American Elephants

Raising the Debt Limit by The Elephant's Child

This is one from the archives of Powerline, though I think I posted it before as well. Seems a fitting moment to replay it, and it makes the point nicely.

We Are Not In The Midst of a Huge Recovery! by The Elephant's Child

Since Barack Obama became president, ten times as many people have been added to the numbers of folks who are no longer in the labor force, who have given up hope, quit looking. Michelle Obama said today that we are “in the midst of a huge recovery.” But people are leaving the labor force faster than they are entering it. This stark chart from the Senate Budget Committee highlights what is really going on in this dreadful economy. Those who have dropped out of the labor force, are no longer counted as unemployed, even though they might still want a job and are available for work.

(click to enlarge)

Some “huge recovery.” Mrs. Obama claims we are adding jobs every month, but as the chart above shows, for every person added to the labor force, ten drop out. That is not progress.

And the president keeps making it harder for businesses to keep going. Markwayne Mullin, who is running for Congress in eastern Oklahoma, explained the impact of federal regulation on his family plumbing business, Right now, he spends more than 40 cents of every dollar his company takes in on complying with regulations. Not taxes, just what he spends on regulation. That is shocking.

The Small Business Administration recently revealed that federal regulations cost America’s small businesses $1.7 trillion each year. And that’s before most of ObamaCare takes effect. Altogether, Mullin says, there are 4,000 new regulations in the pipeline. And people wonder why some companies ship jobs overseas. Over and over we are blithely told by the EPA and other agencies that they don’t have to account for the effect of their regulations on employment. The House has passed several common-sense bills to address excessive regulations that impose unnecessary costs and increase unemployment, but they die in the Democrat-run Senate.

We will not have a recovery until we have someone in charge who understands what is holding back businesses ability to hire.

When the Dreams Turn to Dust — What Then? by The Elephant's Child

President Obama came into office trailing a wispy cloud of green dreams — ” the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow  and our planet began to heal.” The line that Santa Barbara wanted to paint across the city to indicate how much of the city would be underwater has proved to be completely unnecessary, and the planet is just fine.  Obama had big ideas of sick things that he was going to fix, you know— the crumbling schools, the crumbling bridges, the crumbling  highways, the crumbling infrastructure.  Intent on being the savior of the planet, he saved nothing except government jobs, which don’t count since we have to pay for them.

If the planet is dying because of people’s SUVs, then all you have to do is get rid of the carbon that is causing the planet to warm alarmingly.  Governments, particularly the wealthy ones, thought that looked like a good deal.  They could support free sources of energy like wind and solar, enact taxes on carbon to bring in lots of money — what’s not to like?

It turned out that if you design a wind turbine for a wind speed of 34 mph, they are useless at wind speeds below 22 mph, and extremely dangerous at 44 mph. Wind may be free, but it is not cooperative. It blows in puffs and wafts and gales and more. It needs a full-time backup for the times when it is not blowing at 34 mph.  The backup is going to be a coal-fired or natural gas fired power plant, a carbon based plant. It also requires a subsidy of about $23.37 per Mwh, Wind may be free, but all the other stuff required to turn it into electricity and send the electricity onto the grid is definitely not free.

If wind is intermittent, solar energy is diffuse. The sun goes down at night, and clouds are a problem. Solar energy  requires a $24.34 subsidy, and without government support, simply goes out of business. Those nasty carbon-based fuels like coal get a subsidy of 44¢ and natural gas gets 25¢,  Can you say c-o-s-t   e-f-f-e-c-t-i-v-e ?

The driving force has been the idea that there is a consensus among scientists that global warming is about to warm the planet alarmingly. But there was no consensus. The planet has been cooling since 1980 — and the only place it seems to be warming is in the computer programs that the IPCC uses for its reports. Even NASA Scientist James Hansen, the father of the green global warming movement admits that the climate skeptics are winning the battle.

And it turns out that the amount of carbon in the atmosphere — is only about 380 parts per million, that is .038% or 38/1000 of 1% — but water vapor is responsible for about 95% of the greenhouse effect, and CO2 is responsible for maybe 3.5%.  Of that 3.5% about 3.5% is human caused, so human contribution to the greenhouse effect is .1225%, and world governments thought that required their interference, and they were going to fix it by buying a lot of windmills. Didn’t work. Not going to work, but it’s a lot easier to go along with the enthusiasm of nice people with their hands out than to do the hard work of studying up and looking at the experience of others.

There is no evidence that we can control climate, and a lot of evidence that we must adapt. To adapt, we need a lot of abundant, reasonably priced energy.  Obama’s solar panels, according to one estimate, will take 110 years to pay for themselves. As wind and solar efforts have been proving themselves futile, the administration has been shutting down as much of the abundant reasonably priced energy as they can in the delusion that if they force people into expensive wind and solar, eventually they’ll learn to like it. Those delusions have led them to treat taxpayer money as play money and assume that they can pick winners out of the vast array of losers asking for funding.

The game is up, the sponsored companies have failed or are failing, or need more subsidy. The green jobs have been a myth. The expenditures have been exorbitant. The pattern of failure keeps growing. The American Jobs Bill has failed because they could not round up enough votes from Democrats in the Senate. Which makes Obama’s plan of blaming Republicans for its defeat somewhat less convincing.  The dreams have turned into a scandal, growing worse as more facts leak out.

Obama’s out of ideas.


The ObamaCare Cost Curve — Bends Straight Up! by The Elephant's Child

John Goodman, in his Health Policy Blog at the National Center for Policy Analysis, reminds us that in the national debate leading to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) President Obama said on several occasions that he would veto any bill that did not lower the growth rate of health care spending. One would assume that a lot of people are focusing on how that is going to work.

But it would seem that “cost control” or “bending the cost curve” isn’t much talked about —except for the analysts at the Office of the Medicare Actuary. They found that costs will go up, not down, as a result of the new legislation, and if you have heard from your health care plan, you are probably aware that costs are going up almost immediately.

Many ideas were touted as efforts to hold costs down, but in the real world they have not been shown to control costs.  Efforts to control fraud, waste and abuse; electronic medical records (you should hear my doctor on those!); managed care; coordinated care; teamwork care; medical home care and cost effectiveness research all sound good, but are ineffective in practice.

Dr. Goodman lists three cost-control efforts that are new, unique to PPACA and worth discussing.

1—Refusing to Fund the Supply Needed to Meet the Demand.The demand for care will skyrocket.  32–34 million newly insured people will double their use of health care services.  Add to that 70 million or so who will have more generous insurance than they currently have.  Everyone is promised an array of preventative care services with no copayment or deductible.  This is an enormous increase in spending.  PPACA offers no new supply to meet the demand.  All the subsidies meant to increase the numbers of doctors, nurses and paramedical personnel were removed before the bill was passed.

2—Squeezing Medicare Providers There is some silly rhetoric about doctors becoming more “productive”, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, the mechanism to control medicare spending is to decrease payments to doctors and hospitals.  The trustees assume that Medicare physician fees will be reduced by 30% over the next three years.  Those who have served Medicare patients — doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, will get out of the Medicare business.  25% of facilities would become unprofitable by 2030 and 40% by 2050 if the law is not changed.

3—They’re Going to Experiment with Pilot Programs. They will fund various ways of reducing costs and improving quality.  There are already (ignored) islands of excellence here and there throughout the health care system, but nobody has figured out how to replicate them.  Their success may be due to personalities or teamwork that depends on the specific people involved. They may be the result of a freedom that is the antithesis of ObamaCare.

John Goodman PhD has been a leading voice in the health care debate, promoting a more patient-centered, consumer-driven health care system.  He is the “Father of Health Savings Accounts”, one of the ideas that actually works to save significant money.  You can subscribe to his blog here. It’s a good way to keep abreast of the battle.


Congress Has No Money of Its Very Own. by The Elephant's Child
May 6, 2010, 12:18 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Taxes, The Constitution | Tags: , ,

From Economist Dr. Walter Williams:

“For Congress to guarantee a right to health care, or any other good or service, whether a person can afford it or not, it must diminish someone else’s rights, namely their rights to their earnings.  The reason is that Congress has no resources of its very own.  Moreover, there is no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy giving them these resources.  The fact that government has no resources of its very own forces one to recognize that in order for government to give one American citizen a dollar, it must first, through intimidation, threats and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American.  If one person has a right to something he did not earn, of necessity it requires that another person not have a right to something that he did earn.”

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