Talk About The Issue, Not Rush Limbaugh

I’m probably supposed to deal with this:

Limbaugh then elaborated on the reference to him in the lyric. “I would remind the rapper Jay-Z: Mr. Z, it is President Obama who wants mandated circumcision. That means if we need to save our penises from anybody, it’s Obama. I did not know I was on anybody’s balls, either. I’m happy to know that they think I am, though.” The mention of Obama is in reference to the fact that the Center for Disease Control is considering recommending circumcision to high-risk adult men to reduce the spread of HIV, according to The New York Times.

Rush Limbaugh is a hack using controversial buzzwords because he knows it will get him attention, which is all he wants. He’s a deejay, not a political thinker. Using his nonsense for political arguments on any side of any debate is stupid.

With that out of the way, Ed Brayton has a post in which he begins:

The record of demagoguery and lunacy from the right wing continues. The CDC is considering — just considering, mind you — adopting a policy to encourage — just encouraging, mind you — people to have their children circumcised on the grounds that it reduces the risk of disease. Run that through the silly straw prism of right wing spin and it magically becomes “Obama is going to force us all to cut off our genitals!”

Fine, fair enough. Again, Rush Limbaugh is a moron. But Mr. Brayton links to an article that unfairly maligns Ed Morrissey’s post about circumcision and the CDC’s potential recommendation that I used yesterday as a starting point for discussing single-payer and circumcision. Whatever other issues Mr. Morrissey may have in how he presents political arguments, he was correct in the suggestions of his piece. Any other interpretation is a failure by the reader to interpret his words using their common meanings. As he wrote:

Why should the CDC push circumcision at all? The government has no business being in the middle of that decision. Under ObamaCare, however, when the government starts paying more and more of the health-care tab, they will point to ambiguous cost savings down the road — in this and other cases, decades down the road — to pressure Americans into surrendering their choices now.

As I mentioned in my entry, he unnecessarily cluttered his argument with the term “ObamaCare,” but other than that, I can’t find anywhere he mentioned that the government would force circumcision on anyone. “Pressure” does not mean “force”. The writer at Salon directly, and Mr. Brayton indirectly, are undeniably wrong.

Yet, Mr. Brayton’s post generated this comment:

… While I think the net effect of such a policy would be detrimental, to equate it with forced circumcision is BAT SHIT INSANE. …

To equate a recommendation with forced circumcision is not BAT SHIT INSANE. I’ve written this several times over the last week, but it’s worth repeating here: For the circumcised male, why does he care whether circumcision is mandated by the government or merely by his parents? The result – forced circumcision – is the same for him. Eliminating the choice of a healthy child is the issue, not who forces the circumcision.

We can and should rebuke those like Limbaugh who offer absurd suggestions of government-mandated circumcision as a result of health care reform. It’s political nonsense intended to distract. But we mustn’t falsely accuse someone of making that argument who hasn’t, in fact, made the argument. Doing so is no less a distraction from the legitimate issues.


From another comment to the Ed Brayton post:

You can count on Limbaugh to say something stupid, but the Ed Morrissey quote is right. CDC guidelines are pressure on doctors and patients. They are supposed to be. The real problem with the Morrissey piece is the following:

“Why should the CDC push circumcision at all? The government has no business being in the middle of that decision.”

That is wrong. The point of the CDC is to study the spread of infectious disease and recommend the most effective ways to slow or stop the spread.

As Mr. Morrissey wrote in the paragraph before the one I excerpted above:

I’m neutral on the issue of circumcision, which has become a controversial practice, but find this idea of interventions very, very odd. In the first place, circumcision does not provide an immunity to STDs, not AIDS or anything else. Studies indicate that circumcised males may have less danger of acquiring an infection, but as the NYT points out, that’s from heterosexual relations — a very minor channel of AIDS communication in the US. Men have much better choices than circumcision for avoiding HIV infection, including the use of condoms (still not a perfect defense, but better than circumcision), refraining from intravenous drug use with shared needles, avoiding high-risk sexual practices altogether, and so on.

