Friday, 06 December 2019 17:58

The medical care Wheel of Misfortune

You finally get your dream and are selected to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. You get to see Pat Sajak and Vanna White! You win a vacation to some country that you don’t really want to see. You cannot get the cash equivalent. You have to take 10 days off of work to take the free vacation you did not want. You discover that you have to pay the tax on the free vacation.

Or you win a free car. You have a perfectly functioning 3-year-old car. The free car was not really the car you would have selected. You accepted it because it was free. Then you see that you have to pay tax on the list price of the free car. You also discover that the collision insurance and Department of Motor Vehicles registration for the free car are significantly higher than for the car you currently own.

These are examples of why nothing is “free.” This applies to medical care as well. You may have to see the “health care provider” the government program or private insurer makes available to you. You don’t particularly want to see a nurse, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles with free health care. Oh well, you convince yourself that it’s okay because, just like that car on the game show, it was free.

Here’s a new spin on “free.” Yes, your medical care should be free – free from the restraints of government control. Free from the government rules that have raised the price of insurance premiums. The Affordable Care Act mandated ten essential benefits that all insurance plans must include free of out-of-pocket charges to patients. Of course, this does not include the initial out-of-pocket charge: the insurance premium. Insurance premiums shot up over the post-ACA year because the insurance plan has to cover conditions that the insured persons may not even encounter in their own lives. A glaring example is obstetrics coverage in a menopausal female. Preventive and wellness visits are also labelled as free.

Moreover, a recent AMA study revealed that over the last four years the competition in the commercial insurance market has decreased. In over 50 percent of metropolitan areas, representing about 73 million persons, one insurer has half of the market. The more concentrated the market, the higher the premiums.

Remember that free car? We all know and readily accept that car insurance does not pay for the gas and basic maintenance. So why should maintenance medical care be covered by insurance? Car insurance would be unaffordable for most car owners if it paid for gas, oil changes, new mufflers, radios, and batteries. Most states require drivers to have car insurance. If people can’t afford the insurance, they lose the benefit of owning a car.

Similarly, if you lose your health due to long waits or delayed diagnosis because the CT scan was not authorized or poor medication response because you had to take the formulary drug that was not the doctor’s first drug choice for you, the care is not free, but very costly.

The underlying message of free “health care” is disempowering. The message is that we are incapable of taking care of ourselves. Empowerment is having control over our own lives. First, we take charge of our own health by thinking about the choices we make. We choose to not smoke, overindulge in food or drink, or engage in foolhardy behaviors. Second, we decide what is important for our own health. If you do not want insurance coverage for obstetrics or fertility treatment because you are 50 years old and do not want children, there should be a less expensive insurance product available to you. Third, we need to be free to choose our own doctor as well as the treatment the doctor—not the invisible third-party payer—recommends.

The promised free health care would increase the payroll taxes on all workers, even if that worker does not want that particular brand of free medical care. The next time you hear that medical care is free, just think about that “free” car that is the wrong color, is too small, has uncomfortable seats, inadequate headroom, and overall is not what you really want.

 

Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist. She is Immediate Past President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). Her opinions are her own. This is an edited column that originally appeared at www.pennypressnv.com, reprinted with permission. 

Published in Opinion
Thursday, 05 December 2019 19:49

State Government now threatens to run amok, too

When I was Nevada controller, my deputy James Smack had an inspired idea.

On the Transparent Nevada web site of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, he searched pay levels of state employees with “controller” in their job titles.  After eliminating air traffic controllers, he found he was ninth and I was tenth.

We knew his pay was higher than mine because our salaries were dictated by statute.  What was surprising was that eight state employees with a controller job title made more than us.  They were all employed in the colleges, universities and Desert Research Institute.

This illustrated that non-academic pay in Nevada higher education is above market levels, as we already knew.  Full-time academic pay is also high because it competes with only the bloated levels at other colleges.  Throughout academe, full-time faculty and administrative compensation is very high, while that for part-time (adjunct) faculty is very low.

I don’t raise this matter to complain that our pay was too low.  Even if it should be higher, no one forced me to run or James to take his job.

However, Nevada local government pay, especially in the two large counties and in public safety, is unduly high due to very powerful unions.  In higher education, the problem is the board of regents is as weak as local governments.  Thus, costs – and taxes – continue to rise due to ever-increasing staffing, especially in administrative areas, and very high compensation.

