« Perils of skimming | Main | Government Mandates And Moral Disagreement »

June 26, 2012

Comments

At least the reach of the Commerce Clause didn't get extended yet again.

This level of lying is unprecedented in American political history.

note: disclaimers should be set off from the main text and/or shown in a different font.

The Commerce Clause has already been stretched tighter and less attractively than a size-4 set of lycra stretch pants on a 450lb woman.

The dissenters thought the act was invalid in its entirety. What does that mean? I thought the opinion beforehand was that they would strike down the mandate, but not the other provisions. It's only the dissenters, but I'm curious (and a little appalled, unless I'm misunderstanding what "in its entirety" means).

Here is the text of the decision, for those who have not yet seen it.

I actually lol'd. That was great, clerk

I was actually wondering what else it might be unprecedented in. Is there some other period of time other than history that we could be reasonably contemplating?

Sorry, pet peeve of mine. See also: past history.

I am so grateful for this decision. That's all I can say right now.

Slartibartfast, it could be unprecedented in American political history while routine in Russian political history, for example. I would agree with you if it had said 'unprecedented in history'.

Don't worry, some people have it all figured out: To avoid wicked socialist Obamacare, they're going to move to Canada.

Seriously.

"The dissenters thought the act was invalid in its entirety. What does that mean?"

It's a 65-page-long dissent. I am just starting to read it. I would guess that some explanation for "invalid in its entirety" means is contained in the remainder of the dissenting opinion.

To avoid wicked socialist Obamacare, they're going to move to Canada.

I'll worry about them when the people who were going to move out of the country when Bush was elected move back.

The point is that people are, quite often, very, very stupid. Stupid enough not to know what kind of healthcare system Canada has.

"invalid in its entirety"

Probably (a) the dissent found the mandate and/or some other portion of the law to be unconstitutional, and (b) because the law has no severability clause (i.e., a provision stating "if any provision of this Act is found unconstitutional the remaining provisions will remain in effect"), then (c) the entire law must be struck as unconstitutional.

Digby supplied this link to a blogger who thinks Roberts actually won a long term victory for conservatives by limiting the power of the commerce clause, plus it's supposed to win back the credibility of the Court after the bashing it took following the Bush/Gore fiasco. So if that's right it's a short term victory for liberals, but a long term defeat in some sense. Whether that's right is beyond me.

To avoid wicked socialist Obamacare, they're going to move to Canada.

normally, this would be the best thing i'd see all day.

Man, if Slarti and I cannot even set aside our differences for a day to lol at the stupid, I don't even know what country this is anymore. /sadface

"The dissenters thought the act was invalid in its entirety. What does that mean? I thought the opinion beforehand was that they would strike down the mandate, but not the other provisions."

My read (skimmed so subject to revision) is that they thought that mandating economic activity was unconstitutional [5 justices agree with the activity/inactivity distinction for commerce clause purposes] and that they Medicaid mandates on the states violated the Tenth Amendment. According to the dissent, these two areas combined in such a way as to be non-severable from the act requiring that the act be held invalid in its entirety.

Interestingly, I would think that the role of Roberts in this case should be causing massive whiplash to his numerous critics in the past month or so, but I predict that it won't.

[See especially: "The question is not whether that is the most natural interpretation of the mandate, but only whether it is a “fairly possible” one. Crowell v. Benson, 285 U. S. 22, 62 (1932). As we have explained, “every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality.” Hooper v. California, 155 U. S. 648, 657 (1895). The Government asks us to interpret the mandate as imposing a tax, if it would otherwise violate the Constitution. Granting the Act the full measure of deference owed to federal statutes, it can be so read[.]"]

That is Roberts exercising the judicial minimalism he claims is important, and that his critics were claiming didn't really exist.

So if that's right it's a short term victory for liberals, but a long term defeat in some sense. Whether that's right is beyond me.

