Free Markets, Free People

Christopher Dodd


“Tom Delay” Democrats

The Wall Street Journal as tagged the present majority Democrat Congress “Tom Delay Democrats” as they have now, plainly, become everything they complained about when Delay was running the show and more. And at least some of them (Pelosi excepted for being terminally clueless and claiming the present system of passing health care reform is the “most transparent” in history) are hitting the exits knowing their day is done.

First Senator Byron Dorgan announces his retirement and now Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-CT, is expected to announce his. As Rich Lowery says, while it is good news, it probably saves Connecticut for the Democrats. But you never know. Maybe Dodd’s next stop is “Dancing With The Stars”.

But back to the Democrats in general. This monstrosity of a health care bill has shown them for the hypocrites they are:

Evading conference has become standard operating procedure in this Congress, though you might think they’d allow for the more open and thoughtful process on what Mr. Obama has called “the most important piece of social legislation since the Social Security Act passed in the 1930s and the most important reform of our health-care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s.”

This black-ops mission ought to be a particular embarrassment for Mr. Obama, given that he campaigned on transparent government. At a January 2008 debate he said that a health-care overhaul would not be negotiated “behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-Span so the American people can see what the choices are.”

There are no “choices” for Americans in this bill. Plans for these “negotiations” are not at all based in transparency and they certainly won’t be bringing “all parties together”. In fact, precisely the opposite will be the case. Republicans will be purposely excluded (don’t want them “gumming” up the works, by gosh) as will progressive Democrats as I pointed out yesterday. In fact, a very select group of Democrats only will “negotiate” the compromise behind closed doors and without input from anyone outside their chosen circle.

And they certainly don’t plan on doing this in the sunlight and in front of the American people via C-Span – so Brian Lamb ought to just shut up and quit asking. The darkness is where legislative cockroaches work best, and they like it for a reason:

Democrats know that a conference forces the majority party to cast votes on awkward motions and would give the Republicans who have been shut out for months a chance to participate. This sunlight, and the resulting public attention, might scare off wavering Democrats and defeat the bill. Ethics rules the Democrats passed in 2007 also make it harder to “airdrop” into conference reports the extra bribes they will no doubt add to grease the way for final passage.

Now that the inconvenient charade of getting CBO to score the previous bills and get them below the threshold necessary to pass them (even though the projections are based on data manipulated to score well in the statutory 10 year window in which the CBO must work), they are free even from that constraint. Once they cobble together their final bill “informally” in the dark, they can rush it through both the House and Senate for final passage and on to the desk of the president for signature. No telling, at that point, how much it will really cost .

Democrats howled at the strong-arm tactics Mr. DeLay used to pass Medicare drug coverage in 2003, and so did we. But they’ve managed to create an even more destructive bill, and their tactics are that much worse. We can’t even begin to imagine the uproar if the Republicans had tried to privatize Social Security with such contempt for the democratic process and public opinion.

Yes we can imagine the uproar. But as the WSJ points out – this is nothing new, just worse. Both sides play these destructive and ridiculous games when they’re in power. They make a mockery of the process, destroy the legitimacy of their institution, alienate the people and then wonder why there’s so much anger out there in flyover land.

Surely they can’t be that clueless, can they?

UPDATE: WordPress is giving me fits this morning, so please excuse all the workaround attempts I’m having to take to post

~McQ



Dodd: Obama Must “Step Up”

Politico carries a story today quoting Sen. Chris Dodd saying President Obama needs to “step up” and give Congress “more of a framework to work with on health care reform”.

Or translated into common language that everyone can understand, Dodd is saying it is time for Obama to “step up” and lead.

There’s a problem, however – Obama has never led anything. He’s not a leader although he’s in the ultimate leadership job. His background, as many pointed out ad nauseum during the campaign, isn’t one of leadership. And when he was questioned about that fact, his claimed his successful campaign for the presidency proved his leadership abilities. If that’s not an acknowledgment of a paper thin leadership resume, I don’t know what is.

It has become even more obvious in this health care debate that he lacks the attributes of a leader. His first reaction to opposition was defensive. He and many in Congress attacked those who opposed him (and that continues today).

He then went into campaign mode, not understanding that doing so doesn’t constitute leadership on an issue. Unlike a leader, he’d literally outsourced his signature agenda item to Congress. Then, without apparently realizing it, his statements during his staged townhalls were diametrically opposed to what was actually in the House bill. It ended up hurting his credibility further.

