American Elephants


Other Than That, ObamaCare is Doing Fine… by The Elephant's Child

When the Democrats started digging old plans out of dusty drawers, they decided, since they controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, to go for government sponsored health care; they were absolutely sure that the American people were going to love it. Big mistake.

The cost of American health care had been climbing significantly, and Democrats were sure that they could significantly cut the costs of medicine by making the medical profession more efficient and insisting that they learn from the best practices of industry stars. Another mistake.

Democrats believed that the uninsured were a huge problem because people with no insurance were flooding emergency rooms and driving up costs. Turned out that most of those who used emergency rooms had insurance, they just couldn’t make appointments with their doctor for immediate help. Turned out that a large percentage of the uninsured did not have insurance because they could not afford it, but because they didn’t want to pay for insurance. They were healthy and unconcerned. Oops!

Democrats believed that if they added some nice benefits that people had never had before on their insurance like therapeutic massage, birth control and pediatric dentistry, the government insurance would be even more popular. They would just spread the costs of the new benefits across the board so the expense would not be noticed. They didn’t have an insurance actuary figure out the costs of including those benefits on a policy for 55 and 60 year-old folks who had no need for birth control or pediatric dentistry.

The CBO has issued a report that appears to show that ObamaCare will cost less and cover more people than expected. But their projections seldom turn out. There are just too many variables. The latest report says that ObamaCare will cost $104 billion less over the next 10 years than it thought just two months ago. The numbers rest on the CBO belief that premiums will be flat next year, but the industry has already warned of double-digit rate increases— a sharp rise that will drive costs up far beyond the CBO’s estimates.

Out of the blue, the Census Bureau has changed how it counts health insurance, just at the moment when ObamaCare is roiling the insurance markets. The effect will muddy comparisons between pre-ObamaCare and post-ObamaCare numbers. A lot of things we would like to know, like how many people gained or lost insurance under ObamaCare? Did government crowd out individual insurance? It will apparently take several years before we have answers to those questions.

The one thing that is increasing dramatically is unhappiness among physicians. Nine out of ten doctors discourage others from entering the profession. 300 doctors commit suicide every year. Depression among doctors is not new, but the level of unhappiness is on the rise. Being a doctor has become a miserable and humiliating undertaking, and many doctors feel that America has declared war on physicians and doctors and patients are the losers.

Many doctors just want out. More are running for Congress. Medical students opt for high-paying specialties so they can retire as soon as  possible. MBA plans for physicians are flourishing,  they promise doctors a way into management. The website called the Drop-Out-Club hooks doctors up with jobs at hedge funds and venture capital firms.

Some, including President Obama, seem to believe that doctors are paid way too much and if the government needs to save costs, they can just pay doctors less. This is the mindset that reduced Medicaid to such a point that those who go without health care may do better than Medicaid patients. Same goes for Medicare and the other government controlled health care systems.

More doctors refuse to accept health insurance. Some have gone into concierge medicine, where for an annual fee, the doctor is at your service for the year. The federal government is hoping to go after that escape from ObamaCare, and they are still intending to end Medicare Advantage plans.

Just processing insurance forms costs $58 for each patient encounter, according to Dr. Stephen Schimpff, an internist and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center.  Physicians have had to increase the number of patients they see. The end result is that the average face-to-face clinic visit lasts about 12 minutes, in which the doctor probably spends most of the time interacting with his computer.

Under ObamaCare the incentives are all wrong. The government adds ill-considered benefits to insurance policies in the hope of getting people signed up. This makes the insurance too costly for most people. The push from the government will be a constant effort to cut costs. Hospitals will push for doctors to see more patients in less time, so they can be adequately reimbursed. Doctors will be encouraged to pay less attention to the Hippocratic Oath and more effort to try to get adequately paid, or to get out of the profession—which will encourage the best and brightest to aim for other careers. Watch for a push for increased immigration of physicians from third world countries. Other than that…

 



The Worst Lies Are The Ones You Tell Yourself by The Elephant's Child

Ross Douthat had an excellent column on Sunday about “the serious moral defect at the heart of elite culture in America.”

He began with a look back at a column by a Harvard undergraduate, Sandra Y.L Korn, which got some attention thanks to its daring view of just how universities should approach  academic freedom. She claimed such freedom was dated and destructive and that a doctrine of “academic justice” should prevail instead. Harvard should not permit its faculty to engage in work tainted by “racism, sexism, and heterosexism.”  She could come up with only one contemporary example of a Harvard voice that ought to be silenced, a “single conservative octogenarian” the renowned political philosophy professor Harvey Mansfield. Possibly because there are no conservatives to be found at Harvard.

Douthat says he tries to be a “partisan of pluralism, which requires respecting Mozilla’s right to have a C.E.O. whose politics fit the climate of Silicon Valley, and Brandeis’s right to rescind degrees as it sees fit”… but it’s hard to maintain respect “when these institutions will not admit that this is what is going on. Instead, we have the pretense of universalitythe insistence that the post-Eich Mozilla is open to all ideas, the invocations of the ‘spirit of free expression’ from a school that’s kicking a controversial speaker off the stage.”

It would be a far, far better thing if Harvard and Brandeis and Mozilla would simply say, explicitly, that they are as ideologically progressive as Notre Dame is Catholic or B. Y.U. is Mormon or Chick-fil-A is evangelical, and that they intend to run their institution according to those lights.

I can live with the progressivism. It’s the lying that gets toxic.

Do read the whole thing. We desperately need to clearly understand just what is going on around us. Propaganda fails if everybody knows that it is just propaganda. Lies, recognized, are just embarrassing.

Journalist Jack Kelly asks “Why Aren’t Public Officials Held to Account for Lying?” He contrasts the penalty imposed on a television con man with the whoppers told by government officials, and suggests that the penalties for lying should be equally applied.

It was chiefly the concept of equal protection of the laws — the idea that the rules should apply to the rulers as well as the ruled — that made our government different from most others in the history of the world.

It is the lying that gets toxic.



The Social-Engineering Approach to Health Care by The Elephant's Child

John Goodman offers two fundamental ways of thinking about complex social systems: the economic approach and the engineering approach.

The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice.

Goodman, the father of the health savings account, calls this “cookbook medicine” which gives doctors rules and protocols for treating patients with various symptoms, and they must record each step along the way. Cookbook medicine does not bother with the differences among people, and is the opposite of personalized medicine which aims to tailor the therapy to the characteristics of the patient.

While it is useful to consider the standard protocols, people are not all the same. Medicine adapted to the genetic makeup of a person is in its infancy, but shows promise. When the cookbook becomes a rulebook to be followed slavishly, we’re in trouble. When complying with endless checklists takes valuable time away from patient care — that’s what’s happening in American medicine. A recent study of emergency room physicians found that they spend more time interacting with screens than patients, clicking the mouse 4,000 times in a 10-hour shift.

The Affordable Care Act was heavily influenced by the engineering model. After all, our bureaucrats are certified experts, and what are experts for if not to tell everybody else what to do and how to do it. Only social engineers would think of running “pilot programs” to control health care costs. What is the purpose of a pilot program if not to find something that appears to work, so you can order everyone else to copy it. Therefore you have the mess of digitizing all medical records and the result that hospitals have different systems that cannot talk to each other?

Dr. Virginia McIvor, a pediatric physician at Harvard Medical School explains the problem:

When a healthy child visits, I must complete these tasks while reviewing more than 300 other preventative care measures such as safe storage of a gun, domestic violence, child-proofing the home, nutrition, exercise, school performance, safe sex, bullying, smoking, drinking, drugs, behavior problems, family health issues, sleep, development and whatever else is on a patient’s or parent’s mind. While primary-care providers are good at prioritizing and staying on time — patient satisfaction scores are another quality metric — the endless box checking and scoring takes precious time away from doctor-patient communication.

If you have been to a doctor recently, you have probably noticed the multiplication of forms you must fill out, questions you must answer. I have noticed that the form now contains a line for “refuses to answer,” which may indicate progress of a sort.

