Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Myth-busting: Exposing health care myths
to the light of day

Americans are still smarting from having health care reform shoved down their throats, but the reality is that the pain of that colossal blunder is just beginning.

Sally Pipes is a Canadian-born economist who worked in Canada before fleeing to the US “to get away from the Canadian health care system,” and is now President and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute. After studying the Canadian and US health care systems and the Affordable Health Care Act, she believes “the American people are going to be very upset with higher taxes, higher deficits, and, ultimately, rationed care. Because that’s what’s going to happen under ObamaCare, as we move down the path to government-run Medicare-for-all.”

She calculates that 23 million Americans will still be uninsured in 2019, and that between now and 2024 health care will cost taxpayers about $2.5 trillion, a long way from President Barack Obama’s socialistic goal of universal coverage costing just $900 billion over 10 years.

In her book, “The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care: A Citizen’s Guide,” Ms. Pipes recognizes the following myths: (1) Government health care is more efficient; (2) 46 million Americans can’t get health care; (3) we’re spending too much on health care; (4) high drug prices drive up health care costs; (5) importing drugs would reduce health care costs; (6) universal coverage can be achieved by forcing everyone to buy insurance; (7) government prevention programs reduce health care costs; (8) we need more government to insure poor Americans; (9) health information technology is the silver bullet; (10) government-run health care systems in other countries are better and cheaper than America’s.

Ms. Pipes addresses numbers 1 and 10 discussing her mother’s experience in Canada. Believing she might have colon cancer, her mother tried to get a colonoscopy, but was denied because of her age. Six months later when she began hemorrhaging and went to the ER. After being kept waiting two days she finally got the procedure, which confirmed her own diagnosis. She died two weeks later. How’s that for efficiency and better care?

Comparing cancer data in the US with countries with nationalized health care, Ms. Pipes explains that five-year survival rates for breast cancer are 83.9 percent in the US and just 69.7 in Britain. American colon cancer patients are 35 percent more likely to survive than in Britain, and the prostate cancer survival rate is 91.9 percent in the US, 73.7 percent in France and 51.1 percent in Britain.

P.J. O’Rourke writes political satire, and uses it as a vehicle for communicating serious points. In his recent book, “Don’t Vote – It Just Encourages the Bastards,” he addresses the cost of health care using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which show that we spend an average of $2,853 per person each year on health care, but that’s only $185 more than we spend on “food away from home,” and only $155 more than we spend on “entertainment” each year.

Mr. O’Rourke cites data published by economist Glen Whitman and physician Raymond Raad demonstrating America’s dominance in Nobel Prize awards for research in medicine and physiology: “Between 1969 and 2008 Americans were awarded fifty-seven Nobels, seventeen more than were received by residents of the EU, Switzerland, Japan, Canada and Australia combined.”

Using Ms. Pipes’ data, he explains that comparisons of health care among countries often does not adjust for non-health care system factors in the US that affect life expectancy – like higher traffic fatality, homicide and obesity rates – or that the US uses a broader definition of live births for the live birth mortality rate than countries like France and Belgium, where babies born at less that 26-weeks are counted as dead.

Ms. Pipes and Mr. O’Rourke show that the American health care system provides excellent care, and that when you look beneath the surface the myths that we have a bad health care system melt away.

Mr. O’Rourke suggests that “there’s a simpler way to make health care cheaper. Just make it worse.” Which is, of course, precisely what we are doing through the Affordable Health Care Act. But our health care system does not need to be destroyed to be improved, it only needs tweaking.

“If we want to bring costs down and extend coverage to more Americans, we have to open the health care marketplace to competition – by abolishing costly government regulations and reforming the tax code to make insurance more affordable,” Ms. Pipes wrote. “We can solve the health care problems that plague the United States, but we won't solve them if we continue to believe the many myths that plague the health care debate.”

That is what the ideologues in Washington don’t want you to know. They want a nationalized health care system like Canada, Britain or France. Americans wouldn’t give a second look to health care reform if they could accurately compare our system against these poorly performing nationalized systems. But that requires honesty by politicians and the news media.

We need to put the Affordable Health Care Act in the trash, and start over improving the best health care in the world with a few sensible modifications.

Click Here to Comment

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Holiday Wish For You

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.
And a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year of 2011, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only “America” in the Western Hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, or sexual preference of the wishee.
Fine print: By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

Click Here to Comment

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The election was one step in restoring
dignity and honor to Congress

The election last month, when voters sent dozens of incumbents packing and gave Republicans a gain of 63 seats in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate, was a strong repudiation of the elitism displayed by our Congress, particularly since 2008. Yet, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and more than a few of their fellow travelers in Congress did not change their way of doing things.

Last week we saw a repeat of last year’s debacle over health care reform in which the aforementioned Congressional leaders pushed through a monstrous 2,300-page, secretly conceived bill that almost nobody had read and that the American people strongly opposed.

This time, Congress disserved us by producing a bill of 1,924 pages, but again no one had time to read it before the leadership wanted to act on it, and this one would have spent $1.2 trillion dollars that we don’t have with more than a smattering of pork greasing the skids toward Congressional approval.

Members were not the least bit hesitant to throw in billions of dollars of self-serving spending, much of which was political bribery to encourage other members to support a bill they otherwise might not support, and the rest to payoff votes in future elections.

For the first time in history our intrepid leaders have failed to pass a single appropriations bill all year, and with time running out before the government would have to shut down, they decided to combine 12 separate bills into one omnibus measure.

Predictably, Harry Reid praised the spending bill as “a very good piece of legislation.” And if your goal is to turn your country into Greece, he was exactly right.

A Gallup poll last week showed Congressional approval has dropped to its lowest point ever, just 13 percent, and it is precisely this sort of legislative malfeasance that produced November’s voter rebellion. One wonders what those 13 percent are thinking?

Enough Senators rose to the occasion and opposed the bill that Sen. Reid had to withdraw it last Thursday. And, doesn’t all of this make you thankful that our president has demanded “an end to the old way of doing business and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability that the American people have every right to expect and demand?”

This spectacle calls attention to the idiocy of lame duck sessions more than at any time in memory. Voters fired about 13 percent of the 535 members of Congress, relieving Democrats of control of the House of Representatives and narrowing their majority in the Senate. And yet the leadership and many members continued to behave as they did before the election, in the same way that earned Democrats a loss of 69 total seats. And – unbelievably – many of them seem pleased with themselves.

The phrase “lame duck” dates back to the 18th century at the London Stock Exchange, and refers to a stock broker who defaulted on his debts. In today’s political parlance, it is used to describe a politician who either did not or could not run for re-election, or was defeated in his or her bid to be re-elected. “Lame duck” is an apt description of our Congressional misfits.

In business, when an employee does his or her job badly, or behaves in an unacceptable manner, he or she is dismissed from their job and asked to leave the premises. Immediately. They don’t get to hang around continuing to misbehave for another couple of months.

For some reason this sensible procedure is not followed in the US Congress. There, those who have been found wanting by voters or didn’t seek re-election are able to continue functioning for another sixty days, with no consequences for making disastrous decisions that their constituents dislike. Some of the members who were dismissed by voters supported the omnibus spending bill and other bills opposed by a majority of the American people.

This idiotic practice must stop. On this and other matters Congress would be well advised to follow the sensible practices of business. If you lose an election, clean out your desk and head home; you are done as a legislator the day after the election, and Congress shuts down until January.

That would eliminate most of the disservice we have been subjected to since Nov. 2, and would force Congressional leaders to take care of important business in a timely, mature and responsible fashion, which would be not only a breath of fresh air, but a dramatic improvement in government.

Score another point for good government by keeping legislation to a manageable number of pages. It’s absurd to have bills of hundreds or thousands of pages in length, and highly irresponsible to not allow ample time for them to be read and debated prior to voting on them. And bundling a divisive measure with a popular one in an attempt to get the divisive measure passed more than anything else resembles extortion.

Perhaps after another election cycle we will have done away with most or all of the remaining “disservants” and the country will be on its way to restoring honor and dignity to Congress.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Many of the problems Americans face today
are truly “taxing”

The US tax system is 13,400 pages of complicated gobbledy-gook that confuses nearly everyone who encounters it. Just ask Charlie Rangel, Tim Geithner, or Kathleen Sebelius.

One of its most immoral features is the Death Tax that will, if President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats have their way, confiscate 45 percent of estates of at least $3.5 million ($7 million for couples), despite the fact taxes have previously been paid on the assets of these estates. The federal government justifies this second taxing at one’s death because … well, because you died. But according to The Tax Foundation’s last poll, 68 percent of Americans oppose the Death Tax.

Seeking an explanation for just why it is fair to confiscate nearly half of what someone has earned during his or her life, Fox News interviewed New York Democrat Rep. Anthony Weiner, who plainly was not up to the task of defending the Death Tax. And who could be?

Instead of answering the straightforward question “why is the Death Tax fair?” he offered this dodge: “The only question here is not whether or not there is going to be a tax on that, the question is where the limit should be and how much” should be taxed.

Many liberals have great disdain for wealthy people, and it‘s not important if they earned their wealth through years of hard work and sacrifice. Rep. Weiner told us, although not so directly, that he and other liberals believe that heirs to estates are not entitled to what their parent’s worked so hard to leave them when they die. They believe that people who inherit wealth should have a large chunk of it confiscated by the federal government. It’s how they define “fair.”

Since liberal ideas are often emotional in origin and not thought through, they usually create serious problems.

Here’s a very real scenario: A man invests everything he has to start a business. He works long hours to build the business and his spouse and children work in it and help it grow. After several years the man dies, leaving the business to his wife, who continues to operate it with the children. The business continues to grow in size and value, and employs several non-family members. And then the widowed spouse dies. Enter Anthony Weiner to tell the children that their inheritance is valued at $4 million and the government is going to take $1.8 million in Death Taxes. They are forced to sell the business to pay the taxes. It’s only fair, you know.

The Death Tax is a tax on American values that punishes savings, families, and investment in capital. It is a leading cause of dissolution among small businesses. It is an atrocity that is contrary to everything the United States of America stands for.

Another timely tax issue is continuing the Bush era tax rates.

President Obama and Congressional Democrats wanted to extend the tax rates for everyone except the “richest” Americans, defined as individuals making $200,000 a year or more, or $250,000 for couples (the couple in the example above likely fell into this category), while Republicans wanted to extend the existing rates for all taxpayers and were roundly ridiculed by liberals, who accused them of wanting to “give tax cuts to the rich,” that tired old class warfare aphorism.

But that is dishonest: keeping the existing rates is not a tax cut, for anyone; it merely continues taxing everyone at the same rate as for the last seven years. What the Democrats really want to do is raise taxes, but only on the “rich.”

All of which begs the question: Why should one group of taxpayers pay a higher rate than other taxpayers? Is this another of the liberal’s ideas of fairness?

Way back when the Founders were debating the details of the nation they were creating
Thomas Jefferson said, "To take from one, because it is thought his own industry … has acquired too much … is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it."

Liberals want the rich to pay more than everyone else. But they already do. According to The Tax Foundation, the top 5 percent earned 34.7 percent of the nation's adjusted gross income, but paid approximately 58.7 percent of federal individual income taxes - more than the bottom 95 percent of tax filers combined.

Taxes are a necessary evil to fund government. But how big should government be and how much should it cost? And shouldn’t all but the poorest pay something to support their government? Currently, 47 percent of households pay nothing.

People like Mr. Weiner arrogantly regard all money as government’s money. But it’s the people’s money, and elected officials are obliged to be frugal when they spend the people’s money. They aren’t entitled to spend taxpayer money to fund their self-serving excesses, like their superior health care plan, cushy pension and Nancy Pelosi’s personal jet upgrade.

In the last election a lot of folks who think like Anthony Weiner lost their jobs. We need to continue that trend.

Click Here to Comment

Technorati Tags:
, , ,

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The federal government’s excesses and abuses
must be dealt with

Even after last month’s election people still try to downplay the scope of the tea party sentiment and its acceptance by the American people. Critics either don’t understand the movement, or just can’t bring themselves to admit that a majority of Americans disagree with the direction the so-called “progressives” have taken the country. And they have mobilized to elect people they think will work to change that direction.

The majority plainly objects to the degree to which the federal government has grown in size, power and scope, and realizes that the general trend of government and some specific actions are dangerous to our way of life, and are not unlike the actions that drove our ancestors to risk everything in a fight for independence and to establish a limited government that would for the most part leave them alone to live their lives as they saw fit.

The list of abuses is long, and includes such things as the EPA rescinding mining permits already issued and dragging their feet on new permits in West Virginia, and the unjustified banning of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore, which in both cases jeopardizes the economies of those states without justification, and furthermore hampers our quest for energy independence. The federal government has ignored its responsibility to secure the southern border from illegal immigration and its dangers, and then has taken legal action against Arizona when it tried to protect its own citizens from the resulting consequences.

This problem transcends mere two-party politics. It is a breach of the 221 year-old contract between the now-fifty states and the federal government, the Constitution of the United States.

Author Thomas E. Wood, Jr. goes to great lengths in his new book, “Nullification: How to Resist Tyranny in the 21st Century,” to show that after the Revolutionary War, while the debate over the pros and cons of the proposed constitution raged prior to its ratification, Virginia put forth vigorous opposition to the wording of the document because it did not strongly enough spell out the limitations on the federal government’s power. Patrick Henry raised the concern, for example, that the term “general welfare” could be expanded and exploited by “ambitious politicians.” Today we can plainly see that Virginians were correct to worry about such expansions of power.

Mr. Wood shows, in fact, that contrary to the way most Americans understand things today, the states did not give up their individual sovereignty to the federal government when they ratified the Constitution, but retained control of all but a few specific areas.

As Federalist Edmund Randolph explained during the ratification debate, if Virginia ratified the Constitution it would do so with the understanding “that all authority not given, is retained by the people,” and “that no right can be cancelled, abridged, or restrained, by the Congress, or any officer of the United States,” and further that “we should be at liberty to consider as a violation of the Constitution, every exercise of a power not expressly delegated therein.” (Emphasis added)

Thomas Jefferson wrote that the individual states “entered into a compact by which they agreed to unite in a single Government as to their relations with each other, and with foreign nations, and as to certain other articles particularly specified. They retained at the same time … the other rights of independent government, comprehending mainly their domestic interests. …” (Emphasis added)

Hence, if a coal mining state like West Virginia or an oil producing state like Louisiana is put in economic jeopardy by the federal government exceeding its authority, or the safety of the citizens of Arizona is put in jeopardy by the federal government’s interference with Arizona’s efforts to protect them, the federal government’s behavior is unconstitutional.

When the government exceeds its limited authority through the passage of laws by Congress, or the imposition of regulations by an administrative agency, affected states are within their rights and obligated to ignore those laws and regulations and formally protest. It was the prospect of this sort of behavior that prompted the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.

As Kentuckian John Breckenridge said when his state took issue with federal abuses, when the federal government passes laws that are unconstitutional, the states must “make a legislative declaration that, being unconstitutional, they are therefore void and of no effect.”

The many abuses and excesses of the federal government are harmful and dangerous to the states; they run counter to the intent of the Constitution to establish a federal government with limited and enumerated powers and to the ideal of self-government by the states which ratified it; and they are the antithesis of what the citizens of many states have chosen for themselves through their duly elected state governments.

The process of identifying and voiding unconstitutional behavior by the federal government is known as nullification, and there are many examples of states nullifying federal actions throughout the nation’s history. We can see nullification at work in the formal actions of several states in response to the healthcare reform plan.

But healthcare reform is but one of a myriad of federal excesses and abuses that must be nullified.

Click Here to Comment

Technorati Tags: , , ,