URLs du Jour

2019-12-25

  • Merry Christmas to all! Except for this somber note from Michael Ramirez: Poor Santa.

    [Poor Santa]


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson has a moving and personal story to tell: Christmas and The Truth of the Incarnation (NRPLUS, don't know what that means). His Gospel reading is Luke 1:17:

    He shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

    Happiness, like much else, is learned. For a long time, I thought that this time of year would always be for me a time of bitterness and regret, mourning for things that were not lost because they were never in my possession to begin with. But there is not any reason for that. No good one, anyway. I have a different kind of family now and blessings beyond counting. I know that my Redeemer liveth. The effort necessary to be happy does not always produce exactly the desired results, and so I spend the last part of the year vacillating between my Clark Griswold mode and my bargain-basement Henry Miller imitation: “We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things.” Treacly, sentimental Christmas stuff sometimes makes me angry, and it is hard to explain to people who care about me why that is. Children who have not been taught any better think only of themselves. But we do not have to remain in that state. We can, eventually, put away childish things. It is never too late for that. It certainly is not too early here in the waning days of Anno Domini 2019.

    I'm not as religious as KDW, but like him I have blessings without counting. And if you're reading this, you probably do too. We can all learn to put away childish things.


  • Daniel J. Mitchell has a lump of coal for your stocking: Trump’s Record on Spending Gets Worse Every Year.

    The latest example of Trump’s profligacy is the $1.4 trillion spending bill for the 2020 fiscal year that was just approved (this is the “discretionary” money for the parts of the budget that are annually appropriated, so keep in mind that there’s also more than $3 trillion of “mandatory” spending for entitlement programs in 2020).

    This pork-filled spending bill became inevitable when Trump surrendered to the Democrats this summer and agreed to bust the spending caps (something politicians also did in 2013, 2015, and 2018).

    Many facts and figures, all depressing, at the link.


  • Piling on is Scott Sumner at Econlog: The new spending bill is a disaster. There are parts that are merely awful (Export-Import Bank, the smoking age, the F-35,…). But:

    The disaster is the repeal of the so-called “Cadillac tax” on expensive health care plans.  To understand why this is such a tragic mistake, you first need to understand the nature of American health care.  Almost half of the US healthcare system is directly financed via government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Veteran’s Administration. A large share of private sector health care provision is funded by private insurance.  Because this insurance is often provided by employers, it is tax deductible.

    This means that the government effectively picks up about 40% of the cost of health care provided by the private sector.  Needless to say, this provides a powerful incentive for excessive use of health care, and helps to explain why American health care is far more expensive than in other countries.  Even worse, this tax provision encourages people to pay for health care via the insurance system, rather than out of pocket.  Even my disposable contact lens are purchased this way, which means American taxpayers pick up roughly 40% of the cost of this frivolous luxury.

    The Cadillac Tax was a significant part of Obama's promise on Obamacare: “I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period.”

    Even back then it was considered a lie. Now it's a much bigger lie.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Well, that's kind of a downer. Let's cheer ourselves up a bit with Ronald Bailey's look at a new book (Amazon link at right) that claims Apocalyptic Thinking Is Wrong.

    "Let's not teach our children that apocalyptic thinking is right thinking," says Laurence Siegel. Apocalypticism "has always been wrong as a forecast, and it will continue to be wrong."

    Siegel is a business consultant and the director of research at the CFA Institute Research Foundation. In Fewer, Richer, Greener, he argues convincingly that humanity has spent two centuries rising from our natural state of abject poverty, and that most of the credit for that goes market institutions and democracy. Parsing current trends, Siegel foresees world population peaking and then stabilizing by the end of this century. (Hence the "fewer.") He argues that economic growth will bring humanity much greater wealth and more adept technologies. (Hence the "richer.") And thanks to increased urbanization and steadily improving material efficiency, he thinks our species will tred more lightly on many natural ecosystems. (Hence the "greener.")

    We'll see. I'm currently reading a book that is semi-apocalyptic, rather somberly pointing out that a lot of civilizations were doing just fine until they weren't. I'll let you know on the book feed how that turns out.