American Elephants


How Do You Solve a Problem Like Uncertainty? by The Elephant's Child

Today at the Corner at National Review, economist Veronique de Rugy reported an interview on NPR.  Steve Inskup interviewed Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical Company, about his book Make it in America: the Case for Re-Inventing the Economy. This is a small part of the interview:

How do you, as a CEO decide which ops to keep in the US and which to keep abroad?

We look at all items on the cost line, all items on the incentive line and make the decisions on that basis.

What are areas where the US doesn’t do very well?

Well, I not only have high taxes, I have uncertain taxes.  Right now I have more regulations coming at me that are not fact-based, not science based, not data based, I actually don’t even know what my costs are going to be in the next 5 years.  And so I’m sitting back waiting for regulatory reform and the government of course is now engaged on that healthcare and the uncertainty around the healthcare bill and what’s going to end up happening there.  Energy policy. We’ve got lots of uncertainty in the energy policy regimen. I mean, I could keep going but that’s half a dozen.

The host noted that his comments seemed to focus on uncertainty, Liveris replied:

The choice.  Bad policy vs. uncertain policy is a tough choice.  I don’t think we have to go there.

This is a small part of a longer article pointing out that both sides, Republican as well as Democrat, are guilty of thinking that government needs to “invest” in one thing or another.  What they need to do, Ms. de Rugy points out is get out-of-the-way. Do read the whole thing.  I thought this part was especially worth repeating.



Is President Obama a Desperate Man? by The Elephant's Child
March 10, 2010, 7:52 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Health Care, Taxes | Tags: , ,

The president is still talking about health care, but he is increasingly less and less successful in moving the numbers.  57 percent of voters believe that passage of health care legislation would harm the economy while only 25 percent believe that it would help.

People simply don’t trust official projections (with reason).  In Washington the pronouncements of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) may be holy writ, but voters are familiar with the seemingly inevitable, immense cost overruns. 81 percent of voters say it’s likely that the plan will end up costing more than projected, only 10 percent say the official numbers are likely to be on target.

Most believe that the health care plan will increase the deficit and likely mean higher taxes on the middle class.  For American voters, reducing the deficit is a higher priority than health care reform. They don’t believe that reform will bring down the cost.

If the program is supposed to save money, how come you have to spend an additional trillion dollars?  That just doesn’t make sense to most people.

President Obama would like you to believe that he is riding a wave of newfound optimism.

The president’s increased desperation is apparent in his arguments.  He is blaming insurance companies unilaterally for rising costs — but the combined annual profits of America’s ten largest insurers are only $8.3 billion — which is one-seventh of what Medicare loses each year to fraud, and just 0.4 percent of the $2.5 trillion that the U.S. spends annually on health care. No wonder people don’t believe the numbers.

The late Walter Wriston once wrote:

The clear lesson of history is that individual liberty, the basic underpinning of American society, requires constant defense against the encroachment of the state.



One of These Things Doesn’t Go With The Other, One of These things Just Doesn’t Belong. by The Elephant's Child
October 5, 2009, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Islam, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

William Kristol  doesn’t understand the agonizing over Afghanistan:

I think that’s pathetic.  The president said this is a war of necessity.  He said it’s a war we have to win  He said we have to think about it regionally and that we have to think of Afghanistan together with Pakistan and that we can’t have a stable Pakistan unless we hold the line in Afghanistan, and an unstable Pakistan in unbelievably dangerous since they have nuclear weapons.  Why is this a tough call?

Max Boot summarizes E.J. Dionne Jr.’s column in the Washington Post:

In essence, he writes, we should accept a high risk of failure in Afghanistan because trying to win the war will take away momentum from Obama’s domestic agenda, notably health-care reform.  “The last thing he should do is rush into a new set of obligations in Afghanistan that would come to define his presidency more than any victory he wins on health care.”

Well, that kinda sums it up, doesn’t it?



Relax and Put Your Feet Up. Here’s Some Good Reading Material. by The Elephant's Child
August 9, 2009, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

Do you have time for a little rewarding reading on a Sunday, your ‘day of rest’?  If so, I highly recommend an essay by Theodore Dalrymple (pen name of Anthony Daniels, a British physician), titled “Man vs. Mutt” from the Wall Street Journal.

