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[Markets] Trump Today: Trump Today: President touts Republicans as ‘party of health care’ as administration targets Affordable Care Act President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the Republicans would be known as “the party of health care,” a day after his administration called the whole of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional in a legal filing that threw the future of Obamacare into doubt.
Published:3/26/2019 2:40:11 PM
[Health Care] Justice Department Says It Agrees With Judge Who Ruled Obamacare Unconstitutional

The Department of Justice sided with a district court ruling Monday that found the Affordable Care Act violated the Constitution. U.S. District Court Judge Reed... Read More

The post Justice Department Says It Agrees With Judge Who Ruled Obamacare Unconstitutional appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:3/26/2019 12:39:52 PM
[Politics] Clyburn: Fight Shifting From Mueller to Defending Obamacare Now that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is concluded, it represents a "closed chapter," while the fight for Obamacare is a "new chapter," House Majority Whip James Clyburn said Tuesday. Published:3/26/2019 10:37:26 AM
[Politics] Trump’s new position in the courts could spell DOOM for Obamacare! Last December a federal judge in Texas ruled that Obamacare was unconstitutional. At the time the Trump administration wasn’t arguing that the entire law should be scrapped, but only the mandate and . . . Published:3/26/2019 9:36:59 AM
[Politics] Trump’s new position in the courts could spell DOOM for Obamacare! Last December a federal judge in Texas ruled that Obamacare was unconstitutional. At the time the Trump administration wasn’t arguing that the entire law should be scrapped, but only the mandate and . . . Published:3/26/2019 9:36:59 AM
[The Blog] DOJ siding with Fifth Circuit in striking down all of Obamacare

I thought we were done with this

The post DOJ siding with Fifth Circuit in striking down all of Obamacare appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:3/26/2019 8:38:02 AM
[World] Democrats' far-left lurch a loser for all America

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi used to be a powerhouse, a political brawler and bruiser of respectable weight, the one who ramrodded through Obamacare on the blithe wings of "we have to pass it to see what's in it" rhetoric.

Love her or hate her, she was once, and ... Published:3/16/2019 5:39:35 PM

[Markets] One Thing Congress Gets Right: Funding Their Own Pensions...

Authored by Simon Black via SovereignMan.com,

Turns out Congressmen make a lot of money...

A study found that while the average American’s net worth increased 3.7% per year between 2004-2012, members of Congress averaged 15.4% annual gains.

That high level of pay means half the members of Congress are millionaires today… and continue to collect their $174,000 annual salary.

Of course it’s you, the taxpayer, paying that cushy salary.

But did you know the taxpayer also foots the bill for insane retirement benefits for Congress?

Each retired member can start collecting a pension at age 62 if they’ve spent just five years in Congress.

And they’ll collect 80% of their $174,000 annual salary.

That’s almost $140,000 a year, for the rest of their lives… for five years of service.

Where can I sign up?

Meanwhile, 40% of Americans can’t cover an unexpected $400 emergency expense… 57% have less than $1,000 in savings.

And a third of baby boomers—the generation currently retiring—have NOTHING put away for retirement.

While Congress’ pension is secured by your tax dollars, only 13% of regular Americans have pensions today. And even if you were promised one, collecting it is another story...

A recent Boston College report estimates 25% of private US pension funds—the pools of capital that pay out retirement benefits—will go bankrupt in the next decade. Public local, state, and federal pension funds are in even worse shape: $7 TRILLION short on what they promised to pay retired government workers.

But most Americans are relying on a different broken retirement fund… Social Security.

The Social Security Administration admits it is $50 trillion underfunded, and will run out of money by 2034.

That means cutting payouts, raising the retirement age, or both. And even that is only a short term solution…

There are, however, at least two Senators who see the injustice in all of this. They introduced legislation to eliminate pensions for members of Congress.

They say it’s not fair that while the poor get poorer, Congress gets richer.

The median American household net worth declined .94% per year from 2004 to 2012. And over the same period, 100 members of Congress watched their net worth gain 114% per year.

Members of Congress added $316.5 million to their net worth during this time period.

(But it wasn’t the Socialists in Congress who introduced the bill to address this wealth gap. They’re happy to ignore this prime example of the rich literally stealing from the poor.)

Getting rich at the taxpayers’ expense, collecting a salary 3x the median household income, and getting a six-figure lifetime pension…

That’s Congress’ reward for sinking the US government $22 trillion in debt… for creating debt bubbles in housing and student loans… for utterly failing to address a broken Social Security system… for wasting billions on things like a broken Obamacare websitedefending Congressmen from sexual assaultlawsuits… and fighting like children during a government shutdown while millions of Americans were out of work.

But whatever happens next with the economy, whatever destruction their actions cause, rest assured, they’ll take their money and run…

Just like they did in 2008 before the big financial crash. Strange how 34 different members of Congress rearranged their investment portfolios within two days of talking to top Treasury and Federal Reserve officials.

One Senator even sold up to half a million dollars’ worth of Lehman Brothers stock the day after he met with the Treasury Secretary… just months before the firm declared the largest bankruptcy in history.

These politicians suffer no consequences for the policies they force on the entire nation. On the contrary, they personally gain tremendously from the turmoil they cause.

Even if their pensions are cut — I’m not holding my breath — it is largely a symbolic move. It won’t make a dent in the dire debt and liabilities of the US government.

Unlike members of Congress, you’re on your own for retirement.

One option is, if you can’t beat them, join them. Run for Congress and watch your net worth skyrocket. Even without their golden pensions you’ll be all set for retirement.

But a more realistic (and ethical) solution is to plan your retirement assuming the government promises will not be fulfilled.

One solution is to take matters into your own hands by using self directed structures for your IRA or 401(k).

But perhaps a better solution is to become a better investor. Saving an extra couple grand a year, and putting it into the right places can make a huge difference over the course of a couple of decades.

Sovereign Man’s Chief Investment Strategist Tim Staermose was on our Podcast last week explaining two different targeted investment strategies with proven track records. You can listen here.

Worst case scenario is we are wrong—the government by some miracle saves Social Security, pays off the debt, funds its pensions, doesn’t tank the economy and avoids another recession…

And you’ll still be better off having prepared for the worst.

And to continue learning how to ensure you thrive no matter what happens next in the world, I encourage you to download our free Perfect Plan B Guide.

Published:3/14/2019 11:23:14 AM
[Markets] "Medicare For All": A Great Slogan But An Expensive Wrecking Ball

Authored by Marc Siegel, op-ed via The Hill,

"Medicare for all" sounds good and may make good electioneering slogan sense for presidential candidates like Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). It is a sales pitch to younger voters and will likely remain popular — at least until the public really understands what an expensive wrecking ball it is.

Our health-care system is still based mostly on private health insurance, with 67.2 percent having private coverage in 2017

Private insurance pays hospitals and doctors much more per patient than government-run health insurance (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP) does. Charles Blahous, economist of the Mercatus Institute, calculates that under a system of "Medicare for all," providers will be paid 40 percent less on average than private insurance pays them now.

Keep in mind that no matter how many grants for research a medical center gets, it is really the surgeries and procedures that help pay for the academic side. Patients may not consider this factor until the heart surgeon or plastic surgeon they choose to perform their operation decides to leave for another country or a medical center’s latest new biochemical or promising genetic modulation can’t get sufficient funding for the research to be completed.

"Medicare for all" is also popular among more than half of doctors by some surveys. But I’m sure these doctors aren’t considering the difficulty with approvals, and the excess waiting times for specialists and procedures. These painful processes are all too common and getting worse in our single payer neighbor to the north

Rationing care and several weeks wait to obtain specialized care is sure to dampen innovation at a time of tremendous advances in robotics, genetic and immunotherapies. 

If "Medicare for all" ever takes over here, personalized treatments will be difficult to obtain via a health-care system that will actually be closer to Medicaid than to Medicare in terms of quality. Keep in mind that 30 percent of today’s doctors already don’t take on new Medicaid patients because of lower reimbursements and rigid regulations.

It’s also no wonder that less than half of those surveyed favor "Medicare for all" once they discover the price tag — more than $30 trillion to transition to this new system over 10 years.

This exorbitant price tag is going to have to be accompanied by a large tax hike.

Millions of jobs would be lost due to the collapse of the private health sector. And millions more, who obtain their health insurance from their employer (more than 170 million people), would not want to keep working their marginal jobs if they could get their health insurance “free” from the government. Keep in mind that 70 percent of those surveyed report being happy with the health insurance they receive from their employer. So there is in fact no pressing need to rip this away from them and force them to accept something else. 

One of the most shocking pillars of the "Medicare for all" proposals being touted is the demolition of all private insurance. The resulting upheaval and displacement of health-care access across the board is the main reason that "Medicare for all" doesn’t have a chance of passing.

It is one thing to promote a basic government administered health insurance to reach the have nots; it is quite another to demolish all private insurance to paste up a prefabricated government one-size-fits-all product. The time and place to consider a massive socialized medicine program like "Medicare for all" is in a more primitive society without a well formed health-care system. 

The destruction of the existing system and replacing it with a rigid government-run system with fewer choices might ultimately be cheaper in the long run but it would certainly be lower quality. Socialized health care across the board is not a good fit for America’s way of life. You may not be able to keep your doctor under ObamaCare, but at least you get to keep your health-care system. Not so with "Medicare for all."

Of course, if "Medicare for all" ever passes, the senators and congressmen and congresswomen promoting it will quickly put together a plan to get their own high frills health coverage another way.

Published:3/12/2019 12:41:07 PM
[Politics] Washington State to Churches: ‘Pay for Abortions or SUE!’ A church is now suing the state of Washington for trying to force churches to pay for elective abortions coverage in their health plans. It’s Obamacare all over again. Here’s more from . . . Published:3/11/2019 6:38:35 PM
[Politics] Washington State to Churches: ‘Pay for Abortions or SUE!’ A church is now suing the state of Washington for trying to force churches to pay for elective abortions coverage in their health plans. It’s Obamacare all over again. Here’s more from . . . Published:3/11/2019 6:07:59 PM
[Markets] Baby Boom To Baby Bust - Martin Armstrong Exposes The Crisis In Socialism

Authored by Martin Armstrong via ArmstrongEconomics.com,

There is a real crisis in the fertility rate which has fallen to such a low level that all the socialism going forward will simply collapse.

What used to be the Baby Boom is now being called the “Baby Bust,” which means that in all first-world countries there is a real crisis for they have insufficient children to maintain their population size.

This has been one excuse for allowing the refugees into Europe.

As the population dwindles, all the social programs are collapsing for they were NEVER designed properly from the outset. They are based on a Ponzi scheme where they rely on taxing a growing younger population to service the benefits of the older generation. This was the entire scheme behind Obamacare. Force the youth to buy insurance they do not need to reduce the cost for the elderly.

These findings were a huge surprise to those in government. They did not think it was even possible.

The joke is that we will have more grandparents than grandchildren. A study published in the Lancet followed trends in every country from 1950 to 2017. During 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime. The fertility rate all but halved to 2.4 children per woman by last year. They compared countries in Africa, such as Niger, where the fertility rate was 7:1 compared to countries like Cyprus where couples had just one child meaning that would be a 50% decline in population.

Even in Britain, the fertility rate has dropped to 1.7, which is similar to most Western European countries. Anything below 2 children per couple means a net population decline.

This data clearly warns that the Ponzi scheme set up first in the New Deal of the Great Depression is no longer sustainable. The cost of childcare has skyrocketed and the rise in taxation has forced women to work, making childcare mandatory, but not affordable for 2 or more children.

This creates an unsustainable future for taxation.

Published:3/11/2019 12:09:18 PM
[Health Care] These 3 Doctors in Congress Diagnose the Problems With Medicare for All

Few issues have animated conservatives as much as Obamacare. But there’s a new threat on the horizon. It’s called Medicare for All—and it would be... Read More

The post These 3 Doctors in Congress Diagnose the Problems With Medicare for All appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:3/11/2019 2:03:49 AM
[Markets] Obama Wants To Train "A Million Baracks And Michelles" To Create Progressive Utopia

Former President Barack Obama said this week that despite the "challenging times" we face, he remains hopeful that the future will be OK thanks to an army of young activists that will create a progressive utopia, reports the Washington Examiner

"If we could form a network of those young leaders, not just in the United States, but around the world, then we got something," said Obama, adding: "if we can train a million Baracks and Michelles who are running around thinking they can change the world," they will fulfill the 'hope and change' agenda, said Obama - echoing a similar statement he made in Japan last year.

Speaking at a packed arena at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Canada on Monday, Obama explained how he plans to create a "university for social change" that will act as a jumpoff for young people in the US and around the world who don't believe in the "old institutions." 

"If we train them — if we give them skills, support, financing, media training, spotlights, then they're the ones that are going to carry forward the solutions that we so desperately need," he said. 

Obama also spoke about his two terms as president and his relationship with Canada and its leaders during hour-long-plus discussion with moderator Michael Burns, the former CEO of the Invictus Games.

He didn't talk directly about his successor in the White House, President Trump, or the 2020 election, but he did take a jab at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., provided a clue about how soon he might complete his first book since leaving office, and shared his admiration of Joe Biden, who was his vice president and is now looking at a bid for president. -Washington Examiner

Obama's training center sure sounds a lot like the embattled Obama Presidential Center - a sprawling complex slated for construction in a park beside Lake Michigan, which is currently being sued for an illegal transfer of park land to The Obama Foundation. 

Published:3/7/2019 8:40:03 AM
[932b9990-0584-5b3a-9db7-cc46bd17199f] Dr. Marc Siegel: 'Medicare-for-all' is a wrecking ball to employer-based private health insurance Last week I was scheduled to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference not as a physician but as a health policy analyst who is concerned that coverage doesn’t equal access to actual care, that ObamaCare’s high deductibles and narrow networks interfere with this access and that the innovative personalized technologies of the future may not be obtainable with a clunky highly regulated government insurance built on an outdated model for reimbursement.  Published:3/6/2019 9:05:12 AM
[Markets] Ben Bernanke - The Father Of Extreme US Socialism

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

Looking for a reason for the upsurge in radical socialism, don't blame Trump, blame the Fed.

Writer David McWilliams penned an excellent article in the Financial Times:Quantitative Easing was the Father of Millennial Socialism.

McWilliams notes that Fed chairman Ben Bernanke's "cash for trash" QE scheme drove up asset prices and bailed out the baby boomers. The cost of course, was pricing millennials out of the housing market.

Unorthodox policy penalizes the asset poor.

What assets do millennials have? Hardly any. Instead they are saddled with mountains of student debt which, thanks to president George W. Bush, could no longer be discharged in bankruptcy.

The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005 would have better been called the Debt Slave Act of 2005.

Then, when the Great Financial Crisis hit, the Fed came along bailed out the banks, bailed out the bondholders, bailed out Fannie Mae, and bailed out the asset holders in general, leaving millennials mired in debt unable to afford a house.

Simmering Stew of Anger

The irony in this simmering stew of anger is people blame Trump, not the Fed.

But socialism, even AOC's radical socialism is not about Trump, at least directly.

Peak Trump

I had a lengthy phone conversation with David Stockman after I finished reading his new book, "Peak Trump".

The first thing I said to him was "This really isn't about Trump, is it?"

He laughed, then responded along the lines of, "You are correct. Trump is a symptom of the problem. He wanted to drain the swamp but failed to do so. He never really had a good chance of doing that, but he failed to make the most of the chance he had. We are where we are because of decades of Congressional and monetary mismanagement."

I gave his book two thumbs up in "Peak Trump" by David Stockman: Book Review

Trump Won the Election Because

  1. Obama promised change and failed to deliver. Wars continued so did drone policy. Obamacare was a disaster. In his first term, Obama bailed out the banks.

  2. The millennials wanted Bernie Sanders and the Democrat leadership rigged the primary for Hillary. Many disillusioned millennials then sat the election out.

  3. Trump's message appealed to union workers in the rust belt states who believe China was stealing our jobs.

  4. Many believe Hillary is a bigger warmonger than Trump.

  5. People genuinely cannot stand Hillary, for many good reasons.

It took all of those things for Trump to win, and then just barely.

Rise of the Radicals

Now, instead of drifting towards the middle, the radical Left, epitomized by AOC and her Green New Deal, have an open battle to win the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

?For example, AOC's Green New Deal Pricetag of $51 to $93 Trillion vs. Cost of Doing Nothing.

But why should she care?

Also note that the socialist don't like tax breaks for Amazon. The result was Hooray! No Jobs for New York.

But why should socialists care when the Stunningly Absurd "New Green Deal"guarantees living wages no natter what you do or what your skills are?

And let's not forget Progressive Lies Like "Free College" and "Medicare For All".

Pompous Twit

Today ZeroHedge noted Greenpeace Co-Founder Rips "Pompous Little Twit" Ocasio-Cortez As "Garden-Variety Hypocrite" On Climate.

Yes, AOC is an economically illiterate pompous twit, obvious even to a the Greenpeace co-founder.

I have a socialist friend who knows full well how nonsensical her plan is.

But he is so irritated by bailouts, Trump, tax cuts on the rich that he doesn't give a damn. He is rooting for AOC to "balance things out".

So, here we are.

Yet the irony is that independents will not vote for extreme nut cases with $80 trillion plans, nor will they vote for the likes of Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris with their preposterous Slave Reparation Proposals.

You don't right wrongs by being stupid, no matter how irritated you might be at the current politics.

Published:3/4/2019 10:54:51 AM
[The Blog] Do you suppose Congress could investigate how health insurance got so expensive?

Or nah?

The post Do you suppose Congress could investigate how health insurance got so expensive? appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:3/1/2019 2:05:29 PM
[Congressional Hall Monitor] Obamacare Is Approaching 10th Birthday. This GOP Rep Has A Plan To Lean Into Its ‘Free Market’ Aspects

By Evie Fordham -

Healthcare.gov obamacare signup

The Affordable Care Act will mark 10 years in 2020. Republican Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman plans to introduce legislation to increase access to health care and give states more freedom within the framework of the ACA Monday night. Westerman said his wide-ranging bill leans into the “free market” aspects of ...

Obamacare Is Approaching 10th Birthday. This GOP Rep Has A Plan To Lean Into Its ‘Free Market’ Aspects is original content from Conservative Daily News - Where Americans go for news, current events and commentary they can trust - Conservative News Website for U.S. News, Political Cartoons and more.

Published:2/25/2019 9:44:35 PM
[World] [Ilya Somin] Why Trump's Emergency Declaration is Illegal

The strongest legal argument against Trump's attempt to use emergency powers to build the wall is that declaring an emergency does not authorize him to spend money and condemn property for that purpose. But he also lacks grounds to declare an emergency in the first place.

The strongest legal argument raised in the various lawsuits against President Trump's attempt to use emergency powers to build his border wall is that declaring an emergency does not authorize him to spend money and condemn private property to build the wall. That's the conventional wisdom among most legal scholars and commentators. But it is also important to recognize that it is illegal to for Trump to declare a "national emergency" over this issue in the first place. That point is important for reasons that go far beyond the the specific case of the border wall. If the president can declare an emergency and tap a vast range of special emergency powers anytime he wants for any reason he wants, that makes a hash of the whole concept of an emergency, raises serious constitutional problems, and creates a dangerous concentration of power in the hands of a single person.

It makes much more sense to interpret the National Emergencies Act as only allowing an emergency declaration in a situation where an emergency actually exists - defined as some sudden crisis that cannot be addressed swiftly enough through ordinary political processes. By that interpretation, the situation at the border doesn't even come close to qualifying.

Why the President Cannot Just Declare a "National Emergency" Whenever he Wants

The relevant section of the NEA, 50 USC Section 1621, says that "With respect to Acts of Congress authorizing the exercise, during the period of a national emergency, of any special or extraordinary power, the President is authorized to declare such national emergency." The Act does not define what counts as a "national emergency." But the fact that president is authorized to declare one does not mean he can do so at any time for any reason. It makes much more sense to interpret the Act as allowing the president to declare a legal state of emergency only in situations where an emergency actually exists.

The whole point of emergency powers is to enable the government to respond to a sudden crisis that cannot be addressed fast enough by ordinary political processes, not to give the president a blank check to use that authority whenever it might be politically convenient. One of the most basic rules of legal interpretation is that words used in laws must be understood in terms of their "ordinary meaning." The ordinary meaning of "emergency" is a sudden crisis of some sort, not just any issue of any kind.

If the term "national emergency" is interpreted broadly enough to allow the president to declare one anytime he wants, that would make Section 1621 unconstitutional. Declaring a national emergency allows the president to exercise a wide range of powers that normally belong to Congress, including spending money and imposing regulations on private parties. The "nondelegation" doctrine restricts Congress' ability to delegate its powers to another branch of government. For many years, the Supreme Court has taken a very permissive approach to delegation. All the Court requires is for the delegation to be constrained by an "intelligible principle." But allowing the president to tap congressional powers by declaring an emergency for any reason he wants runs afoul of even that weak restriction. There can be no "intelligible principle" when the whole question is entirely left up to executive discretion.

At the very least, interpreting "national emergency" to give total discretion to the president raises serious constitutional problems. And the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that judges must try hard to avoid interpreting statutes in ways that risk rendering them unconstitutional. The most famous recent example is NFIB v. Sebelius, where Chief Justice John Roberts famously reinterpreted the Obamacare individual health insurance mandate as a tax in order to save it from unconstitutionality, even though he admitted that was not the "most natural reading" of the law. He concluded that courts must adopt any available "reasonable" interpretation of a statute that would make it constitutional, even if it is not actually the best interpretation.

I am no great fan of this "avoidance canon." But as long as the Supreme Court requires federal judges to follow it, they must interpret "national emergency" in a way that doesn't give the president unconstrained discretion to declare one anytime he wants. Interpreting "emergency" to mean something like "sudden crisis" is at least a "reasonable" interpretation of the word, and it neatly avoids any possible constitutional problems.

Ironically, conservatives and libertarians are the ones who have long argued for stronger enforcement of the nondelegation doctrine, while most liberals have generally been hostile to the idea. Trump's national emergency declaration might perhaps lead the latter to reconsider their position.

Judges may face difficult decisions in situations where it is hard to tell whether the problem at hand really is a suddenly emerging crisis or not. But difficult borderline questions are common in judicial decision-making, particularly when interpreting imprecise terms like "emergency." When it comes to laws intended to trigger dangerous powers that circumvent the normal political process, it makes sense to put the burden of proof on the executive to show that a genuine emergency actually exists.

But even if courts should defer to the president's judgment in relatively close cases, that does not mean they should give him a blank check to declare an emergency anytime he wants. The current situation is not a close case at all.

The Situation at the Border is Not a Sudden Crisis - and therefore Cannot be Declared a National Emergency

If a "national emergency" can only be declared in the event of a sudden crisis, Trump's declaration clearly doesn't qualify. Quite simply, there is no crisis at the border. To the contrary, crime and terrorism risks in the border area are very low, and the number of illegal border crossings has been dropping. The vast majority of undocumented immigration is a result of visa overstays, not illegal border crossings at all. Trump also cites the flow of illegal drugs as a justification for the declaration. But 80 to 90 percent such drugs are brought in through legal ports of entry that would not be affected by his proposed wall.

Moreover, it is implausible to claim that the president had declare an emergency because there is no time for ordinary legislative processes to work. To the contrary, Congress has been considering Trump's demand for a wall for over two years now. The issue is not that they haven't had time to authorize one, but that they simply disagree with Trump about the need for it. Disagreement between the legislature and the executive is not an emergency. It's a normal part of our system of separation of powers. If the president can't get Congress to pass the laws he wants, that doesn't justify circumventing it by declaring an "emergency."

The above assumes that current immigration restrictions and the War on Drugs are beneficial rather than harmful. I myself oppose both. Most of the real problems at the border arise from the grave injustices caused by these policies. But even observers more sympathetic to status quo policies than I am should be able to recognize that Trump's emergency declaration does not address any sudden crisis. Even Trump himself seems to understand that. He admits he "didn't need to do this" and only declared a national emergency because he'd "rather" build the wall "much faster" than Congress is willing to authorize.

The claim that the border situation is an emergency is also belied by the nature of Trump's proposed remedy for the supposed problem. Even setting aside delays likely to be caused legal challenges, the wall will probably take years to build. Any problem for which the wall is a plausible solution is by definition not an emergency. To claim otherwise is much like saying that we can put out a raging fire by building a new fire station over the course of several years.

The administration can argue that there is an emergency because illegal border crossings and drug flows still persist and are unlikely to be completely eliminated anytime soon, if ever. But by that standard, there is an emergency any time any federal law is not perfectly enforced and some violations continue to occur. And that's true of almost every law on the books.

For example, surveys show that over 50 percent of adult Americans admit to violating federal laws banning possession of marijuana. Only a small fraction of them have ever been caught or prosecuted. Can the president declare a national emergency and start spending unauthorized money and condemning property to go after pot smokers?

If Trump's desire to build a wall qualifies as an emergency, then pretty much anything does. The president would have unlimited power to declare any real or imagined problem an emergency, and thereby tap a wide range of emergency powers.

The Perils of Setting a Dangerous Precedent

If courts conclude that the president can declare any emergency for virtually any reason he wants, it would set a dangerous precedent that goes far beyond wall-building. The National Emergencies Act allows the president to use an emergency declaration to trigger a wide range of powers, including such extremely dangerous ones as shutting down electronic media (potentially including the internet), and even testing chemical and biological weapons on unwilling human subjects.

Even the wall-building situation is itself deeply problematic. After all, Trump is claiming not just the authority to spend money on the wall, but also the power to use eminent domain to seize the property of thousands of people. If he can do that to build a border wall, other presidents can do the same thing to take property for a wide range of other purposes.

No one person - especially a politician - can be trusted with such vast, nearly unconstrained power. Conservatives who may be comfortable trusting Trump with it are unlikely to be so happy when the next liberal Democratic president inherits the same authority and uses it to promote left-wing causes.

Some suggest we need not worry too much about setting a precedent, because there have already been numerous questionable emergency declarations, including some that have lasted for many years.

I won't try to go through all of the previous 58 emergency declarations issued since the NEA was enacted in 1976. But virtually all of them did in fact involve crises that emerged suddenly and at least plausibly required a swift response that did not leave time for ordinary political processes to react quickly enough. All or nearly all were also invoked to take measures to address the problem quickly, not ones like Trump's wall, that would take years to have any effect. And none involved the president appropriating and seizing private property for a project Congress had repeatedly refused to support on the scale the president wanted, as is the case with the wall.

It is admittedly problematic that many previous emergencies have lasted for years, without any additional congressional authorization. The NEA does not impose any time limit on an emergency declaration. So one can potentially go on indefinitely, if the president wants it to.

The NEA states that a declaration can be ended by Congress if it passes a resolution disapproving it, as congressional Democrats are now attempting to do. But any such resolution is subject to veto by the president. And he can almost always count on sufficient support from his own party to prevent his veto from being overridden by the necessary two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress.

But the failure of the NEA to effectively limit the duration of emergency declarations does not mean it also imposes no constraints on their initation. The difficulty of terminating an emergency once it has been declared makes it all the more important to enforce legal constraints on declaring one in the first place, to ensure these powers cannot be used unless there is an actual emergency.

It is certainly possible that some previous emergency declarations were legally dubious. Trump is far from the first president to abuse his authority. But the fact that some of his predecessors may have acted illegally is no reason to let Trump get away with it, too. To the contrary, it is all the more reason to crack down on such abuses of power, so they will not be repeated.

Published:2/23/2019 5:30:00 PM
[Health Care] 9 Years After Obamacare Passed, Agency Finds Numbers Were Wildly Off

Democrats defeated Republicans in the Obamacare repeal fight by warning that 22 million Americans would be thrown off their health insurance. They pointed to data... Read More

The post 9 Years After Obamacare Passed, Agency Finds Numbers Were Wildly Off appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:2/22/2019 4:54:29 PM
[Markets] Breaking Down Elizabeth Warren's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Math Behind "Childcare For All"

This week Elizabeth Warren proposed a fantastical entitlement program to provide free or affordable childcare to every single American family with a young child - suggesting that the program would cost $70 billion a year

As Breitbart's John Carney notes - the whole plan is absurd; not because the price tag is so expensive, but because it's way too cheap

Start with the basics. There are around four million babies born in the U.S. every year. That means there are approximately 20 million children under school age who could be enrolled in a national childcare program. Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi and Sophia Koropeckyj, the economists behind Warren’s figures, estimate that the cost of each child in the Warren Centers—or Baby Warrens, as we would inevitably call them–would be $14,500. -Breitbart

At $14,500 times 20 million children, a national childcare program could cost up to $290 billion per year - or an extra 2 trillion per decade over her original estimate. That said, not every family qualifies, nor would every family take advantage of such a program as some people prefer to raise their own children or place them in the care of relatives. 