John Goodman is the father of the “health savings account” which works precisely as promised and has been a great favorite. He is president of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) and he blogs regularly on health care matters (you can sign up to receive his columns), and his book Priceless takes on the health care problem.

There are great things happening in medicine that are promising for the future. The engineering rulebook is not interested in other people’s expertise or innovation.

The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice. – See more at: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/cookbook-medicine-2/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HA#more-36412
The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice. – See more at: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/cookbook-medicine-2/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HA#more-36412
The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice. – See more at: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/cookbook-medicine-2/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HA#more-36412


SWAT Teams From the EPA, NOAA, and the Department of Education? by The Elephant's Child

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The proliferation of federal SWAT teams is troubling. In late February four armed federal agents with a drug-sniffing dog descended on the Taos Ski Valley in what was called a “saturation patrol.” The agents were working on tips of possible drug selling and impaired driving in the ski resort’s parking lot and surrounding area. The armed agents were from the U.S. Forest Service.

Did you know that the Department of Education has SWAT teams? They can invade your home at gunpoint and hold you and your family in custody for hours. In 2011, federal “education” agents busted down the front door of Kenneth Wright’s Stockton home at 6 in the morning. Wright’s terrified children— 3, 9, and 11 were forced to sit in a patrol car for two hours, Wright was in custody for six hours.

The Education Department had a broad search warrant and seized paperwork and a personal computer. The agents, 13 from the Education Department and a couple of police officers — told him they were investigating his estranged wife’s use of federal aid for students. She didn’t even live in the house.

Are you obeying all the thousands of regulations in the Federal Register? Are you prepared for early-morning break-ins by the USDA, Railroad Retirement Board, Bureau of Land Management, Tennessee Valley Authority, Office of Personnel Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, EPA, Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Park Service, and NOAA— the folks who monitor the atmosphere and forecast the weather have 96 special agents and 28 armed enforcement officers.

An armed EPA raid in Alaska sheds light on 70 federal agencies with armed divisions. The incident that sparked the raid was last August when a team of armed federal and state officials descended on the tiny Alaska gold mining  town of Chicken,  Alaska — looking for possible violations of the Clean Water Act. This is not the first time the EPA has descended on citizens with a SWAT team, but it is clearly excessive. Violating the Clean Water Act indeed.

We’re getting into Fourth and Fifth Amendment territory here.



Empty Buildings Are Costing Us Billions! by The Elephant's Child

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“The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate, but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists.”

A Google search suggests that most articles have picked up on a 77,000 number, as the number of empty or underutilized buildings owned by the federal government—as a proxy for you and me. The “federal government” is simply the representative of us—a fact that is worth remembering.

Other numbers range from 45,000 to 100,000 and 300,000 which really points out that they have no idea how many empty, underutilized, abandoned buildings or properties there are across the whole country. Missile sites are included, as are buildings so abandoned that trees are growing through the roof. Taxpayers own them, and even when they are vacant—they are still expensive.

The Office of Management and Budget estimates that these buildings could be costing taxpayers $1.7 billion a year. Even empty, someone has to mow the lawns, keep the pipes from freezing, maintain security fences, or pay for some basic power, except when it doesn’t. The only known centralized database that the government has is the inventory maintained by the General Services Administration called the Federal Real Property Profile and it’s not reliable.

Doing something with these buildings is complicated—even when an agency knows it has a building it would like to sell, bureaucratic hurdles limit what they can do. No federal agency can sell anything unless it’s uncontaminated, asbestos-free and environmentally safe. Expensive fixes.

Then the agency has to make sure another agency doesn’t want it. Then state and local governments get a crack at it, then nonprofits—and finally a 25-year-old law requires the government to see if it could be used as a homeless shelter. No wonder many agencies just lock the doors and say forget it.

These publicly owned properties are managed by the federal government for the benefit of the people. There are also enormous amounts of public lands. Military bases: Fort Hood, Texas, now sadly in the news, is 340 square miles in size.

