Daily Archive: 14 Mar 2017

Mar 14

Glibertarians, MRAs, Alt-Right, Oh My!

Libertarian Party: Just Kidding, We're Republicans!We’ve been getting a lot of comments, apparently, from the crew that runs Glibertarians.com. Most of the comments have made me rethink my definition of glibertarians: people who don’t think about politics but have a vaguely libertarian mindset. I can see how the word does apply to people who think themselves libertarian but who have never taken it seriously enough to learn about it from even a basic philosophical perspective. I see that I’ve generally been mixing with a better class of libertarian in recent years. The comments are so filled with talking points that’s they’re hard to argue against because the people don’t take the political issues seriously. And looking at the site, there’s little more than a patina of libertarianism.

I did receive one reasonably thoughtful comment. I started replying and eventually decided to turn it into this post. So this is a mishmash of thoughts, but it does get to the heart of why talking to these people is a waste of time. How do you teach astronomy to people who not only believe the sun circles the Earth nightly, but who don’t even realize that this is an assumption. And I am getting tired of dealing with people of all political stripes who have no recognition of how thoroughly American propaganda has defined their world view. I don’t take it as given that private ownership of land is right. Thus it’s kind of hard to have conversations with people who think the only proper role for government is to protect a principle I find debatable.

The Liberal Straw-Man

What’s most annoying is being straw-manned constantly — having to answer for the beliefs of mythical hate-radio-created “liberals” who despise freedom and love big government. The whole thing started off with an exchange with someone who goes by the name of Sloopyinca who knew, despite my repeated denial, that I was in favor of luxury taxes. Why? Apparently because it’s the only example anyone on Glibertarians.com can come up with to illustrate the evil unintended consequences of taxation. It’s an extreme example, but like libertarians big and small, all these people assume I don’t know much about economics.

One person pointed out that taxes on one income group can affect others. Yes, I know the economy is complex and that a tax on one group is not limited to that one group. A related example of this is the EITC; estimates indicate that about one-quarter of it goes to employers because it allows them to suppress wages. Economics is very complicated indeed. That alone should stop people from being libertarian. Libertarianism is based on the most basic — “I got a B- in Econ 101” — level of economic thinking.

Deficits and Debt

However, there are many things that our Glibertarian.com friends think that just aren’t true. For example, “Deficits cause inflation.” This is one that most people find irresistible. It seems to be obvious: the economy has a certain value. Thus, the value of money is that value divided by the total amount of money that exists. If you “print” more money, the money has to be worth less. There are several problems with this. One is that the US government doesn’t print money. It does what all individuals and businesses do when they need extra money: it borrows it. This is done by issuing bonds, which are bought; the government then pays them back.

The reason deficits can be bad is because they can crowd out private borrowing. But this is only true when the economy is running at full capacity. This pretty much never happens anymore because of our excessive level of inequality. Regardless, it’s a mistake to get too focused on the deficit. If the government wanted to pay off its entire debt, it could just sell off some its many resources — or tax more.

Discussions of the deficit are almost always disingenuous — whether from the left or the right. People use them to justify cutting government expenditures that they don’t like. We should just talk about that and end the nonsense. My problem with military spending has nothing to do with the deficit. And conservatives’ problem with Medicaid has nothing to do with the deficit.

Interest Burden

Regardless, if there is a problem with government debt, it is the interest burden. And right now, the interest burden is less than half of what it was when we had a budget surplus in 2000.[1] There was nothing to worry about then and there is nothing to worry about now. Most people who have purchased a home have debts that are far greater than their annual salary, but they don’t get upset about them. They are simply focused on whether they can make the payments.

Taxation

Another issue brought up was that regardless of the various changes to the top tax rate, the average rate of federal tax revenue has been about 18 percent. This is pretty much right. The total federal tax rate as a percent of GDP has bounced around between about 16 and 20 percent with an average of roughly 18 percent. What this has to do with anything, I’m not sure. I think the implication is that I think we can fix our funding needs by soaking the rich. Like the luxury tax, this is not my position.

