American Elephants


The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is Unsustainable! by The Elephant's Child

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), in hot pursuit of telling everyone what to do and what to eat, has held its fourth meeting and is devoting a session to “sustainability,” (of course) which will be taken into account for nutrition standards that are used to create policy at the federal level.

Isn’t it interesting that they have to revise the standards every year, because they were wrong? Those things that they thought were good have been determined to be bad, and nutritionists now have new ideas, which will probably turn out to be incorrect as well. Is there any use for that diagram, whether in a pyramid or plate form, beyond giving the government rules which no one follows, except some school lunch programs.

sus•tain•able: able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed.
involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources.
able to last or continue for a long time.
[sustainable is currently in the top 1% of lookups and is the 158th most popular word on Merriam-Webster.com]

Sustainable is an environmentalist buzz-word intended to make you fear that we are using up our resources and if you don’t stop we’re all going to die.

To make us sustainable the USDA has hired an environmental food activist—one Angela Tagtow— to lead the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, which oversees DGAC. The DGAC’ Friday meeting included a presentation by the work group leader Miriam Nelson for “Environmental Determinants of Food, Diet, and Health,

Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is lower in animal-based foods and higher in plant-based foods has a lesser environmental impact and at the same time is more health-promoting than the current American diet.

Promoting more sustainable diets will contribute to food security for present and future generations by conserving resources. This approach should be encouraged across all food sectors.

Nelson said there is “remarkable consistency” in research that vegetarian-like diets are better for the planet. The presentation focused on “sustainability outcomes” for the food system, which take into account “environment footprint,” including greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, and biodiversity (emphasis added)

The committee was enthusiastic about the hiring of Tagtow, who they called a “good food” activist who advocates for social justice in the food system and an “ecological approach to nutrition.” They consider Tagtow a cheerleader for sustainability. The goal is to push sustainability, not to push healthy eating.

Good grief. I think the left has gone completely insane. “Social justice in the food system?” If you want to do something for the food system, stop wasting taxpayer money on putting food crops into our gas tanks. The federal government does not need a committee to draw up nutrition guidelines. They are usually wrong anyway or they wouldn’t need revising every year. There are departments of nutrition, college majors in nutrition and huge aisles in every bookstore devoted to food — should we care to seek advice on what to eat for a healthy diet, there in no lack anywhere of plentiful information, including your public library. Honest, we can handle it without your advice. Butt out.



Now They Want to Make You Eat Your Vegetables if You Are On Food Stamps! by The Elephant's Child

I have often referred to Liberals as “the perpetually discontented.” They have no acceptance of the ordinary foibles of the human race, and they really, really don’t want anyone to disagree with them. Their reactions to those who do disagree, range from calling you a racist, to trying to get you fired, or arrested. I suspect the reason is that they are not sure enough of their own arguments to be confident of defeating you in a debate, thus they want to end any possible debate and just get rid of you.

They have told us in many leftist venues that they don’t have principles like the Republicans do, but react to events on a case-by-case basis. They think that’s a good thing. While Republicans are talking about principles and how they apply to the world as it is, Liberals are nitpicking and regulating and trying to pass laws to make Republicans more tolerable.

They don’t seem to have a very good opinion of the very people they claim they are trying to help. Those who are unemployed are viewed as mostly unemployable or they wouldn’t have lost their jobs. Those who are on food stamps are fat, lazy and don’t know how to properly spend their food stamps. More vegetables, more fruit, more whole grains!!

“The USDA  (Department of Agriculture) is suggesting major changes to grocery stores to “nudge” Americans to purchase healthier foods when they shop.

The agency commissioned an “expert panel” to make recommendations on how to guide the more than 47 million Americans on food stamps into spending their benefits on fruits and vegetables.

The group released an 80-page report this month presenting their ideas, which include talking shopping carts and a marketing strategy for grocery chains that would feature better store lighting for healthier items.

“Most Americans, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, do not purchase enough whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, and legumes, and purchase too many items with excess calories from fats and added sugars,” the report said.

The report estimated that the new carts might cost as much as $30,000 per store. And they would like to rearrange the stores, change how stores stock and display their items. Improve the lighting, create “healthy aisles”. There is no end to the poking and prodding they would like to do in the interest of making sure that people don’t buy junk food with their food stamps.