I'll take short term victories, because the future is unknown. I just hope that the demographic changes in the country, and the smarter-than-their-parents youth will help us to move in a better direction.

I haven't studied the opinions extensively yet, but it seems to me that any conversation about whether the Commerce Clause applies needs to be considered dictum (words that aren't necessary to decide the case). Dictum is helpful, but not authoritative as precedent, so the discussion about it needn't have any lasting impact. As to the credibility of the court: that's a good thing, and possibly self-perpetuating, in that justices might take their role as jurists (rather than politicians) more seriously.

No one is going to rain on my parade today.

DJ: "Digby supplied this link to a blogger who thinks Roberts actually won a long term victory for conservatives by limiting the power of the commerce clause, plus it's supposed to win back the credibility of the Court after the bashing it took following the Bush/Gore fiasco."

Abovethelaw is, essentially, a legal gossip site for associates at big law firms (if you click on Mr. Mystal's name and read his short bio, you'll see what I mean). Not that that means it's wrong in its very short analysis, but the Court's conservative Justices are not very consistent in their Commerce Clause jurisprudence, so there are always precedents to point to either way on any particular issue.

That said, if Mr. Mystal's correct about Roberts' Commerce Clause play, then that means Roberts is smarter than Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Kennedy combined (which may, in fact, be the case). Or, maybe, they all colluded together and decided that Roberts, as the youngest of the 5, author of the opinion, and Chief Justice, was best situated to play the "traitor" to the conservative cause, as he could then endlessly cite the commerce clause portion of this opinion in other cases to limit the federal government's power elsewhere (insert this scene beginning about 11 seconds in), even if that did anger the conservative base for the time being.

They would also have to be counting on a conservative majority for the next 15-20 years, and Kennedy/Scalia are each 75 years old.

That is Roberts exercising the judicial minimalism he claims is important, and that his critics were claiming didn't really exist.

Jeffrey Rosen, on the Diane Rehm show, did give Roberts that credit. He praised him as courageous, and true to his stated judicial philosophy. I think you'll see more of that. Obviously, people who don't see eye to eye with Roberts on other issues will continue to be disappointed and criticize him sometimes. But after this, I don't think people will call him a political hack.

"I just hope that the demographic changes in the country, and the smarter-than-their-parents youth will help us to move in a better direction."
Smarter than their parents or not, a lot of youth seem to be moving in a better or not libertarian direction.

Cite?

Sebastian: That is Roberts exercising the judicial minimalism he claims is important, and that his critics were claiming didn't really exist.

Well, it depends on what we mean by judicial minimalism does it not? How do you square those quotes with, e.g., Ledbetter?

"Digby supplied this link to a blogger who thinks Roberts actually won a long term victory for conservatives by limiting the power of the commerce clause"

This kind of thinking makes me crazy. Maybe, just maybe, Roberts won a long term victory for *the country* by allowing the ACA to go forward without abandoning the notion that Congressional power over commerce might not extend all the way to forcing you to spend $100 a month at WalMart. Maybe it isn't all about one political team winning and the other losing.

I'm not sure what precisely you want out of the Ledbetter case. My read on it has always been that the issues raised by it would be well dealt with under the time worn discovery rule (that the statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff knew or should have known about the underlying tortious act). Congress made a ridiculously short statute of limitations time (180 days). I don't think we know when Ledbetter first knew of the discrimination. But the discovery rule seems to work pretty well and I'm ok with lengthening the statute period to something more reasonable and applying the discovery rule so that people can't just hide the discrimination and automatically win. But the workaround of treating each paycheck as a separate discriminatory decision seems like bad policy because then a company can be liable even years after a the decision maker is gone, and even if the currently existing company doesn't even know of the discrimination. [I.e. I think that Congress should have reacted to the decision by just endorsing the discovery rule and deciding on something longer than 180 days].

Ledbetter as Ginsburg wanted to decide it (crafting a workaround from Congress's short statute of limitations because..... justice....) strikes me as non-minimalist.

