Archive for June, 2012

A big day tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The US Supreme Court will probably announce the decision on Obamacare, known by its supporters as “the affordable care act,” tomorrow. If it is overturned, as I sincerely hope, there will be the need to provide an alternative. I don’t trust Obama to accept the verdict anymore than he accepted the partial victory for Arizona. His antipathy to that state is palpable and is demonstrated by this laughable headline.

Official: Obama administration will enforce its priorities, not Arizona’s

The fact that Arizona’s priorities include US law enforcement notwithstanding.

Obama administration officials said Monday the federal government would not become a willing partner in the state of Arizona’s efforts to arrest undocumented people — unless those immigrants meet federal government criteria. And they said the administration is rescinding agreements that allow some Arizona law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws.

The administration made the announcement hours after Monday’s Supreme Court decision on whether states can enforce immigration laws.

The fact that Arizona wants to enforce a federal law that the feds are not enforcing is ignored. There is a reason why CNN was called “The Clinton News Network” in the 1990s.

I expect something similar if the Court strikes down Obamacare. The law is massive, unwieldy and still a mystery to most of those affected.

Opinions on the law and its provisions are available here. Topics include age based medicine. Here is where rationing will be applied in spades.

It is unfortunate that one cannot engage in a dispassionate and objective analysis of the Progressives’ ideas on age-based medicine and end-of-life healthcare without being immediately accused of invoking “death panels,” and thus of displaying the dearth of sophistication, the lack of understanding, and the primitive logic commonly attributed by Progressives to Sarah Palin.

I must remind my readers that I have yet to use the term “death panel” to refer to any of the multitude of expert commissions created by Obamacare, whose charge will be to dispassionately examine the scientific evidence in order to determine which patients will get what, when and how. These bodies, in fact, will be explicitly aiming to optimize the medical outcomes of the entire population (titrated to the amount of money we’re allowed to spend on healthcare), and not actively prescribing death for anyone.

Judging from the histories of governments which have adopted a collectivist philosophy, if death panels should appear on the scene they will not be aimed at determining which patients may live or die. That job, of course, will fall to the doctors at the bedside, who will offer or withhold medical services according to the dictates (i.e., “guidelines”) handed down by those sundry expert commissions. Rather, any death panels which might eventually materialize will more likely be aimed at keeping those doctors themselves (and any other functionaries whose job is to do the bidding of the Central Authority) in thrall.

So why has the term “death panel” caught on to such an extent that conservatives so often use it as shorthand to express what they see as the “sense” of Obamacare, and Progressives so often use it to accuse rational and mild-mannered critics of Obamacare (such as your humble author) of belonging to the Neanderthal persuasion? Read the rest.

Anyone who has done some reading about health care in other countries, such as the UK or the Netherlands knows what this means. In the Netherlands, ten years ago, any physician who admitted a chronic lung (COPD) patient to ICU with respiratory failure would be looking for a job the following day. The burden will always fall on doctors, which is why we are so interested. The stories of delay in admitting critically ill patients to the ER in the UK are another cure for boredom.

The French have some interesting ideas about such issues as pre-existing conditions, which will no doubt be a prominent issue if the USSC acts tomorrow as I expect. In the French system, certain conditions that affect insurability are covered by the plan 100%. However, the coverage is ONLY for the condition, such as Diabetes, and not for unrelated conditions, such as appendicitis.

Some cases are eligible for exemption for co-payment. Serious medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer and AIDS are exempt. The exemption pertains only to the diagnosis and other conditions require co-payment. A cancer patient with appendicitis, for example, must pay the regular rate for the surgery. More complex services and hospital stays over 31 days are also exempt. The exempt class of patients, such as children, maternity and war pensioners are the third category.

I spent some time several years ago analyzing alternatives to what became Obamacare. Those blog posts are here. The history and evolution of the French health system are included. I think it offers the best model for the US to us for reform. Of course, Obamacare has nothing similar to the French plan. It was designed to appeal to rent seekers in the health care industry.

