American Elephants

Misinformation, Misconceptions, Bum Statistics, and Plain Old Spin. by The Elephant's Child

Heated political battles are often as much about misinformation as fact. Many statistics on cross-country comparisons of health care come from the OECD (the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) which is a pro-socialized medicine organization.

We do spend substantially more on health care as a percentage of GDP than other developed countries. In 2010 US health care spending amounted to 17.9 percent of GDP, which worked out to $8402 per person. The primary source of comparison data on health outcomes is the OECD’s health system performance data and reports. The information is used to support broad criticisms of the US health care system and to compare it unfavorably with others, specifically the state-operated or controlled systems of Europe.

There is a common misconception that people value health care itself. This is false. Using most health care is unpleasant. What people care about is the state of their health, and that cannot be measured. The proxies that can be measured are all some derivative of mortality.  The OECD uses infant mortality, life expectancy, and premature death as measures of mortality in their reports, and these measurements are supposed to be proxies for  the value of the system.

Infant Mortality concerns three OECD mortality measures: infant, neonatal, and perinatal mortality.Infant mortality is the number of deaths in the first year per one thousand live births. Neonatal mortality is the number of deaths in the first twenty-eight days per one thousand live births. Perinatal mortality is the number of deaths in the first week after birth, plus fetal deaths after 28 weeks of gestation or fetuses  that exceed a weight of one thousand grams. The problem is that the definition of infant mortality is not consistent across countries.

In the US doctors often go to great lengths to save a baby with poor survival chances. Our hospital magazine just arrived with a picture of a very small girl named Mila, who weighed just two pounds at birth and has spent six weeks in the neonatal care unit, and is doing fine.

Babies who are not viable and who die quickly after birth are classified as stillbirths in Japan Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Netherlands and France.  A detailed study of medical records and birth and death certificates found that U.S. infant mortality has been overstated by 40 percent. The U.S has more neonatal intensive care units, and our hospital is looking to upgrade further.

Life Expectancy incorporates infant mortality as well as mortality from violence and accidents and seems to be much greater when calculated from birth or from a later age, like 65, where the differences between countries are small.

Premature Morality is determined by potential years of life lost. It is also strongly influenced by infant mortality. One advantage is that it can be linked to the cause of death, so deaths from specific causes can be more closely related to health care in some cases, but the OECD does not use these measurements in their cross-country comparisons.

In 2011, an estimated 46,159 Canadians received treatment outside of Canada, mostly in the US, the largest numbers from British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. The national median wait time for treatment after consultation with a specialist increased from 9.3 weeks in 2010 to 9.5 weeks in 2011. That’s a long time to wait if you are in pain and waiting for surgery, and unacceptably long if the problem is life-threatening. These numbers do not represent emergency medical treatment.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, in which she said that national health expenditures have increased only by about 4 percent annually over the past two years, significantly less than in previous years.

She boasted that health care costs are “projected to stay level as a share of gross domestic product from 2009 all the way through 2013. “She stops at 2013 because the expensive costs of Obamacare kick in 2014.” The Medicare actuary says the next decade will experience overall acceleration in projected national health spending to 7.4% — 2.1 percentage points more than would be expected in the absence of health reform.

Sebelius claimed that ObamaCare lowers premiums. But an annual employer survey shows that premiums for employer-based coverage grew faster from 2010 to 2011 than they did the year before.  The Kaiser-Family Foundation CEO stated that ObamaCare was responsible for 20 percent of the premium increase. The impact of ObamaCare on small business includes new taxes, penalties and other regulatory burdens. Secretary Sebelius spins a good story, but it is, unfortunately — spin.

DOJ Lawyers Add Another Court Appearance to their Incompetence File by The Elephant's Child

The Obama Lawyers have gone to court in Texas to convince black people that white people are trying to keep them from voting by requiring a photo ID. They were attempting to overturn the state’s voter ID law.

One of the chief talking-points used by the Obama administration to attack the Texas voter ID law is the idea that over a million Texans don’t have an ID. But it turns out that the list of people they brought of people who don’t have IDs is — fraudulent. Surveys of those on the list show that some 90% of the people on the list do too have IDs.

The Justice Department presented at trial, evidence that as many as 1.5 million Texans don’t have the government issued photo ID required to vote. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says of the people on that list, 50,000 are dead, 330,000 are over the age of 65 and can vote by mail where a photo ID is not required, and more than 800,000 people are on the list improperly.

Among the people who the DOJ listed as lacking the required documentation needed to vote’ are Former President George W. Bush, San Antonio State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, and Licia Ellis, [whose] husband, Houston state Senator Rodney Ellis, on Wednesday blasted the voter ID law as ‘just like the racist murder of James Byrd’ who was dragged to death in east Texas in 1998.

In fact, University of Texas students conducted a telephone survey of random people on the DOJ‘s list of people who allegedly don’t have the documents required to vote, and found that more than 90% of them, including 93% of African-Americans and 92% of Hispanics on the list, actually have a photo ID.

The Department of Justice unfortunately had a star witness from San Antonio, named Victoria Rodriguez, who testified that she simply did not have the time to get an ID so she could vote. The Texas lawyers pointed out that she had the time to fly to Baltimore, take a train to Washington DC, and sit in a federal courtroom to testify that she does not have the time to go down to her local Department of Motor Vehicles in Texas and get an ID.

An embarrassing day in court. The Department of Justice seems to have some competence issues.


Romney ad: So, what ever happened to that “hope & change” thingy? by American Elephant

Differing Opinions, But a Lot Depends on Who is Right! by The Elephant's Child

President Obama in his weekly statement called for Congress to extend the middle class tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans making less than $250,000 for another year. These are the celebrated Bush tax cuts that drove spectacular growth and prosperity in the Bush years. The Congress would not agree to tax cuts without an expiration date. Much more attractive for politicians to have tax cuts just expire than for them to have to raise taxes in the future. Best of both worlds, they don’t get blamed, and they can expect more revenue, or can they?

This is the game Obama is playing when he wants to “extend” the tax cuts for just a year. But he definitely wants to raise taxes on “the rich” because this is campaign season and he is running against someone who is rich, and he wants you to hate and envy the rich.

What interests me this part of his statement:

 In fact, the President’s proposal extends tax cuts for 97 percent of all small business owners in America.  If Congress fails to act, a typical middle-class family of four will see its taxes go up by $2,200, and America’s small business owners would take a big hit. The President refuses to let that happen.

I have long thought that the president does not understand the concept of “small business.” The dividing line for him is $250,000. So what’s a reasonable take-home pay for someone operating a small business with a few employees with reasonable salaries and benefits? You get past $250,000 pretty quickly. The president’s “97 percent” of all small business owners turn out to be sole proprietors with occasional help or free-lancers. These people contribute to the economy and some may grow well beyond the $250,000 barrier, but the growing small businesses that represent dynamic growth and new hires are mostly going to be beyond that $250,000 level.

I have been a free-lancer, I know dozens of free-lancers. All pay their small business taxes as individuals reporting business income. The White House says “Congressional Republicans define as small businesses any individual who receives ‘small business income.’

  • Over half of the 400 Highest Earners in the United States Would Be “Small Businesses”: According to IRS data, in 2009, among the 400 taxpayers with the highest adjusted gross income – group that averages over $200 million each in taxable income – at least 237 would have qualified as “small businesses” under this definition.

Obama has been speaking lately, claiming he’s cut small business taxes 18 times since he’s been in office. Award a few Pinocchios here.  All but four have either expired or will soon expire, aren’t cuts at all, or are double-counted, and the rest are pretty much worthless.

For example, the tax credit for hiring unemployed workers enacted as part of the so-called hire act in 2010 is gone. So is the beak for estimated tax payments and the expanded deduction of health care expenses for the self-employed. Bonus depreciation, expanded expensing rules, a five-year carry-back rule for business credits, and capital gains exclusions are due to expire this year. One makes it easier to deduct cellphone costs and another limits penalties for errors in tax reporting.

These shotgun approaches don’t have the same benefit as permanently lowering individual income tax rates because most of them are temporary. They are designed to give Obama something to brag about, rather than actually help small business.

Hiring a new employee is a long term cost for a business, involving benefits, promotions, vacations and so on. A one-time tax credit for hiring someone unemployed is not an incentive.

The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis has calculated that the average American with $250,000 or more in income can expect an average $24,888 tax increase next year under Obama’s proposed policies. That’s enough to hire another person.

Heritage says: More than 4 million businesses in the U.S. have employees and file their taxes under the individual tax code. President Obama’s plan to  raise taxes on income over $200,000 a year would raise the taxes of 1.2 million of them. There businesses, however, earn almost all the income of tis group. They are the most successful and therefore biggest job creators.

Well.  There’s a rather major difference of opinion. You have three links here, one for the Heritage Foundation, one for the White House, and one for Investors Business Daily. You decide. Who gets the Pinocchios?

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