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Non-COVID Issues

The Affordable Insulin Now Act, An Election Year PR Stunt That Would Increase Health Insurance Costs

April 5, 2022

This bill is just a band-aid on high drug costs and an excuse for Democrats to continue to look the other way while Big Pharma continues to plunder Americans with over-priced drugs, including over-priced insulin. It does nothing more than cap the amount that consumers with health insurance have to pay out of pocket for insulin, with their insurance plans having to cover the rest. The Democrats could just as easily have capped the price of gasoline at $2 a gallon with health insurance having to pay the rest. It will just raise the cost of health insurance, thereby increasing inflation. But it does nothing to fix the anti-competitive Big Pharma drug industry that Democrats are beholden to for campaign donations. This is nothing more than an election-year Democrat political stunt to try to save themselves from the coming disaster in November. Voters can see right through this kind of stuff.

How Not to Fight The High Cost Of Gasoline, You Can’t Print It Away

April 5, 2022

A few days ago I got an email questionnaire from incumbent Rep. Eshoo, excerpts of which are shown below:

…Congress is considering several different options to help ease the pain at the pump, including rebates for middle class households. I’ve cosponsored legislation to provide$100 rebates to everyone earning less than $75,000 per year during every month that gas prices exceed $4 per gallon on average nationwide. Families would also receive$100 per dependent…

My comments: As everyone knows, we currently have a severe problem with inflation. It is basic economics 101 that inflation is the result of the government printing too much money. Often this is at election time to get re-elected. Too much money chasing too few goods and services; prices go up.

Rep. Eshoo’s solution to this problem is to print up even more money to pass out, now that election time is nearing, in the form of “rebates” or “gas tax” cuts. This might get her re-elected but it certainly won’t improve the inflation problem; it will just make it worse. 

Gimmicks like this never work to eliminate inflation. The only real answer is supply-side economics, like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan did, cutting the highest tax rates and thereby reducing the disincentive for economic activity. With more economic activity, there are more goods and services produced to soak up all the extra money floating around. Everyone wins that way. 

More government money printing and tax increases, such as recently proposed by Pres. Biden, just makes inflation worse by further disincentivizing economic activity, with more money chasing fewer goods and services. Everyone loses that way.

Big Tech Censorship, Repeal Section 230 To Restore Free Speech On The Internet

April 6, 2022

Elon Musk bought nearly 10% of Twitter this week and joined its board of directors. While he has not said exactly what policies he would like Twitter to follow, he gave a clue on March 25 when he tweeted, “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe that Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?

On the other hand, Big Tech Media Companies, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube do not necessarily see themselves as platforms for free speech on anything and everything. Instead, they consider themselves to be “publishers” of content as opposed to simply being passive “distributors” of content. As “publishers” rather than “distributors” of content, they wish to exercise editorial discretion to publish or not publish (censor) content as that content serves their own interests in developing their own distinctive brand image.

By comparison, the telephone companies do not seek to exercise editorial control over people’s phone conversations for the purpose of developing a brand or image favorable or unfavorable to categories of content. The phone companies are mere distributors, they just want to connect people together; what they talk about is not important to them. Telephones are an important platform for free speech, as far as they go. But they are not a convenient way to reach large numbers of people nor to post speech to be perused by anonymous interested persons at other times, such as would be a posting in the public square.

The telephone companies are regulated by federal and state governments because they are “natural monopolies.” Before wireless telephones, telephone users located at a distance had to be connected by networks of telephone wires. It made no economic sense to have large number of telephone companies, each with its own network of wires that would necessarily parallel each other. Thus, one monopolistic network serving everyone fairly and equally was much more efficient. But, how to assure that such a monopoly did serve everyone fairly and equally? Since competition as a means to assure fairness was not an option, the next best thing was government regulation. Government regulation also solves the free speech problem because, under the First Amendment, government regulated entities cannot censor speech.

Thus, one solution to the problem of Big Tech Media censoring free speech would be to comprehensively regulate that market. But there are a couple problems with this solution. First, there needs to be a defined “market” to know what is regulated and what it not. Second, what tends to happen in a regulated market is that the big entities often manage to set up the rules to keep out any smaller, more competitive entities, a process called “regulatory capture.” Thus, insulated from competition, the big entities get lazy, don’t innovate, don’t try to get more efficient, etc.

The best solution to this problem may be to borrow an idea from antitrust law, where those laws are applied differently depending on how big are the entities at issue. This is called market concentration. Concentrated markets are regulated more rigorously than dispersed markets. When a marketplace, especially a marketplace of ideas, consists of a natural monopoly, it warrants rigorous regulation to assure free speech. We don’t have that now.

The antitrust laws were enacted under federal law well over one hundred years ago. They can, and should, be applied to these new media markets. It is argued by Big Tech Media that they are exempt from those antitrust laws under Section 230 of the Federal Communications Act. While that may or may not be true, Section 230 should be outright repealed regardless. This will not hurt small entities that bring competition and innovation to these markets. But it will bring the big natural monopolies under federal competition law, which will also make them comply with constitutional laws forbidding censorship of free speech.

As Elon Musk correctly observed, free speech is essential to democracy and free speech requires unfettered platforms for that speech. Because there is a right to post in the public square, there has to be a free, unfettered public square in the marketplace of ideas where speech can be posted and ideas exchanged. When a private marketplace of ideas becomes a natural monopoly, it must yield to the laws that regulate monopolies and allow free speech.

Countering Putin's Threats Of Nuclear War With Economic Sanctions

April 16, 2022

Ever since the dawn of the Age of Nuclear Weapons at the close of World War II, the world’s nuclear superpowers have been the U.S. and the Soviet Union or its recent successor, Russia. We avoided World War III by aiming for a Balance of Power between the two superpowers, assuming that each side was rational and would never start a nuclear conflict that would end in Mutual Assured Destruction. 

However, Putin’s recent invasion of Ukraine and his repeated threats to use nuclear weapons in that war does not seem rational at all, calling into question the Cold War Balance of Power approach to nuclear arms. In fact, the Balance of Power approach to nuclear arms has to be scrapped since it is now clear that irrational people can come to power in non-democratic governments where they are in charge of the nukes. To put it plainly, it is now clear that we can no longer live with nuclear weapons in the hands of non-democratically elected governments. Putin has now shown that it’s too dangerous to do that anymore.

The free world has now imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Putin and Russia that will likely be unbearable, even with help from China. These sanctions should not be lifted until the Russian people replace Putin with a democratically elected government that agrees to give up its nukes in return for guarantees that no NATO country will attack a democratically governed Russia. Then Russia won’t need its nukes. 

The same economic sanctions should be gradually imposed on China until it gets rid of its nukes and brings in a democratically elected government. If that happens, North Korea will be even more out in the cold. Sanctions on China will cause some inconvenience and even pain in the West but it has to be done to achieve long term stability. If we don’t learn anything else from Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine, we must learn that we can’t have nukes in the hands of non-democratically elected governments. We have to put a stop to it now. The U.S. must not trade with such countries nor should it be trading with any other countries that do. Otherwise we may prove Lenin right when he (purportedly) said that, “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”