In the last few years, I have had the opportunity to compare the human and veterinary health services of Great Britain, and on the whole it is better to be a dog.

As a British dog, you get to choose (through an intermediary, I admit) your veterinarian.  If you don’t like him, you can pick up your leash and go elsewhere, that very day if necessary.  Any vet will see you straight away, there is no delay in such investigations as you may need, and treatment is immediate.  There are no waiting lists for dogs, no operations postponed because something more important has come up, no appalling stories of dogs being made to wait for years because other dogs — or hamsters — come first.

The conditions in which you receive your treatment are much more pleasant than British humans have to endure.  For one thing, there is no bureaucracy to be negotiated with the skill of a white-water canoeist; avove all, the atmoshpere is different.  There is no tension, no feeling that one more patient will bring the whole system to the point of collapse, adnd all the staff go off with nervous breakdowns.  In the waiting rooms, a perfect calm reigns; the patients’ relatives are not on the verge of hysteria, and do not suspect that the system is cheating their loved one, for economic reasons, of the treatment which he needs.  The relatives are united by their concern for the welfare of each other’s love one.  They are not terrified that someone is getting more out of the system than they.

Read the whole delightful essay here.

Another essay by Missouri farmer Blake Hurst, in The American, also caught my eye.  It is titled “The Omnivore’s Delusion: Against the Agri-intellectuals.”

I’m dozing, as I often do on airplanes, but the guy behind me has been broadcasting nonstop for nearly three hours.  I finally admit defeat and start some serious eavesdropping.  He’s talking about food, damning farming, particularly livestock farming, compensating for his lack of knowledge with volume.

I’m so tired of people who wouldn’t visit a doctor who used a stethoscope instead of an MRI demanding that farmers like me use 1930s technology to raise food.  Farming has always been messy and painful, and bloody and dirty.  It still is.

But now we have to listen to self-appointed experts on airplanes frightening their seatmates about the profession I have practiced for more than 30 years.  I’d  had enough.  I turned around and politely told the lecturer that he ought not believe everything he reads.  He quieted and asked me what kind of farming I do.  I told him, and when he asked if I used organic farming, I said no, and left it at that.  I didn’t answer with the first thought that came to mind, which is simply this; I deal in the real world, not superstitions, and unless the consumer absolutely forces my hand, I am about as likely to adopt organic methods as the Wall Street Journal is to publish their next edition by setting the type by hand.

If you shop at Whole Foods, look for the “organic” label on everything you buy, you need to read this.  If you would just like to know a little more about real farmers, you will enjoy this piece.

I am very fond of  the essays of Blake Hurst and Theodore Dalrymple. I’ve been reading their work for years, and saving their writings.  I recommend these pieces heartily.



Dear Barack Obama…. by The Elephant's Child

I received a letter from Barack Obama yesterday. I was interested because it was the first ‘personal’ communication I have had from Barack. He said that “together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea. Yes we can…”

Well, O.K. Can what? “A chorus of millions calling for change.” Change what? He says: “I’ll be a President who finally brings Democrats and Republicans together to make health care affordable and available for every single American.” His Messiahness surely has great confidence in his own ability to fix everything. Unfortunately his record does not indicate that he can do any such thing.

Obama has made it clear that he is in favor of single-payer health care, not something that any Republicans have proposed. Republicans look at the history of countries like us who have instituted socialized medicine, (for that is what single-payer is) and really don’t think that is the way to go.

Have you ever heard of Claude Castonguay? In the 1960s Castonguay chaired a Canadian government committee studying health care reform and recommended that his own province of Quebec adopt government-administered health care covering all citizens through tax levies. The government followed his advice, and soon his ideas were implemented coast to coast.

Forty years later, Castonguay was again in charge of a committee reviewing Quebec health care. The committee concluded that the system is in crisis. “We thought we could resolve the system’s problems by rationing services or injecting massive amounts of new money into it,” he said.

Now he recommends a drastic overhaul. They propose to give a greater role to the private sector so that the people can exercise freedom of choice. Oh.

Investors Business Daily tells about “Sylvia de Vires, an Ontario woman afflicted with a 13-inch, fluid-filled tumor weighing 40 pounds who was unable to get timely care in Canada. She crossed the American border to Pontiac, Michigan, where a surgeon removed the tumor, estimating that she could not have lived longer than a few weeks more.”