Total compensation for Nevada state employees is closer to private market levels and in the mid-range for state employees around the country.

Now, however, state employees can bargain collectively for compensation.  So, we can expect their compensation and staffing levels to soar too – unless governor Steve Sisolak and his successors make good use of their statutory power to restrain the results of collective bargaining.  I commend my former regent colleague the Governor for insisting that a gubernatorial veto be included in the legislation allowing state employee collective bargaining.

I also commend his two other recent thoughtful actions on related fronts.  First, reining in the excesses, overreach and illegal actions of state boards and commissions, especially those regulating occupations.  Second, taking on the use by such agencies and others of outside lobbyists to get more funding from the legislature, often contrary to the governor’s proposed budget and usually at very high fees.  (They also spend too much staff time lobbying an d on public relations.)

All these costs contribute to raising our taxes.

And to making state government ever more opaque and less accountable.

Government at state and local levels, just as much as the federal government, has shifted from limited and enumerated powers, spending restraint, and resulting accountability to unlimited powers, wanton spending and tax increases, and an uncontrollable administrative state.

While state and local governments may not yet have developed the really sinister Deep State “intelligence,” spying and police powers now being exposed in Washington, they are working on creating such a nationwide swamp with extensive police powers.

None of this should be surprising, because it’s all in the nature of government and public employee unions.

The people who run and staff public agencies, just like those in the private sector, want more pay, power, perks and prestige.  And less work for each of them to do, less accountability and fewer restraints on their actions and prerogatives.  They’re only human.

This leads them to seek ever higher pay rates and benefits, more people to work with and for them, and higher expenses and capital budgets.  And especially less accountability to voters, taxpayers, governors and legislatures.

People in the private sector have the same instincts.  This isn’t a matter of better or lesser folks in either sector.

The difference is that in the private sector there are inherent restraints, especially on spending, pay and staffing levels.  Businesses can’t just raise their prices willy-nilly, as governments do taxes, because they’ll lose sales, customers and revenues.  And their powers are restrained by law and government.

That’s why, in general, the private sector works better than government, which keeps metastasizing and burdening us further.  Government and public employee unions are, by their very natures, predatory upon the public, interest and taxpayers.  And little restrained.

 

--

 

Ron Knecht is a contributing editor to the Penny Press - the conservative weekly "voice of Nevada." You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. This is an edited version of his column which has been reprinted with permission. 

Published in Opinion

Whenever I hear some left-wing wacko spewing moronic hatred for President Trump, I think, Wow!  If this President can make a whack-job like that hate him, he must be doing a pretty good job.

 

Think about it.

 

Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, Jerrold Nadler, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Juan Williams, Chris Matthews, Joe Scarboro, Mike Brezinski, Rachel Maddow, Chris Cuomo, Peggy Noonan, George Conway, Peter Strozk, Lisa Page, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Hillary Clinton, Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin, Michael Gerson, Bill Kristol, Peter Wehner, Trevor Noah, Tom Hanks, Shakira, Russell Simmons, Rosie O’Donnell, Ricky Martin, Miley Cyrus, Mac Miller, Louis CK, John Oliver, John Legend, JK Rowling, George Clooney, Eva Longoria, Demi Lovato, Chrissy Teigen, Chris Brown, Joe Walsh (not the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, the phony politician Joe Walsh.)

 

Whew!  And that’s mostly the rookie league. (Maybe Pelosi is AA.)

 

We haven’t yet gotten to the Democrat politicos running for the Democrat nomination. (Triple A)

 

There, you have one billionaire (Tom Steyer) who called Trump a “failure” in a TV spot he’s paying for himself, hopefully to get past 1 percent.

 

Then you have another billionaire, a former New York Mayor who just “apologized” for the stop and frisk policy he inherited from his predecessor—Trump’s personal lawyer—but cannot otherwise explain the dramatic drop in violent crime during his term.

 

If you look at just the list above, there are some common threads.

 

First are the overstuffed Hollywood types—some of whom I’ve only briefly heard of—who just know so much about politics that we should be overwhelmed by their intelligence quotients.  Then we have the writers and TV personalities who fall into the category of “pundits”.  They are trying to make a living by badmouthing the President.  And, finally, we have the politicians who are green with envy.  They should have his political skills.

 

Why do they hate this guy so much?

