American Elephants


It Begins. California Death Panels Ban Mammograms for Women Under Age 50. by The Elephant's Child

The California Health and Human Services Agency is ending mammogram subsidies for low-income women under age 50.  Under the old rules, women unable to pay could get a subsidy for annual breast-cancer screening beginning at age 40.

The decision by the State of California, which takes effect Jan. 1, follows a federal task force recommendation last month that mammograms before the age of 50 are not generally needed.  As Carly Fiorina notes, the task force does not include any oncologists or radiologists, but simply a bunch of bureaucrats.

HHS Secretary Sibelius, noting the outcry, hastened to say that the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommendations were not regulation, and they really didn’t have any say.

California public health  linked the change to the Task Force advisory and also to California’s budget woes.

Breast cancer is a high-profile disease.  Most women know someone who has died of breast cancer.  The only appeal from a government decision is strong opposition.  Congress takes note of opposition if it is loud enough.  But many diseases and conditions are not high-profile, and cost a lot, and under ObamaCare the guidance will not come from your doctor, but from statistics gathered by bureaucrats to see what is cost-effective.

Democrats claim that they will increase preventive care to  control costs.  Studies show that preventive care will not control costs, but increase them.  Democrats don’t know anything whatsoever about controlling costs, or budgeting.  The current health-care bill clearly demonstrates this.

American medicine has always been about saving lives.  Democrat health-care reform is, first of all, about control.  To get that control, they have divided the electorate into groups to whom they promise favors.  Planned Parenthood and feminists demand paid abortions;  members of the Democrat caucus opposed to abortion, demand no paid abortions or they will vote against the bill.  Trial lawyers are second only to labor unions as Democrat donors.  No tort reform, and extra goodies for the unions.  Pleasing everyone means very high costs.  Democrat health-care reform becomes about saving money, and saving money becomes about rationing, because the costs are going to be very high, and rationing is all that’s left.

Republican health-care reform is about individuals, not groups.  They look at where the real problems are in our current health care, and advocate solving the problems before attempting drastic reform.  Doctors freely admit that they practice defensive medicine, ordering more tests than necessary  just to be on the safe side for fear of lawsuits. and nobody really knows how much this costs, but it’s a lot.

Insurance costs differ widely in different states because of requirements imposed by insurance commissioners and legislatures. Opening competition to insurance companies across state lines would bring costs down sharply.  Competition always does.  Bringing the cost of health insurance policies down will make health-care affordable for far more people.  Republicans have all sorts of good ideas.  Correcting the things that are wrong first seems far more sensible than trying to rearrange a big chunk of the economy, with no idea whether any part of it will work at all.



Scare Tactics? No, Real Life Evidence, Scary As It Is. by The Elephant's Child
August 6, 2009, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Freedom, Health Care | Tags: , , ,

In 2006, the State of Massachusetts adopted a health care plan that required every resident to get health insurance and required every business to provide it.  Otherwise, residents and employers would be fined.  This was the nation’s first state universal health insurance program.  It was to be the test ground to see how universal health coverage by the government would work here in the United States.  It was to be the model that could be replicated around the country.

Within weeks of the deadline to have everyone signed up, the state hadn’t accurately budgeted for the program. 95 percent of doctors weren’t accepting new patients.  Many doctors were leaving the state.  Rationing of services, reductions in benefits and growing waits for care began.  To keep the program solvent, Massachusetts cut payments to doctors and hospitals, reduced choices for patients, and was looking at increasing out-of-pocket expenses for patients.

By February of 2008, the state was asking the Federal government for help.  Only two years old, and already in trouble.

With the national health care debate now heating up, the obvious question is ‘what can we learn from the Massachusetts experiment?  The state treasurer says “Whatever you do, don’t do what we did.”

State treasurer Tim Cahill offered some startling statistics:

  • The program has so far cost 30 percent more than anticipated.  It already has a $9 billion shortfall projected over the nest two years.
  • Costs have risen 41 percent since the program’s inception, well outpacing the rise in healthcare costs nationwide, which stands at 18 percent.
  • We thought the program would mean that fewer people would go to hospitals, the highest costs that insurance plans have to pay.  That wasn’t true.
  • A Harvard study shows that 60 percent of residents are unhappy with the plan.  The unhappiest are those making $25,000 to $50,000 –those whom it should be helping the most.
  • To cut costs, the program has kicked out 30,000 legal immigrants.

Costs for Commonwealth Care (the subsidized program) soared from $158 million in the first year to $630 million in 2007, then doubled in 2009 to $1.3 billion.  Enrollment is now at 181,000 up from 165,000 in the early spring, and is expected to reach 212,000 next year.