That said, Warren's proposal promises free childcare to any family with an income under 200% of the poverty line - or around $51,000 for a family of four. All other families would pay no more than 7% of their income on childcare.

Zandi and Koropeckyj estimate that 1/3 of American households will choose to forego professional childcare; around the same percentage as today. This is magical thinking, suggests Carney - as it assumes that stay-at-home parents won't change their preferences in light of a massive government program. 

Warren's plan assumes that the number of children in childcare centers would rise from 6.8 million to 12 million - however due to shifting preferences, that number would likely be much higher

That said - the math behind Warren's plan is still wrong at 12 million children. At $14,500 per head, the program would cost approximately $174 billion per year, not $90 billion

How they shave that $100 billion off the cost is partly redistribution and mostly voodoo economics, magical thinking disguised as macroeconomics. Because families earning more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level would have to pay for some of their childcare–but never really more than half–the cost would be reduced. But the size of the subsidy for even very wealthy families is large enough that this doesn’t shave much off the total cost.

The heavy lifting here is in the rosy economic forecasts Zandi and Koropeckyj produce. They predict that the childcare for all program will “quickly lift economic growth” by transferring wealth from the rich—Warren wants to pay for the program with a tax on ultra-millionaires. In the longer term, they see it boosting economic  growth because they foresee it boosting workforce participation and the number of hours worked. -Breitbart

In short, the plan only works if economic growth is "quickly lifted" because of a massive wealth transfer from ultra-millionaires, and if the free childcare results in more parents leaving the home in search of jobs amid already-low unemployment. The analysis fails to consider that a flood of additional workers who aren't at home raising their own kids would put downward pressure on wages. 

"Cheapening labor costs while raising taxes on wealth would also diminish the return on capital investment, which would be a drag on productivity—the best driver of economic growth," notes Carney.

"In the end, we may end up with a diminished economy, families working more hours than before and spending less time with children, and an entitlement program that is much more expensive than anticipated (as entitlement programs tend to be)."

That said, encouraging Americans to have more children by making it more affordable is not a bad idea, concludes Carney. It should just be done in a way that doesn't require magical math - such as a much larger, fully refundable child tax credit, and allowing families to pay less in entitlement taxes when they have more than two children. After all, they will be supplying the next generation of workers who will pay for Social Security and Medicare, should it still exist by then.

"Childcare Deserts"

While Carney points out the crappy assumptions behind Warren's plan, there may be another major problem; accessibility. According to the Center for American Progress, more than half of American households live in what are known as "childcare deserts" - places where there are up to 3 children for every available childcare slot, or no childcare options at all

Warren addresses this in a blog post, suggesting that her plan would "establish and support a network of locally-run Child Care and Early Learning Centers and Family Child Care Homes so that every family, regardless of their income or employment, can access high-quality, affordable child care options."

The problem, as New Republic reports, "There are simply not enough providers in operation, either in formal centers or in informal home settings, with enough openings to meet current demand."

That demand is only likely to increase if Warren’s plan makes childcare far more affordable and better quality than it is today. Significantly increasing the funding available to provide care and compensate providers adequately will certainly entice more people to jump into the business. But there is nothing in the plan that absolutely ensures that enough providers open up shop and create new slots so that all families can take advantage of it. -New Republic

In short, the federal government would need to become directly involved in solving the infrastructure problem - vastly expanding child development centers, which would add an entirely new set of costs to the proposal. 

The Week's Ryan Cooper points out four flaws in Warren's plan. 

The limitations of Warren's proposal are clearly driven in part by the desire to keep the headline price down, but somebody, in this case middle- and upper-class parents, will still have to make up the difference. Designing it in this way could easily increase the total cost (that is, including both state and private spending) of child care. The government could counter this problem by fixing prices, but there are no such controls mentioned in the proposal outline.

Second is wasteful bureaucracy. Giving out subsidies based on income will require an administrative/surveillance apparatus to calculate payments and make sure that people aren't cheating the system. That's a lot of paperwork and very likely a lot of mistakes and headaches.

Third is lower political durability. Families only eligible for smaller subsidies will be naturally resentful of the downscale families paying nothing, so there will be less resistance to a future Republican administration attempting to roll back the program. (Witness the last GOP Congress coming within a hair's breadth of repealing ObamaCare, but largely leaving Medicare alone.)

A fourth problem is that families in the phase-out zone of the subsidy will potentially face a high effective marginal tax rate, as a large portion of any additional income will be eaten up by reduced subsidies — especially when combined with other proposals for means-tested tax credits that would phase out in a similar way, like Kamala Harris's LIFT Act.

Any way you cut it, Warren's plan - like so many before them, appears to be nothing more than a great sounding promise that would end up like California's ill-fated bullet train.

Published:2/21/2019 10:51:23 PM
[Markets] An Obituary For California's Bullet Train

California's ill-fated statewide bullet train project - which has been reduced to a "train to nowhere" between Merced and Bakersfield so the state doesn't have to return $3.5 billion in federal funds - took residents of the Golden State on a ride for over a decade.

While initially projected to cost $33.6 billion in 2008, former Gov. Jerry Brown's "special legacy project" ballooned in estimated size to nearly $100 billion in 2018, with service beginning from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2033. 

Opining on the demise of the bullet train in an "I told ya so" Op-Ed, the WSJ editorial board provides a post-mortem on yet another failed attempt towards a progressive utopia using taxpayer dollars.

***

Via the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

Death of a California Dream
Gavin Newsom gives up on Jerry Brown’s bullet-train fiasco.

Like Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War, California Gov. Gavin Newsom inherited a quagmire in the state’s bullet train with no good options. Rather than attempt a full-out retreat, the Governor announced Tuesday that he would cut taxpayer losses by completing a segment in the sparsely populated San Joaquin Valley. But please don’t call it a train to nowhere.

A decade ago California voters approved a $10 billion bond measure to build a 520-mile high-speed train that would supposedly take riders from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes. The choo-choo’s supporters vowed that the federal government and private investors would foot most of the estimated $33 billion bill, and the referendum explicitly stated there would be no subsidy. President Trump’s promise to make Mexico pay for a border wall was more believable.

The Obama Administration chipped in $3.5 billion on the condition the first 160-mile segment be built in the San Joaquin Valley district of Democratic Rep. Jim Costa, a longtime bullet-train supporter who provided a critical vote for ObamaCare. Former Gov. Jerry Brown made the train his special legacy project, his contribution at taxpayer expense to the illusion of stopping climate change. His people sent letter after letter claiming that our editorials were mistaken.

Our criticisms have now been validated by none other than Mr. Newsom. Cost projections for the train have soared to around $80 billion amid litigation, engineering challenges and ordinary government morass. Private investors have run the other way. The state rail authority has spent more than $5 billion acquiring and destroying hundreds of properties but not yet laid tracks. Taxpayers have lost patience, and Mr. Newsom stated the obvious on Tuesday that “there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to LA.”

The new Governor is thus proposing to finish the initial planned route from Merced to Bakersfield, now with the stated goal of revitalizing rural areas that have been parched due to water rationing. Lo, high-speed rail is “about economic transformation and unlocking the enormous potential of the Valley,” which is “hungry for investment” and “good jobs.” Mr. Newsom in his speech also pared back a project championed by Mr. Brown to deliver more water to farmers.

Liberals envision that the bullet train will someday turn Fresno and Merced into Silicon Valley suburbs and ease the Bay Area’s housing shortage. But this too is a dream. As economic consultants William Grindley and Bill Warren document in a recent study, a worker who lives in Fresno would spend 10 hours and 20 minutes each day commuting to San Jose at a cost of $154 round trip—assuming no subsidies.

California’s bullet train provides a miniature model of the Green New Deal. Alas, the main reason liberals like Mr. Newsom are likely turning against it is they are eager to redirect taxpayer money to entitlements and other green largesse.

Published:2/19/2019 7:02:26 AM
[Markets] Howard Marks: The Most Dangerous Thing The Fed Ever Did Was Convince Investors That "It's Different This Time"

As the infamous quote from the movie "the Usual Suspects" goes: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." Similarly, as the billionaire investor and Oaktree Capital Management founder Howard Marks explained during a recent interview with RealVision's Grant Williams, the most dangerous trick the Federal Reserve ever pulled was to convince investors that "it's different this time".

That in the post-crisis era, the central bank has discovered an elixir to eliminate the business cycle, installing in its place an everlasting bull market, abetted by a "goldilocks" economy, where every dip presents an immediate buying opportunity.

Williams described Marks in their interview as "a great student of [market] cycles" before questioning whether old-school thinking about the boom-bust nature of the markets was even still relevant in the post-crisis brave new world that QE and negative interest rates have brought us.

Marks

But Marks quickly dismissed this, affirming that he is still believes in the value of analyzing and timing the market cycle. Perhaps that's why his fund, Oaktree Management, seized the opportunity to deploy capital during Q4, when nothing was working (2018 will go down in history as one of the worst years for financial markets on record, given the breadth of losses across asset classes), and everybody seemed to be selling in a panic.

Negative

Elaborating further Marks explained his view on where we are in the cycle. Until Trump's arrival in the West Wing, the recovery had been chugging along slowly (while asset prices had been moving in a nearly uninterrupted diagonal line from left to right). Setting aside the direct impact of central bank liquidity, Marks explained that after the crisis, people and businesses were left traumatized, which was one reason why growth was so tepid, even once this immense monetary assistance had been factored in. But the fiscal stimulus unleashed by the Trump administration, in the form of tax cuts and increased federal spending, was like administering a "shot of adrenaline to an already healthy patient."

For this reason, Marks doesn't think the highs are in - at least not yet. But ultimately, he believes we will get to new "highs that lead to lows."

GRANT WILLIAMS: There must come a point where things get out of hand. Going back to the original question of 2005, 2006, do you see any similarities in what you're seeing and what's starting to make your spidey sense tingle?

HOWARD MARKS: Not similarities in the sense of specific things repeating. But I have felt that because people were traumatized by the great recession, the recovery has been the slowest one since World War II. And that has kept things moderate, which meant that we would certainly have a recession one of these days. But it would be moderate. When you don't have a boom, you don't have to have a bust in my belief.

But now between the tax bill, which was a shot of adrenaline into, in my opinion, an already healthy patient, and then the possibility that we're going to see a Powell put in action, I think that we may get to highs that lead to lows.

I'm a believer in cycles. I believe they always have occurred, I think I understand why. And I think they always will occur and I try to study them. And then when I kind of got to the end of writing the book I said, well why do we have cycles? If the market goes up 10% a year on average, why doesn't just go 10% every year? And in fact, it almost never goes up between 8 and 12. So the average is not the norm. Why not?

And the answer, I think, is excesses and corrections. So you have a trend line and most trend lines are upward sloping, but then you deviate from the trend line on the upside because of some combination of optimism and greed and wishful thinking. And then you have to have a correction to the downside. So now I'm thinking we may have more of an excess, which leads to more of a correction.

And the longer the Fed and the federal government forestall a recession by artificial means, the worse the fallout will be when one finally arrives. Offering an extremely apt analogy, Marks contrasted the Fed's machinations with the "good forest management" policies needed to prevent out-of-control wildfires like those that have erupted in California over the past two years (see here for an example of what we're talking about).

Marks reasoning goes, the best way to avoid an out-of-control blaze is to permit moderate fires to burn from time to time. That way, they clear out the underbrush. But if we extinguish every blaze before it has a chance to burn, then we put ourselves at risk for a "big one" that could quickly accelerate beyond our control.

GRANT WILLIAMS: When did we get to the point where a recession is something that has to be avoided at all costs?

HOWARD MARKS: Yeah, well it's a big mistake. In one of my memos - postmortem for the global financial crisis -  I talked about forest fires. Good forest management, you permit there to be fires once in a while. And if there are fires of moderate size, occasionally it burns out the fuel and then you don't get the one big one. Same thing, in my opinion.

And the fluctuations of the economy are natural, in my opinion. And should be permitted to occur. And if you try to forestall them, then when they happen - I don't think you can forestall forever. And when they happen, they're bigger.

Over the past 20 years, the whims of the financial markets have grown to outweigh the influence of the economic cycle. The financial crisis, for example, had almost nothing to do with the real economy, Marks explained. Which is why tacit Fed policies like the "Powell Put" could be far more destabilizing than many investors might suspect.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Yeah sure. Well you mentioned cycles, I know you're a great student of cycles. And they used to be so important in markets - everywhere you look. Whether it was the human cycle, whether it was a market cycle, credit cycles - everything seemed to have a rhythm.

And it made investing a lot easier because you could at least have some sense of how these cycles would turn. That seems to have changed significantly in the last 15, 20 years. You're shaking your head there.

HOWARD MARKS: I don't agree with that. If you talk about 20 years, if you came in this business 20 years ago, you have seen two profound cycles. You had the TMT bubble and crash and then you had the mortgage bubble and crash. And I think that maybe they weren't predictable, but I'm not sure they ever were.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I wouldn't classify those cycles. I kind of look at them and think they were both attempts at cycle turns that happened quickly in kind of short order in small corners of the market. And then got squashed quickly by Fed policy.

HOWARD MARKS: Well, they were market cycles - bubble and crash.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Yeah.

HOWARD MARKS: They weren't economic cycles in the traditional sense. And in the last 20 years, I think that developments in the financial world have taken over in importance from developments in the rest of the business world.

Ultimately, Marks still believes in the importance of understanding market cycles because, fundamentally, human nature hasn't changed. Which is why it's dangerous to believe that, in an increasingly unstable world, that stability has become the norm.

HOWARD MARKS: ...And the big theme of the book is Mark Twain - history does not repeat, but it does rhyme. And the world is just too unstable a place to believe that stability is the norm.

And you know if you think about it, in the economy a great year is up four, and a bad year is down two. So the economy has an upward trend and it kind of goes like this. Then companies have leverage - financial leverage and operating leverage. So their profits go like this. And then the market goes like this. And why? Because of people.

The risk in the market does not come from stock certificates, companies, exchanges, it comes from people. But people are prone to excess and I don't see how it can be argued otherwise.

And by the way, when people say, I don't think we're going to have cycles in the future because the astute Fed has it under control - or whatever it is - what they're saying is what I consider the four worst words in the world - it's different this time. OK until now we've had cycles, but we're not going to have anymore.

One risk that markets are probably failing to truly understand is the rise of the radical left, and their support for "confiscatory" taxation policies.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I mean, it certainly seems that way. When you look at the traction Ocasio- Cortez is getting - and Liz Warren - and it's clear that they both realize that this is how we're going to create that traction - by going against the elite.

But some of the things they're proposing are the 70% tax. Liz Warren was on MSNBC looking straight down the camera at everybody else saying, we're going to find your wealth and we're going to come and get it. These are things that I'm sure a lot of people in America never thought they'd hear in this country.

HOWARD MARKS: I think the thing in the memo that I got heated about the most, and I was trying to put it out and then Friday Elizabeth Warren came out with her wealth tax idea. But what got me was that - she tweeted it out of course - the way she did it.

She said something like - don't quote me - the rich and powerful run America and look at what they have arranged for themselves. They are allowed to keep their accumulated wealth. Well, guess what? We're all allowed to keep our accumulated wealth.

And she makes it sound like - through some skullduggery - they have exempted themselves from the wealth tax. You can't exempt yourself from something that doesn't exist. But she makes it sound nefarious. And that's populism - they, they. And it's not constructive.

I would lay a strong bet that five years from now, my tax rate will be higher than it is today. But it should be, as I said in the memo, it should be progressive, but not punitive. And not confiscatory. Among other things, people don't have to sit still and pay it.

I wrote a memo back in 2016 called "Economic Reality" and I talked about a guy I know who was the biggest taxpayer in New Jersey. They raised the rates to a point where he moved to Florida where there is no tax.

So the point is, the people who want to confiscate seemed to think that there's nothing that the confiscatees can do about it.

Marks believes the growing divisiveness in Washington will lead to increasingly counterproductive policymaking, as Democrats and Republicans focus more on spiting one another by passing major policy initiatives without any participation from the minority party (Obamacare and Trump's tax bill are both examples of this). But shifting his focus back to his investing strategy, Marks explained that he recently realized that cyclical extremes offer probably the best chances of trades with high returns. "When you are at an extreme high or an extreme low, the logic is compelling and the probability of being right is high."

But the problem is, these opportunities don't come around very often. Marks most successful market calls occurred about once a decade - 5 times in 50 years.

But another inflection point where valuations are obviously overstretched could be just around the corner.

Watch a clip from the RealVision interview below:

Published:2/16/2019 9:19:47 PM
[Markets] "We'll End Up In The Supreme Court": Trump Emergency Declaration To Face Firestorm Of Litigation

After unveiling his intention to declare a national emergency that would allow him to redirect some $7 billion in additional funding for his border wall, President Trump said Friday that "we will be sued...and we will possibly get a bad ruling...and then we will get another bad ruling...and then we will end up in the Supreme Court" over the controversial plan, which even some Republican Senators (and former campaign-era rivals) have denounced as potentially unconstitutional. Of course, Trump is used to legal challenges to his policies. And he's also used to winning, as he ultimately prevailed during the battle over his travel ban (though the final measure approved by the Supreme Court was notably watered-down).

After Trump launched into a lengthy digression about the lengthy legal process upon which he was about to embark, several commentators noted, the challenges will offer Trump the opportunity to utter one of his favorite phrases: "See you in court."

But while the battle over Trump's travel ban only took a few months to resolve, Politico speculated on Friday that the battle over Trump's national emergency declaration could take months or even years, as the step of trying to block a presidential emergency declaration would represent something totally unprecedented in the history of American politics.

Trump

Rather than solely worrying about a challenge from Congressional Democrats, Politico warned that a number of interest groups could try to kill the national emergency declaration. These include - but are not limited to - immigrant rights advocates, property rights activists, environmentalists, Democratic lawmakers and state officials.

Already, Reuters reported on Friday that New York’s state attorney general has threatened legal action against over the emergency declaration.

"We will not stand for this abuse of power and will fight back with every legal tool at our disposal," New York’s Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

And California Gov. Gavin Newsom has already declared that the State of California "will see Trump in court." And the state's attorney general vowed before Trump's announcement that, if the president moves ahead with his plans, he "will be held accountable."

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has filed dozens of suits against Trump administration policy moves, added: "There is no national emergency. If Trump oversteps his authority and abandons negotiations with Congress by declaring a fabricated national emergency, we won’t only call his bluff, we will do what we must to hold him accountable. No one is above the law."

As Politico explains, while judges have sometimes tried to block Congressionally authorized spending, historically it has been almost unthinkable for judges to interfere with a national emergency declaration. However, given "Trump’s history of erratic and inflammatory statements, his frequent rhetorical disconnects with senior officials in his administration and his tendency to see crises that others view as completely contrived" legal experts believe the challenges could make some headway...and that the issue could ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court after a lengthy meandering through the lower courts. Because the chances that challengers can find a circuit court willing to hold up the emergency declaration are seen as very high.

"Normally, any other time, you’d say it’s a no-brainer that the president wins," at least with respect to the decision to declare an emergency, said Bobby Chesney, a University of Texas law professor. "But with this particular president, no bets are safe in assuming the courts will completely defer to him...Presidents traditionally get tremendous deference, but Trump is not going to get the same level of deference."

"That really strips away the core rationale...and creates much more chance than normal that even at that initial step there’s a non-negligible chance that [Trump’s plan] could be rejected," Chesney said.

But politics aside, legal experts who spoke with Politico said property owners along the planned rout of the wall might have the best standing for a successful legal challenge.

Legal experts said affected property owners would have the clearest legal standing, but just what property is in most jeopardy of seizure by eminent domain may be unclear at the outset if the administration is vague about its construction plans.

On the other hand, the House may be well positioned to file suit almost immediately on a theory that it is being unconstitutionally bypassed. Lawyers say the House’s legal authority to sue on that basis is shakier than that of a private landowner who has his or her land seized. However, in 2015 a federal judge ruled than the then-GOP-led House had legal standing to sue over purportedly unauthorized cost-sharing payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.

But as with all of Trump's previous legal challenges, Trump will likely be able to frame the resistance to his plans as grist for his reelection campaign.

Analysts also noted that even setbacks for Trump in the legal battle may amount to political victories for him, as he paints himself as fighting hard against a variety of legal and political forces trying to frustrate him at every turn.

"He’ll be able to campaign against the backdrop of what the courts are doing to stop him," predicted Chesney, the University of Texas law professor.

But while it's tempting to view conservative dominance on the Supreme Court as indicating that a political victory by Trump is virtually assured, Politico pointed out that an Obama appointee whom Trump had repeatedly attacked as biased over his Mexican heritage recently handed Trump a big legal win over his wall prototype and replacement projects, which Trump heralded as a "big win".

There's no guarantee that the Supreme Court might offer a similarly surprising ruling.

Published:2/15/2019 12:42:04 PM
[Markets] Why Does Inflation Remain So Low: Goldman Asnwers

Last week, when discussing the trajectory of the market, Nomura's Charlie McElligott said that the fate of the rally, or lack thereof, depends on two main things: where the dollar goes from here, and what happens to inflation.

And while the dollar persistently refuses to drop despite - or rather in spite of - Wall Street's top consensus trade for 2019 being a lower dollar now that the Fed has reversed dovishly, the bigger question is with the unemployment rate now below most estimates of full employment for a couple of years, why is inflation still below target?

Needless to say, with the FOMC now highlighting “muted inflation pressures” as a reason to remain patient, this question has taken on renewed importance, especially since asset prices have shown a heightened sensitivity to inflationary spikes.

However, according to Goldman, the main answer is that "there just isn’t that much of a puzzle to begin with" and in a note from the bank's chief economist, Jan Hatzius writes that "The Phillips curve has flattened over the decades to the point where an unemployment rate 1pp below the full employment rate tends to raise inflation by just 0.1-0.2pp. With the unemployment rate about ½pp below our estimate of full employment, the state of the labor market alone implies inflation should be at most a tenth above the 2% target, or two-tenths above the current 1.9% rate of core PCE inflation."

As the bank then shows in the chart below, the health care services category — which accounts for roughly 19% of the core — is the main reason that inflation has run a bit softer than the pre-recession average. The left panel shows that health care services inflation was in line with broader core services inflation before the recession but is now much softer, at least according to the BLS' hedonically adjusted measurement and whether or not heathcare inflation is indeed that low in the "real world" is an entirely different matter, while other core services and core goods prices have grown at roughly normal rates.

Assuming the BLS' measure is accurate, Goldman then notes that much of the prolonged softness in health care services inflation in recent years reflects the direct and indirect effects of legislation and sector-specific trends. And while at this point, the direct effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on public-payer healthcare costs are likely behind us - which allegedly depresses healthcare service costs, even if many Americans have a diametrically different take of what Obamacare has done to their healthcare spending - the after-effects have lingered in a couple of ways.

And since the Fed only cares about what the the BEA reports in its core PCE, and any "real world" anecdotes are promptly dismissed, the fact that according to "empirical" analysis the culprit for sticky low inflation is Obamacare, it has significant bearing on both readings of inflation and the Fed's monetary policy, which is why Goldman's take actually matters.

And speaking of Goldman's take, Hatzius writes that in the bank's estimates, ACA-mandated Medicare cuts continue to have sizeable disinflationary spillover effects on private-sector prices, as shown in the next chart below.

In addition, Goldman claims that ACA and other ongoing cuts to government reimbursement rates have reportedly led to an increased focus on cost discipline and disinflationary efficiency gains, adding that "these effects can’t last forever, but they have been a persistent disinflationary force in recent years and are likely to fade only gradually." Needless to say, we find this "analysis" to be laughable in light of unprecedented drug price increases observed in recent years, which while a critical political talking point for years now somehow fails to ever trigger any inflation model.

Meanwhile, outside of the health care sector, Goldman claims that the other components of the core PCE index that usually follow a cyclical pattern have accelerated roughly as they should. In fact, according to an analysis by the bank's economists, inflation in these categories is only very slightly below the expected level. Exhibit 3 illustrates this by scaling the chart’s axes in line with the regression results.

So how is it that whereas inflation in asset prices is rampant, with many openly warning of a new asset bubble, price increases in the real economy are so low as to allow the Fed to stay "patient" indefinitely, thus perpetuating the stock bubble?

Here Goldman's findings above reinforce what past inflation research has also found.

  • First, the Phillips curve is alive but flatter, meaning that changes in slack now have more moderate effects on inflation.
  • Second, non-cyclical factors—from health care policy changes and measurement changes on the downside to new taxes or tariffs on the upside—can have relatively large effects on inflation.

But it is Goldman's third observation that is most stunning because according to the bank's economists, the first two findings "reinforce that the inflation puzzle is exaggerated—inflation is simply not that reliable a cyclical indicator. As former Fed Chair Janet Yellen put it, “such ‘surprises’ should not really be surprising."

That, for lack of a better word, is idiotic considering that with unemployment now largely meaningless and only inflation the gating factor to Fed monetary policy, for Goldman to say that "inflation is simply not that reliable a cyclical indicator" when it is the only thing that is greenlighting the Fed recent stunning dovish reversal, is outrageous, and has staggering policy consequences, as it means that the Fed is now relying on an overtly broken indicator to adjust the cost of money, and in the process is blowing even greater asset bubbles, even as the "unreliable" inflation indicator that is inflation continues to be depressed for purely political reasons.

In any case, Goldman concludes that its findings also shed some light on the inflation outlook for 2019, and notes that the "disinflationary pressures on health care inflation that account for much of the remaining softness should diminish somewhat, while the cyclical pressures that appear to be operating fairly normally should intensify somewhat."

This should take core inflation from a bit below 2% to a bit above—not a drastic change, but likely enough to sway policymakers in favor of a rate hike later this year.

Unless of course this does not happen, and "later this year" Goldman is forced to trot out another essay explaining why "inflation is simply not that reliable a cyclical indicator", even though the Fed clearly is delighted to use it as a cyclical indicator if it means continuing to blow the biggest asset bubblein history.

Published:2/10/2019 4:43:33 PM
[World] Trump Pivots From Health Insurance to Health Itself After years of fighting over Obamacare, both parties are taking a closer look at actually curing diseases. Published:2/6/2019 12:17:32 PM
[Markets] Trump SOTU Post-Mortem: "Tonight, I Ask You To Choose Greatness"

Trump started off with a shun. Traditionally, the Speaker of the House introduces the President inside the House Chamber after the House Sergeant at Arms, as Paul Ryan did for Trump last year. But Pelosi didn’t have a chance tonight, as Trump instead launched right into his speech. It’s unclear if Trump’s jumpstart was intentional or not, but he and Pelosi did share a cordial handshake during the first standing ovation.

Trump largely stuck with the talking points that were leaked to the press.

As expected, his tone has been largely conciliatory, despite delivering the speech to a divided Congress for the first time since his inauguration. And the bonhomie could be felt across the aisle, as lawmakers from both parties stood and delivered a standing ovation to the president as he walked up to the House rostrum. For roughly one-third of the lawmakers in attendance, this is the first SOTU they have ever attended.

Trump started his speech by saying he stood ready to work with both parties to fulfill our nation's "unlimited potential", and that he hoped "we can work together not as two parties, but as one nation." As telegraphed ahead of the speech, Trump described his agenda "not as a Republican agenda, or a Democrat agenda, but as an agenda for the American people."

And that agenda is...

  • Reduce the costs of health care and price of prescription drugs.
  • Immigration that is safe lawful and secure
  • And pursue a foreign policy that puts Americans first.

After noting the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which Trump noted was the beginning of what Dwight Eisenhower called "the Great Crusade" to stop the Nazis in Europe, before introducing three WWII veterans.

Trump went on to exhort lawmakers to reject the "politics of revenge" and focus on "cooperation" and "compromise" for the common good.

"Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness."

Moving on to his economic accomplishments, Trump touted the "unprecedented economic boom" ushered in by his policies. As evidence of this, he cited,

  • 5.3 million new jobs
  • 600,000 new manufacturing jobs
  • Wages rising at the fastest pace in decades
  • And wages for blue collar workers growing faster than anybody else thought possible
  • 5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps
  • Economy growing twice as fast today as when I took office.
  • Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in over half a century
  • African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have reached lowest levels ever recorded
  • Unemployment for Americans with disabilities has also reached an all-time low
  • 157 million Americans are working - more than at any time during the history of our country
  • Passed a massive tax cut for working families and doubled the child tax credit
  • We've virtually ended the estate tax for small businesses, ranches and family farms
  • Eliminated "very unpopular" Obamacare individual mandate penalty
  • Gave critically ill patients access to life saving cures with "right to try"

Touting his deregulation push, Trump ntoed his administration has cut more regulations during a shorter period of time than any other administration during its entire tenure, which has helped bring companies back to America in record numbers. And we've unleashed a revolution in US energy, with the US now the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas, anywhere in the world.

