American Elephants

Not Quite As Advertised! by The Elephant's Child
April 24, 2010, 1:08 am
Filed under: Economy, Health Care, Politics, Statism | Tags: , ,

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, points out some of the danger signs for ObamaCare revealed in the actuary report.  The White House  says that only 23 million people will remain uninsured, instead of the previously estimated 24 million.  The bill won’t really take effect until 2014, but there seems to be plenty of trouble ahead.

Here are the danger spots, as Ms. Turner lists them:

1. About 14 million people will lose their employer coverage by 2019, as smaller employers terminate their plans and workers who have  employer coverage enroll in Medicaid.  Half of all seniors on Medicare Advantage could lose their coverage.

2.  Big fines for companies: Businesses will pay $878 billion in penalties in the first five years after the fines trigger in 2014, partly because they can’t afford to offer government-mandated insurance, and because some employees will apply for taxpayer-subsidized insurance.

3. Tens of billions in new fees and excise taxes will “be passed through to consumers in the form of higher drug and devices prices and higher premiums.  Small businesses will be hardest hit.

4.  The “CLASS Act” long-term-care insurance will face a significant risk of failure.  There is a serious risk that the program will be unsustainable.

5.  National health spending will increase by $311 billion over the coming decade.  The federal spending curve will increase by a net total of $251 billion over the next ten years.

6. An estimated 23 million will remain uninsured by 2019, 5 million undocumented aliens, and 18 million who pay the penalty rather than buy insurance.

7. Estimated reductions in the growth rate of health spending “may not be fully achievable” because productivity adjustments could become unsustainable even within 10 years

8. Fifteen percent of all hospitals, nursing homes and other providers treating Medicare patients could be operating at a loss by 2019, which will jeopardize care for beneficiaries.  Doctors are threatening to drop Medicare if reimbursement rates mean they can’t cover their costs.

9. A significant number of those newly eligible for Medicaid will have trouble finding physicians who will see them.

Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee explain in a new report the impact of a #14.3 billion per year tax on health insurance, effective in 2014.  This tax will be passed through to consumers in the form of higher premiums for private coverage.  It will cost the typical family of four with job-based coverage an additional $1,000 a year and will fall more often on small businesses and their employees.

These things stand out at this point, but there are many more money-saving claims that Democrats have made, that seem  destined to fail to reduce costs.  Governmental plans oft go awry, and things always cost far more than estimated.  But we knew all that too, didn’t we.


False Narratives, Straw Men, and the Blame Game. by The Elephant's Child

Politics is a strange world.  There’s the territory “inside the beltway” and then there’s — the rest of the country.  Washington D.C. is often described as a bubble where people live and operate with no contact whatsoever with those folks out in flyover country.  Think of the slightly sneering reference to a major part of America as “fly over country,” unimportant, unrecognized, until election time when it becomes, temporarily — “the heartland.”

“Inside the beltway”is composed mostly of Democrats these days, and they are marveling at Obama’s “success,” effectiveness and political standing.  Obama aides (and there are 1,700 full-time White House aides, the most in history) are enthusiastic about his foreign-policy successes, job growth, health care and lower-than-expected costs for the bailout.   Foreign policy success?  Job growth? Lower-than-expected costs for the bailout?

They seem to grasp that there is some, um, unrest about health care; but the answer is for the president to get out there and sell  it.  The answer is always, always, more PR.  Another appearance, another speech, but no one seems to recognize that the pleasant words Obama uses to describe the health care bill bear no relation whatsoever to the actual contents of the bill.

Longtime NBC science correspondent Jay Barbree, speaking from the Space Center, said that during the campaign Obama came to the Space Center, and told the 15,000 workers that he would preserve NASA’s cutting-edge science and engineering expertise, and if they would vote for him he would protect their jobs  Now 9,000 of them are about to lose their jobs.

