American Elephants


The Economic Wit and Wisdom of Thomas Sowell by The Elephant's Child

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The great economist Thomas Sowell has written his last columns, and at age 86, is turning his attention to his photography. He has always had a special genius for stating ideas in a simple but memorable way. When people wanted to honor his long list of columns over the years, they made lists of their favorite Sowell quotations. Here are some of mine and some of economist Mark Perry’s.

  1. ObamaCare: If we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical drugs now, how can we afford to pay for doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical drugs. in addition to a new federal bureaucracy to administer a government run medical system?
  2. Predicting the Future:  Economists are often asked to predict what the economy is going to do. But economic predictions require predicting what politicians are going to do– and nothing is more unpredictable.
  3. Economics vs. Politics: The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”
  4. Economics vs. Politics: Economics and politics confront the same fundamental problem: What everyone wants adds up to more than there is. Market economies deal with this problem by confronting individuals with the costs of producing what they want, and letting those individuals make their own trade-offs when presented with prices that convey those costs. That leads to self-rationing, in the light of each individual’s own circumstances and preferences.
  5. Predicting the Future: Economists are often asked to predict what the economy is going to do. But economic predictions require predicting what politicians are going to do– and nothing is more unpredictable.
  6. Politicians as Santa Claus: The big question that seldom— if ever— gets asked in the mainstream media is whether these are a net increase in jobs. Since the only resources that the government has are the resources it takes from the private sector, using those resources to create jobs means reducing the resources available to create jobs in the private sector.
  7. Helping the Poor: It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club.It was the Wright brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans by making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader.
    Those who have helped the poor the most have not been those who have gone around loudly expressing “compassion” for the poor, but those who found ways to make industry more productive and distribution more efficient, so that the poor of today can afford things that the affluent of yesterday could only dream about.
  8. Thomas Sowell on Obama’s Health Care Reform


The Middle East Problem by The Elephant's Child

Here’s Dennis Prager with a brief video from Prager University, explaining the Middle East Problem, and why the much vaunted “Two-State Solution” doesn’t work, why Obama’s effort to abstain from voting for the Security Council  resolution is so foolish and so remarkably damaging.

Back before Barack Obama was nominated, Richard Epstein, who knew him at the University of Chicago, wrote that Obama had absolutely fixed ideas that were set in concrete. Once he made up his mind, Epstein said, that was it—set in stone, and unchangeable. The rockets fired into Israel, the attempts at mass murder, the refusal of the so-called Palestinians to consider recognizing the Jewish state  have made no impression. They don’t care that the Jews were there first, and continually.

Nor does the fact that it is quite clear that the Palestinian people want Israel destroyed, make an impression on Obama. The Israelis regularly are trusted by Palestinian parents to perform complicated and life-saving operations on their children. Arabs living in Israel participate fully in Israeli life, serve in government and are the freest Arabs in the Middle East. Curious.



Exit Stage Left: Whiny, Self-Justifying, With Elaborate Excuses by The Elephant's Child

obama-olderIn Juno of 2008, a younger Barack Obama spoke eloquently about his future role as a transformative president.

I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.

The caring for the sick part didn’t work out so well, The Obama bureaucrats could not conceive of a plan where the decisions were left to physicians, and wrapped the medical establishment in a cocoon of regulations; for example, an encounter with a patient was supposed to last just 7½ minutes. Keep an eye on your watch and think that one through.

Young Emily Smith has an unexplained itchy rash, prescription written easily within the time limit. Mrs. Grundy, however, has been having chest pains and is running a fever, is about 40 pounds overweight, and may well have heart disease. 7½ minutes? The failures of ObamaCare, Medicaid, Medicare, the Indian Health Service and VA hospitals have a lot in common. The administrative state, over-regulation, silly rules, and the inability to hold bureaucrats to account adds up. There’s a reason why so many doctors will not accept patients with these versions of government insurance.

The good jobs that were promised have also gone a glimmering. Obama has proudly enumerated all the new jobs created each month, but it turns out that almost all the new jobs created during the Obama administration were part time or temporary jobs. The administration’s conviction that they are smarter than the ordinary people out there has meant an overweening impulse to control and regulate. In 2016, the lame duck administration has added 3,853 regulations, 18 for every law — a record 97,110 pages of red tape. Small business is drowning in them. Three of my favorite small businesses have given up the ghost, and I’ll bet that several of your favorites have too.  All too often, bureaucrats invent new regulations with no idea of how they affect business in the real world. This description of “the Administrative State.” shows clearly how it all happens.

