American Elephants

There’s a Lot The Media Isn’t Telling You About ObamaCare. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has had two “Town Hall” meetings to promote ObamaCare.  These are carefully stage-managed events featuring ‘the One,’ with only enthralled supporters, and no dissenting voices.  There was apparently an ‘event’ in our town earlier in the week to sell the president’s health care plan, featuring activists with bullhorns.  I didn’t attend.

Progressives have long, long wanted to inflict Universal Health Care on Americans.  Since members of Congress and the government exclude themselves from any part of it, they know very well that it is not what they claim for it, and does not live up to the exclusive plan they all subscribe to. That indicates to me that they are not interested in the health care, but in the power that controlling our health will bestow upon them.

I pointed out in an earlier post that Great Britain has a population of 33 million, and their National Health Service is a mess.  Canada has a population of 66 million, and they send their difficult cases down here, and many of their doctors have moved here too.  Massachusetts has a population of 6.5 million, and enacted MassCare in 2006.

What has actually happened with Massachusetts’ plan has simply not received the media attention that it should in the light of the current debate.  Sandy Szwarc reports on the reality.

Massachusetts was to be the nation’s test ground for universal health insurance. MassCare has been held up as the model for similar policies on a national level. Its key elements are part of the national healthcare reform measures being proposed for all of us.

It is newsworthy what the experiment has learned and how things have been working. Yet, national media has been quiet on news about what is happening… even when the most anticipated benefits have not been proved out, and in fact, have been made worse.

As readers remember, Massachusetts enacted MassCare in 2006 and made it law that everyone must buy health insurance — but only state-approved managed care plans with coverage mandates focused on prevention — and that the State would provide coverage under a government program for growing numbers of people unable to afford insurance. About three-fifths of residents now receive free or subsidized health insurance, according to the Massachusetts government — 16% paid through MassHealth and 41% through the subsidized Commonwealth Care.

It had been sold to the public as saving money through a medical home model with care management focused on prevention, pay-for-performance measures and integrated electronic medical records. Instead of costing less for residents and the government, as we’ve learned, nearly one-third of residents report that their individual healthcare costs have increased, and public spending on health insurance this year are expected to have increased 42 percent since the program was enacted. Government spending on the free and subsidized insurance has doubled just in the past two years and is expected to reach $1.3 billion this fiscal year.

Our tax dollars — $1.35 billion per year in federal funds — are now going towards trying to keep Commonwealth Care, which provides free or subsidized insurance for low- and moderate-income residents, solvent. But the costs are even greater for patients and healthcare providers. These are the costs — to lives and quality of care — that we never hear about on the national news.

Read the rest of this important article here. Sandy Szwarc is the proprietor of the excellent website junkfoodscience, which I have found invaluable.  It’s a good one to bookmark.

To repeat, MassCare is such a flop that the rest of us are already paying for it to the tune of $1.35 billion, it isn’t covering everybody, it costs way more than expected and doctors are leaving Massachusetts in droves.  MassHealth denies more claims than regular insurance, and it does not, as claimed,  reduce the public’s use of emergency rooms.

If Massachusetts can’t make the plan that was supposed to serve her 6.5 million citizens work;  the plan that was to prove how wonderful universal health care could be when administered by caring Progressive bureaucrats, then God help us when the Progressive bureaucrats in Congress try to fiddle up a plan for over 300 million of us (excluding Congress and the administration, of course).

Don’t Tell Me You Thought Waxman-Markey Is About Reducing Our Dependence on Foreign Oil! by The Elephant's Child
July 10, 2009, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Energy, Environment | Tags: , ,

Representative Steve King  (R. Iowa) is absolutely correct about Waxman-Markey.   Do you recognize just how preposterous is the idea that we can set the earth’s thermostat 100 years from now 2 degrees cooler?  In the last century, it only warmed one degree, and now it’s cooled again.

“Just two weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey climate bill,” Al Gore said….”President Obama has pushed for the passage of the bill in the Senate and attended a G8 summit this week where he agreed to attempt to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees C.”

Gore praised the Congressional climate bill, claiming that “it will dramatically increase the prospects for success” in combating the “crisis” of man-made global warming.

“But it is the awareness itself that will drive the change and one of the ways it will drive the change is through global governance and global agreements.” Oh.

Former French President Jacques Chriac said in November, 2000 that the UN’s Kyoto Protocol represented “The first component of an authentic global governance.”

Former EU Environment Minister Margot Wallstrom said: “Kyoto is about the economy, about leveling the playing field for big businesses worldwide.” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper once dismissed the UN’s Kyoto Protocol as a “socialist scheme.”