Obama has returned to the Space Center to try to build support for his efforts to revamp the nation’s space program.  He spoke before 200 or so people, by invitation onlyHe has not invited a single space worker from the space port to attend.  It’s only academics and other high officials.  Jay Barbree was stunned at the president’s duplicity.

MSNBC’s Alex Witt responded “I will say, on behalf of the Obama administration, they contend that 2500 new jobs will be created, even more, they say, than the 2012 Constellation would have created, that program.

Nice to know that Ms. Witt speaks for the Obama Administration.  That  clears up a little about MSNBC.

Elsewhere, it has been noted that Obama’s poll numbers have been falling because — he hasn’t been blaming Bush enough.  The theory seems to be that the portrayal of the Bush years as a disastrous time of anti-regulation, tax-cutting policies that led to the 2008 meltdown has faded from public memory. Possibly because it was another lie to begin with.

The Obama team has remarkable skills in creating straw men, false narratives, and blaming everyone but themselves.  America is in trouble, and the people want the transparency promised by the president that never seems to arrive.

The levels of spending, increases in government size and control over the most minute elements of American life are deeply troubling.  The stock market is up, but cities and small towns are filled with empty storefronts.  The only place where there is vigorous hiring is in the federal government, and hiring is frequently limited to union members.  Stimulus money went to supporters — the blue states, while fly over country was ignored. Crony capitalism.

Perhaps Obama could get away with blaming Bush for everything during the campaign, though that narrative wasn’t true even then.  This has been Obama’s show for fifteen months.  Blaming his predecessor at this late date simply makes Obama seem like an irresponsible  whiner.

The Estimable Mark Steyn by The Elephant's Child

Mark Steyn points out today that Obama held “the biggest meeting of world leaders on American soil since the founding of the U.N. 65 years ago” on nuclear nonproliferation — and Iran wasn’t on the agenda.

Iran has already offered to share its nuclear technology with Sudan.

The mound of corpses being piled up around the world today is not from high-tech nuclear states but from low-tech psycho states.  It’s not that Britain has nukes and poor old Sudan has to make do with machetes.  It’s that the machete crowd is willing to kill on an industrial scale and the high-tech guys can’t figure out a way to stop them.  Perhaps for his next pointless yakfest the president might consider a machete nonproliferation initiative.

“So the principle underpinning Obama’s Seventies-retro nuke summit — that the size of a civilized state’s stockpile adds to the global threat — is not just false but dangerously delusional.”

A Nuclear Summit that Yields — Not Much. by The Elephant's Child
April 13, 2010, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, National Security, Statism, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

President Obama has checked off another little item on his list. He has saved the world from the horrors of nuclear weapons. As The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank began his piece today:

World leaders arriving in Washington for President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit must have felt for a moment that they had instead been transported to Soviet-era Moscow.

They entered a capital that had become a military encampment, with camo-wearing military police in Humvees and enough Army vehicles to make it look like a May Day parade on New York Avenue, where a bicyclist was killed Monday by a National Guard Truck.

In the middle of it all was Obama — occupant of an office once informally known as “leader of the free world” — putting on a clinic for some of the world’s greatest dictators in how to circumvent a free press.

Reporters for foreign outlets, admitted for the first time to the White House Press pool were ushered out after Obama’s eight-minute opening statement — which ended with the words: “I’m going to ask that we take a few moments to allow the press to exit before our first session.”

Obama’s official schedule for Tuesday would have pleased China’s Central Committee. Excerpts: “The President will attend the Heads of Delegation working lunch. This lunch is closed press. . . . The President will meet with Prime Minster Erdogan of Turkey. This meeting is closed press. . . . The President will attend Plenary Session II of the Nuclear Security Summit. This session is closed press.”

President Transparency has believed since his undergraduate days in the Nuclear Freeze movement, that nuclear weapons kill people.  So he has signed a START treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear weapons — that includes a long list of just when Moscow will ignore the treaty. The Russians were apparently adamant about excluding tactical weapons, where they have a 10-1 advantage,  from the treaty.