Whether that's right is beyond me.

It's likely beyond eveyone, like knowing today with specificity what the weather will be in Muncie, Indiana on July 17, 2018 (or some such). Another question might be what the "credibility of the court" means in practical terms.

If this was a victory for conservatives, a few more victories and the Constitution will be a dead letter.

Roberts had, apparently, 4 votes to strike this constitutional obcenity down entirely, on a basis which would be a genuine victory. The only reason it wasn't struck down was that Roberts didn't want it struck down.

When it comes to general limits on federal power, the liberal wing of the Court now has 5 members. That's my take on this and the Arizona ruling. You guys ought to send him a welcome card.

"Cite?"

Libertarian Leanings of Young Voters Dampen Obama's Appeal

Where are all the libertarians coming from?

...forcing you to spend $100 a month at WalMart.

Is there such a thing as kicking a dead hobby horse?

Sorry, Phil. I am LOLing now, but too late.

Sebastian - I guess I was just reacting to the Roberts "oh we must be super minimalist" in the ACA case with what seemed to be his opposite position in Ledbetter, but there are other issues at play.

As to this: But the workaround of treating each paycheck as a separate discriminatory decision seems like bad policy because then a company can be liable even years after a the decision maker is gone, and even if the currently existing company doesn't even know of the discrimination.

There are consequences to being an immortal corporation, one of which is that you have to live with the past decisions of your managers, good or bad.

A reader to Andrew Sullivan suggests that Roberts changed his mind somewhat late, and that Scalia caused this by overreaching.

On the original topic, I believe that we can barely afford with baby boomer demographics to make basic health care a right, but not much more than that. What the technology can do will keep growing, and its expense, but many surgeries and most transplants will likely not be defined as basic medical care.

I am 60 and healthy, but my wife is 63 with diabetes and stroke damage and other health issues. Even with a good pension, some savings, and hopes that Medicare will be mostly preserved it seems that someday soon her needs will reach the limits of whats covered as basic medical care.

Even to preserve Medicare that much will require more means testing and cost control measures far beyond those in ACA.

A reader to Andrew Sullivan suggests that Roberts changed his mind somewhat late, and that Scalia caused this by overreaching.

The letter to Sullivan is mystified at the "Ginsburg dissent" references, but if the author of that letter had bothered to do some reading, he/she would have found this:

ROBERTS, C. J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III–C, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined; an opinion withrespect to Part IV, in which BREYER and KAGAN, JJ., joined; and an opinion with respect to Parts III–A, III–B, and III–D. GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part,and dissenting in part, in which SOTOMAYOR, J., joined, and in whichBREYER and KAGAN, JJ., joined as to Parts I, II, III, and IV. SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., filed a dissenting opinion. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

But that's only the first paragraph of the decision. Easy to miss, I guess.

You will change your mind when you actually have a broken hip and have to live with immobility and excruciating agony for a year.

Well in Australia at least the median waiting period for a hip replacement in 2008-2009 was 95 days for a hip replacement (AIHW Cat. No. HSE 84; Health Services Series No. 17). Not great, I agree, and a median period - so obviously some people waited more than that (in general those in outer regional, remote and very remote areas) and some waited less (in general those in major cities and inner regional areas).

The waiting times are complicated further by also having a two-tier system in that everyone is covered by Medicare (which is tax-funded), but there is also a tax penalty for people on higher incomes who don't take out additional health insurance. Those with private health insurance generally don't wait as long as those who go through the public system, but of course they pay for the privilege.

The figures are also complicated by patients being operated on on the basis of urgency - if you are in high levels of pain and immobile you are likely to move quite quickly up the list compared to someone not in pain whose mobility is restricted but is otherwise not considered as urgent. There is current debate about how people are classified, and how equitable that process is.

And then you have some further massaging of figures by public hospitals whose funding is dependent on having small waiting times, and who will move non-urgent cases off and on lists to make the times look good. This comes up on a regular basis, usually around Budget time.