Any recommendation to circumcise infant males to reduce the risk of HIV is unethical because it encourages genital cutting on a healthy, non-consenting individual. It is also stupid. Infant males are not at risk of HIV now, and will be at little risk of the only type of transmission (female-to-male) that voluntary, adult male circumcision has been shown to reduce when they begin having sex, even if they do not use condoms, which no one is suggesting they may do after circumcision. Like WHO and UNAIDS, the CDC is considering recommending infant circumcision because they know such recommendations convince parents. If they were confident that men would embrace it, they’d focus on adult volunteers. They know that’s a dead-end for mass acceptance, so they recommend it for those who can’t say no. It is not force by government, but when told to a receptive audience acting on behalf of another, the difference is in tactic, not outcome.

Single-Payer and Circumcision in America

In my second response to Hanna Rosin’s posts on circumcision at The Daily Dish, I closed with this:

As a circumcised male, why do I care whether circumcision is mandated by the government or merely by my parents? The result – forced circumcision – is the same for me. Basically, Rosin engages in the “if you don’t like circumcision, don’t circumcise your son” defense. This is wrong. The case against circumcision centers on the boy as a (healthy) human being, not the boy as a son of parents making a choice.

This is the core of the ethical refutation of prophylactic infant male circumcision. Proxy consent cannot be justified on any grounds because the surgery is unnecessary, permanent, and carries an inherent risk of damage beyond what is deemed acceptable. On the last point, remember that no one considers the boy’s potential future disagreement with society’s definition of acceptable.

Ms. Rosin’s passage that prompted my comment involved the question of government-mandated circumcision. The CDC is not recommending that, of course. My point stands because, to the circumcised child, an influenced decision is no better than a required non-decision if he does not wish to be circumcised. But it does raise an interesting point for the current debate over health insurance reform that I’ve attempted to make in the past. From Ed Morrissey:

I’m neutral on the issue of circumcision, which has become a controversial practice, but find this idea of interventions very, very odd. In the first place, circumcision does not provide an immunity to STDs, not AIDS or anything else. Studies indicate that circumcised males may have less danger of acquiring an infection, but as the NYT points out, that’s from heterosexual relations — a very minor channel of AIDS communication in the US. Men have much better choices than circumcision for avoiding HIV infection, including the use of condoms (still not a perfect defense, but better than circumcision), refraining from intravenous drug use with shared needles, avoiding high-risk sexual practices altogether, and so on.

Why should the CDC push circumcision at all? The government has no business being in the middle of that decision. Under ObamaCare, however, when the government starts paying more and more of the health-care tab, they will point to ambiguous cost savings down the road — in this and other cases, decades down the road — to pressure Americans into surrendering their choices now. [ed. note: surrendering the choices of their children]

Apart from unnecessarily cluttering the single-payer issue with the “ObamaCare” phrase, this is exactly right, I think. How often do we need to see the public health community ramble on about the cost-benefit analysis “proving” that the net effect of prophylactic infant male circumcision is positive? How many lies pretending that non-essential and non-functional are synonyms will be necessary before we accept that not everyone shares the same view about what individuals should do and have, when those same people so often prove that they mistake their opinion for fact? Those people are at least as likely to make it to positions of power as anyone who considers the child’s lack of need and possible future objections.

It’s useful to highlight that most countries with an explicitly single-payer health care system have infant male circumcision rates that don’t approach 10%. Of course. But we can’t dismiss that the rates are greater than 0%. We must consider why.

I think the question of why narrows to culture. American culture places a high, irrational value on circumcision and its alleged wonders. Whether it’s the perceived health benefits for diseases that are already unlikely in a normal human state or a fear that schoolmates and sexual partners will laugh at him if he’s normal rather than common, we don’t evaluate circumcision factually. Ms. Rosin demonstrated this when she wrote that calling circumcision surgery is “a bit of an exaggeration.” No, it’s not, but our society possesses a strong anti-curiosity attitude on the topic. As Mr. Morrissey noted, the New York Times article provides all the necessary data to show that the CDC’s thinking is irrational. Yet, it’s picked up by people like Ms. Rosin who uncritically regurgitate only the parts they like and declare the resulting subset of findings uncontroversial. This is the low level of discourse in America surrounding circumcision and children.

