American Elephants


Yoo-Hoo! Nancy, Harry, Barack! by The Elephant's Child

The people of the United States are trying to tell you something.  And you are not listening!  America has the world’s best health care system.  It has flaws.  There is no perfection in this world.  The flaws can be improved, if not fixed completely, but there is nothing that you are doing that actually fixes anything.

You claim to cover the uninsured, but at least 22 million remain uninsured under your plan.  You claim to be saving Medicare by letting younger people “buy-in,” and then slashing Medicare payments by 20 percent.  Are you nuts? There are many doctors that will not accept 20 percent less than what already does not cover their costs.  They just won’t accept Medicare patients.

Many doctors have said that if this goes through, they will simply quit the practice of medicine. Did you think that a hollow threat?  I wouldn’t bet on it.

One of your most precious ideas is the notion that a bevy of bureaucrats in Washington can look at a bunch of statistics that are only dimly understood, and decide from that who will get what treatment.

Medicine is not a one-size-fits-all deal.  Patients are individuals and have different reactions to medicines, to treatments, to tests.  Doctors learn skills in medical school and residencies, but the practice of medicine remains an art — trying to figure out just what is the right treatment for the individual patient. It probably doesn’t seem like a big deal when you have your own Cadillac plan with a complete clinic on call right downstairs. You forget that you are dealing in real people’s lives.

Medicare and Medicaid are already in the red. You’re going to cover everyone who is uninsured by forcing them to buy insurance, cover everyone who has a pre-existing condition, cover  illegal immigrants, promise to cover all ills — just before you explain that we can’t afford it.  Then you try to tell us that it will “bend the cost curve down?” This is simply the grossest kind of Liberal nonsense.

And where did you get the idea that in the United States of America you can plot Liberal fantasies in back rooms, behind closed doors, in secret?  This is not the Soviet Politburo. You are way out-of-line: arrogant, historically ignorant, impervious to evidence and economically illiterate. You are making a mess.

This is a wake-up call!  You really need to pay attention.

The splendid cartoon is by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Ramirez. See his political commentary every day here.



Reckless, Arrogant, Partisan Politics Inflicted on an American Public that Wants No Part of It. by The Elephant's Child
December 22, 2009, 2:00 am
Filed under: Economy, Health Care, Law, Taxes | Tags: , , ,

This is depressing.  The Senate voted at 1:00 a.m. to end debate on the most partisan piece of legislation ever proposed.  Nobody really knows what is in it, for it has been changing ever since it was revealed 38 hours previously. Language and details have been shifting as sweetheart deals and bribes were put in place to secure the necessary 60 Democrat votes. Not one Republican voted for cloture.

It has been a deeply dishonest and legally corrupt bill from the start. Even the liberals admit that it is awful, but say that once they get it passed, they can start fixing it.  Here are the enticements that got them to the magic number:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.)
—$1.2 billion over ten years for a permanent exemption from Nebraska’s share of the Medicaid expansion. The only state so exempted under the bill.
Exemption for Nebraska from an excise tax on non-profit insurers.

Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.)
—Exemption from the non-profit excise tax for Michigan insurers.
Michigan and Nebraska were the only two states so exempted.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.)
—$10 billion for “community health centers”.
—Protections from cuts to Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in Vermont.
—$250 million over six years in expanded federal Medicaid funding.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.)
—$300 million increase in Medicaid funding in Louisiana.

Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), Sen. Paul Kirk (D., Mass).
—Three years of expanded federal Medicaid funding.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.), Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.)
—Special treatment for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D., Hawaii), Sen. Daniel Akaka (D., Hawaii)
—billions in new funding for something called “Disproportionate Share Hospital” (DSH) payments (financed, in large part, by $18.5 billion in cuts to DSH payments in other states).

Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.), Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.), Sen. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.), Sen. Tim Johnson (D., S.D.)
—Higher federal Medicare reimbursement rates for low-population “frontier” states (also qualifying under the bill’s definition of frontier states are Utah and Wyoming, represented in the Senate by Republicans).

