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America’s Neo-Victorian Future

Megan McArdle writes: Last week I considered our culture’s vanishing burden of proof when a prominent man is accused of any sexual impropriety. Certainly I wouldn’t want the bad old days of sexual harassment to continue. But there must be some way to find justice for women who have been abused without rushing to punish men who may not have abused anyone.

You can think of crimes as a sort of pyramid: At the top, there are a relatively small number of actions that we can all clearly agree merit the severest sanction, if proven. And then, as you slide down the walls of the pyramid, a growing number of cases that are less and less bad. At the base of the pyramid is a gray area where reasonable people can disagree about whether the evidence is strong, or the behavior alleged merits any sanction.

What happens if we try to apply the sanctions that are clearly merited for the guys at the top to the guys in the middle? What happens if we try to move the line down until it encompasses more and more of the guys at the bottom? Read the rest of this entry »

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How Americans Can Kill Obamacare, Legalize Pot: Passive Resistance

(Photo: Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post, via AP)

(Photo: Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post, via AP)

Nobody is signing up, and everybody — in Colorado,at least — is smoking.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes:  In his excellent book, Two Cheers for Anarchism, Professor James Scott writes:

One need not have an actual conspiracy to achieve the practical effects of a conspiracy. More regimes have been brought, piecemeal, to their knees by what was once called ‘Irish Democracy,’ the silent, dogged resistance, withdrawal, and truculence of millions of ordinary people, than by revolutionary vanguards or rioting mobs.

Obama-On-The-Barf-Couch-looking-stoned

That seems to be happening right now, in two very different areas. In one area, we have the refusal of people to sign up for Obamacare in anything like the numbers that were predicted, or needed to make it work. Writing in the Washington Postback in November, Jennifer Rubin observed:

It is a coin flip, at best, for the president as to whether his signature achievement, his only achievement, will fail. It will be repealed in essence by a popular referendum: The mass refusal of people to go along with Obama’s top-down, compulsory system that was set to transform a sixth of the economy. That possibility should traumatize and probably is traumatizing the White House. … The political implications of this are almost too enormous to calculate.

Now, as February draws near, things don’t look much better.

Read the rest of this entry »


Six Problems with the Latest Obamacare ‘Fix’

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Patrick Brennan writes:  Last night, the Obama administration announced two big changes to Obamacare, for people who have seen their individual-market insurance plans canceled this year: They won’t have to comply with the individual mandate, meaning they can go without insurance and not pay the not-insubstantial fine (1 percent of their income, basically); and if they do want insurance, they can buy a “catastrophic” plan on the exchanges, which is cheaper than any of the other plans available.

This will make life easier, in the short term, for some number of Americans — millions have seen their plans canceled, though the White House suggests just half a million of them still haven’t signed up for new plans, gotten Medicaid, or enrolled in an exchange plan. But as Ezra Klein bluntly put it, these changes could be “a very big problem for the law.” Here’s why:

1. The way it treats the uninsured is unfair and potentially politically unsustainable.

Now that the law’s requirements have been significantly weakened for people who did have insurance in 2013, it’s going to be hard to stand by them for people who didn’t.

In theory, this does reflect one of the principles of how the health-insurance market works: Under pre-Obamacare law, consumers were guaranteed the right to renew their policies (with some cost changes, of course). If you were uninsured, on the other hand, you could have a much harder time finding coverage on the individual market — which is why, for instance, people are allowed to maintain employer coverage for a certain period of time after leaving a job. But Obamacare is supposed to be about expanding coverage, and the inequities this change will create can be really problematic.

Philip Klein nicely lays out one of these scenarios: A previously uninsured 31-year-old California man making $32,000 will now have to pay more for the cheapest plan on the state’s individual market than would a 31-year-old who makes $100,000 a year but had his insurance canceled.

Read the rest of this entry »


Obamacare Initiates Self-Destruction Sequence

Photographer: Jim Stratford/Bloomberg News What happens to bad ideas.

What happens to bad ideas. Photographer: Jim Stratford/Bloomberg News

Megan McArdle writes:  On Wednesday, Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown reported that the administration was saying fewer than 500,000 people had actually lost insurance due to Obamacare-induced cancellations. This struck me as a strange leak: Half a million is a lot less than many people (including me) have been estimating, but it is still not a small number, and the administration has tended to sit on negative information until the last possible moment.

Yesterday, we had a more official announcement from the administration: Anyone who has had their policies cancelled will be exempt from the individual mandate next year. The administration is also allowing those people to buy catastrophic plans, even if they’re over 30.

What to make of these two statements? On the one hand, the administration is trying to minimize the number of people who have been affected by cancellations, and on the other hand, it is unveiling a fix to the problem of cancellations. And these are not minor changes.

As Seth Chandler points out, Healthcare.gov doesn’t even let you see catastrophic plans if you’re more than 30 years old. Is now the time to be making technical changes to the website?

As Avik Roy points out, catastrophic plans aren’t that much cheaper than the so-called bronze plans. They’re also not eligible for subsidies. This is unlikely to be much help to folks who lost insurance; all it does is introduce some much-unneeded complexity to Healthcare.gov.

Read the rest of this entry »


Liberals are the Real Culture-War Aggressors

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And they’re wrong to get deeply involved in the reproductive choices of Americans.

Jonah Goldberg writes: Maybe someone can explain to me how, exactly, conservatives are the aggressors in the culture war? In the conventional narrative of American politics, conservatives are obsessed with social issues. They want to impose their values on everyone else. They want the government involved in your bedroom. Those mean right-wingers want to make “health care choices” for women.

Now consider last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider two cases stemming from Obamacare: Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. Democratic politicians and their fans on social media went ballistic almost instantly. That’s hardly unusual these days. But what’s revealing is that the talking points are all wrong.

Suddenly, the government is the hero for getting deeply involved in the reproductive choices of nearly every American, whether you want the government involved or not. The bad guy is now your boss who, according to an outraged Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would be free to keep you from everything from HIV treatment to vaccinating your children if Hobby Lobby has its way. Murray and the White House insist that every business should be compelled by law to protect its employees’ “right” to “contraception” that is “free.”

Birth control not a right

I put all three words in quotation marks because these are deeply contentious claims. For starters, the right to free birth control — or health care generally — is not one you’ll find in the Constitution. And even if you think it should be a right, that is hardly a settled issue in American life. Read the rest of this entry »


Interview with Kevin D. Williamson: What Doomed Detroit

williamson_detroit_cover_11-26-13-1Ed Driscoll writes: Has there been a more spectacular downfall to an American city than Detroit? As late as 1965, Jerome Cavanagh, its then-mayor, the first of what would be to this very day an unending series of Democrat party officials leading the city, could say with some honesty, “frequently called the most cosmopolitan city of the Midwest, Detroit, today, stands at the threshold of a bright new future.”

And the Titanic was thought to be unsinkable as well, right up until she left the Southampton docks.

The riots of 1967 would be Detroit’s equivalent of the iceberg; the 1974 election of Coleman Young as the city’s mayor for the next two decades would cement its doom permanently, until ultimately, it was forced to declare bankruptcy this past July. And in addition to the city’s institutional reverse-racism, its fiscal mismanagement has been spectacular as well. As PJM’s own Richard Fernandez noted back in September, inside Detroit’s City Hall, from 1985 through 2009, “the pension trustees were draining the pension because they were so sure, so absolutely certain that the taxpayers would have to refill the pot they felt safe helping themselves to whatever they wanted… What could go wrong? To everyone’s amazement something completely unprecedented happened: City Hall went broke. ‘They didn’t reckon with the possibility,’ [Megan McArdle wrote inBloomberg News] ‘that the city would simply run out of money, and the state would decline to step in, leaving them with no deep pockets to make up for their mismanagement.’ And so the Detroit pension is bust unless they find something they can siphon off to replenish it.”

To borrow from one of Glenn Reynolds’ recurring leitmotifs, a paraphrase of economist Herb Stein, something that can’t go on forever, won’t.

Read the rest of this entry »


Does Obama Know? Does Obama Care?

Obama avoids discussing ObamaCare at the White House yesterday. Associated Press

Obama avoids discussing ObamaCare at the White House yesterday. Associated Press

James Taranto writes:  Last night on Twitter, your humble columnist observed: “There’s only one thing that can save ObamaCare now. AN OBAMA SPEECH.” We were kidding, naturally–alluding to President Obama’s endless series of speeches in 2009 and 2010 in which he tried, unsuccessfully, to sell “health-care reform” to the public, and to subsequent laments like this one from Drew Westen in August 2011: “Nor did anyone explain what health care reform was supposed to accomplish . . .”

But then it occurred to us that the American people really do deserve a presidential address on ObamaCare. No, not as punishment for re-electing him, or at least not mainly for that purpose. Rather, because 2½ weeks after the launch of the “exchanges” that are supposed to be ObamaCare’s operational centerpiece, it is clear to almost everyone that they are an administrative disaster. In this crisis, there is an opportunity: to recognize an impending economic and humanitarian disaster, and to act in time to avert or at least minimize it. Read the rest of this entry »