a gun, that’s my right, and he needs to respect that.

Is the ‘Ozone Hole’ a Hoax?

For thirty years now we’ve heard that we’re all at risk of getting skin cancer due to the ‘ozone hole.’ As a result of the ozone scare, cheap but effective refrigerants like Freon were phased out by the Montreal Protocol of 1987. We are all therefore forced to use more expensive and less effective refrigerants.

This summer, a series of articles appeared in the media claiming that the ban on Freon and other CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) is finally working to ‘heal’ the ozone hole. The international political and managerial class is patting itself on the back for supposedly solving the problem.

In the 1980s, ozone in the atmosphere dropped like a rock at the initial onset of the affliction. The implementation of the 1987 Montreal Protocol—widely considered a triumph of international cooperation—quickly phased out industrial CFCs, and the ozone layer stabilized, though it was still at a depleted level.

The size of the ozone hole varies from year to year, influenced by changes in meteorology and volcanism, which can make it difficult to identify a healing trend. Scientists believe it has remained relatively stable since the turn of the century, but the October 2015 hole was the largest on record.

Scientists have long thought the ozone layer was recovering slowly, but [Susan] Solomon and her team—comprising researchers from MIT, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the University of Leeds—are the first to rigorously uncover evidence of the healing.

But is the ozone hole even really man made? Some scientists believe it is actually a natural phenomenon.

[The Montreal Protocol] was created to eliminate CFCs but the plan only appeared to work. There is no hole in the ozone, even at its thinnest, which occurs in winter when there is no sunlight; it is one-third the global average.

The term was created to scare people: “We’ve torn a hole in the sky, and harmful radiation will give children skin cancer!”

I appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Ozone. It was a political circus. Friends of the Earth had representatives there with no scientific knowledge; I asked them.

Ozone is created by the ultraviolet (UV) light portion of sunlight hitting free oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere. They assumed the level of UV radiation is constant. In fact, it varies widely and is the major cause of ozone variation, but that’s what allowed them to focus on and blame CFCs. [Emphasis in original.]

Even if CFCs were damaging atmospheric ozone, as alleged, it’s not clear the effects on humans would be significant. In 1995, professor Fred Singer testified as follows.

A projected 10 percent UV increase from a worst-case global ozone depletion is the equivalent of moving just 60 miles closer to the equator….New Yorkers moving to Florida experience a more than 200 percent increase in UV because of the change of latitude.

I confess that I really don’t have the scientific expertise to be sure if the ozone scare was scientifically valid or not. But one thing that makes me suspicious of the science is the economics. Dupont was the manufacturer of Freon, and was actively involved in developing the Montreal Protocol. Freon and other CFCs were cheap and not very profitable. But at the time of the ban, Dupont held the patent on the CFC substitute, R-134a.

In a 1997 paper written by MIT’s James Maxwell and Forrest Briscoe titled, “There’s Money in the Air: The CFC Ban and DuPont’s Regulatory Strategy” published by UCMERCED University of California, Merced’s Business Strategy and the Environment the other, much longer, side of this story is told.

In examining the paper, the first thing discussed by the authors is, “DuPont, the world’s dominant CFC producer, played a key role in the development of the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances.”

The authors go on to state their argument that in pursuing “its economic interests, along with the political impact of the discovery of an ozone hole and the threat of domestic regulation,” DuPont was responsible for molding the “international regulatory regime for ozone-depleting substances.”

In 1986, the Freon division of DuPont conducted its own evaluation of the ozone and announced a “significant reduction” in the ozone layer.

The EPA responded with a call to reduce 85% of CFC production – immediately. The paper states that DuPont decided to support a CFC ban since the company mindset was that it could gain a “competitive advantage” with the sales of its new chemical substitutes that would be sold as specialty chemicals at a much higher price than the CFC.

Finally, the paper concludes “DuPont’s organization and strategy were key to the successful leveraging of the Montreal process.” This was achieved through the Freon Division’s interaction with “public officials” and various groups, positioning DuPont to “exploit the situation when regulatory discussions were stepped up.”

Always follow the money.