“The Canadian government pays for U.S. medical care in some circumstances, but it declined to do so in de Vires’ case for a bureaucratically perfect, but inhumane, reason; she hadn’t properly filled out a form.” This is not unusual. In Norwalk, Ontario, people participate in lotteries to win appointments with the local family doctor. Oh.

In Britain, the Labour government vilifies anyone who suggests a different system of health care. A woman who was dying of cancer was denied NHS treatment in her final months — because she had paid privately for a drug which offered her the chance of living longer, but which NHS refused to provide. When she used her own money, NHS refused all treatment including chemotherapy.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson has ordered the NHS trusts to refuse to allow patients to pay for additional medicines. This was to stop a ‘two-tier’ service where people who were receiving top quality drugs were being treated in the same wards with those getting only standard NHS medicines.

The Ministry of Health declared that British patients should be treated in the ER within four hours. As a result, in some hospitals seriously ill patients were kept in parked ambulances for hours to avoid disobeying the regulation.

In Texas, Republican Governor Rick Perry has pushed through tort reform that lowers liability insurance for doctors. The result? Doctors are flocking to Texas. In Florida, Republican Governor Crist has opened the state to insurance companies from all over the country. The result? The cost of health insurance is dropping significantly.

Obama said that he “doesn’t want to wake up four years from now and find out that millions of Americans still lack health care because we couldn’t take on the insurance industry.” The Insurance industry? Health care is expensive because of the insurance industry? How about MRIs or CAT scans? How about all the miraculous new drugs and new treatments that are saving lives? Today you decide what treatment you want. You would rather leave that decision to a bunch of bureaucrats? Health care is expensive now because of government interference in the market, not because the insurance industry is evil.

Obama revisited his usual canard about George W. Bush’s “failed policies on the war in Iraq”, apparently still unaware that Iraq is turning into a real success, since he has neither visited Iraq nor talked to the Generals in charge.

He says “if those Republicans come at me with the same fear-mongering and swift-boating that they usually do, then I will take them on head on.” Obama apparently does not recall that dreadful day of 9/11, or else he just believes, in spite of vast evidence to to the contrary, that the attack on the twin towers was a one-off event. George W. Bush has done a pretty remarkable job of protecting us over the past seven years, in spite of a number of unsuccessful attempts. The danger is real, and attempting to smear the President for recognizing that fact is, at best, crass. Obama seems to be more interested in whether or not other nations like us. And the swift-boat veterans, by the way, decisively proved that John Kerry was a liar.

Obama has proved his naÏve view of events by claiming that his opposition to the War in Iraq when he was a back-bencher in the Illinois state legislature was either wise or something to brag about.

He tries to blame the Bush tax cuts which have fostered an 8 year economic boom with the usual “tax-cuts for the wealthy” misrepresentation. And of course, brags that he will end them. Oh dear. Robert Mundell, Nobel Prize winning economist has some advice for Obama.

Obama’s letter goes on for 6 pages, but hasn’t really much to say except for flowery statements of hope and change. He offers hope, undefined, except that we are supposed to hope for change, which is defined as reaching back into the past for Democrat ideas that didn’t work.

After the six pages, we get to the meat of the missive: the asking for money part. “Dear Barack, I agree! We are the ones we’ve been waiting for…we are the change we seek. You can count on me to support…”

Well, no, sorry, you can’t.



Losing Your Freedom… a Little at a Time by The Elephant's Child

How much are you willing to allow the government to interfere in your life? To what extent are you willing to give up personal freedoms? We have already been told what kind of shower heads we may have, and what kind of toilets we shall have in our bathrooms. Soon, we will have to change from incandescent lightbulbs to the fluorescent kind. California is considering outlawing fireplaces. When is enough enough? When do you get out the pitchfork and march on city hall or your congressman’s office?

Today, the Japanese government institutes its compulsory “flab checks” for all workers over the age of 40. To stem Japan’s “soaring obesity,” the health ministry has mandated that all waistlines among its 56 million workers over age 40 be below ‘regulation size’ of 33.5 inches (for men). Any company failing to bring its employees’ weight under control — as well as the weights of their family members — will be fined up to 10% of its earnings by the government.