Why is it that liberals are so intent on forcing everyone to adhere to their ideas of what is correct? It’s that little tyrant that lurks in their very souls, trying desperately to get out.

At the turn of the 21st century, there were 138,049 pages in the Code of Federal Regulations. At the end of 2013, there were 175,906. The George W. Bush administration added 2,490 pages a year. During the first five years of the Obama administration they have added 3,504 pages a year. Granted, some regulations are longer than others. But there are costs to comply with regulations — and those costs can be a real drag on the economy. When the economy shrank to a minus 2.9 percent in the first quarter, it was blamed on the weather. More likely, it was ObamaCare. Health and Human Services added 1,296 pages of new regulations just before the Fourth of July holiday.

The Federal Reserve considers that there is little inflation, but they don’t shop for groceries. People are shocked to find that their ObamaCare premiums have gone up by 40%. The White House reveled in the June jobs numbers which seemed to be really up, but the increase was all in part-time jobs, accounting for all the people who were cut back to less than thirty hours. So now they all work two jobs. That is excess regulation, liberals controlling your lives, improving you—so they will like the improved you better. You know its not going to work.



The Left Controls the Words We Use, Or Tries To. by The Elephant's Child

The administration has determined that in the current immigration crisis we should not use the word “illegal”, so demeaning, you know. We must be more compassionate.

Words, however, have meaning that is not determined by the Democratic party, but by the dictionary. In this case — Merriam Webster:

illegal, il•le•gal, adjective:  not allowed by law.
……………………………….not according to or authorized by law. …………………………………………
That’s pretty straightforward, and descriptive. The meaning is plain, solid fact. Do you see anything demeaning there?

alien, noun:  a person who was born in a different country and is not
……………….a citizen of the county in which he now lives.

……………….a foreign born resident who has not been naturalized ……………….and is still a subject or citizen of a foreign country.

The administration has said that we must not use these terms, although there are no others that accurately describe the situation.  We’re supposed to go for “unaccompanied children” though “minors” more accurately describes the situation, and the majority of the illegal alien “children” are between the ages of eleven and 18, and many are members of Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13, a violent street gang already infesting many of our cities, whose members are mostly between age 11 and 21.

This is one of the great problems in our nation’s political battles. The Left spends a lot of time on words, slogans, bumper-stickers, and phrases. They believe if they can get the words right, they can control the narrative. Different words evoke differing emotions, and the right choice can compel people to do what you want.

The Right is so concerned with how a policy or program works and what it means and how it will play out. We worry about cost and incentives, the economics and probable effect—and seldom notice that they are manipulating us with clever use of words. Our minds are just off in a different direction, and we aren’t very good at slogans anyway. Propaganda works!



The Supreme Court Slapped Obama Down Again. He Just Plans More Executive Orders. by The Elephant's Child

The Obama administration’s position has been defeated in at least thirteen cases before the Supreme Court since January 2012. These were all unanimous decisions. The Court ruled that the president does not get to decide when the Senate is in recess. A recess is the period when Congress is in recess between one congress and the next. The Court unanimously rejected the law establishing abortion-clinic “buffer zones” against pro-life protesters, and the administration argument that a search warrant wasn’t required for the government to look at cell-phone records and data was rejected.

Normally, the Justice Department wins about 70 percent of its cases, but in each of the last three terms, the Court has ruled against the administration a majority of the time. John Fund quotes George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin:”When the administration loses significant cases in unanimous decisions and cannot even hold the votes of its own appointees…it is an indication that they adopted such an extreme position on the scope of federal power that even generally sympathetic judges could not even support it.”

John Fund adds:

Those decisions are very revealing about the views of President Obama and Eric Holder: Their vision is one of unchecked federal power on immigration and environmental issues, on presidential prerogatives, and the taking of private property by the government; hostility to First Amendment freedoms that don’t meet the politically correct norms; and disregard of Fourth Amendment protections against warrantless government intrusion. These are positions that should alarm all Americans regardless of their political views, political-party affiliations, or background.

The president clearly has no intention of slowing his reliance on executive authority. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest earnestly explained that the Obama administration was getting impatient with Congress.

