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Wow, I was just kinda kidding…

Regarding my previous post https://freebraining.com/2014/05/02/15hr-why-stop-there/ on the minimum wage, I find this on Breitbart this morning:

CA CONGRESSWOMAN: RAISE STATE MINIMUM WAGE TO $26 AN HOUR

One of the most liberal Representatives in Congress wants California to raise its minimum wage to $26 an hour.
Appearing on Crossfire on Friday, co-host Newt Gingrich asked Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) whether it was a good idea for the mayor of Seattle to propose a minimum wage of $15 an hour. Lee said, “good for him.”

“In California, more than likely from what I remembered, a living wage where people could live and take care of their families and move toward achieving the American dream was about $25, $26 an hour,” Lee said.

When pressed further, Lee said she would “absolutely” support it for California and claimed it would not cause more unemployment.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

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$15/Hr? Why stop there?

So, Seattle is going to officially raise the minimum wage to $15/hr. Booya! That’s the equivalent of a $30,000 annual salary. And it helps the economy! And all of those young people that have been toiling under the current $9 bucks or so hourly wage can finally afford that new big screen tv!

So what’s not to like? In fact, why the heck are we stopping there? If $15/hr makes complete sense and drives the economy up and away, wouldn’t $30/hr make more sense? That would drive the economy twice as fast. Wait, if we made the minimum wage $45/hr, we are talking 3 times as much boost to the economy. Simple math then tells us that $100/hr would put the USA on an unimaginable path to wealth and prosperity for all.

Ok, so at this point even the most liberal (well, except for Kshama Sawant, who is chanting something about ‘free stuff for everyone’) are thinking ‘now don’t go overboard here, $100/hr is probably too much, although we like the way you are thinking…’.

Just for the record, I am in favor of a minimum wage of $0/hr. Of course, just thinking this is enough to get some people on the hard left out of their seats screaming about my being heartless, inhuman, uncaring and wanting to take food out of the mouths of babies. But, please hear me out before sending me to the depths of conservative hell.

TANSTAFL.

I wrote a blog about this economic concept a while back, you can go back and read it if you care. The basic tenant of TANSTAFL is ‘There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch’. In other words, money doesn’t just magically appear like a stream of bitcoins, it has to come from somewhere else. It’s kind of the same thing as government spending. Every dollar the government spends has to be taken from someone first. In the current topic, every dollar paid to a burger-flipper has to have been taken from a customer first. The more you give to the hamburger-flipper, the more you have to take from your customer. There Ain’t No Free Lunch. At $9+, you, the customer, are paying $4-$5 for a hamburger that has about $0.40 worth of materials. The rest of the money goes to pay for the fancy signage and the people turning pre-burger materials into something you want to eat. The material cost remains reasonably steady, goes up as inflation dictates. So the cost of the people making the burger has a significant impact to the cost. No brainer, the money has to come from the customer. If I suddenly have to pay the burger-flipper $15/hr, that’s a 66% increase in the cost. The $5 burger now has to cost $8.33. Result? Well, maybe your burgers are so great and awesome that the customer just sucks it up and pays it. Or, the customer decides that $8.33 is WAY more than they are willing to pay, so they don’t buy one, or at least maybe not as often. Or, the evil burger-owner-overlord decides that the customer is not going to pay $8 for a burger so fires one of the burger-flippers as a way to reduce his/her costs and keeps the price of the burger the same.

Not a lot of great choices here.

So why do I go the other way to eliminating the minimum wage? Free-market forces.

Let’s say there isn’t a minimum wage at all. I am the evil burger-owner-overlord and I advertise for a burger-flipper at the hourly rate of $1. And nobody applies. Hmm. Ok, I will go $2/hr. Nobody applies. Free-market pricing dictates that I will have to continue to raise the amount I am willing to pay for a position that requires no talent or education until someone is willing to accept said amount for the job. The job here, therefor, priced itself. If I don’t like the level or ability of what I can get for, say, $5/hr, I will again have to be willing to pay a bit more to attract a better employee. I have to maintain a workplace that is attractive to the people I want to attract as employees, perhaps even offering some perks or benefits to keep people around. I am not free to pay $1/hr because I will end up having to flip the burgers myself. I can price my burgers aggressively and attract more customers, which means I will have to hire some more people. Everyone wins.

Well, you might say, not the poor shlub that has to work for the paltry $5/hr I am having to pay. True. Very true. And the poor shlub has several options. They can do whatever is necessary to make themselves more valuable to someone and be paid more money. They can leave the job and find another that pays them more. They can stay and work hard, convincing the evil burger-flipper-overlord that they are worth more and can contribute more to the venture and get a nice raise.

Why is this bad?

Minimum-wage positions are not designed for people having to raise a family, they are designed for kids in high-school or college trying to raise some spending money. If you really look at the statistics, that is who is being paid minimum wage today. Raising the minimum wage to $15, or $100, does not affect very many people and it harms everything else.

But it feels good. It feels really good and makes everyone think ‘We Care’, and it really sticks it to the evil burger-flipper-overlords that have taken advantage of our youth to line their own pockets etc…

So let’s make it $100!

Harry Reid and the Coincidences

No, it isn’t a new boy band launched by Simon Cowell.

I have to wonder about this guy (Harry, not Simon). My first question, of course, is how does a guy who has been a senator for a thousand years become so amazingly wealthy on a senator’s salary? The proper answer, because it has been asked, is something like ‘lucky stock picks’, ‘great investor’, that sort of thing.

Right. Whatever. I suspect this happens on both sides of the aisle, maybe just one of the perks of elected office.

The most recent BLM vs. Bundy Ranch adventure in Nevada gets really interesting when one starts to peel the layers back. On the surface, rancher Bundy has been using BLM land for his cattle grazing for a gillion years, and for the last 15+ years has not been paying the BLM for these grazing rights. This seems to imply that he was once paying the BLM, the details are murky. In any case, the BLM is actually right, and Bundy is breaking the law. Not a ton of argument there, the uproar is really about the very heavy-handed and sudden interest from the BLM in that land. Combine the BLM sudden attack with a public that is largely fed up with government in general and you get a powder keg.

What is fascinating is the 1st coincidence. Suddenly, in a fit of accidental journalism by the media, Harry Reid’s name is somehow linked to the mess. Not a lot of details, but the linkage is there. Several days later, the BLM backs off and leaves the conflict (along with a few freezers-full of beef I suspect).

Then it comes out that there is a Chinese solar company that is looking for a large tract of land in an always-sunny location in Nevada, creating coincidence number 2. So what, you ask? Solar farms are green goodness after all.

Well, we have to peel back another layer. The law firm that is representing the interests of the Chinese solar company just so happens to employ Harry Reid’s son. There is no doubt a ton of legal expenses in this operation, so Harry Reid’s son is looking pretty good at the firm these days, maybe sitting in a corner office even. This creates coincidence number 3.

Maybe just a ‘scratch my back’ sort of thing with the Chinese currying favor with the Reidmeister. Can’t hurt.

Well, we come to coincidence number 4. Harry himself had a nice trip to China some time back. The reasons for the trip are a little obscure, and the trip wasn’t very long, not really long enough to be some sort of State visit. Senator Reid apparently just felt it was time to show the Chinese people some love.

But this is the trigger event. Shortly after Harry returns, said Chinese solar company engages with said legal firm. Said legal firm shortly thereafter starts assisting said Chinese solar company with the acquisition of a tract of BLM property in Nevada so they can build said solar farm. Billions of dollars are at play here. Shortly after the pursuit of the BLM property, it is discovered that rancher Bundy is using that land, illegally! And shortly thereafter the BLM starts its attack in an attempt to get the Bundy cows to go home, and the militia gets its hackles up and everything gets ugly.

Until Harry’s name gets tied in.

But, it’s probably all a coincidence…

Harry is just really really good at picking stocks.

25% of Obamacare ‘signups’ do not have bank accounts

You just can’t make this stuff up.

So, Obamacare REQUIRES that you pay for your shiny new medical insurance via auto-deduct from your bank account. Kinda makes sense on one level, increasing the odds that the monthly premium is made. I suppose a credit card would have worked as well, but I wasn’t paid $680 million dollars to create the web site so I have no idea what I’m talking about.

(Side note: if the job description was to create a web site that didn’t work for $680 million dollars, I would have been all over it…)

The Washington Post is reporting that some 25% of signups that are qualifying for subsidies do not have a bank account, so there is no way for them to make a payment. Never mind that they were able to ‘sign up’ anyways and be counted in the 7,143,254 people that apparently are now insured through Obamacare. Also kinda funny that mid-February they could not tell us how many people had ‘signed up’ with any precision at all, claiming that the numbers just weren’t available, then all of a sudden they have single-digit precision. Someone in a decision-making position actually made this decision at some point, to require a bank account.

Oh, and the state of Georgia is reporting that OVER HALF of the signups on the state website have not made a payment yet.

Pelosi oral vomit

I just have to start putting these out there. With the silly season upon us, Ms. Pelosi is going to be burping out a ton of these.

A tweet from Pelosi:

Over 50% of food stamp recipients are people of color. The #GOPbudget takes food out of their mouths:

You, of course, now have the mental picture of rich white republican men wrestling food out of the hands of poor black people. Mission accomplished!

It saddens me that anyone would actually believe this stuff. Racism is defined as the belief that one race is somehow inferior to another. So, think about it this way:

What if a white male politician had uttered the words “Over 50% of food stamp recipients are people of color.” in an attempt to actually address the problem. The cries of racism would flood the airwaves, the mainstream media would spend weeks on this and it might actually take attention off the fact that someone in Chris Christie’s staff put out some traffic cones.

