American Elephants


In Britain, the NHS is Starving its Patients. Are We Next? by The Elephant's Child

We frequently include stories here about Britain’s National Health Service.  Britain has had socialized medicine since just after World War II. Some call them “scare stories” and so they are. Many Britons like their National Health Service, and feel that they get good treatment.  The scare stories are compelling.  Why do we include them?  Britons hate it when we use their NHS as a bad example; and they, in turn, use their idea of American medicine as a bad example.

Much of health care is routine and minor. You can’t judge health care by the occasional broken arm or deep cut.  Most anyone can fix it. You have to judge health care by the very sick,  the elderly in failing health, the difficult diseases, and the chronic disease. The well don’t need health care. So the real customers for health care are probably in poor health.  And the question of quality becomes how do we care for those in poor health?

The goal of socialized medicine is to give good health care to the poor — those who cannot pay the usual cost of good health care.  The theory is that they will save enough money elsewhere to afford to give good care to the poor.  But are we talking about routine care for healthy poor people, or the care for poor people in poor health?

There is an assumption that “preventative care” will prevent people from getting any condition that is expensive.  This is nonsense. Diagnostic medicine is expensive.  A single blood draw may result in a whole battery of tests.  Machines like MRIs and C–T scanners cost a fortune.  A diagnosis usually begins with a symptom and the attempt to discover the cause of the symptom. Running tests on people who have no symptoms is not usually cost-effective.

What about the modern epidemic of obesity?  A few years ago, they changed the standards for what was called obesity to include more of those people who had never been called obese before.  Voilá, and “epidemic” of obesity.  The same thing happened with diabetes.  They lowered the standards sharply to include more people, and there was suddenly an “epidemic” of diabetes.  The intent was to get more people treated early, but the idea that everybody had better stop eating Big Macs or anything that tasted good was probably misguided.

The Wall Street Journal today has a postcard from the NHS. In 2007, 230 patients died of malnutrition in British hospitals, the latest year for which figures are available.  Age UK, a monitoring charity, says “the true figure may be much higher” due to under-reporting.  In 2007-2008, 148,946 Britons entered hospitals suffering from malnutrition and 157,175 left in that state, meaning that hospitals released 8,220 people worse-off nutritionally than when they entered.  In 2008-2009, that worse-off figure was up to 10,443.

The problem is not insufficient food.  It is individualized mealtime assistance.  The constant scarcities created by socialized medicine, and the constant drive to cut costs leaves nurses with more responsibilities and less time.  It is not, the Journal points out, a Labour problem or a Tory problem.  It is a single-payer health-care problem.

It is a problem of bureaucracy. Anyone who has worked in an organization of any size recognizes that the bigger the bureaucracy, the greater the problems.  Group think doesn’t work. And the more remote the bureaucrats from the actual sick person, the worse the system will be.   Examine this chart (click where noted to enlarge) and note the stubby yellowish star in the lower right-hand corner.  That represents you the sick person.  All the rest of the bubbles and squares and rectangles represent not individual people, but bureaus, who are making decisions about what treatment you get and whether their decisions will allow you to live or die. Not you.  Not your doctor.  Hundreds and hundreds of faceless bureaucrats.

Democrats are facing a nationwide backlash.  Democratic congressional candidates have a new message for voters.  We know you don’t like ObamaCare, so we will fix it.  Do not believe them. Endless tinkering does not fix anything.  It is a single-payer health-care problem.  It does not work. The inevitable result is the NHS — which is what the ObamaCare people want.  They have said so.

