Monster Blog: Let’s Catch Up

   I’ve been quite busy with my jobs that actually make money, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been paying attention. Quite the contrary. Let’s get this monster blog going.

  • Health Insurance Debacle
  • Proposed Budget cuts
  • Internet privacy rules
  • Reading between the lines
  • Clarifications

   The health insurance legislation introduced by the Republicans in the House of Representatives is one of the grossest displays of spinelessness, lack of principle, and lack of leadership I have seen from them in modern history. First, the actual content of the bill is disgusting.  They had 7 years to come up with a good plan for replacement and have literally done nothing but come up with a bill that is a SLIGHTLY modified version of the Affordable Care Act (Bill Cassidy I’m looking at you HARD right now). I am not going to waste your time going over specifics (you can find them here) – but, in short, it maintains the expansion of Medicaid, it continues to force insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions, keeps the option of 26 year old on their parent’s insurance, DID NOT EXPAND INSURANCE SALES ACROSS STATE LINES, and did not mention importing generic pharmaceuticals. It addressed NONE of the conservative points we have been asking for over the last 8 years — but it delays planned parenthood funding for a year.  Way to prioritize, idiots.  Please see the actual bill for yourself here and see speaker Ryan’s presentation of it here.

   Second, let me address the blame.  I blame 40% of this on establishment Republicans because they are weak and do not support the conservatism that Americans WANT when they are given multiple chances. They’re more interested in reelection. However, I blame the majority of this on —— president Donald Trump. In his haste he attempted to push through legislation on one of the most important aspects of American life without so much as consulting conservatives. This shows a lack of respect for congress AND the interests of the American people.  Trump and other republicans ran on the promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare and yet did not give this process the time of day. This failure on his part does many things to harm him. Among them, he associated himself with a bill that had less than 17% support among Americans (SOURCE), he showed his lack of patience, poor negotiating skills, and perhaps most importantly, he has severely damaged his relationship with house and senate conservatives. This makes the rest of his agenda even more difficult to achieve.  He has squandered whatever political capital he may have had on a bill with less than 17% support. I will forever be angry with president Trump for this lack of leadership because he both failed to replace Obamacare AND succeeded in further dividing the republican party. Maybe if he spent half the time on healthcare negotiations that he does on worrying about tweeting insults we wouldn’t be in this mess. Hopefully Senator Rand Paul’s bill gets some consideration and they can use that as a foundation for future health insurance legislation. (read about that here) [[additionally – if you’re interested in me writing about the healthcare industry please leave a comment.  It’s a doozie so I don’t necessarily want to if you guys aren’t in for the read]]

   Congress has also recently put forward major budget cuts prompting panic among all the liberals and government junkies out there.  I have two basic comments — first, people tend to make the mistake of assuming that all government regulations are both good and necessary.  Second, people assume that by rolling back these regulations that the stated goal of the regulations is not being achieved. (see Milton Friedman’s essay on Why Government is the Problem). In other words – government often seeks to solve a problem that isn’t theirs to solve. When it fails – they just ask for (and receive) more money.  Yet somehow, people see regulation rollbacks as LOSING freedom rather than gaining it. It is precisely the opposite.

   Additionally there is a constitutional issue at stake with the unchecked expansion of government. The administrative state (government agencies like the EPA, DEQ, FDA, HHS, DHS, etc) makes policy and regulations without the consent of congress and has greatly expanded its capability to do so in recent years.  One only needs to look at the wide discretion the Affordable Care Act grants the HHS secretary to see this principle in action.  If that’s not enough, look at the expansion of EPA regulations under the Obama executive orders 13514 under the supposed purview of the Clean Air Act.  The act itself gives enormous flexibility to the executive branch EPA to shape policy as it sees fit. This is a gradual transfer of legislative powers from congress to the administrative arm of the executive branch – something I am very fearful of and many presidents (before Obama) have done similar things (SOURCE).  (read this well-written article HERE) So the next time you see someone losing their mind over budget cuts think about whether those departments are doing a good job achieving their stated goals, if they do so efficiently, and whether the same goals could be achieved with fewer regulations.  Hint: The government over-regulates when in doubt … and conservatives think they should not regulate when in doubt.

   Continuing on these lines, congress has recently approved the rollback of UPCOMING regulations concerning “internet privacy”.  Specifically, the FCC under Obama handed down policy that would require ISPs to ask your permission before collecting and selling your browsing data.  These rules HAVE NOT GONE INTO EFFECT and were scheduled to do so this April. (source) What does that mean? It means the ISPs have been doing this for a while … and you never were any wiser to it. Not to mention other companies that you use everyday (Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, and even amazon) do not have the same restrictions — they collect your browsing habits as well. Now everyone is suddenly outraged …. why? Because the media is stoking the outrage. Now whether you think these  should have been halted is a different issue. I will cover that in my upcoming net neutrality blog.  (hint – I’m big on privacy) For now, recognize that internet privacy doesn’t really exist – with or without these regulations.

   This brings me to my last – and perhaps most important point. We need to learn to read between the lines of a news story – especially with the amount of “fake news” accusations floating around. Perfect example is the barrage of news surrounding your “internet privacy” (example articles here and here) or articles surrounding #Towergate (wiretapping of Trump) …. In every article, if you read closely enough, you’ll see phrases like “would have made it illegal”, “sources indicate”, “… suggest the possibility” etc etc etc.  All of these phrases signal to you what they want you to think without actually saying it. The main stream media is framing every single thing in the worst possible way to get you to click on their websites, watch their channels, and support the narrative of chaos.  There are very few hard facts given from any news source – yes even fox news. This forces people like you and me to get their information from other places on the internet to even get a reasonable facsimile of the truth — but their hope is that you feel overwhelmed and you lean on the MSM even harder.  That’s what they want – ratings.

   Lastly, I’d like to make some clarifications to better frame recent events and our discussions here.  Much of the reason the congress seems to be operating in cloak and dagger mode is actually related to the structure of the government and the different beliefs inside the republican party.  Regardless of what you think about them – please internalize these points.  The Republicans own a majority in the house of representatives, which is all it takes to get a bill passed through that part of the legislature.  The senate has 100 members and only 52 are Republican and the senate usually requires 60 votes to get a major bill passed.  Obviously this limits the legislating power of the Republican party to using channels such as budget reconciliation (see here) and the Congressional Review Act (see here) to enact some policy with only 51 votes in the senate. Needless to say this leads to the squabbling we are seeing today. Look for my short blog on these topics in the next two days.

Thanks and it’s good to be back.

2 Comments on “Monster Blog: Let’s Catch Up

  1. This was very thought provoking.

    – Congressional Republicans were twiddling their thumbs while they were criticizing and impeding the ACA at every turn. How could they?? The laziness and pettiness is seeping from their pores. Of course, the Democrats being pricks and pretty bonkers on a few key topics like terrorism made reconciliation impossible.

    – “first, people tend to make the mistake of assuming that all government regulations are both good and necessary. Second, people assume that by rolling back these regulations that the stated goal of the regulations is not being achieved.” This is gold. I know several in academia feel like the grim reaper is at their door, so I understand the outrage. The outrage on both sides needs to settle before everyone can have a seat at the table.

    – As much as I disagree with Trump’s bull in a china shop approach, and his accidental successes in breaking things– much easier to break things– no one will ever have their budget cut willfully. They’ll employ all their social capital to see it otherwise. I think Trump will go down in history as the oafish clumsy pruner, who had so mastered animal magnetism as to gain control for long enough disrupt the system materially. I just hope the systems can rebuild themselves more carefully this time under the assumptions of capitalism 2.0.

    “This is a gradual transfer of legislative powers from congress to the administrative arm of the executive branch” — I see regulations basically as rules to maximize well being for the most people. Sam Harris’ “enshrine our better selves into law” comes to mind. Consider investors and founders. Investors are providing the money, network, and their guidance to boots on the ground founders. The founders understand all the downstream intricacies more than any investor ever will. Autonomy of the end nodes maximize the effectiveness of the system. For Congress to have to approve all the rules that are based on deep expertise in a myriad of topics… it seems like an impossible ask, doomed to go the way of the centralized economy. There was glut in the system surely, and the system needs to be rebuilt with bipartisan assumptions.

    – I’m in the industry and the FCC stuff is pretty cryptic. What were ISPs allowed to do already, etc. Common practice is to remove personally identifiable information (PIIs) from data, aggregate it, and sell audience segments sliced by traits learned by correlating online behaviors. The private tech companies– Amazon, Facebook, etc. have had a monopoly on the juiciest of datasets for awhile. But ISPs are a particularly onerous bunch– much like robber barons in early oil. A monopoly on infrastructure, and yet cartel-ish by agreeing on regional partitioning of customers. I don’t think they need more power, and Ajit, especially because of his background, seems resolved to give it to them at the expense of the users I feel. So I oppose his decisions, but I also oppose the abuse of the clickbait.

    – A note on your distinction between MSM and whoever else– I think you’ll generally find higher journalistic integrity in the MSM– many of these people have dedicated their lives to the craft of fact finding and storytelling. It’s a science and an art to the best of them, and you won’t find the malice and deliberate obfuscation in MSM to the degree you find it in Fox News and Breitbart. I think those authors are far more likely to be extremists with ideological axes to grind, and it’s far more likely for their extremism to be noticed, primarily because MSM doesn’t tolerate that type of direct bias in their own staffs (plus, lots of ‘alternative’ news sources are opinion pieces as opposed to actual investigations that cost money to produce).
    That said, there’s lousy editors peppered around the industry that do the most damage by running more speculative stories, and juicing up the occasional headline.

    – Our government is being run by a bunch of 10 year olds. We’re surely a laughingstock tragicomedy on display for the world to see. How humbling.

    • Quick replies before I end one of the longer days of my life … lol

      If you think the MSM has any journalistic integrity right now then I couldn’t disagree more. My main point is that these organizations ALL have an axe to grind and that we need to do a better job sifting through this information. Most of it is garbage. I even need to correct myself from time to time.

      My point on the FCC stuff is to highlight two things — the selective backwards outrage and the transfer of power to the executive branch under Obama. The FCC “Voted” on those rules — without congressional consent.

      Which brings me to my last point. You don’t think congress has the necessary expertise in areas like this to decide – but you’re missing the fact that congress has the longest arms of any branch to reach out to experts and craft the necessary policy. It isn’t safer and certainly not more constitutionally sound to give such LEGISLATIVE AUTHORITY to the executive administrative state. I’ve actually said this in 2008 in regards to the patriot act as well. At least that was willingly signed over by congress (however wrong it may have been)

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