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Archive for March, 2010
March 31st, 2010 at 9:16 pm
Unforeseen Obamacare Consequence #156: Government-Defined Science
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Here’s another warning about Barack Obama’s impending Med-State (in a tribute to the founder of medicine, would this be called a Hippocracy?)

The Cato Institute’s Dr. George Avery, a public health professor at Purdue, uses a recent briefing paper to look at how science has been manipulated for political purposes in both the health care and climate change debates. But while his examination of the “Climategate” scandal out of the University of East Anglia is old news by now, his insights into health care are chilling. To wit:

In health care policy, critics have long worried about the inordinate influence of pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers on research to show the safety and viability of new products. Recent information, however, shows that government agencies may cause more problems in this area — a worrisome development considering that health care legislation recently passed by the United States Senate would allow federal agencies to punish organizations whose researchers publish results that conflict with what the agency feels is appropriate.

The specific language in the bill relating to comparative effectiveness research (essentially a way of studying medical best practices) allows the federal government to withhold research dollars when the results are not “within the bounds of and entirely consistent with the evidence.” Apart from being absurdly vague, this is also a threat to intellectual honesty in science — obviously every new breakthrough is, by definition, not “entirely consistent with the evidence” that preceded it.

Another interesting note: Dr. Avery concedes that medical research underwritten by a company that stands to make a profit on the underlying product often results in pressure on the researchers. No real surprise there (you budding economists will recognize a principal-agent problem at work). However, he notes that similar pressure from  government is much more omininous, since the monopoly power of the state can much more effectively suppress contradictory findings.

March 31st, 2010 at 3:32 pm
Who Are Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak to Be Lecturing CEOs?
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Within days of ObamaCare’s passage, AT&T, Caterpillar and other American employers announced hundreds of millions of dollars in earnings writedowns pursuant to U.S. accounting laws.  Although Democrats falsely claim that these restatements are mere political attacks aimed at Barack Obama, the simple fact is that they are legally required to report the corporate costs of ObamaCare’s tax increase on the retiree drug benefits that they pay each year. Specifically, the Financial Standard Accounting Board’s 1990 Statement Number 106 mandates earnings restatements due to anticipated future retiree liabilities.  If these employers did not report the writedowns, they’d be prosecuted.

The most despicable reaction of all, however, may be that of two Congressmen who played a critical role in imposing ObamaCare in the first place.  Henry Waxman (D – California) and Bart Stupak (D – Michigan), those two profiles in cowardice and malevolence, have now demanded the CEOs of AT&T, John Deere, Caterpillar and Prudential appear to justify themselves before their committee.   According to their letter, “the new law is designed to expand coverage and bring down costs, so your assertions are a matter of concern.”

In other words, who are you going to believe – Henry Waxman, Bart Stupak, Barack Obama and their doctored Congressional Budget Office predictions, or your own actual bottom line and real-world numbers? Every person with a grain of sense anticipated the negative consequences of ObamaCare, but such effects seem to have blindsided ObamaCare’s advocates.

More generally, who are Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak to be hauling the CEOs of some of America’s most valuable and successful companies to Capitol Hill to explain themselves?  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  How many jobs have Waxman and Stupak created in their lives compared to AT&T, Caterpillar, John Deere and others?  How many successful products have Waxman and Stupak contributed to the world economy and human progress?  Why aren’t the CEOs the ones hauling Waxman and Stupak to explain their retrograde economic views and the destruction that they are wreaking on America, rather than vice-versa?  Why aren’t Waxman and Stupak explaining their toxic behavior to a nationwide audience?

We live in an increasingly Orwellian era, and the sheer weight of absurdity may soon cause a snap.

March 31st, 2010 at 2:16 pm
Getting to Know David Cameron’s Inner Edmund Burke

In the next six weeks Britain will go the polls and most likely pry Gordon Brown’s fingers off the levers of power.  The Economist thinks his successor will be the Tory leader, David Cameron.  The magazine offers a closer look at the Conservative Party’s answer to Tony Blair.  Though Cameron takes many positions that suggest a taste for government intervention, he also seems to possess a subtle debt to Edmund Burke, the philosopher-politician who argued for tradition, order, and the importance of the family.

British society, so his critique goes, is broken. The cause is the erosion of responsibility (his favourite word) by a hyperactive state. He is at his most animated when justifying his (arguably overstated) social pessimism, pointing to “our records against the rest of Europe on things like teenage pregnancy and drug abuse, alcohol, family worklessness, educational problems”. The analysis is open to criticism: the societies he sees as unbroken, including many in continental Europe, spend more on welfare than he would want to or can afford to.