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The Onion Strikes Again: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don’t Give a Sh*T? by The Elephant's Child
August 29, 2010, 8:35 am
Filed under: Education, Entertainment, Humor, Politics, Statism | Tags: , ,

When the folks at The Onion do a parody, there is often a germ of truth that makes the whole thing so hysterical.  This almost seems as if they could have sat in on this very earnest discussion or possibly even the education department study.  They have the nuances of the conversation just right, and so convincing.  This is quite delicious.  Don’t miss it.  (Language alert!  It’s The Onion)



The Same People Who Claim Obamacare Will Make Your Healthcare More Efficient and More Affordable?… by American Elephant

…are the same people who need 26 pages to write a recipe for brownies:

3.2.5.3 Nuts, walnuts, shelled. Shelled walnut pieces shall be of the small piece size classification, shall be of a light color, and shall be U.S. No. 1 of the U.S. Standards for Shelled English Walnuts. A minimum of 90 percent, by weight, of the pieces shall pass through a 4/16-inch diameter round hole screen and not more than 1 percent, by weight, shall pass through a 2/16-inch diameter round hole screen. the shelled walnuts shall be coated with an approved food grade antioxidant and shall be of the latest season’s crop….[read the whole recipe (if you’re a glutton for punishment)]

Which is why even the CBO has stopped pretending that Obamacare is going to be anything but vastly less efficient and vastly more expensive — as everything that government does always is.

The good news? Americans’ overwhelming opposition to Obamacare is not abating, and a whopping 63% of likely voters favor repeal.

(h/t Reason)



Bureaucracy and Tyranny. a Diagnosis. by The Elephant's Child
May 13, 2010, 7:11 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Law, Politics | Tags: , ,

“Bureaucracy” is, to many of us — the enemy.  Alex J. Pollock elucidates at the Enterprise Blog at The American Enterprise Institute:

We tend to think of “bureaucracy” as meaning sluggish, complicated, unresponsive paperwork and process. But it has another, more threatening meaning: Rule by the bureaucrats, just as “aristocracy” is rule by the aristocrats—in other words, rule by unelected officers who impose their ideas on you, but cannot be voted out by you or anyone else. Bureaucracy in this sense has an inherent love of power and yearning for authority which cannot be questioned.

Consider the recent activities of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC criticized Goldman Sach’s synthetic CMO deal. Whatever one may think of the merits of the deal, should you be able to disagree with an attack on you by a bureaucracy? Goldman Sachs publicly disagreed. The SEC got the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation. Warren Buffett defended Goldman Sachs. The SEC announced it was investigating inadequate disclosures by Buffett’s company.

Coincidence? Or a message that you will certainly be punished if you dare to disagree with the bureaucrats?

The Founding Fathers well described “swarms of officers sent hither to harass the people.” It is worth pondering how bureaucracy may have inside it a tyranny trying to get out.



Great Moments in the Green Bureaucracy’s Regulatory Adventures. by The Elephant's Child
May 7, 2010, 7:30 am
Filed under: Environment, Humor, Junk Science, Law | Tags: , ,

Henry Payne recounted this delightful classic —  reprinted by the Mackinac Center —  in Planet Gore at National Review.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, a hapless bureaucracy in Michigan’s capital city, with careful attention to the rules and regulations of  Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994.  Here is the DEQ letter to a private landowner reprinted in all its indignant, bureaucratic fury.

DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
LANSING MI 48909-7973
December 17, 1997
CERTIFIED

Mr. Ryan DeVries
2088 Dagget
Pierson, MI 49339

Dear Mr. DeVries:

SUBJECT: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023-1 T11N, R10W, Sec. 20, Montcalm County

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property.  You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity: Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department’s files show that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris dams and flooding at downstream locations.  We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all unauthorized activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel.  All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 1998.  Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff.

Failure to comply with this request, or any further unauthorized activity on the site, may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter.  Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
David L. Price
District Representative
Land and Water Management Division


The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s infamous regulatory war against beaver dams — the clueless, indignant bureaucrats had probably never seen a beaver.  They’re really kind of cute.  And they will never, never live this one down.



The Tyranny of Bureaucracy, or Death by a Thousand Threads. by The Elephant's Child

Conservatives praise the free market.  Liberals prefer big government, and many simply do not understand what the fuss is all about.

Alexis de Tocqueville explained it many years ago in his masterpiece Democracy in America. Tocqueville saw the transformation of a free society, not in melodramatic terms like a military coup, but as a slow, creeping death.  The power of the centralized government will gradually expand, meddling in the tiniest corners of our lives.  We will be immobilized, like Gulliver, by innumerable rules and regulations, hundreds of annoying little restrictions that become more and more binding until eventually we are paralyzed.

Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately.  It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will.  Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated…

Tocqueville describes the new tyranny as “an immense and tutelary power,” and its task is to watch over us all, and regulate every aspect of our lives.

It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.

We are to be seduced.  American democracy will end not with bludgeons, but with the emergence of a vast welfare state that manages all the details of our lives and corrupts our character.

The…sole condition required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic community is to love equality, or to get men to believe you love it.  Thus the science of despotism, which was once so complex, is simplified, and reduced, as it were, to a single principle.

I came across a story, of all things, about a maker of bourbon.  A company went “green”, but not as demanded by the EPA.  Not forced by a mass of regulations and mandates devised by environmental  busybodies or by rules passed by Congress “for the children”.  Maker’s Mark was faced with the challenge of how to dispose of the spent grains from the distillery process.  They turned to a firm called Ecovation.  Do read the story of what they did with the thick slop that was once a refuse product.

Innovation?  The government will produce innovation.  They will create an agency, or perhaps a committee or a commission. They will appropriate funds, issue directions, establish rules, add  mandates, a schedule, and a vast chain of command, a hierarchy that must approve each step.  Something may be created, but it won’t be innovative or creative, for the impulse for innovation is stamped out by petty nitpicking, and bureaucracy is the home ground of petty nitpicking.  In a hierarchical organization the next one up on the ladder must approve, so that the one on the next rung will approve.  And so on, and so on.  It is how societies die.

That is what the fuss is all about.



Extraordinary Adventures in Bureaucracy. by The Elephant's Child
October 2, 2009, 1:15 am
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Freedom, Law | Tags: , , ,

• The AP reported on a letter sent to Lisa Snyder, a suburban mom, by the Michigan Department of Human Services. She was warned to stop watching her neighbors’ children while they waited in the mornings for the school bus. Ms. Snyder was kind enough to do this as a favor for her friends who are working mothers.  Preliminary reports do not indicate whether the warning letter was backed by possible criminal penalties.

• Small-time entrepreneur and inventor Krister Evertson of Wasilla, Alaska was arrested at gunpoint by SWAT-clad FBI agents.  He was unaware that he had to put a federally mandated sticker on his otherwise lawful UPS package.

• A few years ago, Kay Leibrand, a 63 year-old grandmother was arrested by police at her home of 30 years in Palo Alto, California.  She had failed to meet some bureaucrat’s ruling on how high her hedges should be.

• Retiree George Norris, 66 years old, had his house ransacked by armed agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  His home-based business was cultivating, importing, and selling orchids.  He ended up serving two years in prison, finally getting free of federal supervision last December — at the age of 71, for what amounted to paperwork violations.

In July, a bipartisan hearing was held by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and ranking member Louie Gohmert (R-TX), where both Krister Evertson and George Norris’ wife Kathy testified.  Scott is Chairman of the subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, so I suppose that’s it, though it seems a little excessive for a missing sticker and incorrect  paperwork.

What is clear is that poorly drafted legislation or overbroad laws can be used to turn ordinary Americans law-abiding lives into a police-state nightmare.   Lawmakers need to spend as much time eliminating bad laws and making sure that the new laws that they are drafting cannot be used so irresponsibly against innocent people.

Jennifer Granholm, Michigan’s Governor, has quickly called for amendments to the law that her Department of Human Services used to threaten Lisa Snyder for not having registered as a daycare with the state.

Thanks to “The Foundry” at the Heritage Foundation for this story.




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