American Elephants

These Hands: in Virginia by The Elephant's Child

About That “All of the Above” Energy Plan… by The Elephant's Child

When the price of gas at the pump was climbing this spring, President Obama unveiled his “All of the Above” energy plan, which included blocking the Keystone XL pipeline and the thousands of jobs that promised, shutting coal-fired power plants and the hundreds of jobs eliminated there, and in spite of the debacle with the Solyndra bankruptcy, continuing federal taxpayer support for alternative energy. Gas prices are headed up again, but haven’t yet hit $4.

Mitt Romney’s energy plan includes signing the Keystone XL pipeline agreement immediately, and opening more domestic resources  for drilling and fracking, streamlining regulations, and limiting federal energy “investments”  to basic research and development. That promises millions of good-paying jobs.

One of the most fascinating revelations offered by the problem of energy, has been the extent to which the Left simply does not keep up with the times. Because wind and sun are natural sources of energy, the assumption on the left has been that we only need the right kind of windmill and the right kind of solar panel, and it would replace nasty, dirty fossil fuels and our economy would run on these clean resources. No more reliance on “foreign oil.”

Somebody was way too ready to listen to promoters’ snake oil, and unprepared to listen to engineers and experts. Besides, cronies were enthusiastic, promises were vast and everybody talked about “capacity” which means what a wind turbine will produce if the wind blows just at the right speed all the time, and for solar cells, what energy they will produce on a long day of cloudless sun. Days are not always long, clouds drift in, the wind dies.

Those ideal situations rarely happen, and in the case of solar, the sun has a habit of going down at night. Wind is too intermittent to be a successful source of electricity, and requires 24/7  backup from a conventional power plant. Solar energy is too diffuse, and requires a method of power storage for the long hours when the sun does not shine — that is not yet available.

The world’s energy situation has changed just in the last few years. Newly discovered shale deposits are turning out to be widespread; fracking and slant drilling have made the oil and gas from those deposits economical to reach.

Frederico Pena (Former Secretary of Energy) said “We need to invest in clean energies, and advanced biofuels, and you don’t get there by cutting investments in those energy sources. …Here in Colorado, the President’s policies have resulted in natural gas production at an all-time high and oil production at its highest since 1981. Mitt Romney is trying to fool voters into thinking he has a plan, when really he would just cede our clean energy economy to our foreign competitors.”

Jennifer Granholm (Former Governor of Michigan and energy expert?) “Mitt Romney’s plan for energy independence cannot be taken seriously. Energy independence is just political rhetoric if  you don’t include investments in home-grown clean energy sources like wind, solar, and other renewables. …President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, fostering innovation and the development of our domestic renewable sources of energy, and doubling production of solar and wind energy—is getting us closer to energy independence that Mitt Romney’s plan ever could.”

How can two people who have held important offices be so completely oblivious to the fact that the entire energy picture of the world has changed? The United States of America is the energy capital of the world. We are blessed with enough energy supplies to sustain economic growth for many generations. The government’s own reports detail this and Congress was told about our energy wealth when the Congressional Research Service  of the Library of Congress released a report showing that the United States’ combined recoverable oil, natural gas, and coal supplies is the largest on earth.

The scarcity is one of good governmental energy policy, not a shortage of energy. In his three-and-a-half years as president, Mr. Obama has shown, categorically, that he is completely opposed to expanding our abundant, accessible and affordable energy industry. He blocked the XL pipeline, promised to open offshore drilling sites and then added roadblocks to development, and his EPA is engaged in a war with the coal industry and doing everything they can to end the industry and the hundreds of jobs involved.”All of the Above

Mr. Obama makes the error of viewing everything through an ideological filter. When you refuse to have a dialogue with those who have different ideas, your ideas are never tested in the give and take of natural discussion. You never find out where you might be wrong or whether there are factors you have never considered. When you don’t read the reports or look at the footnotes, you may miss more than you realize.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Medicare? Just Pretend. by The Elephant's Child

Democrats are ready and eager to attack Paul Ryan on the basis that “He wants to end Medicare as we know it.” Terribly tempting for Democrats, who have a long history of trying to scare seniors on the basis that their opponents want to take away their social security. And they’ve already started. The pushing granny in her wheelchair over the cliff ad is not recent. But as usual, they haven’t thought things through.

Seniors, God Bless them, are the parents of the boomers. They are completely aware that the kids they gave birth to turned into a huge generation that changed everything about America. For the last 60 years every advertiser has been catering to this immense generation, and every sociologist has been studying their every move. So warning seniors on Medicare that these hordes of  Post War Babies are about to destroy Medicare, as they started turning 65 last year, and will continue in ever-increasing numbers for 12 more years, isn’t really a surprise.

In 1945, the year the war ended, there were 2,873,000 births. In 1946, there were 3,426,000. In 1959, the peak year of the baby boom, there were 4,313,000. They influenced everything, not through any qualities of their generation, but simply because of their numbers. For a real look at the baby boom generation, see Landon Y. Jones: Great Expectations. It’s great fun, but important to understanding how their sheer numbers changed everything.

Social Security and Medicare were both premised on the same idea. Rising numbers of people paying in to the trust funds would provide for the smaller generation of seniors and provide a real safety net for everyone. At the same time that massive numbers of boomers got old enough to retire,  innovation and improvements in medical technology meant that people were living longer.

“Doctors,” says John Goodman who heads healthcare studies at NCPA, “are the only professionals in our society who are not free to repackage and reprice their services.”

In medicine, by contrast, no one ever sees a real price for anything. No patient. No doctor. No employee. No employer. Providers are paid based on rates negotiated in advance. And there can be a different payment rate for every third-party payer. Patients rarely see these rates. But even if they did see them, they are inconsequential to behavior, since the patient isn’t paying them anyway. Doctors, therefore, do not compete for patients based on price. And since they are not competing on price, they do not compete on quality either.

Everyone is left with perverse incentives. The patients’ incentive is to overuse and misuse the system, since they mainly pay for care with time and not money. The providers’ incentive is to maximize against the third party payment formulas. When everyone acts on these incentives, they do things that make costs higher, quality lower and access more difficult than would otherwise be the case.

The best thinking of the leading healthcare thinkers on the Left is” to double down and give us more of the same.”

That is, doctors would be even less free to compete for patients based on price and quality, patients would be even less likely to ever face a real price for any service, and perverse incentives would become even more perverse than they are now.

The Left has a long time obsession with suppressing doctor’s fees. It seems to be from not thinking too deeply about the nature of the problem. The cost of a major operation is shocking. Doctors are all rich, therefore the way to solve all problems of cost  is to cut back on doctors’ reimbursement.. The numbers of doctors dropping out of medicine, choosing to do something else is startling, and surveys of doctors say that large numbers plan to retire or quit — at the same time that there is a big shortage of doctors and medical schools cannot keep up with the need. The Left’s concept of the practice of medicine is not appealing to doctors who care about taking care of their patients.

So Paul Ryan is trying to save Medicare for future generations by reforming it, and because we have a little time before the biggest numbers of boomers hit 65, there are ways to accomplish this. Democrats want to:  1) Pretend there is no problem. 2) Pretend that Medicare will not be bankrupt in 10 years and kick the problem down the road. 3) Buy time by saving money by cutting medical providers’ reimbursement.  There are consequences to each of these ideas. There is a real problem — bankruptcy in 10 years. We can’t afford to wait, for it shortly won’t be fixable. Cutting back on reimbursement to medical providers means people on Medicare or Medicaid will have a harder time finding a doctor who will see them. This is already happening and will only grow worse.

The Left’s other big idea is to cut back on the expense caused by people in their final years. Limit services, refuse operations, limit treatments to what is cost effective. Not promising.

ObamaCare took $716 billion out of Medicare to fund ObamaCare between 2013 and 2022. ObamaCare contains more than 160 provisions that impact Medicare. Obama’s claim that his new law is protecting seniors and protecting Medicare is absurd. But then ObamaCare has always been a fraud.

You will be hearing lots about how “radical” Paul Ryan’s plans are:  Julia, they said, would be dead and in her grave. Romney, the Obama campaign said, murdered Joe Soptic’s wife, now Paul Ryan is intent on killing off all the old folks.  Gutter politics. Keep in mind the simple fact that the Left offers no solutions, no ideas, and prefers to ignore an all too real problem.

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