Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Who is Henry Galt? Book Review: The Driver by Garet Garrett

The Driver by Garet Garrett
Photo source: Mises.org
Garet Garrett’s 1922 novel The Driver is about railroads. The line “Who is Henry Galt?” appears twice. As a result, there seems to be a rule that if you write a book review about it, you have to include a discussion of the similarities to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, with due aspersions cast on her originality. But since that’s been done in many other places, I’m going to make two other points instead.

But first, a plot summary. The Driver begins amid the economic Panic of 1893. While everyone else is convinced the country is bankrupt, Wall Street speculator Henry Galt is certain it’s rich. He takes advantage of the crisis to buy up shares of the Great Midwestern Railroad at bargain prices. Making himself chairman, he cuts costs, reforms a corrupt procurement system, and takes over other railroads. The resulting powerhouse makes Galt spectacularly wealthy and breathes new life into the American economy. But the pugnacious Galt makes enemies along the way. Unable to defeat him on the level playing field of the market, they turn to the government to take him down.

Now my two points.

The first is what the book tells us about the intellectual bankruptcy of the left. There was no Occupy Wall Street in 1893, but there was Coxey’s Army, a battalion of the unemployed that marched on Washington to demand what today we erroneously call “stimulus.” Here’s the narrator’s summary of his discussion with the marchers: “They blamed the money power in Wall Street. When they were asked how the money owner could profit by their unemployment, what motive it could have in creating hard times, they took refuge in meaningless phrases.” Sound familiar? In spite of a century of events that proved them wrong time after time, liberals still uses the same tired “arguments”. No new ideas in 100 years.

The second point is that it was a pleasure to read a story about an unapologetic businessman. Dragged in front of a congressional committee to defend himself against the antitrust and insider trading charges that his enemies brought against him, Galt said, “I made [my money] buying things nobody else wanted. I bought Great Midwestern when it was bankrupt and people thought no railroad was worth its weight as junk. When I took charge of the property I bought equipment when it was cheap because nobody else wanted it and the equipment makers were hungry, and rails and ties and materials and labor to improve the road with, until everybody thought I was crazy. When the business came we had a railroad to handle it. I’ve done that same thing with every property I have taken up. No railroad I’ve ever touched has depreciated in value.”

There are days when I can’t believe that, in spite of the unprecedented prosperity capitalism has brought us, we’re in the middle of a national debate over whether to continue to be capitalist. I’m astounded that the president of the United States can give a speech in which he demonstrates astonishing ignorance of what businesspeople do – as Obama did in his “You didn’t build that” speech – and be greeted with anything other than derisive laughter. It’s been embarrassing to watch Mitt Romney ducking the blame – it should, of course be credit – for Bain Capital’s controversial outsourcing decisions. If today’s businesspeople channeled Henry Galt a little – expressing pride in what they do, instead of distancing themselves from it – perhaps we would not have come to this pass.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on Amazon.com.

Monday, July 30, 2012

If you can't run on your record...

Unable to run on his record, Obama sponges off of Clinton.
Photo source: Wikipedia

...sponge off someone else's.

Check out my novel, Full Asylum, at www.FullAsylum.com. A story of politics, freedom, and hospital gowns.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Losing your fear of universal health care – and getting it back again

The “musings of a young mom” have been making the rounds on the Internet. In an article called “How I lost my fear of Universal Health Care,” a blogger who identifies herself as “Melissa” says, “When I moved to Canada in 2008, I was a die-hard conservative Republican. So when I found out that we were going to be covered by Canada’s Universal Health Care, I was somewhat disgusted.” But after two pregnancies and “better prenatal care than [she] had ever had in the States,” she “started to feel differently.”

Patients line up on hospital beds outside the crowded emergency room at Montreal's Sacre Coeur Hospital.
Photo source: CBC

I'm happy that Melissa had a good experience, but it's not surprising. In their book Lives at Risk, Goodman, Musgrave, and Herrick document the political pressures on the bureaucrats who make the rationing decisions in single payer systems. Since they are indirectly answerable to the voters, the bureaucrats tend to be generous with services that are routinely used by many people, such as pre-natal care. They're not so generous with the more expensive services needed by the truly sick who represent fewer votes. If you think about the purpose of both universal health care and private insurance – to share the financial risk of a catastrophic illness with other people – this is the exact opposite of how things should be.

Be afraid, Melissa. It’s easy to lose your fear of universal health care – as long as you don’t get too sick.

Check out my novel, Full Asylum, at www.FullAsylum.com. A story of politics, freedom, and hospital gowns.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

So the libs are just making s--t up now?

I saw two charts on Facebook today - one about the defense budget and one about bottled water - that bear no relationship to reality. They were left wing charts, of course.

Here’s the first one, “What Our Tax Dollars Pay For:”

What our tax dollars pay for

The giant $700B missile representing federal spending on “Militarism and War” dwarfs the $70B pill bottle representing “Health.” I wish. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the federal government spent $485.7B on Medicare in 2011 and $372.5B on other health programs, for a total of $858.2B, ten times what’s shown in the chart and well above the $706B spent on defense.

Bottled water vs. tap water

The second chart discourages the drinking of bottled water with a claim that it costs 10,000 times more than tap water. Not where I buy it. My town charges me 16.5 cents per cubic foot for tap water, which works out to 0.3 cents to fill a 16.9 oz bottle. So unless you’re paying $30 a bottle for Dasani, the 10,000 figure is little bit off. Indeed, a 24-pack of bottled water is $3.88 at Wal-Mart, which works out to 16.2 cents per bottle, a factor of 54 instead of 10,000. In any case, the difference works out to 15.9 cents – a small enough price to pay for convenience.

C’mon folks. Let’s have a little regard for truth.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Andrew Klavan: What is Conservative Fiction?

All I knew about Andrew Klavan were his PJTV videos like “The Hilarious World of Abortion” and “Does Islam Suck?”: entertaining, sarcastic, and occasionally in questionable taste. So I was surprised to discover his thought-provoking and erudite lecture, “Conservative Fiction in American Literary Culture.”

In the lecture, Mr. Klavan attempts to define what makes fiction conservative. He rejects the notion that a conservative story is necessarily a political one. Rather, he says, “the questions facing artists now in general and writers in particular are bigger questions, very big questions about the whole way in which the West thinks…the conservatives are basically trying to defend the process itself and the left is trying to destroy it.”

That process of thought is what the ads for the Encyclopedia Britannica Great Books series used to call the Great Conversation, the process by which authors since the beginning of Western Civilization listen to and answer their predecessors in order to find Truth. Klavan argues that this search is intertwined with the concept of an ideal man. In the Bible, for example, one finds “a human individual, an ideal human individual, whether you believe it is Jesus or whether you just believe in the idea of it, who by the way he lives, can express the truth.” In American literature, the search for truth concerns itself with discovering meaning in symbols (The Scarlet Letter) and portraying the individual as a “sovereign moral voice” (Huckleberry Finn).

So how does the left interrupt the Great Conversation? “In the post-modern world, the way literature is taught is through theory – feminist theory, black theory, gay theory.” The sovereign individual is subordinate to gender, race, and sexual preference. There is no truth and no meaning. “If you read Hamlet,” says Klavan, “you’ll find in the mad scene, where he’s pretending to be mad, he says everything that our leftist academics are saying now. He says nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so. They ask him what he’s reading, he’s says, ‘I’m reading words’. There’s no meaning. Hamlet is pretending to be insane and the professors are pretending to be sane so that’s the big difference.”

Klavan’s views were interesting to me because I just published what I consider a conservative novel, Full Asylum. When I was writing it, I thought of it as conservative mainly in the narrow political sense: Nanny State comically out of control, stagnant economy due to government interference, SWAT team about to knock down the door. Nevertheless, it does concern an ideal individual (basically James Bond, except I call him Jon Dunn) and there are some truths revealed by the way he lives. It seems there’s some connection between these two versions of conservatism.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The right to bear nuclear arms?

We’ll try to stay serene and calm,
When Alabama gets The Bomb.
– Tom Lehrer, Who’s Next
I'll start with a disclaimer: No, I don't advocate the violent overthrow of the United State government. And I never will, as long as we have free speech and fair elections. The following discussion is theoretical and historical only.

Minute Man Statue, Lexington
Photo source: Wikipedia
The tragic shootings in Colorado this weekend have predictably reopened the national debate about gun control. Nanny Bloomberg suggested that police go on strike until tougher gun laws are in place. Former Seinfeld star Jason Alexander tweeted for a ban on “assault style weapons.” “What purpose does an AR-15 serve to a sportsman that a more standard hunting rifle does not serve?” Mr. Alexander asked. “They are not the same as handguns to help homeowners protect themselves from intruders. They are not the same as hunting rifles or sporting rifles.”

But the Founding Fathers didn’t codify the right to bear arms in the Constitution to preserve our right to shoot deer and protect our flat screen TVs. They did it because they had just overthrown their government by violence, they thought it was a good thing, and they wanted to make sure their descendents could do the same if there were ever again “a long train of abuses and usurpations.” That this was how they thought is clear from The Federalist #46, where James Madison wrote, “Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.”

In Mr. Madison’s day, the cutting edge of weapon technology was the muzzle loaded rifle. Adapting his reasoning to today’s weapons raises more questions than it answers. The consequences of a civil war - or of a lone madman - are far more horrific than they were in the eighteenth century. Is the goal to ensure that the people and the states (Mr. Madison’s “subordinate governments”) have military superiority over the federal government? If so, is it necessary, in Mr. Alexander’s words, to permit us to “all run out and purchase a tank, a grenade launcher, a bazooka, a SCUD missile and a nuclear warhead?" I suppose you could make the argument – if you’re not one of the people involved – that an occasional Aurora massacre is a reasonable price to pay to maintain our freedom. It’s impossible to make the argument that the occasional destruction of a city in a nuclear firestorm is reasonable.

Is it still possible and desirable to arm our people well enough to keep the feds at bay? And if not, what’s the “barrier against the enterprises of ambition” of the federal government?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Big Nick’s Ride: please support military families and wounded warriors

This weekend, bikers will rally on Cape Cod in memory of Corporal Nicholas G. Xiarhos, USMC, who was killed in battle in Afghanistan on July 23, 2009. Big Nick’s Ride for the Fallen is a 35-mile, police-escorted, motorcycle-only procession from the Barnstable County Sheriffs' Correctional Facility in Bourne to the Flax Pond Recreation Area in South Yarmouth. The ride will pay tribute to those who gave the last full measure of devotion for our freedom. It will also raise awareness of the Nicholas G. Xiarhos Memorial Fund, which supports local military families in need of financial assistance and wounded warriors and their families.

Kickstands up at 11 am, Saturday, July 21. Please support this worthy cause.

  • For more information about Big Nick’s Ride, see www.ngxride.com.
  • For more information about the Nicholas G. Xiarhos Memorial Fund, see this write-up. Donations may be sent to the Nicholas G. Xiarhos Memorial Fund, c/o Citizens Bank, 1116 Main Street, Route 28, South Yarmouth, MA 02664
  • Thursday, July 19, 2012

    But what about all that other spending?

    What the #%&$ are you doing with the rest of our money?

    My point is that the president’s Roanoke speech was somewhat disingenuous. He argued that businessmen are not paying their fair share to cover government services that benefit them, such as education and roads. But the rich pay more than enough to cover these things – they’re not that big a part of the federal budget. The revenue problem is due to the many other things the government does which neither benefit business nor are proper functions of government. I realize my data set is incomplete – it does not break out all government spending that benefits business – but I think it’s sufficient to illustrate my point.

    Check out my new novel, Full Asylum, at www.FullAsylum.com

    Data Sources: 2011 data. Office of Management and Budget Historical Table 4.1-Outlays by Agency 1962-2017.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    Obama gets a lesson in economics

    Hey, Obama!

    Missed Opportunity

    Mitt Romney and Barack Obama
    Photo source: CBS News

    The Obama campaign ad said, “Mitt Romney’s firms shipped jobs to Mexico. And China.” The Romney campaign's response: an analysis by FactCheck.org that explained the outsourcing of jobs, conducted by firms controlled by Romney’s Bain Capital, took place after he had left the company in 1999 to turn around the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. But since Romney continued to own Bain for another three years, an extremely fruitless debate followed as to what his role was during that period. Accusations that Romney “committed a felony” and that Obama was running a “dishonest campaign” filled the airwaves.

    By distancing himself from these decisions, Romney leaves Obama’s premise unchallenged: that outsourcing is bad. Nothing could be further from the truth. Outsourcing, in this context, is just free trade with foreign countries – trade that would not take place unless both countries were better off. As scientist and writer Matt Ridley noted in his book, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, “The message from history is so blatantly obvious – that free trade causes mutual prosperity while protectionism causes poverty – that is seems incredible that anybody ever thinks otherwise. There is not a single example of a country opening its borders to trade and ending up poorer.”

    The attack on Romney goes to show – yet again – that Obama doesn’t understand where prosperity comes from. Romney missed an opportunity to set him straight.

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    Psychic Libs

    Personally, I thought it was a gutsy and principled speech.

    Mitt Romney stood up in front of the NAACP yesterday and said that free enterprise was in the best interest of America in general and the black community in particular. He didn’t adjust his message to an audience he knew was overwhelmingly liberal. While I've long been skeptical about Romney’s commitment to free enterprise, when he tells a roomful of Obama supporters that “free enterprise is still the greatest force for upward mobility, economic security, and the expansion of the middle class,” I start to believe he really means it. Maybe we’ll finally get the debate between capitalism and socialism that the pandering weasel John McCain should have given us, but didn't.

    Of course, what made headlines in the mainstream media was not Romney’s eloquent defense of free enterprise, but the boos he received when he promised to repeal the Unaffordable Care Act (The standing ovation he received at the end of his speech received less coverage from the fair and impartial MSM. A search of Google News for “Romney NAACP boos” returned 109,000 hits, compared to 23,100 for “Romney NAACP ovation.”).

    According to numerous liberal commentators, the boos were part of the Romney Master Plan. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and TheGrio.com's Goldie Taylor were typical. “It was a calculated move on his part to get booed,” said the former speaker in an interview with Bloomberg Television (don’t you love that phrase – “former speaker”?). Ms. Taylor got her turn when asked by Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC whether it was “too cynical to think that the Romney campaign actually went in that room today with the hope of getting booed, at least three times, because they want the video of their candidate being booed by the NAACP to play in certain racist precincts where that will actually help them.”

    “I don’t think you’re being too cynical at all,” Ms. Taylor replied.

    What amazes me is the certainty with which the liberals know what Romney was thinking. Now they could be right about Romney’s Machiavellian intent. Or it could be, as an anonymous Romney advisor told Buzzfeed.com, that the candidate just wanted to “send a message that he's going to be president of the entire United States.” Fortunately, we know the answer thanks to the ability of liberals to read other people’s thoughts. This ability is central to their being: it takes formidable mental powers to detect racism where no one else can see it. Their powers also come in handy for staffing bureaucracies with clairvoyants able to make economic decisions better than all the millions of producers and consumers interacting in markets, combined.

    Nancy Pelosi psychic?.
    Photo sources: rantersbox.blogspot.com, The Inquisitr

    It’s too bad that liberals disdain markets – and the profits that go with them – because they could profit handsomely from their psychic powers. Since the voters took her oversized gavel away, Nancy Pelosi no doubt has some free time on her hands; she should consider a second career as a psychic. She could set up a 900-number (do people still use 900-numbers?) and guide callers to the hiding place where poor-departed Uncle Albert concealed the stock certificates. Also, I invite Ms. Taylor to come with me to Las Vegas. If we pooled my knowledge of probabilities with her ability to read minds, we could really clean up at the poker table.