But there is something interesting about our tax system: it isn’t fair; it is managed by and for the rich. They have a low baseline and the Republicans might decrease it a little and the Democrats might increase it a little. I think our federal tax rate should be higher, but more than that, I think what we get for our tax dollars should be better. Despite spending as much on our military as almost every other nation on Earth combined, we are told we don’t spend enough, and that we are in great danger. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands die early because we don’t provide healthcare for everyone (this is usually justified by the “fact” that we just can’t afford it).

Local Government

Unlike most libertarians, I’m interested in taxes (and laws in general) at the state and local level, where the rich have even more power and where taxes are actually regressive. But libertarians are mostly laser-focused on federal taxes. Libertarians talk about the rich like they are some poor minority group that needs to be coddled. There are libertarians (I used to be one) who criticize the government because it is corrupt and helps the rich at the expense of the rest of the country. But this is a tiny minority. Most libertarians exhibit an almost religious admiration for the rich. And this is why they fit right in with the Republicans.

Let’s look at Rand Paul for a moment. Is he a libertarian when it comes to drugs? No. He’s for the legalization of cannabis, but not drugs that he deems too dangerous. That isn’t a libertarian position; that’s a paternal position that is simply on the liberal side of American politics. Like all prominent libertarians, tax cuts are his top priority.

My Own Liberty

I care a great deal about liberty, but taxes have never been a major impediment to my liberty — and I say that as a successful freelance writer and editor who pays a lot of money in taxes. (In 2011, I paid a higher percentage of my income as federal tax than Mitt Romney — and 2011 wasn’t a very good year for me.)

When it comes to regulation, it has always been the local government that’s been my biggest pain — not the federal government that libertarians love to claim is so bad. In general, liberty is harmed far more often by the local than federal government. (And don’t get me started about the ways that the private sector decreases my liberty.)

But libertarians always tell me local government is better. Why is that? Part of it is the neo-confederate roots of American libertarianism. But regardless, the belief that local government is necessarily better than federal government is not based on evidence; it’s just a faith-based belief. It seems like local governments would be more responsive to their citizens. But I don’t think that much matters when it is so much easier for the rich buy off the local government.

Libertarians vs Glibertarians

I still find it interesting to discuss politics with serious libertarians. But the people at Glibertarians.com are not interesting. I fear it is mostly due to ignorance. In their About page, they claim, “America would do well to return to the ideals of our founders as they pertain to our government’s relationship to us.” Really? They were men who disagreed about just about everything. And one of their prime ideals was that dark skinned people were not only inferior, but so inferior that they should be considered property.

So it is hardly surprising that the people who hang out on the site would not understand much about politics and economics except in as much as they justified their existing faith-based beliefs. The more thoughtful ones might eventually get past their glib approach to politics. But I rather doubt it. The more I look at it, I see it’s more MRA and alt-right than it is libertarian.

Glibertarian? MRA? Alt-Right?!

When this whole deluge of Glibertarians.com comments started, it was Sloopyinca, telling me, “You know nothing of glibertarians.” I guess that’s true in as far Glibertarians.com doesn’t seem to know what libertarians are. Or maybe this is always what libertarians were. Everything else is affect. It was always just an intellectual facade covering frightened white guys who can’t deal with a changing world.

Afterword

As always, I’m interested in comments. But I’d be especially interested to see comments from Glibertarians that have something to say other than repetitions of your usual talking points. You might even — Shock! — engage with the material. You could respond to the fact that poor people are taxed more than rich people at the state level. Or you could explain how the liberty that is created by public libraries is more than canceled by people having to pay taxes to support them. Or you could show how monopsony in labor markets doesn’t make them unfair. I don’t plan to respond to anyone, so this is your perfect chance to show that your support of “glibertarianism” is something more than just a sociopathic hatred of the weak and a general lack of empathy.


[1] Note that this graph stops at 2013. The only ones I could find with more up-to-date data showed that the interest burden has actually gone down since 2013. But I didn’t use them because they were focused on their own models that show that the interest burden will rise sharply in the year ahead. These same models have been predicting this same thing for the last 8 years. The truth is that as the economy improves, the interest burden should increase. This is not a bad thing and certainly is nothing to panic about.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/14/glibertarians/

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Mar 14

Obamacare Replacement Will Take Insurance From 24 Million CBO Says

Thích Quảng Đức Self-Immolation - Republican Obamacare Insurance ReplacementHouse Republicans’ proposal to rewrite federal health-care law would more than reverse the gains the Affordable Care Act has made in the number of Americans with health insurance, while curbing the federal deficit, according to a widely-anticipated forecast by congressional budget analysts.