The [Federal Trade] Commission promulgates substantive rules of conduct. The Commission then considers whether to authorize investigations into whether the Commission’s rules have been violated. If the Commission authorizes an investigation, the investigation is conducted by the Commission, which reports its findings to the Commission. If the Commission thinks that the Commission’s findings warrant an enforcement action, the Commission issues a complaint. The Commission’s complaint that a Commission rule has been violated is then prosecuted by the Commission and adjudicated by the Commission. This Commission adjudication can either take place before the full Commission or before a semi-autonomous Commission administrative law judge. If the Commission chooses to adjudicate before an administrative law judge rather than before the Commission and the decision is adverse to the Commission, the Commission can appeal to the Commission. If the Commission ultimately finds a violation, then, and only then, the affected private party can appeal to an Article III court. But the agency decision, even before the bona fide Article III tribunal, possesses a very strong presumption of correctness on matters both of fact and of law. (this comes from Steven Hayward, quoting Boston University Law Professor Gary Lawson in an article for the Harvard Law Review)

The Obama Administration has put forth 25 “midnight regulations” rules that are published between Election Day and before the next president in inaugurated on January 20. According to the American Action For4um, they will cost the economy $44.1 billion. Obama’s eight years in office did not include even one year of economic growth at the normal 3% historical average.

Obama has ordered the EPA to proceed with its controversial Stream Protection Rule—which would make mining so difficult it would make 85 percent of the nation’s coal reserves unrecoverable. On Tuesday he designated most federally owned land in the Arctic Ocean and large swaths off the Atlantic Coast closed to drilling, which would prevent any production of huge reserves of oil and gas.

George W.Bush went to great lengths to make the transition easy for the incoming Obama administration, recognized that his time in the spotlight was over, and refused to comment on his successors failures and mistakes. And even in spite of being blamed for everything that didn’t work out, Mr. Bush remained a gentleman. Mr. Obama learned nothing from his predecessor, and will exit—whiny, self-justifying and full of excuses. In his “exit interview” on CNN with his former advisor David Axlerod, Obama pledged he would abide by tradition and retire with dignity as ex-president. We’ll see about that.



A Vaccine For A Virus: Burying Ebola by The Elephant's Child

How about a little good news for a change? An invention has come along that has changed the landscape completely.

A vaccine invented in Canada was tested in a large scale inoculation in Guinea and Sierra Leone by the World Health Organization to assess just how well it protected people against Ebola—the dreadful virus that ravaged Africa in 2014, killing 60 percent of the people who were infected. What happened? It succeeded spectacularly. It protected 100 percent of the people who received it. This is the first and only therapy for Ebola other than the previous supportive measures.

The vaccine, which is a glycoprotein (1) called rVSV-ZEBOV, was tested in Guinea and Sierra Leone. The group gathered samples from an individual, either alive or dead who had a positive lab test for Ebola, and then identified a cluster of their contacts, contacts of the contacts, and the contacts of the contacts who weren’t around when the team arrived. Each uninfected person got a single injection of the vaccine in the arm. The results are stunning.

The group identified a total of 4539 people in 51 clusters between March 2015, and January 2016. About half (2119 people) received the vaccine immediately, and another 2041 got it 21 days later.

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The name of the vaccine sounds daunting, but it’s really not. The “r” means recombinant—formed by alteration of viral DNA, which can be done using standard molecular biotechnology techniques. VSV stands for vesicular stomatitis virus—the virus that was modified (2). ZEBOV is short for Zaire Ebola virus, which was the most deadly circulating strain.

This is a very big deal. The safety profile is excellent, and only two adverse effects were attributed to the vaccine itself. It is an enormous achievement, and could rid the world of a very scary, very dangerous disease.

The epidemic in 2014-15 claimed the lives of 11,300 people in West Africa, spread the virus as far as New York and Texas, and demonstrated the failures of the world public health system.”The public health bureaucracy resists therapeutics, which threaten traditional manpower-heavy quarantines and tracking.” By 2015, cases were low and declining and researchers were able to gather real world information on an accelerated schedule. The study was so successful that it was stopped early since not providing the vaccine to the control group was unethical.

Ebola is a complex and mutating pathogen, and no scientific triumph is ever final. But the public-health bureaucracy demonstrated no such humility, and its overconfidence showed how unprepared the world is to respond to biological threats. Developing and deploying more vaccines like rVSV-Zebov may be the best defense.



The Big Donors Want Answers! What Happened? by The Elephant's Child

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waits to be introduced during a campaign event at Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wis., Tuesday, March 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Hillary has wanted to be the first woman president forever. She wanted to be the co-president with Bill in 1993. She thought they would have a two-for-one deal, but the American people reminded them that she was not elected. So it has been an enormous loss for her, both in 2012 and now. I could almost feel sorry for her.

Donors, most importantly, want to know where Clinton spent the nearly $1.5 billion in campaign resources she collected in the closing months. They especially want introspection, or what they’re calling a “dispassionate, centralized analysis,” of how Clinton failed to read the mood in swing states, and how her Brooklyn-centric  operation so badly misread polling data.

From what I have read, the big change in polling came about with “the Deplorables” comment. Whatever you want to say about Bill Clinton, he has excellent political instincts, but he was essentially banned from the campaign. Hillary was, quite frankly, a lousy candidate. She is not particularly likeable, as many have said. And for someone who aspired to the highest office in the land, she did not build up her qualifications. As Carly Fiorina said “titles are not qualifications.” The only bill she introduced in the Senate was to name a post office. And as Secretary of State, her accomplishment was frequent-flyer miles. She denied help to her ambassador to Libya who begged over and over for additional help because the post in Benghazi was so dangerous, and we all know how that turned out.

Had she studied up on the situation in Libya, she would have known that Ghadaffi had given up any interest in nuclear weapons after the demise of Saddam Hussein, and was considered as a dictator who was keeping the lid on in a violent country. She urged his overthrow, and celebrated his demise with a public cackled “We came, we saw, he died.” and laughed about it.

She is a compulsive liar, and everyone knew it, though that doesn’t matter to Democrats. She lies about silly things to enhance herself, that are clearly false, like being named after Sir Edmund Hillary, who hadn’t climbed any mountain until long after she was named. The account of arriving in Bosnia under sniper fire, was shot down by videos of the welcoming party with children with flowers.

The big campaign donors are not buying her Russia excuse or the Comey excuse either. They want to know what went  wrong. They were promised a big victory and look what happened!

But in the weeks since, the wealthy Democrats who helped pump over $1 billion into Clinton’s losing effort have been urging their local finance staffers, state party officials, and campaign aides to provide a more thorough explanation of what went wrong. With no dispassionate, centralized analysis of how Clinton failed so spectacularly, they insist, how can they be expected to keep contributing to the party?…

Absent a single campaign infrastructure those donors can use to do that, a handful of Democrats have looked to step in and provide a centralized outlet for donor planning. One is Clinton ally David Brock, who is planning a retreat for top party finance players in Aventura, Florida, over the Thursday-to-Saturday of Trump’s inauguration week….

Among the gathering’s planned sessions: “Learning from 2016: Strategy, Policy, and Building a lasting winning Coalition,” “Campaign Tactics of the future: Polling, Social Media, and Targeting,” “The New Face of the Right,” “Holding Trump Accountable,” and “Ethics Watchdog on Steroids.”

It was fairly obvious. Hillary had no message. She criticized Trump, She was going to do the same thing Obama has done. To a lot of voters—that was no recommendation. She said in a paid speech with Brazilian bankers that her dream was open trade and  open borders with a continental open market. Obama kept bragging about all the jobs he had created, but ordinary folks just saw the increasing numbers of people who had given up looking. The small businesses they liked had closed their doors, and immigrants had taken all of the construction jobs. Union leaders backed Hillary, and assumed their workers would follow suit. They didn’t. And besides, the American people just didn’t like being called “Deplorables.”

In a new poll, more than two-thirds of registered voters oppose any attempt by President Obama to pardon Hillary Clinton before he leaves office next month. This was a Fox news poll, and Obama blames  Fox News for all of his troubles.



More Nominees For the Trump Administration by The Elephant's Child

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Donald Trump has nominated Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State to wide praise from Republicans. He has broad  and remarkable international experience, a deep understanding of the global economy and personal relations with many state leaders throughout the world. Imagine, a Secretary of State who knows what he’s doing and understands the geopolitics.

President-elect Donald Trump wants Goldman Sachs president & COO Gary Cohn as the Director of his National Economic Council. Trump says that Cohn will put his talents as a highly successful businessman to work for the American people, growing wages for workers and stopping American jobs from going overseas.
Cohn said: “I share President-elect Trump’s vision of making sure every American worker has a secure place in a thriving economy, and we will be completely committed to building a nation of strength, growth and prosperity.”

President Obama felt that having served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was enough prior knowledge of world governments and geopolitics, so we got Hillary Clinton whose accomplishment was the air miles she racked up, and John Kerry.

Steven Mnuchin has been nominated as Secretary of the Treasury. He was Trump’s campaign finance director, and obviously highly successful in that job. Hillary raised and spent $1.2 billion, and Trump, in contrast, spent $616.5 million, and had $31.5 million left over. He is a former Goldman Sachs investment banker who has become a trusted financial advisor.

Ryan Zinke named as Interior Secretary is a first term congressman from Montana who will lead Mr. Trump’s efforts to open federal lands and water to fossil-fuel development and reverse many of the Obama administration nonsensical regulations.

Rick Perry who has been named as Secretary of Energy is the former governor of Texas. He served for nearly 15 years in the country’s biggest energy producing state. His record as governor was outstanding.

Andy Puzder has been named as Secretary of Labor. He is CEO of CKE Restaurant Holdings, parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, and has been a vocal advocate of cutting back the regulations that have stunted growth in the restaurant industry, and he has argued against raising the minimum wage higher than $9 an hour, and criticized the Affordable Care Act.

Wilbur Ross has been named as Commerce Secretary. He is a top economic adviser to Mr. Trump. He is chairman and chief  strategist of W.L.Ross & Co. a private equity firm and has extensive experience in corporate restructurings.

John Kelly,  has been named as Secretary of Homeland Security. He is a retired four star Marine General who directly supervised U.S. Operations in Central and South America as chief of Southern Command. His post involved monitoring drug trafficking and other smuggling activity around our southern border.

Linda McMahon has been named as Administrator of the Small Business Administration. She is the co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. and was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut, but very successful in building a business.

Elaine Chao has been named as Transportation Secretary. She was the first American woman of Asian descent to be appointed to the cabinet when she served as a very successful secretary of labor in the administration of George W. Bush. She is married to Majority Leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell.

Mike Pompeo has been named as Director of the CIA. He is a West Point graduate, first elected to the House of Representatives in 2010 as part of the tea-party movement. He is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Intelligence Committee, and was a member of the special committee investigating the 2012 attacks on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Michael Flynn has been nominated as National Security Adviser. He is a retired Army General who had served in top roles across the military as director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and intelligence adviser to Gen..Stanley McChrystal in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Donald McGahn has been named as White House Counsel. He was the president-elect’s campaign lawyer and is a former member of the Federal Elections Commission. He is currently a partner at Jones Day in Washington D.C. where he has specialized on political law issues.

The Left, unsurprisingly, is having hissy-fits. Three Generals? During the campaign Trump was called “Hitler,” one of their usual epithets. Now its “Authoritarian.” From Bill McGurn at the Wall Street Journal:  (Talking Points)

From the New Republic: “Donald Trump Is Already Acting Like an Authoritarian.” National Public Radio: “Donald Trump: Strong Leader or Dangerous Authoritarian?” The New York Times: “Beyond Lying: Donald Trump’s Authoritarian Reality.” The New Yorker: “Trump’s Challenge to American Democracy.”

What’s striking here is that the same folks who see in Mr. Trump a Mussolini in waiting are blind to the soft despotism that has already taken root in our government. This is the unelected and increasingly assertive class that populates our federal bureaucracies and substitutes rule by regulation for the rule of law. The result? Over the Obama years, the Competitive Enterprise Institute reckons, Washington has averaged 35 regulations for every law.

The Left finds fault with any nominee who has not served in government as somehow not qualified. That pretty clearly demonstrates the mindset. The Left are proponents of big government, the better to regulate you with. They believe firmly in their own anointed superiority, and usually, never have worked in private business, and thus know how the deplorables out there should go about their lives.

Three Generals? Will they lead us to war? Oh please! Nobody hates war more than those who have experienced it. No experience in Government—that is a positive qualification.

Trump’s array of economic advisors are divided between those who believe in carrots and those who believe in sticks. One group rejects mainstream economic thinking and believes in eliminating trade deficits, and views taxes on companies that move jobs abroad as necessary sticks  to reduce a 15 year slide in income for middle class Americans. The opposing camp champions supply-side economics and believe in slashing red tape and taxes to make the U.S. a top destination for business is a worthwhile carrot. Then there’s a third group who aren’t particularly ideological. (I‘m an ideological  supply-sider)

Mr Trump’s supporters are probably equally divided. A lot of us want the EPA abolished. Is the Energy Department necessary? Is the Education Department needed? I suspect that it is unlikely that any agency will be eliminated, for all have their proponents, and for the Left—they are essential. Getting rid of a department approaches the impossible.

Trump has advocated eliminating Education. Each department has its own culture, many are long-standing and deeply entrenched.  Eliminating departments will take a back seat to Mr. Trump’s goal of growing the economy and putting America back to work. There will be more silly attacks from the Left, but the Right has not been this strong for 80 years. Progressives just haven’t figured that out yet.

Expect some bitter confirmation battles. They are outraged with the appointment of Scott Pruitt to the EPA, he is not only an attorney who has taken the EPA to court (on a lawsuit filed by 27 states against the EPA. Rex Tillerson (a businessman, an oil man? ), the Generals, and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education who is a champion of charter schools and opposes Common Core. Major fight!  This is a group selected for their expertise and their ability to take on a fight to make a difference for the country. I’m impressed.



Putting Patients and Doctors in Charge of Health Care by The Elephant's Child

cyzgx68wqaab4xtPresident-elect Donald Trump has chosen Representative Tom Price (R-Ga), a leader in the efforts to replace ObamaCare, to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services. This is a very good nomination, though Democrats are howling, and trying to launch a coalition to save their failed program. Representative Price is an orthopedic surgeon who knows his way around the practice of medicine. He has introduced H.R.2300 the Empowering Patients First Act —legislation that puts patients, families and doctors in charge by focusing on the principles of affordability, accessibility, quality, innovation, choices and responsiveness.

We’ve all read of price increases of 25% and more—reportedly 100% in some cases, laughed grimly at the statement that “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” But how did it go so wrong for so many people?

The Left has long wanted to control health care, preferably single-payer like Britain’s. Why? The British put in their program not long after WWII, and because it is “free” they have kept voting for Labor in order to keep it. It may not be very good care, and those rich enough to afford private care do so. But old people die in hospital from neglect, or dehydration, yet the people are afraid of changing. The Left really wants regulations that people keep voting for, and they don’t care if it is out of fear of change.

Please read this post from Ricochet by a physician about the death of the primary care physician. He says “We are directed to “practice medicine” strictly according to directives handed down from on high by panels of sanctioned experts, and accordingly we are enjoined from taking into account our professional experience, our intuition informed by judgment when we advise them about their medical issues.” He adds:

We are strictly limited to 7.5 minutes per patient “encounter,” and the content of this brief encounter is determined by certain Pay for Performance checklists which have been given to us by yet other expert committees. These checklists assure that most of our 7.5 minute encounter is spent asking about important medical topics such as the storage of handguns in the home and sodium in the diet, for if we skip any items on the list we define ourselves as substandard caregivers.

This is how the Left operates. They think up a program that will fill all of their emotional needs to do nice things for people. Once they get it made into law, they have to pay for the mess they made, so they start making regulations that will let them pay the medical providers a lot less, because they cost too much. Patient A fell, and thinks she broke a bone in her foot. Doctor sends her off for an X-Ray and gives her a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. That one is under the 7.5 minutes. Patient B is diabetic, overweight, and has a potential heart condition, and needs some major counseling on diet and exercise, and a prescription or two. She’s a nervous type and clearly worried about her health. 7.5 minutes? That truly stupid regulation came from some bureaucrat who knows nothing about medicine, and is concerned only about keeping the budget under control.

Multiply that situation across the practice of medicine, and you see how and why ObamaCare has failed. Doctors are opting out in droves. Seniors have trouble finding someone who will accept Medicare patients, Medicaid patients get sent to nurse practitioners instead of doctors, or are told they can’t be seen until next May.

Have you seen a doctor who has engaged a scribe to take notes of the patient encounter so the doctor can talk to the patient instead of the computer? Read the British papers to see why we should never consider their system. There are few, if any, programs that the federal government bureaucrats can manage successfully. Monica Crowley remarked today that “government has no profit motive, only a power motive.” Excellent insight. Competition, free markets,and small government that does only those few things that bureaucrats can’t manage to screw up.

Here is a link to Dr. Tom Price’s statement, with links to the Empowering Patients First Act and a section by section description of the legislation.

The Weekly Standard’s “After Repeal” about the game plan for undoing ObamaCare.

Commentary Magazine “Cleaning Up Obama’s Health-Care Mess

From AEI: “The four legs of a new health-care system” by James C. , who writes about health care regularly, and Scott Gottlieb M.D.

From the Hoover Institution: “The Unaffordable Care Act” by Richard Epstein.

From the WSJ: “Diagnosing Your Doc”s New Euphoria” Suddenly there’s hope for dismantling ObamaCare—and restoring sanity for doctors and patients

Imagine! A real physician in charge of HHS. I remember when the Democrats pushed through the Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote, and Obama brought out a troop of doctors (?) in white coats with stethoscopes over their shoulders. (Is that what you would wear as a doctor going to the White House?) So costumed, they sat  on chairs on the lawn while Obama gave a speech.




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