“A climate change response must have at its heart a redistribution of wealth and resources,” said Emma Brindal, a climate justice campaigner coordinator for Friends of the Earth.

They keep telling us what they have in mind.  We really should pay attention.

More Tales From the Crypt, er, National Health Service. by The Elephant's Child

A search is on for the source of a maggot infestation in the operating theaters of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Aberdeen.  The discovery has caused the closure of three operating rooms, and postponement of procedures.

Two “decontamination cleans” have been carried out, and surgical procedures are scheduled to go ahead on Monday and Tuesday.

The general manager of child health services, said: (bureaucratic language alert!) “I can reassure parents that at no time were any children at risk of coming into contact with the maggots.”…

“Clearly infestation of this kind is very unpleasant, and our advisers will continue to try throughout the day to identify the source.  I am satisfied this is not a reflection on staff or standards of cleanliness in the hospital.”

Yes, this is a scare story  from the United Kingdom.  But in spite of the theater of Mr. Obama’s Health Care town halls, he and his advisers are already talking about rationing.  Old people nearing their statistical life expectancy should not expect anything expensive.  There is  a reason why the “town halls” are filled with Obama supporters, the questions are submitted in advance, no dissent or criticism or unpleasant questions are allowed.

President Obama talks about saving money, better care, everyone insured, but this is nonsense, once again.  A major way to reduce costs is to bring some sanity to medical liability.  Doctors’ costs for liability insurance are astronomical.  The cost is high because of “pain and suffering” awards.  That is, if a doctor, for example, cuts off the wrong leg, ordinary damages should make the victim of malpractice whole.

“Pain and suffering” damages, which supposedly recompense you for your unhappy feelings, are where trial lawyers make their outrageous fees and where they earned their sleazy reputations. A limit on the amount of such awards might stop trial lawyers from “channeling dead children” to arouse sympathy.

Much of President Obama’s financial support comes from trial lawyers.  There will be no limits on trial lawyers.  Which is why Obama was booed at his American Medical Association speech.

outed. exposed. revealed. caught with their pants down. by The Elephant's Child

Ordinary people, worldwide, are beginning to have doubts about the whole “global warming” thing. When the Dutch are able to skate on their canals for the first time in fifteen years, the warmist claims begin to seem a little dubious.  Pictures of backyard snow in April in Minneapolis, snow in New Orleans, and in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, cast a little doubt on Al Gore’s claims of a drastically heating planet. A 2009 Rasmussen survey shows that 44 percent of Americans believe that global warming is attributed to long-term planetary trends, and just 38 percent believe that it is caused by human activity.

We have a sun that has gone quiet, with not a single spot for over 600 days, declining global temperatures, no significant warming in the last ten years, and an increasing number of respected scientists who are aware of signs that we might be entering another Maunder Minimum.

Well.  The Warmists have everything invested in convincing the world that global warming is here, hot, and probably the end of life as we know it if we do not give them all our money.  EcoAmerica has been conducting research for the past several  years into why their efforts are faltering.  Not, they are sure, because the whole global warming thing is found to be a fraud, found only in the computer programs of the IPCC.  What is the matter is their “branding”, that is the language in which they present their case.

The term “global warming” turns people off,  “fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes” according to extensive polling and focus groups conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.  EcoAmerica has been conducting research to find new ways to frame environmental issues.

Instead of grim warnings about global warming, talk about “our deteriorating atmosphere.” Don’t talk about carbon dioxide, but speak of “moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.” The term “cap and trade” is confusing; use terms like “cap and cash back” and “pollution reduction refund.

[A summary of the group's latest findings and recommendations was accidentally sent by e-mail to a number of news organizations by someone who sat in this week on a briefing intended for government officials and environmental leaders.] Ooops!

So who is ecoAmerica? Their board of directors includes representatives of the Environmental Defense Fund, The Sierra Club, Fenton Communications, and Daryl Hannah among others.  Among their advisers are representatives of, the Trust for Public Land, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, all far-left groups. If you are curious about any of these groups, you can check them out at Activist Cash or Discover the Networks.

A Pew Research Center survey found global warming dead last among 20 voter concerns.  The answer, says Robert Perkowitz, President and founder of ecoAmerica, is to reframe the issue in different language.

“Energy efficiency” makes people think of shivering in the dark.  Instead, it is more effective to speak of “saving money for a more prosperous future.”

In fact, said the group’s focus groups and surveys, it is time to drop the term “the environment” and talk about “the air we breathe, the water our children drink,” Let’s be clear.  Everyone advocating a political position puts their policy in the best language they can. This is why we no longer have a War on Terror, but an “Overseas Contingency Operation.”  This is why “global warming” suddenly reappeared as “climate change.”

The approach is cynical.  It is the use of advertising techniques to manipulate public opinion.  And manipulate is the key word.  This is the approach of community organizing — manipulating public opinion.

In this case it is particularly deceptive.  Carbon dioxide (CO2) is essential to life.  It is what we exhale every time we breathe, and what plants take in as natural fertilizer.  CO2 does not cause global warming, it is merely a trace gas in the atmosphere. The major greenhouse gas is water vapor (clouds). The greatest portion of the CO2 in the atmosphere arises from the sea, and the amount from human influence is almost too small to measure.

We are urged to eliminate CO2 from the world.  Eliminate life? We are urged to turn for our energy needs to wind and solar energy in order to eliminate the need for “foreign oil.” But neither wind nor solar are capable of meeting our energy (electricity) needs, no matter how much subsidized.  Environmentalists oppose nuclear energy, which can.  And none of these have the slightest effect on our transportation needs, which can only be satisfied by petroleum until there is a scientific breakthrough in batteries.  And by the way, our air is clean and our water is pure.

You might want to watch for the use of  “improved language” in the mainstream media and congressional pronouncements.

(emphasis mine)

Free enterprise or social democracy? It shouldn’t even be a question. by The Elephant's Child

In an interview with NPR, Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, gives her perspective (and her boss’s) on the car companies.

Jackson: The President has said — and I couldn’t agree more — that what this country needs is one single national road map that tells auto makers who are trying to become solvent again, what kind of car it is that they need to be designing and building for the American people.

NPR reporter: (interrupting) Is that the role of the government, though?  I mean that doesn’t sound like free enterprise.

Jackson: Well, it it, it is free enterprise in a way.  Umm uhh you know, first and foremost the free enterprise system has us where we are right this second (laughs) and so some would argue that the government already has a much larger role than we might have when Henry Ford rolled the first cars off the assembly line.

In the Wall Street Journal, Arthur C. Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, points out that the real culture war is over capitalism.  The new divide centers on free enterprise — the principle at the core of American culture.

You can see the beginnings of this schism, he says, in the “tea parties” that have sprung up around the country, with the count now greater than 800,000 people expressing their opposition to government deficits and bailouts that prop up those who engaged in mortgage fraud and corporate malfeasance.

They worry about the massive debt that will affect the lives of their grandchildren.  They paid their mortgages,  they were small business owners who don’t want  corporate welfare, they were bankers who made prudent loans.  They are watching elected politicians hand their tax money over to reward the people who did all the important things wrong.  And they don’t like the casual distribution of taxpayer money by the members of Congress who caused the problems in the first place.

The Pew Research Center asked people in March 2009, if we are better off  “in a free market economy even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time.”  Fully 70 percent agreed, compared to 20 percent who disagreed.

Under President Obama’s tax plan, fully 49 percent of American adults will have no federal income-tax liability.  Another 11 percent will pay less than 5 percent of their income in taxes and less than $1,000 in total.  The other half will pay for everything — your own health care, and theirs, their education and  the “tax-cuts” that simply give the untaxed welfare money.  You will pay for all the volunteers who will do make work jobs in the name of “community service.”

“Social Democrats ” says Brooks, “are working to create a society where the majority are net recipients of the “sharing economy.”

Advocates of free enterprise must learn from the growing grass-roots protests, and make the moral case for freedom and entrepreneurship.  They have to declare that it is a moral issue to confiscate more income from the minority simply because the government can.  It’s also a moral issue to lower the rewards for entrepreneurial success, and to spend what we don’t have without regard for our children’s future.

Do read the whole thing.  It’s important to understand the real basis of today’s culture war.

Daniel Hannan warns us about universal health care. by The Elephant's Child
April 8, 2009, 6:09 pm
Filed under: Freedom, History, Socialism, United Kingdom | Tags: , , ,

(h/t Bookworm Room)

$12,800,000,000,000 by American Elephant

Got $42,105?

The federal government has now spent, lent, or promised $12.8 trillion dollars — a number approaching the sum of the entire  Gross Domestic Product of the United States of America last year.

The money works out to $42,105 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and 14 times the $899.8 billion of currency in circulation. The nation’s gross domestic product was $14.2 trillion in 2008. [more]

And Obama keeps spending.

The private sector: Useful for dumping on, attacking, punishing, and paying the bills. by The Elephant's Child
March 26, 2009, 7:11 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Freedom, Socialism | Tags: , ,

I have to quote Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal a bit here, because his column reflects (with a lot more insight) on what I’ve been writing about in the last couple of days:

With its vote in the House of Representatives to punish corporate bonus payments, the national Democratic Party has disconnected itself entirely from the private sector.

The public bear-baiting of AIG’s Ed Liddy, and then passage of the bonus bill, gave the nation a good look at the modern Democratic Party freed of constraints.

The current version of the party has largely broken free of any understanding whatsoever of the private sector — how it works or what it needs to function.

True socialists at least think about markets so they can criticize them.  The Democratic Party”s leadership doesn’t stir to even that level of engagement.  In the House, Senate and some corners of the Obama White House, the party is acting as if the marketplace was the world of an alien tribe, which it has to control through intimidation or demands for protective tribute (read:campaign contributions).

This is not true of the entire 90% of self-identified Democrats who voted for Barack Obama.  But Democrats who work in real jobs rather than work for the mothership in Washington must recognize that the party’s obsessions are becoming ever less hospitable to a functioning economy, or Mr. Geithner’s labors to that goal. (…)

Put it this way: Imagine any of this generation’s Democratic establishment taking a job at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati as a middle-manager responsible for a division of employees and its annual profit and loss.  It is wholly inconceivable.  Or helping an owner of an auto-parts company manage through a real crisis.  They wouldn’t have  a clue.

That anti-bonus bill was not unique.  It is routine.

The attack on the retention bonuses of AIG executives was, of course, designed to distract attention from what was going on in Congress.  The sinners at AIG who caused the financial problems are long gone, and the recipients of retention bonuses, enticed to stick around and help out winding things down, encouraged by the “retention bonuses” not to leave.

So we had the Hate Week from 1984 fully applied and the executives received innumerable vicious death threats, and orders from Congress to return the money at once.  Andrew Cuomo threatened to release all of their names and addresses if the money was not returned instantly. Most have obediently returned the money, but one brave soul donated his bonus in its entirety to charity and quit, publicly, in a letter in the New York Times.

Interestingly the bonuses, though returned, are still taxable.

Daniel Henninger continues:

If the private sector is now largely an abstraction to Democrats in Congress, they will continue to make mistakes, explicit like the bonus bill or just thoughtless errors that constantly disrupt operations for private companies.

This will have a dampening effect on the U.S. growth rate and its ability to create jobs, especially for new, younger entrants.

Do read the whole thing.  It is important to understand these trends, and so hard to spot them.

Mark Levin’s “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” by The Elephant's Child

Mark Levin’s new book, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, went on sale yesterday and is being snapped up quickly enough that stores are already running out.  It is essential reading on the major issues facing the nation today, exploring the difference between conservatism and statism.  The reviews are outstanding.

In a number of brilliant essays Mr. Levin compares the outlook of the conservative to the outlook of the statist toward the major issues of today.  He supports his arguments with insights from the Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution, as well as lessons from history.  “”Think of it, said one reviewer, “as an outstanding tutorial in applied political philosophy.” He went on:

If you care passionately about America, and worry for its future — and who doesn’t, given the current national leadership? — then you owe it to yourself to buy and devour this marvelous work.  It is an essential antidote to what ails America at the moment.

My copy is waiting for me at the bookstore.  Can’t wait.

“A New Era of Responsibility.” by The Elephant's Child

President Obama is annoyed by criticism that he is trying to take on too many issues at once.  Suggestions that a $3.6 trillion budget that seeks to rescue the economy from the worst crisis since the Great Depression, while also trying to overhaul health care, change our energy infrastructure, change our energy use, end our dependence on foreign oil, overhaul education, finish up the War in Iraq while fighting the War in Afghanistan, and reset our relationships with the rest of the world are a little much, are annoying.

Obama told the leaders of the congressional budget committees:

To kick these problems down the road for another four years or another eight years would be to continue the same irresponsibility that led us to this point.  That’s not why I ran for this office.  I didn’t come here to pass on our problems to the next generation.

It’s Bush’s fault.  He was too laissez-faire and irresponsible.

President Obama was responding sharply to the idea that he should be focusing on fixing the banking crisis first.  Real economic recovery he said, requires many actions at once.

Obama was asked whether his domestic policies suggested that he was a socialist.  “It wasn’t under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks”, Mr. Obama said, “And it wasn’t on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement, the prescription drug plan, without a source of funding.”

Oh.  It’s Bush’s fault.  He’s the socialist, not me.  Got it.

Mr. Obama pushed back against the characterization:

By the time we got here, there already had been an enormous infusion of taxpayer money into the financial system.  The fact that we’ve had to take these extraordinary measures and intervene is not an indication of my ideological preference, but an indication of the degree to which lax regulation and extravagant risk taking has precipitated a crisis.

There’s a point at which “Bush made me do it” isn’t going to work any more.

The “Massachusetts Miracle” has gone Poof! by The Elephant's Child
March 17, 2009, 1:38 am
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Freedom, Politics, Taxes | Tags: , ,

Almost everyone knew that it was only a matter of time.  The story appeared yesterday in the New York Times and was summarized by James C. Capretta in the Corner today:

Having promised lavish subsidies for expansive health insurance, it seems state officials in Massachusetts have finally begun to admit that their health-care reform program, passed in 2006, is unaffordable for the state’s taxpayers.

It was really clear from the beginning that the plan would overwhelm the state’s budget.  It was only a matter of time. The state forced hundreds of thousands of residents into heavily regulated insurance plans by shuffling around some existing money and raising taxes.  They didn’t construct a marketplace with cost-conscious consumers, nor did they pursue the heavy-handed kind of government-imposed cost controls that Democrats love.  There was no reason to expect health-care costs to suddenly stop increasing rapidly after the “reforms” than there was before the plan was adopted.

Now it is really hard to turn back and start over, since hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts households are now enrolled in subsidized insurance. Surprise, surprise.  The state now wants to impose cost-controls.  Bureaucrats will now develop wonderful new systems for paying doctors and hospitals, which will reward “more efficient” ways of delivering care.  Inevitably, when the government tries to micro-manage payments, prices and protocols, the result is a mish-mash of cuts in quality, service and satisfaction, and disincentives throughout the system.  Doctors are moving out of state, fewer physicians are willing to practice in the state.  All predictable.   Democratic Governor Deval Patrick has already spoken of state-imposed caps on private health insurance premiums.

Mr. Capretta adds:

The Obama team is essentially pursuing the Massachusetts political strategy — cover everybody first with a massive new entitlement program and worry about imposing cost-controls later.  In fact, Sen. Ted Kennedy’s top lieutenant assigned to pulling together a health-care bill was a principal architect of the Massachusetts approach.  And on costs, the Obama administration keeps touting the same benign-sounding initiatives— like expanded use of health information technology — that Massachusetts officials used to cite, even though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has already said these kinds of steps won’t come close to solving the cost problem.  It is obvious that the administration is hoping it can get a bill passed without endorsing the kinds of measures which would rightly be attacked as rationing care.

Oh, they won’t mention rationing right off the bat, but in a year or two, when it is too complicated to go back, the financial future of the country will depend on government-imposed cost constraints.

Even the Times story hints at what is really at stake here.  If we don’t rely on market principles to allocate health-care resources, the country will inevitably turn to the government to keep premiums in line with income.

The thing you really need to remember is that members of Congress have no intention of giving up their highly satisfactory health care plan, and joining whatever government controlled program they can gin up.  That little fact alone should tell you everything you need to know.

It’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair! by The Elephant's Child
March 2, 2009, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Freedom, Liberalism, Socialism | Tags: , ,

Much of the current economic turmoil began with congressional action that forced banks to make home loans to people who couldn’t qualify under standard prudent banking practice. This was well-intentioned law, but ultimately destructive.

Now the federal government is planning to spend (another) $275 billion in order to aid homeowners who borrowed  to buy homes that they could not afford.  Keeping them in homes that they cannot afford allows them to escape foreclosure, but at what cost to them?

The mortgage is not the only cost for a home, there are taxes and upkeep.  A home that is not maintained loses value. Unpaid taxes pile up and foreclosure is again probable. When we bail out their mortgages and allow them a lower cost loan, can they repay that one?  Are we on the hook  for the whole 30 year term?  Can they afford the upkeep?

Economist John Tammy points out that we are ignoring how federalization of homeownership is blatantly unconstitutional.

Advocates of the Obama housing plan say with straight faces it’s not fair that buyers purchased houses that are in certain instances worth much less today. But if we apply the illogic of such reasoning to its logical conclusion in the business world, companies such as Webvan, eToys and would still be in business, wasting human and financial capital in ways that would leave our economy even worse off.

The reality is that investors in anything frequently find that what they’ve purchased is worth less, but far from a call for more government handouts, this is often a signal telling them to cease throwing good capital after bad.  And these failures teach us what not to do in the future.

Liberals always have good intentions.  They want things to be — fair.  A childish wish, to be sure.  Everybody should get just one scoop. No fair if someone gets two.

There’s a reason why Grandma always said, “But honey, life isn’t fair.”


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