Phony ‘Fact Checkers’

Gotta love those phony ‘fact check’ sites that are run by the media presstitutes who lie to us about everything else. Here’s a classic from shortly before the 2012 election, published to make sure that voters got properly misinformed.

class2012

And here’s a headline from this week.

premiums

Oh, and here’s more ‘fact checking’ on behalf of the gigantic lie that is Obamacare.

jghgn

Here at Yet, Freedom!, we devised an analog meter that’s more accurate.

bullshitdetector

Plutocrats Plotting Payroll Tax Hike?

Key elements of America’s ruling class think you’re not giving enough money to Wall Street, so they have a plan to force you to give more. The so-called James-Ghilarducci plan would force workers to pay a new three percent payroll tax to fund a personal retirement account to be managed by Wall Street firms. The cost to workers would be partially offset by a tax credit of up to $600, and the government would (somehow) guarantee at least a 2 percent annual return, regardless of market conditions.

The plan is being pushed by Blackstone president Tony James, who just by coincidence also happens to be raising millions of dollars for Hillary. As a result, Hillary’s top aides are reportedly warming to his plan.

You have to be a fool to think that James is doing this out of goodwill and public spiritedness. The plan promises to provide firms like his with a huge spigot of cash for accounts on which the firms will charge lucrative fees.

Right now, laws prohibit retirees from investing 401(k) balances in risky and sometimes opaque ‘alternative investments’ offered by hedge funds and private equity firms. Maybe that restriction should be lifted, but James’ plan forces savers to participate.

Chris Tobe, a Democrat who advises institutional investors and who served on Kentucky’s pension board, put it just as bluntly: “James’ plan is a deliberate attempt to get around federal protections for retirees because alternative investments are not generally allowed in the 401(k) world. This is about making Blackstone and other private equity firms even richer than they already are.”

The most objectionable aspect of the James-Ghilarducci plan is its coercive nature. The retirement accounts would be mandatory, and workers would be forced to pay a new three percent tax. A typical household making $60,000 per year would have to cough up $150 every month. Maybe you had other plans for that $150, but the plutocrats have decided they know better; you have to hand the money over to Wall Street.

Worse, under the plan, individuals don’t even get to decide how their own money shall be invested. People can’t choose for themselves how to allocate their own portfolio. That will be decided by the plutocrats.

Under their proposal, “Retirement portfolios would be created by a board of professionals who would be fiduciaries appointed by the president and Congress,” James and Ghilarducci wrote in a New York Times editorial.

James is trying to sell the plan by promising real returns of 6 or 7 percent. In an economy that can’t manage even 3 percent growth, that promise is simply not realistic.

[E]conomist Eileen Appelbaum told IBT, the James-Ghilarducci plan is built on earnings projections that are fanciful.

“The plan’s promise of 6 to 7 percent returns is likely to prove unrealistic, and they fail to discuss the risks inherent in the risky investments that would have to dominate the savings portfolio that could yield such returns,” said Appelbaum, who co-authored the book “Private Equity at Work” and published a study suggesting lower private equity returns are a new normal.

“This proposal is about Wall Street getting more assets under management because that is where they make their money,” she said.

I also fail to see how government could conceivably guarantee the balances. The tax would generate something like $300 billion per year flowing into the new accounts. After one or two decades, the accounts would contain several trillion dollars. And these funds would largely be invested in assets that are relatively risky. In fact, investing in riskier assets is the whole point of the plan, which is to open up risky asset classes that are currently unavailable to 401(k)s. If we experience a crash like we did in 2009, and asset prices fall by 50% or more, the government would be on the hook for trillions in bailout money. Where would that money come from?

The other problem with the plan is that it would increase corruption by furthering ties between Wall Street and government. Wall Street would benefit from a steady source of cash, but the political class would get to dictate the terms of the deal to Wall Street. The government would decide how much Wall Street could charge in fees, and maybe even which firms could receive the cash. Government influence might also politicize the allocation of credit, which in the long term would impair the efficiency of financial markets and the growth of the economy.