More will be added tomorrow.

UPDATE: Well, we now know that the Court upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare. This is disastrous for the health care system that we have, although it has deteriorated since 1978 when the government began trying to rein in health care costs under the guise of “improving quality.” The rationale for approving it was that the “Mandate” is a tax, not a fine. The politics of the decision are not yet clear and may not be before November.

No doubt Obama and his supporters will hail the decision as a victory and it may well be so. My concern is with the effects of the law, itself. It is not reform and it is not workable. The question I have is whether the law will be recognized as unworkable before it has destroyed the present system. I fear not. For those who want to understand the effects, I suggest reading this explanation of health insurance and why the insurers supported Obama. Note this statement:

In return for its support in the healthcare reform battle, President Obama offered the insurance industry the graceful exit strategy it so desperately needed. Under Obamacare, for at least a few years the insurers hope to get One Last Windfall – namely, profits from the influx of previously-uninsured Americans whose premiums will be paid, or at least subsidized, by taxpayers. Here, the insurers are relying on the likelihood that the inflow of new premiums will, for a year or two at least, greatly outweigh the outflow of money they will have to spend caring for these new subscribers. Obviously, they will use every trick in their well-worn book to stave off expenditures for these new subscribers for as long as they can, but if they actually knew how to avoid paying healthcare costs indefinitely, they wouldn’t be seeking a government bail-out today. In any case, an inflow of new subscribers will be a very temporary source of profit for insurers. Hence, at best it is One Last Windfall.

What happens to the insurers after they exhaust this last windfall is still up in the air. Obamacare may, of course, eventually transition to a single-payer system, an outcome which many conservatives desperately fear, and many liberals fervently desire. In this case, there may very well be some final compensatory buy-out (or a buy-off) for the insurance companies. But more likely, the insurance companies under Obamacare will continue to exist essentially as public utilities. That is, they will exist as companies chartered by the government, which administer healthcare under the direction of the government, with the products they may offer, the prices they may charge, the profits they may keep, and the losses they may incur, determined solely by the government. It’s not glorious, but it’s a living.

This, in fact, is the business plan of health insurance companies. They view HSAs and other conservative attempts to control costs by modifying behavior as the enemy.

Obama and amnesty

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

On Friday, as is often the case, Obama announced a new executive policy to impose a two year moratorium on deportation of young illegals if they can show they were brought here as children and have finished high school with no encounters with the law. They must be under 30 and were brought here before age 16. He promised that citizenship was not included and did not mention if family members were affected. Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security announced that this was the new policy but there has been no confirmation of an executive order.

I don’t have a real problem with this policy but it avoids Congress and legislation, a problem that even Obama acknowledged last year. It is a transparent ploy to appeal for Latino votes. Everyone knows that.

It also will close an opening for compromise.

Obama’s decision probably reduces the likelihood that the scenarios of greatest concern to me will come to pass, especially if Obama is re-elected. Irate Republicans are even less likely than before to cooperate with the administration on this issue now that it has acted so high-handedly and in such a patently political manner. As Marco Rubio, who is planning to sponsor some sort of DREAM Act, said today, by imposing a new policy by executive order, Obama has made it harder in the long run to reach consensus on “comprehensive policy,” i.e., one that gives illegal immigrants additional benefits and a path to citizenship.

The attraction of the action taken by Obama may have been that it would trump a possible Republican compromise on this topic. Now, suspicion has grown that amnesty and voting rights are the next step. The use of executive order for such a change in policy has been attacked as illegal.

So what we have here is a president who is refusing to carry out federal law simply because he disagrees with Congress’s policy choices. That is an exercise of executive power that even the most stalwart defenders of an energetic executive — not to mention the Framers — cannot support.

Even Obama said the same a few months ago in explaining his then inaction. “I wish I could wave my magic wand,” Mr. Obama said. “Until Nancy Pelosi is speaker again… At the end of the day, I can’t do this all by myself. We’re going to have to get Congress to act. I know Nancy Pelosi’s ready to act. It’s time to stop playing politics.”