The big Nuke Summit doesn’t yield much of anything at all.  Canada and Chile agreed to send some uranium to the United States. ( We were really worried about Canada).  The Ukraine will send some to Russia.   Obama insulted some more allies and bowed to despots once again.

And surprise, surprise, our greatest nuclear threat is not addressed at all by the uranium transfers announced with such fanfare.  One would think that someone in the administration might take seriously Iran’s announced threat to America, Israel,and Europe, but that might take something more than pretty speeches, and summit meetings that promise to meet once again — just like the eternal and useless climate meetings.

The threat of Islamic terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons more likely comes from Iran, Pakistan or North Korea than any other source. But this was not addressed at all.  Of course if we actually got any nuclear material from one of the 47 nations in attendance, what would we do with it?  We have no place to put it, since President Obama shut down Yucca Mountain.

But is our greatest threat terrorists?  Or is it the mullahs who lead the chant of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” and proudly announce how many centrifuges they have operating?  And does President Transparency have any intention of doing anything at all about Iran?  Even encouraging the dissidents who want to overthrow the government?  Didn’t think so.  Big speeches, not open to the press, are more his speed, and banning words like jihad, and  Islam, and terrorist.

Ireland Sets an Example, All the U.S. Has to Do is Follow. by The Elephant's Child
April 11, 2010, 8:02 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Taxes | Tags: , ,

When corporations in the private sector run extended losses — spending more than they take in — employees share in the adjustments that have to be made.  Jobs are lost, and salaries cut.  When governments  spend more than they take in, running huge and extended deficits, they are inclined to raise taxes and their own salaries.

It is well-known that government employees on average receive higher pay and more benefits than the private sector employees who perform similar jobs.  So when unemployment is high and debt is high and deficit spending is really high, what should happen then?

The recession hit Ireland hard.  Known as the Celtic Tiger, Ireland went from being one of the poorest countries in the European Union to one of the richest.  Financial services became a major part of Ireland’s economy, and left it vulnerable to the housing bubble and the financial crisis.

Ireland took action.  The current Irish budget (translating from euros to dollars and rounding) takes these steps:

  • Government employees’ salaries up to $40,000 will be reduced by 5%.
  • The next $54,000 of salary will be reduced by 7.5%.
  • The next $74,000 of salary will be reduced by 10%.

This gets up to salaries of $168,000. Salaries over that amount may have marginal reductions of as much as 15%.

Economics 101: When you tax something, you get less of it.  Oddly enough, Congress is searching for more ways to raise taxes on American citizens.  They might take a leaf from Ireland’s plan.  Just a thought.

(h/t: Alex J. Pollock)

More Hypocrisy from the Obama Administration. by The Elephant's Child
April 10, 2010, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Education | Tags: , ,

The Obama administration decided recently to go to war over the use of interns by for-profit corporations, which I delved into here.  One of the hardest problems for young people is getting those first few lines on a resume, and they are often happy to work for free just to get some valid experience.

Personnel departments often are not particularly impressed with a diploma; they want some solid evidence that a young person knows how to read, write and how to follow directions and how to work.  If companies are forced to pay these interns, fewer students will be offered internships.  The administration is attempting to create an image of unpaid interns exploited by Big Business, another demographic of victims falling prey to capitalism.

Mr. Obama’s “Organizing for America” offered internships to help elect the president during the campaign, and still are offering unpaid internships today.  The Summer Organizing program doesn’t offer a stipend, food or transportation.  It also notes that “Summer Organizers will be required to work 40 hours a week.”

If an intern volunteers for such an internship it is no less exploitative  if it is in a political campaign than if it is for a for-profit company.  Hypocrisy is hypocrisy, it doesn’t change its nature if it is labor for “the One.”

