American Elephants


At What Point Do You Lose Faith In The Federal Government? by The Elephant's Child

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How about this one? On June 26, innumerable antiques, musical instruments and Mah Jong and chess sets have been effectively banned by your federal government from sale or trade within the U.S. The idea is to protect elephants in Africa from poaching for their ivory.

Combined with tough new international import-export restrictions, the value of these objects, once in the hundreds of millions of dollars, will evaporate.

Well, so much for my little ivory Buddha, though I doubt he was worth much in the first place, but what about my walrus ivory necklace from Alaska?

There are fantastically beautiful and expensive pieces carved of ivory. Too bad. Now worthless. Your federal government decided. This one is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.To sell or trade your object, you have to prove that it at least 100 years old and possess official paperwork proving that it was imported to America before 1990, or legally thereafter, and provide evidence that the object has been neither repaired nor modified since December 1973. The IRS is unlikely to let you write it off as an investment loss, whether you paid a few hundred or $20,000 at Christie’s.

What Fish and Wildlife will do is step in to prosecute the owners and confiscate the ivory goods.

ADDENDUM: The bureaucrats at Fish and Wildlife may mean well, but their efforts to ban the sale and trade of ivory will not save one elephant. It will only raise the price of ivory on the world market and encourage poaching. One third of African elephants live in Botswana. 150,000 of them live in an area about the size of the New York metropolitan area. Too many for a comparatively small area. Botswana President Ian Kharma has banned wildlife hunting as of January and has received awards for his conservation efforts, but the overpopulation of elephants is controlled only by disease, hunting or starvation due to the destruction of the environment. That jacks up the price even more. Elephants have no natural predator.



ObamaCare: Fewer Enrollees, Higher Costs. by The Elephant's Child

The ObamaCare Exchanges are “disappointing” with fewer than 4 million newly insured. The Obama administration had hoped for 26 million. In April, President Obama told the nation that “marketplace” or “exchange” enrollments at 8 million customers as of March 31, had exceeded expectations and were lower than expected. The media blithely accepted the “selectively released statistics”, in spite of the administration’s habit of providing incomplete information.

The White House has not released any enrollment figures in the last 2½ months, nor do they plan to issue any updates soon. Hmmn. Government numbers included 20 percent of enrollees who did not pay their premiums. Estimates of how many were previously uninsured range from about one-third to more than half. Some who were forced out of their existing coverage find themselves having to re-enroll at much higher rates than before.

Some insurers have increased their rates by 35 percent to bring their rates into compliance with ObamaCare. So you have people with (perhaps) more benefits but for 35% more premium.

Coverage expansion in the ACA are estimated to increase federal spending by $1.383 trillion over the next two decades. Economist Greg Mankiw has estimated that the ACA or ObamaCare will reduce long run GDP in the U.S. by 5%. He insists that it is a rough estimate. University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan says the Affordable Care Act added “about six percentage points to the marginal tax rate faced, on average, by workers in the economy. A useful rule of thumb is that taxation of $1 means that 20¢ of economic activity just never takes place.

Rates will increase significantly for next year. ObamaCare, as expected, is going to cost way more than it was planned to cost.



Poor Care at VA Hospitals Cost 1,000 Veterans Their Lives by The Elephant's Child

Veterans Medical Care

The problems at Veterans Affairs extended far beyond long wait lists. A report today showed the department is plagued with poor care that has cost up to 1.000 veterans their lives, and left American taxpayers on the hook for nearly $1 billion in malpractice settlements since 2003.

Senator Tom Coburn reports that “the problems at the VA are worse than anyone imagined.” Dozens of veterans have died while stuck on secret waiting lists at a VA facility in Phoenix. An inspector general’s investigation has found widespread misuse of secret wait lists in a number of facilities.

Senator Coburn’s report, titled “Friendly Fire: Death, Delay and Dismay at the VA,” argues that problems go back well beyond the Phoenix scandal and run far deeper than phony wait lists and scheduling practices designed to demonstrate that managers were meeting their performance goals. His report details dreadful cases.

