Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Skin Cells and Abortion

I read a letter this morning from a county Democrat lackey griping about pro-life lobbyists mentioning that the embryo is genetically homo sapien. He rambled for a good three hundred words about the skin cell mataphor. I mentioned a while back, I'm all for a comprimise in the pro-life/reproductive rights debate. I'd love to see the pro-lifers stop saying "abortion stops a beating heart" bumper stickers if we could get the RR crowd to drop the "but skin cells are just as human as a fetus" diatribe.

Homo sapien genetic code is found in embryos' cells. Additionally, it's found in skin cells, hair cells, cells in the ovule, cells in the semen, cells in the egg, cells in toenail clippings, cells in your eyebrow, and so forth.

Each cell contains your complete genetic code. The collective of the cells serves a common purpose, while the individual cells each have a role.

The egg cannot, in and of itself, become anything other than the egg. The semen cannot, in and of itself, ever be anything other than semen. The embryo will develop through gestation, eventually exit the womb, go through infancy, toddler era, adolescence, young adulthood, mid-life crisis, and senility. It's no more moral to END this process by spontaneous externally inflicted death (killing), which in many cases inflicts excruciating pain (medically settled point in many stages of gestation in which abortion occurs), at the stage of being embryo than the stage of adolescence. If, hypothetically, you could give the embryo a haircut, clip its toenails, or do something that doesn't kill him or her, it would be perfectly fine. But you're ending the cycle of life. Stunting the development of a precious human. Killing him or her. That's what becomes morally reprehensible.

P.S. Before someone objects, don't start bickering over semantics with using the word kill. You can kill crabgrass. You can kill a book proposal. You can kill an ABC Docu-Drama when Madeline Albright complains. Sure as heck you can kill an embryo.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The 110th Congress' Healthcare Panacea?

The Democrat-controlled 110th Congress would find no greater joy than stabbing the juicy $500 billion t-bone of defense spending[1] with a steak knife, and re-allocate it toward novelties such as "providing health care to Americans." Laudable as this may be, the current state of the compulsory healthcare system (which is moving ever-closer to being single-payer) finds itself in the most miserable of states, certainly having no need to be exacerbated by HillaryCare. Medicare and Medicaid aren't wretchedly farther down the road in bankruptcy from social security, and we look toward a solution to deliver us from the imminent bankruptcy grave of big three (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) entitlement spending.

The primary prerequisites for reform should be that it, a) provides for maximum liberty and autonomy of the individual, b) re-calibrates the system to stabilize the fiscal crisis, and c) deliver maximum affordability to the widest range of people. The utopia of a system would be a complete individual-initiative healthcare, but entitlements are here to stay, so we're dealing with reasonable reform. The only realistic course of action thus far presented for social security, aside from the reverberating instinct to raise taxes, would be private social security accounts. These prove distinctly appealing due to the fact that they initially provide, for the first time, a degree of actual growth in one's begrudging contribution to the social security fund (in the unheard of event it actually stayed there). Additionally, they move toward a system of individual responsibility. Likewise, Bush unveiled an intriguing healthcare proposal with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). An HSA is a unique, tax-manipulated account that, again, provides economic stability as well as personal autonomy. This innovation has fallen to the gutter lane of Capital Hill, and has been employed in life by only three million Americans.

The CATO Institute explained, "In 2003, Congress took a giant leap toward market-based health care reform by creating health savings accounts (HSAs). Cato Institute scholars first identified health savings accounts in the 1980s and were leaders in popularizing them among the public and policymakers. HSAs combine a personal savings account dedicated for medical expenditures with a low-cost, high-deductible health insurance policy for catastrophic expenses. These accounts will undo much of the damage wrought by excessive third-party medical payments by changing consumers' incentives. Below the health insurance deductible, all payments are made by the consumer with money they can keep. Humans are much more careful consumers when spending their own money versus someone else's. Patients will curb their consumption and thus help contain medical inflation. Because consumers have built-in incentives to make wise choices, many of the restrictions that insurers have placed on patients will begin to disappear. Because patients own their health savings accounts, they will have some self-insurance coverage when they switch jobs and be better able to afford catastrophic coverage on their own. Health savings accounts will thus make health insurance more affordable for people in and out of work. Cato's research on HSAs seeks ways to improve access to consumer-driven health care plans so that patients and doctors—not third party payers—have the power to make crucial medical decisions."[2]

The other main contributions to the debate by members of the 110th Congress to the healthcare crisis have been:

1) Oppose ideas stemming from GOP or otherwise conservative circles.
2) Raise payroll taxes--the "mild" solution when contrasted to
3) Single-payer health care provided by the state (HillaryCare).

The Republican Party, along with conservative and libertarian advocates of free-market ideas, tend to find themselves on the moral low-ground on the issue of "compassion."

A most shocking study conducted by Duke University professor Christopher J. Conover concluded that government intervention has been disastrous in health care. Costs of health services regulation outweigh the benefits by two-to-one, and cost the average household over $1,500 per year. Prof. Conover also found 4,000 more Americans die every year from costs associated with health services regulation (22,000) than from lack of health insurance (18,000). The total cost of regulation is $169.1 billion over and above any benefits it provides. Government regulation of health care facilities, professionals, insurance, drugs and devices, and the medical malpractice system places a significant burden on the health care system and is responsible for more than seven million Americans lacking health insurance.

Perhaps it is actually the responsibility of the government to provide for national security, and in private health care the free market is the most effective—and, yes, ethical—mechanism for maintaining public health.

In his classic work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, classic Scottish economist Dr. Adam Smith maintained, “Every man…is first and principally recommended to his own care; and every man is certainly, in every respect, fitter and abler to take care of himself than of any other person.”

[1] US Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations

[2] CATO Institute Research: Health Care – Medical Savings Accounts

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Republicans Have the Last Laugh About Laffer


ith the election season coming into the home stretch, the cry of ‘Tax cuts for the rich!’ is ringing out across the land from Democrats desperate to regain power in Washington. Like many other political slogans, its popularity depends on slippery words and sloppy thinking.” –Economist Thomas Sowell, Ph.D., in the 2004 election season.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has proclaimed flourishing federal revenues, up approximately $206 billion from this point last year, and there is speculation in the White House that figure will be up to $250 billion by the end of the year.[i] That nine-month increase represented the second-highest growth rate (13%) in the past twenty-five years;[ii] four to five times the inflation rate.[iii] Amid an ever-gloomy economic prognosis from liberal economists since the Bush tax cuts, why are we seeing tax revenues soar? Republicans are quick to take credit with their 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, and, in part at least, rightfully so. Democrats simply point out that tax receipts are barely back to 2000 levels, claim the long-term situation is dismal, and quickly shift over to the obvious fact that there’s still a significant deficit.[iv]

There are two questions everyone is asking. Why on earth would revenues be soaring after tax cuts? And, how could a deficit actually get trimmed in a Congress spending more on pork-barrel projects than Richard Branson spends on space trips? In order to answer the first question, we need to look at an economic theory regarding the effect of tax rates on tax revenues called the “Laffer Curve.” Named after one of Reagan’s economic advisors who popularized the idea in America, Dr. Arthur B. Laffer, the curve doesn’t actually say if tax rate cuts will or will not increase revenue. Rather, it explains there are two consequences of tax rates, arithmetic and economic.[v] The arithmetic effect is simply the revenue in taxes per dollar received. The economic effect, however, is the crux of the conservatives’ idea. It takes into account spurred economic productivity of lower taxes. As is obvious, with supplementary post-tax capital, people can invest, save, hire, and purchase more than without such economic benefits. As long as the income tax rate is in the “prohibitive zone,” or higher than what will maximize economic productivity and revenue, the government can cut rates without significant losses to receipts. Evidence suggests in some circumstances revenues can even increase after cuts.

The arithmetic and economic effects will always be opposite, according to the theory. Ideally the economic effect would cancel out the impact of the arithmetic effect, allowing significantly lowered taxes (improving the economy) without sacrificing significant tax receipts. There are three major historical examples to consider in an analysis: the supply-side tax cuts under John F. Kennedy, the rate cuts under Ronald Reagan, and George Bush’s 2001 & 2003 rate cuts.

At the onset of the Kennedy Administration, the highest tax bracket had a well established 91% personal income tax rate, a peak of the steady climb to fund WWII and social income redistribution programs. In other words, a businessman in the top tax bracket would profit nine cents on every dollar earned. If he or she were to invest that remaining 9%, they would not only pay personal tax on the original acquisition, but also corporate income tax prior to a surplus being collected, and personal income tax on that surplus. Undoubtedly, economic stimulus lags significantly under such an anti-business atmosphere. In a 1963 White House Economic Report, the Kennedy Administration made its position clear:

“Tax reduction thus sets off a process that can bring gains for everyone, gains won by marshalling resources that would otherwise stand idle--workers without jobs and farm and factory capacity without markets. Yet many taxpayers seemed prepared to deny the nation the fruits of tax reduction because they question the financial soundness of reducing taxes when the federal budget is already in deficit. Let me make clear why, in today's economy, fiscal prudence and responsibility call for tax reduction even if it temporarily enlarged the federal deficit--why reducing taxes is the best way open to us to increase revenues.”[vi]

Posthumously, in 1965 Kennedy’s vision was fulfilled. Congress enacted substantial tax rate cuts. Not only was there more money in American’s pockets,[vii] resulting in the incentive to trade, hire, and invest bolstered; but also something happened that surprised many. Federal income tax (FIT) revenue jumped. From 1961 to 1964, the mean increase in FIT revenue was 2.1%. From 1965 to 1969, the mean increase in FIT revenue was a whopping 8.6%, well above the CBO projections.[viii] US Department of Commerce statistics, demonstrated by the Heritage Foundation, clearly show significantly higher real GDP growth and significantly lower unemployment after the cuts.[ix] This left many critics scrambling to reformulate arguments.

