January 31, 2008

WSJ Op-Ed: RomneyCare Is Life-Threatening CoerciveCare

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:52 pm

John McCain has gotten a lot of heat over McCain-Feingold, all totally deserved. Forcing advocacy groups to go silent over the airwaves in the last 30-60 days before an election is an unconscionable and unconstitutional restriction of the First Amendment.

(Sidebar: Those arguing passionately about constitutions need to understand why Mitt Romney is Objectively Unfit, and comment on his extra-constitutional and unilateral imposition of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, before getting too huffy about McCain’s serious breach.)

But if we’re going to talk about force, let’s look at Massachusetts, the Cradle of Liberty, and see what Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney’s RomneyCare is forcing onto its residents.

No, RomneyCare isn’t about ending free speech. It may end up being about prematurely ending lives.

You doubt? Grasp the full impact of what Shikha Dalmia says in his Wall Street Journal op-ed today (HT Gregg at Pundit Review).

First, the coercion, thanks to out-of-control costs (bolds are mine throughout):

Massachusetts uses a sliding income scale to subsidize coverage for everyone up to 300% of the poverty level — or a family of four making around $60,000. Everyone over that limit is required to pay for their own coverage if their employers don’t provide it. All this has inflated demand, which, combined with onerous regulations on insurance suppliers, has triggered premium increases of 12% for this year — double last year’s national average.

No one is escaping the financial sting. The state health-care bill for fiscal 2008-2009 is expected to touch $400 million — 85% more than originally projected. Still the state won’t be able to fully shield those it subsidizes from the premium increases. But uninsured folks who don’t qualify for government help really get pounded. Before the hike, the cheapest plan for uninsured couples in their 50s cost $8,200 annually. Now, unless government bureaucrats hand them an exemption, they might well find it cheaper to pay the penalty — up to half the price of a standard policy — than purchase insurance. That is, pay to remain uninsured. This is legalized extortion: TonySopranoCare.

Now to the life-threatening part:

….. the Connector is encouraging insurance companies to include only a limited network of cheaper physicians and facilities in some plans to hold down premiums. Patients who wish to see more expensive providers will have to dig into their own pockets. Dr. Steffie Wollhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, worries that the Connector will revive Gov. Romney’s original idea of enrolling poor people in plans that only offer access to neighborhood health centers ill-equipped to treat anything beyond routine ailments. Forcing people to buy substandard care they cannot afford is not universal care, she says. “It is a hoax.” And so Massachusetts is marching toward a system of two-tiered medicine — the alleged market inequity that universal care is supposed to cure.

I can already hear the single-payer enthusiasts bleating that we have a two-tiered healthcare system today. That is incorrect — though have a two-tiered insurance system, no one who needs it is denied care. That’s the law.

So RomneyCare is already “encouraging” the rationing of care. Even worse, it is well on its way to institutionalizing two-tiered access to medical care. Poor people who have to go to “neighborhood health centers ill-equipped to treat anything beyond routine ailments” are more likely to suffer negative consequences, up to and including dying, if they have a condition that is “beyond routine.”

Just what the country needs. (/sarc)

Dalmia goes on to the column’s punch line:

The problems with RomneyCare have prompted Mr. Romney himself to abandon it.

WHAT?

Uh, Mitt ….. your talk-radio and pundit buds can gloss over this all they want, but you don’t have the option of abandoning your RomneyCare handiwork, because …..

You’re responsible for it.

Has anyone heard Romney make a suggestion to current Bay State governor Deval Patrick on how to fix the mess he (Romney) created? RomneyCare doesn’t morph into PatrickCare just because he wants it to.

Can anyone remember a politician attempting such a monumental “never mind,” and still expecting voters to reward him with the presidency?

Of course, it’s not like Romney hasn’t said “never mind” quite a few times already. These are just the most obvious:
- Abortion.
- Second Amendment rights (as a “lifelong hunter“).
- Tax cuts.
- Immigration.
- Opposition to same-sex marriage, when he imposed it himself in Massachusetts.