 

Well, he stands for the concept that this is the United States of America, as my father used to say, and any little boy or girl can grow up to be President or accomplish anything they want to accomplish by simply putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.

 

Contrary to what the clowns on the list above would have you believe, Donald Trump is not successful because his father was rich.  In fact, he went against the wishes of his father when he went into Manhattan real estate.

 

He’s successful because he took some giant risks.

 

Not everything he did worked.

 

His experience in Atlantic City as an example.  Hillary Clinton famously asked in a debate, “I mean, ask yourself, how can anybody lose money running a casino? Really.”

 

Of course, she demonstrated her ignorance of that business because she asked that question without knowing that one of the two largest casino companies in the nation, Harrahs, was almost two years into Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.  That’s right, the company now known as Caesars Entertainment because, yes, it happened to own Caesars Palace in both Las Vegas AND Atlantic City.

 

Caesars today operates approximately 47 casinos in 13 U.S. states and five countries, including the Caesars, Harrah’s, Horseshoe and Bally’s brands.  When stupid people ask stupid rhetorical questions, they often get they asses handed to them.

 

I mean, ask yourself, how can you take any of the clowns I have listed above seriously?

 

----

 

Fred Weinberg is a guest columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. This is an edited version of his column, reprinted with permission. 

Published in Opinion
Thursday, 28 November 2019 02:14

What we’re STILL thankful for this year

Thanksgiving dinner is always a big event at the Knecht home, but it will be delayed this year. Ron will be in the hospital recovering from major back surgery.

When folks have heard about this, they have given the normal and appreciated expressions of concern and support. Ron’s response has been to thank them and say that, really, it’s a great event, a source of joy and real thanksgiving.

For, if anyone had the conditions that require this surgery 100 years ago, it was not then available. So, by this point in life or fairly soon the person would have been in a wheel chair or bed for the rest of his life.

Instead, while it is a major event today, it is something that can be scheduled for minimum time away from the job and when it’s convenient in a person’s life. Soon, Ron expects to be free of pain he has experienced for years, then fully recovered and restored to what he was able to do before the back problems began to seriously crimp his life.

We can all be thankful for the doctors, physical therapists and other medical professionals who do the remarkable things to provide such services and otherwise restore us to good health and function. And, of course, to the incredible people and businesses that developed and commercialized these near miracles.

In the words of the Founding Fathers, we also thank Divine Providence.

But we also see something else that’s essential and for which we are thankful. None of this would be possible without rapid economic growth and the limited government, individual liberty and economic freedom that foster such growth.

What’s the connection between those three factors, rapid economic growth and modern medical wonders?

For almost all human history, people did not have limited government, individual liberty and economic freedom. So, for thousands of years, economic growth was glacially slow. Thus, it could truly be said that one’s lot in life for almost everyone was that of their parents. From this fact, philosophy, religion and people’s approach to life tended to be quite fatalistic. The modern American ideas of opportunity, self determination and Horatio Alger tales was unknown and would have seemed strange, or even heretical, to most people.

But about 350 years ago, Britain began to develop the political and economic institutions, practices and policies that flowered even further in its colonies and became the framework for American government and society, as well as that of Britain. So, in the 19th Century, the US and Britain came to dominate the world economically and otherwise. Other countries followed, and to the extent they adopted those institutions, etc. that economists have identified, they also prospered.

Economic growth means people’s lives are not wholly consumed with providing the basics of food, shelter, warm clothing, etc. Instead, they have time and extra resources remaining after taking care of those needs to devote to other matters.

For example, they can gain education and indulge music and the arts. They can build the big businesses that make cities possible. And they can create institutions that take care of the poor, conduct research and ultimately create the medical, communications, transportation, industrial and other wonders that make modern life so rich.

Thus, today’s poor people enjoy goods and services that would have been unthinkable even for the richest nobles a century ago.

This is how rapid economic growth, fed by limited government, individual liberty and economic freedom produced the remarkable services and goods that will give Ron and millions of others a new lease on life instead of ending their productive times and joy of life. Without the rapid economic growth we have enjoyed the last 200 years, those things would not be possible for people even a millennium from now.

So, we invite you to join us this year in giving thanks for the limited government, individual liberty and economic freedom that produced rapid economic growth and these tangible blessings.