If America had implemented a single-payer system at the same time England created its system, we could make a one-to-one comparison and the incidence of circumcision today would likely be close. But we didn’t. Instead, we have 60 additional years of circumcision to defend and justify. We have irrational beliefs to refute, should those holding those beliefs be willing to question them. We have a society that “knows” the foreskin is “just a flap of useless skin” and isn’t interested in hearing anything to the contrary, no matter how logical or based in scientific proof. A majority of our society still believes that the individual child is in the care of his parents for his medical decisions without a thought that this non-therapeutic surgical intervention is (social) experimentation, not medical care. The national discussion becomes about what people want to believe, not what is true. Cost is not a primary concern.


Patrick Appel posted the Ed Morrissey link at The Daily Dish, where I found it. Mr. Appel writes:

The CDC is thinking of promoting circumcision, not requiring it. Whether or not you agree with the procedure, this controversy has nothing to do with health care reform. If single-payer leads to more circumcision, then how come America has among the highest rates of circumcised men in the world, much higher than most if not all countries with socialized medicine?

Mr. Appel makes the same mistake. The argument isn’t that single-payer leads to more circumcision. The argument is that American single-payer will not lead to a decrease in male circumcision. Either the system will pay or parents will pay. My view is the former because public health officials invariably think about the public rather than the individuals in the collective and politicians do not have the moral framework to say “no” to the inevitable backlash that would occur. Without legal reform recognizing the same rights for boys that we’ve already codified for girls, circumcision will continue in America, regardless of who pays.

I Do Matthew Yglesias’ Homework

Last week, in a post lamenting the not-odd fact that the words and actions of politicians do not match, Matthew Yglesias wrote this:

My personal feeling, the longer I spend in DC and working in the political domain, is that I get better and better at understanding other people’s ideologies. I also feel that people writing about politics often caricature opponents’ views as part of a rhetorical strategy. But I’ve been back-and-forth on the main issues long enough that I’m pretty sure I could switch this blog’s point of view and do a credible job of offering critiques-from-the-right of the progressive liberal health reform movement and the progressive liberal approach to domestic policy generally. One happy consequence of this is that I find the stubborn persistence of principled disagreement less mystifying than I once did, and have a greater appreciation for what I now think of as a certain irreducibly Kierkegaardian element to ideological commitment that, in turn, helps explain why so many “normal” people have such fuzzy political views.

The words I placed in bold are important to remember while reading an entry Mr. Yglesias posted¹ yesterday (archived version:

There’s lots of great stuff in this Ed Pilkington story about the dark side of free market health care (via Tomasky) but my favorite bit was this part:

Eventually his lack of motor control interfered with his work to the degree that he was forced to give up his practice. He fell instantly into a catch 22 that he had earlier seen entrap many of his own patients: no work, no health insurance, no treatment.

He remained uninsured and largely untreated for his progressively severe condition for the following 11 years. Blood tests that could have diagnosed him correctly were not done because he couldn’t afford the $200. Having lost his practice, he lost his mansion on the hill and now lives in a one-bedroom apartment in the suburbs. His Porsches have made way for bangers. Many times this erstwhile pillar of the medical establishment had to go without food in order to pay for basic medicines.

This is the kind of thing that makes it so hard for me to take seriously the idea that we can’t have the government give people health care because it might subject them to “rationing.” Depending on the details, it may or may not be correct to believe that any particular government program is being too stingy. But how does giving people nothing at all resolve that problem?

There are two issues here, closely related to Mr. Yglesias’ entry from last week linked above. The initial problem is glaring but only if you follow the link to the Ed Pilkington story. You wouldn’t know this from his excerpt, but the paragraph continues (emphasis mine):

He remained uninsured and largely untreated for his progressively severe condition for the following 11 years. Blood tests that could have diagnosed him correctly were not done because he couldn’t afford the $200. Having lost his practice, he lost his mansion on the hill and now lives in a one-bedroom apartment in the suburbs. His Porsches have made way for bangers. Many times this erstwhile pillar of the medical establishment had to go without food in order to pay for basic medicines. In 2000 Manley finally found the help he needed, at a clinic in Kansas City that acts as a rare safety net for uninsured people. He was swiftly diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a degenerative genetic illness, and now receives regular medical attention through the clinic.