According to government officials as reported by the Independent, 27 million Japanese — that’s about half of all adult workers! — have health indices (cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and BMI) that don’t meet ideal numbers. They will be targeted for mandatory medical intervention. That means compulsory medication, because, as we know, health indices have been set so low that most adults with normal aging will fall on the wrong side.

You can imagine the array of weight loss gimmicks and health and fitness machines now being marketed. And “special undergarments” for Japanese businessmen (girdles) are now popular. [Read the whole thing.]

This is happening in a country with almost no fat people. We live in a country where both of the candidates for the Democratic Party nomination want to install government-controlled health care. If you find the idea of government-paid health care appealing (and please remember that the only money the government has, it gets from you) then, having given them control of the purse-strings, you have given them control of your health and your body. It might be wise to keep the Japanese in mind.

Certainly a part of this is the current “fad” of deep concern about obesity, in the media. When the buzz reaches a certain level, bureaucracies feel they must “do something”. And that, too, is a problem.

“A free society, if it is to remain free, requires citizens who take the risk of standing up to be counted, on the issues of the day.”

~Walter Wriston


Why We Like Rudy! by The Elephant's Child

Rudy Giuliani

American Elephants likes Rudy Giuliani! Let us count the ways:

First, remember that Rudy was the mayor of a city larger than the entire state of Massachusetts. When he inherited NYC, the Big Apple had an astronomical crime-rate, declining school performance, oppressive taxation,  a suffering economy and a bloated government packed with hostile political adversaries.

Rudy developed a philosophy of government completely at odds with New York’s political culture.

…the former prosecutor had fashioned a philosophy of local government based on two core conservative principles vastly at odds with New York’s political culture: that government should be accountable for delivering basic services well, and that ordinary citizens should be personally responsible for their actions and their destiny and not expect government to take care of them. Giuliani preached the need to reestablish a “civil society,” where citizens adhered to a “social contract.” “If you have a right,” he observed, “there is a duty that goes along with that right.”

He followed through on his conservative principles, no matter how much he upset the elites, no matter how many threats were made against him. Total crime dropped by more than 64 percent and the murder rate dropped by 67 percent. Giuliani proposed cutting the city’s huge budget deficit entirely through spending cuts and savings and even a modest tax cut. As crime dropped, tourism soared. The city gained around 430,000 new jobs, personal income soared and the unemployment rate was cut in half.

He revived the largest city in America when everyone else said it was impossible. And he did it all in the face of bitter opposition. It’s an inspiring story.

Rudy has the only Healthcare plan of any candidate that will actually make healthcare more available and more affordable. It rejects public entitlements and tax hikes and embraces private property and tax incentives to extend health coverage overall — private coverage that people would own, control, and transport throughout their careers like they do with home or life insurance.

His blueprint for homeland security, The Resilient Society, shows that Rudy really understands the problems and issues facing national security. Its a long piece, but worth reading in full.

Rudy has proposed not only the largest tax cut in modern American history, but also a dramatic simplification of the tax code. He would give every tax-payer the option of using a one-page “Fair and Simple Tax Form.” There would be only three rates 10%, 15% and 30%. Deductions for mortgage payments, state and local taxes and child tax-credits would be preserved. Taxpayers who prefer existing forms would be free to do so. It is the best and most pro-growth proposal of any of the candidates.

But, “isn’t Rudy pro-abortion?” you ask. He has said that he, as a man, doesn’t think he has the right to tell a woman that she can’t have an abortion. But he is opposed to partial-birth abortion and is in favor of parental notification. He has pledged to appoint strict constructionist judges, and since he has chosen Ted Olson as one of his advisers, this seems very likely. And it is strict constructionist judges that are precisely what is needed to overturn Roe. Rudy Giuliani is the only candidate we are convinced will appoint true conservatives to the bench.

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American Elephant Adds: I would also point out that Rudy has been extremely disturbed how activist liberal judges are endangering the country with their unconstitutional meddling in the war. Unlike John McCain who has talked about “consensus nominees” for far too long to be beleived, and who is unlikely to appoint anyone who would endanger McCain/Feingold, and unlike Mitt who says all the right things, but strikes us as a man who will compromise once he is in office, Rudy Giuliani is the only candidate who will insist on conservative justices, and he will fight Democrats and the press to do it.

Also, there are some who complain about Rudy’s divorces. I would remind them that Ronald Reagan was also a divorcee, and he turned out pretty darn good in my book!




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