There is an excise tax on high-cost insurance plans, except when those plans belong to favored Democrat groups like the longshoreman’s union and other union interests such as miners, construction workers, electrical linemen or  EMTs and others who are absolved from this tax.

The excise tax also does not apply to the 17 states with the highest health costs, if that makes any sense.

If Congress passes the legislation — probable — it will not control costs.  It will make the budget outlook far worse.  It will lead to higher taxes.  And it will still leave at least 24 million without health insurance, probably far more.

The media is trumpeting an endorsement by the American Medical Association which represents only a minority of doctors, not all of whom agree with the AMA endorsement.

Health benefits are widely overstated.  Long-term economic costs are widely understated. The country will be far worse off for its passage.  It reeks of partisan politics and influence peddlers, and the American people want no part of it.



Lieberman, Nelson Say, “No!” by American Elephant
December 13, 2009, 3:18 pm
Filed under: Health Care, News, Politics, Socialism | Tags: , , ,

Senators Lieberman and Nelson both say they will vote against Harry Reid’s “compromise” health care bill, making passage of the bill as it stands unlikely:

Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare “buy-in” option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.

“I’m concerned that it’s the forerunner of single payer, the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option,” Nelson said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Lieberman said Democrats should stop looking for a public option “compromise” and simply scrap the idea altogether. [read more]

Let’s hope they stick to their guns!



A Tax-and Spend Bill of the Very Highest Order! Affordable Care Indeed! by The Elephant's Child

It looks as if Harry Reid has the 60 votes he needs to pass his health care bill to the floor.  This is a procedural vote, but an important one, and Republicans may not be able to keep the bill from passing.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has used every trick in the book to get the votes he needs. Scheduling the vote for a Saturday night when all the senators were anxious to be off on their Thanksgiving vacation provides an extra bit of urgency.   Bribes for reluctant Blue Dog Democrats ((moderates) like the $100 million for Louisiana Senator Landrieu’s constituents written into the health care bill show how it is done.

I would dearly love to see a quiz ordered, on the senate floor, to see just what the  senators know about the bill that they are voting for.  I suspect not much.  After all it has only been available for a couple of days, and it is 2074 pages long. No one has had time to read the whole thing, understand it and analyze its consequences.

The gimmicks (cheats) used to get a favorable rating from the Congressional Budget Office are quite amazing.  The “Doc-Fix” is a big one.  They cut the Medicare reimbursements to physicians for their services, and right now the payments to doctors are far under the doctors costs.  What happens when you do not reimburse doctors fairly?  They quit accepting Medicare patients.  (Same thing for Medicaid).  Senators know this, so will pass a separate bill putting back the reimbursements they removed.  Since only the cut is part of the bill, the CBO will find that it cuts costs. (Lie, Cheat, Fraud).

The CBO estimates costs over a ten-year period.  So the taxes and fees commence next year, but the bill doesn’t take full effect until 2014 when the costs begin.  That’s how you make it seem cheaper.  Over 20 years, the true costs will be $4.9 trillion, though every health care bill anywhere, Medicare, Medicaid, the States’ plans have all cost far more than estimated — except for the Medicare Drug Plan.  That came in costing less than the estimates because of the “donut hole” provision which encouraged seniors to make wise choices to keep the cost of their prescriptions down. The Democrats, of course, plan to eliminate the “donut hole.”  There is no end to their folly.

How about this bit:  according to Keith Hennessey, 16 million uninsured Americans  pay a penalty tax.  8 million uninsured illegal aliens will not have to pay a penalty tax.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) have been increasingly popular. In 2006 only about 1% of adults with private insurance had HSAs, by this year it is up to 4%.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, whose members dominate the HSA market, says that enrollees are more likely than those with traditional insurance to be better consumers. They’re more likely to track expenses (63% to 43%), save for the future (47% to 18%), and search for information on physician quality (20% to 14%). They’re also more likely to participate and see results from wellness programs like weight loss, fitness and smoking cessation. This makes intuitive sense: They’ve got skin directly in the game.

