Federal Funding of…Everything

When people suggest that the federal government send out money to help states or towns or individuals, where do they think that money comes from? Sometimes it seems they believe that dollars swim around in vast schools beneath the placid surface of the Potomac just waiting for the fishing fleets of the Department of the Treasury to net them and dry them and disperse them, an inexhaustible supply of federal resources available to cure all ills. Or perhaps FDR was really an alchemist whose bequest to the nation was not merely the spending habits of the New Deal but a philosopher’s stone with which subsequent Presidents and Senators and Congressmen could support their grand fiscal promises by transforming lead into gold.

The reality, of course, is that there is no magical and bottomless well of wealth from which federal assistance gushes forth without cost or consequence. The federal government aggregates money for its beneficence in the same way every government does: it extracts it from other uses, either by taxing its citizens or by borrowing from the nation’s reserve of capital.

…The only rational reason to argue that the federal government should assist the state of New Hampshire in making internet access universal — or that the federal government should help with any other infrastructure project — is that you believe the citizens of New York and California and Massachusetts and New Jersey and Kansas and Illinois should subsidize our needs or desires.

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“Perpetrating the Autism Myth”

Perhaps later in the season they can do a follow-on episode of “Eli Stone” in which the crusading hero sues another vaccine maker, this time to force them to continue making the life-saving vaccines his clients desperately need after the threat of massive awards in bogus liability lawsuits has forced them out of the vaccine business.

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Suppressing Students’ Right to Vote

Anyone who has lived in a community with a large student population can tell you that they are admirably idealistic and will reflexively support any and all expensive or intrusive solutions to local problems that they judge to be of paramount concern. Unfortunately, their insulation from the community distorts their perspective on such judgments, and the fact that their relative poverty and short tenure means they will never live with the consequences of supporting such solutions, either monetarily or socially, blinds them to the tradeoffs involved.

In short, students learn their lessons about politics at the expense of the locals. They vote their ideals with no need to consider costs, free to congratulate themselves on their virtue and walk away from their mistakes when they graduate — while those left behind must live with the long-term consequences.

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Health Care and Profit

The self-righteousness of those who proclaim that profit is the beast eating the health-care industry and that all would be wonderful if we could just remove profit from the system is both annoying and tedious.

It’s bad enough that they ignore the fact that the potential for profit is what entices investment and is the fundamental reason that our health-care R&D pipeline is so vibrant.

But it’s truly infuriating when such fulminations come from those working within the system. So far I haven’t heard of any who connect profit with their own take-home pay or who have taken a vow of poverty to make health care more affordable.

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Better Debates

That debate format would actually tell us what the candidates believe in depth, give us a sense of how they analyze problems and what kinds of advisors they listen to, give us a real knowledge about their plans on a particular topic (and about what topcis they think are important), and give us a fighting chance at assessing the source material they rely on in forming their opinions and plans.

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Regional Primaries (again?)

Has anyone noticed that those “unrepresentative” and “92 percent white, more rural and older than the rest of the nation” Iowans just favored the intellectual black man (and, by the way, a genuine “African American” given that he had an African father and an American mother) over the white populist by a rather large margin?

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Scientific Faith?

…assuming that things will continue to behave as they have always done — particularly after hundreds or thousands or millions of observations have failed to find an exception to that behavior — does not constitute or require a leap of faith. Faith is not belief despite the absence of proof but belief despite the absence of evidence.

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Structural Media Bias

…in the real world, tucking opposing views into the last paragraphs of a long story does not constitute either equal time or balance. It may be that a few news junkies have the time and luxury to read every story from beginning to end, but most people don’t. Most people read a newspaper more haphazardly…

…Most people will never get to the last paragraphs of a long story to see the “balance”. And hence, for them, such “balance” may just as well have been omitted.

I believe this is a source of much of the contention about whether particular press vehicles have “liberal” or “conservative” bias. If you analyze the full content of what appears in print, you will get a different answer to that question than if you could, somehow, assess instead the impression left with the majority of readers.

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