American Elephants


Woopsie! by The Elephant's Child

Just when the news about Chevy Volts’ having a minor habit of catching fire died down, Bloomberg reports that the very expensive, very high-profile, very highly subsidized Fisker Karma luxury extended-range hybrid’s battery manufacturer has revealed a “potential safety issue”  in the cooling system of the batteries that it makes for the car. The uncomfortable subtext in the news is the $529 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy that subsidizes the assembly of the very expensive, very high-profile cars in Finland, creating many new jobs in that country — not ours.

A123 Systems, a leading producer of Lithium-Ion batteries that supplies Daimler and General Motors in addition to Fisker, said that hose clamps connecting parts of the Karma battery pack’s internal cooling system were not aligned properly, creating a the potential for leakage of the coolant, which might cause overheating and also possibly short-circuit the batteries, causing a fire.

Because current Li-Ion batteries are flammable, battery temperature control and cooling is a critical process. Concerns over EV fire safety were raised when a crash-tested Volt later caught fire in a NHTSA facility. Short circuits caused by leaking battery coolant is suspected to be the cause. While GM uses a different battery supplier, LG Chem, for the Volt, A123 will be the battery vendor for the EV version of the Chevy Spark subcompact, to go on sale in 2013.

The luxury hybrid car company has shipped 225 of the $102,000 Karmas to Fisker dealers. The only one I know of that they sold went to Leonardo DiCaprio.  I just don’t quite grasp why taxpayers are subsidizing a $102,000 car. Though if I’d just bought one, I might be a little irritated if it caught on fire.

ADDENDUM: Fisker and the NHTSA have just announced a recall for 239 Karmas.
Within the high-voltage battery, certain hose clamps may have been positioned incorrectly during assembly. if positioned incorrectly, the battery compartment cover could interfere with the hose clamps, potentially causing a coolant leak from the cooling hoses.
Consequence: If coolant enters the battery compartment, an electrical short could occur possibly resulting in a fire
.
So if you have one of the new Karmas in your garage, you might want to get in touch with your dealer.



The Rules Are Bad, Badly Written, And Devastating In Their Impact. by The Elephant's Child

You will often hear the complaint that there is no difference between the two political parties, a complaint that merely shows that the complainers aren’t paying attention.  Liberals, or Progressives as they choose to be called now, want to bring about an improved world by exerting more control over American citizens.  Conservatives want to remove unneeded regulation. Our current regulatory code tops 165,000 pages, with more regulations coming every day.  The Wall Street Journal reports today that “independent students of regulation say the quality of the many rules they’re putting out seems to be at all-time lows.”

Regulatory quality isn’t the same as content—though bad rules are usually badly written, as seems to be the case here. Rather, quality refers to a deliberative process: defining the problem; measuring costs, benefits and risks; weighing alternatives, making trade-offs, avoiding duplication; and giving the public opportunity to comment. If all goes well a quality rule will promote or at least not impair “economic growth, innovation, competitiveness and job creation,” as Mr. Obama’s January 2011 executive order on regulation had it.

A growing body of evidence suggests that the Obama administration is ignoring the basic due diligence practices that have been commonly accepted by whichever party is in power. Each regulation in the Affordable Care Act that cost over $100 million a year has been analyzed by scholars at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.  They found the “federal government used a fast-track process of regulatory analysis that failed to comply with its own standards, and produced poorly substantiated claims about the act’s benefits and costs” that included a bias that assumed benefits would perform well, and costs would decline.

So you have rules that are assumed will perform well, and somehow cost less than expected. They got grades that were not just bad grades, they receive Fs on the regulatory curve, lower than the scores of the rules that HHS was putting out in 2009.

Here’s an example from physician Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute:

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), a previously obscure government advisory body has acquired vast authority to decide which health care services Americans will have access to. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) was created in 1984 as a government advisor with the mission of assessing the clinical utility of preventive health measures such as screening tests and issuing nonbinding recommendations about which measures doctors should incorporate into routine medical care.

PPACA gives the USPSTF’s recommendations the force of law, making them de facto mandates on which preventive services private health plans and public programs such as Medicare must pay for. Services that do not make the USPSTF grade are unlikely to be covered at all. The USPSTF was not designed to wield this kind of sweeping and binding authority. It does not maintain the transparency, deliberative process, appeal process, or requirements for public notice and comment that are hallmarks of sound regulatory policymaking.

The Preventative Services Task Force now wields great power to decide what health services doctors should provide, yet has few checks on its sweeping authority. Doctors may go to school for years to learn how to best care for patients, but a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington will decide what they can do and what they can’t.  Cost is sure to become a major factor. In 2009 this agency decided that women age 40 to 49 should not get routine mammograms.  The USPSTF was weighing the benefit of breast cancer screening against the burden of allowing some additional cancers to go undetected. Physicians had championed earlier, more widespread screening, and the new analysis seemed callous and poorly conceived. Their advice may even conflict with the Center for Disease Control.  Now it has recommended against routine screening for prostrate cancer with a widely used blood test.

Progressives are conflicted. On the one hand, they want to add all sorts of services that seem “nice,” and raise the costs off medicine dramatically, yet the entire thrust of the healthcare program becomes one of controlling costs. Questionable statistics will rule over individual patient needs.

The supposed reason for the passage of ObamaCare was the skyrocketing costs of health care. Yet ObamaCare is dramatically raising costs even before it goes fully into effect. The main reason behind the increases in the cost of health care was the effect of government regulation — mandates imposed by Washington.

Medicine, says Dr, Gottlieb, is undergoing industrialization, where doctors are becoming owned commodities of large hospitals and health plans. In the 1997 Balanced Budget Act to cut the deficit, the Clinton administration and the Republican Congress capped total payments to doctors and implemented a system of price controls for their services. Once the work of physicians was priced by a fixed government schedule instead of rewarding the quality of their service, the only way for doctors to increase their income was to increase the volume of patients they saw and reduce the level of service — enter the 15 minute office visit.

President Obama has chosen to blame the medical insurance industry and rich doctors and big hospitals for the high cost of health care, and insisted that he could add another 46 million uninsured to the government insured rolls and yet somehow make health care cost less.  An estimated 10 million of those are illegals, the number who simply choose not to have insurance is unknown.

We had the best health care system with the best outcomes in the world. Democrats have passionately wanted single-payer government controlled health care for years. Not, as they attempt to claim because they are compassionate, but because if the citizens depend on the government for their health care, then they will reelect that government in perpetuity and return them to power. What we will get is increasingly poor care, doctors and hospitals who are forced to make cost their guideline rather than patient care.




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