Other examples of his lack of leadership experience and skills have been evident as well. He’s been dismissive of those who oppose him, preferring to wave away or ignore their criticism. He’s rarely involved himself in the nuts and bolts of legislation thereby leaving it to the liberal leaders of Congress to fashion the legislation in their own image, not his. Consequently he’s not seen as a strong leader even by his own party – thus the comment by Dodd.

I’ve heard people say that some people are born leaders. If that is true, Barack Obama isn’t one of them. Charismatic, intelligent and charming?

Yes.

A leader?

No.

My years in the military have convinced me that the vast majority of good leaders are made, not born. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I never served with one. However I have watched the development of good solid leaders throughout my career. In fact I was a part of the process, as it is the job of all leaders to train and mentor the next generation of leaders.

From the raw material of recruits and junior officers to Command Sergeants Major and Generals, these leaders were trained, tested, mentored and tested again. To gain the top rank they eventually earn they met the tests and gain the leadership experience necessary at every level to move on up the ladder one rung at a time.

Barack Obama has never been developed as a leader nor has he had to endure the tests a leader must endure. While I’m sure he’d deny it, he’s led a privileged life in which his charm, intelligence, charisma and a good helping of guile have been his primary means of advancement. And his political career has been perfectly tailored to take advantage of those attributes. Centered in the legislative branch where those are valued assets, he’s never been tasked to lead. Leadership in those venues is only vested in a few and with his short tenure at each level, leadership responsibilities were never vested in him. In general, it is one of the reasons that Senators rarely make good Presidents.

So he comes by his lack of leadership honestly – it is simply not something which was necessary in the track his life has taken to this point – but now finds himself in a real dilemma

He’s not a leader.

He really doesn’t know how to be a leader.

But he pursued and won a job that demands a set of skills he, to this point, doesn’t possess. That’s why reversion to what he knows – campaign mode – is his natural answer to “stepping up”. Given the attributes he does have, he feels that if he can just get in front of the media and the people, he can use his charm, charisma, intelligence and guile to convince them to back his agenda just as he was able to do during the election cycle.

What he doesn’t seem to realize is that’s not leadership. His days of uncontested speech loaded with glittering generalities and factual inaccuracies are over. “Feel good” transitions into “make good” when the presidency is won. Instead of talking about what can be, he’s now stuck with talking about what is. And “what is” can be fact checked.

He’s disconnected, not seeming to understand that it isn’t Congress’s job to read his mind and churn out legislation to match his desires. Instead it is his job to work with Congress to make that happen. He seems to want to reign, not lead.

As it stands now, Dodd is asking for something that Obama hasn’t the experience or ability to deliver. Of course Obama’s surrounded by smart advisers who must also understand this problem and are most likely working diligently to find some way to correct it. But again experience says leaders aren’t born or made overnight. And the presidency is far and away much to critical and demanding a job for someone to first be learning what leadership is all about and how to apply it.

~McQ


Dodd, Cancer and Health Care “Reform” – Be Careful What You Wish For

First let me wish Sen. Chris Dodd a full recovery from the prostate surgery he will undergo soon to remove the cancer he’s been found to have.

But with all things personal, politicians try to turn them into “teachable moments” that support what they’re trying to do. And Dodd is no exception.

“I wanted to let you know that I’ve been diagnosed with an early stage of prostate cancer,” Dodd wrote. “Luckily, a routine test allowed my doctor to catch it at a very early stage, and my prognosis is excellent – we expect a full and speedy recovery. I want to assure you that I am feeling fine.”

“After the Senate adjourns at the end of next week, I’ll have surgery to remove the cancer,” Dodd wrote. “After a week or two of recuperation, I expect to be right back to work. After all, as a member of Congress, I have great health insurance. I was able to get screened, seek the opinions of highly skilled doctors, consider all the available options, and choose the treatment that was right for me.”

He added, in a reference to his current work to pass healthcare legislation, “I know you’ll agree that every American deserves the same ability. We have healthcare legislation to pass – and an election to win. And I can’t thank you enough for your support.”

The implication, of course, is that without universal health care or universal health insurance, detection and survival rates must be lower than they could be.

But a quick check of systems with universal care and insurance doesn’t at all back up the implication:

Survival was significantly higher in the United States for all solid tumors, except testicular, stomach, and soft-tissue cancer, the authors report. The greatest differences were seen in the major cancer sites: colon and rectum (56.2% in Europe vs 65.5% in the United States), breast (79.0% vs 90.1%), and prostate cancer (77.5% vs 99.3%), and this “probably represents differences in the timeliness of diagnosis,” they comment. That in turn stems from the more intensive screening for cancer carried out in the United States, where a reported 70% of women aged 50 to 70 years have undergone a mammogram in the past 2 years, one-third of people have had sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy in the past 5 years, and more than 80% of men aged 65 years or more have had a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. In fact, it is this PSA testing that probably accounts for the very high survival from prostate cancer seen in the United States, the authors comment.

