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Giving Trump’s First Week a Thumbs-Up…ish.

I have reason to be happy with the events of the Trump’s first week. Those reasons are important and I will get to those shortly. But I am by no means euphoric. I can say that I am encouraged by the Left’s sudden love of the Constitution. It has not been in evidence for thirty years.

The only person I busted on as much as I did Hillary Clinton, during the previous year’s insanity, was Donald Trump. Both failed to win my vote. Hillary Clinton proved, during the previous 35 years to be a woman devoid of ethics and substance. Trump has always been a face man, a clown and an excellent real estate promoter.

What he has yet to prove what kind of a president he’ll be, his prolific use of executive orders not withstanding. And it is with these orders I will start.

One of the main reasons I am not entirely unhappy with his use of the Imperial Pen, is that much of what he is doing with that pen is disposing of the truly imperial pronouncements of Barack Obama.

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The Executive Orders

These are pulled directly from a published list at FOX News.

  1. An executive order imposing a 120-day suspension of the refugee program and a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. from citizens of seven terror hot spots: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.
    • This one has drawn a great deal of rhetorical fire from many directions. Companies, to curry favor with the emotionalist class have come out against this order. Google, Nike, and others have built impromptu marketing campaigns with their stance. John McCain and Lindsay Graham have stated that this order will help terrorists recruit people. (Oh, so the bombing and killing they have carped for over many years won’t. But a temporary hold on admission to this country will be a devastating blow to our security!)
    • One of the complaints you hear about this is that Trump doesn’t have the authority to do it. Well the U.S. Constitution and this law say otherwise. Any objections based on presidential authority in this are simply wrong. 8 US Code 1182 outlines the people and groups that cannot be permitted into the country. The administration has EVERY RIGHT to require immigrants and YES refugees to prove they are not a threat under this law. The problem is for years we haven’t even been asking.
    • For those who can’t read English:  This is not a Muslim ban.   This is a suspension of immigration based on geography and lack of verifiable ID.  If you say it is a Muslim ban, you are intellectually dishonest or intellectually disabled.
    • Score one for Trump.
  2. Multi-pronged orders on border security and immigration enforcement including: the authorization of a U.S.-Mexico border wall; the stripping of federal grant money to sanctuary cities; hiring 5,000 more Border Patrol agents; ending “catch-and-release” policies for illegal immigrants; and reinstating local and state immigration enforcement partnerships.
    • With the exception of the actually building the wall, all these orders are absolutely within the president’s purview to control as the chief executive. These are already law. He is just insisting the law, as it pertains to these areas, is enforced.
    • But the wall will never be built. Not only does Trump NOT have the authority to spend the billions needed to build it, but the processes by which it would be built are a matter of law. And many of those laws stand athwart such an undertaking. The environmental studies and protests alone will run the clock out before the next president could get it done.
    • Call this one a tie for pro and con. He can do all but the wall.
  3. Two orders reviving the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access piplines. He also signed three other related orders that would: expedite the environmental permitting process for infrastructure projects related to the pipelines; direct the Commerce Department to streamline the manufacturing permitting process; and give the Commerce Department 180 days to maximize the use of U.S. steel in the pipeline.
    • Naturally, the usual suspects will line up to decry everything about this. We’ll be told that the planet will be destroyed by it. And again we’ll hear how the president lacks the authority to do it. [insert loud game show loser buzzer hear]
    • Fact: The previous administration was required by law to allow both these projects to go forward. But hey found a loophole. The State Department, because Keystone was a joint venture between the US and Canada, had to sign off on the project. And they did – twice. But using his usual perversion of “executive authority”, Obama kept sending it back to Foggy Bottom with implicit orders to do it again, and this time be slower about it. Finally, after it was cleared yet again, Obama still defied the will of the people and stopped it anyway. By reviving the projects, Trump is simply bringing policy into line with the law.
    • As for the environment; I am sure there are morons out there that actually believe the use of a pipeline to move oil is bad. Others who claim so know they are talking through their hats. We are seeing history repeat itself.
      1. When the steel industry first started using pipelines to move kerosene and oil, the rail industry erupted in protest. It’s unsafe! It’s not fair! Now we’re hearing a lot of the same things today. 
        Rail car, oil
        If you have the choice of a pipeline, this is just plain stupid.