Mr. Yglesias’ excerpt is an incomplete representation of the complex facts, presumably to make the point – a caricature, if you will – that the free market has failed. But has it really failed?

Mr. Manley probably should’ve saved his money for potential later-life crises rather than buying a new Porsche every year, as the article states he did when his practice was strong. That is a relevant point, but it’s little more than a distraction to the real issue underlying Mr. Yglesias’ belief that everyone has an obligation to pay for everyone’s care, especially where the free market (allegedly) fails. Regardless, we have the system we have, not the one either side wishes. It shouldn’t have taken so long for Mr. Manley to receive the care he needed. Stating this needn’t be considered a concession or profound.

What Mr. Pilkington, and subsequently Mr. Yglesias, failed to explore is the care that Mr. Manley eventually received.

[Dr. Sharon] Lee’s clinic, Family Health Care, is a refuge of last resort. It picks up the pieces of lives left shattered by a health system that has failed them, and tries to glue them back together. It exists largely outside the parameters of formal health provision, raising funds through donations and paying all its 50 staff – Lee included – a flat rate of just $12 an hour.

Unlike Mr. Yglesias, I researched Family Health Care. It took approximately 10 minutes. Mr. Manley is getting care thanks to the “dark side of the free market.” Consider the clinic’s financial profile for 2005-2007:

The clinic receives 0% of its funding from government, meaning that the remaining 100% of its budget comes from the bank accounts of individuals, corporations, and non-profit organizations. Where is the free market failure to provide health care to those in need?

The structure of the American health care and insurance system is idiotic and needs reform. We should talk about that. The article even includes anecdotal stories to suggest problems that need to be addressed within the views of each side’s extremes. But presumably that wouldn’t have made the point for Mr. Pilkington or Mr. Yglesias that government needs to step in to protect the poor from the free market’s alleged failures, which are, we are told, ignored by the mean-spirited right-wing capitalist liars opposed to President Obama’s proposal. A neat, tidy box, indeed. That reaches closer to ideological commitment – propaganda, if you will – than journalism.

Update: I’ve struck the reference to propaganda. This isn’t that. Rather, Mr. Yglesias’ ideological commitment is more likely laziness embracing the appearance of victory.

¹ Normally I refuse to reprint an entire entry because links are survival. In this case, I can think of no other way to make my points.

Training To Do As We’re Told

I haven’t blogged nearly enough recently, or in the last year. Blah, blah, blah. The only reason I’m raising that point is because today’s the 6th anniversary of Rolling Doughnut. I’ll only remark in jest that I should wipe one of those years off, given the breaks I’ve taken recently. But that’s not fair to myself since I’ve still managed nearly 200 entries in the last year. I just need to be more consistent.

That’s a meta way to advance to today’s story, which is strangely related to my post marking last year’s anniversary. Last August 16th, you’ll remember, I had an adventure with TSA and an experimental, voluntary search that I refused because I could. They didn’t like that, not that it surprised me. But it made the point that we’re becoming a more complacent society, that we’ve agreed to stop valuing liberty when it comes to being searched. The appearance of safety is enough for most.

Today, I purchased Madden 10 at Best Buy. This should be a simple process. Instead, it involved asking for it at the register, the cashier charging me for it, me paying, the cashier giving the game to the security person at the door, and me showing my receipt to the security person. This is two¹ steps too many.

I stated my displeasure to the security person. I’ve done this before, so I knew I’d get the same explanation. Best Buy (or any store) can explain that it’s to guarantee the customer gets what he paid for, which is nonsense. Even if that’s true, my perception is that the store doesn’t trust its customers. At best it suggests they don’t trust their cashiers. If that’s the case, they should spend the time they’re wasting with me on training or different oversight.

