URLs du Jour

2019-07-10

[Amazon Link]

  • Alex Nowrasteh writes (at generally pro-immigration Cato) in contradiction to a lot of Democratic presidential candidates: Illegal Immigrants – and Other Non-Citizens – Should Not Receive Government Healthcare.

    Last week during one of their debates, all Democratic primary candidates supported government health care for illegal immigrants. This type of position is extremely damaging politically and, if enacted, would unnecessarily burden taxpayers for likely zero improvements in health outcomes. I expect the eventual Democratic candidate for president to not support this type of proposal, but it should be nipped in the bud.

    After the debate, Democratic candidate Julian Castro argued that extending government health care to illegal immigrants would not be a big deal. “[W]e already pay for the health care of undocumented immigrants,” Castro said. “It’s called the emergency room. People show up in the emergency room and they get care, as they should.” It is true that some illegal immigrants use emergency room services thanks to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act and to Emergency Medicaid, but Castro leaned heavily into a stereotype often used by nativists. According to a paper published in the journal Health Affairs, illegal immigrants between the ages of 18-64 consumed about $1.1 billion in government healthcare benefits in 2006 – about 0.13 percent of the approximately $867 billion in government healthcare expenditures that year. That’s a fraction of the cost that would be imposed on American taxpayers by extending nationalized health care to all illegal immigrants. So, with all due respect to Mr. Castro, we do not already pay for their health care just because some illegal immigrants visit emergency rooms at government expense.      

    It's a sign of just how panderful the Dems are getting in their quest for left-wing supporters. The late Bill Niskansen is quoted as saying that we should "build a wall around the welfare state, not around the country.”


  • Speaking of our wacky presidential candidates, Michael J. Boskin offers a 24-page rebuttal to their half-or-less-baked proposals: A Closer Look At The Left’s Agenda: Scientific, Economic, And Numerical Illiteracy On The Campaign Trail.

    The policy community and media have too often not taken these Democrats’ proposals seriously enough. Almost all the Democrat presidential candidates immediately jumped on board with the most extreme proposals, including Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. That made Nancy Pelosi’s demand to vote on Obamacare—“We have to pass it to see what’s in it”—seem innocuous by comparison. And the mainstream media, environmentalists, and left-leaning think tanks and academics laud the proposals for being wonderfully aspirational, if maybe a bit too difficult to achieve fully so quickly. Opponents are mostly content to mock them as socialist and highlight the most extreme implications, such as eliminating cows or airplanes. The policies and their proposers deserve more than such a shallow analysis. From taxes, spending, and debt to climate risks, from lifting up the less fortunate to strengthening our constitutional republic, they legitimately raise vital national issues,

    Unfortunately, each of the proposals could be quite damaging in its own right; taken together, they would be extremely dangerous, likely causing an economic, medical,and energy disaster trifecta. That is bad enough, but even more important, the radical proposals are crowding out any serious debate about solutions. These legitimate issues won’t go away just by rejecting extreme proposals. After detailing some of the most salient arguments against these radical proposals, I will turn to some examples of policies that would be quite constructive, affordable, and potentially amenable to bipartisan compromise.

    It's a skillful accumulation of rebuttals and refutations to essentially wrong-headed schemes. One of the policies Boskin favors is a carbon tax. I'd bet that's a wrong-headed scheme too. But I have an open mind, or I'd like to think so anyway. I would like to see a back and forth between Boskin and Benjamin Zycher (to whom we linked yesterday).


  • One bad proposal that Boskin doesn't mention is discussed at Reason by Alex Muresianu, who says we should Be Skeptical About Bernie Sanders’ Financial Transactions Tax.

    Taxing financial transactions is a popular proposal among Democrats to fund new government programs—but some on the center-left have called into question how much revenue such a tax would generate.

    Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.), along with several other members of Congress, have introduced a bill that would tax financial transactions. It would levy a tax of 0.5 percent on stock trades, 0.1 percent on bond trades, and 0.005 percent on derivatives trades. Sanders promises that this new tax will raise $2.4 trillion over the next decade, citing a study from University of Massachusetts economists; he plans to use that revenue to fund free college, student loan debt forgiveness, expanded Pell Grants, support for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and increased investment in K-12 education. 

    The small percentages are deceptive (and probably, to the extent that Sanders and Gillibrand aren't ignorant, dishonest). As Alex notes, the huge sums promised are only achievable by "tax pyramiding": taxing the same economic activity multiple times.


  • I am always a sucker for discussions of free will, conciousness, quantum mechanics, and the like. At Quillette, William Edwards looks at The Academic Quarrel over Determinism.

    Sam Harris has adamantly argued against the existence of free will. He notes that a theory of free will presupposes that before we make a decision something occurs inside of us that is completely separate from the cause and effect chain of events preceding it in the outside world. Whatever occurs inside of us must be completely different from a random roll of the dice, as well. Given the absurdity of such a mental process, Harris rejects the possibility of its existence. This view is actually very close to the majority of philosophers and scientists who think about such things. To argue otherwise seems to flirt with pseudoscience or magical thinking.

    Regardless of the truth of whether our actions are subject to determinism or individual will, it certainly doesn’t feel like our actions are being dictated by a script that has already been written. When it comes time to make a decision it doesn’t seem as though we’re watching our self in the third person and helplessly wondering, “What will he do now?” It feels as though we are making a decision in real time for which we must take moral responsibility. Making a choice doesn’t feel remotely similar to watching someone else make a choice. This sense of things is dismissed as an illusion by serious, contemporary neuroscientists. Laboratory evidence and coherent reasoning, they say, demand it.

    Still, the universe is full of things that seem irrefutably evident and yet can’t be well explained or understood. Sam Harris has also devoted much attention to consciousness. Why does it exist and what exactly is it? How does something become “aware” of something else? Godel’s incompleteness theorems indicate that there are truths about numbers that cannot be proven through calculation or computation. In math and physics there are singularities; times and places where all “rules” break down or don’t seem to apply. Is it far-fetched to suppose that conscious choice is real, but rules, processes, and definitions don’t apply?

    Sam Harris is an interesting case. I thought that his short-book attempt to debunk free will was irredeemably sloppy. And yet, if you follow the link provided to his thoughts on consciousness, he is (for some reason) much less dogmatic: it's obviously true, even if we can't explain whence it comes.


  • The (Manitowoc Wisconsin) Herald Times Reporter offers a bit of sub trivia that set off the LFOD News Alert: Walt Disney designs, mermaids among US Navy submarine battle insignia. Lots of interesting stuff, but let us cut to the chase:

    Many of the submarines named after the “denizens of the deep” not only had fierce names, but fierce insignia as well. Their patches depicted fighting fish, mermaids riding or holding a torpedo, or exploding torpedoes and Japanese flags. The tougher the creatures looked, the more the submariners liked them. The designs were meant to send a “don’t mess with us” warning to the enemy and included famous sayings such as “Don’t give up the ship” and "Live free or die.” Battle insignia were considered good omens and were placed on letterheads, jackets and painted on sails when the submarines were not on patrol. The insignia also appeared throughout the submarine and on the ship’s battle flag.

    Indeed! And on our Amazon Product du Jour (if you look closely).