And for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy.

With America winning "each and every day" - thanks to our unparalleled military strength - the state of our union is "strong", Trump said, to chants of "USA, USA, USA" from Republican lawmakers.

Exhibiting his fondness for economic data, Trump touted Friday's jobs report, noting that the US added 304,000 jobs in January, almost double the number expected. "An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or foolish investigations."

In a shot at House Democrats preparing to let subpoenas fly, Trump warned that they should think twice before following through.

"If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way." We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad.

And this new era of cooperation can start by confirming the more than 300 highly qualified nominees who are still stuck in the Senate, some of whom have spent "years and years" waiting.

He touted his sweeping legislation to combat the opioid crisis, the farm bill, and a bill calling for VA accountability, to punish those who mistreat "our wonderful veterans." They said it couldn't be done, but just weeks ago, both parties came together to pass criminal justice reform. Trump then brought up the story of Alice Johnson, who was sentenced to life in the 1990s for a non-violent first-offense drug crime. "Alice's story underscores the disparities and unfairness that can exist in criminal sentencing and the need to remedy this total injustice. She served almost that 22 years and had expected to be in prison for the remainder of her life. But in June, I commuted Alice's sentence."

Alice

Alice Johnson

Trump's "First Step Act" gives non-violent offenders a second chance.

Matthew Charles, in Tennessee, Charles was sentenced to 35 years at the age of 30 for non-violent drug offenses. Now, Matthew is the very first person to be released from prison under the first step act.

Matthew

Matthew Charles

Now, Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis. Congress has 10 days to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland and pass a bill that will secure our border. Congress must commit to putting "human traffickers, coyotes and drug smugglers out of business," Trump said, adding that "as we speak, large organized caravans are on the march to the Untied States. We have just heard that Mexican cities, in order to remove the illegal immigrants from their communities, are getting trucks and buses to bring them up to areas where there is little border protection, Trump said he ordered another 3,000+ troops to our southern border to prepare for this onslaught. Trump added that we have a "moral obligation" to protect our borders and ensure that those immigrants who came here legally are respected.

"No issue better illustrates the divide between Americans working class and America's political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards," Trump said, a subtle dig at the Obamas, whom he has criticized for building a wall around their homes.

Tolerating illegal immigration leads to overburdened schools and hospitals, while one and three women traveling to the southern border are sexually assaulted during the journey north. Young women are sold into prostitution and sex slavery. Because of this, "open borders" are "actually very cruel."

Meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl pour across the border as well, brought by gangs like MS-13. Trump then cited the gang member who was arrested for a fatal shooting on a subway platform in Queens. And many innocent Americans, like the parents of Debra Bissel, are killed by illegal immigrants. She attended with her daughter and granddaughter.

Bissels

Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong, and Madison Armstrong

"I will fight for the memory of Gerald and Sharon, and that it should never happen again. Not one more American life should be lost because we failed to control our border. Last year border agents like Elvin Hernandez made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings.

Trump credited Hernandez with rescuing more than 300 girls from sex trafficking, while more than 1,500 traffickers have been arrested.

Hernandez

Elvin Hernandez

Trump pledged that he will "never abolish our heroes from ICE."

Trump then outlined a proposal to Congress for the border including humantiarian aid, sophisticated drug detecting equipment, and funding for a wall to protect vulnerable areas along the border. "In the past, many people in this room voted for a wall, but the proper wall never got built. I will get it built."

"This is a smart, strategic see-through steel barrier, not just a simple concrete wall, it will be deployed in the areas identified by border agents in the areas identified as having the greatest need."

"Where walls go up, illegal border crossings go way, way down."

Trump cited San Diego as an example: A wall along the border "almost completely ended" illegal crossings. A wall also brought down El Paso, Texas's high rates of violent crime.

"Simply put, walls work, and walls save lives."

"So let's work together, compromise and reach a deal that will truly make America safe."

But we must also ensure that our economic resurgence continues apace. Nobody has benefited more than women, who have filled 54% of the newly created jobs last year. "All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before," Trump said.

In a line that will surely make Trump's SWJ critics uneasy, the president noted that "And exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before."

Next up: Trade. After years of stealing American jobs, we're making it clear to China that the theft has come to an end. Now we have tariffs on more than $200 billion in goods, and our Treasury is receiving "billions and billions" of dollars.

But Trump doesn't blame China for this. He blames his weak-willed predecessors. He reiterated that he has "great respect" for President Xi, and that the two must work together to make a fair deal.

Another "trade travesty" was Nafta. For years, politicians promised to renegotiate for a better deal, but nobody ever did until now. The USMCA will replace NAFTA and "deliver for American workers like they haven't had delivered to for a long time". With this, Trump urged Congress to work together to pass USMCA and ensure that "more cars are stamped with our four beautiful words: Made in the USA."

Tonight, I am also asking you to pass the US reciprocal trade act, so that if another country puts an unfair tariff on a US product, we can charge the exact same tariff...on products they sell to us.

Finally, nearly an hour into the speech, Trump finally touched on his plans for an infrastructure bill. But offering few details about his infrastructure plan, Trump moved on to what was touted prior to the speech as the highlight of the evening: Prescription drugs.

"This is not an option. This is a necessity. The next major priority for me and for all of us should be to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs and to protect patients with preexisting conditions. After my election in 2018, drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years. "But we must do more. It's unacceptable that Americans pay more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs made in the exact same place."

He asked Congress to pass a bill that delivers "fairness and price transpare3ncy for American patients and require drug companies and insurers to disclose real prices, which he said would foster competition and "bring costs way down."

And while we have made remarkable progress in the fight against AIDS in recent years, Trump's budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to "eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within ten years." "Together we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond."

In another health-care related announcement, Trump asked all Americans to support his "fight against childhood cancer." Which brings Trump to his next guest: A 10-year-old girl named Grace Eline, a cancer survivor.

Grace

Grace Eline

Even before being diagnosed with brain cancer, Eline had asked friends to donate to cancer research at every birthday since she was four for St. Jude's Children's Hospital.

"Many childhood cancers have not seen new therapies in decades. My new budget will set aside money over the next ten years to help fund this research."

And to help working parents, Trump said, "the time has come to pass school choice" for America's children.

He also announced plans to include a plan for nationwide paid family leave - a top priority of his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and something that probably took many Democrats in the audience by surprise.

On a more somber note, Trump touched on a state law in Virginia where babies can be aborted even minutes before birth. Trump asked Congress to pass a bill banning late-term abortion, for babies "who can feel pain in the mother's womb."

"Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth. All children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of god."

Noting that the "final part of his agenda" was to "protect American security" Trump touted the $700 billion allocated to the military and his push to get other nations to "pay their fair share" for their security. Now we have secured over the past couple of years over $100 billion in increased defense spending from NATO allies.

Following the decision to leave the INF, Trump said the US is building a state-of-the-art missile defense system, before blasting Russia for "repeatedly violated" the treaty's terms. "That is why I announced that the United States is officially withdrawing from the...INF treaty."

"We really have no choice. Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement adding China and others. Or perhaps we can't, in which case we will out spend and out innovate all others by far."

Listing all the positive developments involving North Korea, Trump said that if he had not been elected president, we would "right now be in the middle of a major war with North Korea. Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one."

He then confirmed earlier reports that he and Kim would meet on Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam.

Moving on to one of the hottest topics of the day, Trump condemned the Maduro regime and reiterated his support gor oppositoin leader Juan Guaido.

As was previewed ahead of the speech, Trump also condemned socialism, much to the chagrin of most of the democrats running for president.

"Here in the United States we are alarmed by the new calls toa dopt socialism. American was founded on liberty and independence and not government coercion and control. We are born free and we will stay free."

"Tonight we confirm our resolve that America will never be a socialist country."

Next up: The Middle East.

Trump touted his decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. But after 19 years of fighting, and 7,000 US deaths, and 52,000 badly wounded, we have spent more than $7 trillion in fighting wars in the Middle East. When Trump took office, he pledged to end this, and defeat ISIS. But today, ISIS's former territory has been liberated.

"Great nations do not fight endless wars."

And now, the US is working to destory the remanents of ISIS, it is time to give US troops in Syria a "warm welcome home." In Afghanistan, the Taliban is also "Very happy to be negotiating."

"As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troops presence and focus on counter terrorism. We do not know whether we'll achieve an agreement, but we do know after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace. And the other side would like to do the same thing."

"It's time."

In a headline that seemingly got lost amid the crush of news last month, Trump praised US soldiers for killing one of the orchestrators of the USS Cole Bombing. Trump then turned to Tom Wibberley, whose son was one of the 17 who died during the bombing of the USS Cole.

"We will not avert our eyes from a regime that threatens genocide against the Jewish people."

"We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-semitism and those who spread its venemous creed. Just months ago, 11 Jewish Americans were viciously murdered in an attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Trump then introduced, officer Timothy Matson, a SWAT team member shot seven times while pursuing the shooter.

Matson

Timothy Matson

Trump also invited Judah Samet, a survivor of the shooting last fall, and a Holocaust survivor who narrowly survived the concentration camps. Today is his 81st birthday (which triggered a rendition of "Happy Birthday" sung by the crowd. "They wouldn't do that for me, Judah," Trump quipped.

Samet

Judah Samet

Trump then recounted a story told to him by Samet of his memory of being rescued by American soldiers while his family was on a train to another concentration camp.

Another Holocaust survivor, Joshua Kaufman, recounted watching through a hole in the wall at Dachau as American tanks rolled in to liberate the camp.

kaufman

Circling back to the beginning of his speech, Trump once again brought up D-Day, and credited the "blood, and tears and vision" of the "Americans who came before". This, Trump said, is how America defeated Communism and Facism, and emerged as the world's unparalleled super power.

Ending on an optimsitic note, Trump said that "our biggest victories are still to come. We have not yet begun to dream. We must chose whether we are defined by our differences, or chose to transcend them.

"This is the time to reignite the American imagination. This is the time to search for the tallest summit and set our sights on the brightest star."

"We must keep America first in our hearts, and keep freedom alive in our souls. And we must always keep faith in America's destiny, that one nation under god must be the hope and the promise and light and glory among all the nations of the world."

And with that, Trump wrapped up the speech at 10:30 pm ET on the dot. After speaking for 1 hour and 21 minutes, his speech was ever so slightly longer than last year's, but not quite as long as the 1 hour, 29 minute address delivered by Bill Clinton in 2000.

* * *

It's that time of year again. With Pelosi perched on his shoulder, President Trump will deliver his 2nd State of The Union address tonight (after last year's marathon 80-minute oration). However, Trump's call for cooperation did little to change the atmosphere of bitter partisan acrimony that has only intensified in Washington over the past year.

After a divisive year that featured partisan battles over the confirmation of SCOTUS Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's zero-tolerance border policies and - most recently - the government shutdown, according to Conway, Trump is once again planning to strike a conciliatory tone to try and silence critics who joke that his speech would be more aptly referred to as "the State of Disunion".

"This president is going to call for an end to the politics of resistance, retribution and call for more comity," Conway said, spelling out the last word.

Many of President Trump's recent decisions have been controversial among both Republicans (the trade war, his decision to pull troops from Syria and Afghanistan) and Democrats (immigration, the wall, the shutdown). And as the president seeks to rally support as the 2020 campaign season gets underway, previews of the speech published by the Hill, the New York Times and NBC News suggest that Trump will spend the bulk of his time touting his victories and selling his policies to the public, while calling for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground on issues like passing a sweeping infrastructure bill. The "optimistic" tone will go a long way toward setting out Trump's goals for the coming year.

Some key highlights include:

  • *TRUMP TO SAY HIS AGENDA IS AGENDA OF AMERICAN PEOPLE

  • *TRUMP TO ANNOUNCE 2-DAY MEET WITH KIM IN SOTU SPEECH

  • *TRUMP TO SAY IMMIGRATION SYSTEM NEEDS TO PROTECT LIVES, JOBS

  • *TRUMP: ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION DIVIDES WORKING, POLITICAL CLASSES

  • *TRUMP TO SAY GREAT NATIONS DON'T FIGHT ENDLESS WARS

  • *TRUMP TO REITERATE CALL FOR CHEAPER DRUGS

  • *TRUMP TO URGE BOTH PARTIES TO UNITE FOR INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN

Watch Live, starting at 2100ET...

*  *  *

But, if you find yourself drifting off - like during the Super Bowl - here are some prop bets (courtesy of ActionNetwork.com)

Will Trump say “thanks” or “thank you” first?

  • Thanks +300 (25% chance)

  • Thank You -500 (83.8% chance)

What will be the length of Trump’s speech?

  • One hour or longer -250 (71.4% chance)

  • Less than one hour +140 (37% chance)

What color will Trump’s tie be?

  • Red -120 (54.5% chance)

  • Blue +110 (52.4% chance)

  • Other +450 (18.2% chance)

Will Trump say Caravans?

  • Yes +275 (26.7% chance)

  • No -450 (81.8% chance)

Will Trump say Fake News?

  • Yes +800 (11.1% chance)

  • No -2500 (96.2% chance)

Will Trump say Make America Great Again?

  • Yes -550 (84.6% chance)

  • No +325 (23.5% chance)

Will Trump say National Emergency?

  • Yes +275 (26.7% chance)

  • No -450 (81.8% chance)

Will Trump say Witch Hunt?

  • Yes +1200 (7.7% chance)

  • No -5000 (98% chance)

Which will be said more times during Trump’s Speech?

  • Wall -600 (85.7% chance)

  • Huge +400 (20% chance)

How many times will “Kavanaugh” be mentioned?

  • Over 1.5  -115 (53.5% chance)

  • Under 1.5  -115 (53.5% chance)

Will Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi stand and clap for Trump?

  • Yes +200 (33.3% chance)

  • No -300 (75% chance)

Will Alexandria Ocasio Cortez stand at any point during Trump’s speech?

  • Yes -220 (68.8% chance)

  • No +180 (35.7% chance)

How many times will Trump say “Democrats”?

  • Over 2.5  -300 (75% chance)

  • Under 2.5  +200 (33.3% chance)

How many times will Trump say “Crisis”?

  • Over 3.5  -105 (51.2% chance)

  • Under 3.5  -135 (57.4% chance)

And finally - though we implore responsibility - here is the SOTU drinking game (source)...

*  *  *

And because we are fair and balanced - here is The Democratic Party's response by Stacey Abrams...

  • *ABRAMS TO HIGHLIGHT FREE, FAIR ELECTIONS IN RESPONSE TO TRUMP

  • *ABRAMS SAYS SHUTDOWN WAS A `STUNT' ENGINEERED BY TRUMP

Published:2/6/2019 5:21:15 AM
[World] [Ilya Somin] My Upcoming Speaking Engagements for the Next Several Months

Ilya Somin's upcoming speaking engagements for the next few months, covering topics such as federalism, immigration, "voting with your feet," property rights, and others.

For readers who may be interested, here is a list of my upcoming speaking engagements for the next few months, covering a variety of topics. Unless otherwise noted, all are free and open to the public.

February 7, University of Texas Law School, Austin, TX, 2:45-4:30 PM: "Federalism, Executive Power, and Sanctuary Cities," Panel on "Unilateral Presidential Lawmaking," conference on "Reclaiming - and Restoring - Constitutional Norms" (co-sponsored by the American Constitution Society and the Texas Law Review). A complete program for this conference is available here.

February 15, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, Time TBA: "Severability and the New Obamacare Case," panel on severability and the Obamacare case, conference on severability and judicial power. I wrote about this issue here and here.

March 6, New York University School of Law, New York, NY, 1-2:30 PM: "Time to Get Moving on Making it Easier to Move: Zoning Reform and other Strategies to Expand Opportunities for Americans to 'Vote with their Feet'" (with comments by NYU law Prof. Vicki Been, a leading academic expert on zoning). Sponsored by the NYU student chapter of the Federalist Society.

March 21-22, Bagwell Center for the Study of Markets and Economic Opportunity, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA, times TBA: I will do two talks, one on "Democracy and Political Ignorance," and another on a property rights topic. The first will be the evening of March 21, the second the next day around noon or so.

May 3-4, University of San Diego, San Diego, CA, exact time TBA: "Foot Voting and the Future of Democracy," conference on "The Travails of Democracy" (tentative title).

May 23-24, Rome, Italy, conference on "Administrative Limits to Property Rights," sponsored by European Research Council Advanced Grant on The Common Core of European Administrative Laws, exact time TBA: "Eminent Domain and Property Rights in the United States" (tentative title). I am not yet sure to what extent this event will be open to the public. But I will update this post when I have that information.

I will update this post when I get additional information on some of the events for which I do not yet have exact times and the like.

Published:1/30/2019 9:08:45 PM
[Markets] People Love "Medicare For All" - Until They Find Out It Will Raise Taxes

While "Medicare-for-all" is set to become a 2020 Democratic talking point, support for the universal healthcare scheme crumbles when people are asked if they'd be willing to pay higher taxes or put up with delays in treatment to get it, according to the Associated Press.

According to a survey released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, initial support for the "Medicare-for-all" comes in at 56% - increasing to as much as 71% when people are told it would guarantee health insurance as a right, eliminate premiums and reduce out-of-pocket expenses. 

When told that it would increase taxes or lead to delays in service, however, support for the program dropped to 37% and 26% respectively.

"The issue that will really be fundamental would be the tax issue," says Harvard professor Robert Blendon of the T.H. Chan School of Public Health in response to the poll. Blendon noted that single-payer programs in Vermont and Colorado failed due to concerns over tax increases required to fund them. 

There doesn't seem to be much disagreement that a single-payer system would require tax increases, since the government would take over premiums now paid by employers and individuals as it replaces the private health insurance industry. The question is how much.

Several independent studies have estimated that government spending on health care would increase dramatically, in the range of about $25 trillion to $35 trillion or more over a 10-year period. But a recent estimate from the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst suggests that it could be much lower. -Associated Press

In the first year of the program, the government would need to come up with around $1.1 trillion to fund the program, even with significant cost savings. 

According to Mollyann Brodie who directed the Kaiser poll, the big swings in approval vs. disapproval suggest that the debate over "Medicare-for-all" will only heat up from here. "You immediately see that opinion is not set in stone on this issue," she said. 

"Any public debate about 'Medicare-for-all' will be a divisive issue for the country at large," added Brodie. 

The poll also reveals that most Democrats want House Democrats to focus on improving the Affordable Care Act (ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare).

Two other Democratic healthcare alternatives received widespread support according to the poll. 

Majorities across the political spectrum backed allowing people ages 50-64 to buy into Medicare, as well as allowing people who don't have health insurance on the job to buy into their state's Medicaid program.

Separately, another private survey out Wednesday finds the uninsured rate among US adults rose to 13.7% in the last three months of 2018. The Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index found an increase of 2.8 percentage points since 2016, the year Trump was elected promising to repeal "Obamacare." That would translate to about 7 million more uninsured adults. -Associated Press

According to government surveys, the rate of uninsured has remained virtually unchanged under Trump.  

Published:1/23/2019 2:53:32 PM
[Markets] A Satirical Dream: Trump's 2019 State Of The Union Address

Authored by Doug “Uncola” Lynn via TheBurningPlatform.com,

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and my fellow Americans:

It’s been another year since your president has stood before you to, once again, deliver yet another State of the Union address.

Tonight, however, will not be the standard fare.  Instead of half-truths and false optimism, I am going to set aside all that in order to say what I believe is true.

Dear citizens, we now stand a crossroads and we must choose.  We must choose if we are to move forward and deal with the real problems facing our nation, or to progress as a country of corruption; whether to return to our roots as an honorable republic – a nation of laws,  or to continue our decline into lawlessness and the abyss.

Slightly more than two years ago, I was elected by patriotic Americans to make our nation great again. Through the votes of those Americans, we defeated a corrupt globalist puppet who has served at the whim of a global banking elite set on world domination.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower warned  of an ever growing military industrial complex and John F. Kennedy identified secret societies operating as asystem which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations” and in ways that were “repugnant in a free and open society”.

There is a quote often attributed to one of our nation’s founders and earliest presidents, Thomas Jefferson, which states:

Banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, banks and corporations will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

And another quote most commonly attributed to a founding father of international finance, Mayer Amschel Rothschild, who said:

Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws

Now, whether or not these exact quotes were, in fact, said by these men, they still reflect certain truths throughout history.

In our own nation, what began over one century ago, with the establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913, through the dishonest weights and measures of Fractional Reserve Banking, has decimated the purchasing power of our currency, and through exponentially-grown debt has, indeed, enslaved our nation’s children on the land of our ancestors.

Moreover, by means of banker subsidized wars around the world and a sinister agenda of global conquest through what is known as the Hegelian Dialectic, sovereign nation states are now held hostage by a small but powerful cabal in control of the Bank of International Settlements.

These banking elites are beholden only to themselves as they seek to establish what they have called a New World Order.

Since the assassination of John F. Kennedy and followed by the Nixon Shockthat removed America’s currency from the gold standard, thus began the decline of our nation’s manufacturing base, as military engagements were openly, and covertly, executed around the globe.

Furthermore, over the past four decades, our educational system was subverted in order to dumb down our citizenry, and governmental welfare programs were expanded until now, today, the majority of American citizens have been lulled into a contented slumber via phony prosperity, faux money, fake news and an arbitrarily immoral code of political correctness.

Through the financial acquisition and consolidation of the nation’s media outlets and entertainment venues, and via the steady barrage of consistent and hypnotic electronic programming, the globalists have hypnotized a majority of American voters to abandon their vigilance to our founding principles; and our borders.

Affirmation of rights derived from natural law, honesty, morality, self-reliance, equality of opportunity, fiscal responsibility, and limited government has now, through the degrading indoctrination of Cultural Marxism, been subordinated to counterfeit concerns over bathroom rights, skin color, and genitalia.

Before the globalists can destroy America, they must first eradicate our identity.  And, this, my fellow Americans, goes to the very heart of our current gridlock in our nation’s capital which has resulted in our longest government shutdown in history.

Can a nation exist without borders?  The answer to that question is, of course, “no”; because borders are necessary to geographically separate ideologically disparate countries of separate peoples and from each respective nation’s code of laws, economic system, and currency.

But you see, this is not in the best interest of the global financial elite who desire one world order.  If one looks to history they will see how slavery is rooted in economics, and this, dear citizens, is what they, who would be our rulers, desire.

Whether delivered by crony capitalism, communism, collectivism, leftism, socialism, or by any other name, it’s always the same:  An elite few who deceive the useful idiots within any population with promises of utopia and equality; yet always resulting in a short-lived wicked paradise for those select few and, invariably, delivered by means of poverty, death, and despair.

I stand before you tonight, not as a politician, but as your president; a former international businessman envisioning a multilateral world of sovereign nations cooperating through fair trade and mutual respect for law and order. I seek to reestablish American liberty, her traditions of innovation and excellence; a beautiful city, shining.

But, my political opponents – those who favor globalism, seek only power and control through centralization, regulations, and unjust laws designed to stifle individual achievement, autonomy, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Today, my fellow Americans, the wall on our southern border is a line in the sand between those who stand with me and those who desire global hegemony.  For, you see, out of the chaos of a world in turmoil, the international elite seek to establish order.

One world under them. A world without borders.

Senator Chuck Schumer has recently stated that a wall won’t work while lamenting my proposed $5.7 billion of taxpayer funds.  He also called me a liar because I have said Mexico will pay for the wall.  So I ask you, my fellow Americans, do you believe Chuck actually cares about your money?

If he did, he would realize that Mexico will pay for the wall by keeping their citizens in their own country instead of on America’s welfare rolls.

Besides, if Senator Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats, and their globalist handlers, truly believed a great big, glorious wall on our southern border wouldn’t work, they’d allow me to build it.  Then, if it was ineffective, they could use the failure against me in 2020. But that’s not happening.  Do you know why? It’s because they all know a wall will work in assuring America’s sovereignty.  That’s why.

The Bible’s First book of Kings, in chapter three, tells of two prostitutes who recently birthed children. When one woman’s baby died, she stole the other mother’s child.  When the matter was taken up with King Solomon, he instructed the women to cut the sole surviving baby in half. Of course, the child’s real mother spoke up first to prevent that madness.  In so doing, Solomon knew it was the real mother who spoke first and who had the child’s best interests at heart.

This story speaks to motives and to honor.

I seek to protect America’s borders in order to secure the future of America’s children.  Yet, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, other Democrats, and their globalist handlers, are willing to sacrifice the United States, and her progeny, for the sake of playing politics and power games.

And what do I mean when I say these politicians are serving their globalist “handlers”?  Well, follow the money; and where the money is, there is power.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, and the passing of the Patriot Act, the Global Technocrats have ceaselessly constructed an online framework of gatedoors and checkpoints ranging from facial recognition software, social media censorship, and a dystopian panopticon of total surveillance.

Even as whistleblowers like Edward Snowden revealed the violations of American’s Fourth Amendment rights as, over the same period of time, law enforcement agencies were militarized all across this land.

Just as technological breakthroughs in computing and the proliferation of “smart” communication and entertainment devices gave rise to government spying, it was not a very large leap of understanding to see how easy it would be too blackmail and control not only citizens, but government administrators, politicians, officials, and even judges around the globe:

Is it any wonder why border laws are not enforced throughout the wealthy “democratic” nations of the world?  Or why U.S. politicians pass legislation against the will of those who voted for them?  Or why Chief Justice John Roberts passed the unconstitutional Obamacare mandate by calling it a tax?

Dear citizens, I now fully understand Senator Chuck Schumer’s warning to me in his MSNBC interview on January 3rd, 2017 when he said:

Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday to get back at you.

Today’s modern manifestation of George Orwell’s INGSOC party, led by loyal uniparty U.S. Democrats and Neocon Republicans, have sought to control private lives, consolidate power, and restrict personal freedoms by weaponizing healthcare, welfare, FISA Courts, illegal immigration, anti-gun initiatives, and they’ve even made Vladimir Putin into a modern day incarnation of Orwell’s imaginary and infamous scapegoat, Emmanuel Goldstein.

Today, the same people who have accused me of being homophobic, zenophobic, and islamophobic – have embraced a fraudulent special counsel investigation by which they now see imaginary Russians hiding in the shadows of every corner.

From the time I announced my candidacy for President of the United States, I was ridiculed by the political establishment, Hollywood, and the Corporate Mainstream Media.  When it appeared that I could win, the U.S. Intelligence Agencies, under President Obama, spied on my campaign and set up members of my team for a grand scheme of entrapment arranged by former CIA Director, and perjurist, John Brennan; even as corrupt high-ranking officials in the FBI, like James Comey, arranged for Hillary Clinton’s crimes to be swept under the political rug.

This phony Russian election hacking narrative then, in turn, provided cover for the Elite Powerbrokers to censor the free internet, allowed Barrack Obama to sign into law a “Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act”, let former National Security Advisor Susan Rice feloniously unmaskofficials in my administration, and forced my newly –appointed National  Security Advisor, Mike Flynn, to resign; even as my new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, was intimidated into recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

Sessions’ recusal, of course, led to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint his former FBI co-conspirator, Robert Mueller, to investigate me.

Over the last two years of my administration, the Russia investigation has dominated the headlines of media corporations owned by international financial elite, and comprising ninety percent of all news media outlets throughout our nation.

We now know today the phony Russian dossier was fake opposition research paid for by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign.

Still, two years later, the investigation continues.  And consider what has occurred over the last two years:  Every time news stories broke regarding what has become known as Spygate, Crossfire Hurricane, FISA Abuse, Fusion GPS, or the phony Russian Dossier – Mueller and Rosenstein would, in response, indict innocent Russians who would never see the inside of a courtroom, arrest my private attorney, or indict someone else affiliated with me like Carter Page, Paul Manafort, General Flynn, and others.

On February 16, 2018 Mueller and Rosenstein charged thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian groups for meddling in U.S. elections. In that press conference, Rosenstein said the indictment contained NO allegations of collusion by members of my campaign or my administration.  Rosenstein also assured the nation there was NO “determination that elections were influenced as a result of Russian activities”.

But, two days later, when conservative radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, on February 18, 2018, and conflated the Russian Investigation with President Obama’sspying on my campaign, what happened next?

Two days after that, special counsel Mueller charged the son-in-law of a Russian oligarch who was an acquaintance of someone who once did business with someone who once chaired my campaign for a few months.

Innuendo, accusations, headlines and sound bites. Move, countermove. Punch and counter punch.