There are National Parks and National Monuments, National Forests, and land ‘managed’ by the Bureau of Land Management. Trillions of dollars worth of land.  And I am undoubtedly neglecting other jurisdictions. My brief Google search made it clear that we are not alone. It is a common governmental problem. I did find one article on “how to squat in abandoned property,” (probably British) and of course, reference to the empty cities of China.

I emphasize taxpayer ownership because President Obama, for political reasons, chose to shut down what he thought of as “government land” under his purview, during the “government shutdown.” The Constitution clearly says “We the People.” Bureaucrats, far too often, forget just who is the boss. They may prefer to think of themselves as enlightened public servants. They are the hired help.

This is one reason why Republicans believe in smaller government, but they aren’t much better at property management. It’s bipartisan.

The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/wasted-resources.html#sthash.2Wo3AW3Q.dpuf
The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/wasted-resources.html#sthash.2Wo3AW3Q.dpuf


Your Federal Government At Work: Oh Ha, Ha, Ha! by The Elephant's Child

 

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This is something truly special. Our betters in the nation’s capitol—what I have called “the ruling class”— has taken advantage of the information age to engage in blogging. Who knew? This very remarkable blog is a project of the Department of Agriculture.

Grandkids are a grandparent’s greatest treasure. From time to time during grandchildren’s young lives, grandparents may have the pleasure of being their caregiver. Show them how to be healthy, including how to make healthy food choices—an important way grandparents show how much they love and care about their grandchildren.

As a proud grandmother, I can attest that grandkids learn by example! They mimic everything you do, so be a healthy role model by taking care of yourself and they will learn to value healthy habits. Use ChooseMyPlate.gov to guide your food choices and better understand the nutrition needs of young children in your life. Take your grandchildren shopping at a farmer’s market and the grocery store. Talk about the choices you are making—choosing the juicier oranges or the fresher vegetables. Help them learn cooking skills, which will benefit them throughout their lives. Encourage them to be active throughout the day. …

Spend time walking in the neighborhood, planting a vegetable garden, or shooting a few hoops. Dance, run, and play hopscotch or soccer with them when they’re full of energy—it’s fun and healthy for both of you!

Show your grandchild games, activity sheets and other fun ways to learn about good nutrition at MyPlateKids’Place. For a bedtime story, read The Two Bite Club.

If this does not warm the cockles of your heart, read the whole thing,and if that doesn’t do it for you, do scroll down to the comments, because you will enjoy the comments! If you do not read the comments, you are missing the point of this whole post.

I don’t think I have ever seen a better example of the gap between left and right, or between the government and the people. The comments are a treasure. Click on all the links to see the extent of the sheer wonder of this post. Do go to the link and add your own comment. Or write your congressman and tell them to cut the budget of the Department of Agriculture to the bone.

Grandkids are a grandparent’s greatest treasure.  From time to time during grandchildren’s young lives, grandparents may have the pleasure of being their caregiver.  Show them how to be healthy, including how to make healthy food choices–an important way grandparents show how much they love and care about their grandchildren. – See more at: http://blogs.usda.gov/2014/03/31/grandparents-help-kids-develop-good-eating-habits/#sthash.yp104Y0x.dpuf
Grandkids are a grandparent’s greatest treasure.  From time to time during grandchildren’s young lives, grandparents may have the pleasure of being their caregiver.  Show them how to be healthy, including how to make healthy food choices–an important way grandparents show how much they love and care about their grandchildren. – See more at: http://blogs.usda.gov/2014/03/31/grandparents-help-kids-develop-good-eating-habits/#sthash.yp104Y0x.dpuf


Triumphant But Angry: How Dare You Disagree. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama addressed the nation his supporters yesterday in the Rose Garden, obviously trying to reignite enthusiasm for the Affordable Care Act. He announced that 7.1 million people have signed up. His precise decimal point brought wide derision. But the speech was more of an angry pep-rally. How dare you not agree that ObamaCare is wonderful.