99.3% survival rate on prostate cancer in the US vs. 77.5% among the “universals”. How can that be, given Dodd’s indication that he’s just among the lucky ones? How in the world can the US, with such a badly broken system manage to save all but 0.7% of the prostate cancer patients, while the exemplar of universal care – Europe – loses 22.5% of theirs?

The PSA? It is a blood test. It is a test routinely run in the US when people have bloodwork done. And look at the testing for breast and colon cancer – isn’t that “preventive medicine”? So why aren’t the Europeans running all of these tests?

Good question. My guess would be cost. Here’s the result:

The age-adjusted 5-year survival rates for all cancers combined [Europe] was 47.3% for men and 55.8% for women, which is significantly lower than the estimates of 66.3% for men and 62.9% for women from the US Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program ( P < .001).

The point? Don’t buy into this “the system is broken” rhetoric in which politicians claim to have a better way of providing health care. My guess is a significant portion of Europeans diagnosed with various cancers would much rather be treated here than there.

~McQ

[HT: Carly B.]


More Health Care Lies

I don’t use the “L” word very often but in this case it seems completely appropriate.

The question:

Would a government-run health plan upend the employer-based health insurance system used by 160 million Americans?

The Democrats claim the answer is ‘no’.

Here’s their rationalization:

Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., say their plan would preserve employer-sponsored insurance coverage and create an affordable public option for those who need it.

“The … bill virtually eliminates the dropping of currently covered employees from employer-sponsored health plans,” Kennedy and Dodd said in a letter to members of the Health Committee, one of two Senate groups working on health reform.

The bill includes a “pay or play” provision that would require employers to provide adequate coverage for their workers or subsidize a system that will.

“Pay or play” would require companies to pay the government $750 per full-time worker per year ($375 for part-timers) if they don’t offer health coverage, or if they offer “qualified” coverage but pay less than 60% of workers’ premiums. Small businesses that employ fewer than 25 workers would be exempt.

The Congressional Budget Office, which analyzed the legislation, estimated that by 2019 the same number of workers would be covered by employer-based plans as would otherwise be the case under the current system.

“It tracks what we’re seeing in Massachusetts,” a senior Democratic aide on the Senate Health Committee said on a conference call with reporters.

I’ve put the lie in bold. Why is it a lie? Anyone out there have a $750 a year health care plan? Anyone? I don’t know of a plan for an individual that costs only $750. If there is, then there’d be no reason for any of this nonsense would there?

And Kennedy and Dodd (and the Democrats), the supposed “experts” on health care know that very well. This is pure disingenuousness on their part. This is a blatant attempt to launch a lie to get them past a very important sticking point in the public perception of the bill.

But the average – average – individual health care insurance cost in the US is almost $4,000. And then there’s the cost of administering it.

Hypothetical – you employ 100 people. Let’s say your company pays full health care coverage at the national average (for simplicity sake, assume they all have individual policies). You have two people who administer the coverage at $35,000 each. Your total cost each year to cover your employees is $470,000.

If you pay the federal government $750 per employee a year, your total cost is $75,000. But you can let the two people you’ve had administering your health care program go, saving $71,500 (includes -$1,500 for 2 less employees). Total cost of “pay or play” for you? $3,500 the first year ($73,500 vs. $470,000 every year afterward). In reality, however, it is a net savings of $466,500. You don’t have to be a very good businessman to figure out that one do you?

And remember – these figures only involve “individual” coverage. Family coverage is much more costly, but I see nothing from our two Senate experts which even addresses that. So obviously, the cost of the health care of 100 employees could be vastly more than my simplified example.

No wonder we see corporations coming out now to back this sort of a program. For the vast majority of them, $750 per employee is a huge savings not to mention getting them out of the health care provision and administration business. They’ll pay it gladly. If you like your doctor or your plan, tough beans. You’re going on the government plan. And, of course, the administration will be more than happy to blame your problem on “greedy corporations.”

When they do, just consider the lie and the incentive it provides and then lay the blame precisely where it belongs. Not that it will do you any good where it concerns your present doctor and plan.

Just another step along the road to single-payer brought to you by two lying Senators and backed by the CBO.

~McQ

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