        pipeline
        Section of pipeline, sitting in Alaska, not derailing.
      2. Question: When was the last time you heard of a pipeline derailing and pouring oil, sometimes burning oil all over the landscape? True pipelines leak, but we’ve lost infinitely more oil through train crashes and derailments than we’ll ever lose from pipeline incidents.
      3. Question: While pipelines move oil, how much exhaust does the big diesel engine pulling the pipeline emit into the atmosphere? Oh, wait…that’s right. There is no big diesel engine. The system runs on pumps that move more gallons per minutes, further and on far less energy than a train does. So the movement of oil through a pipe is FAR cleaner than using a train.
    • I think it is safe to say that people who continue to fight this are being obstructionist. Trump is not operating outside his authority.
  1. An order to reinstate the so-called “Mexico City Policy” – a ban on federal funds to international groups that perform abortions or lobby to legalize or promote abortion. The policy was instituted in 1984 by President Reagan, but has gone into and out of effect depending on the party in power in the White House.
    • This item has been a political football for a generation. Perhaps it can be used to shame Congress into manning up and dealing with it once and for all. It is Congress who should be addressing the issue.   That four Presidents have batted it back and forth for these past decades is just a pox on both your houses.
    • Someone has still to explain to me, in an honest fashion, why I should foot the bill for an abortion on-demand. A purely elective procedure.
  2. A notice that the U.S. will begin withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Trump called the order “a great thing for the American worker.”
    • If Congress ratifies TPP, this order really isn’t worth the paper it is written on. Although, a determined executive can slow-walk its implementation.
    • In that it is not ratified, Trump can do anything he wishes in his treatment of it.
    • The president says he is a free-trade guy. There is no evidence of this, but since the TPP is not an example of free trade, Trump is well within his rights to ignore it for now.
  3. An order imposing a hiring freeze for some federal government workers as a way to shrink the size of government. This excludes the military, as Trump noted at the signing.
    • Trump can run his organization as he sees fit within the law. There is nothing preventing him from taking this step.
  4. An order that directs federal agencies to ease the “regulatory burdens” of ObamaCare. It orders agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement” of ObamaCare that imposes a “fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.”
    • This one is outside his wheelhouse. There are many, myself included who would love to see the government OUT of the insurance business. But that I want it doesn’t make changing the law by fiat okay. If the law says you have it or pay a penalty, you pay.
    • Of course, much of what the law has become has been the result of the imperial actions by Trump’s inept predecessor. Does that excuse the sweeping nature of Trumps order? No. It should have been focused on those illegal executive orders made by B. Hussein Obama. For example, Obama ordered that the law governing federal money to the states, based on their voluntary participation in the program, be ignored.   That was a huge breach of the legal, executive authority. If Trump had undone things like that, he’d be right on target.
  5. On Monday, 30 Jan, the president ordered that any new regulation must be offset by the elimination of two regulations.
    • We are one of the most over-regulated nations on the planet. That, historically speaking, is a relatively new development. Anything to legally reduce that burden is a good thing. And again, as the chief executive, the president is well within his purview to make pronouncements like this one.

Conclusion

Overall, I’d say Trump had a good first week. Reasonable people can disagree on whether it’s been a typical Trump circus atmosphere. No reasonable person would excuse his continued use of Twitter for shallow argument.

He is starting to show shades of a typical politician in that his tax reform was pushed back to the summer and now until as far as 2018. This is totally unsatisfactory. This will be a true failure on his part and even more so on the part of congressional Republicans. But even this pathetic decision has a silver lining.

You’ve heard me talk a bit about the Convention of States. In my next piece, I’ll show how not messing with taxes right now might payoff in the long run.

So for Trump’s first week, I give the president a 6 for substance and a 10 for showmanship.

Oil car Photo Credit: James St. John Flickr via Compfight cc

Pipeline Photo Credit: US Department of State Flickr via Compfight cc

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Is it Scary or Exciting?! Dash!

The 100 Centimeter Dash! From the Shelf to the Button.

Have you seen this Dash thing?