On April 3rd, 2018 reports of an August 2017 memo surfaced in the media showing illegal collusion between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  The violation of special counsel law was in Rosenstein’s intentionally vague court filing with no specifics of facts to be investigated.  In essence, the memo revealed Rosenstein gave Mueller a blank check to investigate me illegally, and endlessly.  At the time, there were those in the media calling for both Rosenstein and Mueller to terminate the investigation.

So what happened next?

Less than a week later, in a manner unprecedented in all of American history, the FBI raided the office and residence a sitting president’s personal attorney.

On June 7th, 2018 a top senate intelligence staffer was charged in a leak case where a New York Times reporter’s records were seized.  The very next day, in another vain attempt to add marginal credibility to his floundering quest, Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a fresh witness tampering indictment against my former campaign chair Paul Manafort and Russian citizen Konstantin Kilimnik.

Innuendo, accusations, headlines and sound bites. Move, countermove. Punch and counter punch.

That same month, after the release of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on Hillary Clinton’s e-mail investigation, five FBI officials were revealed to have colluded against me but none of their illicit actions were said to have been politically motivated. This, even though one of the agents exclaimed “viva le resistance”  after my election win. That agent was later hired by special counsel Robert Mueller.

On the same day the Inspector General’s report was released, New York’s attorney general sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation, myself, and others, in order to dissolve the foundation for “persistent illegal conduct” over more than a decade.

Innuendo, accusations, headlines and sound bites. Move, countermove. Punch and counter punch.

Also the very next day after the FBI’s “den of thieves” were revealed in the IG Report, my former Campaign Chair, Paul Manafort, had his house arrest revoked and was sentenced to prison  for alleged witness tampering.

Innuendo, accusations, headlines and sound bites. Move, countermove. Punch and counter punch.

And on it goes; even after it was revealed that U.S. Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, abused the power of his office by threatening to subpoena the calls and texts of Congress in order to obstruct the Legislative Branch’s constitutionally mandated oversight of the DOJ and FBI.

In July of 2018, in an effort to divert publicity away from the Capitol Hill testimony of disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok, and to subvert my efforts toward peace with Russia, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the Mueller Investigation’s single indictment of Twelve Russian intelligence officers for alleged election hacking in 2016.

Innuendo, accusations, headlines and sound bites. Move, countermove. Punch and counter punch.

Even though by August of 2018, it had become clear Obama’s former CIA Director John Brennan was the mastermind behind Spygate and many more media outlets were reporting it was Hillary Clinton and U.S. intelligence officials who colluded with Russians and others to entrap me.

Even though a former FBI agent who “is ashamed of what the FBI has become” found it “absolutely preposterous”  that Deputy Director Rod Rosenstein was still in his position knowing that he signed off on the final FISA application to spy on me; especially in light of my then Attorney General having to recuse himself from the case.

So I ask you tonight, my fellow Americans: 

Why is Hillary Clinton’s payment to Fusion GPS not under investigation by Mueller and Rosenstein?

Why has the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice downplayed, and even covered-up, Mrs. Clinton’s illegal use of private servers when she was President Obama’s Secretary of State, and the obstruction of justice involved with her illegally deleted e-mails?

Why hasn’t former President Obama, former Secretary State Hillary Clinton, former FBI director Robert Mueller and former attorney general Eric Holder been called into account yet regarding the Uranium One scandal Why?  Especially when it involved the sale of a large percentage of America’s uranium deposits to Russia, the same country for which these same criminals have accused me of collusion.

It is because they believe themselves to be above the law.

These same criminals who created ISIS to destabilize the middle-east and create a mass migration crisis designed to destabilize the western nations of the northern hemisphere.  All of these criminals are puppets on strings pulled by those now creating anarchy so as to sift the nations into a New World Order.

The elite bankers have sown seeds of economic chaos, including the subprime mortgage crisis a decade ago, only to be bailed out; which, in effect, transferred their debts onto the backs of the American taxpayers.  Debts, I might add, which were incurred as result of these same banker’s malicious malfeasance and greed.

My dear citizens, it is also these same bankers who plan to become the founding fathers of the new and improved centralized and cashless world system.

This is why we’ve seen eight Federal Reserve interest rate hikes since my election in 2016.

The International Financial elite WANT the American economy to collapse.  In fact, they NEED it to collapse, because out of chaos comes order.

This also explains why the globalists are now lusting after the guns of law-abiding American citizens.

My fellow Americans, the globalists cannot allow you to defend yourselves against the tyranny of the state. It’s because this would inhibit their plans of establishing their New World Technocracy.

In his 1991 book, “Behold a Pale Horse”, former United States Naval Intelligence Briefing Team member William Cooper warned of a secret initiative by our Central Intelligence Agency.  In this sinister plan, described by Cooper near three decades ago, a project called “Orion” was revealed whereby drugs and hypnosis were to be used on mental patients coerced into shooting children in schools. The plan was to inflame the antigun lobby and cause middle class Americans to beg their government “protectors” into obliterating the 2nd Amendment.

– Cooper, Milton William. (1991). “Behold a Pale Horse”, Light Technology Publications, page 225

And, look what’s happened since that time.  So many school shootings; and always occurring in similar ways.

First, there is some sort of an active drill, either scheduled or ongoing, and then shots are fired.

Within hours, the murderer is reported to be extremely troubled, if not insane, under psychiatric care and on psychotropic drugs, as several people claim they all “saw it coming”, or, in some instances, saying they are completely surprised that the person they knew could massacre so many.

Next, prophetic postings placed prior on social media by the shooter are revealed. Of course, these are never discovered until it’s too late.  Most commonly, an AR-type or similar semi-automatic will have been used with the necessary large-capacity magazines.  This is because both semi-automatics and large-capacity magazines are highly coveted targets in the sites of the politicians and globalists hiding behind their own armed security on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations.

And finally, we all know what happens next: The political establishment types like Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and others, all circle like methamphetamine -addled chickens clucking about “doing something” so “it never happens again”.

My fellow Americans, don’t be fooled. This has happened according to plan and right on schedule.

In the aftermath of the Sandyhook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama issued 23 executive actions and proposed 19 legislative actions.  After the Virginia Tech shooting new rules were passed that allowed the Social Security Administration to provide information to the gun background check system of people with “mental disabilities”. After Vegas and Parkland, it was bump-stocks.

Do you see a pattern?

But even more sinister is how the captive media will use these types of crisis events to change the national conversation away from the Democratic Party embarrassments that perform poorly in focus group polling and in the media.

For example, immediately prior to the midterm elections last fall, Brett Kavanuagh’s Supreme Court nomination process revealed the Democrats as lying rats and fools. That was when the captive media quickly switched channels to show the slow-motion Latin American invasion.  But when that backfired as well, what happened next?  An anti-semitic white nationalist shot up a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a Republican, with “Make America Great Again” stickers on his white van, was arrested for mailing explosive devices to my most prominent political opponents.

REALLY, people?  REALLY?

Well, my point is that many Americans today are very gullible.  And predictable too. Or at least the loony liberals who swallow ersatz pretense more vigorously than starving vegans ingurgitating Tofurky on Thanksgiving.

So what happened next?  Of course, the Democrats won the House and here we are now with the longest government shutdown in American history.

Certainly, these insane loons would have had much more difficulty winning if not for the never-ending propaganda spewed forth by the captive media, the bias of Google searches, and the censorship of social media platforms.

But you see, my dear Americans, it’s no different than the way the Russian election-hacking lies have been propagandized over the real collusion of Spygate, Crossfire Hurricane, and FISA abuse.  The captive crony capitalist corporations ceaselessly shill their divisive deception around the world twice while the truth ties its shoes and gets slandered as fake news.

But in spite of all that, I am still here representing those who voted for me; and, even, those who didn’t vote for me.

This is why on Saturday, January 19, 2019 I announced my BRIDGE Act which included two offers to the Democrats in exchange for the $5.7 billion in funds for a border wall. First, I proposed an extension of DACA protections for Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, and, secondly, I offered to extend the legal status of Temporary Protected Status holders.

Dear citizens, as you know, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said this was not a good faith effort on my part.

So, in turn, I ask you, my fellow Americans:  What are they offering? What have they brought to the negotiation table in good faith?

Nothing. Only more of the same.

As I stand before you now, in this majestic chamber, speaking on your behalf, addressing your concerns, your hopes, and your dreams – know that your nation is at a crossroads.

Since becoming your president, we’ve rapidly and radically changed the federal judiciary including two, soon to be three, new Supreme Court justices.  We’ve passed tax reform, repealed the individual mandate, and made progress in deregulation in spite of congressional gridlock.  We’ve cut government waste, defeated ISIS, and withdrew from the horrible and unfair Paris Climate Accord.

Over the last year alone, in 2018, we’ve replaced NAFTA with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Deal, ended Obama’s terrible Iran Nuclear agreement, confronted China, increased minority jobs, raised middle class wages, and achieved record oil production.

I have gone forward with a courageous vision and an honorable mission:  To make America great again for all Americans.

With the help of those in the United States Senate, we’ve appointed judges who’ll interpret the Constitution as it was written, and we’ve added more circuit court judges than anyone believed possible.

I’ve defended our Second Amendment and have acted to protect religious liberties.

I’ve made real efforts toward immigration reform – towards ending chain migration and the visa lottery.  And, now, I’m standing strong against the globalist powerbrokers who seek to deny patriotic Americans their wall; a more-than-symbolic line in the sand against southern invaders seeking to make the Democratic Party, and also Islam, great again.

Yes, ranchers have found Islamic prayer rugs on our southern border. This means while TSA agents are fondling your children at airport security gates, men with backpacks are entering this country unchecked, at the invitation of Democratic Party leaders like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

We need a wall on our southern border and, yes, it is a matter of national security.

So, my fellow Americans, I stand here, on your behalf, against those escaping their own shithole countries, in order to turn America into a shithole country like the ones they just left behind.

I stand against a Mainstream Media spewing enough shameless propaganda to cause George Orwell to blush in his grave.

I stand against Democrats and Neocon Republicans, alike, who daily lick the boots of their elite globalist masters while governing against the will of liberty-loving Americans.

I stand against those who are coming for your guns.

I stand against those who would kill your children, as well as other children around the world, in order to consign America to the ash heap of history; and for no other reasons than to satisfy their insatiable greed and lust for power.

I stand for the peace and harmony of the world’s sovereign nations.

Winning will not be easy. On the contrary, it will be hard.  Very hard.

To be sure, it will soon become even more difficult because it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Let the sunlight shine into the dark.  Right now, in this very moment, I am authorizing the release to the general public, all FBI and DoJ documentation having to do with the Russian investigation.

Let all of those on earth see how the bankers nearly stole the world.

My Fellow Americans:  It’s not over.  We’re just getting started.

Be assured the globalists will crash America’s economy prior to the next presidential election in 2020.  They will blame my trade policies and tax reforms.  But it will be the result of Fed tightening.  It’s always the Fed.  It’s always the bankers.

America will never be defined by the greed of international financiers, corporate oligarchs, servile politicians, or a slavish media.

You know who you are. Stay proud. Stay in the fight.

We will not lose.

By God almighty, we will not fail.

Thank you, and God bless America.

Published:1/20/2019 2:06:32 PM
[Markets] This Problem Is 10,000 Times Bigger Than The Border Wall

Authored by Simon Black via SovereignMan.com,

We are in the midst of the longest government shutdown in history.

Don’t get me wrong, I like having the government shut down. As I’ve said before, I believe it is my moral duty to pay as little taxes as possible.

The government does some really stupid things with your tax dollars. I’d rather not pay for a $2 billion Obamacare website that doesn’t work, or to defend Congressmen against sexual assault allegations.

So, by starving the beast, I at least ensure they’re not squandering my money.

But I think it’s ridiculous that this government posturing is financially crippling the 800,000 government workers (and millions of contractors) who are now out of work – or being forced to work without pay. To be fair, last night the president signed a law guaranteeing they would be paid for past work – a month into this fiasco. It’s a step in the right direction, as there’s a word for forcing people to work without pay – slavery.

That’s why I offered to pay the rent of any government workers hurt by the shutdown. I am using my tax savings to bail out some of these government workers the feds left high and dry.

But at its core, this whole shutdown comes down to a disagreement over $5 billion. That is how much money Trump wants to build the border wall between the US and Mexico. And Congress refuses to fund it.

Granted, that’s a lot of money to you and me. And it should be a lot of money to the government, too.

But the government is almost $22 TRILLION in debt and adding another trillion every single year.

We are talking about a fight over an expenditure that amounts to .02% of the total national debt.

Social Security is $50 TRILLION underfunded by the government’s own estimates. Tens of millions of Americans are relying on Social Security for retirement.

How is that going to be funded? That’s a problem 10,000 times bigger than this fight over funding a border wall.

But does Congress shut down the government to solve that? Do they refuse to budge until the Americans that have spent their lives paying into a broken pension system are made whole?

No.

But they’ll put millions of people out of work in the blink of an eye over a comparably tiny sum.

And then the politicians have the nerve to get on a high horse and fake moral superiority while it plays out.

I hate that the government spends money so callously and recklessly. And I really don’t care much whether the wall gets built or not… Taking advantage of Puerto Rico’s tax laws, I won’t be paying for it either way.

If the government had any respect for the taxpayers, they would pinch every single penny. That’s obviously not the case.

They clearly don’t care about their employees, either. Otherwise, they wouldn’t let $5 billion stand in the way of millions of paychecks that these people depend on to pay their rent.

And don’t fool yourself. This shutdown isn’t about money. It is an ideological fight with both sides digging their heels in.

The politicians dragging the shutdown on are showing their true colors. This dysfunction is a tiny preview of what will happen when the real problems come home to roost.

So here’s the truth: they are building a wall. And every single member of Congress is helping. But it’s not the wall you think…

Behind that wall, the government is hiding the real crisis.

Forget the $5 whatever billion dollars the government wants for the border wall.

Instead, you should focus on the national debt – which is a problem 4,400 times bigger than the wall.

And the collapse of Social Security is a problem 10,000 times bigger than the funding needed for the wall.

So don’t be fooled by this dummy crisis the government is conjuring. That’s what they want.

Just remember, if you rely on the government for anything, they’ll happily throw you under the bus to further their own agenda.

The real power is with the individual. You have the tools and resources to solve these issues for yourself.

For example, you could consider a retirement structure like a Solo 401(k) or self-directed SEP IRA that allows you a greater breadth of investment options– everything from real estate to crypto to private equity.

Meanwhile, the guy living in Puerto Rico and not paying any taxes is happy to pitch in to help his fellow man.

Published:1/17/2019 8:19:49 PM
[Markets] Here's What An American Economic Collapse Could Look Like

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

When we think of “economic collapse” our imaginations usually lead us immediately to the desperation we’ve witnessed in places like Venezuela or Greece. We think of starvation, a complete lack of medical care, and waves of suicide by people who simply can’t survive. We imagine an apocalyptic societal breakdown that is immediately visible.

Here in America, I suspect the collapse is going to look a lot different than it has in these other countries... at least, at first. And in my description, it’s entirely likely you’ll see that many of these signs have been happening all around us for years.

It will be gradual.

The thing with collapses that we see in the media is that we are seeing the end results of events that have been slowly declining for years. Venezuela was one of the wealthiest countries in the world back until the mid-1980s, due to their rich oil reserves. Then oil prices collapsed and their fall began. It was actually several decades though before it was truly evident that the country was in trouble.

Preparedness bloggers here have been sounding the warning bell since 2008 (at least) when our economy went into a recession. While the US managed to dig its way out of that to at least an illusion of renewed prosperity, it’s questionable how much of that return was real and how much of it was propaganda.

It’s unlikely that we’ll see just one event that says clearly to everyone, “Hey, our economy has collapsed. The Great Depression 2.0 has arrived, today, January 14, 2019, due to X event.”

Instead, we’ll continue to see signs like a lack of full-time jobs with benefits, growing student and consumer debt, more people who can’t afford rent and food, and more stores closing their doors forever in an ongoing retail apocalypse.

Because of the ready availability of credit cards and loans, things don’t seem that bad. People are still shopping for frivolous things. They’re still spending billions on Christmas. They’re still eating out at restaurants.

But just because that “money” is being spent does not mean that people are okay financially.

It will seem like it’s just individual families having a hard time.

The way things are going down in America, it doesn’t seem like we’re facing a national crisis. Consumers are consuming. People are working – just look at those “jobs” numbers. Folks are still having barbecues with the neighbors, hosting extravagant holiday get-togethers, and avidly following the football season.

But the American dream isn’t actually that dreamy. Because beneath all the trappings of our pleasant lives, people are right on the verge of a crisis.

40% of Americans could not handle an unexpected expense of only $400 without having to sell something they own. 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That means that only one missed paycheck will be a financial disaster for the majority of Americans.

And when that missed paycheck or unexpected expense comes, people will completely blame themselves. They’ll silently feel like failures and not realize that the entire system is crumbling all around them. They will believe it is only their family, due to their own bad decisions, that is suffering.

Sure, we could all make better choices from time to time. We could skip those vacations or spend less on the kids at Christmas or go on the beans-and-rice-and-apples diet. We could eschew credit cards, live beneath our means, and go full-Spartan with our lifestyles.

Sometimes the money problems are out of our hands.

But even with the very best personal economic decisions, a lot of things are out of our hands. What if a family member becomes seriously ill, with heaven forbid, a heart attack or cancer? Even with health insurance (which a growing number of middle-class families, mine included, cannot afford), the out of pocket costs will be astronomical. And that’s not even factoring in the long-term loss of the sick person’s income. Total financial disaster and it’s not something that can be avoided.

Or what if your vehicle is totaled by an uninsured driver? Even when your own insurance covers what you’ve paid off on your vehicle, what if you just break even and then can’t afford another vehicle? Then you can’t get to work…then you can’t pay your bills…then, again, a disaster not of your own making has struck.

Any time you see a family suffering financially, you must understand that very few of us are immune to money problems. We all handle these financial catastrophes differently and we all use the skills and talents we have to deal with them. Some of us are more fortunate than others – we’re able to pick up second and third jobs. We’re able to slash our expenses more relentlessly. Maybe we live in areas that are ripe with employment opportunities, instead of economically depressed small towns. We may not have poor health or sick children who require 24-hour care and supervision.

Heck – once you add in children at all, you’re paying for daycare every time you go to work. I know that when my kids were little and I was a single mom, I had to take a second job just to cover my daycare costs, which, in the summer, were as much as my rent. I worked seven days a week for years and lost so much time with my children that it broke my heart.

It’s really easy to look down on others who are having a hard time with money but always remember that just one crisis could put each of us in that place. We’re living in a system that is designed to put us in that place.

The divide will get bigger.

In the United States, we’re watching a disappearing act that unfortunately is no illusion. We’re watching the middle class vanish. Remember when it was common for just about everyone to have trappings like houses, two cars in the driveway, and kids who play baseball in the summer and take gymnastics lessons in the winter? Lifestyles that used to put us firmly right in the middle class are harder and harder to achieve. And it isn’t just that Americans are lazy and addicted to spending money they don’t have.

The biggest blow I can think of to the middle class was the inappropriately named Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  While that helped a lot of people who couldn’t afford any healthcare at all, with subsidies and low-to-no deductibles, for the rest of us who had a reasonable plan before, it was financially apocalyptic. There was story after story of families paying thousands of dollars per month for shoddy care that didn’t kick in until $10,000 had been spent out of pocket. This took formerly middle-class families and pushed them into the poverty level. But because their ridiculous monthly insurance payments weren’t write-offs, they couldn’t get subsidized. Talk about irony – the ACA impoverished people and then wouldn’t cover their healthcare.

When I talk about the divide, I’m not referring to so-called “income inequality.” That will always exist because we all have different skills, and different skills are worth differing amounts of money.

I’m talking about a divide in lifestyle. I’m talking about how people who work often two and three jobs can barely manage to survive. It’s a real problem when all we do is work and we can’t spend time raising our children to be good and productive members of society.

Don’t get me wrong – rich folks can spend their money however they want. But at some point, their glaring frivolity is going to paint a Marie-Antoinette-style target on their backs. Regular people who could pay for a year of living comfortably with one of the Birkin bags in their collections of $20,000 purses are getting increasingly ticked off of the way things are going in this country.

Eventually, things that are normal will become luxuries.

While things are tough, even some of our poorest citizens still have it better than 2/3 of the world’s population. Most of us have roofs over our heads, heat in the winter, running water, food, and electricity to run our refrigerators.

But that could change.

As our economy plummets and our national debt soars, we could see the things that we all take for granted today could become luxuries tomorrow. Imagine if the ordinary trappings that we’ve always had became as out of reach for most of us as a Lamborghini in the driveway.

What if only rich people could afford electricity? What about heat? What about running water?  What if that divide between the rich and the poor could be delineated by who had the ability to turn on a light at the flick of a switch and who did not?

Many people worry about an event like a solar flare that would wipe out electrical power, casting us back about 200 years.  We’d have no refrigeration, no transportation, no climate control, and no lights. But in that situation, we’d all be in the same boat. No matter how wealthy you are, any unprotected electrical items would still be useless.

What if that’s what the economic collapse looks like?

What if the real threat was simply that no one could afford to pay the electric bill?  What if prices escalated to the point that it was a choice between food and electricity?  What if, home by home, the lights went out across America?

And what about running water? A few years back, in Jefferson County, Alabama, the price of water quadrupled, making monthly water bills over $300.

Jefferson County in Alabama is the state’s most populous county and also its poorest. One of the poorest of those poor areas is Birmingham, Jefferson County’s largest city. Here water and sewerage bills have quadrupled in the last 15 years and with combined sewerage and water bills coming in at around $300 a month, this leaves the same amount out of the average social security cheque of $600 a month to cover everything else, food, clothing, and all other utilities. Low paid workers, of which there are many fare no better.

Many people have opted to buy drums of water from petrol stations rather than pay their ever increasing bills. They use these drums of water for drinking, washing and in their portable toilets which can be seen dotting back yards across the area, the modern version of the outhouse. They pay a fee to a sanitation company to remove the waste. It’s cheaper than letting the city take care of it. (source)

So imagine if this kind of thing became even more widespread. What if you had to be rich to have electricity and running water?

This is how it could happen.

What if it’s just an incremental crumbling of our way of life, one household at a time?

No bank runs. No government confiscation of resources. No dramatic event that we can all point to and say, “This is how the American economy was destroyed on (pick a date).”

Instead, it becomes harder and harder to pay your necessary bills. You go deeper and deeper into debt trying to pay for things like medical bills and food. Your job, if you keep it, doesn’t provide increases in pay to match the increases in the costs of living because the person running the business is just trying to survive too.

Then you re-evaluate what necessities are. You think about what you can work around. Which is more important? Medicine or childcare? Running water or electricity? Rent or food?

This is the future for which we should be preparing.

Stop expecting some huge event and look at the decline that’s already happening all around you. Think about your options in a world where only rich people can afford electricity and running water and food all at the same time.

Maybe the epic disaster everyone has been preparing for is slowing happening right now. It isn’t really that farfetched, is it?

Maybe the disaster is the crumbling of our First World lifestyle due to unsustainable debt and consumerism. Maybe it’s how they roll out the socialist utopia that control freaks all seem to desire. If everyone is desperate to survive or to regain their former luxuries, how hard would it be to manipulate them into a comfortable control grid?

If you want to maintain your independence, then self-reliance is survival.

Published:1/14/2019 9:33:14 PM
[Politics] And now the injunction on Trump’s Obamacare rule is NATIONWIDE You already know that the other day a judge in California blocked a Trump rule that allowed employers with religious or moral objections to opt out of Obamacare’s contraception coverage. That affected . . . Published:1/14/2019 5:29:50 PM
[Politics] And now the injunction on Trump’s Obamacare rule is NATIONWIDE You already know that the other day a judge in California blocked a Trump rule that allowed employers with religious or moral objections to opt out of Obamacare’s contraception coverage. That affected . . . Published:1/14/2019 5:29:50 PM
[Markets] Ron Paul Rages "Campaign Finance Reform? Don't Make Me Laugh!"

Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

Campaign Finance Reform Helps Special Interests

One of the new Democratic House majority’s top priorities is so-called campaign finance reform legislation. Contrary to the claims of its supporters, campaign finance reform legislation does not limit the influence of powerful special interests. Instead, it violates the First Amendment and burdens those seeking real change in government.

The First Amendment of the Constitution forbids Congress from interfering in any way with any citizen’s ability to influence government policies. Spending money to support candidates and causes is one way individuals influence government policies. Therefore, laws limiting and regulating donations to campaigns and organizations that work to change government policies violate the First Amendment.

One very troubling aspect of campaign finance reform laws is forcing organizations involved in “electioneering” to hand over the names of their top donors to the federal government. Electioneering is broadly defined to include informing the public of candidates’ positions and records, even if the group in question focuses solely on advancing issues and ideas. Burdening these types of organizations will make it harder for individuals to learn the truth about candidates’ positions.

America has a long and distinguished tradition of anonymous political speech. Both the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist papers where published anonymously. As Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote in NAACP v. Alabama, where the Supreme Court upheld the NAACP’s right to keep its membership list confidential, “Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs.”

Supporters of groups with “dissident beliefs” have good reason to fear new disclosure laws. In 2014, the IRS had to pay 50,000 dollars to the National Organization for Marriage because an IRS employee leaked donors names to the organization’s opponents. Fortunately, the Trump administration has repealed the regulation forcing activist groups to disclose their donors to the IRS. Unfortunately, Congress seems poised to reinstate that rule.

In recent years, we have seen the rise of authoritarian political movements that think harassment and even violence against those with differing views are acceptable tactics. Can anyone doubt that activists in these movements would do all they could to obtain the lists of donors to groups that oppose their agenda? They may be able to obtain the lists either by hacking government databases or by having a sympathetic federal employee “accidentally” leak the names.

As long as businesses can profit by currying favor with politicians and bureaucrats who have the power to reward or punish them via subsidies and regulations, powerful interests will find a way to influence the political process. These special interests seek out and reward politicians who support policies favoring their interests. So foreign policy hawks can count on generous support from the military-industrial complex, supporters of corporatist health care systems like Obamacare can count on generous support from the health insurance-pharma complex, and apologists for the Federal Reserve can count on support from the big banks.

Special interests do not favor free-market capitalism. Instead, they favor a mixed economy where government protects the profits of large business interests. That is why big business is more likely to support a progressive or a “moderate” than a libertarian. Campaign finance and donor disclosure laws will make it harder for grassroots liberty activists to challenge the corporatist status quo. Those wishing to get big money out of politics should work to get politics out of all aspects of the economy.

Published:1/14/2019 1:59:17 PM
[48a5725b-1846-5e1b-9e41-14d917cf1344] Beware: Medicare-for-all is fool's gold Medicare-for-all threatens to make the same exact mistake ObamaCare made – expanding health care coverage over controlling health care costs. Besides paying more for health care, patients would undoubtedly receive inferior care. Published:1/11/2019 3:37:29 AM
[Markets] House Budget chief asks CBO to lay out single-payer policy guidelines In a move showing House Democrat interest in moving beyond Obamacare, the chairman of the House Budget Committee is asking the Congressional Budget Office to set out the parameters of how a single-payer system would work.
Published:1/8/2019 2:53:25 PM
[Markets] 16 Democratic-led states appeal ruling that struck down Obamacare 16 Democratic-led states appeal ruling that struck down Obamacare Published:1/3/2019 6:23:57 PM
[Politics] Trump: SCOTUS Will Rule Obamacare Unconstitutional Predicting the Supreme Court will declare Obamacare unconstitutional, President Donald Trump predicted that will ultimately bring Democrats to the table to work "great healthcare" reform."That case from Texas should win in the Supreme Court," Trump told reporters at... Published:1/2/2019 4:16:43 PM
[ACA] NJ Politics Digest: In NJ, the Individual Mandate is Restored Republicans in Congress managed to curtail the individual mandate section of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as "Obamacare." But as of Jan. 1, New Jersey residents will once again be required to have health insurance. Published:1/2/2019 5:16:09 AM
[Markets] Jim Kunstler: 2019, Ding! Ding! Margin Call USA

Authored by James Howard Kunstler via Kunstler.com,

Welcome to the American hall of mirrors... and mind the broken glass all over the floor. That’s Nature’s way of saying the country has run out room to punk itself. 2018 was the consolidation of bad faith in everything we do: politics, the news media, economics & finance, show biz, regular biz, jurisprudence, medicine, education, and relations between men and women — the year of peak dishonesty and self-deception. Of course, the trouble with dishonesty is that it doesn’t comport with Reality, and Reality being Mother Nature’s husband, bats in the cleanup position. Entering 2019, the bases are loaded with delusions, misdirections, and turpitudes. I shall get right to it without further throat-clearing.