When I told the security person all of this, he tried to deflect by saying that many stores are doing this. True, and I don’t have to shop at them or Best Buy. To this he responded: “It’s just like you have to stand in line for security at the airport.”

Buying Madden for the Xbox 360 is not like boarding an airplane. Entertaining the notion that it is demonstrates the extent to which we’ve accepted every intrusion, no matter how stupid, inefficient, and unproductive. When a business says “Line up,” we can so “no” by requesting a refund. I didn’t today, but I have in the past. I’m sure I will in the future. But that’s a low cost process. I can always go to Game Stop or Target to buy Madden. If we won’t challenge those without guns, we should expect no better treatment from those with guns.

So, yeah, I’m still here.

¹ Three, really, but I’ll skip the idiocy of the first step.

Always Ask Who Will Pay for Free

In a mostly terrible article on President Obama’s town hall tour in The Washington Post, this:

Randy Rathie, the welder, told Obama that explanations of how reform would be funded have been lacking. “You can’t tell us how you are going to pay for that,” Rathie said. “The only way you are going to get that money is to raise our taxes.”

Obama told Rathie that the money for the changes would come from efficiencies and other savings and from people who make more than $250,000 a year.

The “efficiencies and other savings” canard is pleasant to hear, but debunking that is for another time when the details can be explored. The last claim is the low-hanging fruit I’m aiming for here. How is it not a tax increase to state that people who make more than $250,000 per year will pay for the costs of health insurance “reform”? Because they aren’t The People, somehow, so they don’t count? Even if that could be answered, what obligates those individuals, by mere status as financially successful in the president’s non-cost-of-living-as-a-consideration-view, to pay for the health insurance of those who are not financially successful? And how is it reform to further entrench the mentality that third-party payment is the way to control the costs of medical care?

Taking from those making more than $250,000 – despite their being evil for stealing from the poor, of course – is flawed because it still encourages the mentality that someone else is responsible for taking care of you.


Also in the article:

He tried to rebut the notion that health-care reform represents a “government takeover,” noting that most people’s coverage would remain what it is today.

“I don’t want government bureaucrats meddling in your health care, but I also don’t want insurance bureaucrats meddling in your health care,” he said.

If someone else pays for your care, be it government or an insurance company, a bureaucrat will “meddle” because that is the entity with the financial incentive to do so. This is neither complicated nor contentious. There is no such thing as “free”. The more we attempt to pretend that is not true by having another pay for what we want, the worse our health care system will become.

Bill Clinton Supports Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton is now offering something resembling support for same-sex marriage:

After speaking at the Campus Progress National Conference in Washington, DC, on July 8, the former president was asked if he supported same-sex marriage. Clinton, in a departure from past statements, replied in the affirmative.

Clinton opposed same-sex marriage during his presidency, and in 1996, he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which limited federal recognition of marriage to one man and one woman. In May of this year, Clinton told a crowd at Toronto’s Convention Centre that his position on same-sex marriage was “evolving.” [ed. note: more commonly described as gauging the political winds]

Apparently, Clinton’s thinking has now further evolved. Asked if he would commit his support for same-sex marriage, Clinton responded, “I’m basically in support.”

Any guesses on whether the key word is basically or support in his statement? You don’t need proof, but here it is:

This spring, same-sex marriage was legalized in Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire. In his most recent remarks on the subject, Clinton said, “I think all these states that do it should do it.” The former president, however, added that he does not believe that same-sex marriage is “a federal question.”

I’m supposed to get excited because Bill Clinton endorsed the status quo?

Of course, because it’s not only a Clinton, but the Clinton, organized advocacy groups must fawn over these statements as if the the common meanings of words are irrelevant.

“Bill Clinton joins other important public figures in stepping solidly into the twenty-first century in support of same-sex marriage equality,” said the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s executive director Rea Carey. “We certainly hope other elected officials, including President Obama, join him in clearly stating their support for equality in this country. Same-sex couples should not have to experience second-class citizenship.”

