August 11, 2009

WaPo Editorial Writer IDs End of Life Problems With ObamaCare; Rest of Press Snoozes

NoObamaCareSymbolWhat Shawn Tully’s column at CNNMoney.com did on July 24 to expose the truth about what ObamaCare does to the coverage of those who have employer-provided health insurance (discussed yesterday at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), the Washington Post’s Charles Lane did on August 8 (“Undue Influence; The House Bill Skews End-of-Life Counsel”) to the myth that ObamaCare won’t have serious negative consequences for patients who begin to have serious, potentially life-ending health issues.

Mr. Lane has clearly read the bill, clearly doesn’t like what he sees, and calls it out in specific detail.

He starts out slowly by creating the straw-man argument that those “on the far right” see ObamaCare “as a plan to force everyone over 65 to sign his or her own death warrant. That’s rubbish.”

Of course it is, but so is the claim that opponents on the right or left are saying that. Even Sarah Palin’s Facebook post never mentions “euthanisia,” and Ann Althouse correctly characterizes Pailn’s reference to “death panels” as “a good and fair polemical expression if in fact life-saving care will be rationed on this basis (of what Palin described as “level of productivity in society”).”

There is plenty of reason to believe it will be, as Lane explains (bolds are mine):

….. I was not reassured to read in an Aug. 1 Post article that “Democratic strategists” are “hesitant to give extra attention to the issue by refuting the inaccuracies, but they worry that it will further agitate already-skeptical seniors.”

If Section 1233 is innocuous, why would “strategists” want to tip-toe around the subject?

Perhaps because, at least as I read it, Section 1233 is not totally innocuous.

Until now, federal law has encouraged end-of-life planning — gently. In 1990, Congress required health-care institutions (not individual doctors) to give new patients written notice of their rights to make living wills, advance directives and the like — but also required them to treat patients regardless of whether they have such documents.

….. Section 1233, however, addresses compassionate goals in disconcerting proximity to fiscal ones. Supporters protest that they’re just trying to facilitate choice — even if patients opt for expensive life-prolonging care. I think they protest too much: If it’s all about obviating suffering, emotional or physical, what’s it doing in a measure to “bend the curve” on health-care costs?

Though not mandatory, as some on the right have claimed, the consultations envisioned in Section 1233 aren’t quite “purely voluntary,” as Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) asserts. To me, “purely voluntary” means “not unless the patient requests one.” Section 1233, however, lets doctors initiate the chat and gives them an incentive — money — to do so. Indeed, that’s an incentive to insist.

Patients may refuse without penalty, but many will bow to white-coated authority. Once they’re in the meeting, the bill does permit “formulation” of a plug-pulling order right then and there. So when Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) denies that Section 1233 would “place senior citizens in situations where they feel pressured to sign end-of-life directives that they would not otherwise sign,” I don’t think he’s being realistic.

What’s more, Section 1233 dictates, at some length, the content of the consultation. The doctor “shall” discuss “advanced care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to”; “an explanation of . . . living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses” (even though these are legal, not medical, instruments); and “a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families.” The doctor “shall” explain that Medicare pays for hospice care (hint, hint).

….. Section 1233 goes beyond facilitating doctor input to preferring it. Indeed, the measure would have an interested party — the government — recruit doctors to sell the elderly on living wills, hospice care and their associated providers, professions and organizations. You don’t have to be a right-wing wacko to question that approach.

Lane gets close to another key point, but doesn’t quite get there. It’s reasonable to believe that the medical profession would in short order determine that performing end of life consultations is the conscientious thing to do. Conversely, not doing them under ObamaCare would likely be seen as problematic in medical quality control and peer reviews, as well as in matters relating to professional advancement.

Nonetheless, the nuking (based on specific language in the plan itself) by an editorialist at a clearly left-leaning outfit of the claim that ObamaCare’s end of life consultations are mere angelic, pressure-free additions to a pure patient-driven plan should be seen as a significant milestone in discrediting the whole unwieldy contraption — which is more than likely why Lane’s contrarian editorial has gained relatively little establishment media.

When you combine Lane’s a clear understanding of how the counseling “feature” would incentivize denial of care with the frightening utilitarianism of many of the President’s closest advisers and the clear evidence that the President himself has succumbed to a great extent to the utilitarian non-ethic, you realize that not only is there is no moral alternative to opposing ObamaCare as it currently stands, but that there is no way to make it acceptable as long as those who are in charge remain in charge.

Perhaps if more beat reporters would actually read the bill and investigate some of the ghoulish beliefs of many of those who are closest to the President, we wouldn’t have to wait for people like Tully at Fortune and Lane at the Post to do it for them. In the old newspapers days, getting scooped by someone on the opinion side would be seen as a humiliation to those in the trenches. Alas, it appears that their capacity for embarrassment has diminished to near nothingness.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Can’t Make It Up: Dem Rep Who Opposes Photo ID To Vote Requiring Photo ID For Town Halls

Filed under: Health Care,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:05 pm

This is Congressman Eugene Green (HT to an e-mailer), Democrat from Texas, telling the world that if you’re not from his District, you’re not welcome at his future town hall meetings — oh, and how he’ll enforce his new rule (bold is his):

TexasRepGreenReTownHallPhotoID0809

This is how Gene Green has voted on laws relating to requiring photo identification to vote (from the web site “On the Issues”):

TXcongGeneGreenWantsPhotoID0809

Any questions?

Oh, I do have a couple:

  • How many dozen other Congressmen who oppose voter ID laws are going to hypocritically enforce voter-ID rules at their town halls — And does that mean that controlling their meetings is more important than controlling the voting process?
  • Will this be newsworthy to the establishment media, which would be all over this if Gene Green were a Republican, and which is scouring town hall sign-in sheets as you read this for evidence of out-of-district attendees?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Lucid Econ Links (081109, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 10:24 am

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that productivity rose 6.4% in the second quarter. Reuters says that “U.S. non-farm productivity in the second quarter rose at its fastest pace in six years as hours worked fell much steeper than output, while the cost of labor fell at the quickest rate in nine years, data showed on Tuesday.” The result beat expectations of +5.3%.

In the long haul, this is a good thing. It is NOT in and of itself a sign of a recovering economy, though it could be setting the stage for one, IF businesses, entrepreneurs, and investors aren’t still holding back because of the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) factor.

A report like this during the Bush administration would likely have been combined with an “incomes are stagnant” riff and treated as a sign of employer exploitation. Don’t expect to see that today.

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ISM catch-up – The Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index increased nicely, going from 44.8% in June to 48.9% in July, while the Non Manufacturing Index declined from 47.0% to 46.4% in the same period. The weighted average of the two, assigning 15% to Manufacturing and 85% to Non Manufacturing, increased from 46.67% to 46.775%. On balance, that’s not a lot of progress.

Two other thoughts:

  1. No one can start to claim that a recovery is even occurring until the weighted-average ISM number gets above 50%, because that’s what it takes for expansion (i.e., getting off the trough). But you can almost write it down that some clowns are going to take 50%-plus reading as proof that the recession is over. That would be nice, but it wouldn’t be true unless 50%-plus weighted-average readings continue for several months.
  2. Given how much battering it has taken during the the Manufacturing number has to be viewed as a “we’ve been down so long, it looks like up to me” phenomenon. It beats the alternative, of course, but the sector has a big mountain to climb.

A little history (Manufacturing data is here; Non Manufacturing can be found on a spreadsheet at this link):

ISMrecentPMIandNMIthru0709

As with so many other economic measurements, the decay in manufacturing didn’t start in earnest until Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid initiated the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy, now the POR Recession/”Repression” As Normal People Define It, in June of last year. While Non Manufacturing struggled in late 2007 and early 2008 (ISM switched indices in January 2008; ISM’s data for the old Services index couldn’t immediately be located), it righted itself and hung on until early fall 2008, when the POR Economy also brought it crashing down.

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Doug Ross, with tons of charts and graphs — “Green Job, Green Shoots …. Brown Economy.”

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Last Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office issued its own deficit report ahead of the Treasury Department’s Monthly Treasury Statement that will arrive tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. The Dow Jones report on the release has a very odd sentence at the end of the sixth paragraph (bolded below):

The federal budget deficit continued to spiral higher, reaching $1.3 trillion through the first 10 months of fiscal 2009, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Thursday.

In its monthly assessment of the state of the federal government’s fiscal picture, the CBO said the deficit is now running $880 billion higher than the comparable period in fiscal 2008.

The CBO has forecast the deficit will reach $1.8 trillion for the complete fiscal year. The federal government’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

….. The agency said the deficit figure includes $169 billion related to the Treasury financial rescue program, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and another $83 billion in payments to prop up Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac ( FRE).

This compared to $147 billion related to TARP and $87 billion for the two housing guaranty agencies through June, it said.

So far, $125 billion in spending increases and lower revenues have been recorded stemming from the $787 billion economic stimulus plan, the CBO said.

So how is the stimulus plan causing “lower revenues”? (Contrary to a previously posted question, which wondered if CBO had determined an employment effect) It has to do with $400-$800 credits under “Making Work Pay,” which because they start phasing out at income amounts that exclude tens of millions of Americans from the credit ($75,000 a year for singles and $150,000 for marrieds), are in essence what most people would refer to as “handouts.”

Also, according to the CBO’s blog, the $147 billion in TARP is the “Net Present Value” of TARP investments. CBO is considers that to be part of “outlays” in its deficit calculation; Treasury hasn’t been doing that, and therefore will I believe report a lower deficit tomorrow. As I noted several months ago (“The Federal Deficit Gets Nearly Indecipherable”), whatever the “Net Present Value” is, if treated as spending would increase the deficit beyond what is being reported. The Monthly Treasury Statement should be treating all spending as, well, spending, because it’s supposed to be a cash-flow report. Instead, it’s now a mucked-up hybrid that makes a reporting muddle and partially conceals what’s really happening.

Positivity: Priest brothers celebrate Mass on 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Anchorage, Alaska, and Poland:

Aug 9, 2009 / 02:21 pm (CNA).- What is believed to be the first known Mass ever celebrated at the top of Mt. McKinley took place on July 3, when three childhood friends from Poland summited the 20,320-foot peak.

Father Krzyaztof Grzybowski and his brother Father Robert Grzybowski celebrated a Mass with their childhood friend Adrian Przyluski attending.

In a letter to the Catholic Anchor, Father Richard Tero, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Seward, Alaska and local church historian in the state, said he believes the Mass was the first on the top of North America’s highest peak.

“In a most exceptionally clear and calm day, at about 4 p.m. after a long climb from 17,000 feet, on the West Buttress route, they were able to spend about 45 minutes at the 20,320 foot summit,” Father Tero wrote.

Other priests known to have summited Mt. McKinley include Father Carl Abele in the early 1970s, as well as Father Michael Shields and Dominican Father Tim Conlin in the 1980s, Father Tero said.

“I’m sure other foreign priests have also had success but didn’t share it with the local priests,” Father Tero added, “but to have no wind on Mt. McKinley is extremely rare.”

Father Tero hosted the priest brothers and their friend in Seward, where the Polish men enjoyed a Kenai Fjords tour after their climb. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.