Government managed health care has consistently failed.  The Indian Health Service — jokes say that if you get sick, do it before June, for that’s when they run out of money.  The VA has improved some, but much care is still substandard according to those who rely on it.  Hawaii flirted briefly with universal children’s insurance, and quickly dropped it as it was proving far too expensive. In 1994 Tennessee implemented managed care in its Medicaid program, with a system called TennCare.  They thought they would use the anticipated savings from Medicaid to fund and expand coverage for children and the uninsured.  It nearly bankrupted the state, reduced the quality of care and collapsed from it own deficiencies.

A government cannot promise to insure everyone, offer free care,  increase the quality of care and reduce costs.  It cannot happen.  It is a fantasy.

Fantasies work fine in the movies and in novels, but indulging in fantasy in real life can have real-life consequences.



So, These People We Elect to Congress — Do They Have to Read the Bills? by The Elephant's Child
August 5, 2009, 8:06 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Liberalism, Politics | Tags: , ,

Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) had a Town Hall meeting a few days ago.  A citizen asked if he had read the health care bill.  He responded that they didn’t have time to read the whole thing so he divided it up with his aides and each read part of it.  Mark Steyn posted a comment.  An Arlen Specter supporter responded that:

“Every CEO in the country, including Ronald Reagan as President, reads executive summaries of important documents.  The idea that any Senator has to read an entire bill in nonsense.  He needs staff not only to read it but to relate how items on page 3 relate to provisions on page 1009…What is true is that without time there is no way staff could read it and draft the necessary critiques for Senatorial review but this ‘he hasn’t read the bill stuff’  is stupidity not some great insight.”

Mark Steyn responded (and this is the brilliant part):

Arlen Specter is not a CEO: — notwithstanding the vast Gulf Emir-sized retinue to which he has become accustomed.  He doesn’t run anything.  He has no payroll to make, no contracts to fulfill, no deliveries to expedite.  A legislator is elected to legislate — so, if he doesn’t read the law before he makes it law, he’s not doing the only job he has. When you go to see Barbra Streisand, she has an orchestra and a conductor and arrangers and lighting designers and hair stylists, but she’s still expected to do the singing herself.  If she stood up and said, “Okay, I’ve outsourced “People” to my intern Kevin and “You Don’t Bring me Flowers’ to the niece of a friend of mine who needed a summer job and the Yentl medley to some people Kevin met for a breakfast session and said seemed to know what they were talking about,” you’d begin to wonder why anyone needs Barbra.

Why does anyone need Specter?  Why can’t we just eliminate the middle-man and have his “staffers” announce their collective vote like a U.N. Security “Council meeting?  (emphasis mine)

Excellent exchange.  Of course they have to read the bills.  If they recognized that they are required to read every bill in its entirety, bills would be shorter, earmarks would be fewer, laws would be clearer and work better, and they would pass much less legislation — which would benefit the country immeasurably.  Half of the problems in the country are caused by some little provision that someone sneaked into a bill that no one read.  As far as that goes, a lot of staffers would no longer be needed if they didn’t have to read the bills and summarize them for the very people who are supposed to be doing that job, and the budget would be smaller.

Don’t miss the update from another correspondent to Mark Steyn.  It’s priceless.



Government Spending Once Again Becomes the Problem, Not the Solution. by The Elephant's Child
July 22, 2009, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Economy, Energy, Science/Technology | Tags: , , ,

climate

monopsony is a situation in which a product or service is only bought by one customer.  Jo Nova has done a new study now available at The Science and Public Policy Institute that reveals that the U.S. Government has spent more than $79 billion of taxpayer money since 1989 on policies related to climate change, including science and technology research, administration, propaganda campaigns, foreign aid and tax breaks.  Most of this spending was unnecessary and useless.

An informal movement of scientists around the world has sprung up to test the integrity of the “global warming” theory and to compete with this lavishly funded, very organized climate monopsony.  Over and over, they have exposed major errors.

Worldwide, carbon trading reached $126 billion in 2008. Experts are predicting that the carbon market will reach $2-$10 trillion in the near future. The largest single commodity traded on global exchanges will be hot air.

Exxon-Mobil is continually attacked for funding climate skeptics for $23 million — less than one thousandth of what the U.S. Government spends on climate activists and alarmists.

This huge expenditure is designed to prove the non-existent connection between carbon dioxide and climate.   Government bodies, big business rent-seekers and environmental NGOs recruit, control and reward their own scientists who use climate modeling to justify power, control, wealth and population reduction.  Robert Ferguson, SPPIs president asks:

Are politicians paying out billions of our dollars for evidence-driven policy-making, or policy-driven evidence-making? The truth is more crucial than ever, because American lives, property and constitutional liberties are at risk.

If the Waxman-Markey climate bill passes, billions more will be expended to pay for environmentalists useless fantasies.