So yes, there are some people who wait more than a year for a hip replacement, but the majority don't.

Will the people who rail against socialized medicine ever notice that we have not had a free market in medical services since the middle ages? Hundreds of words about the imposition of "socialism", national, international and otherwise, and no mention of the elephant in the room: the government has always empowered a medieval craft guild, otherwise known as a self governing profession, to control, absolutely, the supply of medical personnel and even institutions. Newsflash, people: the government already exercises control over medicine. You already lack basic negative freedom when it comes to medical treatment; if you seek treatment from someone unlicensed, unaccredited by the government's delegates, you and the person helping you risk arrest and jail.

The failure of conservatives to vigorously pursue genuine libertarian reforms as an alternative to the affordable care act provides the best evidence for the validity Dr. Science's position. If the debate over the ACA really concerned economic freedom, rather than the way we in society care for each other, then why has the attack on affordable care not produced a call for a genuine libertarian reform, instead of a return the a situation where a medieval craft guild, empowered by modern government sanctions, controls the supply of help, while leaving people in need to struggle to pay for it on their own. The the attack against the affordable care act has not involved an equally vigorous call for reform of the regulation of medical practice suggests that people who have thought about the issue have no problem with government interference or control, as long as this control does not provide access to actual care for everybody.

On wait times: the sources I have found indicate that Canada, at least, does not have wait times of a year for hip surgery. If you know of a case where someone had to wait a year with a broken hip, please provide the cite. In any case, though, this goes to the basic point that Dr. Science raised, that of social solidarity. In Canada, everyone runs the risk of waiting for elective surgery. What we cannot afford, we all cannot afford. That differs from a situation in which two people, with the same problems but different financial resources, get profoundly different levels of care.

Tsam:the millennial generation is larger than the Baby Boomer one.

If this was a victory for conservatives, a few more victories and the Constitution will be a dead letter.

Area Man Passionate Defender of What He Imagines Constitution to Be

John Spragge, thank you so much. What a moving comment.

If the debate over the ACA really concerned economic freedom, rather than the way we in society care for each other, then why has the attack on affordable care not produced a call for a genuine libertarian reform

Because nobody believes it would be political possible to achieve that.


This is from an interview with Think Progress by Sen. Ron Johnson (R)

Discussing health care outside the Supreme Court today, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told ThinkProgress that there “shouldn’t” be a law requiring businesses to cover employees who have cancer because that would “create an obligation” for others. “When you create a right for somebody,” Johnson said, “you create an obligation for somebody else, and then you’re taking away that person’s right.”

KEYES: I know Richard Murdock had said even though businesses should give people, for instance, with cancer, health coverage, they shouldn’t be legally required by the federal government.

JOHNSON: They shouldn’t. Listen, our rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And when we start expanding beyond that realm, when you create a right for somebody, you create an obligation for somebody else, and then you’re taking away that person’s right. And that maybe doesn’t seem all that great, but it’s just true. Our nation was based on the foundation of freedom and limited government.


I don't think Johnson is extreme by current conservative standards. I stand by my opinion that conservativism is an uncivilized political philosophy.

I agree, Laura Koerbeer.

There are so many good comments on this thread. But it all boils down to this: it's costing a lot of hidden money for the people of the United States to care for people who are uninsured. Why are people in the U.S. so ungenerous that it has to be "hidden" (and therefore more and not as effecive)? Instead of faking each other out, couldn't we just decide, as a society, that we're good people, and we want to try to see that our neighbors get medical care when they need it? There are multiple ways to do this. The ACA is a reasonable start, subject to improvement. What's the beef?

And I stand by my opinion that liberalism is a political philosophy which confuses statism with civilization.

I guess conservatism, as it now exists in these United States of America, confuses civilization with statism.