    Tuesday, July 3, 2012

    Read the Declaration of Independence on July 4

    Signing of the Declaration of Independence

    The genius of the Declaration of Independence is the notion that government exists to protect rights we already have rather than distribute rights at its pleasure. It’s a vision that has kept Americans free for over 200 years, and if properly understood can keep us free for another 200. That’s why I’m heartened by the movement I’ve seen this year – partly promoted by Right-wing pundits, partly grass roots – to encourage people to read the Declaration of Independence on July 4. I hope you’ll make it your new tradition. For your convenience, I’ve included the text below, copied from the National Archives site:

    IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

    The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

    He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
    He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
    He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
    He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
    He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
    He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
    He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
    He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
    For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
    For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
    For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
    For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
    For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
    For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
    He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
    He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
    He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
    He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
    He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

    Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

    Column 1
       Button Gwinnett
       Lyman Hall
       George Walton

    Column 2
    North Carolina:
       William Hooper
       Joseph Hewes
       John Penn
    South Carolina:
       Edward Rutledge
       Thomas Heyward, Jr.
       Thomas Lynch, Jr.
       Arthur Middleton

    Column 3
    John Hancock
    Samuel Chase
    William Paca
    Thomas Stone
    Charles Carroll of Carrollton
    George Wythe
    Richard Henry Lee
    Thomas Jefferson
    Benjamin Harrison
    Thomas Nelson, Jr.
    Francis Lightfoot Lee
    Carter Braxton

    Column 4
       Robert Morris
       Benjamin Rush
       Benjamin Franklin
       John Morton
       George Clymer
       James Smith
       George Taylor
       James Wilson
       George Ross
       Caesar Rodney
       George Read
       Thomas McKean

    Column 5
    New York:
       William Floyd
       Philip Livingston
       Francis Lewis
       Lewis Morris
    New Jersey:
       Richard Stockton
       John Witherspoon
       Francis Hopkinson
       John Hart
       Abraham Clark

    Column 6
    New Hampshire:
       Josiah Bartlett
       William Whipple
       Samuel Adams
       John Adams
       Robert Treat Paine
       Elbridge Gerry
    Rhode Island:
       Stephen Hopkins
       William Ellery
       Roger Sherman
       Samuel Huntington
       William Williams
       Oliver Wolcott
    New Hampshire:
       Matthew Thornton

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    Governor Voldemort and the Order of the Sebelius

    Florida Governor Rick Scott One of my Facebook friends asked me today what I thought about Florida Governor Rick Scott’s decision to opt out of certain provisions of ObamaTax (formerly Obamacare). Of course other governors have made similar decisions – notably Bobby Jindal of Louisiana – but Gov. Scott did get a great deal of publicity. Perhaps his resemblance to Voldemort makes him a more effective bogeyman for the MSM than the Jimmy Stewartish Jindal. In any case, my friend was curious whether I “would applaud this as appropriate civil disobedience or a somewhat futile attention grab.”

    I did a little research and here’s what I found out:

    There are two provisions from which Florida will opt out.

    The first is of little consequence: setting up a state health insurance exchange. The federal government will set up exchanges for states that decline to do so.

    The second is where the controversy lies: Florida will opt out of an expansion of the state Medicaid program. Most of the criticism of Gov. Scott has centered on this because it also means passing up new Federal funding that goes with it. The governor’s news release explains that “even though the federal government has promised to initially pay 100% of the increase in Medicaid payments for the first three years of ObamaCare, the burden increasingly shifts to Florida taxpayers in future years.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that in the out years, the state’s share is 10%. That seems small, but 10% of a big number is still a big number; it will cost Florida taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Although ObamaTax authorized HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to levy heavy penalties on states that declined to participate in the Medicaid expansion, that part of the bill was thrown out by last week’s Supreme Court decision. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that it represented too “dramatic” a change to fall within the federal government’s authority to unilaterally amend the program. Participating in the Medicaid expansion is, therefore, entirely voluntary on the part of the states. In deference to this sensible bit of federalism, I’ve refrained from using the #JohnRobertsIsSoDumb hashtag on Twitter all day.

    Anyway, it seems to me then that Gov. Scott’s decision is neither civil disobedience – since the law allows him to do this – nor grandstanding. The chief executive of the Sunshine State is simply trying to keep the budget under control.