He’s not stepping “solidly” into the twenty-first century. He’s dipped his toe in the late twentieth century to test whether he can continue coasting on perceptions rather than actions. Hence, his endorsement of treating same-sex couples like second-class citizens for federal purposes.

[From the libertarian perspective, of course the state shouldn’t be involved in marriage. It is, and that’s not changing any time soon. Thus, federal recognition is a defensible goal.]

Via Conor Clarke, guest-blogging at The Daily Dish. He has more faith than I do that Clinton is “on the right side of this issue.”

More Spending Increases for the Non-Rich?

The Washington Post makes the same mistake in an editorial that I criticized on Tuesday.

AT A TIME of soaring deficits and growing needs, the Senate is weighing whether the wealthiest of wealthy Americans should get a tax break worth some $250 billion over 10 years. …

If you guess that there’s no discussion of not spending so much money, or even an explanation of growing needs, you’ll be correct. Even though the Post’s editors tell us this tax “would hardly be punitive”, they justify themselves by saying “[w]hy in the world should these folks get more of a tax cut?”. Perhaps we should consider the idea that our government should treat everyone equally rather than picking a politically-convenient minority to act as the nation’s ATM-of-last-resort.

Not that we should be surprised. The editors conclude the first paragraph with this:

… aren’t there better uses of hundreds of billions of dollars than reducing taxes even further for the tiny sliver of Americans subject to the estate tax?

Who gets to decide what better uses exist? Those who have the money (that was already taxed as income in some form)? Or those who vote to take it from them? This is a test of whether or not one believes that central planning is more effective and more legitimate than individual choices. I do not think it is, on either front.

Nor am I convinced by the Post’s evidence-free implication that lower estate taxes will harm charities. Such social engineering is hardly justified, even if the Post offered convincing evidence. What people do with their property is their business alone. But our history is full of examples of the wealthy leaving their estates to philanthropic ventures rather than leaving their heirs with every remaining penny they saved.

The Bully With the Guns Always Wins

CNBC reporter Rick Santelli gave an inspired rant in response to the Obama housing plan I criticized here. It was a masterpiece, as you can see in the video at the end of this entry. The Obama administration disagrees:

Apparently someone in the White House was. In response, Gibbs attacked Santelli by name repeatedly at a news briefing, accusing him of not reading the president’s housing plan and mocking the former derivatives trader as an ineffective spokesman for the little guy.

“I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives,” Gibbs told reporters in a derisive tone. “Mr. Santelli has argued — I think quite wrongly — that this plan won’t help everyone. This plan will help . . . drive down mortgage rates for millions of Americans.”

Later, Gibbs added: “I would encourage him to read the president’s plan and understand that it will help millions of people, many of whom he knows. I’d be more than happy to have him come here and read it. I’d be happy to buy him a cup of coffee, decaf.”

I have two responses. First, Gibbs should not be engaging in this type of rhetoric. Obama is President of the United States, not just President of the United States’ Economically Illiterate. He – and his representatives – should refrain from behaving in this manner. It’s possible to disagree without mockery.

Second, if the President’s plan insists on the 1.05 mortgage-to-market-value ratio requirement, he’s right that it will not help most speculators. However, as I wrote earlier this week, it won’t help anyone other than those not in distress. I don’t concede that we should help those in distress, but if we should, the people who qualify for the President’s plan offer the least bang for the national buck. Forget politics, that’s bad policy.


Video link via Kip’s tweet.

Homes are undervalued by $6,000?

Rather than try an idea that might work and has the added benefit of extending liberty, President Obama unveiled his $75,000,000,000 plan to rescue us from the foreclosure crisis. Presumably Obama’s plan is precise and complicated, but Doug Mataconis has a succinct explanation at The Liberty Papers for why this plan will fail. His entire post is worth reviewing because he gives a concise summary of the various incentive problems involved, but his basic, widely-applicable conclusion is this:

Most of all, this part of the plan seems to be aimed at the idea that the government must reinflate the housing bubble so that housing prices return to the “correct” level.

Here’s a clue, though. The only “correct” price for your house is the price that someone is willing to pay for it. Today.

