American Elephants


Black, Millennial, Female and Conservative by The Elephant's Child



20,000 Regulations To Control You and Your HealthCare Provider by The Elephant's Child

Along with millions of others, I’m really frustrated with Congress. When the Democrats rammed through the Affordable Care Act, most Republicans recognized instantly that it was not going to work. Way too much bureaucratic control. It was clearly a step towards single-payer health care like Britain’s National Health Service. Of course there are probably not all that many Americans who read the British papers, but the failures of the system were apparent. Physicians have become government employees, hospitals so short of money that ambulances are parked in long lines on the street, waiting their turn to dislodge their desperately ill patients, and old people dying of neglect in the hospital, from dehydration, lack of food, dirty sheets. You have to pay attention to the symptoms of failure.

I know, most people just think that the medical care establishment is just way too expensive, they can’t afford it and want the government to pay for it. The thing everyone must remember is that government has no money of its own. Congress can raise taxes, especially on the rich, but you can’t take enough money away from the rich to take care of everybody who is not rich, and in the meantime, the rich stop becoming rich. High taxes mean less economic activity, fewer people getting rich, and everybody getting a little poorer.

What should have happened is that the moment ObamaCare passed, Republicans should have started planning how to reform health care in a way that was good for the most people and did the least harm. Instead, they did regular grandstanding votes of repealing ObamaCare when there was no chance of the vote succeeding in passing Congress nor being signed by the President. So, here we are seven months into a new administration, and the Republicans said they have been working on it for 8 months, but they can’t agree on a bill. They had eight years.

Part of it is that although Republicans boast of believing firmly in the free market, when push comes to shove, they are loath to lose control. We need to remember, first of all, that we are not talking about health care — we are talking about health insurance, and who is going to pay for what, who is going to receive what under what circumstances and what the insurance companies are going to offer at what price. What medicines and treatments you can have and how much that will cost.

Here’s an example of the actions of the free market: A long established pharmacy discovered a box in a back room that was full of bottles of old pharmaceuticals. Really old. Instead of just throwing them out, someone there decided to test them for efficacy. Was it possible that any of them could still work after so many years? Most of them were still effective. Yet when a new drug is approved, it gets assigned an expiration date because they have tested for 3 or 5 years, because the rules say they don’t have to test beyond that. Must they test for longer? Do the rules prevent more realistic expiration dates? It could obviously be cheaper if they didn’t expire so soon.

In 2016, it was pointed out that when the patents expire on a medicine it means that other manufacturers can produce the medicine at a lower cost. Yet last year a few companies that acquired the rights to lifesaving medicines  immediately jacked up prices, which helped make the situation far worse. Federal policies facilitate monopolies by erecting regulatory barriers to new entrants.

There are a few physicians in Congress who understand in part the flaws and failures of Government health care, but I don’t know that they understand the problems of insurance companies. And who understands the pharmaceutical industry and it’s problems? Bureaucrats want to make rules, they often believe the rules they make are sensible, protect the people, etc. but that isn’t often true.

Here’s an example of market-driven innovation—the free market at work —from 2012, about a group of doctors  who posted a list of prices for 112 common surgical procedures online, founded the Surgery Center to escape from the bureaucracy of a major hospital center. A provision in ObamaCare effectively prohibits doctors from starting their own hospitals or expanding hospitals (which was widely interpreted as a give-away to the American Hospital Association.)  I assume it’s still going strong, I haven’t followed through.

And here’s a fascinating article from The Atlantic, this morning, that points to new scientific studies that may lead to new medicines, that are still in stage of basic new exciting discoveries —with unknown promise. Free people and free markets can come up with amazing solutions. That’s what created the dynamic American economy, and drives innovation. Surprise —it’s not more regulation and more control.

Democrats are congenitally programmed to demand control. They are afraid of the free market, hate capitalism, and make a mess of everything they attempt to govern by that philosophy.  You cannot effectively attempt to change human nature. Human nature is fixed and unchangeable. Most free market ideas we come up with will fail or never be tried, but some will succeed brilliantly and society will advance a little more.

 



There Are Refugee Problems in the West, But Europe’s Afghan Crime Wave Is Shocking. by The Elephant's Child

One of our biggest problems, it seems, is the matter of immigration. As a nation, we conflate a wide numbers of separate issues—George Soros advocates for open borders everywhere, then there are the terms migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, exile, emigre, displaced person, and stateless person.  Can you tell the difference? In the first 3 weeks of May, we were admitting 830 people a week as refugees, but the State Department lifted the restriction on the number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S. to 1,500 each week. 

Then there are 66,000 temporary non agricultural workers admitted under the H2B program—33,000 for the first half of the fiscal year and 33,000 for the second half. An increase is being added and will be announced today. The jobs are based on employer requests. Jobs are for landscapers, lifeguards, carnival workers, factory workers, cooks, maids, and fishery workers. Most come from Mexico, Jamacia, Guatemala, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The Center for Immigration Studies says a new analysis shows the locations where jobs have been offered to guestworkers are even in areas of  high unemployment and low labor force participation, so there is some disconnect and the scrutiny for visa approval is inadequate. Some employers may be using the program as a way around the rules of other guestworker programs. These are not immigrants, but temporary workers.

The H1B program is similar, but for highly educated, highly skilled foreign workers for specialized occupations for a 3 year stay. They are also not immigrants, but temporary workers for jobs that require specialized knowledge or expertise. About half come from India, with significant numbers from China, South Korea and the Philippines. The numbers now stand at 65,o00 a year with another 20,000 for those with masters degrees. There are many complaints about American workers being replaced by cheaper foreign workers. Our illegal immigrant population includes many who have overstayed their visas.

President Trump’s “Muslim Travel Ban” doesn’t really apply to Muslims, and leftist judges keep challenging the regulation, the latest concerns whether grandparents can be considered part of the immediate family. The so-called Muslim Ban is a temporary hold so the federal government can figure out how to vet those who have applied, when no state really exists to vouch for them. But the left has become somewhat deranged at the suggestion of even a temporary ban, looking for sympathetic cases to touch at the heartstrings.

An Iranian cancer researcher traveling to Massachusetts to work at Boston Children’s Hospital was detained last Tuesday at Logan International Airport along with this wife and children before being sent back to Iran.  Outcries from the media. Immigration assured the media that it had nothing to do with the case of Dr, Mohsen Dehnavi, who holds a visiting work visa. The Trump administration order banning people from six Muslim-majority countries can be partially enforced according to the Supreme Court. His visa was valid, yet he was sent back. It seems that in Iran he was a head  of a student branch of a volunteer militia linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Banning a jihadist is what Trump’s travel ban is all about.

Everyone claims that the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. are about 11,000, but they have been using that number for years, and it never seems to change. There are about  4.4 million people on the immigrant wait list, who have applied and are legally waiting their turn. Here’s a graph that shows how the appeal to immigrate to the United States goes.

European countries have their own laws, but the EU has decided for the countries of Europe how many refugees each nation should accept, and under what conditions and rules. Countries like Poland and Hungary have decided they will not accept Middle Eastern refugees in spite of EU rules. The Eastern European states have had no trouble limiting or banning migrants from the Middle East, or building fences. Germany’s Angela Merkel is the one who welcomed all refugees, and most of Western Europe fell in line. Bureaucrats are always good about making up rules, it’s the people upon whom the rules are inflicted that suffer.

They welcomed the refugees with food and clothing, but have slowly come to realize that it isn’t working. The Scandinavian countries have had some of the worst problems. Denmark observed what is happening in Sweden and made an effort to not fall into the same trap. The governments try to cover up what is happening.

Dr.Cheryl Bernard was the program director of the Initiative for Middle Eastern Youth and the Alternative Strategies Initiative with the RAND Corporation. She has worked with refugees for decades. That the newcomers did not speak the local languages, might be traumatized, take some time to find their footing and have brought their ethnic, religious and sectarian conflicts with them, was not surprising but they were expected to be manageable problems.

There was one development that had not been expected, and was not tolerable: the large and growing incidence of sexual assaults committed by refugees against local women. These were not of the cultural-misunderstanding-date-rape sort, but were vicious, no-preamble attacks on random girls and women, often committed by gangs or packs of young men. At first, the incidents were downplayed or hushed up—no one wanted to provide the right wing with fodder for nationalist agitation, and the hope was that these were isolated instances caused by a small problem group of outliers.

As the incidents increased …the matter could no longer be swept under the carpet of political correctness. And with the official acknowledgment and public reporting, a weird and puzzling footnote emerged. Most of the assaults were being committed by refugees of one particular nationality: by Afghans.

Actually Afghans should not even have been part of the refugee tide, at least not in significant numbers. It was the Syrians who were expected. Afghanistan, a place of lingering and chronic conflict, is no longer on the official refugee roster—that’s reserved for acute political and military emergencies.

Dr. Bernard is deeply experienced in work with refugees from all over the Middle East, and she was shocked. Her research is impressive and thorough, and the picture that emerges is devastating. Please read the whole thing. We all need to understand what is happening.  She suggests that there are ways to deal with the refugee wave, but it’s not going to be easy and “the Left has to do a bit of hard thinking. It’s fine to be warm, fuzzy and sentimental about strangers arriving on your shore,” but we have our own values, freedom, and lifestyle to protect. And the freedom we have is worth defending.

We need to understand what is happening in Europe, which mostly doesn’t make headlines, because all too soon it may be happening here. Political Correctness rules in Europe as well as here. It is an important article, and casts a very different light on our ideas of immigration, refugees, and how we should think about them and how we should deal with them.

 



The Interesting Relationship Between Online Business and American Retail Business. by The Elephant's Child

It’s pretty clear that online business is playing hob with retail in general. Retailers are hurting as consumers turn to online sources where they can get quick service, particularly from Amazon, and not have to go trailing through a mall to try to find what they need.

A story in the Wall Street Journal today exposes an uncomfortable relationship between the federal government and Amazon. “The U.S. Postal Service delivers Amazon’s boxes well below its own costs. Like an accelerant added to a fire, this subsidy is speeding up the collapse of traditional retailers in the U.S. and providing an unfair advantage for Amazon.”

This arrangement is an underappreciated accident of history. The post office has long had a legal monopoly to deliver first-class mail, or nonurgent letters. The exclusivity comes with a universal-service obligation—to provide for all Americans at uniform price and quality. This communication service helps knit this vast country together, and it’s the why the Postal Service exists.

But people went online too, and first class mail is down some 40% from its peak. I contact many friends by email now, rather than writing a letter, and you probably do too. The post office still visits each mailbox each day, but there’s less traditional mail, so the service has filled its spare capacity by delivering more boxes. But when the post office delivers 10 letters and one box and a passel of junk mail to one mailbox how do they allocate the cost of the postal worker, the truck, and the network and systems that support the postal worker?

In 2007 the Postal Service and its regulator determined that, at a minimum, 5.5% of the agency’s fixed costs must be allocated to packages and similar products. A decade later, around 25% of its revenue comes from packages, but their share of fixed costs has not kept pace. First-class mail effectively subsidizes the national network, and the packages get a free ride. An April analysis from Citigroup estimates that if costs were fairly allocated, on average parcels would cost $1.46 more to deliver. It is as if every Amazon box comes with a dollar or two stapled to the packing slip—a gift card from Uncle Sam.

Amazon is big enough to take full advantage of “postal injection,” and that has tipped the scales in the internet giant’s favor. Select high-volume shippers are able to drop off presorted packages at the local Postal Service depot for “last mile” delivery at cut-rate prices. With high volumes and warehouses near the local depots, Amazon enjoys low rates unavailable to its competitors. My analysis of available data suggests that around two-thirds of Amazon’s domestic deliveries are made by the Postal Service. It’s as if Amazon gets a subsidized space on every mail truck.

I don’t know which stores will be gone in a few years, or if they will survive. Right now, it’s clear that retail is hurting, and some retailers are in trouble. Will our malls survive? The federal government has”had its thumb on the competitive scale for far too long.” They need to stop picking winners and losers. I believe that the country will be better off if online and retail  compete and continue to survive.

I don’t know if the retail problems cover all kinds of goods or just some. Are Home Depot and Best Buy as much affected as say, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney? I need more evidence. Amazon just bought Whole Foods, in anticipation of making a big push for the grocery business, but Amazon is planning to build stores, where everything you select is tallied up automatically on your card as you take it off the shelf. We tried Amazon’s online groceries when too sick to get to the store, and it was prompt and  good service. Someone remarked that they saved money because they weren’t tempted with impulse items online. I prefer to go to the store.

The Government is subsidizing Elon Musk as he has fun with new engineering ideas, but Tesla is running into major problems, and solar is turning out to be a flop, just as his first experiments with this big vacuum tube thing for moving people has had it’s first success in a miniature version. All very interesting, but I don’t understand why he gets government subsidies. One might assume that we got an early lesson with Solyndra.

 



Enforcing Immigration Law and the Number of Deadbeat Countries by The Elephant's Child

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has been working with the State Department to improve cooperation from other nations that have blocked our transfers of illegal immigrants. Their efforts have reduced the number of nations refusing to cooperate from 23 to 12. The Trump administration expects to continue to reduce the number of noncompliant countries even further.

The problem, of course, is that not only are these people illegal immigrants, but they have been convicted of a crime, and their own nation doesn’t really want them back. Sorry. That just doesn’t work.

Jessica Vaughn, ddirector of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies said:

I am confident that the number of deadbeat countries can be reduced even further – for starters, China and Hong Kong should be the focus of pressure. On the at-risk list, there is no way places like Bermuda should be stiff-arming us. Others, like Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan, have a lot to lose if they don’t cooperate more fully. There are plenty of visa programs that could be turned off in a heartbeat if they do not improve very soon.

ICE and State have the authority to punish recalcitrant countries, but it was almost never used in past administrations. President Trump seems to understand that if people think they can come here and stay on even after being caught—it will only encourage more illegals. If we don’t want illegal aliens, we should not be hanging out a big welcome sign. Conservatives, of course, are accused by the left of being cruel and bigoted, racist, etc. for refusing to welcome illegals.

We have immigration laws, though they need updating, and we can expect them to be obeyed. We have something well over a million people on the wait list—waiting their turn to be admitted legally to become American citizens. Illegals should not be able to jump the queue. It will greatly help to discourage illegals if the rules are clear and clearly observed.



It’s No Wonder the American People Are So Confused! by The Elephant's Child

While everyone is looking the other way, notably at Trump and Twitter, President Trump has announced plans to make the United States a global energy powerhouse. He has already taken steps toward unleashing domestic energy supplies, but he announced six more steps that he plans to take: reviving nuclear energy, removing barriers to building coal plants overseas, building more energy pipelines including one into Mexico, increasing exports of natural gas and creating a new offshore-leasing program.

Turkey threatens not to ratify the Paris Climate Accord.  Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan admits the only reason for signing was to get money from the U.S. and other wealthy nations. Now that the U.S. has pulled out of the accord, there’s no reason to expect the financial benefits. Proving once again that the Paris Climate Treaty (which we never signed) had nothing to do with climate, but only with redistributing economic wealth.

New York magazine has an article by one David Wallace-Wells titled “The Uninhabitable Earth,” subtitled “Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak—sooner than you think.”

Yale Poll finds: 4 in 10 Americans (39%) think ‘global warming will cause humans to become extinct.

Bombshell study: Temperature Adjustments Account for ‘Nearly All of the Warming’ in Government Climate Data.

President Trump demanded and obtained a clear statement of the U.S. rejection of the Paris Climate Agreement and just as important, a statement recognizing the appropriate role of efficient use of fossil fuels as an energy resource for the future.

July o9, 2017: It was just reported that Greenland set a new all-time July cold record, where the mercury plummeted to -33ºC.

Famed MIT Climate Scientist Dr. Ricard Lindzen: Believing CO² controls the climate “is pretty close to believing in magic.”

If you are interested, Climate Depot and CFact have produced a new Talking Points memo, an A-Z  Debunking of Climate Claims



Draining the Swamp at the Veterans Administration by The Elephant's Child

Our Veterans seeking care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can perhaps breathe a little easier. Five hundred and forty-eight VA employees have been terminated since Donald Trump took office and David Shulkin  took over as secretary of what was called “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States.”

Another 200 VA workers have been suspended and 33 have been demoted. Those disciplined include 22 senior leaders, more than 70 nurses, 14 police officers and 25 physicians. A program analyst dealing with the Government Accountability, which audits the department, a public affairs specialist, a chef of police and a chief of surgery were also disciplined.

Food service workers, housekeeping aides were also fired.  Lower level jobs in which the deportment has employed felons and convicted sex-offenders were also fired. You could call it a rigorous housecleaning.

The record of failed care for veterans has become a national scandal. Mr. Shulkin was initially appointed by former president Obama as a VA undersecretary, but by the end of the Obama administration he was increasingly frustrated with the American Federation of Government Employees union which defended the rights of bad employees to a government paycheck even when they are harming the veterans they were there to serve. Managers were reluctant to vigorously pursue firings, and firings were often overturned by the federal Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

Put in charge by President Trump, Shulkin asked Congress for new legislation to reduce the role of MSPB, especially when firing senior leaders. Congress passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in response, and Trump signed the bill in June.

The VA has been found to be a prime abuser of extended paid leave. Two or more years seems excessive, but it was not unusual. Here’s how bureaucracy works: the inspector general’s staff is designed to avoid conflicts of interest in internal investigations. Their work can lead to criminal charges, but they become involved only in an internal review finds evidence on criminal activity. VA internal investigative policies are designed to see if policies and procedures are followed, not to look for criminal activity.

In a 2013 case where an elderly hospitalized veteran died at a Louisiana hospital, in March of 2013. A VA internal investigation found that Harris, a nurses aide, had violated no policies and was not negligent, so was returned to patient care, in April.  However, the local coroner found that the veteran had died of blunt force trauma to the head, and witnesses told him and the VA inspetor general that they saw Harris striking the man. Harris was arrested on December 10, 2013. Harris was out on bail, and on extended (2 years) paid leave until just 3 days before his trial. It was the coroner’s intervention that led to a criminal probe by the IG.

It seems that when the VA wants to appease congressional critics or media critics or even just prevent poor-performing employees from doing further damage, the department paid them to stay home instead of firing them. Even during the campaign Trump talked about “draining the swamp” and the care we owed to our veterans. There is no excuse for such irresponsible practices. Looks like the swamp is finally starting to drain. 548 terminated, and that may be only the beginning. The organization has been put on notice that our veterans will be faithfully served.




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