American Elephants


The Numbers Contradict Your Words, Mr. President. by The Elephant's Child

Was it only twice this last week that President Obama was berating the Republicans in the House of Representatives by saying that while he’s doing his job (?), the GOP House is “not doing anything.” In Minneapolis when he spent a “day in the life” of Rebekah, a mother who had written to him, concerned about making ends meet.

And, now, some of you may have read — so we take these actions and then now Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions.  They’re not doing anything, and then they’re mad that I’m doing something.

The second time was a speech at Georgetown in which he resorted to his most constant theme since 2008 — upgrading those worn-out roads and bridges — something he never gets around to doing.

It’s not crazy, it’s not socialism.  (Laughter.)  It’s not the imperial presidency — no laws are broken.  We’re just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing for the last, I don’t know, 50, 100 years.  But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea.  I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted — it’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff.  (Laughter.)  No, seriously.  (Laughter.)  I mean, they’re not doing anything.  Why don’t they do this?

You will notice that he is not berating Congress, but only the House of Representatives. What he means is that the GOP led House will not do his bidding. But the House has not been idle as the president suggests. The GOP led 113th Congress has passed 297 bills (280 bills, 17 resolutions) and is about average dating from the seventies. The 112th Congress (2011-2013) passed 301 bills.

In contrast, Harry Reid has refused to bring the majority of those bills to a vote, and his 113th Senate is on track to pass the fewest number of bills of any Senate as far back as 1972, passing a mere 59 bills.  Numbers from GovTrack.us. Some bills are obviously more important than others, but Harry Reid is unusually intent on seeing that no GOP bills come to the floor to be voted on. Possibly he does not dare allow them to be voted on? Who knows, but if Majority Leader Reid’s  actions were not consistent with his president’s wishes, he wouldn’t be doing that.



The Freedom of Religion Battle by The Elephant's Child

Congressional Democrats in the guise of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have been trying to pull a fast one. Sandra Fluke, portrayed as a 23 year-old coed at Georgetown Law School is actually 30 years old, and a long time activist for unmarried victims of domestic violence. Somehow this morphed into being an activist for “reproductive justice,” which means getting someone else to pay for your birth-control pills.

You have probably heard about her testimony. She claimed it cost poor law students $3,000 for three years of birth control; Rush Limbaugh noted that she was declaring on national television that she wanted to have an active sex life without benefit of marriage, and wanted someone else to pay for it, and suggested that implied that she was a slut. That prompted President Obama to make a personal telephone call to her to tell her how proud her parents must be that she was standing up for her principles.

Birth-control seems a private matter, and I don’t understand why someone else should pay for the cost. It is not a health matter, but a matter of Democrat feminists’ demand for “choice.” You choose whether or not you want to have sex outside of marriage, you choose whether or not you want to have a baby, and you choose whether or not you want to pay to do something about it. The price of a 30-day supply of birth control pills at WalMart has been variously described as $4, $6 and $9. That does not seem exorbitant — even for a student.

Adding birth control to mandated health insurance raises the cost of that insurance. Catholic institutions are morally opposed, and the matter is clearly unconstitutional under the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment. The State shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

This is a major case of hypocrisy. Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius are both Catholic. President Obama, at the same time he celebrates adding to the cost of ObamaCare unnecessarily, is asking Congress to triple the cost of Tri-Care, the military’s health insurance, to the troops, in order to cut the budget.

All this is an attempt to garner women’s votes by telling them that Republicans want to deny women the right to birth control. They are already running ads to that effect. This president has made it clear that he has little respect the separation of powers nor for the Constitution that he took an oath to preserve, protect and defend. He intends to get around it with executive orders and regulation.