We’ve noted before that rapid growth has disintegrated in the last decade because those three factors have eroded over many decades and especially recently. Let’s work to restore all parts of this equation to yield even greater miracles for our children.

 

--

 

Ron Knecht is a contributing editor to the Penny Press - the conservative weekly "voice of Nevada." You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. This is an edited version of his column which has been reprinted with permission. 

Published in U.S.
Thursday, 28 November 2019 02:09

Dr. Lee is NOT President Trump's doctor!

After a period of silence, Dr. Bandy Lee and her committee of mental-health “experts” have again burst onto the scene, angling to participate in the impeachment of President Trump. They are defying the Goldwater Rule, which holds that it is unethical for physicians to diagnose patients they have not personally examined. They claim that President Trump is a such a serious threat to the nation that they are allowed to violate rules.

“We don’t believe there is the need for any further evaluation, and we are making ourselves available for the impeachment hearing because we believe that mental health issues will become critical as pressures from the impeachment hearings mount,” Dr. Lee told the Washington Examiner. “In other words, the more successful the impeachment proceedings become, the more dangerous the psychological factors of the president will become.”

Obviously, the thing to do is to increase the psychological pressure on a person you declare to be unstable.

Dr. Lee’s “medical assessment” of the President’s “mental capacity to fulfill the duties of his office” includes the examination of tweets, public appearances, and the 448-page Mueller report. “There is very little that a personal examination will add,” Lee said.

She denies that she is actually making a diagnosis. Indeed, “unfitness for office” is an opinion, a conclusion that is not in the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of currently defined psychiatric diagnoses.

Regardless of one’s opinion about President Trump, this self-appointed “Independent Expert Panel for Presidential Fitness” should concern all Americans. Where does a group of academic experts get the ability or the authority to determine whether the President is “capable of keeping the country safe”?

The U.S. Constitution provides several methods of “regime change,” which is what Congressional Democrats, the mainstream news media, and this Panel seem

determined to achieve. The first is elections. In 2016, Americans voted for a change from the policies of Obama and Clinton and the imbedded bureaucracy. Ever since then, the losers have been seeking to nullify this result. Attacks on the President by the press have been unrelenting. Unlike Abraham Lincoln or Woodrow Wilson, this President has not imprisoned any journalists or shut down any newspapers. But he does make sarcastic remarks—and his opponents would like to deny him the forum of social media.

Second is the 25th Amendment, which provides for the removal of a President for incapacity. This might have removed Woodrow Wilson after a devastating stroke had it been in existence at the time. It requires action by the Vice President and a majority of executive officers or a body appointed by Congress—not a few activist academics. This has so far been a non-starter.

Finally, there is impeachment, for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” In American jurisprudence, proceedings are supposed to be triggered by a crime—not by the Soviet KGB method of “show me the man, and I will name his crime.” Or worse, “KGB Plus”—show me the man, and I will invent his crime.

In a world where there are so many ever-changing rules that everyone might be inadvertently committing “three felonies a day,” anyone could be prosecuted. But one is at least supposed to have certain rights: confronting the accuser, assistance of counsel, access to all the evidence, the right to call and cross-examine witnesses. And knowing exactly what the charges are.

Why should psychiatrists be intruding themselves into this legal process? Are there Thought Crimes that they have a special ability to discern?

Ordinary Americans should be very concerned. If this can happen to the President, it can happen to them. And it does.

One alarming example is the “fitness for duty” evaluations to which physicians may be subjected by people who for some reason want to destroy them. There are virtually no due-process rights. The examiner has the status of a physician, but no obligation to act in the “patient’s” (target’s) best interest. Some psychiatrists may presume to have god-like power to judge a person’s emotions, intentions, and capacity—asserted in the name of safety or “security.” “Red flag” laws are another example.

President Trump may be right in saying: “They’re not coming for me. They are coming for you. I’m just in the way.”

Bandy Lee and associates are showing us a method to remove undesirables if legal process fails.

 

Jane M. Orient, M.D. obtained her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1974. Her views are her own. This is an edited version of her column that originally appeared in pennypress.com. Reprinted with permission. 

Published in Opinion

f the Democrat jihad against President Donald Trump has shown us anything about the so-called Deep State it is that there is a class of professional bureaucrats—so called “experts”—who think they're accountable to…nobody.

 

Certainly not the President.