The key point came late in the speech: “It is making sure that we ae not the only advanced county on Earth that doesn’t make sure everybody has basic health care.”

He added: “But today should remind us that the goal we set for ourselves—that no American should go without the health care that they need.” He said:” The Affordable Care Act hasn’t completely fixed our broken health care system, but this law has made our health care system a lot better—a lot better.

Our health care system was not broken. By law, anyone, whether they could afford it or not, could go to any emergency room and be treated. The cost of health care had been declining steadily in recent years, and the decline had nothing to do with ObamaCare, but with new diagnostic treatments, new drugs that made a real difference in shorter hospital stays, preventing major illnesses, and keeping more people alive and in good health. Early diagnosis saves lives.

Democrats rely on World Health Organization numbers regarding our health care,  meaningless numbers  based on skewed information. WHO numbers rank us low for live births, because we call every birth with a live baby a live birth—including those too small to survive—or too premature— because we try to save them all, with pretty good results. Other countries do not count those as “live births,” and do not attempt to save them. We also have a lot of highway deaths because we have a lot of highways and a lot of vehicles. It’s a big country. The WHO also grades us down sharply because we don’t have free health care for all (socialized medicine).

What the president’s pep-talk largely showed was that he doesn’t really understand how insurance works. You have insurance for the big stuff: house fires, car crashes. Because those things statistically don’t happen to everybody regularly, everyone can pay a small amount which will go to the few who do have a big catastrophe, and you are protected against the time it happens to you. You don’t insure against a leaky roof, or needing new carpeting. You don’t insure against flat-tires or worn-out windshield wipers. The free contraceptives and free mammograms are the flat-tires of health insurance. Adding all the goodies makes the insurance unaffordable, as those forced onto ObamaCare will discover when they get their insurance costs for next year.

Back in the Bush administration, Democrats badly wanted a free drug plan for Medicare. As his price for signing the bill, Bush insisted on an incentive for seniors to, when possible, select a generic drug (way cheaper) than a brand name drug —all things being equal. Contrary to Progressive thinking, Seniors are not dummies. Incentives work. If the cost of  your drugs added up to a significant amount, you had to pay the full price (unless you could not afford it, in which case there was government subsidy) until the cost reached another level, at which point they were free. That gap was, for most people, avoidable if they relied on generic drugs, and Seniors found it quite sensible to do so. This meant the Medicare Drug Plan was the only big government program in history that came in costing less than projections.

President Obama announced triumphantly that “We’ve closed a gaping hole in Medicare’s prescription drug plan. We’ve closed the donut hole“— in other words they have eliminated the incentive that kept the Medicare Drug Plan costs reasonably low, and costs will skyrocket. Some triumph!

Despite this law, millions of Americans remain uncovered in part because some governors in some states for political reasons have deliberately to expand coverage under the law.” Well, yes they did. The federal government demanded that States dramatically increase the amount they spent on Medicaid. No federal help, just a demand that states come up with more funding, and raise taxes or whatever it took.
Some governors said their state could not afford it, and they were unwilling to raise taxes to meet the federal requirement that the feds wouldn’t pay for.

And we didn’t make it a hard sell. We didn’t have billions of dollars of commercials like some critics did.” Bw-ha-ha-ha. Billions for commercials? Sebelius admitted to $677 million on the failed website up to October, but we don’t really know what it has cost— the work has continued. Hawaii’s ObamaCare spent $35,749 per ObamaCare enrollee— at a cost of $205,342,270. The District of Columbia spent $133,573,927 to sign up just 6,518 people. Cover Oregon spent over $200 million and has not enrolled a single person. Maryland has spent over $125.5 million on an unworkable website and is now considering buying Connecticut’s system.

The law is a disaster. We are already told that premium costs will double or triple next year. Insurers have pared costs back by narrowing the provider list and eliminating the ability to be covered when you travel. The despairing stories of people who have been significantly harmed continue to pile up. Americans must fight back. The president is out fund-raising again today.

 



A Letter From a Practicing Family Physician: by The Elephant's Child

When I saw my doctor this last week, she said “I wish I’d gone to secretarial school instead.” A despairing joke.

In an address to the House, Alabama Representative Mo Brooks read aloud a letter sent to him by Dr. Marlin Gill of Decatur. The letter holds nothing back while detailing the excessive costs and regulations that Dr. Gill calls ObamaCare’s “War Against Doctors.” We need pay attention. He speaks for multitudes.

Dear Congressman Brooks,

As a practicing family physician, I plead for help against what I can best characterize as Washington’s war against doctors.

The medical profession has never before remotely approached today’s stress, work hours, wasted costs, decreased efficiency, and declining ability to focus on patient care.

In our community alone, at least 6 doctors have left patient care for administrative positions, to start a concierge practice, or retire altogether.

Doctors are smothered by destructive regulations that add costs, raise our overhead and ‘gum up the works,’ making patient treatment slower and less efficient, thus forcing doctors to focus on things other than patient care and reduce the number of patients we can help each day.

I spend more time at work than at any time in my 27 years of practice and more of that time is spent on administrative tasks and entering useless data into a computer rather than helping sick patients.

Doctors have been forced by ill-informed bureaucrats to implement electronic medical records (“EMR”) that, in our four doctor practice, costs well over $100,000 plus continuing yearly operational costs . . . all of which does not help take care of one patient while driving up the cost of every patient’s health care.

Washington’s electronic medical records requirement makes our medical practice much slower and less efficient, forcing our doctors to treat fewer patients per day than we did before the EMR mandate.

To make matters worse, Washington forces doctors to demonstrate ‘meaningful use’ of EMR or risk not being fully paid for the help we give.

In addition to the electronic medical records burden, we face a mandate to use the ICD-10 coding system, a new set of reimbursement diagnosis codes.

The current ICD-9 coding system uses roughly 13,000 codes. The new ICD-10 coding system uses a staggering 70,000 new and completely different codes, thus dramatically slowing doctors down due to the unnecessary complexity and sheer numbers of codes that must be learned.

The cost of this new ICD-10 coding system for our small practice is roughly $80,000, again driving up health care costs without one iota of improvement in health care quality.

Finally, doctors face nonpayment by patients with ObamaCare. These patients may or may not be paying their premiums and we have no way of verifying this. No business can operate with that much uncertainty.

On behalf of the medical profession, I ask that Washington stop the implementation of the ICD-10 coding system, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and replace it with a better law written with the input of real doctors who will actually treat patients covered by it.

America has enjoyed the best health care the world has ever known. That health care is in jeopardy because physicians cannot survive Washington’s ‘war on doctors’ without relief.

Eventually the problems for doctors will become problems for patients, and we are all patients at some point.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Marlin Gill of Decatur, Alabama



All About the Little Red Hen by The Elephant's Child

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The Ruling Class is sure they are smarter than the rest of us, and know more about how the world should operate. They find the rest of us a little scary, and believe we need to be directed to do that which will comport with their vision of an improved country. We need to be regulated.

The rest of us are increasingly chafing under the regulation. The more liberal the venue, the more really nice things they want to do to improve things. A case in point is the State of California. Six states—Missouri, Alabama. Iowa, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Nebraska—sued California in federal court last month.

The controversy is all about eggs, or more precisely, about the hens.

California passed a ballot initiative, Proposition 2, in 2008 which mandated that by 2015 all California egg producers must shift to larger cages or “cage-free” housing for its chickens. The Humane Society of the U.S. funded the initiative to the tune of $4.1 million. Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, shelled out $100,000 for the initiative. Hedge-fund billionaire and green activist Tom Steyer gave $25,000. In typical liberal fashion, proponents were unaware of the economics and the unintended consequences, but full of   concern for being kind to the chickens.

The costs would be deadly. One 2008 analysis by researchers at the University of California-Davis determined that the changes would bankrupt the state’s then $337 million egg industry. The researchers expected the initiative to raise production costs for California producers by 20%. If the proposal were adopted nationwide, consumers would pay 25% more for eggs “and perhaps much more,” according to the report.

The California legislature in Sacramento decreed in 2010 that no out-of-state business could sell eggs in California unless the hens were raised in bigger cages, or cage free. The motive was purely protectionist to insure that in-state producers were not disadvantaged. A U.S. congressman said if “you can put small cages in Nevada, right across the border and our state can’t prohibit  it, than that’s a problem for us.”

The law is aimed at discriminating against out-of-state businesses by raising their costs. One need go no further than the California Assembly’s own admission for proof. Second, courts do not allow states to regulate interstate commerce if the public safety claim is “illusory”—which it is.

The Law’s defenders allege that hens in current cages are more likely to carry Salmonella to suggest that conventional cages are unsafe. Studies in the journal Poultry Science by the USDA said no differences in frequency of egg contamination were found. Another study in the journal Avian Diseases by USDA and University of Georgia found that among egg-laying hens, the caged housing system provide the lowest horizontal transmission level. The European Union’s animal rights radicals banned hen cages in 2012 led to supply shortages and price shocks. French farmers dumped their eggs in the streets.

The array of eggs in my grocery store offers, beyond the standard white eggs from White Leghorn hens, “cage-free eggs,” organic eggs, extra-large eggs, and my favorite brown eggs from Rhode Island Red hens. It also features a sign warning of a nationwide shortage of some kinds of eggs. I get testy when they’re out of brown.

How nice do you want to be to the chickens? We have coyotes, raccoons, possums. Do you just want the chickens in big cages or cage free? And if cage-free do you mind if the varmints eat the hens? Do you want to become a vegetarian in protest, or are you not all that fond of your vegetables?



The Goal Is Signing You Up, Not Giving You Good Care. by The Elephant's Child

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It’s all falling apart. Nancy Pelosi insisted that it is not “ObamaCare,” it’s the Affordable Care Act. It’s “Affordable, Affordable, Affordable” — just when a very large percentage of Americans rise up in a multi-million voiced scream: “No it’s Not! It is not affordable!” They really don’t get it. They do not understand what a mess they have made of things through their arrogance and conceit. And the insurance companies are warning that premium costs will double or triple next year.

Insurance is meant to protect you from the unlikely but possible catastrophe. Your house burns down. A tree falls on your car. The simple fact that it is statistically unlikely makes it possible for many people to buy protection from the unlikely event, because it won’t happen to most people. The modest amounts everyone pays for protection produce the funds to give to the poor soul who did have the house fire, and still allow the insurance company to make the profit that allows them to do business and stay in business.

It should work the same way with health insurance. If many people pay in modest amounts for protection from needing brain surgery, there will be enough to pay for the one who does. What the Democrats managed to contrive in their back rooms is sort of a mish-mash of pre-paid health care, where everybody has to pay for their own needs and also the needs of everyone who can’t afford to pay for their own care, and the new bureaucracy to run it.  And they claim it will save money, and be better care.

They neglected to include the cost of the vast federal bureaucracy that is to be added on top of the medical bureaucracy and the insurance bureaucracy. The Democrats thought that a lot of young, healthy people who didn’t really need much in the way of health care would than pay enough to cover all those extra expenses of giving everyone not only what they needed but whatever they might want or find convenient.

The young healthy adults who have been uninsured because they don’t want to pay for insurance— because they are healthy—are collectively saying that they have no interest in paying for everybody else. In other words they may be young and naive, but they’re not that stupid. Democrats continue to pretend that ObamaCare is quite wonderful and everybody will love it—eventually, or perhaps they believe that they can just reform it into single-payer without anybody noticing. Which, if Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), which the ObamaCare advisers love, is any example, which it is, kills way too many of its clients.

Other than that, the Democrats say that aside from some “minor glitches” it is all quite wonderful, any claims to the contrary are lies (Harry Reid), and as soon as Obama manages to revise it enough, everyone will love it.



Here Is What is Troubling Americans About Our Politics and Our Government by The Elephant's Child

I read a lot, but I seldom seem to get to the newest books when they are new, partly because I’m suspicious of blurbs and wait for reviews by people I trust. I’ve been fooled by blurbs once too often. So I didn’t get to Angelo  Codevilla’s book on “The Ruling Class” when it came out in 2010. It is a delight.

The people who run our government at the state and federal level have come to believe that—

Ever since the 1930s, as people who think this way have taken over more and more functions in an ever bigger government, they have become ever more inclined to dismiss the public’s opposition as ignorant and to believe themselves entitled to shape a new and different America.

Through their conception of their own superiority, and by accumulating power, they have made themselves into a bipartisan Ruling Class that now dominates public affairs and encroaches ever more into our lives’ most intimate details….

Hence, our Ruling Class’ first priority in any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems is to increase the power of the government—meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves. Secondly it is to recompense political supporters with public money, privileged jobs, contracts, etc. That is why our Ruling Class’ solution, not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for  hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming, has been to claim more power for itself.

Codevilla says “While Europeans are accustomed to being ruled by presumed betters whom they distrust, the American people’s realization of being ruled in the same way shocked this country into well-nigh revolutionary attitudes.”

Professor Codevilla spreads the blame around in bipartisan fashion, but if you surf the internet or listen to talk radio, you are well aware that this is a major concern of the American people and they are continually trying to  figure out just what to do about it. This lucid little book is a great help to understanding.



The Media Embarrassed Itself Once Again, And Showed Their Bias. by The Elephant's Child

I have not been unduly impressed with our journalists in general for a number of years. I got curious a while back and looked up Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism and Northwestern’s as well, and learned that the coursework offered concerned how to write a lede and writing about foreign policy or fashion, that sort of thing. This was some time ago, so I may have forgotten the particulars, but I had been looking for requirements in history or law, and international relations. In my quick perusal, it seemed to all be about how to write one kind or another of piece.

My investigation was superficial at best, and I sort of assumed that perhaps the study of history and foreign affairs and important things were requirements to get in to journalism school, and left it at that. But I kept noticing that journalists simply parroted what other journalists were saying, and didn’t seem to know what they were talking about. They did seem to be reliably of the leftist persuasion, however. But I already knew that.

Then this week, Governor Brewer of Arizona vetoed a law sent up by the legislature, the origin of which seemed to be a case in another state in which a baker refused to make a wedding cake for a gay wedding because gay marriage was against his religious convictions. That case seemed to be a set-up when the gay couple sued, rather than go to any one of innumerable other bakeries available.

The national press, inspired by what American universities actually do teach — Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability and Sexuality Studies, Imperial, Transnational and Postcolonial Studies, critical theory or creative writing, spoke in one voice. “Arizona Governor Brewer vetoes controversial anti-gay bill,” Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill,” and other slight variations. Every radio announcer repeated the same thing.

The words “gay” or “homosexual” do not appear in the bill at all, nor was the bill directed at any criticism of gay people. There was no “anti-gay” in the bill. The bill was a simple effort to protect the Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. Very obviously, the journalistic profession had not read the bill, but were off on a religious jihad. The text of the bill is here.

Governor Brewer vetoed the bill because, as she said, “Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.

Ed Whelan, at National Review wrote:

There has been a blizzard of hysterical misinformation about Arizona’s SB 1062.  As anyone who takes the trouble to consult the text of the legislation will readily discover, SB 1062 does not mention, much less single out, gays or same-sex ceremonies.

As Douglas Laycock (who supports redefining marriage to include same-sex couples) and other leading religious-liberty scholars explain in a letter to Arizona governor Jan Brewer, SB 1062 “has been egregiously misrepresented by many of its critics.”

This is an absolutely pure example of media bias, which is real and pervasive. You just have to question what you are reading and hearing if you want to know the truth. Requires a little more work, but you avoid feeling sleazy when you find out that you’ve been had. Studies show that the media is much more liberal than the American people, and more likely to agree with the liberal position on policy matters than members of the general  public. The public, according to public opinion polls sees the media as politically biased, inaccurate, intrusive and a tool of powerful interests. Huh. Wonder why.




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