Unemployment Benefits Are the Best Way of Creating Jobs? by The Elephant's Child
December 2, 2010, 6:03 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy | Tags: , ,

Nancy Pelosi made this claim again today, that unemployment benefits are the best way of creating jobs. President Obama said essentially the same thing — that unemployment benefits will be spent right away. Since the unemployed are hard-up, they will spend their benefits immediately, and then that money will s-l-o-w-l-y circulate through the economy creating “multiplier effects” which Christina Romer pegged at somewhere over 1.5% — to which some other economist said — obviously, all you have to do is dump $1 trillion into the economy, and you will get $1.5 trillion back.  You don’t even have to do anything else, just keep dumping money into the economy and — oh wait!!!  That’s what we have been doing.

Consumer demand is a consequence, not a cause, of economic growth.

I have an idea.  If we can just get President Obama to stop destroying jobs, I’d bet things would pick up right away.  The moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico cost something over 32,000 jobs, some rigs have left the Gulf, and although the moratorium is over, new drilling permits are not being issued — even for shallow water wells which have had no safety problems at all.  When Congress banned incandescent lightbulbs, to please GE, the incandescent factories closed permanently, and twisty bulbs now come from China.

The administration has subsidized  several electric battery factories, but there is a glut of batteries, and no market.  When you hike the minimum wage, you raise the unemployment rate.  Mandating health insurance shuts down small businesses.  Raising the cost of energy kills jobs, and requiring the use of renewable energy raises the cost of energy.  Denying permits to the coal industry (Obama said he would  bankrupt Coal) kills jobs.  Defunding the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository kills jobs.  And bashing business, particularly small business as represented by America’s Chambers of Commerce doesn’t help.  I could go on, but you get the idea.



There Are No Tax-Cuts On the Table! by The Elephant's Child
December 2, 2010, 4:04 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Freedom, Taxes | Tags: , ,

The Hoopla in the House of Representatives has many people confused.  The subject is the Bush Tax Cuts from 2001 and 2003.  George W. Bush was able to get tax cuts for all Americans passed.  Democrats cried “Tax Cuts for the Rich”, but “the rich” got the smallest percentage tax cut of all, and the bottom 40% of taxpayers had to pay no income tax at all.  To get the bill passed, the tax cuts came with an expiration date, which is December 31,2010. Which means that if they are not extended, your taxes will go up — a lot.

Most sentient human beings know that it is supposed to be a very bad idea to raise taxes during a recession, when the economy is struggling to recover. It’s a bad idea politically to raise taxes on the middle class — they don’t like it, and there are a whole lot of them.  But to the leftist mind, “the rich” are very bad people, which is odd, because a great many of them are very rich indeed.  So we have to assume that they believe that disparaging the rich helps them politically.

A recent poll showed that 78% of all those queried said that they would like the tax cuts for households earning under $250,000 to be extended either permanently or for a few years or until the economy fully recovers.  Democrats agreed by 73%.  What about “the rich?” A solid majority (56%) said they wanted tax cuts extended for households with more than $250,000 in income.  Only 39% wanted the rich to pay more.Support for letting the tax cuts be made permanent for the rich is overwhelming for both Republicans and Independents at 63%.  Democrats oppose this by 55%.  Democrats hate tax cuts.

President Obama has claimed that Republicans want to give “the rich” another tax cut, which will cost the Treasury $700 billion which they will have to borrow from other countries.  This is patently false.  Republicans are trying to keep the Democrats from raising your taxes.  Refusing to extend the Bush tax cuts means that taxes would go up for everybody. Capital gains taxes would rise from 15% to 20%.  Estate taxes which are zero right now, would climb to 55% — or over half of anything over $1 million.  To claim that leaving tax rates for the rich right where they are would cost $700 billion simply means that Obama is counting his chickens before they hatch.  He expects $700 billion to come in from increased taxes on the rich — but the rich are perfectly capable of rearranging their finances to they don’t have to pay more.

There are no tax-cuts on the table.

Estimates from the respected Heritage Center for Data Analysis show that over 10 years, letting the bush cuts expire would slash $1.1 trillion from GDP, kill 6.9 million jobs, reduce overall business investment by $330 billion and lower Americans’ disposable income by $726 billion.  A real disaster.

The Twentieth Amendment intended that there would be no such thing as a “Lame Duck Session.”  The amendment was ratified on January 23, 1933, when travel was a lot slower, and no one considered that members of Congress could dash back to the Capitol for another session after the election had been determined.  When a business fires anyone, their things are packed up and they are escorted off the premises immediately, with the undercurrent that they might commit an act of sabotage if they were allowed to linger.  A goodly percentage of the members of Congress have been fired, but they are back in he Capitol building committing what political sabotage they can manage.

This chart from the Heritage Foundation shows that tax receipts as a percentage of GDP remain relatively constant no matter what the top individual tax rate.  (Click to enlarge).



Decision Making 101. To Drill or Not to Drill, That is the Question! by The Elephant's Child

The Obama administration reimposes the offshore drilling ban.  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the Obama administration will not allow offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic or Pacific coasts as part of the next five-year drilling plan. This reverses two key policy changes that President Obama announced in late March.

In March, less than a month before the DeepwaterHorizon oil spill, Obama and Salazar said they would open up the eastern Gulf and parts of the Atlantic including areas off the coast of Virginia to offshore oil and gas exploration.

Secretary Salazar said that while the administration will still allow offshore drilling in both the central and western Gulf of Mexico, lease sales planned for March and August in the Gulf will be delayed in order to conduct additional environmental reviews.  They will also prepare a new environmental assessment of Shell’s proposal to drill in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea next year. (And should they decide that it is environmentally permissible,  there’s still the planned blocking of drilling for the benefit of polar bears who will be declared endangered no matter how much they increase).

The administration has been all over the map with this.  In the end politics trumps safety, and trumps science.  Decisions about the safety and environmental protection that were said to be based on science weren’t.

This long article attempts to capture the changing viewpoints and decisions and their origins.  It’s a worthwhile read to help understand what was going on behind the scenes., and something of how decisions are made.  It doesn’t seem that anyone is talking to anyone who actually knows something about energy and science.  Nor does anyone have any particular qualifications for the job they are doing.  It is very, very depressing.



Promises, Pork, and Partisan Politics. by The Elephant's Child

On Friday President Obama was wrapping up a two-day swing through Missouri and Nevada, delivering a speech on clean energy that could give a boost to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is in a difficult fight for re-election.  On Friday, he gave a speech at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas combining policy and politics.

He called on Congress to expand a clean energy tax credit that could pay off in Nevada, where Harry Reid is behind in the polls.  Obama told his audience that a $5 billion increase in “clean energy” manufacturing tax credits could generate nearly 40,000 jobs, some of them in Nevada where 14 percent unemployment undermines Reid’s argument that his position as Majority Leader pays dividends to his state.

Reid, bucking for a fifth term, has been pushing hard for solar energy investments in Nevada’s hot climate.  More sober analysts point out the experience of Spain, where every green energy job cost over two jobs in the regular economy because of the increased cost of energy. European governments are getting out of the “green energy” business as fast as they can, it has been a financial disaster for them.  Britain is still home to true believers, and their economy is still in the tank.

In an interesting coincidence, just hours before Obama arrived in Nevada to hold a fundraiser for Reid, the Departments of Energy and Interior joined Reid in announcing a new “Solar Demonstration Zone” in Nevada where new solar technologies can be tested and developed.

I’m sure it was just coincidental.  It would be tacky to use taxpayer money to buy an election for a supporter, wouldn’t it?



Death Panels? You Betcha! Obamacare is Downright Dangerous to Your Health! by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has nominated Dr. Donald Berwick to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  Like far too many other Obama nominees, Dr. Berwick is a far-left ideologue.  He is in love with the deplorable British National Health Service (NHS).  He is outspoken in his admiration for NHS, and its rationing arm — the National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness (NICE):

“I am romantic about the National Health Service.  I love it,” Berwick said during a 2008 speech to British physicians, going on to call it “generous, hopeful, confident, joyous, and just.”  He compared the wonders of British health care to a U.S. system that he described as trapped in “the darkness of private enterprise.”

One would consider this a clue to his ideology.   He was referring to a British health care system where 750,000 patients are awaiting admission to NHS hospitals.  The government’s official target for diagnostic testing was a  wait of no more than 18 weeks by 2008.  The reality does not come close.  The latest estimates suggest that for most specialties only 30 to 50 percent of patients are treated within 18 weeks.  (That’s over 4 months!)  For trauma and orthopedics patients, the figure is only 20 percent. Overall, more than half of British patients wait more than 18 weeks for care.  Every year, 50,000 surgeries are canceled because patients become too sick on the waiting list to proceed.   These figures come from Michael Tanner, who is a scholar at the Cato Institute, where he specializes in health care.

Obama plans to appoint Dr. Berwick as a “recess appointment,” which means that he doesn’t have to get Senate confirmation.  Whether Obama knows that Republicans would fight confirmation, or whether he knows that a partisan fight would make headlines and revive his increasingly despised health care plan in public attention and increase the number (now over 60 percent) who want the health care bill repealed, we don’t know.  Maybe both.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the CMS administrator does more than make sure that Medicare and Medicaid pay claims in a more or less accurately and timely fashion.  The office defines the equality of health care for every insurance plan, sets reimbursement rates for physicians in Medicare and Medicaid, and decides what treatments are more “valuable” than others

Berwick would be given control of the practice of medicine. Can he or anyone be trusted with such power?  He believes that “Up to half of the more than $2 trillion that the U.S. spends on health care does nothing to relieve suffering.” In fact, “much of it adds to suffering.” It may not be joyous or hopeful  or configured correctly but for nearly every disease, particularly cancer stroke and heart attacks Americans live longer and healthier than the English because of better care.  Americans spend less time in the hospital, have fewer doctors, and see doctors less often per capita than people in Great Britain.

Dr. Berwick wants to bring NICE-style rationing to this country.  It is not a question of whether we will ration care,” he said in a magazine interview for Biotechnology Healthcare, “It is whether we will ration with our eyes open.” What he considers absolutely essential to reform of health care is government control over health care spending, not just for government programs but by patients themselves.  If the government refuses you a drug you are willing to pay for, and you can pay for it yourself, too bad, you’re out of luck.   The hallmarks of proper financial management in a system,” he wrote,  “are government policies, purchasing contracts or market mechanisms that lead to a cap on total spending, with strictly limited year-on-year growth targets.  That way “rational collective action overrides individual self-interest.”

Through NICE, the British government has put an effective dollar amount on how much a citizen’s life is worth.  Each year of added life is worth approximately $44,305.  This is a general rule and the agency has occasionally approved treatments costing as much as $70,887 per year of extended life.  For Dr. Berwick, this is exactly how it should be.  “NICE is not just a national treasure, it is a global treasure.” That is the voice of an ideologue, able to look casually on all sorts of  cruelty and killing in the name of the ideal he holds pure and ‘joyous’  in his dreams. We saw examples of that type in the old Soviet Union and in Red China. For in Britain, people are being killed every year by government denial of service, or or by the long wait for care, or by the poor caliber of care.

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe says:  ” But if Berwick’s credentials cannot be doubted, neither can his ideological commitment to centralized state power over health care, or his disdain for the ability of markets and competition to improve the quality and lower the cost of medical services.  Here are some recent headlines from British papers that give a sense of the coverage.

“Overstretched maternity units mean mothers face a 100-mile journey to have baby.’’

“Hundreds of patients died needlessly at NHS hospital due to appalling care.’’

“Cash-strapped NHS trust introduces rationing for common children’s conditions.’’

“Standard of care in some wards ‘would shame a third world country.’ ’’

“Stafford Hospital caused ‘unimaginable suffering.’ ’’

So, if you plan to get to be old, or if you get to be poor, which may happen to most of us, you really need to go to work to get Obamacare repealed.  Because this is what the headlines will be in this country in a few years.




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