 

And they think of us as “the American People” in the pejorative.  Not that they work for us.  No, they work for some mythical country in which “the people” don’t get a vote because we’re far too stupid to have any actual say in things like foreign affairs, or military issues or trade or the law.

 

They populate the Departments of State, Justice, Defense and, even the White House itself.

 

And many of these people don’t have the common sense that God gave a goose.

 

That was all on display during the Schiff Show, the last two weeks.  The question you need to answer, now that the arrogance of these people has been fully on display is where do we go from here?

 

There is still some question—not much—as to whether or not Nancy Pelosi is willing to endure the inevitable results of an impeachment.  Assuming she is—or just cannot avoid it—Donald Trump will most likely be re-elected for the same reason he won in the first place.  That is, to drain the swamp of the arrogance exhibited by the so-called deep state.

 

A swamp that the House Democrats put on full display through their patron saint Adam Schiff.

 

And, like the Kremlin, this group of governmental super studs has their own newspaper.  Only, instead of Pravda, theirs is the Washington Post.  With headlines like “Trump’s GOP support hardens despite damning impeachment testimony”.

 

Seriously?

 

Had I written a headline like that DURING WATERGATE, I would have been hustled off to a public relations firm if I wanted to continue my career in the media.  The writers and editors at the Post have become nothing but pimps and pimpettes (call them “presstitutes” like they do in the Phillipines) for the group of deep staters and Democrats I have described above.

 

But, again, they all seem to have forgotten that this is a very large nation with a huge silent majority that has simply had enough.

 

You can take a map of the United States and find the WalMarts where you can “smell the Trump support” West of the Hudson River, South of the Cook County line and East of the Los Angeles County line.  In the last election that produced 63,000,000 votes AFTER NBC leaked a private conversation with Billy Bush which would have certainly disqualified most candidates.

 

How bad a light does that cast the deep state?

 

The fact is that you, I and our neighbors have had enough.  We are tired of being called stupid and not well educated.  We are tired of a world where common sense is derided as “impeachable” by geniuses like Schiff and his little buddy Eric Swalwell.

 

And to put the cherry on top of the sundae, the President saw that the rules of engagement for the wars we are fighting in the Middle East were being used to ruin the lives of service members (but never those with stars on their shoulders) who actually killed the enemy.  We wanted to have a war but make actually killing the enemy illegal.

 

So, he issued two complete pardons and a commutation.

 

Immediately upon those actions, some two star pissant admiral in the Navy told a Navy Seal who had his sentence overturned by the President that he would face a board to remove him from the Seals.

 

That board will convene shortly.  Or not. What do you think will happen?

 

Can you say “military-industrial complex”?  Well President Trump can say “civilian control” and did.  Ask the now former Secretary of the Navy.

 

Want to try and remove him?  As they used to say on a game show—which is what this really is—COME ON DOWN!

 

Indeed. 

 

----

 

Fred Weinberg is a guest columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. This is an edited version of his column, reprinted with permission. 

Published in Opinion
Thursday, 21 November 2019 18:13

Halloween is over: Take off the masks!

At a graduation of a family friend, out of the blue, one in our group began lamenting that progressives tended to live in cities. She proposed that progressives should move to rural areas and “purge [such areas] of those awful conservatives.” Thus spoke the tolerant Left. I was stunned. Given the festive occasion, I kindly reminded her that this is America and we are lucky that we have all kinds of people. I wanted to ask her what we should do with the conservatives. Re-education camps? Death by a continuous loop of Bernie Sanders speeches?

It is unfortunate that such unreasonableness isn’t isolated within the D.C. swamp containment zone.

These pied pipers who offer free college, free food, free medical care, and free money for simply having a pulse freely admit they have no idea how to pay for it. Oh, yes: tax the “rich” and corporations who will pass the tax on to consumers and employees in the form of higher prices and lower wages. And eventually the heretofore untouchable middle class will be taxed directly. Let’s not forget that free food and housing are components of slavery.

These Einsteins are scientists when it comes to global warming and evolution but think it’s medically acceptable to permanently sterilize a 7-year old to avoid appearing like a “transgender” bigot. Science lesson: there are 2 genders. Every human has 23 pairs of chromosomes. The X chromosomes and Y chromosomes determine sex. With rare exceptions of random abnormalities, female is XX and male is XY.