What will happen, of course, is the same thing we saw with health care and pretty much every other part of the economy these days. It will be a bust out. The billions that pour into these new funds will be “invested” in things that benefit the rulers. Politicians will get advance notice on some new move so they can cash in their privileged status. The fund managers will kick back a piece of their rake to the politicians for the right to manage these funds. It will be systematic robbery of the middle class.

Will the plan be enacted? Hillary has not been campaigning on it, and when asked to comment on the article excerpted above, her campaign declined. So they won’t even talk about it. But if they don’t talk about it now, during the presidential campaign, then a future Clinton administration will have no political legitimacy for imposing it on the people. A policy change this significant should be debated during the campaign so that voters can have their say. To keep quiet and then spring the plan only after the election would betray the principles of representative democracy. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but if it does, it would be politically illegitimate.

Obamacare: No Free Lunch

Milton Friedman liked to point out that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” which means that government spending must be paid for, and for the government to bestow benefits on one person it must impose costs on somebody else.

The website Vox, a mouthpiece for the establishment, recently succumbed to the free lunch fallacy in its defense of Obamacare. One of the goals of Obamacare was to reduce insurance prices for older people by charging them less than their costs. But if old folks pay less than cost, somebody else must make up the difference by paying more. That somebody else was young, healthy people, who would be forced to pay more than their costs.

Obamacare attempted to effect the transfer of wealth from young to old by imposing a ‘3-to-1 age band,’ which means that insurers can not charge older people any more than 3 times as much as they charge young people. If old people cost insurers 4 or 5 times as much, insurers by law have to keep the ratio down to three by charging old people less than cost and young people more than cost. The young thereby effectively subsidize the old.

Whether or not you approve of this transfer of wealth from young to old, there’s no doubt that it’s the young who get fleeced. Yet Vox’s slippery rhetoric suggests that Obamacare is win-win for both old and young; in other words, a free lunch.

The talking point that individual market premiums have skyrocketed…is only true for young people, with no medical problems, who purchased catastrophic coverage plans that cover less than 60 percent of expenses.

Yes, they pay more today. But they are getting plans that cover more of their costs (at least 60 percent), have an out-of-pocket maximum of $7,500 per year, cover more things, have no lifetime maximum benefits, and offer free preventive care. Older people, because of 3-to-1 age bands (the allowable ratio of premiums paid by the oldest members relative to those paid by the youngest) are often paying less. And providing more affordable coverage to older people who are more likely to need coverage is a good thing.

Win-win!!

Sorry, but to switch metaphors, Vox can’t have their cake and eat it too. Young people are not better off with those admittedly “skyrocketing” premiums, and being forced to purchase plans they really don’t want. If people want to pay for insurance plans that “cover more things,” that choice should be theirs and not something the government forces on them. That “free preventive care” that Obamacare offers has very little value to people who are young and healthy.

But the salient point is that Vox cannot tout the benefit of the 3-to-1 age band to older people while at the same time eliding the corresponding cost to younger people. That is just plain intellectually dishonest.

I do, however, have to admire Vox’s chutzpah. They entitled their piece “Republican criticisms of Obamacare are extremely misleading.”

Peak Baby Boomer

Like a lot of people, I was both surprised and amused to hear that Bob Dylan, who is not an author, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. A week before the announcement a London betting site gave Dylan a 2 percent chance of winning, but even that slim chance caused The New Republic to write:

Bob Dylan 100 percent is not going to win. Stop saying Bob Dylan should win the Nobel Prize.

And yet it happened. So: William Butler Yeats, Thomas Mann, William Faulkner, Boris Pasternak, Bob Dylan. One of those names does not belong.

How did this happen? The fact is that hardly anybody gives a fig about Bob Dylan except baby boomers. In human society, most leadership positions are usually filled by people in their 50s and 60s, and right now, that’s baby boomers. So at the moment, the baby boomers are in charge, and they have given us Bob Dylan as the Nobel laureate in literature. They also gave us the Clinton Crime Family.