The analysis, released late Monday afternoon by the Congressional Budget Office, predicts that 24 million fewer people would have health coverage over the coming decade, nearly doubling the share of Americans who are uninsured from 10 to 19 percent. But the GOP legislation, which has been speeding through House committees since it was introduced a week ago, would lower the deficit by $337 billion during that time, primarily by lessening spending on Medicaid and government aid to help people buy health plans on their own.

The report predicted that premiums would be 15 percent to 20 percent higher in the first year compared with the Affordable Care Act and 10 percent lower on average after 2026. By and large, older Americans would pay “substantially” more and younger Americans less, the report said.

The 37-page report provides the most tangible evidence to date of the human and fiscal impact of the House GOP’s American Health Care Act. It also undermines President Trump’s pledge that no Americans would lose coverage under a Republican remake of the ACA…

Democrats used the report’s finding to continue attacking the House GOP plan. “The CBO score shows just how empty the president’s promises, that everyone will be covered and costs will go down, have been,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E Schumer (D-NY). “This should be a looming stop sign for the Republicans repeal effort.”

Specifically, the analysis predicts that the number of people without health coverage would rise to 52 million by 2026, compared with 28 million if the ACA remains intact. That erosion would mean that fewer than one in five US residents would be uninsured by 2026 — compared to one in 10 uninsured now and one in six who were uninsured before the ACA was enacted.

The reduction would result from three factors. A provision rescinding the penalty imposed on the uninsured would prompt many Americans to drop their health plans. After that, tax credits that are less generous than current subsidies would make insurance unaffordable to many more. Finally, some states may undo the expansion of their Medicaid programs…

The measure derives most of its budget savings through cuts to Medicaid, while nearly all of its cost comes from the proposal’s system of tax credits, which would replace the ACA’s federal insurance subsidies.

While the deficit would be lower, the analysis says, the legislation also would reduce federal revenue by $592 billion by 2026 by repealing several taxes that the ACA created to help pay for more people to get insurance — notably taxes on high-income Americans, hospitals. and health insurers.

“I would hope that this would make the Republicans say ‘we can’t do this,'” said Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of Democratic leadership.

“Twenty-four million people lose their coverage, it is total chaos to the country and I hope they pause, say ‘This is not what we should be doing,’ and move on.” …

The Affordable Care Act has increased coverage by 20 million to 22 million — almost half of those through the insurance markets the law created for people who cannot get affordable coverage through a job, and the rest through an expansion of Medicaid in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the report, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured in 2026, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under the current law…

The estimates projected a significant drop in Medicaid enrollment. Next year, the forecast says, about 5 million fewer people would be on Medicaid. By 2026, the program’s rolls would shrink by nearly 15 million — almost one in four of the 68 million currently in the program.

The CBO also predicted substantial disparities in the effect the legislation would have on insurance premiums for younger versus older consumers.

If the GOP plan is enacted, a 21-year-old making $68,200 would pay an average of $1,450 for a year’s worth of insurance premiums after the new tax credits, compared with $5,100 under current law.

On the other hand, the cost of a year’s worth of premiums would stay about the same for a 64-year-old at the same income level. For a 64-year-old making $26,500, the cost would rise sharply from $1,700 to $14,600…

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) recalled Trump’s promise that the healthcare plan would insure everyone.

“President Trump said that he wants as many people covered as under Obamacare,” Cassidy said. “He said that healthcare should be affordable. If there’s 14 million people losing insurance — of course it’s concerning. I try to avoid hyperbole and adjectives, but it’s concerning.”

–Amy Goldstein, Elise Viebeck, Kelsey Snell, and Mike DeBonis
Obamacare Revision Would Reduce Insured Numbers by 24 Million, CBO Projects

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/14/gop-insurance-replacement/

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