Trumpology

The nation’s focus remains clamped to mercurial character in the White House. If you subscribe to Strauss and Howe’s theories about The Fourth Turning, then you might see president Donald J. Trump playing the archetypal role they call “The Gray Champion,” an elder figure of the “transcendental” Boomer generation sent by fate to rescue a floundering society at a grave moment in the seasons of history. Yes, I know: we might have been better off calling Ghostbusters. A cardinal precept at this blog is that fate is a trickster. You order a Gray Champion and room service sends up a Golden Golem of Greatness.

To put it mildly, Mr. Trump has failed to charm at least half the country. They are embarrassed at his physical presence: his lumbering gait, like unto a behemoth land mammal of the Oligocene; that swaying bay window stomach half-concealed by the flaps of his suit-jacket and bisected by the oddly elongated necktie; the pained smile he puts on for the photo-ops; his man-spreading when seated with the world’s poohbahs, and that strange confection of sculpted hair, like the spun sugar on a Croquembouche, or the pouf on some horrifying plastic dashboard figurine. His manner of speech, the weird, palindromic repetitions, the childish artlessness of his casual utterances, the absence of Beltway focus-group cant, and of course the reviled Tweets — drive his opponents up a tree. The gilt-plastic trappings he surrounds himself with also offend them. For all I know, they hate his cologne, too.

His adversaries say he is “undermining institutions.” By this perhaps they mean the beloved DC gravy-train of regular institutionalized grift divvied up between elected officials, Wall Street, the War-and-Intel matrix, and the unholy infestation of lawyer-lobbyists slithering around the Swamp. Just look what happened when Mr. Trump threatened to end US military operations in Syria: apoplexy among the Neocons and Progs-for War — though none of them could coherently state what our strategy is there (is it to overthrow Assad so we can have another failed state in the Middle East?). Whatever Trump proposes in the way of policy is inadmissible because, according to the Resistance, Mr. Trump should not be allowed to propose policy, or order it, or direct it. Because he is… Trump….

Whatever you think of his agenda, Mr. Trump made the fateful mistake of bragging on the bubble economy that is now collapsing, and it will probably un-do him more effectively than all of the attempts to pin some actual crime on him by Robert Mueller. The Special Prosecutor has spent two years and has come up with little more than a handful of rinky-dink “process crimes” — mainly lying under oath, engineered by Mr. Mueller’s legal team and old friends in the FBI and DOJ after-the-fact. The Mueller investigation started with a false predicate — collusion with Russia — and entailed loads of prosecutorial mischief. We approach the climax of all that in early 2019. Mr. Mueller will issue his report before March. Maybe it will contain surprises, but the investigatory process involves so many people that it’s hard to believe no hints of any “bombshells” have leaked to the papers and cable news outfits. Rather, Mr. Mueller will depict a whole lot of nothing in the darkest possible light for the convenience of a house impeachment process, the holy grail of the Resistance, though the exercise is likely to fail if it gets to a senate trial.

But before that, there is the question of Mr. Mueller himself. My view is that Mr. Mueller has run a colossal cover-your-ass operation for the many documented misdeeds among the FBI and DOJ in cooking up this mess starting in the spring of 2016. His appointment in the first place was a gross error, considering his mentor relationship with James Comey and prior association with his putative supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. RR remains in that position despite being a witness in matters pending before Mr. Mueller (and other regulators such as federal prosecutor John Huber and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz), including the FISA warrant scandal, the Uranium One deal, and the tortured doings of the Hillary Clinton and her foundation.

January will kick off with the congressional extravaganza I’ll call Investi-Gate, as committees headed by Democratic chairs Gerald Nadler (Judiciary), Elijah Cummings (Oversight), and Adam Schiff (Intelligence) swarm the President and his associates like army ants on a drove of peccaries. They’ll haul in everybody and his uncle to keep the show going for their pals in the media. The star attraction will be Trump ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, though he will appear as a convicted liar. He may even defy the committee by not answering their subpoena before he has to report to federal prison in March. After all, Rod Rosenstein successfully defied more than one summons to congress for months on end. What will the House committee chairs do to Cohen? — threaten him with jail?

The house committee Investi-Gate circus is a sure thing, though, don’t forget, minority members can also call witnesses, and there is room for blowback on the venture. Republicans still chair the senate committees, and there may be a mud-fight between the two houses. Otherwise, expect a whole lot of grandstanding at the expense of paying attention to any of the nation’s serious business. Mr. Huber and Mr. Horowitz will also release reports in early 2019. Much of the recent criminal misbehavior in FBI / DOJ / Mueller orbit  lies within their commissions. Abundant evidence has already been published concerning the conspiracy to defeat Mr. Trump by subterfuge in the 2016 election, and further illegal attempts to injure him in the years following. Some of the characters in this horror show have already testified to grand juries.

Gen. Flynn was sent to the doghouse by Judge Emmet Sullivan at his December sentencing hearing for the purpose of rethinking his guilty plea. The idea is to persuade him to go to trial and force Mr. Mueller to go through a discovery process (of evidence) that could easily derail Mr. Mueller’s case and reflect poorly on the Special Counsel, perhaps even lead to legal problems for him in the way of malicious prosecution. Gen Flynn’s case also resolves one way or another in March.

Finally, Mr. Trump will be free to declassify a trove of documents in all these matters after Mr. Mueller reports. Doing so prior to that might set up the president on an obstruction of justice charge. If there’s anything germane in those docs, they could change the whole dramatic arc of the story that took over two years to develop. There’s plenty of chatter across the web about Mr. Trump invoking martial law or declaring some kinds of national emergency, plus loose talk about military tribunals and “thousands of sealed indictments,” but I’m not persuaded that there’s any reality to that.

Politics That Maybe Matter

This country faces a lot of practical problems that are not likely to be addressed if congress is preoccupied with Investi-Gate, and depending on how ferocious the action gets in bear markets, currencies, and banking, which could alter the entire picture (more below).

The crisis in medicine is obvious. Whatever else you can say about ObamaCare, it just didn’t do enough and is now crippled by court decisions. Health Care is simply unaffordable for a growing demographic of the sinking middle class. Much of that is due to plain old racketeering, and I propose that it could be mitigated to some degree if a simple law were passed that required doctors, surgeons, hospitals, labs, and other players to publicly post prices for their services — to eliminate this ridiculous business of providers “negotiating” the price of every transaction in secret, according to deliberately incomprehensible guidelines. It may be too late to “solve” the health care problem in the way that much of the Left wishes: a single-payer system run by the government. True, other advanced nations ran single-payer systems with apparent success for decades, and still do, but they started these programs in an era of reliable economic growth based on industrial production and that era is over for reasons mostly having to do with dwindling cheap energy. The National Health Service in Britain is a shambles. France’s system still functions, but the high taxation needed to keep funding it is, ironically, a main beef of the Yellow Vest protesters. The deflating financial bubble will underscore a new order of austerity in the USA, and may usher in graver problems with the value of the dollar. One way or the other, congress will be stymied over health care reform in 2019.

The eventual result will be the disintegration of the current health care system and its eventual reorganization into local, clinic-based medicine at a much lower level of complexity and treatment. It was a tremendous blunder to consolidate hospitals and medical practices into gigantically-scaled conglomerates. The hallmark of The Long Emergency is that everything organized at the gigantic scale will fail one way or another. Get your mind right for that outcome and take care of yourself in the meantime.

The Left especially has no inclination to address immigration reform. As long as they mendaciously refuse to even make a distinction between legal and illegal immigration, nothing can be done. The Right is also dishonest and cowardly about it, fearing to alienate the ballooning Hispanic voter bloc. Still there is a better chance that some immigration reform may be possible because it doesn’t require the sort of titanic fiscal outlays that Health Care does — Mr. Trump’s wall aside. More likely, though, the current immigration impasse will continue and may provoke vigilante action along the border in 2019 that could be part of greater civil violence prompted by increasing economic disparities.

Markets and Money

The jig is really up. The big bad bear market is already underway, even if it rallies in January. The debt bubble engineered by the Federal Reserve is blowing up and thundering through the system. The epic market instability of December 2018 on the heels of persistent Fed rate hikes points to major credit problems and especially an inability to roll over old debt into new loans at higher interest rates — in particular loans to zombie enterprises that need to borrow to keep paying interest on previous loans (a lot of that among the shale oil companies). The US government can’t take higher interest rates either. It’s already paying about as much in annual interest on US debt as we pay for our war machine. There are only two ways out, both of them nasty. Either suck up debt defaults, which will induce an impoverishing disappearance of money; or provoke high inflation, by injecting more Central Bank QE “money” into the system, which can destroy the value of money. Inflation is typically the choice of governments because it reduces the face value of debts while it allows government to pretend that it is taking action. In the end, you may have plenty of worthless money, which is no different from having not enough money that retains value. The latter was the main feature of the Great Depression.

So, inflation is the usual choice, but it also typically leads to incendiary resentment among the citizenry when they realize they’ve been played and it takes a wheelbarrow full of cash to buy a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter. I suppose that Fed chief Jerome Powell knows all too well he’s popped the Mother-of-All-Bubbles. He can blame it on Mr. Trump. Everybody else will, of course. Sometime in the second quarter of 2019, the Fed will resume the money-for-nothing gambit of “quantitative easing” in the hope of arresting the damage, but this time the dollar will lose value uncontrollably and catastrophically. Many people will be ruined, especially retirees at the mercy of insolvent pension funds.

Before 2019 is out, the US could find itself in a situation worse than the Great Depression. Supply lines are much longer now than they were then. If suppliers can’t get paid because trust has collapsed in the short-term corporate paper system, they won’t deliver supplies, which means you may not eat, or fill your gas tank, or heat your house, or get whatever else you need. Also, the USA in 1931 had not yet transformed itself into the fiasco-waiting-to-happen called suburban sprawl. How is Dallas going to work for people who spend a substantial chunk of their income on mandatory motoring (if there’s little or no income)?

Stock market activity may appear to stabilize in January, but it will go south again later on in the first quarter and the Bear will growl louder for the rest of the year.

Civil Disorder

Be prepared for it in 2019. There are going to be a lot of pissed-off people around the country. They are liable to attack Federal property and their fellow citizens (and their property). The hungrier they are, the worse it will be. They will not understand the forces that are destroying the money system. There are a gazillion small arms out there and the government will not be able to control them or confiscate them. Any attempt to do that will only inflame the situation. A major principle of The Long Emergency is that government becomes increasingly impotent and ineffectual as it rolls out. We’re already seeing that in Washington, and it is not at all just because Mr. Trump has inspired such an impasse between the branches. The states, too, will be hard-pressed to do anything useful. Many of them, like Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California, are already technically insolvent. The federal government may have to pretend to rescue them financially, which will only make the national predicament worse.

Oil

The shale oil “miracle” was an impressive stunt. For a while, it goosed US production way above the former all-time production peak of 1970, and it achieved that with astounding speed — about a decade. But this is oil that is very expensive and complex to produce. It was made possible by massive borrowing at artificial low interest rates, which are now rising. Something like three-quarters of the shale operators never made a red cent in net profit, and many of these companies will find it hard or impossible to roll over their existing debt, especially with oil under $50-a-barrel. But the price is a deceptive metric. If it zoomed up to $100-a-barrel tomorrow, the effect would only be to crush economic activity, because industry requires cheaper oil to pencil out its operations and citizens can barely afford to drive when gasoline hits $4-a-gallon at the pump. At the lower $45-a-barrel, the price crushes the oil producers. Take your pick. There’s no “Goldilocks” price.

The other problems with shale oil have to do with the nature of the shale plays. The Permian Basin in Texas is very large, but the best plays are developed in the so-called “sweet spots” and there’s a limited amount of them. They are the places that the producers developed first, and when they are played out, the next round of plays will be in spots not-so-sweet (or productive) — possibly not worth drilling. The character of the shale oil wells is also way different from the old conventional classic oil wells. The old wells cost about $400,000 (in current dollars). It involved just sinking a pipe into the permeable source rock. The oil came out under its own pressure at the rate of thousands of barrels a day.  Eventually, you put a simple pump-jack on the well (the “nodding donkey”) and it produced for decades, like running a cash register. Shale oil wells cost between $6- 12 million. They require technically demanding horizontal drilling and fracking, with additional costs in highly technical labor, water for fracking, sand to hold open the fracks, chemicals to aid the process, and a gazillion truck trips to deliver all the water and sand (and take the oil away). Shale wells produce maybe a few hundred barrels a day for one year, after which they typically deplete by over 60 percent. After four years, they’re done. The oil is also different. Shale oil is typically ultra-light. It contains little-to-none of the heavier diesel, kerosene, jet fuel, and heating oil distillates, making it less valuable.

Trouble in the credit markets could shut down shale production for a period of time and create dire problems for the American economy. That could happen in 2019 as poorer-performing companies fail to get new financing. As mighty as it seems to be, the industry is fraught with fragility. Meanwhile, discovery of new, producible oil has fallen to the lowest level since the 1940s, after three recent previous record low years. Current low oil prices at around $45-a-barrel may give Americans a false sense of security. Low prices are mostly indicative of the collapse of the demand for oil at the global margins and among the large US demographic that cannot afford it anymore — that is, the impoverished former middle class. As the damage becomes more obvious, we could hear calls to nationalize the oil industry. The attempt to do that would collide with the aforementioned trend for government to become more strapped  for revenue, more impotent, and more incompetent.

Geopolitical

The Golden Golem has gone an extra mile to antagonize Russia the past two years. Is it to demonstrate how not Putin’s puppet he is? If so, it’s pathetic. For instance, heaping ever more sanctions on Russia, tossing Russian diplomatic staff out of the country because of the laughable Novichok poisoning of the Skripal father-and-daughter in Britain. Nobody believed that set up — who recovers from the world’s supposedly most potent, high-tech military toxin? The larger Russia hysteria, ginned up by the US “Intel Community” to cover the embarrassment of Hillary Clinton’s election loss, has destroyed the brains of thousands of Washington insiders and infected whole sectors of the educated coastal elites who really ought to know better. Meddling in elections? Is that something the US has never entertained? Recall that 1996 Time Magazine cover with the headline that bragged, “Yanks to the Rescue: the Secret Story of How American Advisors Helped Yeltsin Win.” And now we’re wetting our pants over a baker’s dozen Russian Internet trolls on Facebook? Yes, this is what the brightest people in the room have been doing for two years. The net result is a new cold war, pushing Russia into the arms of China, giving both of those countries an incentive to construct a new framework for global relations that excludes the toxic US as much as possible.

That new framework, by the way, will not be the same as the late, unwinding Globalism Release 2.0 (Release 1.0 was 1870 – 1914) that allowed America to exchange IOUs for flatscreen TVs lo these many years. Let’s call that Tom Friedman Globalism, after the pundit who said it would last forever. The world will become a wider place again as the Great Powers are increasingly bound to their own regions for trade relations in a world growing short of energy and capital resources. The exception to that is in weaponry, now that Russia has demonstrated its ability to launch hypersonic rockets that can reach the US in little more than a few Noo Yawk minutes. Do we have anything like that? I suppose we wish we did. The media is not even talking about it, the implications are so dreadful.

Has Mr. Trump actually accomplished anything with his deal-seeking in China while beating it on the snout with his tariff stick?  Well, he got a lot of US companies loading up on inventory of goods they feared will carry costly duties a year hence, so they’re all stocked up just in time for a vicious bear market and the recession / depression that it entails. A lot of that stuff may end up being distributed by the bankruptcy judges.

How does our antagonism against China work with the campaign to “normalize” the behavior of North Korea. I doubt it helps. In 2019, North Korea will be the whoopie cushion that China places under America’s seat at the negotiating table. Mr. Trump defied the conventional State Department wisdom by meeting face-to-face with Kim. It got the two Koreas actually speaking with each other for the first time in 60 years, with some concrete steps toward ending the de facto state-of-war. Will Li’l Kim play the role China assigns to him? I think so. They can squash him like bug. And, of course, everything that the US congress and Mr. Mueller do to injure and weaken Mr. Trump will make further progress in Korea unlikely.

How about the second greatest economy in the world? That would be the European Union. The EU’s financial system is way more dysfunctional than even ours, with no mechanism or provision for regulating each country’s spending vis-à-vis the debt generation of the Union as a whole. There’s no way it can continue and no prospect for debugging the set-up. What’s more, decades-long shenanigans of the European Central Bank have created imbalances that will never be corrected. Even the attempt to normalize operations — as the ECB ceases its debt monetization routines staring in the first quarter of 2019 — is guaranteed to crack up the EU economy, which is a horror show of zombie companies and zombie banks. They will suffer particularly in the recession / depression to come. The next domino to fall, theoretically Italy, will take the EU down, whatever happens with the dithering over Brexit. Without the ECB vacuuming up unwanted EU paper, nothing really pencils out over there. In 2019, expect a substantial fall in the value of the Euro, and possibly its demise as a currency.

In fact, expect wholesale disintegration of many structural arrangements all over Europe beginning in 2019, along with more political violence that exceeds the simple street actions of the Yellow Vests in France. NATO has been staging war games on Russia’s border for two years, apparently with no awareness that the NATO members are deeply dependent on Russian oil and natural gas to remain advanced nations with comforts and conveniences, like heating their homes. Perhaps that recognition will hit in 2019. But there will be plenty of noise for that signal to cut through.

Climate Change

Something’s going on ‘out there’ though the picture is deeply non-linear and is being confused for the moment by an extraordinary low level of cyclical sunspot activity. Not being a scientist, I have only two salient points worth considering about the issue:

The first is, we’re not going to do anything about it — because nothing can be done about it. Whatever’s happening, we’re going to have to roll with it. I’m also not persuaded that many of the proposed mitigations — carbon taxes, seeding the upper atmosphere with reflective particles — will accomplish anything.

The second thought is this: the civilized world has experienced many many instances of climate change over the past several thousand years. Civilizations rise and fall with these changes, but the human project as a more general matter continues, with periods of history that appear to be restful time-outs. The Roman Optimum (warming period) segued into the Dark Age Cooling, and then the Medieval Warming (viniculture in England!), and eventually the Little Ice Age comes along with Isaac Newton and skaters on the Dutch canals. The difference this time is that our civilization is so deeply complex that successful adaptation to new conditions is a low percentage outcome, at least in the form of salvaging many of our current arrangements. In other climate disruptions, people adapted, sometimes with very severe changes in customs, practices, political arrangements, and life-styles.

It will be especially stark this time, and the broad pop culture of Collapse suggests that we intuit this — everything from Game of Thrones to The Road, to my own World Made By Hand novels. It begins with the wobbling of the most abstract and fragile of our systemic arrangements, finance, which is mostly based on ephemeral trust (that the other fellow will pay you). From there, the trouble proceeds to politics and culture. A few concluding words on the latter:

Culture

2018 was a low point for American culture, such as it is. The idiotic drivel emanating from the university campuses has infected the entire nation like a toxic shock disease. Most damaging, of course is the umbrella ideology of “multiculture” in a society that formerly thrived precisely because of the opposite of that: a common culture composed of ethics, customs, norms, and standards of decent behavior that people not insane could subscribe to. Remove the common culture of a nation and you will not have a nation — it’s that simple. Hence Americans are divided foolishly into battling identity groups who do not believe in a common culture and are doing everything possible to defeat it. They have no idea what E Pluribus Unum used to mean and they have no desire or intention to rediscover it. I return to the cardinal theme of The Long Emergency: that we can’t construct a coherent consensus about what is happening to us, and therefore we can’t make any coherent plans about what to do.

The financial hardships of 2019 provide an opportunity for some overdue mind-cleaning on these matters. There may even be a significant number of survivors among the brain-damaged former thinking classes who refuse to go along with the emperors-new-clothes ideas of recent years any longer. The main thing to understand about the so-called Progressive Left behind this toxic shock is that the whole crusade has been less about ideas of justice or fairness than the sheer joy of coercing others, of pushing people around and punishing them because its fun! The ideologies around that behavior are just window dressing.

The response to it so far has been surprisingly mild. If the financial unwind shapes up as harshly as it looks from here, the response will get more severe. The universities themselves will suffer hugely as their budgets crash through floor and all, of a sudden, they have to issue pink slips to a half dozen Diversity deans on six-figure salaries. Many colleges will begin the process of shutting down in 2019 as their student loan racket disintegrates.

Well, you’ve suffered long enough for today, and I’ll leave it at that.

Happy 2019 everybody!

Published:1/1/2019 7:41:21 AM
[US News] Oh, this’ll work: Former Hillary campaign chairman is ‘looking’ at running in 2020 on ‘taking Obamacare to the next level’

Prepare to lose again.

The post Oh, this’ll work: Former Hillary campaign chairman is ‘looking’ at running in 2020 on ‘taking Obamacare to the next level’ appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:12/30/2018 2:30:23 PM
[Markets] The Calm Before The Storm

Authored by Jeremiah Johnson (nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces) via SHTFplan.com,

Undoubtedly most of you know about some of the things that have happened this past week. The ban on “bump-fire” or “slide-fire” stocks came as a shocker to most. Many have tried to downplay it, but there is a point to be considered: when one thing is banned, it sets the stage for more to be banned. Each time this happens, the liberties we have left (not much, by the way) shrink just a bit further. I have written recently about how there is a concerted effort to destroy the United States internally, while the rest of the world moves toward globalism/socialism/communism.

The President is a “slight hiatus,” a pause in the march toward the destruction of the United States... and merely a hiatus, as the elections themselves are illusory and are predetermined long before the phony tally of ballots occurs.

The United States would not have tolerated Hillary Clinton as president in 2016. The paradigm shift is occurring as we speak, and what was not tolerated then will be embraced in 2020. In the meantime, look at what has been accomplished thus far within the first two years of the administration. Next to nothing is the answer.

The best thing that the President accomplished was to strike down the individual mandate for Obamacare by executive order, and that is the only thing that has been truly accomplished.

One by one, the President’s staff is either being replaced, or they are exiting stage left. Mattis leaves. No big deal, right? Wrong. It has created a tremendous vacuum and contributes greatly to disorganization within the administration. We are on the brink of a nuclear war. We are pulling out of the INF treaty, and Putin has announced his country’s intentions of restarting the nuclear arms race by equipping heretofore conventionally-armed missiles with warheads. Ukraine is a powder keg getting ready to blow up in our faces with Petroshenko and the Kiev government pushing for a war between NATO and Russia that they will instigate.

The departure of Mattis is a big deal, because when vacuums such as this one are created at a sensitive level as his former position, the effects can be crippling or at least temporarily paralyzing: the vacuum presents the opportunity for an enemy to strike.

This departure from Syria is much more complex than it appears on the surface. Forget the politics, and that we’re an “evil empire,” and all of that.  We’re discussing particulars and what is in place now, as we speak. In Northeastern Syria, Special Forces teams as well as CIA and other clandestine service operatives have been deeply embedded since the Obama years. Now the plug has been pulled, and all of the intricate networks that have been obtained in the area are to be curtailed. Whether a shadow-presence will be left there is likely, although conjecture at this point, but Mattis’ reaction and resignation is, most likely at a minimum, twofold:

  1. In consideration of what I just wrote, no Commander-in-Chief is privy to every motion that transpires within a given theater…and tactically, Mattis probably does not agree with the rapidity of the curtailment, from both an operational perspective.

  2. Perhaps more importantly, it may give the Russians and Iranians the perception of weakness on our part…a perception that can lead to military action on their part. At the very least, it may present a haphazard picture of the President…calling in airstrikes on Syria at the onset of his presidency where there were no real targets or objectives…and now destroying an embedded network by a spontaneous withdrawal.

I believe there is a third reason that is not as obvious. All of the signs indicate that a war…a major war…is approaching, and Mattis doesn’t have the stomach for it, because he either believes he would not be allowed to win it…or that he cannot win it. Vladimir Putin reported at a conference packed with journalists that he believes the U.S. and Russia are headed toward a nuclear war. While he said he didn’t wish it, he reiterated that Russia will fight if it has to.

I have written over and over again that it is not as simple as two men who are unable to resolve their differences as needing to fight. This is not UFC-6 (done in 1994), although the analogy is appropriate. David “Tank” [of lard] Abbott rolled around with Oleg Tartakov for about 17 minutes, before Tartakov made him tap out (before he passed out) with the choke hold. But then: even as Tartakov’s hand was being raised in victory, it was when he was supine…almost unconscious.

Both men had been at it hard and heavy and suffered from oxygen depletion (it was in Wyoming). In the end, both the victor and the vanquished were lying on the ground, and the former even needed oxygen before regaining his feet and taking the championship belt…unable to give an interview.

That is how it will be if we go to war with them or vice versa. This isn’t about nationalism or patriotism: I’m not running away to any other country, and I’m going to stay and fight when the time comes. The problem is that our country is akin to Janus…with two faces. The first face is the remnant, the remaining citizenry with heart, understanding, and compassion for the nation: decent,god-fearing citizenry who still cherish a system founded on principles of freedom and rights…rights given by God, and then recognized and written down for us by the Founding Fathers.

The second face, however, is a part of our citizens who are evil, and follow only after evil, and a government that is no longer of, by, or for the people…whose only concerns are self-preservation, promulgation and continuity of power, and the surveillance, subjugation, repression, and domination of its people.

It is this side, this evil second face that will propel us into a world war while it sips glass-bottled kombucha tea a mile underground in a bunker with their families and the other rulers while We the People burn up above…in the ultimate end run to depopulate the planet…and reemerge into a whole new world.

If you doubt it, let me reiterate it is not only possible…it is probable. Please refer to the article that I wrote recently with an excerpt from the last installment of the “Resident Evil” series…or watch the movie, and listen to the clip I excerpted. These men and women at the heights of power have no moral compass, and no compassion for the average person. In their eyes, those who follow after evil or after good can be sacrificed equally. The only ones they will allow to remain? It is not “good” or “evil” that  concerns the rulers: it is a question of their “rating” that concerns the powers that be: what do they bring to the table, and will they be obedient, subservient, and useful?

People are winding down their business and getting ready for Christmas, and all, and this, too, is a hiatus... from the reality that surrounds us... that same reality that will be there when we return. Make no mistake: this calm is temporary. The domestic economy, the world political situation, the shifting economic balance in the world, and the threats arising in different areas will still be the same. It is the calm before the storm. A storm is coming: prepare for it now while there’s still a little time, as no one else will do it for you…especially not those in power…who are the cause of the coming storm.

Published:12/27/2018 10:13:33 PM
[Markets] Judges Insist Legal Challenges To Trump Policies Must Continue During Shutdown

If President Trump needed an ulterior motive to keep his partial government shutdown alive for the foreseeable future, this is it. Since the shutdown began, Trump has argued that federal courts should not be exempt - which means the many legal challenges to Trump administration policies should be frozen for the time being.

But according to Bloomberg, federal judges are pushing back, arguing that some of the court challenges involve issues of public safety - or are otherwise finding excuses to keep the challenges moving forward in spite of the administration's wishes.

DOJ

In one case, a district judge is refusing the administration's request to delay briefings in a challenge to Trump's new asylum policy, which requires asylum applicants to present themselves at legal points of entry to have their claims heard.

"Government functions may continue" when they relate to "the safety of human life or the protection of property," Moss wrote Thursday. The judge cited a government report indicating that a large proportion of the federal government’s immigration employees, including 91 percent of Customs and Border Protection workers, should continue working during shutdowns.

The government is also pushing to move ahead with a case filed in San Diego challenging its family separation policy.

"Although we greatly regret any disruption caused to the court and the other litigants, the government hereby moves for a stay of all deadlines" until funding resumes, the U.S. said in a typical request filed Dec. 26 in a suit in San Diego challenging the administration’s family separation policy.

A federal case involving the implementation of a federal monitor for the Baltimore Police Department is also moving ahead despite the adminstration's attempt to shut it down.

But a high-profile Maryland lawsuit involving the implementation of a consent decree for civilian oversight of the Baltimore Police Department won’t stop. Chief U.S. District Judge James Bredar in Baltimore called the shutdown a "dispute internal to one party" and directed Justice Department attorneys "to find the means by which to continue their participation in this litigation on a timely basis regardless of their client’s internal issues."

"Deeply serious matters involving the safety and well-being of the citizens of Baltimore are at issue in this case, and the court is determined that implementation of the previously entered consent decree will not be impaired or delayed by this sort of collateral issue," Bredar wrote in a Dec. 26 order.

The administration had better luck in Washington and San Francisco. In SF, the administration's appeal of a decision throwing out its asylum restrictions along the Mexican border will move ahead.

The government had better luck in Washington before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who granted a request to put a case on hold in a two-sentence ruling on Dec. 26. The judge directed the Justice Department to notify the court "when appropriations are restored or if a continuing resolution is enacted."

The U.S. is pressing ahead in at least one instance. The Trump administration on Dec. 26 filed a notice in an appeals court in San Francisco that it will seek to reverse a judge’s order blocking it from implementing asylum restrictions on the Mexico border.