Well, playing politics is the order of the day and the Republicans should focus on the illegality of doing it by executive order and not on the policy, itself. With proper safeguards, the policy is a good idea although there may be backlash from semi-skilled unemployed who just got a million new competitors. Certainly the unemployment figures should now be adjusted for all the new legal job seekers.

The distraction of the Daily Caller reporter interrupting the president was an amusing sidelight. Had Obama demonstrated humor and a benign manner, it might have been a good moment for him. Instead, he showed anger and the incident will probably lead to more interruptions as it seems to be the only way to ask this president a question.

Hitler gets the recall results.

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

This is just too funny.

I love the part where der Fuhrer says “Everybody who is a public employee with a salary of over $100,000 leave the room, and everybody but three leave.

Obama and economics

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Obama’s statement at his weird press conference Friday has been the topic of much discussion since he said it, and then “walked it back” four hours later.

President Obama’s comment Friday that the “private sector is doing fine” continued to dominate television political debates Sunday, with surrogates trying to minimize the impact of his remarks, and opponents seeking to take maximum advantage, despite Obama’s retraction of the comment Friday afternoon.

The defense of his statement is odd and shows ignorance of how the economy works.

Jonathan Cohn, writing in TNR, is right about one thing.

Following three months of disappointing job reports and with unemployment still above 8 percent nationally, critics are likening Obama’s statement to Romney’s statement in January of “I like being able to fire people” and, perhaps more ominously, to John McCain’s statement in the fall of 2008 that the “fundamentals of the economy are strong.”

The Romney comment was not a gaffe, although he opened himself to creative editing, when he said, ““I want people to be able to own insurance if they wish to, and to buy it for themselves and perhaps keep it for the rest of their life, and to choose among different policies offered from companies across the nation. I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy.

“It also means if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I’m going to go get somebody else to provide that service to me.”

Of course, the news media and the Democrats clipped the quote to the “I like to fire people.” He should have seen that and restructured the sentence to “I like to see people able to fire those who provide bad service.” But he didn’t and now knows better. It has nothing to do with his beliefs in economics, except he likes the free market.

The Obama quote is different. He means just that. The full quote:

The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government. Often times cuts initiated by, you know, Governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don’t have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.

The “flexibility” he mentioned involves the fed’s ability to print money. The states can’t do that. Thank God. The “help” that the state and local officials were getting was the misnamed “stimulus” from 2009. Now it has run out. States are starting to reform, as in the Walker recall rejection by voters in Wisconsin. Also, even in California, voters are using the ballot box to rein in public union pensions and fringe benefits. The left does not understand that public employees do not create wealth. They are “overhead” on the economy. When a business sees a decline in revenue, it cuts overhead, if possible. If not, it will eventually go out of business. Government doesn’t go out of business.

Cohn’s reply ?

Broadly speaking, the analysis is correct. The private sector has been creating jobs at a steady pace, but the public sector has been shedding them, slowing growth. And there is no reason why that has to happen. Stabilizing the public sector workforce or, better still, increasing it would be among the very easiest things for the federal government to do: It can simply write checks to state and local government, as it did with the Recovery Act and has traditionally done during times of economic distress.

Republicans disagree. Downsizing the public sector is very much their goal and Romney said as much in his quick response:

[Obama] wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.

The economic theory behind this seems rather questionable: I’ve yet to see the study suggesting that the recent decline in government workers has been good for growth or jobs.

There are so many fallacies here that I will take them one by one.

The population is growing and new workers are entering the job market each month. Retired and dead (and those who have given up looking for a job) are leaving it and the difference is what sets the unemployment rate. What is the steady state for monthly jobs ?

It is about 150,000 per month. In fact, that was what was expected in May.