A similar scenario unfolded in the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. He had long asserted that small-business owners, companies, and everyday workers where damaged by absurdly heavy income taxes. August 1981 marked the time when one of Reagan’s legacies was signed into law. The Economic Recovery Tax Act (ERTA) hacked off a quarter of the marginal earned income tax rates across the board. The economy under Jimmy Carter was faltering, being in the midst of the inflation explosion of the 1970s, growing unemployment, and real GDP growth that had stalled to 0.9%. Starting at 1983 (when Dr. Laffer claims the “bulk of the cuts” were in place) the choked economy began to see exceedingly high real GDP growth (a jump from 0.9% to 4.8%), and what had been shrinking returns turned into growing revenue.[x] Reagan’s supply-side economics created 18.6 million new jobs in the 1980s, and provided an economic stability that hadn’t been seen for a notable time. Once again, the evidence strongly points toward positive fiscal ramifications from tax cuts.

Hence, we’re back where we started- the George W. Bush tax cuts. Before noting our current situation, it is worth noting that President Bill Clinton had significant tax rate increases for upper brackets in 1993. The effects of this hike were felt in foreign trade, among other things. As the Institute for Policy Innovation noted in 2002, “The Clinton tax reform of 1993, which increased progressivity of personal income tax rates, raised marginal rates and the tax wedge American goods and services must suffer in increasingly competitive world markets. The New Economy information market boom has masked the growing competitive disadvantage of the United States in the far larger Old Economy markets, as witnessed by the balance of trade hemorrhage.”[xi]

Congruent with the anticipation of Laffer-style economists, we’re seeing a similar impact from the Bush tax cuts that were seen with the Kennedy and Reagan cuts. The GDP growth in the 2003 third quarter was the best since Reagan left office. Since the cuts, unemployment has plummeted (now at historically pleasing levels), and business investments are doing well.[xii] That leaves the problem liberals relentlessly demean as the curse of “tax cuts for the rich”— fear of tax receipts nose-diving. As The Wall Street Journal remarked, “For all of fiscal 2005, revenues rose by $274 billion, or 15%. We should add that CBO itself failed to anticipate this revenue boom…. Maybe its economists should rethink their models.” The Journal went on to point out that revenues as a share of the economy are now anticipated to be above the modern historical average this year.

Though the prime objection is that the long term is bleak, the economic effect of the Laffer Curve should kick in for the long-term—as long as tax rates don’t increase. Some indications show we may still be in the prohibitive zone, as rates are still considerably higher than during Reagan’s administration.[xiii] Democrats opposing making these beneficial cuts permanent claim they dislike tax hikes, they merely advocate the reversal of tax cuts. Anyone with the IQ of a pencil knows that means tax rates would be higher than what they are today.

It appears Bush may in fact come through on at least one of his campaign promises, the idea that he would “cut the deficit in half.” Democrats may indeed be correct when they object to the White House deficit predictions, claiming they were inflated to come through on the nearly forgotten promise. Nonetheless, the booming economy, likely bolstered by tax cuts, has provided steady deficit reduction since the all-time high of 2004. The national deficit and debt still remain as ominous behemoths of economic terror. Non-defense spending across the board, particularly pork-barrel projects, must be extensively reduced to have an acceptable budget. Beneficial as they may be, tax cuts aren’t an alternative to genuine tax reform. America still needs to adopt the Fair Tax or the Flat Tax to have a long-term tax solution. For the time being, the tax cuts stand as a sign of economic freedom for the American people, a boost to the business world, and stable or increased revenue for the government. Perhaps Dr. Sowell was right, and those incessantly chanting about “tax cuts for the rich” should come up with a November slogan that isn’t based on sloppy thinking.

[i] Edmund L. Andrews, “Surprising Jump In Tax Revenues Is Curbing Federal Deficit,” The New York Times, July 8, 2006

[ii] Ibid

[iii] “Revenues Rising,” The Wall Street Journal editorial, July 12, 2006

[iv] See, e.g.: Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, “Claim that tax cuts pay for themselves is too good to be true,” updated July 12, 2006

[v] Arthur B. Laffer, Ph.D., “The Laffer Curve: Past, Present, and Future,” The Heritage Foundation, June 1, 2004

[vi] Ibid

[vii] David Hartman, “Does Progressive Taxation Redistribute Income,” Institute For Policy Innovation Center for Tax Analysis, February 12, 2002

[viii] See note 5

[ix] US Dept. Comm. economic stats for 1960-1968 in Heritage Foundation graphic illustration: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Taxes/images/58872464.gif

[x] US Dept. Comm. Economic stats for 1978-1986, showed in Heritage Foundation graphic:


[xi] See note 7

[xii] Daniel J. Mitchell, Ph.D., “Taxes: Facts and Figures,” Heritage Foundation, Issues 2006

[xiii] Thomas E. Nugent (executive vice president and chief investment officer of PlanMember Advisors, Inc.), “It’s tax cut time, once again,” National Review Online, July 14, 2006