A Philadelphia vet went in for a tooth extraction. Doctors went ahead despite his dangerously low blood pressure. On the way home from the operation, he had a stroke and was paralyzed. A vet in South Carolina had to wait nine months for a colonoscopy. By the time he had the procedure, he was diagnosed with stage three  cancer. The VA admitted  that had he been treated earlier his case might not have been so severe. Another veteran had annual chest X-rays, but doctors never spotted a growing lesion in his lung. It ultimately killed him.

Some legislators recommended more financing, as usual, but the problem can be traced back to bad management and lax working standards, not to lack of money. In one finding, Coburn said, VA doctors average about half the workload that private-practice primary care physicians do.  He added:

Female patients received unnecessary pelvic and breast exams from a sex offender.  The VA is way behind on processing disability claims and constructing facilities. Some VA health care providers have lost their medical licenses, but the VA hid that information from patients. The federal government has paid out $845 million for VA medical malpractice settlements since 2001.

A security chief, Richard Meltz, head of security at the Bedford VA Medical Center pleaded guilty in January in involvement in what the FBI called “two sadistic kidnapping, rape and murder conspiracies.” He also advised two others on how to avoid being tracked, such as not using toll roads, and where to dump bodies.

The FBI says it has opened a criminal investigation of the Veterans Affairs Department. The Bureau’s Phoenix office has joined an ongoing review by the VA inspector General.

Somme of the reasons for the chronic problems include a bonus system that rewarded managers for meeting goals regarding access to treatment. The audit findings, covering 731 VA facilities nationwide and based on interviews with more than 3,700 staff members, said a 14-day goal instituted by the Obama administration, for providing care to newly enrolled veterans proved “simply not attainable” due to growing demand and lack of capacity. “Imposing this expectation the field before ascertaining the resources required represent an organizational leadership failure.

The audit portrayed 57,436 newly enrolled veterans facing a minimum 90-day wait for medical care, 63,869 veterans who enrolled over the past decade requesting an appointment that never happened. A patient who had been admitted for “significant and chronic mental health issues” lived in the 106 bed facility for eight years before he received his first psychiatric evaluation.

Well meaning bureaucrats had no other way to measure the effectiveness of VA Hospital care—than wait times, so they gave them 14 days maximum wait time for a veteran to be seen by a medical professional. That’s the way it works in large government bureaucracies.



The Stagnant Swamp of Partisan Politics At The IRS Reeks Even More. by The Elephant's Child

“The IRS did not follow the law in its handling of emails that it says were lost when former official Lois Lerner’s computer crashed according to the top official with the National Archives.”

Ferriero said he was concerned that the IRS didn’t follow records-keeping procedures laid out in the Federal Records Act and didn’t tell the Archives that records could have been lost. The archivist said he only learned of the missing Lerner emails this month, and the IRS has said it’s known there were at least issues with the emails since February.

In a letter last week, the Archives also asked the IRS to tell them within a month whether the potential disposal of Lerner’s records was broader than what has already been reported, and for more details on what the agency did to try to preserve those records.

Trey Gowdy takes on IRS Commissioner John Koskinen:

From The Daily Signal:

“Under a consent judgment today, the IRS has agreed to pay $50,000 in damages to the National Organization for Marriage  as a result of the unlawful release of confidential information to a gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, that is NOM’s chief political rival.”

“Congress made the disclosure of confidential tax return information a serious matter for a reason,” NOM Chairman John D. Eastman told The Daily Signal. “We’re delighted that the IRS has now been held accountable for the illegal disclosure of our list of major donors from our tax return.”

One would assume that a newly appointed IRS Commissioner (Dec.,2013) would be interested in restoring the reputation of the agency of the federal government that most needs public respect, as they handle the tax returns and confidential information of all American taxpayers.

“IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is known as a “turnaround specialist” who has helped to rescue failed or failing enterprises. He has an impressive educational background and career. For the Obama administration however, his loyalty to the Democratic Party and record of big financial contributions going back to Walter Mondale. Appointment of loyal financial contributors being appointed to office is nothing unusual, but in this case, the IRS is accused of rank partisanship in its treatment of American taxpayers. Koskinen is already under fire for having some difficulty with the truth. Koskinen is clearly there to assist in an administration  cover-up.

In March, Koskinen testified that the emails could not be retrieved more quickly because they had to be screened. Subsequently he has testified that he knew in March that the emails could not be retrieved. He testified that IRS emails are not necessarily records, and can be deleted at will. Federal law does not eliminate emails.

The American people are coming to the conclusion that the IRS cannot be trusted, the Commissioner is there to assist in a cover-up, and has no intention of reforming the agency. The traditional approach to government crisis management means a trusted figure is brought in to restore public confidence in a troubled federal agency. This is, however, the Obama administration.



Obama’s Corporate Refugees—Fleeing For Their Lives. by The Elephant's Child

Wristons Law

Fear of violence and mayhem has led to millions across the world to grab their stuff and run, to become refugees in another country with  little in the way of resources. But what causes corporations to move to another country, to become corporate refugees domiciling their business in another country. That’s a big move!

Incentives matter. Thank the Obama administration. This is not a case of corporations offshoring jobs, but of corporations moving their headquarters elsewhere. Democrats don’t seem to understand incentives. The late Walter Wriston stated it succinctly in The Twilight of Sovereignty:

Capital will go where it is wanted and stay where it is well treated. It will flee from manipulation or onerous regulation of its value or use and no government regulation can restrain it for long.

One of the latest examples is Medtronic, famous for its high-tech cardiac and spinal devices. Medtronic’s planned acquisition of Covidien has been accompanied by the announcement that the combined company will be domiciled in Ireland. Medtronic says the move will mean at least $850 million in annual cost savings by 2018. The combined company will have more leverage to defend their prices when negotiating with consolidating hospital and physician groups. Their technology combined with Covidien’s manufacturing, research and development assets, the company says, will give it an edge in emerging markets.

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), who chairs the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has been conducting show trials against companies who legally seek to minimize their tax bills. So businesses are apt to not talk a lot publicly about that particular need.

So what’s the incentive? America’s federal corporate tax rate is 35%, which when combined with state and local levies climbs to nearly 40%. Ireland, where politicians care about economic growth has a corporate tax rate of 12.5%. Almost alone among civilized nations, Washington also insists on being paid on a company’s world-wide earnings, rather than just on money earned in the US. This tax is due whenever a company’s overseas earnings are returned to this country.Medtronic has about $14 billion parked overseas, and rather than bringing it home and triggering the tax, they will use the money to fund most of the cash portion of its $42.9 billion purchase. Pretty major incentive. Somebody should explain this to Senator Levin.

The nearly 40% average tax rate in America is almost double the 21% average tax rate in the European Union, or the 22% rate in Asia. The only place outside of captive Marxist countries with a higher rate than the U.S. is the United Arab Emirates, but their top rate of 55% is mostly applied to foreign oil companies.

The business of business is to return a profit to the shareholders. People band together to make a product or deliver a service in order to get a return on their effort. People get strange ideas about what a business is supposed to do. An employee is a cost to a business. Providing someone with a desk and a computer, let alone more elaborate equipment is expensive. Why do companies pay one worker more than another? Competition. There is seldom if ever a company that does not have competitors. The one of the competitors who has better employees is apt to do better in the marketplace. Companies offer better benefits or extras like free parking or a corporate gym to lure better employees. It’s a business decision, not an obligation.

Note that I have just mentioned two words that are anathema to the left: “profit,” and “competition.” Oddly enough the left thinks that profit is a bad thing, and competition is unhealthy. They’ve even tried to eliminate kid’s games that involve competition. Everybody should get a prize — no winners. You see the problem. When you add in the inability to understand the power of incentives, you see the source of a remarkable amount of political dissension.




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