These self-described health care experts try to debunk innovative medical care delivery methods like direct pay and direct primary care subscription practices by claiming these are reserved for the rich. Approximately, $1,500 per year ensures that you and your doctor, make your medical decisions—not the government. These “experts” are the same people who prop up the medical-insurance-government industrial complex at the expense of private physicians, writing laws that favor big-box retail clinics staffed by non-physicians. These swamp creatures equate physicians with “mid-level” practitioners with one fifth the training and education as physicians—but likely demand the chairman of the department when they themselves need medical services.

These compassionate legislators are keen on the government taking over the “social determinants of health,” including loneliness. I anxiously await an army of a government operatives coming to our homes and telling us to be happy or else. Most people just want to control their own lives, even if their life does not fit the government blueprint. If you want your life to be your own, and your body to be your own, then you cannot let the government’s foot in the door.

These forward thinkers decided it was good public policy to ban children’s fathers from the home in order for the family to receive government funds. It became normalized for the federal government to be the daddy.

These elitists castigate the middle class for not wanting homeless people sleeping and defecating in front of their houses for which they worked two jobs, saved, and sacrificed for years. Their remedy is a tent city in a middle-class neighborhood that is nowhere near theirs. These people do not want to admit that the disintegration of the family and the moral decay leading to drug use and detachment from society is the first problem that must be addressed.

And the biggest hobgoblins of them all are the peddlers of faux racism. Americans do not wake up every morning hating on each other. They ponder their family’s safety and keeping a decent job to pay their bills. Something is seriously wrong, indeed demented, when a former First Lady—unchallenged—claimed that white Americans are “still running” from minority communities when they move to another neighborhood. Perhaps they are getting away from homeless encampments (with mostly white people) or poorly run government schools in Democrat-controlled cities. Get over yourself.

Everything is not about race. Get out in the real world and sit at a local bar or café in central Mississippi and watch blacks and whites eating and laughing together. Who is the hatemonger?

America has had a few tragic well-publicized racially motivated incidents. Undaunted, we continue to strive for liberty for all—despite the calculated enmity and scab-picking by rich and famous black people who ran away from minorities to live on a $15 million estate on Martha’s Vineyard (and not in Oak Bluffs) and who expect us to swallow their vitriol-laced baloney.

This insanity is patently sick and sickening. It is about power at any cost and not what can help move America forward.

 

Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist. She is Immediate Past President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). Her opinions are her own. This column originally appeared on pennypress.com. Reprinted with permission. 

Published in Opinion

Last week I presented basic facts and issues around family income inequality in America, a hot political issue in the last decade.  Today, let’s turn to the related matter of wealth inequality.

First, the distinction between them.  Income refers to the net money or benefits we receive each period of time – typically, a week or month.  It includes pay for work; earnings from savings and investments; “transfer payments” such as social security, welfare, food stamps, health care subsidies, etc.  The sum of all those items, less the taxes folks pay directly or indirectly, constitutes income.

Wealth is the net value of all we own.  The value of our homes, bank and investment accounts, vehicles, personal property, businesses and real estate, etc., less the amounts we owe in mortgages, auto, consumer and student credit, etc.  Economists call income a “flow” variable and wealth a “stock” variable.

Two outstanding analysts at Washington’s Cato Institute, Chris Edwards and Ryan Bourne, assisted by David Kemp, produced a 74-page in-depth analysis this month titled, “Exploring Wealth Inequality.”  To best fit their findings into this column, below I quote from their summary, which has stated them far beyond my poor power to add or subtract (as Lincoln said at Gettysburg).

“Many political leaders and pundits consider wealth inequality to be a major economic and social problem. They complain about a shift of wealth to the top at everyone else’s expense and about plutocrats dominating policymaking in Washington.

“Is wealth inequality the crisis that some people believe? This study examines six aspects of wealth inequality and discusses the evidence for the claims being made.

“Section 1 describes how wealth inequality has risen in recent years but by less than is often asserted in the media. Indeed, wealth inequality has changed surprisingly little given the large economic changes in recent decades from technology and globalization. Furthermore, most estimates overstate wealth inequality because they do not include the effects of social programs.

“Section 2 argues that wealth inequality data tell us nothing about levels of poverty or prosperity and thus are not useful for guiding public policy. Wealth inequality may reflect innovation in a growing economy that is raising overall living standards, or it may reflect cronyism that causes economic damage.

“Section 3 examines the sources of wealth for the richest Americans. Most of today’s wealthy are business people who built their fortunes by adding to economic growth, and some have created major innovations that benefit all of us. The share of the wealthy who inherited their fortunes has sharply declined in recent decades.

“Section 4 looks at cronyism, which refers to insiders and businesses securing narrow tax, spending, and regulatory advantages. Cronyism is one cause of wealth inequality, and it has likely increased over time as the government has grown.

“Section 5 explains how the growing welfare state has increased wealth inequality. Government programs for retirement, healthcare, and other benefits have reduced the incentives and the ability of non wealthy households to accumulate savings and thus have increased wealth inequality.

“Section 6 examines whether wealth inequality undermines democracy, which is a frequent claim of the political left. Research shows that wealthy people do not have homogeneous views on policy and do not have an outsized ability to get their goals enacted in Washington.

“In sum, wealth inequality has increased modestly but mainly because of general economic growth and entrepreneurs creating innovations that are broadly beneficial. Nonetheless, policymakers should aim to reduce inequality by ending cronyist programs and reducing barriers to wealth-building by moderate-income households.”

The authors title their second section, “Poverty Matters, Not Inequality,” and they show that poverty has greatly decreased domestically and around the world in recent decades – greatly due to the creation of wealth by those at the top.

As I noted last week, recent research shows that when transfer payments and taxes are included, the average yearly income of American families in the lowest income quintile (20 percent) is $50,901 and that of top-quintile families is $194,906.  That’s a ratio of 3.8:1, not the erroneous much higher figures often quoted by liberals, progressives, class warriors and mainstream media.

As my friend Joe Morabito notes: “The poor are not poor because the rich are rich.”

 

--

 

Ron Knecht is a contributing editor to the Penny Press - the conservative weekly "voice of Nevada." You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. This is an edited version of his column which has been reprinted with permission. 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Money
Thursday, 21 November 2019 17:53

Are House Democrats thinking about self immolation?

If you ever wondered why Donald J. Trump was elected our 45th President, you only needed to watch the testimony last week of William Taylor, George Kent, and Marie Yovanovitch.

 

If you ever wondered what Washington based bureaucrats do to represent us, you only needed to watch the testimony last week of William Taylor, George Kent, and Marie Yovanovitch.

 

And, if you ever wondered why real Americans refer to Washington as a swamp which needs to be drained, you only needed to watch the testimony last week of William Taylor, George Kent, and Marie Yovanovitch.

 

Taylor, Kent and Yovanovitch aren’t inherently bad people.  But they live in their own little worlds where what they think is more important than what the President—whose pleasure they serve at—thinks.  And they are an integral part of what former (and the late) President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about on his way out—the military, industrial complex.

 

They have—and freely admit—zero first hand experience of the subject matter allegedly being “investigated” by Adam Schiff.

 

Now, diplomacy—in context—is a good thing.  In theory, that is what keeps mushroom clouds away from Peoria, Illinois, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Reno, Nevada among other places where you can “smell the Trump support” at the local WalMart Supercenter.  But it is the President and Commander in Chief who gets to set our foreign policy—not some diplomat at State who serves at the pleasure of the President.  Any more than an FBI director who also serves at the pleasure of the President.  And the real world is not an episode of Madam Secretary or the West Wing.

 

The truth is that impeachment is purely political.

 

The House, if it has the votes, can impeach the President because it does not like the cut of his suit.

 

Ask the dumb Republicans who impeached Bill Clinton in 1998.

 

How do you impeach a President who has less than two years left in his second term?  But Newt Gingrich did it and ended up bringing dishonor on the institution for no good reason.  And did I mention that the Senate told him to pound sand?  In an almost predictable vote mostly along party lines, the Senate fell way short of the 67 votes necessary to remove him from office.

 

So, let’s assume that the currently sitting House goes ahead with impeachment.

 

What do you think might happen to these guys—Adam Schiff et al—who have such a flimsy case against Trump in a Republican controlled Senate?

 

The Senate vote will be utterly predictable.  And that’s assuming the Senate doesn’t dismiss the charges without a trial.  (If this is what passes for an impeachment investigation, who’s to say the Senate cannot hold a 20 minute trial to dismiss the charges?)

 

The anger from the 63,000,000 voters who elected Trump and told both the media and the Washington establishment, “Enough already!” will be palpable enough to elect him again and take that anger out on the House.

