American Elephants


Saving Money or Saving Lives? Deciding What is Really Important. by The Elephant's Child
September 22, 2009, 3:31 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Domestic Policy, Health Care, Taxes | Tags: ,

It daily becomes ever more clear that Democrats, wrapped in the mantle of their good intentions, have no conception of the long term consequences of their glorious ideas.  They hate the idea of profit, for profits are the product of greedy capitalists. Try explaining to a Liberal that without profit, there would be no business,  no innovation, and no products and you will likely get a blank stare.

The current theme is that evil Insurance companies make vast profits while leaving their hapless healthcare-denied policy-holders dying in the streets.  Doesn’t work.  Health insurance companies profits are around 4¢ on the dollar of sales.  Hardly admission to the evildoer hall of fame.

American healthcare is about saving lives.  Socialist healthcare is about saving money.

When Democrats  plan health care for everyone, they want to add (according to President Obama) 30 million uninsured Americans to the plan, paying for their health care, and they don’t know how to pay for it without bankrupting the country.

The big things that actually would save money — tort reform, opening the market to all insurance companies and  forcing them to compete for business,  health savings accounts, offering individuals the tax benefits heretofore given to employers, catastrophic care policies for those who don’t want to pay for insurance for the small stuff — are nowhere in Democrat plans.

Democrats won’t offend the trial lawyers, they don’t like competition, they reject health savings accounts, which are a proven success.  They want the young and healthy, who don’t feel that they need much insurance, to pay to support the rest. They insist, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that “preventative care” will save money, that a “medical home” will save money, and left with vastly increased costs — they cut back on payments to doctors and care providers, slash payments for drugs and medical supplies and cut back on tests and treatments. That is rationing.

When IBD/TIPP sent out a questionnaire to 25,600 practicing physicians from around the country, they asked “Under a government plan do you think drug companies will have incentives to develop as many lifesaving new drugs?” Sixty percent of those who responded said “no.”  As well as polling questions, the questionnaire allowed physicians to elaborate on their concerns.

A major concern was that drug and technology in medicine — considered by many to be the most vital part of the U.S. health system — will wither under government-run health care.  One physician summed it up as follows: “It will crush medical research because new and innovative treatments/technology cost money initially and the government won’t pay.”

A landmark report by economist Frank Lichtenberg in 2002 looked at the huge increase in life expectancy — from 69.7 years to 76.5 years — during the period from 1960 to 1997.

He found that much of the gain in life spans was due to improved drugs and technology. He further found that investment in new drugs shows an enormous return: For every $1,345 spent on drug R&D, about one life-year is added to the U.S. total.

Given that the average productive value of one life-year for a healthy person is about $150,000, economic gains from new drug innovation would appear to be enormous.

Take just one class of new treatments: anti-hypertensive drugs used to treat high blood pressure. In 2001, according to a study by economist Genia Long and six others, these drugs saved about 89,000 lives — and prevented 420,000 hospital visits.

It costs industry more than $1 billion to develop and bring a drug to market, a 10 to 15 year process.  Health care responds to demand, and we demand the best for ourselves and for our loved ones.  Will we insist on a health care that is about saving lives?  Or will we surrender to a health care that is primarily about saving money?

In America, when we have asked the free market to compete and invent and develop ways to help us to live and yet save money, the market has always responded.  All the things that make it cost more, slow growth, discourage innovation and deprive us of care have been the result of government action.

And these— are the very folks who assure us that they can fix it, just as they fixed Amtrack, the Post Office, the automobile industry, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the Indian Health Service.  Their record of success in fixing things is……..



Crackpot Economics, Crackpot Environmentalism and Congress. by The Elephant's Child
August 16, 2009, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Economy, Energy, Environment | Tags: , ,

Clunkers

If you want a serious reason to oppose ObamaCare, take a look at the “Cash for Clunkers” program.  Officially it is known as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) and it even has its own cute little logo with an automobile symbol in place of the ‘A’.  It was initially part of the Waxman-Markey climate bill that was spun off as separate legislation.  It was initially intended to encourage drivers to trade in older less fuel-efficient  cars for new cars with better fuel economy,  bringing car buyers into empty showrooms and lowering the fuel consumption of the American automotive fleet.

What it does establish is that Americans are not stupid.  When they are offered $4500 of someone else’s money — which on some models can be 1/4 of the price —  to buy a car, they take it.  The $1 billion of taxpayer money appropriated by Congress was exhausted within a week.  So Congress has appropriated another $2 billion.

One of the immediate problems is that the cars that are turned in are required to be crushed immediately.  Most would be perfectly good used cars for those who cannot afford a new car.  But removing them from use will starve the used-car market of inventory, thus driving up the price of used cars and probably bankrupting some small used car dealers. And then there is the parts question, for there is a big market for used car parts.  It is not known if there is a market at present for the scrap metal from the crushed cars.

It is also not known if there is any environmental benefit to the program.  The amount of carbon dioxide that is foregone by replacing cars with higher fuel consumption may well be insignificant compared to the energy required to crush and process the clunkers.  And if the newer vehicles are driven more and farther than the old ones — is there any net reduction in CO2?  And even if there is, the affect of  lowered CO2 may be insignificant in the atmosphere, since most of the CO2 in the atmosphere arises from the oceans, not our tailpipes.

CO2 is not a pollutant, contrary to a misguided ruling by the Supreme Court.  It is a colorless, odorless gas that is natural plant food, and essential to life.  The optimum amount of  CO2 in the atmosphere is about 1000 ppm, the current amount is around 400 ppm.  CO2 is only a trace gas in the atmosphere.

If all that was not enough, it seems that  Dealers are not being repaid for the $4500 they have advanced to car buyers.   Congress has supposedly appropriated the money,  but auto dealers haven seen any money, and it’s hurting.

Were the people who are rushing out to buy new cars with the benefit of $4500 of taxpayer dollars going to buy new cars anyway?  This is crackpot economics.  And it’s catching.  New Jersey and Vermont are now offering subsidies for those who turn in their old refrigerators and freezers.

Meanwhile, senators are considering a permanent clunkers program.  After all, it’s only money and  it is so very popular.  But then Paul always enjoys the gift of  Peter’s money.

ADDENDUM: Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa) has said that the government has only reimbursed 2 percent of dealers , and that 4 our of 5 applications have been rejected for “minor oversight.” The government has only 225  people processing the claims at the Department of Transportation.  They need 1,000 said Sestak.  Gosh, they cannot handle the original billion dollars worth of claims with two more billion to go.  And they are ever so sure they can handle the health insurance claims for 220 million people?  Where is the evidence of any kind of success at that, ever?



Spinning the Numbers, by Your Government and Mine. by The Elephant's Child
August 7, 2009, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Progressivism | Tags: , ,

The much anticipated jobs report was released today.  247,000 more jobs have been lost, but “the rate of job loss has dropped from 9.5 percent to 9.4 percent”— because 422,000 quit looking.  This was heralded across the airwaves as a great sign of economic recovery.  This is known as spin.

The economy is still in the doldrums with 6.7 million jobs lost since December of 2007.  14.5 million are currently unemployed, with all sectors of the economy affected.

The president’s agenda, however, is focused not on jobs, but on passing, at all costs, a health care bill about which the biggest questions are how to pay for it, since the Congressional Budget Office has said bluntly that we can’t afford it.

Democrats are talking about a middle class tax hike (Robert Gibbs denies it, but they simply cannot squeeze enough money from “the rich” to pay for it).  They are talking about a value-added tax, which just raises the cost of everything.  They are trying to think of all sorts of things to tax, apparently unaware that people who do not have jobs aren’t able to pay a lot of taxes, and what taxes they do have to pay only harm them.

Democrats are also considering what taxes and mandates to inflict on employers, apparently unaware that raising the cost of doing business during a recession simply means more layoffs and more business failures.  But economics has never been one of the Democrats’ strong points.

And once they get the new airplanes approved, and the cash for clunkers out there to destroy the used car business, and the health care reform bill passed, then they want to pass a cap-and-trade bill which will raise not only the cost of energy, but of everything you buy.  They’re estimating that at something like $3,000 -$4,000 per household per year.

But you must take care, because they don’t want any criticism, and they don’t want to answer any unfriendly questions, and they especially don’t want to be told that they have to read the bills.



To Meddle or Not to Meddle, That Is The Question. Or Is It? by The Elephant's Child
June 30, 2009, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, History, Latin America, Middle East | Tags: , ,

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White House sources have said that President Obama just isn’t interested in foreign policy.  People who know him well say that he has never really had any interest in history.  It shows.

Democrats do have trouble recognizing who our friends are and who are the bad guys.  Jimmy Carter was astounded when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and still can’t get over his love affair with Hamas.  All sorts of Democrats were sure that Ho Chi Minh was the good guy, and a number even went to N. Vietnam to visit.  Castro is idolized for his communist paradise with its 15,000 imprisoned enemies of the state.  You have seen the tee shirts and posters featuring that bloody killer Ché Guevara.

Two weeks ago, President Obama refused to “meddle” in a totalitarian country where unarmed, peaceful students demonstrating in the streets were being beaten and shot for opposing the election that they believed to be fraudulent.  He didn’t want to take sides.  Now he’s eager to “meddle” in the situation in Honduras.  And goodness, is he meddling!  National Review’s Andy McCarthy says:

Now that the president has decided it’s okay to meddle in Honduras (where they are fighting to preserve their democracy against the Chávez-style thug who Obama wants to re-install) but not Iran (where thousands of Iranians who seek democracy are being killed, maimed and jailed by a regime which has been at war with the United States for 30 years), the president’s tack is to say that Honduras’s action in removing Zelaya is “not legal.”

What on earth makes Obama think he knows better about what is legal under the law of Honduras than the Supreme Court of Honduras and the law-writing legislature of Honduras? The Honduran military acted after Zelaya defied an order by that nation’s highest court which pronounced his coup attempt illegal; he has been replaced under a Honduran legal process by that nation’s Congress, which essentially impeached him and democratically voted in a successor. That sounds pretty legal to me. I am the first to admit I am not an expert in Honduran law, but I’d bet the Honduran Supreme Court has a better grasp on it than President Obama. On the issue of what is legal in Honduras, as between Hugo Chávez and the Honduran Supreme Court, our president has decided to go with Chávez.

Secondly, as IBD notes, the Obama administration is now “threatening to halt its $200 million in U.S. aid, immigration accords and a free-trade treaty if it doesn’t put the criminal Zelaya back into office.” Can someone explain to me how it is that Obama is willingly giving $900M to Hamastan (i.e., the jihadist-controlled Gaza strip) but would pull back a comparative pittance of aid in order to penalize a poor country in our own hemisphere for trying to preserve its democracy against a would-be left-wing dictator?

The Obama administration is about to release their plan for meddling in the “peace process” between Israel and Hamas-controlled Palestine.  He is not impressed that Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East, but wants to bully, arm-twist and demand that Israel agree to his proposals.  Obama seem to be interested in a feather in his cap rather than peace on the ground.  His lack of knowledge about the history of Israel, as demonstrated in his Cairo speech, leads him to the false conclusion that if Israel just gives up more land, more security, and more settlements then the Arabs will make peace, for all they want is their own state.

Unfortunately the Palestinians have already turned that one down. Every one of the Islamist Mullahs’ rallies is led with cries of Death to Israel, and Death to America.  It would seem sensible to assume that they mean it.

Obama seems to have a gift for picking the wrong side.



Even if Khamenei Has Beaten the Demonstrators Back, It’s Not Over. by The Elephant's Child

It is baffling to consider President Obama’s vapid reaction to the uprising in Iran.  Even Congress was a embarrassed and pressed him to condemn the Iranian government’s response to the insurgents.  Both houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly to condemn the actions by the Iranian government against demonstrators and moves to shut down the internet and cell phone communications.

The Iranian regime is a nuclear-obsessed tyranny that has threatened regularly to exterminate Israel and  to re-establish a world-wide Caliphate including American soil.  Gosh, if we respond firmly, we might be accused of interfering, or imperialism.  Oh, wait, they already did.  The cry from Iran is always “Death to America.”  If we were firm, who knows what the Iranian government  might say.  And the Europeans and the media, what would they say?  And why would we care?

Why is it necessary after 230 years to remind anyone in our own government that Americans stand for liberty?  We have a principled stand for freedom, democracy, free and fair elections and human rights.  It was true in 1776, when a good many Americans put their lives on the line, and over and over again.  It has been true in many parts of the world: in the Philippines, in France, in Berlin and Poland, in Kosovo and Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.  On Friday, President Obama spoke up to say that the huge demonstrations all over Iran “are not something that has to do with the outside world.” Yes, that’s why so many of the signs that the brave, unarmed protesters carried were in English.

Obama did call, Saturday, on the Iranian government to “stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people.”  He is supposedly trying to preserve the possibility of  negotiating directly with the Iranian government over its nuclear program, its links to terrorism and presumably its interference in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and elsewhere in the Middle East.  The Iranian government has said it has no interest in meeting with President Obama, but hope, as they say, springs eternal.

Victor Davis Hanson has some wise suggestions for Obama, and some possible answers as to why Obama  is avoiding the opportunities for supporting freedom that this rebellion has offered.



So You Want The Folks Who Handled the Auto Bailouts to Take Charge of Your Health? Are You Nuts? by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has made it clear that reforming the American health care system is one of his top priorities. Unfortunately, it is not the public’s top priority.  The public’s top priority is reducing the deficit.  To say that the two are not compatible, is simply a truism.  Obama does not plan to give up.

Progressive groups plan to spend $82 million to push government-run health care. This is to be “the crowning achievement of a new era of progressive politics.” The issue is not about health care, it is about power. If  they can get control of your health care, then you become dependent on them for your life and health, and you must always vote to return them to power, lest they take it away.

They are rounding up all the “Progressive” groups to lobby, demonstrate, push and demand that their health care ideas are passed quickly, before you can object.  What is the rush?  Why not take time to figure out the best remedies for health care flaws, and improve the system?

  • You are being told that 46 million people in America are uninsured. That is not true.  The actual number is closer to 8 to 10 million.
  • You are being told that government-run health care will be free. That does not pass the smell test. The government has no money except your taxes and it will be far more expensive. 
  • You are being told that a government-run health insurance plan will compete with private plans. It is being designed to eliminate private insurance plans so that everyone is forced into the government plan (undoubtedly excepting members of Congress and the administration — they like their coverage).
  • You are being told that  taxpayer-financed health care will save money. This is not true.
  • You are being told that electronic medical records will save vast sums of money.  This is not true. And under current technology your private medical records would be open to pretty much anybody, and you would be wide open to identity theft.
  • You are being told that health care organizations have promised to reduce their costs by 1.5 % every year. This is not true. They said they would try to reduce costs by 1.5% by 2015.
  • You are being told that health care reform is entitlement reform. This is not true.  The idea that Congress can cover the uninsured and use the same measures that pay for the health reform to fix the broader budget problems is simply false.
  • You are not being told that voters put more emphasis on deficit cutting over health care reform. But it is true.

A group named “Conservatives for Patients’ Rights” recently bought time on Washington D.C.’s NBC Channel 4 to air a 30-minute broadcast on Sunday after “Meet the Press.” The group described it as a documentary in the style of “60 Minutes” that would “let people see the real consequences of letting the government take over their health care decisions.”

The program has run on other channels, and focuses on the “stalling, wait lists, rationing and withholding of care because of red tape, politics, and bureaucratic foot-dragging that are typical of government-run health care everywhere, especially in Britain and Canada.

Most Americans are unaware of the rationing and other factors that lead to poor health, and even fatalities in socialist health care systems. SEIU (the Service Employees International Union) quickly contacted NBC, claiming that CPR’s program “will be false, deceitful and a distortion” and asked the station to refuse to run the program.

The administration that promised “transparency” is hiding their real intent behind platitudes and promises that don’t stand exposure to the clear light of day.  They are playing politics with your life and your health, and excellent care for you and yours is not what this is about.  It is about power — not yours — but theirs.

Republicans have many ideas for reducing the cost of health care and making it more efficient, but like tort reform, the ideas sometimes are not favorable to groups like trial attorneys that are core Democrat supporters.  The Obama administration is not receptive to Republican ideas.

People who are healthy don’t have much contact with the health care system, nor readily grasp its problems.  It is the people in need who encounter the rationing, the doctors who are leaving medicine, the denial of service, the dirty hospitals, the too-expensive machine, the inability to get a drug or treatment that is too new, too expensive in spite of its promise.  And the one who decides what is too expensive, unneeded, not useful is not you and your doctor, but some bureaucrat in Washington.

Your choice.  You can be passive and let the bureaucrats decide, or make yourself heard.



The Rule of Law, Abusive Bankruptcies and Consequences. by The Elephant's Child
June 1, 2009, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Economy, The Constitution | Tags: ,

Today’s news is full of automobile company bankruptcy. The  Judge approved the Chrysler Bankruptcy proposal and General Motors filed for bankruptcy.  This is not ordinary Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which normally takes as long as 18 months, but a quickie version that abuses bankruptcy law to benefit a favored constituency, the United Auto Workers union.

The new agreement simplifies some work rules and job descriptions, but nothing changes about hourly pay, health care or pensions for workers who are retained.  Another 20,000 workers or so lose their jobs.  The union also got the administration to bar small-car imports from overseas.  The administration has gone to great lengths to see that retired workers pensions and health care are protected, but  retirees from other companies who had secured G.M. bonds in their retirement plans get something like 29¢ on the dollar. This is not empathy, but politics, and illegal as well.

The Obama administration has been telling the press that it could start selling its stake in GM within a year to 18 months, and expects to be out of the car business entirely in five years. The consequences of this slipshod, hasty government intrusion will be around for years.

The administration did an end run around U.S. bankruptcy laws by selling Chrysler to a shell corporation (the new Chrysler)  for the purpose of denying lenders their legal rights, with aggressive lawyering, coercion,and intimidation.  The administration’s favoritism towards auto unions may encourage other unions to make more aggressive demands in their dealings with faltering corporations.  After the way that lenders have been treated in this case, who will loan money to auto companies and what rates will they have to pay?

Andrew M. Grossman, Senior Legal Policy Analyst for the Heritage Foundation, explained in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee the serious consequences threatened by this bankruptcy.

When the rule of law is cast aside, for whatever seemingly pragmatic reason, it impairs the machinery of private ordering, such as contractual rights, that are at the core of our economic freedom and prosperity.  The broad enforceability of contracts…makes it possible to conduct economic affairs with strong assurance that other parties will keep their promises or be held liable for failing to do so.

Rasmussen found that by a 67 to 21 percent margin, voters “oppose a plan for the federal government to give General Motors an additional $50 billion to buy 70% of the company.”  Only 18 percent thought the government would do a good job of running GM.  These are brutal numbers. Voters may like Obama, but they don’t think much of his policies.

It is amazing how many bad policies are being driven by fraudulent concerns about carbon and global warming, and the support environmental organizations have provided for Obama’s election.  As a little thought experiment, count up the policies that are based on the fallacy that anthropogenic CO2 is causing an alarming warming of the planet. Scary, and all for nothing.




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