We’re not just going to sit around and wait interminably for Congress.

The president has given his Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson the job of figuring out what options are available to address the problems that have been created by our broken  immigration system. Well, yes, when the president encourages young people from Central America to come to America where they will not be deported it creates more problems than he expected. They’re finding it difficult to locate places to put the influx.

It is the Obama administration that has told the Border Patrol not to detain illegals, and defer deportations, and has released illegal immigrants who have been convicted of criminal violations. And who has refused to man the border, but it is Congress that is not dealing with our broken immigration system. It’s just the president who has made it “broken.”

“This administration does not learn constitutional lessons. It continues marching until it meets resistance. And it hasn’t met nearly enough,” said Charles Krauthammer.



The House Will Sue The President For Failing To Observe The Separation of Powers. by The Elephant's Child

Budget Talks Deteriorate Amid Republican Identity Shift On Tax Increases
House Speaker John Boehner told his colleagues on Wednesday that the House of Representatives will sue the executive branch of the government to defend the Constitution’s separation of powers. The Speaker, said the Wall Street Journal, is showing more care that the laws be faithfully executed as the Constitution demands than is President Obama.

The Congress, Mr. Boehner said in his memo to the House, is suffering institutional injury  under Mr. Obama’s “aggressive unilateralism” which is a pretty fair description of his governing philosophy. When the president suspends or rewrites laws across health care, drug policy, immigration laws, and so much else— elected legislators are stripped of their constitutional role.

The basic reason behind this step is Mr. Obama’s flagrant contempt for regular political order. For example, he has unilaterally revised, delayed or reinterpreted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on his own thirty-eight times.

Everyone would prefer that the Congress and the President would settle their disputes through the customary political debates and arguments. House members represent the people of their district by population, and are closest to the public for they must face reelection every two years. A senator represents a whole state. The president represents all the people of the country. It was designed by the Founders to slow things down, so that poorly considered laws were not enacted in haste, in the hopes that would result in better law.

In the current climate, potential laws are not getting through Congress. The lapdog media would blame it all on the Republicans, but the blame lies directly in the hands of the Majority Leader of the Senate—who refuses to allow laws passed by the House to even be voted on. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

The Founders did not consider the possibility that a future president might pay no attention to his oath of office, or just take the law into his own hands. They assumed that a president’s honor and character would mean that even when he disagreed, he would abide by the rules.

“The major reason to involve the judiciary in this case is Mr. Obama’s flagrant contempt for the regular political order,” said the Wall Street Journal.

This president does not feel restrained by the Constitution that he swore to uphold. When Congress will not pass the laws that he wants, as he has said, “I’ve got a phone and a pen.” He will just take action on his own by “executive order.”All presidents have used executive orders from time to time, but none have ever used executive orders to rewrite laws duly passed and signed into law.

Far from a partisan caper, this implicates the foundation of the U.S. political architecture. The courts generally presume that individual Members of Congress lack the “standing” to make a legal challenge, but Mr. Obama is stealing inherent Article I powers that no party other than Congress can vindicate. Mr. Boehner said he will seek a House vote authorizing the lawsuit and put it under the direction of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group.

A single Congressman may not have standing, but Congress has the institutional standing to sue the president and are thus asking a constitutional question that has not been joined at the courts. More than a few judges and Supreme Court Justices seem to be concerned that Mr. Obama’s conduct is undermining the rule of law and political accountability. Just this week, the Supreme Court slapped down the EPA for defying the plain language of the law in the name of anti-carbon policy. More rebukes may be coming with cases about recess appointments and the ObamaCare contraception mandate.

Last summer, Mr. Obama proclaimed that “in a normal political environment” he’s ask Congress to fix laws such as ObamaCare, but since the House disagrees with his priorities, he’ll just go ahead and fix them himself without legislative consent. But then again, the president can hardly get through normal comments to the press without proclaiming that he is the President of the United States or The Commander in Chief. President Bush often said that “he was the Decider,” but that was not a proclamation of his importance, but a humble expression of the weight of the decisions that he must make. There’s a significant difference.

Thanks to Mr. Boehner, the courts will get a chance to weigh in on whether Mr. Obama or his successors can exercise imperial powers.

 



Obama’s Scandals: Not Funny Anymore. by The Elephant's Child

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has chimed in on the IRS “Lost Emails Scandal:

  • Lew: “Sometimes a broken hard drive is just a broken hard drive.”

From Zero Hedge: “perhaps the NY Post put it best: The thing about dogs eating homework is, it could actually happen. This can’t. This is “The dog ate my hard drive, broke into another building, ate the backup of the hard drive, then broke into six other top officials’ offices and ate their hard drives also.”

20140624_IRS

 



Meat, Poultry, Fish and Eggs Prices Hit an All-Time High in May! by The Elephant's Child

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the seasonally adjusted price index for meats, poultry, fish and eggs hit an all-time high in May.  You may have noticed. The index for these 4 products has risen 7.7 percent over the last year.  These items go into the food at home category.

Each month BLS employs data collectors to visit thousands of retail stores all over the United States to collect information on the prices of thousands of items to measure changes for the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Chicken goes into the CPI, but meats, fish and eggs don’t. Beef is up because of the drought in California. Pork is up because a diarrhea disease has decimated baby pigs. I don’t know what’s up with eggs. I buy brown eggs, but haven’t been able to get any for three weeks. In the Northwest, the stores seem to believe that Northwesterners only eat salmon, which may be true. Our freeways are decorated with salmon artwork.

Here are the goods and services that go into the CPI:

  • FOOD AND BEVERAGES (breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, chicken, wine, full service meals and snacks);
  • HOUSING (rent of primary residence, owners’ equivalent rent, fuel oil, bedroom furniture);
  • APPAREL (men’s shirts and sweaters, women’s dresses, jewelry);
  • TRANSPORTATION (new vehicles, airline fares, gasoline, motor vehicle insurance);
  • MEDICAL CARE (prescription drugs and medical supplies, physicians’ services, eyeglasses and eye care, hospital services);
  • RECREATION (televisions, cable television, pets and pet products, sports equipment, admissions);
  • EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION (college tuition, postage, telephone services, computer software and accessories);
  • OTHER GOODS AND SERVICES (tobacco and smoking products, haircuts and other personal services, funeral expenses).

So you can see why the inflation rate doesn’t seem to match the outgo in your budget. College tuition must throw everything off all by itself, and have you seen the price of bacon lately?

Inflation measures all the things you don’t buy, and don’t use, and none of the things driving up  your cost of living. Bureaucrats!

 



The VA Scandal Is Caused By the Perverse Incentives of Socialized Medicine. by The Elephant's Child

About-The-Department-of-Veterans-Affairs-resized-6001

Memorial Day just calls more attention to the scandal of the Veterans Administration hospital system. Democrats are in panic mode. This is a bad one. Nancy Pelosi is trying to blame it all on Bush, the usual fall-back position. She would have it that it is all the enormous influx of young veterans wounded in Bush’s wars. Nice try, but that’s not the case. It isn’t the young guys that are dying of inattention, despite their sometimes grievous wounds, they are younger and healthier. The problem is socialized medicine.

The reason Democrats are attracted to government-run health care is that the left is always focused on intent, not results. They believe in government by experts, the best and brightest, and ever more experts to get it right — in other words, in big government. Their intent is what matters. If the results aren’t right, they will fiddle and tweak until they get it fixed.  But they intend a bright and shining success.

When you guarantee beneficiaries free treatment which is open-ended in terms of cost, more patients are apt to seek treatment for less important reasons. They have no idea of the cost—they are guaranteed care. For the government, the patients are now their responsibility and the incentive is entirely to cut costs.

Doctors and nurses may well be wonderful, and choosing to work with veterans indicates a caring intent, when they could probably do as well or better in the private sector. But for the bureaucratic staff, the incentive is to force the medical staff to cover more patients in less time, to prescribe cheaper medicines, to do less costly procedures. Success at bringing down costs results in bigger bonuses and career advancement for the bureaucrats.Some are represented by unions. The incentives for unions are to gain bigger bonuses, better retirement, and better pay, not better care for vets.  Which results in long wait lists, hidden because they are embarrassing and certainly not resulting in career advancement— or exactly what we’ve got.

Democrats don’t really understand what all the fuss is about, because they are focused on their intent. The results can be tweaked to prevent such problems.

You can see  the intent of ObamaCare being tweaked daily by the president, as he issues executive orders and rewrites the law to overcome problems. But we have had added the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) which issues decisions on what preventative services will and will not be covered and for whom they are indicated. Got that? You don’t get to decide, it will be decided for you by a new agency filled with unaccountable bureaucrats.

The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is tasked with cutting Medicare costs either through a reduction of services or by cutting the payments to providers. They simply don’t understand that they cannot cut payments to providers below a certain point or there will be few or only poorly qualified providers.

Whether with Medicare, Veterans Care or Medicaid, Obama and his advisers were particularly concerned with the higher costs of health care for older people. Statistically, the biggest expenses for health care are in their final years. If you can cut back on those expenses, and old people have fewer worthwhile life years ahead of them, then you are more apt to meet your budget.

And again, whenever care is free at the point of service, the more care people will demand. I wrote this in an earlier post, but this is what Obama said:

Obama did say that people might be better off taking a pain pill than getting surgery. He also said “the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out there.” Excuse me, but isn’t that what health care is for?

department-of-veterans-affairs-va-headquarters-in-washington-dc-photo



Oh-Oh! “The National Strategy For Biosurveillance” by The Elephant's Child

Obama photoshop

Under the new Affordable Care Act, hospitals and clinics are required to computerize patient records. This is supposed to save vast amounts of money. So far the expense of putting everything on newly acquired computers linked in newly acquired programs is massive. Doctors now interact more with the computer than the patient, but that’s the way it goes.

The overarching theory was that the federal government would thus gain access to American’s private medical information, and government experts thus could decide what treatments were judged to be best, and what was too expensive, and what was not worthwhile. This would give the experts all the information they need to be, well, expert, and just save vast amounts of money when all those little used treatments were discarded. One size fits all. Like school lunches. CNS News reports:

The federal government is piecing together a sweeping national “biosurveillance” system that will give bureaucrats near real-time access to Americans’ private medical information in the name of national security, according to Twila Brase, a public health nurse and co-founder of the Citizens Council for Health Freedom.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is currently seeking public comment on a 52-page draft of the proposed “National Health Security Strategy 2015-2018” (NHSS).

The deadline for comment is 5 pm EST on May 21st. (See Draft National Health Security Strategy 2015-2018.pdf)

“Health situational awareness includes biosurveillance and other health and non-health inputs (e.g., lab/diagnostics, health service utilization, active intelligence, and supply chain information), as well as systems and processes for effective communication among responders and critical health resource monitoring and allocation,” the draft states.

You might want to send the feds your comments, but keep it clean.

Brase notes that the information collected by the government will be “all-encompassing.” It would include our health status, if we exercise, how often we get a cold, what medications we take, how much we drink, do we have guns in the house, what is our preferred gender, race, and national origin. I added the last because that’s what they are asking these days.

According to the draft proposal, NHSS will create “health situational awareness” by “collecting, aggregating and processing data from both traditional and nontraditional sources (such as social media) and from various governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders…decision makers will have the capacity to visualize and manipulate data from many sources to create an operational picture suited to the specific situation and the decisions before them. Brase wars that the government’s biosurveillance plan is much more intrusive that the data collection currently being done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But the fact of the matter is that [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] HIPPA already allows the federal government and the state government and the local government and anyone who is a public health agency to have access to our medical records – identifiable medical records – without our consent. It’s in the HIPPA Privacy Rule, which has the full force and effect of law. But that wasn’t actually put in by Congress. It was put in by the Department of Health and Human Services.” (See HIPAAPrivacyRegs_EconomicStimulusChanges.pdf)

President Obama cited the NHSS and “the first-ever National Strategy for Biosurveillance which was announced by the White House in July 2012 as a “top national security policy.” Bet you missed that.

You should read the whole thing, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act forces every doctor to have “interoperable electronic medical records by January 1, 2015 or face penalties from Medicare, financial reductions in their payments.

HIPPA and the HITECH Act (part of the 2009 stimulus bill) together already allow 2.2 million entities to have access to your private medical records without your consent.

People might worry about things like HIV or depression, something that is stigmatizing or embarrassing. They should be concerned about the fact that this is a strategy to oversee your entire life, supposedly with the intent to keep you healthy.

But you will find alternate purposes in North Korea, Communist China’s one-child policy, the belief of some radicals on the left that the earth is overpopulated. The intent may be benign, or not. It is too open-ended, too uncontrolled, and there are too many big government bureaucrats at the other end. And so far, under the administration that produced ObamaCare, government bureaucracies are producing one scandal after another, each more devastating than the last. Some just have SWAT teams breaking down your door, or cost you a lot of money. Some scandals kill people.

Anyone who has worked in government (not politicians) will tell you, if they are honest, that you should not trust the government. The bigger government gets, the less trustworthy it is. Bureaucracy breeds bad behavior. When responsibility is spread across too many, nobody is responsible, and nobody can be blamed — it’s just the bureaucracy.



No Unflattering Pictures Of Obama Will Be Allowed. by The Elephant's Child

The White House has decreed  that photographs of the president and his family will be the work of the White House photographers, and then distributed to the media. Ron Fournier wrote in the National Journal on November 21, 2013:

The fast-moving trend is hampering reporters and videographers who cover the White House, but Mills’s profession has probably been hardest hit. “As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government,” reads a letter delivered today to Carney by the WHCA and several member news organizations including The Associated Press and The New York Times.

The letter includes examples of important news events that were not covered by media photographers, and yet pictures were taken by the White House image team and widely distributed via social media. This happens almost daily. …

Again, this is propaganda–utterly lacking a skeptical eye. The irony is that Obama is using technology that democratized and flattened the media to centralize and strengthen the powers an institution, The Presidency.

Today, I noticed that the Washington Times is striking back! Here is the caption under a White House distributed photo of the president visiting Walter Reed:

President Barack Obama autographs a banner while visiting a wounded service member at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., June 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

President Obama clearly doesn’t like unflattering pictures. He doesn’t like being photoshopped, and if you use his picture in a commercial or political way, expect a SWAT team to break down your door first thing in the morning when you are expected to be asleep. You have been warned.



Another Unaccountable Agency With Vast Powers. by The Elephant's Child

The Affordable Care Act’s Independent Payment Advisory Board has been so heavily criticized as an unaccountable body with the power to effectively ration Medicare services that even many congressional Democrats no longer support it. Ordinary people didn’t pay too much attention until Sarah Palin called it a “death panel.”

IPAB’s 15 supposed experts (yet to be nominated) are completely unaccountable and are there to preserve Medicare in its current form by making it cost less. Uh huh. This is traceable to Obama’s chosen health care advisors and their admiration for Britain’s NHS and that organization’s recognition that most of the expense driving up the cost of health care comes in seniors’ final years. Why should we waste all this money on old folks who are about to die anyway?

The unstated yet clear agenda is to impose stricter price controls within Medicare. The history of such price regulation in Medicare and around the world clearly reveals that such controls cut costs only by lowering quality and adding rationing (queues and long waits for service), as well as eliminating participants.

This is Democrats normal modus operandi. Lots of carrots to sell a policy or program, but the carrots always cost too much and one way or another the costs must be cut back. Medicare is not sustainable in its current configuration.

There are enormous amounts of fraud in Medicare. It is quite possible to find ways to reduce costs that do not assume that doctors are all too rich and charge too much. If you honestly look for ways to be more efficient, they are there to be found. That’s how American productivity keeps growing. Ideological assumptions about unearned wealth and an ever increasing need for more control by more bureaucrats prevents efficiency from being found. The assumption that unaccountable bureaucrats can run the medical profession better than those who have spent years in training to learn how to preserve life and heal the afflicted seems a little odd when looked at straight on.

The IPAB’s little-known cousin the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation has managed to escape the political radar. Its seemingly innocuous mission is promoting new and more efficient “payment systems” and “models of care.” This agency is just as dangerous as the IPAB. It is an agency run by the president’s political appointees, but never has to go back to Congress to get an appropriation. Obama provided it with $10 billion up front, to cover its costs for 10 years. At the end of that time the agency will get another $10 billion appropriation.

