Wedgie Time for Peter Orszag?

Did anybody else read this anti-summer break piece by Peter Orszag and feel the urge to give the author a tremendous wedgie?

The question is posed semi-seriously because I wonder if I’m reading this piece too much through the lens of someone who followed Orszag’s shaping of and advocacy for Obamacare and found it contemptible.

Recall that Orszag was director of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget who touted the long-term effects of the government taking control of even more of America’s healthcare system. He argued that Obamacare could “bend the cost curve” of health care down.

It would do so by rationing care through government review boards, which several conservatives including Sarah Palin labeled “death panels.” Setting aside those barbed semantics, it seemed to me that Orszag’s whole approach to American healthcare was not only beside the point but dangerously so.

The problem with American healthcare, from my point of view, was not a lack of government meddling but a surplus of it. About half of all funds spent on healthcare in this country come from federal, state and local governments and those funds come with some pretty crazy strings attached.

U.S. governments arguably underpay for medical services and so those people with private and employer provided insurance have to make up the difference through increased premiums and fees and — let’s not forget — lower wages.

Regulators further bump up premiums by closely scrutinizing all the ailments that insurance companies “must cover.” They also force emergency rooms and the like to serve everyone, regardless of ability to pay.

The emergency room requirement might not be so bad if it were limited to true, life-threatening medical emergencies. In practice, people without insurance know that they can go to the emergency rooms and not be turned away. So they end up going there with any ailment and creating nightmarishly long lines for people with true emergencies.

Then there is our legal system, which is a true bonanza for trial lawyers. Doctors have to keep up an insane amount of paperwork to prevail in these lawsuits and their liability premiums can be debilitating. New drugs are so expensive largely for the same reason.

And don’t forget the third party payer problem. Most health dollars spent come from government or government-regulated insurance. There is little incentive for patients to shop around and thus impose normal price discipline. That’s the reason hospitals can get away with $6 aspirins.

Orszag took in this true cornucopia of problems and said, You know, the real issue is that there is not enough government control. All of the parties should be forced to behave in certain ways and voila! the costs will come down.

So now Orszag turns to K-12 education, a field much more thoroughly dominated by government than even healthcare. He finds that the kids are getting “dumber and fatter during the vacation.” Though he says he has no intention to “declare war on summer,” he really would like to extend the school year and all but eliminate summer breaks.

Let’s grant that there is some evidence of summer slippage. But to look at the vast wasteland that is American public education — the poor teaching, the awful curriculum, the low standards, the anemic achievement, the institutional resistance to needed reform — and say that the real problem is summer vacation takes a special sort of mind.

One hopes the next time Orszag is called on to give expert testimony, he’ll be taking the short bus to Congress.

Topless Theodicy

D. Keith Mano is not well remembered today (even though, last I checked, he was still alive). He was at one time a columnist for National Review and a novelist with real talent and comic timing. Here’s a bit from my favorite scene he ever wrote. The novel is novel Topless. The narrator is Fr. Mike, a young, assistant Episcopal priest in Nebraska on his way to New York to sort out the disappearance of his brother:

[A]s my plane leaves Omaha, we hit this big-shouldered thunderstorm. Lightning actually knocked a wing-light off. And we kept flopping into air shafts Sudden elevator, whoops, going down. Stomachs turn inside/out. For me it’s a thrill — after Lekachman, [Nebraska] even near-death experiences are refreshing.

But the lady beside me is blitzed with fear. She asks if I’ll send up a prayer for us all.

I say, “Don’t worry, it’ll be all right.”

“Pray, damn it,” she says.

“God is watching us. We’re okay. If you want forgiveness, pray yourself.”

“I don’t believe in religion.”

Whoomp, big drop. Someone screams.

“You don’t believe, but you want me t’pray? That doesn’t make sense.”

“You believe, you pray.”

“I believe — and I don’t believe in bothering God with my problems. If he wants me t’die, there’s a darned good reason.”

“There may be a darned good reason for you t’die, but not for me.”

“Lord,” I said. “Forgive this woman her anger, and her mean-spiritedness — and if it be Your will t’take her into Thy bosom this day, be gentle and cleanse her narrow soul.”

“Narrow soul” really got to her. She screamed.

“He’s praying against me. He’s praying against me” [more...]

Not an Intentional Airplane! Joke

Boy, I picked the wrong day to have electrodes strapped to my chest.

Politics Survives–Also, Irony

Well how about that? John Roberts, the justice that George W. Bush appointed and elevated to Supreme Court Chief Justice, effectively just saved Obamacare. (For now!)

And Anthony Kennedy, the judge that most people were worried would go soft on this one, was the justice who ended up reading for the dissent. He formed part of a bloc of four justices who wanted to tear the whole edifice down. They would have done just that if the court’s purportedly conservative justices had held together.

What this ruling means is that politics survives. The court will continue to play its job as an only occasionally effective referee, but the efforts to repeal Obamacare are now firmly in the political arena. To beat Obamacare, you need to beat Obama and put a majority of Republicans in the Senate.

“But what about the filibuster?” some people are asking.

One thing I will confidently predict is that if you have a Republican president and a Republican majority and the Democrats move to block, the filibuster is toast. This is especially true because Democrats used an odd parliamentary maneuver called “reconciliation” to skirt Republican filibuster threats in the first place.

To get more updates on fallout from the Obamacare decision today, stop by The Mark-Up.

Better Safeway Than Sorry

“Did you show them your beard?”

That’s what Real Clear Science editor Alex Berezow wanted to know after he learned I’d been carded at the Lynden Safeway.

What happened was I went shopping for a few groceries this evening and snagged two beers on the way to checkout. The checkout girl asked to see my ID. I was visibly flabbergasted.

She tried to come up with a reason why the question she’d just posed wasn’t absurd to the nth degree.

“Better safe than sorry,” she cliched.

“I’m just shocked that you would ask me for ID,” I said.

“We have to ask if you look under 30,” she whiffed again.

“I guess,” I said as I gathered the bags and made a concerted effort to avoid rolling my eyes at her.

“You could take it as a compliment!” she called out, as I got out of there.

Failure of Moderation

Comments come into this site on an irregular basis. Usually, I’m around to approve or reject them not long after they are submitted, or I can approve the one or two stand-alone comments several hours after the fact.

Today, however, was different. A bunch of comments came in on the Carrie Sheffield Mormon brouhahahahahaha! I didn’t get around to approving them until just now because I managed to get myself locked out of the website and had to reset the password after an exhaustive search for the old one.

The short of it is: Sorry about that, guys.

Philip Jenkins, Meet Adam Sandler

I would like to offer my fellow Patheos blogger Philip Jenkins a bit of unsolicited but highly necessary audio-visual advice:

Philip, the next time you feel compelled to write a post like this one, consider appending this video to really drive the point home:

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