07 March 2012

I give up. I will break down and post about the HHS mandate.

I didn't want to have to do this because everything about this issue puts me in a bad mood.

I saw this at the Gormogons' place:

Do read the responses to it there. I have a few reactions of my own.

(1) Bullshit. The proper response to "everyone is forced to pay for things they don't want" is not "therefore I'm forcing you to pay for one more thing you hate." It's "so let's all stop forcing each other to buy stuff we don't like."

I don't see Stewart falling over himself to support school choice or any other sort of education freedom. He sure hasn't had a nice word to say about Paul Ryan or the prospects of opting out of Social Security. The last time proposals to privatize Social Security and Medicare came up Stewart sure as shit didn't say "Hey, this is a great opportunity to make people stop paying for things they find objectionable!" In fact, he compared it to turning old people in Solent Green.

(2) Bullshit, again. If there were new laws forcing every employer to purchase for their employees an AR-15, a ten volume study bible, a copy of Atlas Shrugged, a kilo of blow, or a round trip plane ticket to Mecca every Ramadan, there's no way in hell Stewart would shrug and say "Oh stop complaining, we all have to pay for stuff we don't want."

(3) Let's put that aside. Assume, arguendo, that we have decided that everyone gets to have contraception without paying any marginal cost themselves. Why in the name of ***** is it their employer's responsibility to pay for it?

Just because they're the closest people with seemingly deep pockets? That's bullshit too. If we, collectively, decide this is something people deserve to have then we, collectively, ought to provide it. Don't make this decision and then stick the tab on someone else for political convenience.

This is a constant irritation for me. If we want to subsidize mail to rural areas, then we — collectively — ought to do so, instead of passing the bill off to the subset of people who buy stamps. If we want to subsidize rail lines then we — collectively — need to pay for them instead of passing the bill off to the subset of people who buy gasoline. If we want to subsidize baseball stadiums then we — collectively — need to pay for that instead of passing the bill off to people who stay in hotel rooms.

It's more honest to do so that way, it's more efficient to do so that way, and it's also more respectful of the rights*
used extremely loosely
of the people we're subsidizing. I can imagine a moral regime which concludes women deserve to pay nothing out of pocket for contraception. I can not imagine a regime in which only employed women deserve to pay nothing out of pocket for their contraception.

(4) Does Stewart not understand that there is a difference between the State taxing away some of my money to pay for something I object to, and forcing me to do something I object to with my own money directly? I'm not comfortable with either of these situations, but at least the former has a degree of honesty to it.

I don't like turning resources over to the State through taxation, but at least then we know that the State is directing the allocation of those resources. Mandating what I can do — no, must do — with my own money is a different story. It's a stealth taxation.*
And thus I expect to see much more of it as I age.
I'm not one to throw around the F word lightly, but — and correct me if I'm wrong — I believe that centralized State direction of private property is the very central economic tenet of fascism.

I need to stop ranting about this and get back to work, but I'll make one more point unrelated to Jon Stewart. I was talking to my father last night, and he's of the opinion that this whole HHS mandate is an "attempt to undermine religion in the public sphere" or words to that affect. I can see why he and his religious friends see things that way, but I think they're giving Obama et al. far too much credit.

I don't see this as an attempt to marginalize the Church, or undercut the 1st Amendment, or anything of the sort. (Sure, it does those things, but I don't think that's the point.) I think this is simply people seeing an opportunity to get someone else to pay for something they want and seizing it. People are always going to jump on the chance to get something (seemingly) for free.

Obama is saying to his supporters, "I will give you something you want. It will appear to be free. You will bear a small portion of the cost (in lower wages), and the rest of the cost will be occulted, and spread out on the rest of your coworkers. Do you want some of this 'free' stuff?" The answer is always "Hell YES we do!"

As a nice little side benefit he can simultaneously tell Pharma that he's just forced people to pay for a bunch of their products ... and by the way, wouldn't it be nice if they slipped some of that new revenue into his campaign war chest and refrained from saying anything bad about his "signature" HCR achievement until after November?

PS Fine, one more thing. There is a certain argument that really this is in the employers' and insurance companies' best interests because contraception is cheaper than pregnancy in the long run so actually this mandate is doing them a favor. This strikes me as beyond foolish.

I can not imagine a more self-defeating justification for this, and yet I hear similar things routinely. If it's really in their best interests then you don't need to force them to do it. Unless you think insurance companies and employers are insufficiently greedy to save themselves money, which clashes mightily with the general world view of the people who usually make this argument.

I immediately lose some trust in anyone who advances this line of reasoning. Not only because it's terrible self-contradictory rhetoric, but because it misses the entire point of market systems: no one is better positioned to judge what is in the best economic interests of an actor than they are themselves.

PPS Attention Rush (and everyone else): You can make arguments, or you can call people names. You can't do both.

Some woman went to congress and demanded free stuff. There are very good reasons she shouldn't get free stuff. I think you (Rush) might have even presented some of them on the air. But then you called her a mean name. When you do that it doesn't matter how right your reasons are or how ludicrous her demands for free stuff are. All your arguments — and by extension, sadly, most of those made by people on the same side of this issue — are wiped away. Stick to either making arguments or name-calling. You do not get to mix and match.

May God protect us from incompetent allies.

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