The big infusion of funding has allowed the CMMI to grow from 60 employees in 2012 to a planned 440 full-time workers in 2015. Ten percent of the funding is devoted to personnel and administrative expenses. Congress usually requires agencies to return to Congress to request a new appropriation each year, which at least gives the illusion of competency being reported and checked.

The premise is that government bureaucrats are best positioned to lead an effort in innovation in medical delivery. (stop laughing!) The history of Medicare’s payment systems over four decades is one of politicized decision-making by regulators who know little about what they are regulating, protection of incumbent providers and roadblocks to new technologies or new ways of doing business. Inefficiency is rampant, and made far worse by government attempts to direct doctors’ time and practice. They will routinely try to cut costs by eliminating the highest and lowest-cost providers.

There has never been an industry, a profession or a product that has not been improved by competition. Politicians policy prescriptions are based on the implicit assumption that government is full of wise platonic guardians who automatically recognize market failures and instinctively recognize the remedies for such failures. Democrats don’t like competition anyway. It’s not fair.

Both agencies should be shut down at the earliest opportunity.



What Do You Do When the Watchdogs Are Corrupt? by The Elephant's Child

The founders, Republicans keep trying to explain, did not have in mind a big bloated bureaucratic government in Washington D.C.. They believed that the few things that the federal government should and could do would be very limited.

They knew that big government as they experienced it, even at a great distance, was apt to become increasingly corrupt. Yet the idea of an Office of the Inspector General to keep tabs on whether the enormous numbers of federal agencies we now have  were behaving themselves, staying honest and doing only what they were supposed to do never occurred to them.

The Inspector General Act of 1978 listed the purpose of establishing the office as:

  1. To conduct and supervise audits and investigations relating to the programs and operations of the establishments listed
  2. To provide leadership and coordination and recommend policies for activities designed (A) to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of, and (B) to prevent and detect fraud and abuse in, such programs and operations; and
  3. To provide a means for keeping the head of the establishment and the Congress fully and currently informed about problems and deficiencies relating to the administration of such programs and operations  and the necessity for and progress of corrective action.

So now we have the top watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security who altered and delayed investigations at the request of senior administration officials, compromising his independent role as an inspector general, according to a new report for a Senate oversight panel.

Charles K.Edwards, who served as acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, routinely shared drinks and dinner with department leaders and gave them inside information about the timing and findings of investigations. He improperly relied on the advice of top political advisers to Janet Napolitano and acquiesced to their suggestions about wording and timing of three separate reports. These actions occurred while Edwards was seeking the president’s nomination to be the permanent inspector general overseeing DHS, the third-largest government agency with a $39 billion budget and more than 225,000 employees.

Sen. Ron Johnson, the ranking Republican on the Senate oversight committee, said they found Mr. Edwards to be a compromised inspector general who was not exercising real oversight. Sen. Johnson and Sen.Claire McCaskill (D-MO) opened  the investigation while looking into the hiring of prostitutes by Secret Service agents ahead of a 2012 presidential trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Whistleblowers alleged that Edwards had ordered them to remove derogatory information about the service and evidence implicating a White House staff member.

Janet Napolitano, now president of the University of California system that neither she nor her staff ordered anything to be deleted, no changes, nothing to see here. Charles K. Edwards has been placed on administrative leave.

Michelle Malkin goes into the scandal a little deeper, and names more names. The administration is more apt to go after some Inspector Generals who expose corruption and financial improprieties than to take them seriously as corruption that must be rooted out. Which, of course, makes it plain that IGs who make corruption public may lose their jobs for doing so.

Barack and Michelle Obama learned their politics in the Chicago Democratic machine, as did a number of the members of their administration. Corruption there has been a way of life — as long as my elderly next-door neighbors can remember, they told me. And they have brought that understanding of how the world works with them to Washington. And it spreads through the ranks.

Do we now need Level II Inspector Generals to monitor the inspector generals?

Congress does search out corruption when they see it, but what they do not do is eliminate unnecessary laws and unnecessary agencies. Government does few things well. I can’t even think of an example. And most of what it does—it does badly. We need a Congress that recognizes that fact, and is willing to spend some serious time whittling down the bloated size and overreach of og government itself.




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