But the Boomers did most of their damage to America’s culture long ago. Prior to the Boomers, America had a thriving ‘high-brow’, or at least ‘middle-brow’ culture. In 1955, classical music concerts had greater total attendance than did major league baseball. In 1958, Leonard Bernstein started producing his Young People’s Concerts, intended to introduce kids to the joys of classical music. The programming, however, included pretty heavy stuff like Bach, Liszt, and Shostakovich, and was watched mostly by adults, not kids. Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts ran for several years on TV, including three seasons in prime time on CBS. For CBS to run a Shostakovich concert in prime time today seems unimaginable.

Those Americans not into ‘long hair’ music usually enjoyed jazz or well-crafted show tunes by the likes of Gilbert and Sullivan, Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Cole Porter.

America’s cultural landscape was not just musical, but also literary. During World War Two, book publishers created a generation of readers by sending free books to troops serving overseas. The so-called Armed Services Editions were small, compact paperbacks that soldiers could easily carry with them. During the war, a staggering 122 million such books were produced. Many soldiers continued their reading habits after returning from the war. In those days, it was not unusual for people who did not even have high school diplomas to read more books than the typical college graduate does today.

But then, starting in the 1960s, the baby boomers tore down America’s cultural life. They replaced classical music and show tunes with rock. They argued amongst themselves about who was greater, the Beatles or the Stones. Answer: they both suck.

Oh well. There’s nothing to be done except to wait for the boomers to pass from the scene and to be temporarily replaced in power by Gen X. The boomers gave Bob Dylan a Nobel, but I’m guessing that Gen Xers are not so flaky and solipsistic as to want to give one to Kurt Cobain (if he had lived). We shall see.

Now You Can’t Even Keep Your Obamacare Plan

While peddling Obamacare, the president famously and repeatedly lied to the American people by saying “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” Four years later, Obamacare caused people to lose their plans. Several million Americans who purchased health insurance on the individual market, and who (according to surveys) were happy with their plans, were prohibited from renewing those plans because they did not fully comply with the arbitrary coverages of Obamacare. After losing their plans, people were forced to purchase Obamacare or pay a fine.

Now it turns out that you can’t even keep the Obamacare plan you were forced to buy, because insurers are losing money and pulling out.

A growing number of people in Obamacare are finding out their health insurance plans will disappear from the program next year, forcing them to find new coverage even as options shrink and prices rise.
At least 1.4 million people in 32 states will lose the Obamacare plan they have now, according to state officials contacted by Bloomberg. That’s largely caused by Aetna Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and some state or regional insurers quitting the law’s markets for individual coverage.

For the people losing plans, there are fewer and fewer choices. One estimate by the Kaiser Family Foundation predicts that for at least 19 percent of the people in Obamacare’s individual market next year there will be only one insurer to choose from.

In North Carolina, for example, a BlueCross BlueShield insurer will be the only option in 95 of the state’s 100 counties after Aetna and UnitedHealth said this year that they would leave. That will leave 284,000 people looking for a new plan, according to the state.

And BlueCross only agreed to remain after the state allowed them to increase rates by 25%. So BlueCross is now effectively the Obamacare monopolist in North Carolina. You don’t like the BlueCross plans or service? Tough luck, because in North Carolina you have no other Obamacare option.

In theory, government is supposed to be protecting consumers from monopolists. The Department of Justice even maintains an anti-trust division that goes after companies for monopolistic practices. Yet in North Carolina, the federal government is now forcing people to purchase from a monopolist under threat of a fine. Good job!

Of course, if BlueCross had left the North Carolina market, there would be no way to purchase Obamacare in that state. And yet federal law says that if you don’t have coverage you must pay a fine. Would the IRS still enforce the fine? Does the law call for suspending the fine in the event that no insurers offer Obamacare plans? Has Obama given this question any thought in between filling out his NCAA bracket and his summer music playlist?

Nationwide, it looks like about one out of eight people on Obamacare will this year need to find a new provider. So it turns out you can’t even keep the plan you were forced to buy when the government abolished the plan you liked after telling you that you could keep it. Awesome job.

By the way, based on projections made in 2010 when Obamacare was enacted, the program was supposed to have 26 million enrollees by now. This year, Obamacare will have about 11 million people enrolled. Heckuva job.