The cure, he says, is giving power away, strengthening local government and empowering people directly by, for example, letting them set up their own schools. He is undogmatic about the precise size of the state, deploring instead its over-centralisation; he prefers a big society to a big state. It remains to be seen whether that will bring relief to the overburdened public finances.

If he becomes the next British Prime Minister, David Cameron could do much to counter President Barack Obama’s juvenile treatment of America’s most important European ally.  If he expands his cultural critique into a governing philosophy that returns power to citizens, he’ll outshine The One on style and substance.

March 31st, 2010 at 1:21 pm
Governor Chris Christie Nudging New Jersey in the Right Direction

In their widely read book Nudge, authors Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler discuss the benefits of setting up policies in order to prod people towards making a certain decision.  For example, instead of installing an employee retirement program that requires workers to opt-in for contributions, make it so that they must opt-out.  Most people won’t know the difference until they get ready to retire and see each paycheck’s contribution matured into a nice nest egg thanks to the rule of 72.

Perhaps the lesson is emanating from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s new budget proposal.  The Manhattan Institute’s Josh Barro describes one of its pillars as capping local property taxes, but allowing local citizens to override the cap through targeted referendums.  Basically, if local officials can make a case for why they need more money, the people can give it to them.  The default option, though, is a hard cap.  Measures like Christie’s get the flow of political power right because it ensures We the People get the first and final say on tax rates.   If this is nudging, let’s push for more of it!

March 31st, 2010 at 12:43 pm
God Bless Texas Cities

When it comes to urban areas, things are not only bigger in Texas, they’re better.  Acclaimed demographer Joel Kotkin highlights the growth of Texas cities, especially Dallas and Houston.  Mixing effective local governments with job growth, these cities are growing at much faster clips than blue hued mega states like California and New York.  And it’s not just for the cheap(er) suburban housing.  Developments like The Trinity Project are attracting new residents while creating lush municipal parkland.

Dallas and other Texas cities substitute the narrow notion of “or”–that is cities can grow only if the suburbs are sufficiently strangled–with a more inclusive notion of “and.” A bigger, wealthier, more important region will have room for all sorts of grand projects that will provide more density and urban amenities.

This approach can be seen in remarkable plans for developing “an urban forest” along the Trinity River, which runs through much of Dallas. The extent of the project–which includes reforestation, white water rafting and restorations of large natural areas–would provide the Dallas region with 10,000 acres of parkland right in the heart of the region. In comparison, New York City’s Central Park, arguably the country’s most iconic urban reserve, covers some 800 acres.

So if you’re thinking about moving to either Texas or New York, would you prefer ten times the parkland, or ten times the budget deficit?

March 31st, 2010 at 12:20 pm
Obama Drilling for Votes in Virginia

Apologies to Virginians, but the Commonwealth isn’t the first place most people think about when the issue of off-shore drilling comes to mind.  But President Barack Obama isn’t most people.  In a move that can only be understood as ploy to win back some of the support he lost with his cavalier attitude towards a state that helped give him the presidency, Obama is clearing the way for more oil platforms along the Atlantic seaboard.  Maybe this kind of targeted job creation will be enough to distract Virginians from the fact that their Attorney General is challenging Obamacare in the courts.

Curiously, there is at least one state that won’t benefit from the president’s newfound interest in domestic oil supplies: Alaska.  Probably just a coincidence.

March 30th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
A New U.S. Commission to Oversee “Compliance with International Human Rights Treaties?”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Imagine a new federal regulatory commission including lifetime appointees to investigate officials for alleged violation of “international human rights treaties,” including those  “related to the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina or to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”

It’s not merely farce.  It’s proposed federal legislation supported by approximately 50 activist organizations to remake the United States Commission on Civil Rights, which was established in 1957 to combat illegal and unconstitutional discrimination within the U.S.  This proposed new commission, the brainchild of former Civil Rights Commission chair Mary Frances Berry and organizations calling themselves the “Campaign for a New Domestic Human Rights Agenda,” would also be empowered to “monitor U.S. compliance with international treaty obligations.”  Most ominously, though, this leftist boondoggle would “recommend new legislation and ‘encourage adoption’ of conventions to which the U.S. is not currently a party.”

It’s not bad enough that Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is attempting a backdoor implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and global warming agenda?  It’s not enough that so-called gun “control” activists seek to impose United Nations-style infringements upon our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms?  It’s not bad enough that the Obama Administration and its leftist cheerleaders advocated prosecution of Bush Administration officials who assisted our war against terrorism?