 

People like Schiff and his little buddy Eric Swalwell may not realize this, but they are doing their best to make the House of Representatives irrelevant to the real Americans outside of the swamp.  It would appear that these guys were beat up every day when they were freshmen in college by the seniors and now, they are going to show all of us.

 

I wasn’t in the room when our founding fathers wrote the impeachment clause, but I read a lot and I have serious questions that Adam Schiff’s version—along with Rashida Tliab’s “impeach the motherf**ker”—were what they had in mind.  I’m pretty sure when they wrote the term “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” they weren’t thinking about a President doing his job.

 

So my question is simple.

 

What will the left do when what I have predicted actually happens?

 

Self immolation?

 

----

 

Fred Weinberg is a guest columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. This is an edited version of his column, reprinted with permission. 

Published in Opinion
Friday, 15 November 2019 18:11

Income inequality in America: Facts and issues

Income inequality among Americans has been a major subject of debate for a decade, and ever more so with leftwing extremists now dominating the ranks of Democratic presidential aspirants.  So, let’s get the basic facts and issues straight.

A salient claim in this area comes from the French economist Thomas Piketty in his 2014 book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, a 700-page tome.  His starting point is that the rate of return on capital investment is generally significantly greater than the growth rate of a market economy (or, r>>g).  This is generally uncontested.

So, Piketty concludes that the rich, whose incomes derive greatly from their ownership of capital, will get ever greatly richer.  On the other hand, the middle and lower classes, whose incomes derive mainly from their labor, will see those incomes increase only at the growth rate of the economy.  Hence, they will fall ever farther behind the upper-income people.

If that were the full story, why didn’t income inequality spiral up long ago?  In part, it’s because taxes burden upper classes very disproportionately and government transfer payments (mainly welfare, food stamps and health-care subsidies) are concentrated on the lower classes.  Piketty’s comparisons are based on pre-tax income, not including transfer payments, as are almost all the data advanced by those obsessing about income inequality.

These folks also fail to adjust for declining household size in recent decades when they allege falsely that middle and lower family income levels have not increased.  And Piketty’s analysis overlooks that the wealthy usually divide their estates among charities and various heirs and other folks when they pass it on, thus counteracting the fast growth of family incomes based on capital.

But the important point is that taxes and transfer payments have continued to grow relative to our economy.  So, they now overwhelm every other factor, as shown by recent research by Phil Gramm, former economics professor and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee; and John F. Early, twice assistant commissioner at the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When we consider family incomes after taxes and public and private transfer payments, the story is very different from that based on the pre-tax and -transfers data.  That’s because 80 percent of all taxes are paid by the top two income quintiles (that is, the top 40 percent) and 70 percent of all transfer payments are received by the bottom two quintiles.  Aggregate taxes paid and transfers received by the middle quintile are almost exactly equal.

The average bottom-quintile household earns $4,908 annually while the average top-quintile household earns $295,904, or 60 times as much.  But when we consider the $45,993 additional income the lowest-quintile homes get from public and private transfer payments, less taxes they pay, their average incomes rise to $50,901.  For the top quintile, the net of taxes and transfers is a reduction of $100,998, leaving them with $194,906.

So, the real ratio between the top and bottom quintiles is only 3.8 times, not 60 times.

And government and the private sector shift enough net income to the lowest quintile to raise their net income to middle-class levels at $50,901.

So, is a 3.8:1 ratio fair and reasonable?

One important fact is that income mobility is higher in America than in most other countries.

Also, 50 years of increasing transfer payments and rising and progressive taxes have had another effect.  When the War on Poverty transfers began in 1967, nearly 70 percent of bottom quintile prime-working-age adults were employed.  Today, that figure is only 36 percent.  For all the top three quintiles, however, labor-force participation has increased.

Ultimately, though, the question depends on what fairness is, as much as it does on data.  Progressives, populists and class warriors erroneously claim it means equal outcomes for everyone.  They forget that in market systems income flows to people roughly in proportion to the value they deliver to others – that is, proportionately to their contribution to human wellbeing and the public interest.   Not so for systems that politically allocate resources.

Finally, recent research shows that three-quarters of the high incomes made by entrepreneurs flows from their own “human capital” contributions, not from the financial capital they employ.  So, yes, 3.8:1 seems quite fair.

 

 

Published in Money
Page 1 of 8