Employers are expected to have added 150,000 new workers to
their payrolls, according to a Reuters survey of economists,
after creating a meager 115,000 new positions in April, the
fewest in six months.

So, what happened in the economy that is doing “fine?”

The job creation rate fell off a cliff.

Employers created a paltry 69,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, the fewest since May last year. Economists polled by Reuters had expected nonfarm payrolls to increase 150,000.

In addition, employers added 49,000 fewer jobs than previously estimated in March and April. The unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent as people flocked into the labor market.

So the private economy is “fine.” When Obama says the economy added 800,000 new jobs, he doesn’t understand that the economy has to add 250,000 new jobs every MONTH to stay even. Recovery from the present unemployment rate will require more. The left also doesn’t understand that public employees are a net loss to the economy as they have to paid from taxes paid by everybody else.

Keep in mind, too, that a downsized public sector is one with fewer teachers and firefighters, not to mention civil servants who may go by the ugly name “bureaucrats” but provide more essential government services than most people seem to realize. Sometimes we need fewer of these workers, but sometimes we actually need more of them.

They just don’t understand. We don’t need more, especially if they are unproductive. Picking up garbage needs to be done. Lots of public employee jobs don’t need to be done. The TSA replaced thousands of private security jobs. The air traffic controllers could be privatized and provided by the airlines in a private company paid for by the airlines. There is little doubt that it would be more efficient. The millions of federal employees could be cut in half with no loss of productivity. Most of what they do impedes the economy.

The left, including Obama, thinks “capitalism doesn’t work”.

D Day

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Today is the 68th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. Most of the men who did it are gone now. Only a few are still here to celebrate the life that so many never had. Art Burns is a family member who was in the 101st airborne, I believe. He still lives in Long Beach, Michigan and comes into Chicago every once in a while.

I have previously posted a few photos on our trip to Normandy with the girls.

Here are a few more.

This is Omaha Beach. The cliffs are forbidding. The few breaks in them were blocked with huge concrete roadblocks but the troops got through them.

This is Omaha from above with Cindy in the foreground

This German fort is located at Omaha. Fortunately for the troops, the guns were zeroed at the high tide line and they landed at low tide. The guns could not bear on the landing craft as they came in.

Here are the girls in the American cemetery above Omaha Beach. We spent several hours there and it is very moving. Annie is the farthest from the camera.

Our British allies landed the same day and here is the site where the 6th Airborne division landed the morning of D-Day at the Pegasus Bridge. That is the memorial to Major Howard, the commander of the landing brigade. He was played in the movie, “The Longest Day” by Richard Todd, who was actually in the 6th airborne and landed with them that day although farther inland. The British only had one Airborne division but did not want the Germans to know that, hence the name.

Here is Pegasus Bridge although this bridge is a replica. The original bridge is preserved in a field across the Caen Canal near the museum.

Here is the original bridge set in a field in front of the museum.

On the morning of the landing at the bridge, the owner of the cafe located next to it was awakened by gunfire. He came out and learned of the British landing. He immediately converted his cafe into a first aid station. He even went into his garden, where he had buried a supply of wine, dug it up and served it to wounded British troops as they waited to be evacuated later in the day.

His daughter, a small child, was also awakened and watched all the excitement. She survives, at least until we were there in 2006, and she prepared our lunch. The cafe is filled with British mementoes of the landing.

If anyone remembers the movie, it shows Lord Lovat, who commanded the British commandoes on D-Day, marching them inland from the beach to relieve the airborne troops. As they marched, a bagpipe played.

Here are those bagpipes.

Finally, I took lots of photos of Ponte du Hoc where the US Rangers scaled the cliffs to silence some big guns that enfiladed the beaches on either side. The guns had been moved inland but the mission went on. In 1984, the commander of those Rangers, at the 40th anniversary of the landing, looked at the cliffs and said he could not imagine how they did it.

I can see why.