State AGs are also pushing for a challenge to an administration policy that they say would undermine (recently gutted) ObamaCare (though appeals to a Texas judge's ruling will need to wait).

A coalition of a dozen state attorneys general also opposed a government request to delay a Jan. 2 deadline for a crucial joint filing in an Obamacare-related lawsuit. The attorneys general challenged a Trump administration plan that would allow small businesses to join together to offer cheaper health-insurance plans -- a move the states say undermines some of the protections required under Obamacare.

The states said there’s a "reasonable likelihood" that the “protection of property would be compromised” as a result of the financial harm the new rule will cause to their group and individual health insurance markets.

"Indeed, that disruption was both the anticipated and the intended purpose of defendants’ rule-making," the states said. The Department of Labor, the defendant, "should not be delayed in moving forward with their litigation of this critical case," they said.

Unfortunately for Trump, the DOJ has already declared that the shutdown won't delay the Mueller probe.

Published:12/27/2018 6:12:24 PM
[World] [Jonathan H. Adler] Understanding Why Judge O'Connor Was Wrong to Conclude Plaintiffs Had Standing to Challenge the Penalty-Less Individual Mandate

Judge O'Connor was wrong to conclude that two individuals who would prefer not to purchase health insurance had standing to challenge the law.

Last week, Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas held that the entire Affordable Care Act is invalid. This opinion is flawed on multiple levels, for reasons I explained in this post (and this NYT op-ed). Among other things, Judge O'Connor completely botched the severability analysis to conclude that the entire ACA should be struck down because Congress amended the law to zero out the tax penalty that had been used to enforce the so-called "individual mandate." Yet Judge O'Connor should never have even reached the severability question, as he lacked jurisdiction to hear the states' challenge to the mandate's constitutionality.

Under Article III of the Constitution, plaintiffs in federal court must have "standing" to press their claims. Standing, in turn, requires that the plaintiff have suffered an injury-in-fact that is both actual or imminent and concrete and particularized; that this injury is fairly traceable to the allegedly unlawful action; and that the injury be redressable by a favorable court decision. The party seeking to invoke the federal court's jurisdiction -- in this case, the twenty plaintiff states and the two individuals who joined the lawsuit -- bears the burden of showing that the standing requirement has been met. Despite Judge O'Connor's conclusion to the contrary (and the Justice Department's inexplicable failure to raise standing in the case), none of the plaintiffs have standing here.

In a prior post, I explained why Texas and the other plaintiff states lacked standing. In his opinion, Judge O'Connor sidesteps the question of state standing, focusing instead on two individuals who joined the lawsuit. The end result should have been the same though, and largely for the same reason: Because an individual who fails to purchase qualifying health insurance faces no legal or practical consequence for their decision, there is no injury, and therefore no standing. It's that simple.

Judge O'Connor tries to get around this conclusion by suggesting that because the plaintiffs believe they are bound by the ACA's minimum coverage requirement, this is sufficient to establish standing. The problem is, there is nothing in standing caselaw to support this conclusion. Judge O'Connor writes:

In warning lower courts not to conflate the "actual-injury inquiry with the underlying merits" of a claim, the Fifth Circuit recognizes that standing can be established where a plaintiff alleges that a federal statute or regulation "deters the exercise of his constitutional rights." Duarte [ex rel. Duarte v. City of Lewisville], 759 F.3d [514] at 520 [5th Cir. 2014]. Here, the Individual Plaintiffs allege just that. They claim "Section 5000A's individual mandate exceeded Congress's enumerated powers by forcing Individual Plaintiffs to
maintain ACA-compliant health insurance coverage." Am. Compl. ¶ 49, ECF No. 27. Intervenor Defendants, meanwhile, contend the Individual Mandate remains a constitutional exercise of Congress's tax or regulatory authority. As a result, the "conflicting contentions of the parties . . . present a real, substantial controversy between parties having adverse legal interests, a dispute definite and concrete, not hypothetical or abstract." Babbitt v. United Farm Workers Nat'l Union, 442 U.S. 289, 298 (1979) (quoting Railway Mail Assn. v. Corsi, 326 U.S. 88, 93 (1945)). The Individual Plaintiffs have therefore sufficiently alleged an injury in fact that sits at the center of a live controversy.

This effort to establish standing might sound convincing to one who is not familiar with the relevant caselaw, but it utterly fails -- as even a cursory review of the cases Judge O'Connor cites will show. In each of these cases, the parties seeking to establish standing were potentially subject to significant legal consequences if the laws they sought to challenge were valid as applied to them. And in each case, this threat of sanction was essential to the conclusion that the plaintiffs had standing. So, for instance, in Babbitt (in the very next sentence after the one quoted by Judge O'Connor), the Court explained: "A plaintiff who challenges a statute must demonstrate a realistic danger of sustaining a direct injury as a result of the statute's operation or enforcement."

This same point is made in Duarte, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (quoting prior Supreme Court precedent) noted that "it is not necessary that petitioner first expose himself to actual ... prosecution to be entitled to challenge a statute that he claims deters the exercise of his constitutional rights." Because the statute at issue threatened real penalties for violating the law in question, the plaintiffs "fears of liability [were] not 'imaginary or speculative.'" As the Fifth Circuit noted subsequently in Contender Farms, L.L.P. v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (another case relied upon by Judge O'Connor), it was the "practical impact" of the law at issue in Duarte that "demonstrated a level of interference as to their lives that was sufficient to establish standing to challenge the regulation."

Unlike the parties in Babbitt or Duarte or Contender Farms (or any of other myriad cases that address this point), the individual plaintiffs in Texas v. U.S. cannot claim (let alone demonstrate) that they will suffer any legal liability should they fail to obtain qualifying health insurance, nor do they really try. After all, as the federal government conceded and Chief Justice Roberts explained in NFIB v. Sebelius, "Neither the Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS." And now that the required payment is zero, there is no negative legal consequence whatsoever from failing to purchase qualifying insurance.

The plaintiffs attempt to argue that they are injured because they purchased insurance in order to comply with the law, but this does not cut it either, as such self-inflicted harm is never sufficient to demonstrate standing. 4 U.S.C. §8 details how people are supposed to treat the American flag, yet no one could argue they have standing to challenge this provision of the U.S. Code because they sought to comply with this provision at their own expense. The government would like Americans to purchase "minimum essential coverage," and has said so. But unless and until the government imposes a consequence on those who fail to comply, there is no basis for challenging this provision of the U.S. Code. As Nicholas Bagley notes, in order to have standing, "it's not enough that you feel compelled; you must actually be compelled."

In a recent VC post, Professor Josh Blackman suggests some additional arguments in favor of standing here, but none of them are particularly persuasive. First, Professor Blackman notes that there are cases in which plaintiffs are able to establish standing despite the lack of a "pocketbook injury," yet in all such cases there is still an actual or imminent injury that is concrete and particularized. So, for instance, in environmental cases plaintiffs can often establish standing by showing that they regularly use or visit a specific place that is threatened by the violation of federal law. Standing is shown in such cases because the plaintiffs are able to claim that their ability to continue making use of the place in question is threatened, and this loss of opportunity is a cognizable injury (particularly given the statutory recognition of such claims). Note, however, that such plaintiffs are able to allege specific, concrete consequences to them caused by the actions they are challenging -- the loss of the opportunity to continue to engage in regular activities at a particular place -- something the plaintiffs cannot allege here.

As Professor Blackman notes, the Court found standing without pocketbook injuries in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn and Van Orden v. Perry, but this is due to a well-established (and quite controversial) exception to normal standing requirements that the Supreme Court has recognized in the Establishment Clause context. As the Court made explicitly clear in the passage Professor Blackman quotes:

Standing in Establishment Clause cases may be shown in various ways. Some plaintiffs may demonstrate standing based on the direct harm of what is claimed to be an establishment of religion, such as a mandatory prayer in a public school classroom. . . . Other plaintiffs may demonstrate standing on the ground that they have incurred a cost or been denied a benefit on account of their religion. Those costs and benefits can result from alleged discrimination in the tax code, such as when the availability of a tax exemption is conditioned on religious affiliation.

This is not particularly helpful to the Texas plaintiffs, neither of whom can identify any "direct harm" caused by 26 U.S.C. § 5000A(a). The Winn Court goes on to discuss the "narrow exception" allowing taxpayer standing in Establishment Clause cases under Flast v. Cohen, but this doesn't help the Texas plaintiffs either. Note also the plaintiffs in Winn could not establish establish standing either, even under the more lenient standard that prevails in the Establishment Clause context.

In search of authority to support the plaintiffs' standing claims, Professor Blackman quotes Allen v. Wright for the proposition that "'the stigmatizing injury often caused by racial discrimination' can give rise to standing, even where there is a 'noneconomic injury,' so long as that injury is personally suffered by the individual." Fair enough, but this only serves to buttress the point that the Texas plaintiffs lack standing. For while the Court in Allen noted the seriousness of such "stigmatizing injury," it emphasized that the existence of such stigma, by itself, is insufficient for Article III standing. As the Allen Court explained in rejecting this basis for standing:

There can be no doubt that this sort of noneconomic injury is one of the most serious consequences of discriminatory government action and is sufficient in some circumstances to support standing. . . . Our cases make clear, however, that such injury accords a basis for standing only to "those persons who are personally denied equal treatment" by the challenged discriminatory conduct.

In other words, the stigma, by itself, is not enough. So even though the plaintiffs in Allen could plausibly allege that the challenged government policy had economic effects that facilitated racial segregation, the Court found no standing. Thus it's immaterial that the government's declaration that all Americans must have insurance may induce some people to buy health insurance and that this may, in turn, have some effects on health care markets. Such attenuated effects are insufficient under Article III.

Professor Blackman concedes that he "was unable to find any cases where a non-economic injury was asserted in cases concerning the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses," yet argues "whether a given case involves a challenge based on the doctrine of enumerated powers, rather than the First or Fourteenth Amendment. Indeed, this distinction ought to be without a difference." As already noted, the Court has flatly rejected this claim in the Establishment Clause context, and in the Equal Protection context direct harm caused by the government action at issue is still required. There may not be many relevant cases involving enumerated powers, but the U.S. Reports are filled with regulatory cases in which plaintiffs allege non-economic injuries, and they all reach the same conclusion: Non-economic injuries may be cognizable, but they must be actual or imminent, concrete and particularized injuries, and they must be the direct consequence of the government action at issue.

In order to demonstrate Article III standing the plaintiffs need not establish the merits of their claim, but they must be able to allege facts that, if true, would be sufficient to satisfy the requirements of Article III. It is this that the Texas plaintiffs utterly failed to do. As a consequence of the 2017 tax bill, 26 U.S.C. § 5000A no longer imposes any legal or practical consequence on those who fail to obtain qualifying health insurance, nor are the plaintiffs able to allege otherwise. They identify no meaningful consequence that will befall them should they drop their coverage, nor does Professor Blackman.

Whatever one thinks of the other arguments in play, or the desirability of the Affordable Care Act, Judge O'Connor lacked jurisdiction to hear this case. It should have been dismissed on standing, and I like to think that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will not repeat Judge O'Connor's mistake.

Published:12/22/2018 1:40:22 PM
[Politics] Most Still Reject Obamacare’s Insurance Requirement

A federal judge last week declared as unconstitutional Obamacare’s requirement that every American have health insurance. Most voters continue to oppose the so-called individual mandate as they have for years.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that just 35% of Likely U.S. Voters think the government should require every Americans to buy or obtain health insurance. Fifty-three percent (53%) oppose that government requirement. Twelve percent (12%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on December 18-19, 2018 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Published:12/20/2018 9:27:32 AM
[Politics] GOP Senators Kill Dems Effort to Intervene in Obamacare Lawsuit Senate Republicans on Wednesday killed a vote on a resolution that would have allowed Senate counsel to intervene in a federal court case that threatens to invalidate Obamacare, The Hill reports. A Published:12/19/2018 6:37:53 PM
[The Blog] Federal Obamacare enrollment dropped 4% this year

"Obamacare signups fell for a second year to 8.5 million..."

The post Federal Obamacare enrollment dropped 4% this year appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:12/19/2018 6:08:20 PM
[Politics] Jeffrey Lord to Newsmax TV: Ryan's Legacy 'Mixed at Best' Failing to repeal Obamacare but helping to get a GOP tax cut bill passed, outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan will have a "mixed" legacy, political commentator Jeffrey Lord told Newsmax TV's "America Talks Live" on Wednesday. Published:12/19/2018 3:08:54 PM
[The Blog] Schumer vows to fight the new ObamaCare ruling tooth and nail — and he’ll probably win

"This is an awful ruling."

The post Schumer vows to fight the new ObamaCare ruling tooth and nail — and he’ll probably win appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:12/17/2018 9:27:31 PM
[04e44ac9-21bc-584c-9edf-414a3dee3e56] 'Unconstitutional' ObamaCare is deeply flawed, and it's time to do away with it It's time for Congress to acknowledge ObamaCare's failures and devolve authority for health policy to the states. Published:12/17/2018 11:52:54 AM
[] Obamacare Going Back to Supreme Court, Now That Lower Court Has Ruled It Unconstititional Eighteen Republican states attorneys general and two Republican governors sued to strike down Obamacare, arguing that the original bullshit ruling upholding it did so by claiming that the tax power was broad, and that the individual mandate could be construed,... Published:12/17/2018 11:25:36 AM
[Politics] Trump says he and Democrats can deliver GREAT healthcare if Obamacare is stuck down Trump is very optimistic that he can and Democrats can deliver GREAT healthcare if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare. Here’s what he had to say this morning: The DEDUCTIBLE which comes . . . Published:12/17/2018 9:22:22 AM
[Politics] Trump says he and Democrats can deliver GREAT healthcare if Obamacare is stuck down Trump is very optimistic that he can and Democrats can deliver GREAT healthcare if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare. Here’s what he had to say this morning: The DEDUCTIBLE which comes . . . Published:12/17/2018 8:52:25 AM
[World] [Eugene Volokh] Understanding the New Obamacare Decision, Texas v. United States: Part II

[Part of a continuing series of guest posts by Prof. Josh Blackman (South Texas College of Law). -EV]

Part I of this series placed Texas v. U.S. in the broader context of the eight years of Obamacare litigation. This second installment will analyze the technical aspects of Judge O'Connor's opinion concerning the individual mandate by responding to five common criticisms about the case.

[1.] How can the district court declare the individual mandate unconstitutional? Congress already repealed the mandate through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA).

In December 2017, following the enactment of the TCJA, President Trump and congressional Republicans boasted that they repealed Obamacare's individual mandate. They didn't. Rather, the law reduced the ACA's "shared responsibility payment" to $0. Section 5000A(a) of the ACA provides that "[a]n applicable individual shall for each month beginning after 2013 ensure that the individual, and any dependent of the individual who is an applicable individual, is covered under minimum essential coverage for such month." Starting in 2019, individuals qualified individuals who fail to maintain a certain level of health insurance—known as "minimum essential coverage"—will no longer be assessed a penalty. This first point is not controversial.

[2.] The individual mandate, with a $0 penalty, is not a mandate at all. What is there left to challenge?

This criticism is intuitive: how can a mandate continue to exist if there are no legal consequences for disobeying? This argument fails as a matter of law and policy.

First, the federal government has long taken the position that a mandate, in the absence of a penalty, will still compel some people to purchase insurance. For example, a 2008 Congressional Budget Report—before the ACA was enacted—considered how "[p]ersonal [v]alues and [s]ocial [n]orms," apart from a monetary penalty, also enforce compliance with a requirement to purchase insurance. CBO recognized that "compliance [with the mandate] is generally observed, even when there is little or no enforcement of mandates." Why would a person comply with a legal mandate that is not enforced? CBO observed that "[c]ompliance, then, is probably affected by an individual's personal values and by social norms." For example, "[m]any individuals and employers would comply with a mandate, even in the absence of penalties, because they believe in abiding by the nation's laws."

In Texas, Judge O'Connor observed:

Law therefore has an enormous influence on social norms and individual conduct in society.... But the fact that many individuals will no longer feel bound by the Individual Mandate does not change either that some individuals will feel so bound—such as the Individual Plaintiffs here—or that the Individual Mandate is still law.

Indeed, the two Plaintiffs in this case have taken this exact position. John Nantz declared, "I value compliance with my legal obligations ... [t]he repeal of the associated health insurance tax penalty did not relieve me of the requirement to purchase health insurance." Neill Hurley added, "I continue to maintain minimum essential health coverage because I am obligated to comply with the [ACA's] individual mandate."

Second, enrollment numbers support Judge O'Connor's conclusion. In November 2017, CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation observed "with no penalty at all, only a small number of people who enroll in insurance because of the mandate under current law would continue to do so solely because of a willingness to comply with the law." The number is no doubt "small," but it is not zero. No matter how small this class is, such virtuous individuals do exist. Therefore, a certain number of individuals are still affected by a penalty-less mandate.

The mandate still has legal force, even if no penalty accompanies it. (This inquiry is separate from the standing question, which will be addressed in Part #5 below).

[3.] It's true that in 2019, the penalty will be reduced to $0. But not everyone pays their taxes right away. As a result, the penalty will continue to generate revenue for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the saving construction still holds.

Many Americans do not pay their tax bills on time, if ever. It is possible, indeed probable, that some taxpayers will defer the payment of shared responsibility payments assessed in 2018 until 2019, 2020, or even later. Moreover, the IRS can collect unpaid penalties on those late payments for years to come. And this theory is not limited to penalties assessed in 2018. Any penalty assessed from 2014 through 2018 could remain outstanding in perpetuity. Under this theory, every repealed tax—not just the ACA—could produce at least some revenue for the government indefinitely.

Initially, I found this argument persuasive, but ultimately, could not reconcile it with Chief Justice Roberts's saving construction. In NFIB, he explained that "[t]he exaction the Affordable Care Act imposes on those without health insurance"—that is, the penalty that was not actually a tax—"looks like a tax in many respects." The Chief Justice then listed three guardrails in which the "exaction"—that is, the shared responsibility payment—can be construed as a tax. First, "[t]he '[s]hared responsibility payment,' as the statute entitles it, is paid into the Treasury by 'taxpayer[s]' when they file their tax returns." Second, "[f]or taxpayers who do owe the payment, its amount is determined by such familiar factors as taxable income, number of dependents, and joint filing status." Third, "[t]his process" of making the payments, "yields the essential feature of any tax: It produces at least some revenue for the Government... . Indeed, the payment is expected to raise about $4 billion per year by 2017."

Each of the three guardrails relies an import presumption: the relevant timeframe is the year in which the penalty is assessed, and more likely than not, paid. Next year, the ACA will no longer satisfy the three guardrails. (1) Starting in 2019, 0% of Americans have to pay a penalty; (2) therefore, taxpayers will not owe any penalty when they file their tax returns in 2019; and (3) as a result, the penalty will no longer produce any revenue for the government.

The first guardrail considered whether the "shared responsibility" is "paid into the Treasury by 'taxpayer[s]' when they file their tax returns." The opinion presumed that the payment is made at the same time as the filing of the tax return. It is a fair reading of Chief Justice Roberts's opinion that he did not have in mind a situation where the payments are made at a different time than the filing of the tax return—perhaps even years later.

The second guardrail referenced the complicated formula used to calculate the penalty. That provision turns on whether a taxpayer lacks qualified insurance "for any month" in a "taxable year." Once again, the controlling opinion focuses on the timeframe when the tax is assessed. In 2019, and beyond, this inquiry becomes irrelevant.

The third guardrail likewise supports NFIB's rule against perpetual payments. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the collection "process yields the essential feature of any tax: It produces at least some revenue for the Government." And that "process" is premised on how the payment is "assess[ed] and collect[ed]," not when (if ever) it is ultimately paid. No tax has perfect enforcement rates.

In Texas, Judge O'Connor reached a similar conclusion: "It is a well-accepted practice that tax revenue is attributable to the tax year in which it is assessed, not the one in which it is paid." He added, "When individuals file tax returns in April 2019, for example, the taxes they pay and the returns they receive will affect the government's 2018 tax-year revenue." Any "future monies that come in" after 2019 "in will be because the provision once produced revenue for the Government" before 2019.

Chief Justice Roberts's saving construction was not a mere accounting exercise. Rather, it was a constitutional framework based on certain reasonable assumptions and not an intricate balance sheet. Even with delayed payments, the saving construction no longer holds.

[4.] Didn't Chief Justice Roberts conclude that the ACA merely offers people a choice: go uninsured, or pay a tax? If the penalty is now $0, people can simply go uninsured, without any consequence.

In NFIB, Solicitor General Verrilli argued that Section 5000A(a) does not contain a mandate to purchase insurance. Rather the law imposes a tax on those who choose to go uninsured. Marty Lederman articulated this position in a recent Balkinization post.

Chief Justice Robert's rejected Verrilli's argument in Part III.B of NFIB. He observed that "[t]he most straightforward reading of the mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. After all, it states that individuals 'shall' maintain health insurance." In other words, no such choice exists.

However, in Part III.C, Chief Justice Roberts was willing to accept Verrilli's argument for purposes of the saving construction:

While the individual mandate clearly aims to induce the purchase of health insurance, it need not be read to declare that failing to do so is unlawful. Neither the Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS. The Government agrees with that reading, confirming that if someone chooses to pay rather than obtain health insurance, they have fully complied with the law. Brief for United States 60–61; Tr. of Oral Arg. 49–50 (Mar. 26, 2012).

The ACA never imposed "negative legal consequences" for the uninsured; not in 2010, when the law was enacted, and not in 2019 after the TCJA goes into effect. Chief Justice Roberts found this fact essential to support his saving construction. (I discuss the importance of the Solicitor General's representation on pp. 179-181 of Unprecedented.)

However, the predicate of the saving construction no longer holds because each of the three guardrails are violated. It is still true, but no longer material, that the law fails to impose "negative legal consequences" for the uninsured. (This question is separate from the standing inquiry which will be discussed in Part #5.) That fact was important to the extent it enabled the Chief Justice to justify the alternative reading of the statute. Now, that reading can no longer be justified, and we are left with an individual mandate that "clearly aims to induce the purchase of health insurance." Such a mandate cannot be supported by Congress's powers under the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses.

[5.] How does anyone have standing to challenge a mandate without a penalty?

The second question—whether the mandate has legal force—is often conflated with this fifth question concerning standing. These interrelated inquiries are doctrinally distinct.

In NFIB v. Sebelius and King v. Burwell, the Plaintiffs claimed an injury because the ACA forced them to pay some additional amount of money they did not otherwise wish to pay. However, Plaintiffs Nantz and Hurley will suffer no financial penalty for going uninsured. Indeed, even before the TCJA, the ACA imposed no legal consequence—criminal of civil—for going uninsured, beyond the assessment of the penalty. (Solicitor General Verrilli made this important representation in NFIB; see Part #4.)

The so-called pocket-book injury provides the quintessential case for standing under Article III. But it is not the only way. Consider the Establishment Clause. Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn recognized that standing "may be shown in various ways," even when no financial cost is incurred is assessed. For example, what was the basis for standing in Van Orden v. Perry? The Plaintiff, according to the District Court, asserted that frequent visits to the law library at the Texas State Capitol brought him in "unwelcome, contact with the Ten Commandments monument." Van Orden found that "the existence of the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Capitol symbolizes a state policy to favor the Jewish and Christian religions over other religions and over non-believers." This basis for standing was so noncontroversial that neither the Fifth Circuit, nor the Supreme Court bothered to discuss it.

In the Equal Protection Clause context, "the stigmatizing injury often caused by racial discrimination" can give rise to standing, even where there is a "noneconomic injury," so long as that injury is personally suffered by the individual. For example, a Plaintiff cannot challenge a club's racially discriminatory admission policy unless he applied.

These lines of cases bolster the standing argument in Texas. Section 5000A(a) imposes a legal obligation on Nantz and Hurley by virtue of their income: they "shall" maintain insurance. Moreover, they are not subject to any exemptions under the law. That injury is just, if not more concrete than the sort of injury claimed in Van Orden and in the Equal Protection Context.

In Texas, an Amicus argued that any injury is self-inflicted: it is their fault they feel compelled by an unenforceable mandate. The same argument could have been made about Van Orden: he could have simply avoided the state Capitol, or averted his eyes when he passed the monument, or perhaps not taken umbrage at the monument. Nantz and Hurley insist that they are still bound by the mandate, and are directly affected by it. That pleading is enough to cross the standing threshold.

Admittedly, I was unable to find any cases where a non-economic injury was asserted in cases concerning the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses. In the normal case, a federal regulation will impose a financial cost which would give rise to pocketbook standing. But, once again, the legal challenge to the ACA is without precedent. This absence doesn't trouble me. The restrictions of Article III constrain all exercises of the judicial power, whether a given case involves a challenge based on the doctrine of enumerated powers, rather than the First or Fourteenth Amendment. Indeed, this distinction ought to be without a difference: NFIB recognized that the structural protections of the constitutional are essential to the protection of individual liberty.

Critics will counter that Nantz and Hurley are wrong—no matter what they think—because there is no actual mandate. Such an argument conflates the standing inquiry with the merits analysis. In Meese v. Keene, the Supreme Court recognized that whether a given law violates the Constitution is "irrelevant to the standing inquiry." Moreover, the lower courts have been "careful not to decide the questions on the merits for or against the plaintiff, and must therefore assume that on the merits the plaintiffs would be successful in their claims." Whether Nantz and Hurley ultimately succeed on the merits is separate from whether they have articulated enough facts at this juncture to identify an injury.

In any event, there may be an additional injury that Judge O'Connor did not mention. The current iteration of IRS Form 1040 asks an individual if he had minimum essential coverage for all twelve months of the year. If the taxpayer checks "no," he is then required to perform several other calculations. There is no indication yet whether these forms will be amended for 2019. Though, there is reason to suspect that the IRS may still request information about individual coverage, even if there is no penalty associated with it. Such information is essential to calculate penalties under the employer mandate. The time and resourced need to complete these forms may be adequate to articulate an injury for Article III.

[* * *]

The third installment will focus on the severability issues in Texas v. U.S.

Published:12/17/2018 7:23:29 AM
[Issues] Klobuchar in Response to Judge Striking Down Obamacare: ‘We Need Universal Health Care’

The post Klobuchar in Response to Judge Striking Down Obamacare: ‘We Need Universal Health Care’ appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:12/16/2018 7:49:04 PM
[Health Care] Why a Judge Ruled Obamacare Unconstitutional, and What Policymakers Should Do Next

A judge has declared Obamacare unconstitutional—but the case is far from over. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, granted a motion... Read More

The post Why a Judge Ruled Obamacare Unconstitutional, and What Policymakers Should Do Next appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:12/16/2018 5:52:13 PM
[Trending Commentary] Susan Collins Predicts Obamacare Will Ultimately Be Upheld

By Kevin Daley -

GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine predicted Friday’s decision striking down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be overturned on appeal and criticized the sweep of the decision. Speaking Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Collins said that the ruling went too far, even if the individual mandate is ...

Susan Collins Predicts Obamacare Will Ultimately Be Upheld is original content from Conservative Daily News - Where Americans go for news, current events and commentary they can trust - Conservative News Website for U.S. News, Political Cartoons and more.

Published:12/16/2018 1:19:18 PM
[US News] She HAD to be dropped on her head! Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s claim about US healthcare is RIDICULOUS even for her

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was doing her part to make sure millennials were getting suckered into the disaster that is Obamacare like a good little socialist Democrat. Hey, at least she admitted this crap is expensive: Reminder to my fellow millennials to get your act together & buy insurance before tonight’s deadline. Is open enrollment a pain? […]

The post She HAD to be dropped on her head! Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s claim about US healthcare is RIDICULOUS even for her appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:12/16/2018 11:16:31 AM
[Politics] Susan Collins Decries Obamacare Invalidation as 'Too Sweeping' Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Sunday called a ruling that invalidated Obamacare "far too sweeping" -and predicted it would be overruled.In an interview on ABC News' "This Week," Collins said Congress should concentrate on an effort to reduce the Obamacare insurance... Published:12/16/2018 10:46:59 AM
[US News] Make no mistake, Kamala is full of CRAP: Kamala Harris gets OWNED for her SPIN on why OCare was found unconstitutional

Uh-oh. Kamala Harris is onto the Republicans. She figured out they know and understand the Constitution and finally put together a case to prove what most Americans have known all along … that Obamacare is unconstitutional. It’s also a complete dumpster fire of FAIL but calling it unconstitutional makes a repeal far more likely than […]

The post Make no mistake, Kamala is full of CRAP: Kamala Harris gets OWNED for her SPIN on why OCare was found unconstitutional appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:12/16/2018 9:17:29 AM
[Politics] Trump Hobbled Obamacare, Killed Enrollment The Trump administration has not repealed and replaced Obamacare as promised, but it has made moves to dismantle it, including creating job growth that has made it less of a necessity for Americans and helping dwindle its enrollment, CNBC reported.As a federal judge in... Published:12/16/2018 8:17:48 AM
[US News] ‘Ohhhh the irony!’ Barack Obama makes ANOTHER promise about Obamacare (this time after a judge’s ruling)

AGAIN??

The post ‘Ohhhh the irony!’ Barack Obama makes ANOTHER promise about Obamacare (this time after a judge’s ruling) appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:12/15/2018 11:43:49 PM
[Law] Experts weigh in on decision striking down Obamacare (Paul Mirengoff) John wrote last night about the ruling by a federal judge in Texas that Obamacare is unconstitutional in its entirety. Judge Reed O’Connor reasoned: (1) because Congress has repealed the penalty assessed against those who decline to buy health insurance, the Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power; (2) because the Individual Mandate could only be justified constitutionally as an exercise of Published:12/15/2018 8:16:15 PM
[World] [Josh Blackman] Understanding the New Obamacare Decision, Texas v. United States: Part I

[A guest-post by Prof. Josh Blackman (South Texas College of Law), a noted expert on Obamacare-related litigation. -EV]

Recently a federal district court found that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. The reaction was swift and brutal. One prominent law professor at Harvard described the case as "a political objection in legal garb," and concluded that "there is every reason to believe that a strong, nonpartisan majority of justices will do their constitutional duty, set aside how they might have voted had they been members of Congress," and uphold the law.

Another Yale law professor likened the decision to the anti-canonical Dred Scott decision, which "distorted the Constitution, disregarded precedent, disrespected Congress and proclaimed that the basic platform of one of America's two major political parties was unconstitutional." A Slate columnist wrote that the decision should "force us to reconsider the role of the courts." She added, "perhaps it's an apt moment to re-examine first principles and think about why we believe in the judicial branch in the first place."

That decision, of course, was Florida v. HHS, decided in February 2011. Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida found that Congress lacked the power to enact the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. Further, he found that protections for people with preexisting conditions—known as guaranteed issue and community rating (GI and CR)—could not be severed from the unconstitutional mandate. And, of course, we know that in 2012, the Supreme Court narrowly upheld the ACA.

At times, covering the Affordable Care Act reminds me of the film Groundhog Day: the same script repeats itself over and over again, in slightly differently contexts. I wrote about the history of NFIB v. Sebelius in my first book, Unprecedented. And, in my second book, I wrote about the second attempt to Unravel the Affordable Care Act with King v. Burwell. Now, two years into the Trump Presidency, we are in the third phase of the never-ending efforts to undo Obamacare.

In Texas v. United States, the Northern District of Texas found that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. The opinion had two main components. First, because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) reduced the ACA's shared responsibility payment to $0, the mandate to purchase insurance could no longer be saved as a constitutional fundraising tax. Second, he found that the remainder of the ACA could not stand without the "essential" mandate. Therefore, the entire law was set aside.

I agree with the first part of the ruling. Judge O'Connor was correct to find that the individual mandate can no longer be saved. However, I part company on the second part. The court should have only set aside the mandate, as well as the GI and CR ratings. The remainder of the ACA can be severed. I detailed these views in a four-part series on this case (I, II, III, and IV), and in draft article forthcoming in the Texas Review of Law & Politics. (Judge O'Connor cited the latter in FN 34.)

Eugene was kind enough to let me write several posts about this important ruling. This first installment will place Texas v. United States in the context of the past eight years of Obamacare litigation. In many regards, Judge O'Connor's ruling resembles that of Judge Vinson. In both cases, a coalition of conservative Attorneys General filed suit in a favorable division in a favorable district—Pensacola and Ft. Worth, rather than Tallahassee and Austin. And, both judges found that the individual mandate and core provisions of the ACA were unconstitutional. Moreover, both courts declined to issue a nationwide injunction, such that the case could be appealed in the normal course without immediate disruption to the federal government.

However, there are also critical differences. First, Judge Vinson rendered a major constitutional law decision on a question of first impression: could a mandate to purchase insurance be supported by Congress's powers under the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses. The Florida court went out on a limb to find that Congress lacked such a power. This decision was without precedent. Ultimately, his opinion was vindicated by a majority of the Court, but at the time, Professors Tribe and Amar (referenced above) savaged the decision. Indeed, the activity/inactivity distinction remains controversial in constitutional discourse.

In contrast, Judge O'Connor's decision is far less audacious. His constitutional analysis concerning the mandate was supported by a majority of the Supreme Court. Critics can disagree with the factual predicate of his ruling—that the individual mandate survived the TCJA—but his constitutional analysis stands on a firm foundation. Moreover, Judge O'Connor's ultimate conclusion on severability—that the entire ACA must fall if the mandate is unconstitutional—was supported by the NFIB joint dissenters. Assuming the intent of Congress in 2010 controls the severability analysis—I think it does, but the question is closer than many have recognized—Judge O'Connor's sweeping ruling has the foundation of four votes on the Supreme Court.

There is a second critical difference: timing. When Judge Vinson issued his ruling, the Affordable Care Act had not yet gone into full effect. At that juncture, there were some preliminary programs that had been rolled out, and the Administration was preparing to implement the remainder of the law. Seven years later, the ACA has been fully woven into the fabric of the American health care system. Pulling the emergency brake on the entirety of the law would be logistically impossible. For this reason, and many others, Judge O'Connor was prudent not to issue a nationwide injunction, as the states had requested.

Third, the political dynamics are fundamentally different. In 2010, Obamacare's unpopularity, fueled by the surging Tea Party, led to the Republicans winning the House of Representatives, and taking more seats in the Senate. The Republican party quickly coalesced around the legal arguments advanced by Randy Barnett and other members of this blog. In the words of Jack Balkin, the arguments concerning the mandate went from Off the Wall to On the Wall. 2018 is very different. The popularity of the ACA, in particular the GI and CR provisions, is well established. Republican politicians who voted to repeal the ACA struggled to defend their votes during the midterm elections. Many of these members lost their seats, in part at least, due to the efforts to unravel Obamacare. The Republican opposition to the law has faded significantly.

Fourth, we have very different executive branches. The Obama Administration was singularly focused on defending the ACA at every juncture. First under the leadership of Deputy SG Neal Katyal (then-SG Elena Kagan wanted nothing to do with the case), and later with Donald Verrilli at the helm, the administration mounted a coordinated effort to save the law. Now the situation is quite different. Then AG Sessions declined to defend the constitutionality of the mandate, and concluded that GI and CR cannot be severed.

Fifth, we have very, very different Presidents. President Obama viewed the ACA as the cornerstone of his domestic legacy. President Trump, in contrast, has targeted the repeal of Obamacare since he was on the campaign trail—but not really. He still favors protection for pre-existing conditions and other popular aspects of the law, but he opposes the unpopular aspects. Shortly after the decision, President Trump issued two celebratory tweets that maintain this ambiguous posture.

Obamacare bad. Pre-existing conditions good.

The sixth difference may be the most important. Had the Supreme Court set aside the ACA in June 2012, there would have been zero political appetite to restore the law in any regard. Republicans would have claimed the decision as a political victory, and moved on. Perhaps Mitt Romney would have won the election—we may never know.

2019 is every different. If the Supreme Court were to hold that the law's GI and CR provisions were unconstitutional, I suspect that Congress would re-enact those provisions with broad bipartisan support. There is no constitutional problem with Congress enacting these standalone insurance reforms, without the mandate. Indeed, to avoid any disruption, the Supreme Court could delay its ruling by a single tax year to give Congress a chance to act. (Justice Alito floated this option during oral arguments in King v. Burwell.)

Moreover, states can enact their own GI and CR provisions as a fall back in the event that Texas is victorious. Many states already have restrictions that are more protective of those under the ACA. Finally, unlike with King v. Burwell, where states were at risk of losing millions in federal funding, here the states can be proactive and ensure no gaps in coverage. In other words, now that Congress zeroed out the penalty, the political fallout from a decision declaring that GI and CR were also unconstitutional would likely be short-lived.

Seventh, in 2012, we had no idea what the Roberts Court would do with the ACA. However, NFIB told us what the Justices thought of the constitutionality of the mandate. And, recent reporting about the case suggests that Chief Justice Roberts was willing to set aside the mandate, as well as the GI and CR, but could not persuade Justice Kennedy to follow along with this narrower path. Now, Justice Kennedy is gone, and he is replaced by Justice Kavanaugh, who—based on the earliest of lights—may have a stronger respect for stare decisis than did his predecessor.

It is not unthinkable for a majority of the Court to hold that the predicate of the saving construction no longer holds—the exaction does not raise revenue. Therefore, the GI and CR provisions cannot be salvaged. This sort of decision would reaffirm the Commerce and Necessary and Proper analysis in NFIB—an important rule I agree with. Moreover, that ruling would demonstrate the saving construction was a proper application of the judicial role, rather than an ad hoc exception to avoid a politically unpopular ruling. (Six years later, I have come to grips with the bulk of the saving construction, but still cannot accept the Chief's analysis of direct taxes.)

In future posts, I will break down the technical details of Judge O'Connor's 55-page opinion. Here, my sole aim was to place this decision in the broader context of the ACA litigation, which I have been carefully covering for nearly 8 years.

Published:12/15/2018 7:48:12 PM
[Politics] Trump Hails Judge's Ruling Against Obamacare as 'Great' President Donald Trump on Saturday hailed a court decision against Obamacare as "a great ruling for our country," while a U.S. government official said the decision by a Texas judge would have no immediate impact on health coverage.U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort... Published:12/15/2018 4:12:39 PM
[Markets] How Will The Obamacare Ruling Affect Americans Covered Under The ACA?

A Texas federal Judge ruled on Friday that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, was rendered unconstitutional after Congress eliminated the individual mandate - a federal requirement to buy insurance or face a penalty.

At issue in the case was the individual mandate, which requires people to have health insurance. The penalty for not having insurance was dropped to $0 in the most recent tax legislation, potentially undercutting the Supreme Court's decision in 2012 that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional because of Congress' ability to tax. 

With no penalty, there's no tax, the plaintiffs, a coalition of Republican-led states, argued in the Texas case. The plaintiffs also argued that the individual mandate is so essential to the entire law, so that if it's unconstitutional, the rest of the law must also be thrown out. U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor agreed on that point, too. -CBS News

The ruling came just one day before the december 15 deadline to sign up for health coverage in 2019 through the ACA's marketplace. 

How will this the ruling affect people covered under the ACA? It won't, for now - and people can still sign up for coverage through Saturday. "Court's decision does not affect this season's open enrollment," reads a notice on HealthCare.gov. 

The Trump White House has said that the existing law will stand for now while the ruling works its way through the appeals process up to the Supreme Court - a process which could take years. Some, such as Vox's Ezra Klein, have suggested that since Congress removed the individual mandate with the intention of keeping Obamacare intact, the Texas ruling is judicial overreach and the ruling is unlikely to stand.

"We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders in a statement, adding that Trump is now calling on Congress to replace the Affordable Care Act. 

That didn't stop Trump from throwing salt in the wound - tweeting on Saturday: "As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!"

That said, if the law is ultimately invalidated, other well-liked sections of the law are likely to be scrapped according to CBS Newssuch as the provision allowing adult children to remain on their parents insurance coverage until age 26 - whether or not they live in the basement. 

Moreover, invalidating the ACA would eliminate the mandate that insurance companies cannot discriminate against pre-existing conditions, as well as the ban on annual lifetime limits for coverage. 

Democrats immediately jumped on the Friday night ruling to warn that health care coverage for millions of Americans was at stake due to the Republican-led lawsuit that sought to void popular parts of Obamacare, including protections for pre-existing conditions and a ban on annual lifetime limits. -Bloomberg

House Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi said that the ruling "exposes the monstrous endgame of Republicans’ all-out assault on people with pre-existing conditions and Americans’ access to affordable health care."

Trump, of course, celebrated - though not everyone agrees... "When Trump says this is ‘great for America,’ he’s forgetting the health care driven whipping Republicans got in the midterms," said Andy Slavitt - the man who oversaw the implementation of the ACA for the Obama administration, who added "Rather than let that heal, he’s making health care a 2020 prime fight and also putting Republicans in the Senate at great exposure."

Republicans struggled with the issue in the campaign. They vowed to support protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, even if they backed the lawsuit or legislation that would undo those provisions. One prominent Republican ally of Trump said health care could be his “Achilles heel” in 2020, when he’s up for re-election. -Bloomberg

"I’m not sure Republicans even know what they’re fighting for right now when it comes to health care," said former GOP Congressman from Florida who is now an independent. "Opposing Obamacare has become reflexive GOP orthodoxy, but they just spent six months saying they’d protect pre-existing conditions. Hard to square GOP campaign promises with the court victory by GOP attorneys general," he added. 

The next step for the matter will be the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals - the most conservative appellate court in the country, according to Bloomberg. If they uphold the decision, it's likely headed to the Supreme Court. On the other hand if the Fifth Circuit reverses the decision, the Supreme Court likely won't hear the case, according to legal experts. 

I can’t see who in the Fifth Circuit swallows this, and if they don’t,” the Supreme Court won’t take the the case, predicted Adler, who’s also a member of the conservative Federalist Society.

Nicholas Bagley, a professor at University of Michigan Law School, said he doubts the case will make it to the Supreme Court. By far the likeliest outcome is that it gets rejected on appeal at the Fifth Circuit, he said in an email, adding, “No serious conservative has yet endorsed this litigation. That includes very hard-line conservatives.” -Bloomberg

Republican Kevin Brady - the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman who assisted in the unsuccessful Republican bill to repeal Obamacare in 2017, said that the ruling was "not surprising," as the law was "embarrassingly designed. 

If Friday's ruling is upheld, Brady says "ultimately both parties should start over.

Published:12/15/2018 3:12:14 PM
[US News] Eric Holder says it’s time to ‘end this nonsense’ after judge rules parts of Obamacare unconstitutional (guess how)

"Warped logic" spotted.

The post Eric Holder says it’s time to ‘end this nonsense’ after judge rules parts of Obamacare unconstitutional (guess how) appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:12/15/2018 1:11:47 PM
[ObamaCare] BOOM: Federal Judge Rules Obamacare is Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Texas ruled Friday that Obamacare was illegal under the U.S. Constitution throwing enrollments in the plan into uncertainty.

The post BOOM: Federal Judge Rules Obamacare is Unconstitutional appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:12/15/2018 1:11:47 PM
[ObamaCare] BOOM: Federal Judge Rules Obamacare is Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Texas ruled Friday that Obamacare was illegal under the U.S. Constitution throwing enrollments in the plan into uncertainty.

The post BOOM: Federal Judge Rules Obamacare is Unconstitutional appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:12/15/2018 1:11:47 PM
[Media] At number 1, no ordinary Joe (Scott Johnson) The Dartmouth Alumni Magazine has toted up its 15 most-read stories of 2018. Coming in at number 1 is Emily Esfahani Smith’s profile of Joe Rago (Dartmouth ’05), Wall Street Journal editorial board member, 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner at age 28 for his brilliant editorials on Obamacare, gone at age 34 of sarcoidosis. I am in awe of what Emily did in this profile, both bringing Joe back to life Published:12/15/2018 11:40:59 AM
[Media] Who didn’t see THIS coming? Ezra Klein uses O-care news to spell out what Dems have in mind ‘next time they hold power’

"This was always going to be the endgame for Obamacare and a million righties said so in 2010."

The post Who didn’t see THIS coming? Ezra Klein uses O-care news to spell out what Dems have in mind ‘next time they hold power’ appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:12/15/2018 8:41:47 AM
[World] [Ilya Somin] Thoughts on Today's Federal Court Decision Against Obamacare

The judge was right to conclude that the individual health insurance mandate is now unconstitutional, but wrong to rule that the rest of the ACA is now unlawful because it can't be severed from the largely toothless mandate left in place under the 2017 GOP tax bill.

Earlier today, Federal District Court Judge Reed O'Connor issued an important ruling in a case brought by twenty GOP-controlled state governments, arguing that the Obamacare individual health insurance mandate is now unconstitutional, because the tax reform bill Congress passed in December 2017 eliminates the monetary penalty for violation. Much more importantly, the states also claim that the rest of the Affordable Care Act must fall with the mandate because it cannot be "severed" from it. Judge O'Connor ruled in favor of the states on both counts. I think he was right on the first issue, but badly wrong on the second. Like co-blogger Jonathan Adler, I think it is highly likely that this part of the judge's ruling will be overturned on appeal (though, for reasons discussed below, I am a bit less confident on that score than he is).

On the plus side, Judge O'Connor correctly concluded that the post-2017 version of the mandate is now unconstitutional. The judge goes into a long and involved analysis of the issue. But the bottom line is simple. In NFIB v. Sebelius, the original Obamacare case, Chief Justice John Roberts' controlling opinion rejected claims that the individual health insurance mandate can be upheld under Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce, or under the Necessary and Proper Clause. He ultimately upheld it only because it could be reinterpreted as a tax. That theory no longer holds, for reasons I explained here:

Roberts listed several factors that led him to conclude that the mandate can be considered a tax. But a crucial one is that the violators were subject to a fine collected by the IRS. As Roberts put it, "the essential feature of any tax [is that] it produces at least some revenue for the Government."

In December 2017, the GOP Congress enacted a tax bill that.... abolished the fine previously imposed on people who disobeyed the ACA health insurance mandate. The mandate itself remains on the books. But violators are no longer subject to any penalty. For this reason, the state plaintiffs in the newly filed case argue that the mandate can no longer be considered a tax. In the absence of a financial penalty, it no longer "produces" any "revenue for the Government." Indeed, it no longer even tries to do so.....

The plaintiffs are absolutely right on this point. A tax that does not require anyone to pay anything is like a unicorn without a horn. It is pretty obviously not a tax at all.

As I explained in a post published back in June, I think this aspect of the case is important in and of itself, and not just because of the potential implications for the rest of the ACA. But almost everyone else following the current Obamacare litigation seems to care only about the severability issue. The fate of the ACA hinges on it, whereas few worry about the fate of the now-toothless mandate for its own sake.

And Judge O'Connor's analysis of the severability issue is badly flawed. When one part of a statute is ruled unconstitutional, courts are not supposed to strike down other parts of the same law unless they are inextricably connected and Congress would not have intended the latter to function without the former.

In today's opinion, O'Connor demonstrates at length that Congress considered the individual mandate to be an "essential" part of the Affordable Care Act when it was first enacted back in 2010. However, the mandate that reasoning applies to was the original version that included a penalty. Congress' 2010 legislative findings and other statements about the importance of the mandate simply do not apply to the post-2017 version, which no longer imposes any penalty for violation. It just doesn't make any sense to conclude that an essentially toothless mandate is "essential" to the ACA. And that is the version whose relevance the court must consider in the current case.

Judge O'Connor's analysis of the post-2017 version of the law is brief and cursory. He notes, correctly, that the 2017 Congress did not repeal the 2010 findings on the supposedly "essential" nature of the mandate, and that it did not make any new findings on this subject. But none of this changes the fact that the court's job is to evaluate the essentiality (or lack thereof) of the present version of the mandate, not the one that existed before December 2017. The 2010 findings do not apply to the former, and Congress did not need to make any new findings to demonstrate the fairly obvious point that a virtually toothless mandate is not essential to anything. Under the 2010 version of the ACA, it was plausible to argue that the mandate was a nail for want of which the battle (or, in this case, the ACA) would be lost. The current version is akin to a rusty nail that no longer holds up anything, and indeed no longer even has a sharp point.

For those interested, there is a more extensive discussion of the severability issue in the amicus brief I joined with several other legal scholars, including Jonathan Adler, Nicholas Bagley, Abbe Gluck, and Kevin Walsh. But, to my mind, at least, the issue really comes down to the simple common-sense point that a mandate without teeth cannot be considered essential to anything. For what it is worth, Adler and I believe that the original Obamacare mandate was unconstitutional, and he was one of several legal scholars who joined the amicus brief I wrote against it (we also later coauthored a book about the case). Bagley and Gluck were on the other side of that issue. But we are on the same page when it comes to the severability question.

As already noted, I do not expect this ruling to survive on appeal. But I am not quite as confident on that subject as most other commentators seem to be. The fact that one federal judge has endorsed the states' severability argument increases the odds that others might, as well. The history of ACA-related litigation is filled with surprises and failed predictions by experts. My own predictions about the original Obamacare case were right on some key points, but wrong on others. So it is certainly possible I could turn out to be wrong about a key aspect of this case, as well.

There is, however, one important distinction between the 2012 ACA case and the current one. Despite repeated claims to the contrary by the law's defenders, there was never a broad, cross-ideological consensus in favor of the constitutionality of the individual mandate. From early on, prominent conservative and libertarian legal scholars and commentators argued that the law was unconstitutional. The issue was one that divided experts largely along ideological lines. Thus, judges could (and did) write plausibly defensible opinions on either side of the issue.

By contrast, expert support for the states' severability argument in the present case is notable by its near-total absence. Those conservative and libertarian legal scholars who have opined on the subject have almost all argued that the states' position is badly wrong. That doesn't necessarily mean the states cannot win. Judges don't have to listen to expert commentators, and sometimes even go against their consensus views. But lack of intellectual respectability does make it much harder for a controversial new argument to prevail, especially in a high-profile case like this one.

UPDATE: I wrote this post before I had a chance to see Jonathan Adler's update to his own post about this ruling, where he offers a similar critique of the severability part of the decision.

Published:12/14/2018 11:37:19 PM
[Uncategorized] BUZZKILL: If you like your Obamacare, you’ll be keeping your Obamacare for the foreseeable future

Despite a federal judge ruling that key parts of Obamacare are unconstitutional, it appears that if you like your Obamacare you can keep your Obamacare for the foreseeable future: *WHITE HOUSE: OBAMACARE LAW REMAINS IN PLACE PENDING APPEAL — Laura Litvan (@LauraLitvan) December 15, 2018 That's big. So here's the score: no injunction, no refusal to […]

The post BUZZKILL: If you like your Obamacare, you’ll be keeping your Obamacare for the foreseeable future appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:12/14/2018 10:07:06 PM
[World] [Jonathan H. Adler] BREAKING: District Court Judge in Texas Holds ACA Is Unlawful

A federal district court judge in Texas has accepted a strained and implausible argument that the Affordable Care Act must be struck down because Congress eliminated the tax penalty for failing to purchase qualifying health insurance.

This evening, as the Affordable Care Act's enrollment period ended, Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. District Court for Northern District of Texas issued his much-awaited opinion in Texas v. United States, concluding that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and that, as a consequence, the entire Affordable Care Act is invalid. This is a surprising result, and one that is hard to justify.

I provided background on the implausible claims behind this suit here and here. Among other things, it's not clear why the states had standing to file their claim, and the argument that the entire ACA must fall because of the individual mandate's alleged infirmity is strained, to say the least, for reasons I outlined with Abbe Gluck in this NYT piece and this amicus brief. I also debated the merits of the case in this FedSoc podcast.

As the foregoing makes clear, I've been highly skeptical of the claims in this case from the beginning. Thus the result in the opinion is surprising -- and surprisingly weak. It is, in many respects, the conservative equivalent of so-called #Resistance judicial opinions that have embraced questionable legal arguments deployed to subvert objecitonable Trump Administration policies. I would be quite surprised if this opinion survives the inevitable appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and even more surprised if this result garners the support of more than two justices on the Supreme Court (if the case even gets that far).

[This post will be updated as I have time to analyze the opinion.)

Published:12/14/2018 9:40:48 PM
[Obamacare] Federal Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional (John Hinderaker) Via Drudge, federal judge Reed O’Connor, in Ft. Worth, Texas, has declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, apparently in its entirety. You may remember that Obamacare survived constitutional scrutiny by the skin of its teeth when the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roberts, held that the penalty the act imposes for failure to buy health insurance is a tax, and therefore is constitutional. That holding discreetly bypassed the fact Published:12/14/2018 9:40:48 PM
[World] Judge Declares ObamaCare Unconstitutional Trump Celebrates on Twitter

http://insider.foxnews.com/2018/12/14/jonathan-turley-rips-james-comey-92-street-y-speech-about-trumpPresident Trump celebrated the ruling by a Bush-appointed federal judge that struck down the Affordable Care Act -- or ObamaCare -- "in whole."

Published:12/14/2018 9:07:40 PM
[Markets] Texas judge strikes down 'Obamacare' law as unconstitutional Texas judge strikes down 'Obamacare' law as unconstitutional Published:12/14/2018 9:07:39 PM
[Politics] BREAKING! Judge STRIKES DOWN Obamacare!! Kamala Harris hardest hit… The Obamacare socialist healthcare bill has been struck down by a Texas judge, God bless that state, and Kamala Harris from California, God bless that terrible state, is already whining about it.  . . . Published:12/14/2018 8:07:27 PM
[US News] GUTTED: Federal judge rules key parts of Obamacare are unconstitutional

Happy Friday everyone! *U.S. JUDGE RULES CORE PROVISIONS OF OBAMACARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL (via @TheTerminal) — Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) December 15, 2018 BREAKING: Obamacare was gutted by a Texas federal judge in a ruling that casts uncertainty on insurance coverage for millions of U.S. residents https://t.co/64eMFPeDN9 — Bloomberg (@business) December 15, 2018 One of the provisions ruled […]

The post GUTTED: Federal judge rules key parts of Obamacare are unconstitutional appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:12/14/2018 7:38:52 PM
[2018 News] Obamacare Thrown Out by Judge, Raising Insurance Uncertainty Obamacare Thrown Out by Judge, Raising Insurance Uncertainty. About time someone threw this ripoff out the door. Published:12/14/2018 7:38:52 PM
[Politics] BREAKING! Judge STRIKES DOWN Obamacare!! Kamala Harris hardest hit… The Obamacare socialist healthcare bill has been struck down by a Texas judge, God bless that state, and Kamala Harris from California, God bless that terrible state, is already whining about it.  . . . Published:12/14/2018 7:38:52 PM
[Uncategorized] Federal Judge kills Obamacare If the ruling holds up on appeal, Obamacare is dead. As a doorknob. Not just the mandate or some other particular provisions. He killed the WHOLE THING. Published:12/14/2018 7:38:52 PM
[Media] ‘PSSST!’ Hillary failed to mention 1 KEY detail in her tweet pushing Obamacare but LUCKILY Sharyl Attkisson reminded her (HA!)

Good ol’ Hillary Clinton, doing her part this time of year to make sure people think they still have to sign up for Obamacare. Do you or someone in your life need affordable health care? The deadline to enroll in Obamacare is tomorrow. Spread the word: https://t.co/3Ll40AaneO — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) December 14, 2018 Oh, […]

The post ‘PSSST!’ Hillary failed to mention 1 KEY detail in her tweet pushing Obamacare but LUCKILY Sharyl Attkisson reminded her (HA!) appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:12/14/2018 10:34:14 AM
[News] Federal Judge Sides With Christian Groups Over Obamacare Birth Control Mandate

A federal judge sided with three religious colleges and three Christian organizations in their challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate. Judge Philip Brimmer, a George W. Bush appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, issued an order that permanently blocks the federal government from forcing the plaintiffs to cover sterilization ...

The post Federal Judge Sides With Christian Groups Over Obamacare Birth Control Mandate appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:12/12/2018 5:22:42 PM
[News] Federal Judge Sides With Christian Groups Over Obamacare Birth Control Mandate

A federal judge sided with three religious colleges and three Christian organizations in their challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate. Judge Philip Brimmer, a George W. Bush appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, issued an order that permanently blocks the federal government from forcing the plaintiffs to cover sterilization ...

The post Federal Judge Sides With Christian Groups Over Obamacare Birth Control Mandate appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:12/12/2018 5:22:42 PM
[Health Care] States Have a New Opportunity to Lower Insurance Premiums and Expand Options. Here’s How.

The Trump administration is offering welcome relief to Americans struggling with high premiums under Obamacare premiums and a lack of insurance choices. The administration has... Read More

The post States Have a New Opportunity to Lower Insurance Premiums and Expand Options. Here’s How. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:12/12/2018 3:54:50 PM
[Health Care] Trump Administration Undermines Obamacare (John Hinderaker) With the Democrats in control of the House, nothing useful will come out of Congress in the next two years. That means that progress in domestic policy will have to come via regulation and executive action. Happily, the Trump administration is very strong on this front. An underreported story is the administration’s regulatory reform of Obamacare. Here, the administration is implementing ideas that were developed in think tanks like my Published:12/10/2018 6:42:25 PM
[Markets] Too Much Partisanship In Washington? No, Ron Paul Says, Too Much Bipartisanship!

Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

Washington is once again gripped by the specter of a government shutdown, as Congress and President Trump negotiate an end-of-year spending deal. A main issue of contention is funding for President Trump’s border wall. Sadly, but not surprisingly, neither Congress nor the administration is fighting to cut, or at least not increase, spending.

Federal spending has increased from 3.6 trillion dollars to 4.4 trillion dollars since Republicans gained control over both chambers of Congress in 2014. Some may try to defend congressional Republicans by pointing out that for two years the Republican Congress had to negotiate spending deals with President Obama. But federal spending has increased by 7.5 percent, or over 300 billion dollars, since Donald Trump become President.

A big beneficiary of the Republican spending spree is the military-industrial complex. Republicans have increased the “defense” budget by eight percent in the past two years. President Trump and congressional Republicans claim the increases are necessary because sequestration “decimated” the military. But Congress, with the Obama administration’s full cooperation and support, suspended sequestration every year but one, so the planned cuts never went into full effect. Congress and Obama also “supplemented” the official military budget with generous appropriations for the Pentagon’s off-budget Overseas Contingency Operations fund. Spending on militarism increased by as much as 600 billion dollars over the amounts allowed for under sequestration.

President Trump has proposed reducing the projected military budget for fiscal year 2020 to 700 billion dollars. This would be a mere two percent cut, yet the usual voices are already crying that this tiny reduction would endanger our security. If history is any guide, the military-industrial complex’s congressional allies and high-priced lobbyists will be able to defeat the president’s proposed reductions and convince President Trump to further increase the military budget.

This huge military budget has little or nothing to do with America’s legitimate security needs. In fact, as candidate Trump recognized, America’s military interventions in the Middle East have endangered our security by empowering terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

While the warfare state has been a big beneficiary of the Republican spending spree, the GOP has hardly neglected the welfare state. Domestic spending has increased seven percent since 2016. Except for a half-hearted attempt to repeal Obamacare and some food stamp reforms that were included in and then dropped from this year’s farm bill, Republicans have not made any effort to roll back or even reform the welfare state.

The farm bill, which Congress is expected to pass this week, will spend as much as 900 billion dollars over the next ten years. Much of that spending will be on taxpayer subsidies for wealthy farmers and even “farmers in name only.”

Trump’s budget deals have been supported by the majority of Democrats. Even those who have called for the president’s impeachment are more than happy to vote with him when it comes to increasing spending and debt. These Democrats are the mirror image of 1990s Republicans who made a big spending deal with President Clinton while simultaneously trying to impeach him.

We suffer from too much bipartisanship when it comes to the welfare-warfare state. This bipartisanship has resulted in a national debt that is rapidly approaching 30 trillion dollars. This will inevitably lead to a major economic crisis. The way to avoid this crisis is to replace the bipartisan welfare-warfare consensus with a new consensus in favor of limited government, peace, free markets in all areas including currency, and auditing then ending the Fed.

Published:12/10/2018 4:41:39 PM
[US News] RUH-ROH Liawatha! Elizabeth Warren’s #GetCovered video met with HEAP BIG pushback … from Democrats (watch)

Like other Democrats, Elizabeth Warren is doing her part to make sure suckers sign up for Obamacare before it’s too late. Oh, wait, our bad … she’s making sure people #GetCovered or something. Yeah, that’s it. She even posted a video: There are just 5 days left to #GetCovered for 2019. Go to https://t.co/bTC9R5FnQK to […]

The post RUH-ROH Liawatha! Elizabeth Warren’s #GetCovered video met with HEAP BIG pushback … from Democrats (watch) appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:12/10/2018 2:38:52 PM
[Media] ‘When the NYT stumbles they REALLY stumble’: NYT piece on why Obamacare enrollment is down is ‘just precious’

Obamacare enrollment is down. Who knew? We’ll put this New York Times piece on just why Obamacare enrollment is down in the ‘NO SH*T, you don’t say,’ column … To be fair, odds are the NYT didn’t mean to admit Obamacare sucks and why it sucks so badly (and has always sucked) but we’ll take […]

The post ‘When the NYT stumbles they REALLY stumble’: NYT piece on why Obamacare enrollment is down is ‘just precious’ appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:12/9/2018 11:01:30 AM
[Politics] Laughably False Anti-GOP Meme Gets ‘True’ Rating From Snopes

Fact-checker Snopes contradicted various reporters and fact-checkers Thursday by coming to the defense of a liberal meme about Obamacare repeal.

The post Laughably False Anti-GOP Meme Gets ‘True’ Rating From Snopes appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:12/7/2018 1:49:22 PM
[The Blog] Obamacare enrollment on the federal exchange is down 11% so far this year

"...I would be shocked if enrollment was higher this year than last year."

The post Obamacare enrollment on the federal exchange is down 11% so far this year appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:12/6/2018 4:13:56 PM
[1502ba44-f0dd-5b0e-88af-0df6c2c27676] Tammy Bruce: Why Trump's border wall could help save thousands of lives The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a shocking report last week revealing American life expectancy is down as a result of higher drug overdose deaths and suicide. For those watching, the advent of ObamaCare, the Republican failure in reversing that debacle and the refusal of politicians to secure our southern border all have a hand in this monstrous development. Published:12/6/2018 3:10:47 AM
[World] [Ilya Somin] Volokh Conspiracy Holiday Gifts!

Some VC-related holiday gifts for the law and public policy types in your life!

The 201i holiday season is now upon us! And if you are looking for possible gifts for regular Volokh Conspiracy readers in your life, what could better than books by VC bloggers?

Among my favorite books by VC authors are Randy Barnett's Restoring the Lost Constitution, David Bernstein's Rehabilitating Lochner, Dale Carpenter, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas, and Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing.

Randy's book is one of the best recent works on originalism and constitutional legitimacy. It is relevant to ongoing debates over legal interpretation that are sure to heat up again as the Supreme Court considers several major cases in the near future. Randy Barnett is also the author of the recent Our Republican Constitution, which I reviewed here. Rehabilitating Lochner explodes numerous myths about one of the Court's most reviled decisions, one that remains relevant to current debates over "judicial activism." Flagrant Conduct is a great account of a milestone in the history of gay rights. It provides useful historical context for the still-ongoing battles over same-sex marriage and related issues. Finally, Academic Legal Writing is filled with useful advice, while also somehow managing to make this generally unexciting topic interesting.

The just-published Cambridge Handbook of Classical Liberal Thought (edited by Todd Henderson), includes chapters by three different VC bloggers: Jonathan Adler on environmental policy, David Bernstein on anti-discrimination law, and my own contribution on "voting with your feet."

This list is not intended to slight important books by Ken Anderson, Sam Bray, Orin Kerr, David Kopel, David Post, and other VC bloggers. I have not discussed them only because their subjects are relatively distant from my own areas of expertise.

In the spirit of shameless self-promotion, I will also mention the much-expanded second edition of my own book Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter. Sadly, the problem analyzed in the book played an important role in the 2016 and 2018 elections. It also helps to account for widespread public ignorance about the Constitution, for the painful realities of voting for a lesser evil, and for the perpetuation of a wide range of government policies that constrict economic growth and harm the poor. Whether or not people agree with the specific solutions advocated in my book, I hope that recent events at least lead more Americans to start taking the problem of political ignorance seriously.

My most recent book is Eminent Domain: A Comparative Perspective, co-edited with Iljoong Kim and Hojun Lee. It analyzes the use and abuse of eminent domain in a variety of countries around the world.

My other books include The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain, which is the first book by a legal scholar about one of the Supreme Court's most controversial modern decisions, and A Conspiracy Against Obamacare: The Volokh Conspiracy and the Health Care Case (coauthored with VC-ers Randy Barnett, Jonathan Adler, David Bernstein, Orin Kerr, and David Kopel). Conspiracy Against Obamacare focuses on the VC's significant role in the Obamacare litigation, and is the only book that includes contributions by six different VC bloggers. In November 2016, the University of Chicago Press published an an updated paperback edition of the The Grasping Hand, which incorporates new material on recent developments such as the growing legal and political struggle over pipeline takings.

Published:12/5/2018 10:08:14 AM
[World] Gauging the uptick in drug overdose deaths and suicide

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a shocking report last week revealing American life expectancy is down as a result of higher drug overdose deaths and suicide. For those watching, the advent of Obamacare, the Republican failure in reversing that debacle and the refusal of politicians to secure ... Published:12/5/2018 4:04:51 AM

[World] [Ilya Somin] Why a New Brexit Referendum Would Not be a "Betrayal" of Democracy

If referenda are a legitimate mechanism for making political decisions, then it is also legitimate for them to be overruled by new referenda. Those who live by the referendum sword risk dying by it.

Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal with the European Union has proven so unpopular with both "Leave" and "Remain" supporters that it might well be rejected by Parliament. That has given new life to the "People's Vote" movement, which advocates a new Brexit referendum they hope will reverse the results of the June 2016 vote, in which a narrow 52% majority voted to leave the European Union. A second referendum (like the first) would have to be authorized by Parliament, and its results would not be binding without parliamentary approval (again, like the first). But such a referendum could potentially occur if Parliament rejects the May deal, and there is no parliamentary majority for any other approach to Brexit.

Many Brexit supporters, however, argue that a second referendum would be undemocratic, because it would represent a refusal to accept the results of the first. Prime Minister May has denounced the idea as a "gross betrayal of our democracy." British political commentator Tom Slater offers a more sophisticated version of that argument in an October article in Foreign Policy.

Brexit is a tremendously important issue in itself. And the broader question of when it is justifiable to reverse a referendum result with a new vote has implications that go beyond this specific example. Referenda are used to decide a wide range of policy issues, including many important state government policies right here in the US. If it is wrong to reverse Brexit with a new referendum, perhaps the same theory applies to other policies adopted by referendum, as well. But, in truth, there is no good reason to grant referendum results any special immunity from reversal - especially if that reversal is itself brought about by the same process as the original decision.

There is a longstanding debate on whether referenda should be used to decide important policy issues. Critics argue they should not, because voters often lack the knowledge needed to decide complex questions, or because such issues cannot be boiled down to a "yes or no" referendum question. Ironically, Margaret Thatcher - icon of British Euroskeptics - was one such opponent of referenda, which she denounced as "device[s] for dictators and demagogues." If you take a Thatcherite view of referenda, then Parliament should not only only reverse Brexit, but do so without holding a second referendum. That would set a strong precedent for the principle that referenda should not be used to decide important issues.

In my view, however, it is far from clear referenda really are worse tools for deciding policy issues than ordinary legislation. Voter ignorance is a very serious problem. But whether it is a worse problem with referenda or with ordinary legislation will vary from case to case. Thus, I am not, on principle, opposed to referenda. Whether Brexit was the sort of issue better decided by referendum or by ordinary legislation strikes me as a close case.

But if it was legitimate to use a referendum to decide in favor Brexit, it is also legitimate to use the same process to reverse it. Indeed, one of the basic principles of legislation is that the same entity that enacted a law also has the power to modify or reverse it. US states with referendum processes regularly hold new referenda on initiatives intended to reverse or modify earlier ones. There is no reason to exempt Brexit from similar potential reversal. Indeed, the 2016 Brexit referendum was itself a reversal of the decision made by the 1975 UK referendum on joining the European Communities (which later became the European Union). If the 2016 Brexit referendum can reverse the result of the 1975 EC referendum, then it in turn can be reversed by yet another referendum. That's how legislation works.

Slater argues that reversing Brexit would be improper because it hasn't been fully implemented yet (Britain is not scheduled to depart the EU until March 29, 2019). But there is no reason why the body that made a legislative decision cannot reverse it prior to implementation. For example, congressional Republicans repeatedly tried to repeal Obamacare, including many times before key parts of it were ever implemented. That may or may not have been a good idea. But no one seriously objected on the grounds that pre-implementation reversal would somehow be an affront to democracy.

Pre-implementation reversal may actually be especially appropriate in cases where new evidence indicates that going ahead with the previous decision is likely to be more costly and dangerous than anticipated. The problems associated with the May deal raise that very prospect: the UK may not be able to leave the EU without either undergoing a dangerous "hard Brexit" (with no agreement on free trade and investment) or having to accept continued subjection to a variety of EU regulations, without having any say in their formulation (as per the May deal).

In Slater's view, a second Brexit vote would also be undemocratic because its main advocates are "elites" whose real goal is to reverse Brexit by any available means, not promote democracy for its own sake. He may well be right about these elites' motives. But so what? The vast majority of referendum initiatives are promoted by people whose main goal is to prevail on a particular policy issue. In most cases, they would be more than happy to achieve the same result by ordinary legislation, a judicial decision, or any other legally permissible means. That was in large part, true of the Brexit referendum itself, which was promoted by "Leave" enthusiasts because they want Britain out of the European Union (and, in some cases, by some Remainers who hoped that a referendum would put an end to "leave" agitation within the Conservative Party). Hard-core Brexiteers would have been happy to see Brexit enacted by Parliament, without a referendum. And had they lost in 2016, they would likely have been happy to see that decision reversed by a future referendum.

Finally, Slater and some other Brexit advocates argue that a new vote would be unfair to those who voted for Leave in the first referendum because it would "demoralize" them. That may be true. But, again, so what? The same can be said for any reversal of a policy decision much valued by its supporters. Many Remainers were deeply angered, perhaps even "demoralized," by the 2016 referendum's reversal of the 1975 vote to join the EC. Those who live by the sword of the referendum must risk dying by it, as well.

I don't deny that I myself would be happy to see Brexit reversed by a second referendum. I was opposed to Brexit in 2016, and developments since then have mostly reinforced that view. The issue is one that has divided my fellow libertarians on both sides of the Atlantic. But I tend to agree with those like Jacob Levy, and Johan Norberg, who argue that Brexit will result in more statism, not more liberty and more free market policies. It is increasingly clear that a post-Brexit Britain is likely to be less libertarian than the alternative, not more so. Sam Bowman, former executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, offers a thoughtful libertarian case for a second referendum, which I largely agree with.

Be that as it may, you don't have to agree with me about the merits of Brexit, to recognize that there is nothing undemocratic in using one referendum to reverse the results of another. And that's true regardless of how soon the second vote comes after the first, regardless of whether it is promoted by "elites" who objected to the initial decision, and regardless of whether supporters of the earlier vote might be "demoralized" by reopening the question.

Published:12/3/2018 7:26:42 PM
[Issues] Religious Station No Longer Faces Penalty for Practicing Faith

After a seven-year legal battle America's largest religious media company no longer faces the prospect of violating its faith to comply with Obamacare's contraception mandate.

The post Religious Station No Longer Faces Penalty for Practicing Faith appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:12/3/2018 6:23:48 AM
[Entertainment] She’s SO not the boss! Alyssa Milano’s Obamacare #GetCovered tweet gets rekt (even by the Left!)

Attention little people. Alyssa Milano wants to make sure none of you forget to sign up for crappy Obamacare … look at her being all helpful reminding people to sign up for something she’ll never have to sign up for. The elitism here is staggering. Wonder how long she spent patting herself on the back […]

The post She’s SO not the boss! Alyssa Milano’s Obamacare #GetCovered tweet gets rekt (even by the Left!) appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:11/29/2018 3:00:59 PM
[Markets] Illinois Obamacare Signups Down 26% Amid Nationwide Drop

Despite lower prices for health insurance this year, a staggering 26% of Illinois residents have chosen not to enroll in plans through the Obamacare exchange so far this year, according to numbers released last week by the Trump administration.

The Chicago Tribune reports that three weeks into open enrollment, Illinois residents had only purchased 57,819 heal insurance plans on the exchange, vs. the 77,960 chosen this time last year, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services

It isn't just Illinois either - as just 1.9 million people in the US have selected plans in the first three weeks vs. 2.3 million last year - a drop of 21%

It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday why enrollments were down, though a number of factors have changed since last year.

For one, unlike in previous years, people who choose not to buy health insurance for next year won’t have to pay penalties for being uninsured. Also, Illinois got 78 percent less federal money to hire workers, known as navigators, to help people enroll in health insurance plans this year. -Chicago Tribune

"People could be choosing to sit out this year," according to Stephani Becker - associate director of health care justice at the Chicago-based Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, adding, "We won't really know the effect until the final numbers," which will come in after December 15 when open enrollment ends. 

Meanwhile, Illinois' uninsured rate has risen slightly from 6.5% to 6.8% the previous year, according to the US Census Bureau. 

The Tribune suggests that perhaps consumers are simply looking to take advantage of new insurance options, such as extended short-term plans. 

Short-term plans are generally cheaper than traditional plans but cover fewer services. The Trump administration recently decided to allow short-term plans to be used for a year — instead of just three months — and be renewed for as long as three years. -Chicago Tribune

Outgoing Governor Bruce Rauner used his veto power to strike down a bill that would limit the use of short-term plans to six months at a time, however Illinois lawmakers have already voted in the Senate to override those changes, while the House is expected to take up the issue shortly. 

Another thought Becker had was that the midterm elections distracted people from enrolling in healthcare. 

Published:11/25/2018 3:03:40 PM
[Uncategorized] Video: Top three Obamacare promises, RIP

Behold, the death of three core Obamacare promises, in 74 seconds, using Democrats’ words only.  The trifecta:

The post Video: Top three Obamacare promises, RIP appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:11/25/2018 12:38:35 AM
[] Chief Justice Roberts, Who Swindled Bush Into Nominating Him Before Becoming Obama's Chief Judge, Says There's No Such Thing as a Bush Judge or an Obama Judge Well, Chief Justice Obamacare would say that, wouldn't he? Fuck yourself. Rebuke to Trump from Chief Justice Roberts on independent judiciary: ?We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an... Published:11/21/2018 3:37:38 PM
[Health Care] A Judge Will Likely Rule Against Obamacare. Here’s What Should Happen Next.

A federal judge is expected to rule soon on whether Obamacare’s individual mandate is constitutional without a tax penalty to enforce it, and if it... Read More

The post A Judge Will Likely Rule Against Obamacare. Here’s What Should Happen Next. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:11/20/2018 4:31:32 PM
[Academic left] How to Wreck Universities: Make Them Free (Steven Hayward) One of the high priority items for the incoming Democratic House is to make college free. It is perfectly understandable why Democrats would want to do this. Just look how successful they were at making health care more widely available and affordable with Obamacare! No, that’s not the reason. Noting that people with college degrees tend to vote more Democratic, one way to generate more Democratic voters is to have Published:11/18/2018 1:17:32 PM
[Media] This photo of politicians voted out over trying to repeal Obamacare is powerful except for all the errors

This photo is racking up the retweets, but it's full of errors.

The post This photo of politicians voted out over trying to repeal Obamacare is powerful except for all the errors appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:11/17/2018 6:13:22 PM
[Markets] Maryland Sues To Remove Whitaker As Acting Attorney General

Will the real attorney general please stand up?

As was widely expected following the publication of a New York Times story outlining the state's case, Maryland has challenged President Trump's appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker in federal court, arguing that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein should instead be elevated to replace Sessions.

In effect, the state is using an unusual legal maneuver to force federal judge Ellen L. Hollander of the Federal District Court for the District of Maryland - a 2010 Obama appointee - to decide who is the legitimate attorney general. Two months ago, the state's attorney general sued Jeff Sessions in his official capacity as AG, seeking a declaration from the court that ObamaCare is, in fact, constitutional, even without the tax penalty component, which was repealed by Congress. The lawsuit was an attempt to stop a federal judge in Texas from throwing out the law in its entirety.

Whitaker

Now, the state is asking Hollander to clarify who is the real attorney general so this person can stand in for Sessions as the object of Maryland's ObamaCare lawsuit. Because the government's enforcement of ObamaCare is set to change on Jan. 1 to reflect the removal of the tax penalty, the state is demanding that Hollander make this crucial ruling immediately to stop Whitaker from making illegitimate policy decisions as head of the DOJ.

This will force Hollander to rule on whether Trump's invocation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, a 1998 law which stipulates that a president may temporarily fill a vacant position that normally requires Senate confirmation with any senior official who has been in the department for at least 90 days. By appointing Whitaker, Trump overruled the natural line of succession at the DOJ, which would have installed Rosenstein as the acting AG until another AG candidate could win approval from the Senate.

Democrats have slammed Trump's decision to invoke the Vacancies Reform Act, which he previously used to successfully replace outgoing CFPB Director (and failed gubernatorial candidate) Richard Cordray with OMB head Mick Mulvaney. Chuck Schumer, the leader of Senate Democrats, has demanded that Trump explain why he installed Whitaker instead of handing the reins to Rosenstein.

Meanwhile, Dianne Feinstein is calling for the Senate Judiciary Committee to demand Sessions and Whitaker testify about the circumstances surrounding Sessions' ouster and Whitaker's ascension, according to the Hill.

The hearing is needed, Feinstein said, to "ensure that he will take no action to restrict or otherwise interfere with the Special Counsel’s work."

Whitaker has so far ignored Democrats' demands that he recuse himself from the Mueller probe, though he has said he wouldn't act to terminate it. GOP Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he would block any bills aimed at preserving the Mueller probe.

So, as the next round of Mueller indictments reportedly looms, all eyes will be on Maryland to see if a federal judge could upend the DOJ depth chart, unleashing line-of-succession chaos that could persist until Trump secures a replacement.

Published:11/13/2018 4:38:51 PM
[Society] Good News for Americans Who Object to Obamacare’s Contraception Mandate

Those who cherish religious liberty can celebrate a major victory this week. On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services published final rules that... Read More

The post Good News for Americans Who Object to Obamacare’s Contraception Mandate appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:11/8/2018 3:39:51 PM
[Markets] Midterms put the brakes on Republicans’ health-care agenda — so what’s next? The GOP dream to repeal and replace Obamacare is now deferred.
Published:11/8/2018 9:39:42 AM
[Markets] Stocks Surge On Midterm-Malaise But Bonds & Bullion Bid

500 Dow points... on an expected outcome? "That escalated quickly..."

Since The Dems were confirmed as taking the House last night, the dollar is down but bonds, stocks, and gold are all higher...

NOTE the odd panic bid in stocks at 3am.

After two afternoon sessions of recovery gains, China dumped into its close...seemingly unimpressed with Trump holding on to the Senate...

 

European stocks surged at the open and held gains (no extended push though)...

 

US Futures show a surge at Asia open, European open, and US open... (Dow futs 650 point range)

 

And a non-stop bid during the day session... Nasdaq's 2.4% surge was impressive to say the least... (UNH provide 75 of the Dow's points gain)

The Nasdaq Composite is up over 2%, yet only 62% of stocks in the index are higher, below the readings seen during October's snap-back rallies. Another factor that suggests a lack of verve is the percentage of volume in advancing stocks on the NYSE

Strong bid all day...

But another super-low volume day...

 

Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq all surged to or above key technical levels...

 

Healthcare led the markets (Obamacare handouts for all) and Tech and Consumer Discretionary

FANG Stocks soared...finally filling the gap-down-open from Oct 26th...

 

After 22 days of inversion (longest streak since 2011), the VIX term structure normalized today (barely)...

 

Abysmal Long Bond auction (2.3bps tail) sparked some ugliness in Treasuries in the afternoon...

 

But the 30Y still ended the day lower in yield (so not exactly reflective of the exuberant risk-on appetite in stocks...

 

But.. we note that this looks more like an equity catch up, yield catch down from early November's derisking...

 

The dollar was swinging around like a penny stock on Midterm elections before everyone settled on the Dems taking the House and that sparked the selling...

 

And amid all that chaotic dollar movement - yuan went nowhere...

 

Cryptos managed to hold the week's gains...

 

From Europe's open, commodities slid lower as the dollar limped off its lows...

 

WTI Crude was ugly - tumbling after the inventory data... Oil is down 8 days in a row - the longest streak since July 2014.

 

Once again Gold was rebalanced back to 8500 Yuan overnight...

 

Finally, we note that Inflation Breakevens have decoupled from Oil's collapse...

Who's right?

Published:11/7/2018 3:06:57 PM
[US News] STAND DOWN, LIBS: No, Donald Trump is not trying to save Obamacare

Libs are pretty psyched today after President Donald Trump misspoke at his MAGA rally in Missouri last night, saying “the Democrat plan would obliterate Obamacare”: Yesterday Trump warned that "the Democrat plan would obliterate Obamacare," and I am ?????? thinking about all the conservatives who will have to get their stories straight about what really […]

The post STAND DOWN, LIBS: No, Donald Trump is not trying to save Obamacare appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:11/6/2018 11:57:27 AM
[Markets] A Tale Of Two Elections

Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Some political observers in the United States are saying that next week’s midterm voting for seats in the Senate and House of Representatives as well as a number of governorships is the most important national election since those in 1968 and 1980.

The 1968 voting saw a “law and order” Richard Nixon win the presidency in a rebuke to Lyndon Johnson’s “soft” handling of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements while Ronald Reagan won in 1980 at a time of economic turmoil, in part running on a similar “get-tough” platform to replace the seemingly hapless and indecisive Jimmy Carter.

In both 1968 and 1980 the election produced a decisive turn in direction by government, leading eventually to an end of the Vietnam War by Nixon and a more assertive foreign policy by Reagan. Though the upcoming election is midterm rather than a presidential, those who are seeing it as important hope that flipping control of the two houses of congress will check President Donald Trump and force him to change course in a number of areas.

The election is, in fact, an accountability moment for Trump’s policies as seen by the American public. If there is a blue wave in congress and in the governorships, Trump will inevitably have to take notice and his impeachment becomes a real possibility.

But will that happen? The lead-up to the 2018 midterm election is playing out very much like the 2016 presidential election. In both cases the punditry and media have been promising an easy win for the Democrats, but winning will require selling something to voters that is more than just hatred of Trump.

Unfortunately for them, the Democrats are largely clueless on issues that matter to voters and continue to be a party that reactively “blames the Russians” while preaching “diversity” as if it were a solution to what ails the country.

They studiously ignore the fact that opinion polling suggests that there are two issues that really concern Americans.

Top of the list is health care. Anyone who actually pays for health insurance out of his or her own pocket will no doubt observe how healthcare costs have skyrocketed under Obamacare to the point where insurance is available but unaffordable, with premiums that in many cases have trebled per month over the past four years. The real damage to affordable health care in America has been done by the Democrats and those who are personally paying for insurance know that.

Since the Republicans do not have a health care plan but are resolved to repeal Obamacare, they win on the issue with voters.

The second most important issue is immigration, both legal exploitation of existing loopholes in the system and illegals. The legal immigration problem includes birthright citizenship, when foreigners come to the U.S. to deliver babies who automatically become American citizens. Trump has indicated he will ban the practice by executive order.

Legal immigration problems also include those who are allowed to get green cards legally and then proceed to bring their entire families over including cousins and relatives by marriage. That was not the intent of the 1965 legislation. In fact, chain immigration was dismissed as a possible consequence of the law, with President Lyndon Johnson and Democratic congressmen including Senator Ted Kennedy assuring the public that it would not occur. Of course, they were wrong. Or they were lying. They were also Democrats.

The Democratic solution to the problem of illegal immigration is, apparently, to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), giving the United States open borders. Even given the fact that the horrible mess in Central America is the result of Washington’s meddling in its countries for the past 100 years, that does not necessarily mean the solution is an open doors policy that will drastically change America. Bringing in thousands or even millions of uneducated and unskilled migrants who do not speak English and then requiring local governments to educate, house and feed them is a recipe for disaster. Indeed, it has already proven to be just that for many communities, with standards declining and neighborhoods in decay.

There is considerable suspicion that the current mass migration from Central America is being organized and funded by Democrat George Soros to coincide with the election, and it only angers the voters who remember a time when local communities were safe places where everyone knew their neighbors and worked hard to get along. Today the social justice warriors, like Soros and other leading Democrats, have made a sense of community a crime because it does not invite enough diversity.

If one compares how the two parties stand on immigration, the Republicans win easily as they are pledged to stop the illegals and reduce the number of currently legal immigrants. It is a major issue for voters and the Democrats are predictably on the wrong side of it, just as they are with health care.

And the Democrats are also tactically inept. Having the widely despised Clintons and Obama out campaigning for Democratic candidates will surely encourage nervous Republicans to get out to vote. So, on balance, the GOP could do very well next week with issues-focused voters and might retain its advantage in both houses of congress.

If that is so, the complaining from the Democrats will start immediately. Will their failure be blamed on the Russians again this time? 

Published:11/1/2018 8:27:15 PM
[e057e07d-01da-5a1b-a7ea-597d7175222e] Republicans should embrace health care reform ObamaCare didn’t work. Republicans led boldly on tax reform, and they should do the same with health care reform. Published:10/29/2018 3:29:43 AM
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