|Obama Realizing the Presidency Isn’t a Videogame|
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, June 24 2010
“The fundamental principles of economics are not hard to understand but they are easy to forget, especially amid the heady rhetoric of politics and the media.”
~Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics
Liberals and Barack Obama scapegoat “deregulation” for every real or perceived malady. Lately, however, they’re awakening to the destructive realities of their own hyper-regulatory alternative.
The laws of economics, it turns out, cannot be wished away any more than the physical laws of gravity, even for a president who believes he walks on water. Or, as suggested by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, one who prefers to live in a virtual world rather than the real world.
For months now, America’s weaker-than-expected cyclical rebound has reflected the uncertainty created by the Obama-Reid-Pelosi federal government. This week, however, two troubling new items sounded a new alarm: rising health insurance premiums and the coming demise of free checking.
On the healthcare front, Obama appears to believe that insurance premiums reflect nothing more than numbers culled by CEOs from thin air.
Following a meeting with thirteen health insurance executives this week, Obama warned them to refrain from what he arbitrarily considers “unreasonable” rate increases caused by his own healthcare legislation. He might as well admonish the sun to rise on the western horizon.
In response, health industry leaders pointed out that rate hikes are simply an unavoidable consequence of ObamaCare. Those executives referenced the simple economic reality that one cannot impose costly new coverage mandates without triggering higher charges to pay for those sudden burdens. For instance, ObamaCare requires insurers to cover “children” on their parents’ policies until age 26. New regulations also forbid lifetime coverage caps and annual limits under $750,000, and impose such price busters as higher taxes upon medical device manufacturers. As Aetna chief executive Ron Williams observed, ObamaCare “does increase costs, and that cost is going to show up in the premium increases.”
In other words, Obama wants to impose new obligations, but somehow insists that prices not change to accommodate them.
This may cohere in your virtual world, Mr. President, but not in the real world.
Meanwhile, Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined the chorus by warning Medicare insurers not to increase copayments or premiums next year. This despite the fact that the federal government has frozen its 2011 repayment rate while healthcare costs are expected to rise over 6%. By the end of the decade, government repayments will be reduced by an estimated $136 billion.
Somebody must pay those costs, Ms. Sebelius. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Recent news from the banking sector provides another suggestion that the Obama White House considers itself immune from Economics 101. Several banks, including Bank of America, are planning to end the practice of free checking and impose a variety of other banking service fees on customers.
And whom can we thank for the end of free checking to which we’ve become accustomed for more than a decade?
The federal government. People like Barack Obama or Barney Frank may again scapegoat CEO greed, but the reality is that the end of free checking and other services reflect costly new federal banking regulations.
Other federal rules announced earlier this year for credit cards and other banking transactions threaten to cost banks billions of dollars in revenue, and Congress is rushing to pass even more legislation prior to the November elections, including the elimination of fees that banks can charge retailers for debit card purchases. That threatens to reduce bank service fees by 20%, according to Sandler O’Neill & Partners, which translates to $2.2 billion in costs to Bank of America alone.
Just as with healthcare, this week’s unwelcome news from the banking sector reflects the stale fruit of Obama’s regulatory tree.
For whatever reason, Obama still seems to think that he can command the economic tides by mere pronouncement from behind a teleprompter. The real world, however, is sending a different signal. Perhaps only this November’s elections may finally make that loud and clear to the White House.
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