But the RomneyCare whopper is different, because it was seen at the time as his signature accomplishment.

Some “accomplishment” — besides the obvious problems with RomneyCare itself, look at the Romney Administration’s other side effects:

  • A stagnant population — per the Census Bureau (downloadable Excel sheet at link), up only 0.17% in the four years ended June 30, 2007 (you have to wonder how many freeloaders have come in, and how many productive folks have left, in effect voting with their feet in response to RomneyCare).
  • Weak employment growth while he was in charge.
  • A demoralized state Republican Party holding fewer legislative seats.

You’ve got to hand it to the Mittster — he’s probably the only GOP opponent on earth with the capability of sending some conservatives who fully understand his record fleeing in fright into John McCain’s arms. The rest? I’d say they’re heading for the exits. Many aren’t coming back.

Talk about an Inconvenient Truth (Bill Clinton: Kowtowing to Globaloney Slows the Economy)

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:54 pm

From Jake Tapper at ABC’s Political Punch Blog (via Drudge):

Former President Bill Clinton was in Denver, Colorado, stumping for his wife yesterday.

In a long, and interesting speech, he characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: “We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.”

At a time that the nation is worried about a recession is that really the characterization his wife would want him making? “Slow down our economy”?

Hillary should spare us her whining about the slowing economy. Given what her husband just said, assuming she agrees with it (silence equals consent, ma’am), one would assume that she’s celebrating yesterday’s unimpressive GDP report.

In fact, I believe a case could be made that green initiatives flunking normal cost-benefit analysis already in place at companies, along with environmental regulations ranging from overbearing to nonsensical (and let’s throw in Sarbanes Oxley for good measure), more than likely contributed to an economy that did not grow as much as it could and should have during the past 4-1/2 years (at an annualized 3.0% in the 19 quarters ended 12/31/07) vs. prior prosperities’ 3.8% or more [see chart at end of linked post]).

Those impediments to growth are, if anything, becoming more powerful at a time when the economy least needs them.

And for what? A complete fiction, known around here as globaloney. “Global warming” stopped in 1998. The hot air expended on political stumps over it never stops.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (013108)

Filed under: Economy,Soc. Sec. & Retirement,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:44 am

Breaking through some of the backlog …..

++++++++++++++++++++

In case you missed it, North Korea is corrupt and has abused the UN aid provided to it:

North Korea used the bank accounts of a U.N. agency for deceptive cash transfers, among a wide range of abuses of that organization’s presence in the communist state, a U.S. Senate panel reported on Wednesday.

The United Nations Development Program deviated from its standard practices in the way it hired local North Koreans and paid their salaries, but was not complicit in — or aware of — the host government’s improper financial transactions, said the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

I know, the shock must be overwhelming. The press coverage, of course, has been underwhelming.

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Last week in the Wall Street Journal, Eugene Scalia, who formerly served as general counsel of the U.S. Department of Labor, made some important points about how shareholder activism by union pension funds violates ERISA (bold is mine):

….. “union pension funds” do not belong to unions. The funds are managed by trustees — half appointed by the union and half by the companies that contribute to the fund pursuant to their collective-bargaining agreements. Under the federal employee benefits law (ERISA), which is administered by the Department of Labor, these trustees are to act “solely in the interest of the plan’s participants and beneficiaries, and for the exclusive purpose of paying benefits and defraying reasonable administrative expenses” ……

Before undertaking “to monitor or influence the management of corporations,” the department said, fiduciaries “must first take into account the cost of such action and the role of the investment in the plan’s portfolio, and cannot act unless they conclude that the action is reasonably likely to enhance the value of the plan’s investments.”

Most shareholder actions undertaken by retirement/health and welfare funds managing union members’ money are actions that are, by any reasonable benchmark, more likely to reduce shareholder value than to enhance it — which is why Scalia’s conclusion is absolutely correct:

In a word, unions are not entitled to use retirement funds to raise costs at the companies where the funds are invested. And unionized corporations are not required to permit this. Rather, management trustees and the Labor Department are obligated to prevent it.

These retirement/health and welfare funds managing union members’ money have sometimes gone even further from their mission — illegally — in their attempts to influence Social Security reform legislation, as noted here almost three years ago (first item at link). They have no right to do this — none.

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John Stossel had a great column last week on continued growth in the worldwide economy:

This week’s newspapers are full of predictions of an impending recession, and maybe they’re right. But the great untold story is the good news: the worldwide boom in economic growth.

“I think one of the best kept secrets is that the world is in the midst of an economic boom, and it is largely driven by increases in economic freedom,” says economics professor James Gwartney, director of the Stavros Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Economic Education at Florida State University. “The world has become more free, and, at the same time, growth is soaring to new highs. During 1995 to 2005, the growth rate of per capita GDP in99 countries for which data are available has increased to 2.2 percent, nearly twice the rate of recent decades. Since 2000, the annual growth rate of per capita GDP has been even more rapid, 3.2 percent.”

….. The story the index tells couldn’t be clearer: Economic freedom produces high living standards.

Read the whole thing.

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Rich Karlgaard didn’t know it at the time, but the opening of his Forbes column last week turned out to be a fitting epitaph for the now-ended John Edwards campaign:

Gallup poll taken in December says Americans are, surprisingly, not as angry as politicians and pundits want us to be. From Gallup’s Web site: “More than eight in ten Americans say they are satisfied with their personal lives at this time, including a solid majority who say they are ‘very satisfied.’ This personal satisfaction level contrasts sharply with the low level of satisfaction Americans express with the way things are going ‘in the U.S. at this time.’”

Now you know why the John Edwards presidential candidacy has flamed out. The rags-to-riches trial lawyer and onetime hedge fund adviser ran as the angry man. While most normal people might have accepted their spectacular rise in fortune with gratitude, Edwards has run as “the hater,” as described by Rich Lowry of National Review. Writes Lowry: “Edwards is like a stand-up comedian who has honed his act down to the most effective material. In the case of the comedian, all that’s left is laughs; in the case of Edwards, almost all that is left is unbridled hostility.”

Look at how far this has gotten him.

Positivity: Girl, 8, saves her stepdad

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:10 am

From Newcastle upon Tyne, England:

Jan 26 2008

X-SOLDIER Jonathan Noble has seen his share of acts of bravery.
But he doubts if even some of his burly Army pals would have shown the same quick thinking as that of his eight-year-old stepdaughter Becky Willis when she rushed to his rescue as he suffered a violent seizure – and ultimately saved his life.

“She’s my little hero,” he said. “When I found out what she’d done I was amazed. There are big Army lads I know who would have panicked and not known what to do. But she’s saved my life.”

The drama unfolded last Saturday when Jonathan, 35, who suffers from diabetes, went for a lie down in bed after being struck down by a stomach bug.

At about 2.30pm Becky, who was downstairs with mum Charlene Willis in their house in Clipstone Avenue, Walker, went upstairs and, as she walked past his room, heard strange noises like he was crying.

When she walked in she saw her stepdad shaking violently with blood and foam pouring from his mouth.

Instead of flying into a panic, Becky remembered her first aid lessons from school a week before, and rolled him into the recovery position before running to get her mum.

She said: “I heard my dad making funny noises, like he was crying. I looked and saw he was shaking.

“I knew he was having a seizure. There was blood coming out of his mouth and I saw he had bitten his tongue.

“I was frightened and crying a bit, but I knew what I had to do because we’d done it at school.

“I knew I had to check his response, so I gave him a shake and he didn’t do anything, so I rolled him over to make sure he was comfortable.

“Then I ran downstairs and told my mum to call an ambulance.”

Mum Charlene, 25, told how she panicked when she saw what was happening, while her daughter remained calm.

She said: “Becky was amazing. She came downstairs and said dad was making funny noises and I should check on him, but I didn’t need to worry as she had put him in the recovery position.

“I phoned the ambulance and when they arrived they said she had done a brilliant job.”

Jonathan had suffered a seizure as his blood sugar had fallen so low. Paramedics gave him an injection and he began to recover. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.