So why does Pelosi get away with it? (completely rhetorical question, answer is obvious)

And why don’t more people see through this?

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Freedom of Speech

Recently the new CEO of Mozilla was forced to resign. He had been on the job for about 20 minutes, or so it seems. The reason his departure is important is not that Mozilla now has to find a new CEO, it is that his departure makes a number of statements about who we are and where we are as a society. This is one that I find myself a bit conflicted in how I feel, so it’s worth commenting on.

He was forced out because of a donation he made back in 2006 or so to a group that was opposing the Gay marriage act in California. Proposition 8 was attempting to ban Gay marriage in California by changing the California state constitution. I am not going to get into the details, I am somewhat agnostic on the subject in general but am probably more of a traditionalist if pressed. In any case, he made a sizable donation to the cause and the law passed, until it was overturned by the California Supreme Court 6 years later.

This is democracy at work. If society doesn’t like a law, or a direction society is taking, the correct method for showing that dislike is to change the law by majority vote. This is the bedrock of our country, and you have to respect it. If enough people feel a certain way, changes are made. They aren’t always good changes (Obama’s election/re-election comes to mind), but the only way we get to continue as a free society is if this process is respected and protected.

To look at this as a freedom of speech issue, which is what a lot of the public argument is focused around, you really have to remove the subject matter (gay marriage) and look at the overall circumstance. A person expresses their views on a topic that seems to generate a lot of public emotion. Some time later their views are used against them and they are forced to take some action that they probably would not have normally taken (resigning in this case). One side of the public argument claims his 1st amendment rights have been violated. After all, he has the right to say what he wants wherever he wants and pretty much however he wants. And indeed, that is, on the surface, what the 1st amendment guarantees.

This is one of our fundamental rights, and one of great importance. Brendan Eich (the Mozilla guy) has the right to his opinion, and if he wants to donate to a cause, run a giant billboard expressing his views, run TV spots, whatever, he is free to do so. So aren’t the gay rights activists who forced him to resign because of his views violating his right to free speech?

Well, not really. Actually, not at all. And this is where my conflicted feeling comes from.

This guy is being forced out of the company he helped start because he expressed his political views with a donation to a cause. I am very uncomfortable with the idea that you can have a personal opinion and get hammered for it by a rather militant and probably minority group that disagree with him. That said, I am also a firm believer in the 1st Amendment. We hear this war cry a lot from both sides of the political spectrum, ‘Freedom of Speech’. Usually it is ‘[Someone] is violating my freedom of speech!’ because the individual said something and didn’t like the reaction.

While I don’t like the idea that someone can be pilloried by a militant minority group for something they said, and I think the hypocrisy of the left is breathtaking (Obama had the same public opinion at the same time, going on record in 2008 as being against gay marriage), and I am very uncomfortable that it is harder and harder to have an opinion that is different from the militant left, this is NOT a 1st amendment issue. His 1st amendment rights have NOT been violated.

In this country, you are free to stand on the street corner in Washington DC, or anywhere, and holler as loud as you can that you are not a big fan of Obama. You cannot be arrested and charged for having this, or any, opinion about anything. Try going to North Korea and standing on the corner in front of the ‘Kid Kim’ palace and proclaiming loudly that you think he looks like a giant panda and has the IQ of a blade of grass. Nobody will ever see you or your extended family ever again.

However, if you make this public stand on the street corner (we are back in the US now) and someone throws an egg at you, your 1st amendment rights are still intact. You may want to pursue an assault charge against the egg thrower, but if your entire case is based on the idea that said thrower of pre-poultry has violated your right to free speech, you will lose.

Simply put, you are free to express your opinion without having to fear government action against you, but the 1st amendment does not protect you from public reaction to your expressions.

Let’s take a wildly-improbably scenario as an example. Suppose you decide to start a group that is in opposition to what the liberals are up to. Then let’s suppose some politician decides to have the IRS audit you because of your opposition. This would be a violation of your 1st amendment rights as it would be the government taking action against you for your opinion. Probably never happen though……..

If, on the other hand, you start said group and a militant minority group of private citizens decide to start a national boycott of your business as a result, your 1st amendment rights are not being violated. It may seem like you are being persecuted for expressing your opinion, and in fact you are, but the 1st amendment only protects you from being arrested or otherwise harassed by the government, not private citizens. You have to take the good with the bad when it comes to our constitutional rights, that’s the way it works.

I keep up with the cartoon XKCD, which if you don’t, you should. The creator remains reasonably unpolitical, choosing to make statements about human interaction in general. He occasionally strays into uncharted water, as you will see if you look at his work, but 80% of what he does can be explained. If you get hooked, you can go back and look at all of his work, starting with the very first.