(You'd think our government was run by computers from the Crab Nebula, rather than people elected or appointed by those elected by the people. It's not perfect, and I don't trust it absolutely. But I tend to think it's better to pick your battles based on real oppression and injustice, rather than absurd, fever-dream abstractions. Or at least I have since I outgrew my barely post-adolescent libertarian phase.)

it's costing a lot of hidden money for the people of the United States to care for people who are uninsured.

Actually, not as much as you might think. And if that were the real issue, it could be solved with a mandate for catastrophic health insurance. This is a power-grab; not an attempt to fix a problem.

Can you chacterize this power-grab? What does it do for whom?

If this was a victory for conservatives, a few more victories and the Constitution will be a dead letter.

[sarcasm]That from a guy who always claims that the idea of a living constitution is heresy.[/sarcasm]

[cynic]As stated by me repeatedly in the past: It always was and will be at least in parts. The US constitution in its current form is only still around because 'inconvenient' parts have been at least temporarily ignored when they got in the way. Btw, the Nazis did not change a single letter of the democratic Weimar constitution. Formally Hitler ruled by the emergency clause (§48) and the law of enablement. The Eastern block states all* had constitutions full of rights on paper exceeding that of most Western states. But good luck, if you tried to rely on an yof them. Constitutions are never worth more than their practical execution (and the paper; parchment can be costly and is resuable). In a way it was a stroke of genius that post-war Western Germany avoided to use the term at all and crafted a document that (with the exception of the bill of rights) could and would be modified on a regular base without much ado. Nothing holy and sacred there just pragmatism. On the other hand, we are not run by two parties one of which enjoys its universal rabies infection while the other suffers from encephalitis lethargica and chronic osteomalacia. Our parties tend to be more like walking valium.[/cynic]

*Albania may have been an exception there

Brett Belmore wrote:

And I stand by my opinion that liberalism is a political philosophy which confuses statism with civilization

What "statism" do you see in this case, Brett? The state, through its designates, already exercises nearly complete control over the supply of providers of medical care. Let me suggest a radical notion: we have two ways of dealing with the exercise of power by an actor (in this case the state) in the larger society. We can make that actor impotent (Grover Norquist's dream of drowning government in the bathtub), or we can make the actor responsible. As "Fuzzy Face" pointed out at 9:05, we have no realistic way of making government impotent in the medical field. Too many people worry too much about the possibility that they or someone they care about will end up depending on a fraud. Given that constraint, we can at least hope to make the government responsible for ameliorating the effects of the restrictions they have put on the supply of medical personnel.

What you see as socialism, or unwarranted interference in the market, or positive rights, I see as the government taking responsibility for the effects of a market that the government has already made less than free.

By that reasoning, if you rape somebody, you really ought to enslave them, too.

Yes, the government has done all sorts of stupid things to make this market less than a free market. Enabled medieval craft guilds to enforce their claim to exclusivity. Distorted the economy by making health benefits paid by the employer deductible, but not health benefits paid by anybody else. All sorts of stupid things.

Doing something stupid is not an excuse to do something stupider.

Brett, in the Cold War, it was the mixed economies that ended up victorious over the Communist states. You might regard modern western democracy as a form of "statist slavery", but the rest of us don't.

I really do not understand why you the lesson you've taken of the 20th century was, "the best way is to have no government!" The story of wealth and prosperity of the 20th century has been one of a civilized, mixed economy, not libertarian fantasy lands.

Yes, the government has done all sorts of stupid things to make this market less than a free market.

We have 6000 years for charity and free markets to delivery literacy and health care for all, and it failed in a big way. I'm not going to give you ANOTHER 6000 year bite at the apple to prove it will work "for real", this time.

apropos of nothing...

Actually, not as much as you might think.

Right after that part is where you would normally link to something that supports your point.

The sad irony about that Onion piece is that it could appear in any 'serious' publication and be seen as a comparably mild case of an insufficiently informed citizen. I would be easy to find many worse cases in reality (even outside the community of professional 'conpiracy-ists').