I just don’t know what to make of this affiliate link.  Now, truth be told, I am a very low tech guy.  (I’ve been working for weeks to make Street Politics a membership site. ANY of my LEAST techy friends would have had that up and running in December with about 1/2 hour’s worth of work. I needed a 2-hour tutorial video.  Anyway it will be up in March.) 

Still, I knew we’d see things like these buttons some day.  But now it is really here!

And the ramifications are mind-blowing.

I can use this!

Look at the first item in the illustration above.  Iams.  My dog eats the stuff by the metric ton!  I hate humping those big bags from the supermarket.  I could stick a Dash thingy to the wall in my mudroom and *doink* in a day or two, Maggie has a new bag of food.

The button runs on batteries.  But no biggee.  Three years from now, when the watch battery in it runs down, I go into my junk drawer and push the button that says batteries and that’s fixed.  Damn!

I have been planning a post on the “internet of everything” for a while.  This is just a minuscule portion of the radical shifts we are going to see very soon.  We are, in many ways, moving beyond some of the freakiest stuff ever imagined in Sci-fi movies. 

If you are under 25 I feel a bit sorry for you.  To you, these kinds of developments probably run between “cool” and “meh”.  But if you lived in a time when a four-pack assortment of Styrofoam gliders was an impressive toy, and Atari was mind-blowing, today’s technology can be overwhelming.  And I worked on missile systems in the early 90’s!!!!! 

In fact, my MK-26 launcher (the coolest weapons system ever built), with it’s two racks of circuit cards had more computing power than the Apollo 11 Command Module.  My cell phone has more power than those two systems – COMBINED!  And now we have these buttons.  Geeks and young people have no idea how much this freaks me out.

So okay, call me a Luddite.  I’ll own it.  And it’s not a bad thing.  But our lives are changing at such an amazing rate.

A Slightly Bigger Picture

I recently read a Motley Fool sales letter talking about the “internet of everything”.  We are a hair’s breadth away from a time when our cell phones, with near-zero preparation on our parts, will tell us that our car is being stolen and will be sending the thief’s face recognition data to the police station before we can dial 911.

All the chatter, these days, is about bringing back manufacturing jobs to the U.S.  That’ll be great.  But the possibilities coming with this technology, will make the manufacturing jobs little more than icing on the cake.

If you doubt that, look at Wawa stores.  They added automated ordering to their deli.  That didn’t result in fewer people working in the stores.  More had to be hired to keep up with the demand.  That is what happens when you have high quality service and cutting-edge innovation.  

I’m going to get a couple of these buttons.  One for the Pop Tarts my doc says I’m not allowed to eat, and one for Maggie’s 2-ton bag o’food.  Let the FedEx guy test his Workman’s Comp benefits.

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Obamacare: Repeal The Phony Healthcare System

While you’re here, grab my RSS—>

See part one here.

Why Not Go All The Way?

In 2009, while medical costs were up and a recession was getting underway, the government saw another opportunity to do something they’d been dying to do since Truman; a complete takeover of the medical insurance industry.

Here’s how the plan came together.

First, they never refer to the insurance takeover as a takeover or insurance. Call the takeover scheme “health care reform”.

Next, design a system that will fail rather quickly.

Wildly exaggerate results.

  • For example, we are repeatedly being told that there are now 20 million people who didn’t have insurance before that are now “insured.”  That’s not even a half truth.  First of all, millions lost jobs.  In doing so they lost their insurance.  thousands of companies either cut back hours, reducing workers to part-time because they could no longer offer insurance to employees, while other simply abandoned plans to expand for the same reason.
  • Tens of millions of working age people gave up and left he workforce.  Many of them now qualify for Medicaid.  And that is where they and many others already below a certain level ended up.  So many millions of the so-called insured are actually just Medicaid recipients.  That IS NOT a net plus by any measure.
  • So, truth be told,  far less than 20 million are on any kind of new insurance, and most who are, are heavily subsidized by others.  The others are the people who must not only buy insurance at wildly inflated rates for themselves, based on their own risk viability, they must also pay considerably more to take care of the so called 20 million  “newly insured,”
    • Update/NOTE:  As it turns out, my numbers are rather charitable and based on TV propaganda. As of 7 Jan 17, there are actually 11 million people (about .3% of the population) signed up for one of the “exchanges” under healthcare.gov.  So, if there are 20 million people now covered under Obamacare, and I doubt there are, that means about 9 million were added to the Medicaid roles.  That, my friends is a portrait of a miserably failed system.  Source: Washington Post, quoting HHS figures.  You have to love WAPO.  The article starts out saying how wonderful Obamacare is.  They throw percentages around in a way that would impress the credulous.  All that is to cushion the upcoming truth.  Or they are hoping you’ll quit reading before you get to the bad stuff.  But their own numbers reveal very few people are actually buying into the system. If there were no underlying fear of reprisal, fewer still would be buying.

Continuing With the Obamacare Plan

Uh…oops!

When the whole “market exchange” idea fails, and it will, the left can say, “Look at all the good things we’ve done. But all the greedy hospitals and insurance executives and doctors still ruined it! We need universal government ‘health care’!”

That is precisely what was perpetrated under Obamacare.  Single payer government health care was the outcome intended by the designers of Obamacare.

One of the crises the Obamacare is now touting as a reason to rush ahead with the insurance scam is the 2009 recession. People were loosing their health insurance because they were losing their jobs. (An excellent reason to have never linked the two.) Ironically (?) the very same recession has been needlessly dragged out to the present day by things like Obamacare.

But, oh dear, what to do?

And now the Republicans are talking of “replacing” Obamacare with something they say will work better. They say their program will be better and will still include mandatory insurance for pre-existing conditions. But that too must fail. Or at least fail to stop the insane upward cost spiral we see today caused by Obamacare.

If you enact laws that says this is how you will insure people, you are already screwing the pooch. Insurance people, who are taking all the risk, know how to do that better than ANY government social engineer. And when you introduce your clever new insurance laws and don’t separate out pre-existing conditions and 26 year-olds on their parents plans (WTF?), you are simply creating Obamacare-lite. In other words, you haven’t fixed the problem. You’ve only delayed the collapse for a bit.

Here is the alternative that will work. You:

  • Set a timetable for ending all the government mandates on medical insurance for all those above the poverty line and not on Medicare or insurance through the military.
  • Repeal laws that prevent competition in the industry.
  • End all subsidies and tax breaks for employment-related medical insurance. That’s just an extra impediment to the efficient bet between the customer and the insurance company. The money the employer saves in medical set-asides and compliance can be put into the employee’s paycheck. With that kind of money, an individual can create a serious health savings account.
  • End all subsidies for wellness programs. They have been proven not to work. They are used as sops for doctors and others to suck up extra insurance money.
  • Thwart jackpot justice in the form of egregious damage awards. The U.S. courts were not set up to ruin doctors.
  • Along that same line, move first to eliminate those mandates that encourage doctors to practice defensive medicine.  Then eliminate all mandates.  It is not up tot he government to decide how much you pay, and for what coverage.  It is up to yo and the insurance company.
  • Encourage people to seek minor, non-emergency treatment (no longer covered under our adult approach) from facilities that post their rates. Educate them to shop their medical dollar. You’ll be AMAZED at how inexpensive routine treatment will become.

This list is not exhaustive by any means. But by doing these things we take the billions of dollars sloshing around a bloated and mismanaged system and let it move much more effectively between patient, insurer and doctor. By extracting the government money from the system, the incentive to bilk the system as government systems always are bilked, is eliminated.

Don’t dicker.  REPEAL!

In short, the plan should not be repeal and replace.  It should be repeal.  Give the industry a year or two to put real insurance offerings together and on a predetermined date, phase people off the government dole and into private policies designed to take care of CATASTROPHIC medial needs.

Once you’ve done all these things, if you want to still take care of those who are uninsured for reasons other than personal irresponsibility, you can do so at far less cost than under the Obamacare circus tent.  You provide them vouchers for care.

The one role the government has to play in this whole picture is punishing fraud. That is a legitimate role for any government. Fraud by insurers and doctors and fraud by people trying to get on a government program who don’t belong there. And punishments should be brutal. We can be confident that insurance companies in the United States can come up with selections of coverage and prices that work better than anything the federal government and the existing monstrosity, with its 2700 page law and 30,000 pages of regulation, have.

And the costs to the consumer would be dramatically reduced!  They will be lower than they were before Obamacare was ever conceived.
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