He recently published this one regarding the idea of freedom of speech:

http://xkcd.com/1357/

I think it makes the point.

Solving Health Care

It’s bad. It’s really bad. We were finally affected by Obamacare as the company policy was cancelled because it apparently didn’t include all of the ‘goodies’ that are required now, like pediatric care for people in their 60’s, contraceptives for gay people, that sort of thing. So we were moved from one program to another. The new policy isn’t bad, except for the deductible. How do people manage this? We have an HSA account left over from prior lives and are now making great use of it, and once we move prescriptions and doctors from the old to the new, it settles down, but it all seems so senseless.

THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE POLICY I HAD. How many billions of dollars have been wasted just moving people from one policy to another so we can provide $30 worth of contraceptives to teenagers?

Last week Obama made the statement ‘I can’t figure out why the Republicans want to take people’s health insurance away’. Beyond the obvious pandering crap this statement represents, how does he get away with ignoring the fact that Obamacare took the policies away from about 11 million people last year?

So, I thought to myself, how would I solve this? After all, I know as much about health case as Obama does…

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Eliminate all mandates. They aren’t needed in this proposal.
2. Dependents can remain on a parent policy until age 26.
3. Keep the exchanges, but turn them into a ‘medical insurance shopping system’ where insurance companies can list their products and get customers.
4. Medical insurance cannot be cancelled by the insurance company if the premiums are being paid.
5. Medical insurance is not tied to work and it isn’t tied to where you live.
6. All medical insurance programs have an HSA account requirement.
7. An individual finds the insurance that is appropriate for them on the exchanges and signs up. If they already have an HSA account, it is registered with the policy. If they don’t one is created for them and registered.
8. If an individual falls below a level as determined by specific means testing, they can qualify for government assistance for the premium.
9. Means testing requirements must be made public.
10. An insurance card is issued to the individual.
11. Current insurance brokers can become ‘Insurance aggregators’.
12. An Insurance Aggregator is a company that collects copies of all insurance cards from the employees of a client company and makes the monthly premium payments based on the client program.
13. Each company decides how much they want to contribute to an individual’s insurance premium as a benefit. This amount is paid to the Insurance Aggregator each month.
14. If the premium on an individual employee policy is greater than the benefit from the employer, the difference is retained from the employee paycheck each month.
15. The employee can have the option to have the aggregator pay the difference from the associated HSA account.
16. The insurance Aggregator makes the premium payments for each employee of the client.
17. If the benefit from the client company is greater than the premium for any particular employee, the difference is deposited in the employee HSA account for them to use as the law allows.
18. When a new employee is hired, a copy of their medical card is forwarded to the aggregator to be added to the list.
19. When an employee is released, the aggregator simply removes the employee from the client list and no future payments are made.
20. If an employee changes jobs, they simply take their medical card to the new employer.
21. If an employee is terminated and unemployed for a period of time, they can fall into a government assistance program tied to unemployment and as long as they are actively looking for work, their insurance premium can be subsidized. If they stop looking for work, the subsidy goes away.

Pre-existing conditions: A pre-existing condition situation is created because an individual lacks medical insurance and wishes to purchase a policy to now cover a medical situation that has occurred. This creates a situation where an individual can wait until they actually need insurance to actually purchase a policy. This creates an economic disaster for the insurance industry.

If the above program is implemented and people can qualify for government assistance if they fit the specific means requirements, there is no reason for someone to not have insurance. This means someone is uninsured by choice. If this is the case, they should NOT be allowed to purchase insurance to cover a recent medical issue. There must be specific tests to detect this situation.

If someone is in the situation of requiring insurance for a medical problem that has existed, there must be a reason they lost their previous insurance. With the above program and government assistance, there are very few reasons a person will find themselves in this situation, but undoubtedly there will be such situations.

There should be an ‘assigned risk’ category as in the auto insurance industry where each medical insurance company is required to accept a certain number of these specific cases where someone has a real pre-existing condition (not one that just occurred) and does not have insurance for certain specific reasons. For example, someone has cancer and goes through a divorce where they were covered by their spouse’s policy. They might find themselves in a gap where they are uninsured for a short period of time. One of the tests could be that the individual with the pre-existing condition has had active insurance in the last 60 days or has been covered at least 80% of the time over the last year. This would eliminate the situation where someone waits for a problem before getting insurance.

If someone decides to just wait it out, then gets sick, too bad. You made your bed, now sleep in it. There will always be a pool of people in any society that will just believe that the world will take care of them no matter what. If we can figure out how to help those that are really in need via means testing, situational testing and specific limited subsidies, we filter out the ‘free ride’ types and they get to fend for themselves.

Oh, and, NONE OF THIS IS MANAGED BY GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. How many times do we have to learn this lesson?

What am I missing?