David Goldhill, a media executive, recently wrote in the Atlantic Monthly that if a 22-year-old starts at his company today earning $30,000 and health costs grow at 3%, by the time he retires he’ll have paid out $1.77 million in premiums, lower wages, out-of-pocket costs and both sides of the Medicare payroll tax.

If all that money were instead available via an HSA, including by borrowing against future contributions, “wouldn’t you be able to afford your own care?” Mr. Goldhill asks. “And wouldn’t you consume health care differently if you and your family didn’t have to spend that money only on care?”

About 40% of tax-filers with HSAs earn under $60,000 a year.  Naturally the Democrats eliminate Health Savings Accounts.  And of course, the Reid bill subjects all private health insurance (you didn’t think you would escape this, did you?) to detailed Federal regulation.  Those clever bureaucrats (who can’t even read the bills they vote for) know better than you or your doctor what health care you should be allowed to have.

The Republican plan would shrink the deficit by $61 billion at least, without accounting gimmicks. Can’t have that!

ADDENDUM:  The National Federation of Independent Business has come out in full force against the Senate health care bill.  It does not address their number one problem: the unsustainable cost of healthcare.  They oppose it due to the amount of new taxes, the creation of new mandates, and the establishment of new entitlement programs.  The costs far outweigh any benefits that businesses might have reallized.  Why are they speaking up only now?  The bill has just become available — all 2074 pages.



How Do You Pass a Bill that The Majority of Americans Don’t Want? by The Elephant's Child
November 19, 2009, 11:20 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Health Care, Statism, Taxes | Tags: , ,

If you desperately want to pass a bill nationalizing one-sixth of the economy, destroying the best health-care system in the world, raising the costs of health insurance for everyone in the country, and raising taxes on everything that moves — and you have some reluctant blue dog Democrats that might not go along — what do you do?

In the case of Mary Landrieu (D-LA),and you need her vote,  if you are Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), you add a little section on page 432 of your health care bill to increase Medicaid subsidies for “certain states recovering from a major disaster.”

The bill takes two pages to define which states would qualify, as those stated during the preceding seven fiscal years have been declared a “major disaster area.” All of which manages to apply to just one state — Louisiana, the home of said blue dog reluctant Democrat Mary Landrieu, and presents Louisiana with a Medicaid subsidy of $100 million taxpayer dollars.

That’s how you buy votes.

ADDENDUM: Mary Landrieu didn’t want to be known as aavailable so cheaply. It cost $300 million to buy her off.



So What’s a Progressive? They Say They’re All Progressives Now. by The Elephant's Child

In a recent article from the blog at The American Heritage Foundation, the author quoted an excerpt from historian Thomas G. West, author of The Progressive Revolution in Politics and Political Science:

The Founders thought that laws should be made by a body of elected officials with roots in local communities. They should not be “experts,” but they should have “most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society” (Madison). The wisdom in question was the kind on display in The Federalist, which relentlessly dissected the political errors of the previous decade in terms accessible to any person of intelligence and common sense.

The Progressives wanted to sweep away what they regarded as this amateurism in politics. … Only those educated in the top universities, preferably in the social sciences, were thought to be capable of governing. Politics was regarded as too complex for common sense to cope with. … Only government agencies staffed by experts informed by the most advanced modern science could manage tasks previously handled within the private sphere.

The Progressives did not intend to abolish democracy, to be sure. They wanted the people’s will to be more efficiently translated into government policy. But what democracy meant for the Progressives is that the people would take power out of the hands of locally elected officials and political parties and place it instead into the hands of the central government, which would in turn establish administrative agencies run by neutral experts, scientifically trained, to translate the people’s inchoate will into concrete policies.

This, the blog says, is why you have Obama’s Energy Secretary telling auto makers how they must build cars.  This is why Obama’s health care plan empowers a panel of “experts” to reorganize one-sixth of our economy from the top down.  Commonsense questions like “Won’t our electricity bills go up if we mandate power companies to use more expensive alternative energy sources?” and “Won’t our health insurance premiums go up if everyone is charged the same price and nobody can be refused coverage”” can’t be tolerated.  People voicing such criticisms must be isolated and silenced.



It sounds like a bit of a mess, but the EPA is riding to the rescue, really really soon. by The Elephant's Child

The Obama administration giveth with one hand and snatcheth away with the other.  Obama himself has guaranteed auto warranties, so you don’t have to worry.  Greg Pollowitz noted in Planet Gore at National Review:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has opened the door to allowing higher mixes of ethanol in gasoline, a potential boon to farmers and the struggling ethanol industry, but opposed by auto makers whose consumer warranties typically are tied to the current EPA standard.

Well, of course.  Ethanol producers have been going bankrupt left and right. If they go bankrupt, then farmers in the corn states won’t be able to sell their corn to to ethanol producers.  Then there are auto makers, in deep trouble, possibly facing bankruptcy. They must come up with satisfactory plans promptly.

Obama wants them to make smaller, more energy-efficient cars, preferably hybrids or electric cars.  Americans don’t want hybrids or electric cars.  They want SUVs to cart the kids and their friends around safely, get around in the snow, and haul stuff from Home Depot around. Congress has mandated new mpg requirements that car makers cannot meet, and besides, the car makers  are busy going bankrupt.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently reported on a series of test crashes between minicars and midsize models; and the death rate in minis is three times higher than in large cars.  We’ve been hearing a lot about the green promise of high-efficiency cars.  A 2002 National Research Council study found that CAFE standards contributed to about 2.000 deaths per year because of their restrictions on size and weight.

General Motors Volt , Obama’s car advisory group said, is not ready for prime time.  It costs around $40,000 and goes only 40 miles on a charge.  But then, the advisory group has only had 3 weeks to learn how to run a car company.  Obama wants the Volt still on the table, as it is an all electric car.

Americans are not likely to use enough gas next year to accommodate the 13 billion gallons of ethanol that Congress has mandated. Current regulations limit the ethanol content in a gallon of gas to 10%.  The industry wants that quantity lifted to 15% or even 20%.  But only a fraction of cars on the road can run with ethanol blends higher than 10%.  It can damage engines, corrode automotive pipes and impair some safety features.  It can also mess up catalytic converters.  It’s even worse in boats, snowmobiles, lawnmowers and so  on.  And to boot, there is little or no net reduction in CO2 over ordinary gasoline, if you are actually worried about CO2. The EPA has decided it can regulate CO2 as a dangerous pollutant because they are unfamiliar with photosynthesis and breathing.

U.S. oil refiners will be on the hook for liability for any problems arising from ethanol blending, because Congress refused to grant legal immunity for selling a product that complies with the mandates that it ordered. They just don’t like oil companies.

The refiners are also set to pay stiff fines for not fulfilling Congress’s mandates for second-generation cellulosic ethanol.  The makers already admit that they won’t be able to churn out enough of the stuff to meet the targets that Congress decided on two years ago.

This is all aside from the fact that ethanol production has raised the cost of food by about $47 per year, per American.  Plus, ethanol only gets produced with major subsidies from taxpayers. And there isn’t as much energy in a gallon of ethanol as there is in a gallon of gas — no matter what the source of the ethanol.  So it doesn’t go as far.

In March 2008, a report commissioned by the Coalition for Balanced Food and Fuel policy (a coalition of eight meat, dairy and egg producers) estimated that the biofuel mandates passed by Congress will cost the U.S. economy more than $100 billion from 2006 to 2009. It also acts as a regressive tax on the poor to whom Obama is mailing checks called tax cuts, as soon as he get around to it.

There’s more, but you get the idea.  Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are right on top of everything.  We’ll get it all ironed out really, really soon.  Trust us.




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,036 other followers

%d bloggers like this: