American Elephants


You Can’t Cut That! You Can’t Cut That! You Can’t Cut That! by The Elephant's Child

— The Obama budget adds $80,000 per household to the National Debt.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that Obama understated the budget deficits by $2.3 trillion.  Douglas Holtz-Eakin says the best spin that one can put on the CBO’s analysis of the president’s budget—Ugly!   Congress simply must get serious.

Over the three decades just before this recession, federal revenues averaged 18.3% of gross domestic product while outlays averaged 20.8%,  The problem is simply too much spending.  Congress loves to spend and really, really doesn’t like to cut anything.

— Republicans voted to cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. With 500 cable channels , the internet on people’s cell phones, and so many sources of media, public broadcasting is a bit of an anachronism. In 2010 the Corporation for Public Broadcasting received $420 million from the government.  About $90 million of that went to NPR. NPR also gets money form the National Endowment for the Arts and from the Departments of Education and Commerce. You Can’t Cut That!

Of course CPB immediately hauled out the Big Bird defense.  Who doesn’t like Big Bird?  Does the fact that there is a Big Bird on PBS mean that we must have public funding for PBS?

Does it change your mind if you learn that Sesame Street made $211 million from consumer products from the Sesame Workshop? Would it be a bad thing if PBS sold commercial time instead of the endless pleas for money?  I would rather put up with commercials; some of them are quite good.  Does it change your mind if you learn that the Sesame Workshop  CEO and President made $956,513 in 2008? And the PBS President Paula Kerger made $632,233 in annual compensation?  It seems to me that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is always pleading poverty while all sorts of companies are eager for more advertising opportunities.  Dump the poverty pleas, sell commercial time, and stop feeding at the public trough.

— President Obama wanted a Cap-and-Trade-Bill.  Since such a bill is a job killer and damaging to business, Congress refused to pass it. Obama has chosen to go around Congress and have the EPA do a cap-and-trade through the back door by regulating emissions of CO2. This puts heavy ‘taxes’ on everything, from apartments to manufacturers, or simply anything the EPA wants to regulate.  The Supreme Court, in one of their more unfortunate rulings, said that if CO2 was really a pollutant and dangerous to public health, then the EPA could regulate it.  The idea that CO2 is a “pollutant” is absurd.  Republicans in Congress intend to revoke the EPA’s authority to regulate “greenhouse gases”. You Can’t Cut That!

The EPA (in the guise of American Family Voices) is running ads for a week on D.C. cable suggesting that the target audience is Beltway elites and the goal is to “frame the Democrat response in Congress. The ad is offensive, and false. Nobody knows if the Clean Air Act prevented even one death last year. You cannot prove a negative.  The Clean Air Act was intended by Congress to solve problems like smog in Los Angeles, and it has done a fine job. Our air is clean. There are all sorts of things around us and in our diets that could be poisonous in large quantities. Some poisons are used in small quantities in medicine.  Always, “the dose makes the poison.” Here’s the text:

The Clean Air Act prevented 160,000 early deaths last year, including 230 infants, yet Congress is busy working to prevent the EPA from updating and enforcing standards that would limit toxic pollutants that endanger the public health,” Mike Lux, President of American Family Voices, says. “If we don’t curb those pollutants, they’ll end up in our air, water and food and eventually in our children. Congress needs to let the EPA do its job to protect public health.”

The ad is a disgrace.  It is first of all a complete lie, and designed simply to  manipulate feelings.  The EPA  is an out-of-control agency trying to gather power by regulating everything they can get their grubby hands on.  They wanted to regulate farm dust, for heaven’s sake. To assert that someone who disagrees with your policies wants to kill babies is far, far, beyond acceptable.

The EPA is also giving funds to charitable organizations to attack GOP members of Congress.  The American Lung Association has placed billboards in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District— including one outside the office of Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee—that feature a sickly looking girl with an oxygen mask and read “Rep. Fred Upton, protect our kid’s health.  Don’t weaken the Clean Air Act.”

Again, way out–of-line!  The Republican majority, elected to stop the spending and restore our institutions that are under attack, is trying to restore the Clean Air Act to its congressional intent.  From 1990 to 1995 the EPA gave the Lung Association some $5 million. In the past decade they have given the ALA and additional $20 million.

This is a good demonstration of just how far one side is willing to go to avoid losing either funding or power.  They simply refuse to take the disaster that they have created with their spending, their bailouts, their mindless “stimulus,” seriously.  It’s going to be a battle to restore the economy to some kind of health, and our Congressmen are going to need all the help and encouragement they can get.



1947: Greenland is Melting. Sea Levels Rising at a Dizzy Rate. Seashores Inundated. by The Elephant's Child

(click to enlarge)

The Sunday Times: Perth, Western Australia.  Sunday June 22, 1947

It has apparently been going all this time and nobody told us.

(h/t: Steven Goddard)



The Obama Energy Policy: Destroy Industry, Destroy Jobs, Destroy Economy. What’s Not To Like? by The Elephant's Child
March 26, 2011, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Energy

The United States has the Earth’s largest energy resources. America leads the world in recoverable fossil fuel resources.  According to a new report from the Congressional Research Service (CSR) our resources eclipse Saudi Arabia (3rd) China  (4th) and Canada (6th) combined.  That is without including America’s shale oil deposits.                                                                                (click to enlarge)

But why hasn’t this been on every front page of every newspaper?  Remember the old rule: if it bleeds it leads.  Attention has been focused on Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, and now on Libya and America’s odd participation in Libya’s civil war.  And the policy of the Obama Administration is anti-drilling and anti fossil fuels, and apparently also anti-doing anything about the economic Red Menace that is our national debt.

Although our economy runs on fossil fuels, we have no comprehensive energy policy.  The policy of the Obama administration is incoherent at best, and seems to be focused entirely on expensive, so-called “renewable” sources.  Wind, which represents .5% of all energy consumed,  is subsidized at $23.37 per megawatt.  Solar energy which provides less than 1/10 of 1% of energy in the U.S. is subsidized at $24.34 per megawatt.  On the other hand, the subsidy for petroleum and natural gas is 25¢ per megawatt.  The coal subsidy is 44¢.  The subsidy for hydro is 67¢ per megawatt and nuclear energy is $1.59.  It doesn’t take an advanced mathematics degree to grasp the folly.

The Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition has produced a study demonstrating the nationwide economic ramifications. Vendors are concentrated in 7 states outside the Gulf area, and represent $905.6 million in losses for states from Illinois to California.  The cost in jobs is even more startling.  An analysis from Louisiana State University professor Joseph Mason estimates national job losses at 19,000 from the drilling moratorium, with wage losses at $1.1 billion.  About a third of those losses are outside the Gulf region.  Some rigs have left the Gulf for Africa or South America, and Seahawk Drilling filed for bankruptcy.  Gas prices nationwide are closing on $4, which wreaks havoc on everything that is transported.

The Obama administration has clearly made a conscious policy decision to raise energy prices by restricting access to domestic energy supplies.  Senator James Inhofe, a Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee says: “We could help bring affordable energy to consumers, create new jobs, and grow the economy if the Obama administration would simply get out of the way so America can realize its true energy potential.”

Coal reserves are enough for a couple of centuries of coal use. Natural gas is estimated at around 2,047 trillion cubic feet. enough for a century. And the story of methane hydrates has not been told. The CRS refers to an “immense…possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels. If  just 3 percent of this resource can be commercialized…at current rates of consumption, that level of supply would provide America’s natural gas for more than 400 years.

In the meantime Obama administration energy policy continues to pursue the myth that renewables are a viable energy source.  Things didn’t have to be like this. Unemployment doesn’t have to be at this level. Gas prices don’t need to be so high, and inflation doesn’t need to be so threatening.



ObamaCare Is Not a Patient-Centered System of Health Care. It’s Important to Keep That in Mind. by The Elephant's Child

How should we approach the problem of health care?  We want it to be low-cost, or as low-cost as is possible, and we want high-quality care.  Is it possible to have both?

There are two basic ways of addressing health care: a bottom-up, market-based approach and a top-down command-and-control approach.

  • A bottom-up approach is based on competition, free markets and economic incentives. It gets the incentives right for all of the individuals in the system, but doesn’t try to predict the final outcome. It tries to free people to achieve what works for the individual.
  • The top-down command-and-control version is based on rules and mandates, regulations, fines and penalties to force compliance.  It decides in advance how medicine should be practiced, and attempts to impose those results on the doctors, their patients, and on health care suppliers.
  • In the top-down command-and-control version large numbers of bureaucrats, who will never contact a doctor or a patient, will decide how medicine should be practiced, and what treatments must be used, and what treatments are too expensive and must be denied or rationed.  It depends for its success on a small group of “experts” having all the right answers. It depends for its success on the ability of those in charge to select people who are actually expert, rather than just political appointees.
  • A bottom-up approach does not know how medicine should be practiced. Competition will draw out the best practices and best practitioners. It depends for its success on the training, intelligence, creativity and innovative ability of thousands of doctors, nurses, hospital personnel, and from the industry that supplies the health care practitioners.

In the competitive, free-market world 778,000 doctors, 2.6 million registered nurses and thousands of hospital and facilities personnel get up every morning focused on how they can save or improve another life, and keep the costs down — because in a competitive world that is how they succeed.

In the top-down world, that same number of people get up every morning trying to figure out how they can squeeze another dollar out of the third-party reimbursement formulas. Because reimbursement formulas are the major way of saving money, doctors must squeeze more patients into less time.

The thing is we are dealing with human beings, and they just aren’t all the same.  In two instances of the same surgical procedure, one patient may be frail, allergic, have other problems;  the second , while needing the same procedure, may be otherwise in excellent health. To the command and control bureaucrat  the procedure gets the same reimbursement.

“Approximately one in five hospitalized Medicare patients is readmitted for a problem related to the cause of the original surgery.  The readmissions are costly and can be life-threatening.  The Medicare bureaucrats have decided, on their own, that there are 10 readmission conditions that it won’t pay for, including catheter-associated urinary tract infection and stage III-IV pressure ulcers. This has saved Medicare something less than 1/300 of 1% of all Medicare spending that year.”

Barack Obama’s stated vision of health reform is to find out what works and then go implement it. The Affordable Care Act is making millions of dollars available for pilot programs and demonstration projects. This is misguided. We know what works, the problem is replicating it.  There are examples of high-quality low-cost medicine.  If everyone went to Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake, the nation could reduce its health care spending by one-third, according to studies.  If everyone went to the Mayo Clinic , we could reduce spending by one-fourth. But we don’t know how to copy either one and spread it around the country.

This post is derived from John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog at the National Center for Policy Analysis.  John Goodman is the “father of health savings accounts,” a money-saving policy that has been extremely  popular with both participants and employers.  Dr. Goodman is the president and CEO of NCPA , and has been a tireless expert in the campaign to communicate patient-centered alternatives to a government-run health care system.  This blog is an excellent source for informed, thoughtful studies on the problems and potential of health care.  You can subscribe, as I do.



Why Would Anyone Support ObamaCare? by The Elephant's Child

Yes, I know that this video looks gross and uninteresting. The picture is of a badly burned hand. The story is not gross, but a story of miraculous medical innovation, fostered by the free market. Something that would disappear under ObamaCare. It is a re-post. I posted this once before and hardly anyone watched it. It is an uplifting, exciting story, please take a few moments to watch it.

ObamaCare is a collection of failed liberal ideas meant to funnel everyone eventually into single-payer, government-run health care, like, well, Britain and Canada who are desperately trying to reform their health care to be more like ours. They are trying to restore the doctor-patient relationship that has long been the basis of our current health care — the best in the world.

The impetus behind transforming our health care has supposedly been the rising costs of care, but the idea that a government takeover can make it both more excellent, more equitable, and cost less should not pass the laugh test.  I can remember the 3¢ stamp and the 1¢ postcard. The government does not make things cost less.  The costs of American health care which were growing so fast that we just had to “do something,” were growing largely because of government interference in the marketplace, government mandates, government regulation.  The fact that HHS has issued over 1.000 waivers  from ObamaCare should tell you something, if  you are paying attention.

Until now, America has been the world’s leader in medical innovation, but the regulatory government with time-consuming, burdensome, regulation creates an uphill battle for innovators. The FDA has proposed a new approval pathway for medical devices that would accelerate the process, and reduce costs for medical device companies.  At the same time, ObamaCare is placing new taxes on medical device makers which will discourage innovation.

At a recent hearing,  Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) noted that companies in European markets are able to make their products available to patients as much as two years faster and at a significantly lower cost. ObamaCare is riddled with unintended consequences that make things worse.  The new tax on medical devices is supposed to raise $2.3 billion to help foot the bill for ObamaCare; but what it will actually mean is lost jobs in the industry, and higher costs for devices— such thing as stents, crutches, wheelchairs.  Massachusetts is a center for the life sciences, and manufacturers are already talking about moving production overseas if they cannot pass their increased costs along to the customer.

Democrats were sure that as people found out about the health care bill  it would gain broad acceptance. But its “benefits” haven’t worked out to be beneficial.  Several of the mandates on insurance companies have already been implemented. No insurance plan can now limit lifetime benefits.  Group plans cannot have annual benefit limits.  All plans must offer coverage for dependent children under the age of 26.  One year later, mandating benefits has raised the cost of providing insurance and those costs have been passed on to policy holders in the form of sharply higher premiums.

At Heritage, Brian Blase has published a one-year checkup on ObamaCare.  Its unpopularity is growing, the hodgepodge of regulations and mandates have reduced competition and increased the cost of coverage.  ObamaCare has already increased government control of American’s health care choices and limited consumer choice. Americans support repeal by double digit numbers, as they have consistently done since the day the bill first passed.

It is worth listening once again to Representative Paul Ryan’s impassioned speech to Congress when ObamaCare was about to be passed.  He got it right.



Obama and the Middle East. A Failure of Vision. by The Elephant's Child

David Pryce-Jones wrote in National Review, of the violence spreading throughout the Arab world.  He feels this is something big and probably historic. The world does not know how to respond to this violence. The root of the problem is that every Arab state is a despotism.  Nobody is ruling with the consent of the governed.  There is no freedom, no progress, even food must be subsidized by the government.

The ruler of Tunisia flunked. The ruler of Egypt tried to survive through cunning but his military colleagues wouldn’t let him get away with it. The rulers of Bahrain and Yemen are calibrating how much violence is needed to keep control; small numbers of the dead may be enough. The ruler of Syria began by bribing his people, but in the face of their desperation he is preparing for the bloodbath that may occur any day now. Carrying the logic of despotism to the bitter end, Qaddafi will either kill enough people to subdue the population and baffle the West, or be killed. We’ve been here before. Invading Iraq, President George W. Bush installed a rule that has the consent of the ruled. However long and difficult, that’s how to be rid of despotism. Reluctantly, almost accidentally, Obama could introduce in Libya the pluralism Bush deliberately gave Iraq. That’s marvelously ironic, or maybe the course of history is determined after all.

David Pryce-Jones is author of  the highly regarded The Closed Circle which deals with the tribal nature of Arab despotism.

I have frequently recommended in these pages, many of the Hoover Institution’s “Uncommon Knowledge” videos.  This week’s version features Victor Davis Hanson and Peter Berkowitz, scholars at the Hoover Institution, in a fascinating discussion on the violence in the Middle East. It is just over 30 minutes long, and worth every minute.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

We have spent a long time with “stability” as the rationale for supporting  Arab despots. That time has ended, but it is extremely unclear just what will replace them. The people want freedom and opportunity, and not the chaos that the Shia/Sunni divide provides. Egypt, for example, is home to 85 million people who have no experience of democracy ever.

The Obama administration policy is, at best, unintelligible. The battle in Libya is not a war, but a “kinetic military exercise.” The Caliphate is a very real aspiration for the restoration of a pan Arab state, borderless, composed of the nations from Spain beyond Iran. Unlikely, says Berkowitz.

The correct approach for America has been handed down from Truman, Reagan and Bush — a Freedom Agenda. We forget that at our peril.



Calvin Helin Speaks About the People of the First Nation. by The Elephant's Child

 

Calvin Helin is a lawyer, an author and frequent speaker in Canada.  His two books speak eloquently of the problem of dependency among the First Nation, Canada’s indigenous people. As I quoted Michael Knox Beran in the previous piece: “To be pitied by another man is to stand humiliated before him, however well intentioned programs grounded in pity may be, they always end by laying low their intended beneficiaries.” Mr. Helin tells how this has affected his people.  A moving conversation.

(h/t: Small Dead Animals)




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