Not according to the left, apparently, in its continuing onslaught to control every minute aspect of our lives and eliminate whatever degree of American sovereignty and exceptionalism remains after Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid exhaust themselves.

March 30th, 2010 at 1:09 pm
Stupak’s Democrats Request Billions in Earmarks – Coincidence?

FoxNews.com reports:

The 11 House Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak who dropped their opposition to health care reform legislation mere hours before the final vote have requested $3.4 billion in earmarks — and one watchdog group wants to know whether the money represents business as usual or political payoffs. 

“The Sunlight Foundation says it plans to track the earmark requests, which were put in one day after health care reform cleared Congress, to see whether they’re approved and whether it appears lawmakers are being rewarded for their vote. ”

Of course, Stupak’s office claims there is no link between the earmarks and health care votes.   But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

March 30th, 2010 at 10:03 am
ObamaCare’s Individual Mandate Paradox: Penalize the Poor, or Watch Costs Skyrocket
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Welcome to the ObamaCare hangover, America.

In his weekly Main Street column entitled “The Tax Police and the Health Care Mandate,” Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn points out a malignant paradox within ObamaCare.  Namely, that ObmaCare’s infamous individual mandate (which compels uninsured Americans to suddenly purchase insurance under penalty of prosecution) will have one of two consequences.  It will either (1) penalize poorer Americans who fail – or find themselves unable – to purchase insurance by unleashing a horde of IRS enforcers upon them;  or, alternatively, (2) remain lightly enforced in order to avoid punishing the poor, thereby escalating our collective taxpayer cost into the stratosphere.

The rationale behind the individual mandate, of course, is that many of ObamaCare’s provisions, such as forcing insurers to cover people with preexisting conditions, would make its total cost unaffordable unless healthier and younger uninsured Americans were required to buy coverage.  McGurn notes that Obama was against this individual mandate before he was for it, opposing it during the 2008 Democrat primaries against Hillary Clinton, but unsurprisingly inserting it into ObamaCare’s provisions later on.  Nevertheless, enforcing the individual mandate will require new legions of IRS agents to target Americans who refuse to either purchase insurance or pay the federal tax penalty.

Which creates the paradox.  Those who consider themselves too poor to buy insurance today may still feel that way even when ObamaCare’s mandate is imposed, in which case they’ll find themselves the targets of the IRS.  If, however, federal bureaucrats in their famed mercy refrain from enforcing ObamaCare’s individual mandate in order to avoid persecuting poorer Americans (just as they do not penalize failure to return census forms), the total cost of ObamaCare will far exceed what its proponents promised us while they shoved it up our…  noses.

Nancy Pelosi was right about one thing, though.  We’re sure finding out a lot about ObamaCare now that it’s passed.

March 30th, 2010 at 8:38 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Barack’s Diplomacy
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

March 29th, 2010 at 12:16 pm
Video: Liberty Lost
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In CFIF’s most recent Freedom Minute video, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses how with the passage of ObamaCare, Americans are being forced to sacrifice fundamental liberties and the nation’s character.

 

March 29th, 2010 at 10:23 am
Obama’s Magic? Britain Declares US/UK Relationship No Longer “Special”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

The blunt-force trauma of cold, hard reality hitting Barack Obama’s vacuous “Hope and Change” artifice continues.

Sixty years after Winston Churchill proclaimed a “special relationship” with the United States, and approximately one year after Obama shamefully returned a White House bust of Churchill to Britain, members of the United Kingdom’s parliament returned Obama’s insult and declared an end to that designation.  Britain’s Commons Foreign Affairs Committee decided that the term “no longer accurately characterised the modern relationshiop between the two countries and should be dropped,” and held that the British/American alliance was now “just one of a series of relationships.”

Naturally, the committee sprinkled a gratuitous anti-Bush remark onto its pronouncement, saying that the term “special relationship” was “now more likely to be defined by what was seen as Britain’s support for President George Bush over the Iraq War.”   This ludicrous fig leaf, however, fails to explain why the committee made this determination over one year after Bush’s departure and Obama’s arrival, when a magical new era of international goodwill and harmony was supposed to descend over the world.

March 29th, 2010 at 9:20 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Obama and the Media
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

March 27th, 2010 at 7:10 pm
Health Care Bill Provision Banks Against the Family

If you are overjoyed to see the line item deductions from your paycheck flowing to the federal government, this blog post is not for you.  If you have the opposite reaction, get ready to pay an additional $150 – $240 per month so the feds can pay for long term care.  (Not yours directly, of course.  Contra Al Gore, there is no lockbox or personal account for your tax dollars.  Just an IOU written to your grandchildren.)

The reason?  Taking the money helps ease the burden on Medicaid for all those future bed-ridden citizens unable to care for themselves.  Perhaps the worst thing about this program isn’t the increase in taxes; it’s the replacing of family with government as the comfort care provider of last resort.  Not only will people be told to look to government for their pensions, but also for their end-of-life needs.  Under Obamacare, taxpayer dollars are going to fund abortions and end-of-life care.  Credit Democrats for this: in one bill they managed to extend government intrusion from the womb to the tomb.

March 27th, 2010 at 6:50 pm
Obama Tempting GOP to Shut Down the Government

The question whether President Barack Obama would make recess appointments over Republican objections has now been answered.

So, who needs Congress?  With President Obama issuing an executive order purporting to make law, and filling administrative vacancies through recess appointments, is there really a need for the legislative branch?  After a month where it became evident that the Obama Administration sees Congress as a bifurcated procedural process, it won’t be too surprising if after Republicans gain a majority the White House refuses to acknowledge the legislature’s presence.  If that happens, we may be headed for a government shut-down early next year when the GOP turns off the financial spigot.

Stay tuned.

March 27th, 2010 at 6:06 pm
Government’s Goal Should be Freedom, Not Happiness

Amid the MSM’s mischaracterization of all things Tea Party, this brief meditation on the true end of government is a welcome corrective.  A sampling:

There is a more fundamental reason why government policy ought not to be directed at happiness. There is more to life than that. There are many forms of life — monastic devotion, public service, freedom fighter — in which the pursuit of happiness is a subsidiary value, if it appears at all. The realms of art and literature would be hugely impoverished if nobody were ever miserable. “Happiness,” as Montherlant wrote, “writes white.”

Precisely because human life is prolifically diverse, the history of Utopian politics is littered with offences against freedom by people who thought they knew what the people really wanted. The economics of happiness invariably leads to the politics of paternalism. The happiness gurus would be better off starting with Aristotle’s generous account of flourishing, an idea that implies people choosing their own life course. If politicians need a single objective — and it is not obvious that they do — then setting the people free is a lot better than forcing them to be happy.

Democrats used to understand this.  Progressives don’t.  If the former ever extracts the latter from its ranks, the Tea Party won’t be necessary – and neither will most of the federal apparatus.

March 27th, 2010 at 5:51 pm
Federal Debt to be 90% of GDP by 2020

So says the Congressional Budget Office:

President Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget will generate nearly $10 trillion in cumulative budget deficits over the next 10 years, $1.2 trillion more than the administration projected, and raise the federal debt to 90 percent of the nation’s economic output by 2020, the Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday.

Ready to buy gold?

March 27th, 2010 at 5:36 pm
Another TSA Nominee Fails to Make it Past Security

The White House is now 0-for-2 on nominees to head the Transportation Security Administration, the agency in charge of screening passengers and bags in airports, among other things.  The problem this time: the nominee’s defense contractor employer took more money than it was owed.  With the vacancy open for several months into the future, maybe Ponzi scheme artist Bernie Madoff will be out of prison in time to take the reins.

March 27th, 2010 at 4:28 pm
Dems Still Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

Growing up, my mother used to warn my brother and me about an impending stroke of discipline with the phrase, “You’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’.”  Most of the time, we got the hint.  Consequently, we did not grow up to be Democrats.

And so I marvel at the continued tone-deafness of Democratic leaders, who are now circulating talking point packets to congressional members heading home for the Easter break.  Apparently, the town hall meetings went so well last year, that more face-to-face discussions about health care are suggested.  Hard to be believe, but these people are both cynical and crazy.  How long will it be before a Democratic congressman’s constituents tar and feather the poor bird?

March 26th, 2010 at 3:03 pm
We’re All Amish Now
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Despairing over the passage of Obamacare? Beginning to fret that you sound like those liberals who are constanly promising to emigrate if a Republican wins the White House? Fear not, my friends, the health care bill contains an escape hatch for those of you who’d like to avoid the European Med-State to come. But you better be able to grow a beard.

As I’ve chronicled on Freedom Line before (here and here), the Amish and Old Order Mennonites have long pushed for an exemption from the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, as their religious beliefs forbid it. Well, they got it. And some are speculating that Muslims may be the next in line for an opt-out.

What would happen, one wonders, if millions of conservative Americans started declaring themselves Amish when the Obama Administration’s insurance company-underwritten collection agency came knocking?