Btw, I think the best part in the text is where the child (correctly) contradicts her father while at the same time making an erroneous statement herself. Misconceptions about the contents of the constitution are by no means limited to one side.

apropos of nothing...

Someone beat you to it, cleek:

Posted by: Tyro | June 28, 2012 at 08:45 PM

>All of the larger western EU countries have been living on debt for decades.<

While that may be true for some, you are entirely wrong about Spain. Up until 2008, Spain was reducing its government debt (which as a % of GDP stood way below that of, say, the US).
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13361930
The massive fiscal problems it is now suffering are due entirely to the state having bailed out the banks - it is still running a primary budget surplus.

Ireland is in exactly the same position.

>All of the larger western EU countries<

Germany ?

>And I stand by my opinion that liberalism is a political philosophy which confuses statism with civilization.<

Good for you.

I stand by mine that libertarianism is a political philosophy which confuses plutocracy with freedom.

It's really great that we have these people standing by their opinions. Why, it's almost as if their opinion means something!

Brett, I have got very tired of the hyperbole in this discussion. If libertarians really consider the restrictions on medical practice akin to rape, then they have the obligation to pull out all of the stops, no matter what, and end them. If the several state government actually had rape programs going, complaining about the political impossibility of ending them would not remotely pass muster, ethically or any other way.

These lame comparisons derail the discussion and poison reasoned disagreement, while seriously offending those who have suffered the real harms you so glibly reference. Believe it or not, Brett, people with bad memories of sexual assault really exist, and I suspect most if not all understand that the craft-guild medical system, while obnoxious, has nothing in common with what they went through. Likewise, I suspect the survivors of the thirties and forties in Europe can only boggle at references to "national socialism" in connection with the health care policies of President Obama.

So perhaps we could get back to the practical question at hand. I maintain that if, as "Fuzzy Face" concedes, the current medical system has too much support to seriously reform, making the government's intervention into the market as consistent with individual freedom as possible makes the most sense. And I claim you can only do that by requiring the government to act responsibly, in other words by accepting responsibility for the effect of its interventions and trying to limit the harm they cause. I don't see any way out of this. Either you can achieve a free market solution or you cannot. If I believe "Fuzzy Face", and feel free to disagree with him, libertarians cannot currently achieve a free market solution. If not, then only one question remains: how will the government control the market.

If conservative libertarians, whether by design or default, support a form of government intervention in the medical marketplace that prevents with less than a certain level of wealth from accessing care, then the claims made by Dr. Science seem correct on their face. If you want to dispute this, please do so with facts and logic, and leave the poisonous rhetoric out.

I don't think I have conservatives confused with fringers who don't even support poice and firemen. The conservatives of Colorado Springs did slash funding for fire men and everything else:

COLORADO SPRINGS — This tax-averse city is about to learn what it looks and feels like when budget cuts slash services most Americans consider part of the urban fabric.

More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.

The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.

Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.

Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.

City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding to stay open. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city won't pay for any street paving, relying instead on a regional authority that can meet only about 10 percent of the need.

"I guess we're going to find out what the tolerance level is for people," said businessman Chuck Fowler, who is helping lead a private task force brainstorming for city budget fixes. "It's a new day."

Some residents are less sanguine, arguing that cuts to bus services, drug enforcement and treatment and job development are attacks on basic needs for the working class.

"How are people supposed to live? We're not a 'Mayberry R.F.D.' anymore," said Addy Hansen, a criminal justice student who has spoken out about safety cuts. "We're the second-largest city, and growing, in Colorado. We're in trouble. We're in big trouble."

Read more: Colorado Springs cuts into services considered basic by many - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_14303473#ixzz1zF0ggsuV
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

It won't be long before the conservatives of Colorado start whining abou the need for federal disaster relief.

"It won't be long before the conservatives of Colorado start whining abou the need for federal disaster relief."
Perhaps not yet...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—Like many American cities, this one is strapped for cash. Tax collections here have fallen so far that the city has turned off one-third of its 24,512 street lights.