Out on the Campaign Trail, Trying to Sell a Bill that Is Already Law. by The Elephant's Child

Now that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been signed into law, President Obama has been out on the campaign trail, trying to sell it to an angry populace.  In Charlotte, North Carolina,  Doris Ravis asked him: “In the economy times that we have now, is it a wise decision to add more taxes to us with the health care?  Because it — we are over-taxed as it is.”

The president has a fondness for lists:

Well, let’s talk about that, because this is an area where there’s been just a whole lot of misinformation, and I’m going to have to work hard over the next several months to clean up a lot of the misapprehensions that people have.  Here’s the bottom line:  Number one is that we are the only — we have been up until last week the only advanced country that allows 50 million of its citizens to not have any health insurance, and the vast majority of those folks work.  It’s just that they don’t happen to work for a company that is either big enough or generous enough to provide them any coverage.

The president just said that Ms. Ravis’ question was “misapprehension.” But there is another “misapprehension” here.  “We are the only advanced country that allows 50 million of its citizens to not have any health insurance”

This statement, which turns everything on its head, has been the big excuse behind the drive to redistribute income, which is the true goal.  The idea that we are somehow behind countries that have universal health care simply doesn’t hold water.  Obama keeps implying that anyone who doesn’t have health insurance (and the number was never 50 million, we are only pretending to force 32 million to buy insurance) is going to die as a result.

American health care has been the finest in the world.  It is expensive because of 300 million people’s individual decisions.  We have chosen to see a specialist, get the test the doctor recommends.  And to make sure that there is a safety net, as a country, we have made a law that no one can be turned away from an emergency room.  The only place in our health care system where people are forced to do without needed medical care is in the government-run Indian Health Care Service and in the VA. The failures of our health care system can be laid at the doorstep of government regulation.

Socialized medicine does not work in those “advanced” countries with universal health care. Governments tinker constantly, trying to reduce costs. All are in crisis of varying degrees.  And we need to pay close attention to the failures, because health care doesn’t matter much when you are perfectly well, it matters when you desperately need it.

Point Number Three is attack the insurance companies .  You may think you’re covered, but then when you get sick they decide to drop the insurance right when you need it.  It has been the law for years that insurance companies cannot do any such thing.  Obama’s assumption that people are too dumb to grasp this is insulting. He always likes to throw in “going bankrupt and losing your house.” This is pure demagoguery.

“Because the costs are so out of control, all the programs that we already have — Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program — all those things are completely out of control.  Above all, costs are out of control because of waste, fraud and abuse — estimated as high as $10 billion.  And there is nothing in the bill that will reduce that fraud.

Then he started a new list at number one:  “Most people individually shouldn’t buy health insurance on their own because they have no leverage and the insurance companies take advantage of it.  Instead what we’re going to do is we’re going to set up a big pool, a marketplace, that allows everybody to buy into this pool — that members of Congress, will be a part of so that you know it’s going to be a good deal — because members of Congress, they’ve got to look out for their own families; they wouldn’t vote for it if it wasn’t going to be a good deal.”

That’s when I gave up.  I don’t know when they amended the bill to take out the exclusion written in for Congress and key staffers.  I suspect that it hasn’t happened, for it would be pretty big news.  I would urge you to read this whole speech  for yourself.  All hopey-changey, say anything that you think the suckers will swallow.  The extent to which the president will go in trying to sell his bill is depressing.  They must be really worried that we will repeal it.

One more: ” We’re going to start encouraging paying doctors not based on how many tests they take, but based on the quality of the outcome — does somebody end up healthy.”  Wow!  I’ve never heard of a doctor being paid based on how many tests they order.  The tests are usually done by a variety of laboratories, who are reimbursed for their work.  And most tests are designed to help a doctor diagnose the state of your health.  And they’re going to save money because you won’t get a test from your doctor, the same test from the specialist. Nonsense. My doctors, at least,  fax test results, have x-rays hand carried.  Nobody repeats the same test.

Ms. Ravis got a 17-minute, 2,500-word response to her question, all over the map, and she never got an answer.

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