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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 14, Issue 46: November 13, 2012

  1. Obamacare after the Election
  2. Violent Crime May Fall with Pot Liberalization
  3. How Much Gold Would Retire the National Debt?
  4. U.S. Seeks Misguided Proxy War in Mali
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts


Priceless Banner

New Video: John C. Goodman on Obamacare and Curing the Healthcare Crisis


1) Obamacare after the Election

Tuesday’s election means that the Affordable Care Act won’t be repealed by a hostile Congress. But Obama’s signature initiative will undergo major changes. That’s because it’s rife with serious flaws that congressional Democrats will want to fix even if the House Republicans sit on their hands. In a recent op-ed for Townhall, healthcare economist and Independent Institute Research Fellow John C. Goodman looks at six flaws of Obamacare that lawmakers won’t be able to ignore. The first is that Obamacare is not paid for—not in any politically realistic way, that is.

Two Medicare Trustees reports, for example, predict that 14 percent of hospitals would be forced out of the Medicare system in the next eight years, due to Obamacare’s $716 billion cuts in Medicare spending. President Obama claimed to have found $716 billion in savings to cover the shortfall, but that was campaign rhetoric, according to Goodman. And because politicians are unlikely to reduce coverage for seniors, expect deficit spending to make up the difference.

Nor can Obamacare deliver what it promises—especially for our most vulnerable populations. One reason is that there simply aren’t enough doctors to see all of the formerly uninsured plus the existing patients who are supposed to have access to greater preventive care. “Those in plans that pay below market will be pushed to the rear of the lines,” Goodman writes. “These will be the elderly and the disabled on Medicare, poor people on Medicaid and (if the Massachusetts model is followed) the newly insured in subsidized plans in the health insurance exchanges.” Goodman also faults the healthcare law for the likely reduction of full-time employment in the restaurant and hotel industries and for creating perverse incentives that will lower the quality of care. “Again, these problems have nothing to do with Republican opposition,” he writes. “They are inherent in the legislation itself. Democrats will be forced to face them whether they want to or not.”

Did the Election Save Obamacare?, by John C. Goodman (Townhall, 11//12)

Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman

Video: John C. Goodman on Obamacare and Curing the Healthcare Crisis

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2) Violent Crime May Fall with Pot Liberalization

Many national pundits view last week’s election results as more of the same. But this perception isn’t accurate. One change—a significant one—took place in Colorado and Washington: Voters passed statewide measures to decriminalize marijuana for adults’ recreational use. Since drug prohibition is a textbook example of policies with harmful unintended consequences, Independent Institute Research Fellow Art Carden predicts that last week’s repeal of the pot bans will—unless the federal government interferes—yield some significant benefits. In a recent piece on the Forbes magazine website, he makes three specific predictions (in no particular order).

First, crime in Colorado and Washington will fall. Violence between drug dealers will fall—as will the marijuana revenues collected by violent gangs. Second, the demand for hard drugs like crack cocaine and crystal meth will fall. That’s because in the long run some drug users will consume less of these hard drugs and more marijuana, as the supply of pot increases and its price falls. (Carden claims that consumption will not increase enough to push prices up.) Third, Colorado and Washington residents will enjoy a “peace dividend” from scaling back the war on drugs. For example, the police will direct more of their efforts toward fighting violent crime and fraud.

Perhaps the biggest consequence will occur as politicians pay closer attention to the electoral victories and improved social outcomes in Colorado and Washington. “If we’re lucky,” Carden concludes, “our children will inherit a world in which the disastrous effects of drug prohibition are nothing but a sad chapter in a history book.” And in a separate article in Forbes, Independent Institute Research Fellow Jeffrey A. Miron, director of undergraduate economic studies at Harvard University, hails the state marijuana initiatives as a victory for liberty. “The burden of proof should rest on those who would ban marijuana, not those who want it legal,” he says. “That burden has never been met.”

Marijuana Prohibition Going Up in Smoke?, by Art Carden (Forbes, 11/7/12)

What Tuesday’s Marijuana Victories Mean for the War on Drugs (Forbes, 11/7/12)

Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Drug Prohibition, by Jeffrey Miron

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3) How Much Gold Would Retire the National Debt?

On the first day of November the U.S. government was in debt to the tune of $16.222 trillion—$5.595 trillion more than it owed on the day that Barack Obama moved into the White House. How much gold would it take to retire the national debt? Independent Institute Research Fellow Craig Eyermann has made the calculation.

It’s a lot of gold—“the equivalent of a solid gold cube that is nearly 80 feet tall by 80 feet long by 80 feet wide,” Eyermann writes on the MyGovCost blog. It would take more than 431 standard-sized shipping containers to haul them. But don’t expect to see this feat in real life. The reason isn’t simply one of logistics. It’s one of scarcity. The U.S. government owes more money than the value of all the gold ever mined on Planet Earth. Even if Uncle Sam were to draw down all of the gold reserves from Fort Knox, at today’s spot price an additional 182 twenty-foot-long shipping containers of gold would be needed to get the federal government out of the red.

It would be a formidable task to pay off even the amount of U.S. debt that was accumulated under Obama’s watch. The gold needed to retire the increase from the President’s inauguration until Nov. 1 would fill 149 regular corrugated boxes. “Laid out end to end, those 149 standard shipping containers would be almost six-tenths of a mile in length,” Eyermann writes. “That’s just over one-third of the length of the 431.5 shipping containers that would hold all the gold representing the United States’ entire public debt outstanding.”

Converting the National Debt into Gold, by Craig Eyermann (MyGovCost, 11/6/12)

MyGovCost—Home of the Government Cost Calculator

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4) U.S. Seeks Misguided Proxy War in Mali

The Obama administration seeks to open up another front on the war against Islamic militants. This one is in Mali. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met recently with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to urge him to help invade his southwestern neighbor—and reportedly encountered indifference. It seems that the Algerians don’t worry much about Mali’s Islamists—that is, not unless Algeria is promised special inducements from foreign governments. So, why should the United States worry?

According to Ivan Eland, senior fellow at the Independent Institute, U.S. policymakers are guilty of making the same mistake about Islamist insurgents that they made about foreign Communists before Nixon’s trip to China: they are failing to draw crucial distinctions between ideologically similar groups. Looking beneath the label, Mali’s Islamists have different goals than the western-targeting jihadists of al-Qaeda. Invading Mali in an effort to counter growing Islamist power would do little to end al-Qaeda’s war against the United States.

Mali’s Islamists focus on local matters, not on taking jihad to the West. But they may begin to target western assets if the United States and its allies stir up hornet’s nest. “Why create more anti-U.S. terrorists in a part of the world that is hardly strategic to U.S. vital interests?” Eland writes. If Mali’s Islamists eventually decide to allow anti-U.S. terror groups to train there, the United States has the means of taking them out. “But at a time of war weariness and budget and economic crises at home, the U.S. cannot afford to keep making new and unnecessary enemies by promoting an invasion of Mali,” Eland concludes.

Meddling in Mali, by Ivan Eland (11/8/12)

No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, by Ivan Eland

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

No Rush for Gold with Government
Lloyd Billingsley (11/12/12)

The Extreme Budget Shredder Workout
Craig Eyermann (11/9/12)

Bad Karma Explodes Government Fisker Fiasco
Lloyd Billingsley (11/7/12)

Converting the National Debt into Gold
Craig Eyermann (11/6/12)

You can find the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language website here and blog here.

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6) Selected News Alerts

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