Exactly. As much as I’d love to be able to sell my house for what I paid for it in 2005, that’s not where the market is at in 2009. That is unfortunate, but the only way the government can help me is to get out of the way and allow the market to stabilize itself. They’re self-correcting that way. It’s a little lot painful, yes, and, although I bought what I could afford rather than what the bank was willing to lend me, I still made my choice despite the warnings. Lesson learned. And I wish it wasn’t so, but pain is how most people will have to learn. Buffeting them from that only prolongs the faulty thinking.

Unfortunately, even in the misguided belief that propping up the market is an effective method for stabilizing it, President Obama’s plan ignores the reality of the market. It appears to be nothing more than Do Something at its worst.

“The plan I’m announcing focuses on rescuing families who have played by the rules and acted responsibly: by refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it,” Obama said at a speech in Mesa, Ariz. The White House released an early transcript.

Those of us who played by the rules are those of us who bought what we could afford and continue to pay for what is not worth what we owe. We don’t need or want to be “rescued”. Giving me money that you will extract from me later through taxes is hardly a bargain worth applauding.

If the plan rescues people like me:

Finance companies cannot currently refinance a loan if the homeowner owes more than 80 percent of the home’s value. But under the plan, Fannie and Freddie — which were taken over by the government last year — would be able to refinance a mortgage if it does not exceed 105 percent of the current value of the property. For example, if the value of the borrower’s property is $200,000, but the homeowner owes $210,000, he or she could still qualify for the program. The program will not launch until March 4.

The housing market in America is far worse than a 1.05 loan-to-current-value ratio. I’d flip cartwheels up-and-down my street if I had a 1.05 ratio. I think most people with negative equity are in the same situation. (If the administration knows something to the contrary, now might be a good time to provide that information.) This plan hardly seems a response to that, under the not-conceded belief that the government should get further involved. President Obama wants to add further government involvement and debt to rescue people who would lose no more than 5% if they sell today? A homeowner who can’t cover a 5% loss shouldn’t own a home. A homeowner with a ratio larger than 1.05 will apparently see no benefit.

Maybe the theory is that propping up home values by the claimed $6,000 will grease the market into action. That’s unlikely, at best, but it’s not the claim the administration is making. This plan gets us nowhere other than $75 billion further in debt, with a more-entrenched, market-distorting incentive system.

When a politician offers to save the economy, he will seek to destroy it first.

GM and Chrysler are back at the federal trough, this time hoping to extract billions more in “loans” from American taxpayers. This is not a surprise. David Z asks the right questions at no third solution:

What happens when April comes around, and General Motors still doesn’t have a viable future? Do they get more money? At what point does the nonsense end? At what point do the politicians recognize and accept the fact that continually taking money from the taxpayers and giving it to companies like General Motors in massive corporate welfare schemes can’t ever work? …

Giving money to Detroit auto makers is nothing more than a lesson in how to destroy wealth. First, we destroyed $17.4 billion. Next we’ll destroy at least $14 and probably $21.6 billion, as the article states. At some point we (i.e. Congress) need to realize that these companies are dead. Walking dead, but they’re dead. Treat the original “loans” as a sunk cost, hope to recover something in bankruptcy, and move on with a commitment to never make that mistake again with someone else’s money.

That won’t happen, as suggested by the Obama administration yesterday.

“The president of the United States wants to see a strong and vibrant auto industry that’s employing tens of thousands of hardworking Americans and building the cars of tomorrow for Americans right now. That’s what this president wants to see,” Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters aboard Air Force One.

President Obama apparently believes that wishing makes it so. It doesn’t. The rational economic perspective would remove obstacles to a strong and vibrant free market that deploys – and redeploys – its finite resources in the most productive manner possible. Employment of hardworking Americans (and Chinese and Germans and Brazilians and …) would follow.

But the president isn’t interested in a rational economic perspective because the president, like all the politicians in Congress, is interested only in political games. Watching as winners and losers emerge based on merit is too risky. Picking the winners and losers himself better enhances his power. That’s what this president wants to see. A free market without centrally-planned allocation of resources won’t provide that, so it mustn’t be allowed.