But unlike many cities, this one is full of people who are eager for more government cutbacks.

The town council has been bombarded with emails telling it to close community centers. Letters to the local newspaper call for shrinking the police department and putting the city-owned utility up for sale. A commission is studying whether to sell the municipal hospital. Another, made up of local businessmen, will opine on whether to slash the salaries and benefits of city employees.

"Let's start cutting stupid programs that cost taxpayers a pot of money," says Tim Austin, a 48-year-old former home builder now looking for a new line of work. "It's so bullying and disrespectful to take money from one man's pocket and put it in another's."

Such sentiments, which might draw cheers at a tea-party rally, are pretty much a mainstream view here in the state's second-largest city, the birthplace of Colorado's small-government movement.

Almost a decade ago, voters imposed strict limits on how much the city government can spend. Last November they turned thumbs down on a property-tax increase, despite warnings from city officials about a projected $28 million shortfall requiring at least a 10% cut in an already shrunken budget.

And so, faced with dwindling revenues, intransigent voters and widespread distrust of government, this city of 400,000 has embarked on a grand experiment: It is trying to get volunteers and the private sector to provide services the city can no longer afford.
[...]

Strapped City Cuts and Cuts and Cuts

A more recent take on Colorado Springs...

In the months following the 'Great Recession' in 2008, Colorado Springs faced an immense budget shortage. The city cut public parks maintenance (including trash and mowing services), turned off streetlights, and stopped watering medians. The severity of the situation brought national attention, which quickly reshaped the debate into a polarizing discussion on the merits of big vs small government, conservative vs liberal values, social safety nets, etc., etc.
This American Life Covers The Colorado Springs Budget Crisis (AUDIO)

Reality check here. Small government means responsible government. A government may well decide it cannot or should not carry out certain functions, and needs to devolve these to the initiative of individual people. That may or may not create a good economic outcome, but it still differs from the current medical system, in which the government, through its designates, regulates the supply of workers while disclaiming responsibility for the service. The analogy with Colorado Springs would only work if the city council had cut back on the provision of city services, but had passed a law saying that citizens who wanted the services must hire former city employees at the full (union) pay scale.

Laura, it's already happening:

While Colorado burns, conservatives have looked for ways to blame it on President Obama.

Some of the same people who have bashed the president as a big government, big spending liberal now say a wildfire that destroyed hundreds of homes in the conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs can be blamed on the president because he has been too slow to spend money to beef up the federal fleet of air tankers.

The meme began more than a week ago when pundit Michelle Malkin, who lives in Colorado Springs, wrote a piece for the National Review Online titled “Obama Bureaucrats Are Fueling Wildfires.”

“The Obama administration’s neglect of the federal government’s aerial-tanker fleet raises acrid questions about its core public-safety priorities,” she wrote.

Definitely click through and read that whole thing, it's a beauty. Especially the part about why the aerial tanker fleet is in the condition it's in.

But yes, even in the midst of the human tragedy, I enjoy a laugh at the expense of the people who believe it's not "our" responsibility to help out the citizens of New Orleans or whatever other collection of fellow Americans is "too stupid" to not live where natural disasters happen. They've now discovered what happens when you a) don't water the grass all summer and b) lay off all the firefighters.

PS also climate change but let's not even.

"...say a wildfire that destroyed hundreds of homes in the conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs can be blamed on the president because he has been too slow to spend money to beef up the federal fleet of air tankers."
Your neighbors would be pissed too if you owned hundreds of square miles of forest that you allowed to catch on fire and then didn't have the resources to put the fires out once they started.

The president owns the forest?

Well, technically the President doesn't "own" the national parks, in the sense of his personal property. But federal policies that lead to them catching fire occasionally do not, regrettably, involving the fires stopping at the edge of the parks.

Not sure if I'm misunderstanding, but did this fire start in city property? I didn't think that was the case.