The United States Deficit Exceeds $1,000,000,000,000 by The Elephant's Child
July 14, 2009, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: , , , ,

toon062509

Count all those zeroes! That’s not the National Debt, but the Deficit — what we owe on our national credit card. And of course, just like a credit card, the interest charges pile up.  One trillion dollars.  If you need a picture, go here.

The stimulus isn’t working, and stimulus plans have a long history of not working.  Only 17 percent of Americans think the stimulus has been very effective according to the latest IBD/TIPP  Poll.  53 percent believe it has not been effective in getting the economy going in the right direction.

Since the start of the recession, 7.2 million people have lost their jobs. These are scary numbers, and many companies are asking people to reduce their hours.

Barack Obama has created quite a bunch of jobs with hefty salaries in his assortment of Czars, 28 domestic and 6 international.  No one is quite sure what these Czars are supposed to be doing, since most activities which are of proper concern to the government are represented by a department with a Secretary, an Assistant Secretary, a Deputy Secretary, and an Assistant Deputy Secretary or something like that, with dozens to hundreds of other employees, all of whose generous wages are paid by taxpayers.

The normal way of dealing with a recession is to try to alleviate some of the taxes on business, so that business is more able to create jobs.  And for government to reduce spending as much as they can after providing unemployment help for those who have lost their jobs.

This administration, however, has chosen to “not let a crisis go to waste”, and determined to “act swiftly” to get through a bunch of programs that they would never be able to get through Congress if the people were paying attention.

Of course when the President just turns over stimulus creation to Congress with only the stipulation of getting a lot of money into the economy quickly — then congressmen get lots of goodies to take home to their constituents.

Nancy Pelosi, for example, gets a $30 million program for renovating the salt marshes in San Francisco Bay to save the salt marsh harvest mouse.  A  cute little fellow that may be endangered.  There are probably  jobs involved, but they may not be those most needed by unemployed San Franciscans.

The usual rule is to avoid raising taxes during a recession.  Once you have done what can be done with unemployment benefits and food stamps, then you do everything you can to favor the small businesses that are always the source of new jobs.  Instead, this time Democrats plan to raise taxes on small business.  First, Obama has promised to let the Bush tax cuts expire.  That will raise the top personal rate from 35% to 39.6%.  If those taxes expire, so will various tax deductions and exemptions bringing the top marginal rate as high as 41%.

Chairman Rangel wants to impose a “surtax” on individuals with an adjusted gross income of more than $280,000 — “the rich.”  But more than six of every 10 who earn that much are small business owners, sole proprietors or subchapter S corporations who pay the individual rate.  Then phasing out various deductions and exemptions would bring the tax rate up to around 46% — a level that hasn’t been seen since 1986.

If that weren’t enough to discourage businesses from hiring or expanding; government has shown a willingness to take over private business, tell business how much they may earn, change regulations and add new ones, and impose economy-destroying mandates like the Waxman-Markey climate bill which would raise costs throughout the economy.

“Capital,” the late Walter Wriston said, “will go where it is wanted, and stay where it is well treated. It will flee from onerous regulation of its value or use and no government power can restrain it for long.”  Must be true.  Steven Ballmer has threatened to move Microsoft overseas, and businesses are leaving California in droves.

________________
The cartoon is by Michael Ramirez at IBD Editorials



Any and All Democrat Mistakes, Failures, Flubs and Fouls are Bush’s Fault. by The Elephant's Child

Much in the news today is Congressional “shock” that they were not briefed by the CIA on a program that they originally authorized; but which never came close to becoming operational.

This seems at first glance to be an attempt to butter over Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that the CIA lied to Congress. (CIA Director Panetta briefed both the house and the Senate on the same day, but the Senate Intelligence Committee has had nothing to say).

Director Panetta has said that there was no indication of anything illegal or inappropriate about the effort.  But Democrats on the House committee demanded that Panetta take back his claim that the CIA has never misled Congress.  Now why would that make me think that they were trying to give political cover to Ms. Pelosi?

The program was a plan to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, and never — according to a CIA senior intelligence officer — came close to becoming operational.  Though I’m not sure what the fuss is about.  Wasn’t that what we wanted, to capture or kill al Qaeda?

Panetta said that according to his notes, Vice President Cheney directed the CIA not to tell Congress specifics of the secret program.  Possibly because secret programs have a way of appearing on New York Times front page shortly after intelligence committees are briefed?

Never mind.  It’s just another case of politics as usual.  Dragging out “Bush did it” is the favorite attention deflector in the Obama playbook.



Liz Cheney takes on the “torture” controversy and Norah McDonald as well, and wins. by The Elephant's Child

Liz Cheney, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter, is here interviewed on MSNBC, on the interrogation memos and the question of “torture.” Norah McDonald gives a wonderful example of media bias. She can’t quite believe that anyone would have the gall to disagree with President Obama. For an example of disagreeing with a president, see “Afterburner“, a video we posted earlier. Hilarious.




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