Scott Walker

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

A lot of people heaved a sigh of relief last night when Scott Walker defeated an effort by the unions to recall him as governor of Wisconsin. The recall was about policy only and was an effort to punish him for introducing legislation that stopped the state from collecting public employee union dues and making union membership voluntary. The result has been a 50% or greater decline in union membership as government employees, including teachers, drop union membership and stop paying dues now that it is voluntary.

The recall effort capped an amazing period in which union members occupied the state capitol and spent months in raucous demonstrations and threatening actions toward Republican legislators. In 2010, the Republicans took over both houses of the legislature in the election that saw Walker become governor. Attempts to recall the Republican legislators narrowed the margin the Republicans hold in the state Senate, but seem to have failed again yesterday to change the majority although one seat is still not determined.

Ann Althouse, a law professor and libertarian, has covered the entire affair in great detail on her blog for the past year. The antics of the unions and government employees were amazing. They included teachers either abandoning their students to protest or taking the students to the capitol to participate. Parents were left to scramble for child care. When teachers were threatened with disciplinary action, doctors from the university hospital violated ethics by writing dishonest excuses for teacher absence. There have been some disciplinary actions taken against the doctors.

The significance of the recall frenzy cannot be overestimated. Public employee unions have become tremendously powerful in the past 30 years and their effect on government budgets is ominous. The city of Stockton California has been bankrupted by union salaries and pensions.

The city of Stockton, Calif., took a move closer to filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection late Tuesday night in the face of overwhelming debt.

The City Council, by a 6-to-1 vote, passed a resolution authorizing City Manager Bob Deis to declare Stockton bankruptcy if the city can’t reach an agreement with creditors that prevents insolvency by the time a state mediation process is set to expire June 25, said Stockton spokeswoman Connie Cochran.

The city of 300,000 owes more than $700 million in long-term debt to creditors, and officials there say it faces a budget deficit of $26 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1 due to financial problems that also include high retiree costs.

The city in February began negotiating with 19 parties, including retirees, city workers, bondholders and bond insurers under a new California law that requires municipalities to hold mediations before filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

Union allies in the California legislature have attempted to block the city bankruptcy, and to prevent it from canceling union contracts, but the public employee unions also took a beating in the California elections yesterday. Among the lessons of the elections yesterday are warnings for Democrats that the public is growing impatient with public employee unions.


The Polish “gaffe”

Friday, June 1st, 2012

The nation of Poland and hundreds of thousands of Polish-Americans were outraged when President Obama referred last week to “Polish Death Camps” in a speech awarding a medal of freedom to a Polish American named Jan Kozielewski who was smuggled into a death camp and brought evidence of the Holocaust to President Roosevelt. Evidence that was ignored.

There is a back story to this controversy that is only now starting to come out. In 2009, President Obama cancelled US missile sites that were intended to defend Poland and Czech Republich against Iranian missiles. The action was taken at the Russians’ request without even notifying the Polish government. That crisis began when the US promised to install such a missile site in 2008. After Obama took office, He cancelled the agreement without bothering to notify the Poles.

Subsequently, Walesa refused to meet with Obama when he was on a visit to Poland. He said,” ‘It’s difficult to tell journalists what you’d like to say to the president of a superpower. This time I won’t tell him, I won’t meet him, it doesn’t suit me,’ Walesa told news station TVN24.”

The European reaction was negative.

The president hadn’t even had a chance to redecorate the Oval Office before he felt the need, in fall of 2009, to appease Moscow by scrapping plans to build a missile defense shield protecting Poland and the Czech Republic from attack by Russia, Iran or any other aggressor.

At the time, the Polish minister of defense said, “This is catastrophic for Poland.”

The message, once again, delivered loud and clear to America’s friends, allies and enemies alike, is that the U.S. can’t be relied on.

This is what American voters get when they elect to the presidency an underexperienced man weighed down by an oversized ego.

Now, Obama who has been shown to be a petty man,

got his revenge on Walesa by barring him from the ceremony.That was no gaffe. TelePrompTers don’t make gaffes.