I'm not sure. I have the vague idea it started up in the foothills which might be National Forest.

But about the hypocrisy of COlorado Springs coservatives: one of the mainstays of the economy is federal money for military purposes. Some of that is weapons production, some of it the base, but it is all federal tax dollars. The people getting those tax dollars get good pay and benefits. If the federal tax dollars were withdrawn the ripple effect on the rest of the businesses would be devastating. Do we actually need to spend as much as we do to employ people to make weapons? I doubt it. It's a very expensive WPA project for people who claim to be against the confiscation of hard earned money to support other people. Phooey.

I don't believe there are any weapons-production operations at all in Colorado Springs.

I guess there's Olympic Arms, but they make barrels for law enforcement as well as military.

Military Bases Near Colorado Springs

There are some interesting facts in this PDF about the Forest Services's fire suppression mission, how the costs have exploded, how their budget has NOT exploded, how climate change and increased home building near forest areas has affected things, etc.

The more salient pointed irony is, of course, Malkin and her ilk leaping from "I don't even believe in Jebus" to "Save me, Jebus!" in the blink of an eye.

Well, technically the President doesn't "own" the national parks, in the sense of his personal property.

So you're saying he doesn't own the forest? Now I'm really confused. (Did the misunderstandings on Three's Company stress you out when you were a kid, Brett? My attempts at humor tend to be on that level.)

If you think a one year wait for a hip transplant is a good thing, fine. You will change your mind when you actually have a broken hip and have to live with immobility and excruciating agony for a year.

Hang on, hold it right there.

My grandmother in law broke her hip in Aberdeen, Scotland. She was in her seventies. Neither she, nor her family, are in any way prominent or exceptional.

Her hip was replaced immediately on the NHS, at no cost to her. As is standard practice throughout the UK.

Cite, please, first-world countries with socialized medicine and year-long waits for joint replacements, particularly in emergency circumstances. Otherwise, enough with the scaremongering about what happens in countries with socialized medicine. It's a canard and a talking point. It's beneath you, frankly, and your usual care with the facts.

Military bases don't, in general, make weapons.

Yes, but it does indicate that the local economy is a bit dependent on federal expenditures.

Wikipedia says:

Colorado Springs' economy is driven primarily by the military, the high-tech industry, and tourism, in that order.

I was trying to get a fix on waiting times for hip replacements here in Japan, and found this pdf Explaining Waiting Times Variations for Elective Surgery across OECD Countries Interesting to see all of the factors that may go into waiting time.

Federal expenditures != weapons manufacture, though. Which is really my only point, here.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-02/wildfire-tests-police-force-in-colorado-anti-tax-movement-s-home.html

Quote from the above article:

The city has been aggressive in applying for federal grants, too, which have funded wildfire mitigation efforts, said Bret Waters, emergency management director.

Dunn notes that the city, where there is strong anti- federal government sentiment, is now turning to the U.S. for assistance. Before visiting Colorado on June 29, President Barack Obama declared the state a disaster area, which frees aid for communities affected by the wildfires.

“Ironically, Colorado Springs is going to rely heavily on federal funds for rebuilding,” Dunn said. “But it won’t cover everything.”

A shame I didn't see this post earlier. That OECD chart on wait times is pretty outdate -- from 2003. If you look at this chart http://www.hesonline.nhs.uk/Ease/servlet/ContentServer?siteID=1937&categoryID=451, you will see that England has pretty dramatically managed to reduce its wait times for hip replacement. There are a number of proposed explanations for why this was done -- political expediency being one of them. Nonetheless, it rather destroys the argument that such systems are 1) unresponsive to consumer concerns and 2) unable to change. What's more, England has introduced some pretty interesting features of transparency that US hospitals would be advised to copy: for example, you can look up current wait times for a variety of procedures on a website, along with mortality statistics.

Thank you for the good write ups! It in fact is an amusement account. I will wait for some more great work from your side. However, how can we communicate?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad