Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: July 2009


Obama: Selling a Pig in a Poke

Does it bother you that a president who is out pushing like hell to pass a bill that will fundamentally change the way we receive health care, and apparently most now believe that change will be negative, apparently isn’t familiar with what he’s pushing?

With the public’s trust in his handling of health care tanking (50%-44% of Americans disapprove), the White House has launched a new phase of its strategy designed to pass Obamacare: all Obama, all the time. As part of that effort, Obama hosted a conference call with leftist bloggers urging them to pressure Congress to pass his health plan as soon as possible.

During the call, a blogger from Maine said he kept running into an Investors Business Daily article that claimed Section 102 of the House health legislation would outlaw private insurance. He asked: “Is this true? Will people be able to keep their insurance and will insurers be able to write new policies even though H.R. 3200 is passed?” President Obama replied: “You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you are talking about.”

It’s only a question that’s been in the news for a week after it was raised in an Investors Business Daily editorial. That’s the entire reason the blogger brought it up. Salesmanship 101 – know your product. He’s been so busy flapping his jaws about how we have to pass this now that he hasn’t even taken the time to understand what “this” is.

IBD said the provision would, in effect, outlaw private insurance.

The Heritage Foundation did a little digging into this provision to figure out the real impact it will have. Here’s what they have to say:

[T]he House bill does not outright outlaw private individual health insurance, but it does effectively regulate it out of existence. The House bill does allow private insurance to be sold, but only “Exchange-participating health benefits plans.” In order to qualify as an “Exchange-participating health benefits plan,” all health insurance plans must conform to a slew of new regulations, including community rating and guaranteed issue. These will all send the cost of private individual health insurance skyrocketing. Furthermore, all these new regulations would not apply just to individual insurance plans, but to all insurance plans. So the House bill will also drive up the cost of your existing employer coverage as well. Until, of course, it becomes so expensive that your company makes the perfectly economical decision to dump you into the government plan.

President Obama may not care to study how many people will lose their current health insurance if his plan becomes law, but like most Americans, we do. That is why we partnered with the Lewin Group to study how many Americans would be forced into the government “option” under the House health plan. Here is what we found:

* Approximately 103 million people would be covered under the new public plan and, as a consequence, about 83.4 million people would lose their private insurance. This would represent a 48.4 percent reduction in the number of people with private coverage.

* About 88.1 million workers would see their current private, employer-sponsored health plan go away and would be shifted to the public plan.

* Yearly premiums for the typical American with private coverage could go up by as much as $460 per privately-insured person, as a result of increased cost-shifting stemming from a public plan modeled on Medicare.

So it ends up not killing the private insurance business outright with a bullet through the brain, but instead, by slow strangulation. Same effect, but it will just take much longer. Legislate rules and requirements which will up the cost of private insurance to the point that the economic incentive is to dump it in favor of the cheaper public option.

Like your plan? Like your doctor?

Too bad.

But the man who promised you could keep both couldn’t be bothered to become “familiar” with this particular “provision”.

~McQ


“Green” UK – A Cautionary Tale

A bit of ego, a little dab of moral vanity, a smidge of hubris all driven by an agenda and you have the perfect definition of the political class worldwide.  Of course I understate the smidges, bits and dabs by quite a bit. But that class has a problem.  Other than boring economic stuff they are apparently lacking a great moral cause.   So, it appears, they’ve decided to make one up with predicable results.

Dominic Lawson brings us up to date with the goings on in the UK beginning with helping us understand where the “green” movement has gotten them:

I was irresistibly reminded of this by Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, in his launch of plans to cut carbon emissions by switching to “renewables” for more than 30% of our energy use. This, he claimed, would “rise to the moral challenge of climate change”.

Miliband is of the generation of politicians struggling to find a great moral cause. Earlier in the Labour administration Tony Blair thought he had found it with wars of choice far from home, but that has, to put it mildly, lost its lustre. Now it is the “war against climate change”, given additional moral potency by the notion that the greatest concentration of sufferers from global rising temperatures would be among the world’s poorest.

Given the mostly positive press the fulminations of one Al Gore has received, what pol worth his salt could resist the call to save the world. “Go Green” young man and don’t dally because the earth has a fever!

And so Britain has tried to lead the effort. With high flying rhetoric and an aim to save Africa (really? Yup, so says Lawson), British politicans have bravely decided to throttle back their emissions and, apparently, kill their steel industry. Of course other than see the last vestiges of that industry leave forever, Lawson wonders, in the big scheme of things, if it’s worth it:

The UK is responsible for less than 2% of global carbon emissions – a figure set to fall sharply, regardless of what we do, as a result of the startlingly rapid industrial-isation of countries such as China and India: each year the increase in Chinese CO2 emissions alone is greater than those produced by the entire British economy. On the fashionable assumption that climate change is entirely driven by CO2 emissions, the effect on global temperatures of Britain closing every fossil fuel power station would be much smaller than the statistical margin of error: in effect, zero.

You see, Lawson, like many, has figured out the unfashionable truth – unless the big 3rd world emitters play ball, whatever dinky emitters like the UK do won’t amount to any net change. Whether or not you believe in AGW or not, running your economy on the shoals for no net gain seems something only a politican would do. And you’re right.

But those great moral crusades are beckoning and the political flesh is weak. Who wants to show up and serve their time in the spotlight with nothing but mundane governing to do. Politicians are driven to make a difference:

Gordon Brown claims: “Britain is leading the world in the battle against climate change.” Such remarks are regarded as absurd in the chancelleries of Europe: if you do take as a measure of such commitment the proportion of domestic energy already supplied by renewables, the UK occupies 25th place in the European Union league table, above only Malta and Luxembourg.

Never the less, “leading” certainly has had an effect, at least domestically. With a yawning energy gap promising huge problems in he very near future, the UK is leading by committing itself to 7,000 offshore wind generators.

Two problems with that. One they should have learned from Germany:

Indeed, Paul Golby, who runs the British operations of E.ON, Europe’s biggest wind-power producer, has told the government that a 90% fossil fuel or nuclear back-up will be needed for any of the National Grid’s future wind-power capacity. As Martin Fuchs, his German boss, pointed out: “The wind, sadly, does not blow where large quantities of power are required . . . on September 12 last year wind power contributed 38% of our grid power requirements at all times, but on September 30 the figure went down to 0.2%.”

Yes that’s right – wind is so unreliable that it must be backed up with more conventional methods of power generation up to the 90% mark. And:

The powerful wind-turbine lobby in Germany constantly harps on about the number of jobs “created” by its subsidised investment, quite ignoring the number of jobs destroyed by high-cost energy, or indeed the greater number of jobs that could be created if the same amounts were invested in more profitable activities. This is why the Bremen Energy Institute argues that “wind energy macro-economically has a negative employment impact”.

Peachy. Germany isn’t the only one that has learned “green” means fewer jobs, not more. Spain has also learned that lesson. A study of what has happened in Spain since it took essentially the same path as the UK in 2000 yielded these results:

* For every green job financed by Spanish taxpayers, 2.2 real jobs were lost as an opportunity cost;
* 9 out of 10 green jobs created by Spain over the past 10 years are no longer in existence today;
* Since 2000, Spain has spent €571,138 ($753,778) to create each “green job,” including subsidies of more than €1 million ($1,319,783) per wind industry job;
* Those programs resulted in the destruction of nearly 113,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy and;
* Each “green” megawatt installed destroyed 5.39 jobs in non-energy sectors of the Spanish economy.”

And what about all that wonderful green energy promised by the UK wind machines? Well, unfortunately it’s very expensive:

Miliband claimed last week that the result of his proposals would be an increase in costs to energy users of about 17%. However, the business and enterprise department admitted last year that Britain’s existing “climate policies” – even before Miliband’s latest Big New Idea – would add an extra 55% to energy bills. It’s obvious where this will lead: to the exit from Britain (and, indeed, Europe) of much of what remains of energy-intensive manufacturing industry – the euphemistic jargon term is “carbon leakage”.

Sure enough, that’s precisely what is happening:

Jeremy Nicholson, the director of the Energy Intensive Users Group, which represents such industries as steel and aluminium, is exasperated beyond measure: “A future administration will have to say in public what ministers and their officials already admit in private, that the renewables target is neither practical nor affordable. Outsourcing our emissions is not a solution to a global problem. Politicians need to understand that unilateral action will come at a terrible cost in terms of UK manufacturing jobs, investment and export revenue, for no discernible environmental gain – is that really what they want?”

Apparently so, since that is precisely the road the US and UK, without either China, India or the rest of the 3rd world, is headed.

What about the “exasperated” steel and aluminum industuries in Britain?

Well their demise has already begun:

Thousands of British steelworkers and their families are holding a protest march Saturday in a town in northeast England where the looming closure of a Corus steel plant threatens to throw families into poverty.

[...]

Closure is expected to result in the loss of 2,000 jobs at the plant, and another 1,000 elsewhere.

But others say the status of the plant, known as Teesside Cast Products, as one of the main regional employers means its closure will result in a loss of local high street spending that could balloon into nearly 10,000 job losses.

Aluminum too:

On the day Nicholson said this to me, last Thursday, Anglesey Aluminium, the biggest consumer of electricity in Wales, announced that it would cease production, precisely because it could see no prospect of signing up to a long-term supply of electricity at a rate at which it could make a profit. And on the day of Miliband’s announcement, a group of Labour MPs presented a “Save Our Steel” petition, saying: “We need to make sure we act before the light goes out.”

It may well be that the English steel mills will become unable to compete globally, even at current domestic energy prices; but deliberately to make them uncompetitive is industrial vandalism – and even madness when the consequence of Miliband’s Martin Luther King moment may be the lights going out not just for producers but for all of us in our homes. This is worse than a futile gesture: it is immoral.

Indeed. But the moral vanity and hubris involved in the belief one is “saving the world” apparently trumps any concern for the lives of others and the reality such policy brings in its execution.

The immoral part, as it pertains to the US, is we know this from watching what has happened in Europe and elsewhere. Yet apparently, if the administration has its way, we’re going to see the same immorality visited on us here shortly.

~McQ


Daddy Says, “Don’t Talk Like That”

Ever have your mom or dad say “I don’t like that tone, young man?” Or words to that effect? Well our national daddy is monitoring the speech of bankers and apparently he’s just not happy with their tone:

President Obama says he sees a lack of humility among leaders of the financial community.

While noting that some of the nation’s most powerful banks had repaid federal bailout money, Mr. Obama said: “What you haven’t seen (in the financial sector) is a change in culture, a certain humility where they kind of step back and say gosh, you know, we really messed things up.”

Speaking of lack of humility, I’m wondering is when he’ll step back, look at that pork laden “stimulus” bill which was nothing more than a political payoff and has done absolutely nothing to stimulate anything and say “gosh, you know, I really messed things up”.

Instead we get the spin cycle on steroids while he has the temerity to lecture others on “messing up”.

~McQ


Health Care Reform – The Moral Argument Against

Joseph C Phillips writes an excellent post at Big Hollywood addressing the health care issue (it’s a comparison between Canada’s system and ours which goes beyond just the obvious differences). In it, he gets to the moral essence of what those who want the type of reform Democrats are promising are really asking for. It is, as you’ll see, a damning review:

I must remember to share this article with my friend Bryan. Bryan is a cancer survivor. I have had friends that have lost their battles with cancer so his continued presence on this earth is a great joy to me and a fact of which I am sure he is also no doubt ecstatic. Bryan is particularly interested in the current state of health care costs because his insurance paid for what he terms a “measly portion” of his treatment- he is currently burdened with the cost of what his insurance did not cover. He simply can’t afford the astronomical cost. His complaint is echoed by many clamoring for nationalized healthcare. What remains unclear is under what moral principle one man can demand that others pay for his healthcare and whether any policy not firmly grounded in a moral truth can be just.

Bryan’s story perfectly illustrates the truth that the rising cost of healthcare has coincided with the rising quality of healthcare. It is true that not too long ago he would have paid considerably less for his cancer treatment. The bad news is that he would not have been around long enough to spend his savings. New drugs and new technologies lengthened his life as it they have for hundreds of thousands of others. Progress comes with a price tag.

Bryan was not denied care. In fact no one in America is denied healthcare. He had insurance and he has an income with which to pay what the insurance didn’t cover. The fact is– he would much rather spend his money on something else other than hospital bills reaching into the thousands of dollars. What better solution than a system where cancer treatment is paid for by someone else? He may be interested to learn that the U.S. ranks first in the world in cancer survivor rates and that breast cancer survivors in Canada have filed a class action suit against several hospitals that forced them to wait 12 weeks for radiation therapy. Obviously neither Bryan nor other national healthcare advocates want to wait in lines or have others decide if they are to live or die. What they want is someone else to foot the bill even if children receiving a public education must suffer.

Those three emphasized lines are the crux of the battle. On one side, you have people who want the care but want someone else to pay for it. They’d like to call that “fairness” because they can’t afford (or don’t want to pay) the cost of the care necessary to save their lives. On the other hand, we have costly treatments being developed that save the lives of people who previously wouldn’t survive the disease. Those who develop and administer those treatments want to be paid what they’re worth. That is the incentive that drives further research and development of advanced treatments.

How, morally, do you demand others pay for your health care problems? We’d all scream and holler if we were required to help pay for our neighbor’s roof if it was damaged in a storm. Through no real fault of his own, his roof was damaged. And insurance only paid a portion of it. Would we accept the idea the government has a moral right to take our money to pay for his roof?

Of course not. We might help him voluntarily or we might not, figuring it was his responsibility to plan and save for such an eventuality. But we’d certainly never accept the premise that government had any moral right to demand we pay for our neighbor’s roof. Yet with health care, that premise remains front and center.

Phillips hits the nail right on the head when he notes his friend Bryan would “much rather spend his money on something else other than hospital bills reaching into the thousands of dollars.” Of course he would. So would we all. But that still begs the question of what moral right we have to obligate others to that duty? Notice I didn’t ask how we do it “legally”. As Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union should have taught us, the immoral can be made legal at the stroke of a pen.

The Democrat’s solution, of course, is to declare what Bryan wants to be a “right”. What it would really be is a legal privilege granted and enforced by the coercive power of the state. Morally, it would be no different than declaring that every citizen has a “right” to a sound roof and legally making it the obligation of every other citizen to pay to ensure that “right” is fulfilled.

We wouldn’t stand for that. Yet we’re watching that exact immoral premise being approvingly considered by a portion of the population which has no problem with the coercive obligation of their fellow citizens to their selfish wants in the name of “fairness”.

~McQ


Making Health Care “Better”?

If health care is so darn terrible here, how does we manage rankings like this?

[T]he World Health Organization ranked the United States No. 1 out of 191 countries for being responsive to patients’ needs, including providing timely treatments and a choice of doctors.

Isn’t that the essence of good care?

Oh, but it is expensive and not everyone has insurance.

Well they have a plan to take care of the latter problem. Get it or government will fine you and assign you:

When you file your taxes, if you can’t prove to the IRS that you are in a qualified plan, you’ll be fined thousands of dollars — as much as the average cost of a health plan for your family size — and then automatically enrolled in a randomly selected plan (House bill, p. 167-168).

And of course the way to make it less expensive is to use less of it, right?

It’s one thing to require that people getting government assistance tolerate managed care, but the legislation limits you to a managed-care plan even if you and your employer are footing the bill (Senate bill, p. 57-58). The goal is to reduce everyone’s consumption of health care and to ensure that people have the same health-care experience, regardless of ability to pay.

Paying for all of this will be a breeze:

The price tag for this legislation is a whopping $1.04 trillion to $1.6 trillion (Congressional Budget Office estimates). Half of the tab comes from tax increases on individuals earning $280,000 or more, and these new taxes will double in 2012 unless savings exceed predicted costs (House bill, p. 199). The rest of the cost is paid for by cutting seniors’ health benefits under Medicare.

There’s plenty of waste in Medicare, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates only 1 percent of the savings under the legislation will be from curbing waste, fraud and abuse. That means the rest will likely come from reducing what patients get.

You did get that line in there where it says “the rest of the cost is paid for by cutting senior’s health care benefits?” And, as Dale pointed out, they have a wonderful idea of how to manage that:

One troubling provision of the House bill compels seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years (and more often if they become sick or go into a nursing home) about alternatives for end-of-life care (House bill, p. 425-430). The sessions cover highly sensitive matters such as whether to receive antibiotics and “the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration.”

This mandate invites abuse, and seniors could easily be pushed to refuse care.

Because they’re usually in such robust physical and mental health at the time such “counseling” would take place that they’re sure to stick up for themselves and further treatment.

No matter how tight the cost though, you can count on layer upon layer of bureaucracy finding the money necessary to exist and flourish:

Shockingly, only a portion of the money accumulated from slashing senior benefits and raising taxes goes to pay for covering the uninsured. The Senate bill allocates huge sums to “community transformation grants,” home visits for expectant families, services for migrant workers — and the creation of dozens of new government councils, programs and advisory boards slipped into the last 500 pages.

Is it any wonder Obama wants all this passed quickly? It’s the jobs portion of his “stimulus” plan. Oh, wait, that can’t be right because none of this begins to take effect until 2013 (except the taxes, which begin in 2011), one year safely on the other side of the next presidential election. In fact it won’t be fully in effect until 2018.

So what’s the rush again?

This is a legislative turkey that needs badly to be led to the chopping block. We don’t have the problem we’re being told we have, nor is there such wide-spread dissatisfaction with what we have that the government must step in.

The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll (June 21) finds that 83 percent of Americans are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the quality of their health care, and 81 percent are similarly satisfied with their health insurance.

There is absolutely no rush for any of this except politically. It comes under the heading of “using political capital while you have it” and right now Obama has it. The problem, and the reason for the rush, is there a hole in the political capital bag and the assets are draining out much more quickly than they thought they would.

I’m all for having them hold the bag and watch it empty without giving them the opportunity to wreck a system that for the vast majority of us seems to be working pretty well. If they want to do anything, they can remove the insurance mandates, pass the legislation to allow a real free insurance exchange to establish itself and get the hell out of the way.

~McQ


Dems to Seniors: Drop Dead

And you can take that title literally, too.  Because that is where we are headed with the health care bill before Congress. As Erick Erickson points out:

I think, given that the member of Congress who drafted H.R. 3200 read and take seriously people like Klien, Yglesias, and Singer, we should be very troubled by Section 1233 of H.R. 3200. The section, titled “Advanced Care Planning Consultation” requires senior citizens to meet at least every 5 years with a doctor or nurse practitioner to discuss dying with dignity.

The section requires that they talk to their doctor, not a lawyer, about living wills, durable healthcare powers of attorney, hospice, etc. Given the progressive intelligentsia already being on the record in favor of euthanizing the elderly, it is no small leap to see where the Democrats are headed with this.

Legally forcing senior citizens to have “death with dignity schedules every few years is just another way to say the government wants to make sure seniors know it is time to commit suicide to save the system money.

If you can’t see this, then you’re just being intentionally obtuse.    Forget all the kind rhetoric about “dignity”.  Let’s call it what it is: Geriatric Euthanasia.  And let’s be very clear about why we want the old people to die:  We’ve sucked all the economic productivity we’re going to get out of them, and it’s more convenient to kill them than it is to assume the financial burden of their care.   You can pretty it up with all the flowery language you want, but at the end of the day, it comes down to, “You cost too much to keep alive. Just die.”

Frankly, it’d be far more honest just to have a “caretaker” just show up at the appropriate age, and double-tap the senior at the nape of the neck.  At least that would have the virtue of honesty, and would spare everyone the hypocritical stench of pretending to care about the “dignity” of the elderly when the real concern is to try to ensure they don’t become a drain on the public purse.

So forget any notion you have about producing wealth your whole life to save up for your golden years.  The new paradigm is to produce all the wealth you can, and when you’re done, you need to die so that those of us who remain can spend it instead.

And why should this come as a surprise?  This is the direction we’ve been going for a long time.  And it is, in fact, the logical end of the idea that health care is a “right”.  Because once the community as a whole has a “right” to the labor, property, or wealth of any individual member, then there are no rights at all.  There are only privileges that are extended at the wish of the community, and that can be withdrawn at will.

There is no liberty under any scheme of communal “rights”.  The highest value of community rights isn’t freedom, it’s democracy.  Whatever the “community” chooses is, by definition legitimate, as long as it’s democratically chosen.  No medical care for old people?  That’s fine, as long as the community decrees it.  The trouble is that democracy is value-neutral.  It is amoral.  if democracy is the highest expression of legitimacy, then it’s perfectly alright for black people to be slaves, as long as the majority thinks it’s OK.  Black people would vote against it, of course, but if they ended up in the minority, well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  Sorry, black people.  You lose.  By the way, your name is now “Toby”.

Thanks for participating in the democratic process, Toby.  Now get to work.

We see the same thing in the Honduran situation.  Mel Zelaya was elected president.  Therefore he’s legitimate, so it’s a very, very bad thing to depose him, even if he acts unconstitutionally.  Because we’ve fetishized democracy, the Obama Administration and the OAS, assume that deposing him is a way of illegitimately thwarting the people’s will, rather than preserving a legitimate constitutional order.

That kind of thinking forgets that democracy is not a value.  It is a process that is only legitimate insofar as it is animated by constitutional order that values human liberty.  Without that, it is merely a form of tyranny, different only in process, rather than kind, as compared to the tryanny of a single individual.

For the most part, we’ve abandoned the idea of individual liberty as the primary American value among the political class.  So, we see nothing wrong with counseling senior to “die with dignity”.  It’s better for everyone, really, except, perhaps in the proximate case of the individual senior.

We’re now seeing the fruits of collectivism starting to bloom fully in this country.  The country I was born in is gone.  But I’m glad I got to see it before it died.


Nicaragua: And The Pattern Repeats

I have to wonder what our State Department and President, who seem completely enamored with process over actual democratic institutions, will have to say about this:

Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega announced Sunday, on the 30th anniversary of the leftist Sandinista revolution he led, that he would seek a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to seek reelection.

Following in the footsteps of elected regional allies, Ortega told thousands of supporters here that he would seek a referendum to let “the people say if they want to reward or punish” their leaders with reelection.

His close leftist allies who have had rules changed enabling them to remain in power include presidents Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.

In the last month President Manuel Zelaya in neighboring Honduras was ousted in a coup by his own military after seeking similar action.

My guess is they’ll applaud this even while it has essentially established “democratic” dictatorships in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. And my guess is the “certified election results” are complete for Nicaragua, just as they were for Hodura’s Zelaya, even as I write this. They only need to be produced at the proper time to “validate” the referendum.

Call it the Venezuelan model.

And our puddin’ heads in Washington will again applaud this step toward totalitarianism as a wonderful exercise in democracy we should all support.

Meanwhile those meanies in Honduras who take their Constitution too seriously? Not so much.

~McQ


State Governors Not Happy With Democratic Health Care Plan

At least not the Medicaid portion. The reason, of course, is states are on the hook to pay about 43% of Medicaid costs. Under the pending legislation, and depending on which plan you look at (House or Senate), Medicaid would expand 11% to 20%.

As you might imagine, that would impose a huge new mandate on the states already struggling with huge budget deficits and revenue shortfalls.

State governors, in Biloxi MS for the National Governors Association meeting, expressed bi-partisan disapproval of the plans.

“I think the governors would all agree that what we don’t want from the federal government is unfunded mandates,” said Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican, the group’s incoming chairman. “We can’t have the Congress impose requirements that we are forced to absorb beyond our capacity to do so.”

The House plan would pay for all of the costs of new enrollments and expand Medicaid the least (11%). The Senate version, however, would expand it the most (up to 20%) and would only pay full costs for 5 years. And the Senate’s answer to the states about how to fund the mandate?

Go into debt, of course:

One of the proposals being considered by the Finance Committee would encourage states to issue bonds to cover the costs of expanding Medicaid. Governors in both parties revolted, trumpeting their opposition in a conference call last week with Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who leads the committee.

The point is that not all costs are being surfaced when the total cost of this bill at the federal level is all that is cited. The House bill, for instance, would cost an estimated $438 billion over 10 years. I want to emphasize the word “estimated” and remind readers that there has never been an estimated cost I’m aware of that has come in on or under the projection.

Of course the Senate version, with expanded coverage, would cost more and shift the cost to states in 5 years. So you’ll not only be paying for this monstrosity at a federal level, but you can count on being tapped at a state level as well.

~McQ


Death Of A Hero: SSG Darrell “Shifty” Powers

You know, the word “hero” gets tossed around a lot these days. That’s not to say there aren’t heroes in our midst, there certainly are, but sometimes it’s just a good idea to sit back for a second and reflect on the word and its real meaning.

If you’re a fan of the HBO series “Band of Brothers”, then you know what real heroes look like. The paratroopers of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division were soldiers we got to know during that series through the depiction of their heroic actions throughout the unit’s fight through Europe.

They became real people on the screen. That’s because we got to know the real people the actors were portraying in a series of interviews with the survivors of the unit which were cut in at intervals throughout the film.

Well, with little notice or fanfare, one of Easy Company’s heroes made his final jump on June 17th of this year. SSG Darrell “Shifty” Powers has joined the 101st immortals, passing away last month as a result of cancer. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, his death barely got a notice.

SSG Darell "Shifty" Powers, E Co, 2/506th PIR, 101st Abn Div WWII

SSG Darell "Shifty" Powers, E Co, 2/506th PIR, 101st Abn Div WWII

Today, members of the milblog community are holding a virtual memorial for Shifty Powers, a man who helps define the word hero. Here’s a portion of an email that has gone viral which does a much better job than I can in giving you an idea of who Shifty Powers was:

Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Infantry.

If you’ve seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty. His character appears in all 10 episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.

I met Shifty in the Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn’t know who he was at the time. I just saw an elderly gentleman having trouble reading his ticket. I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the “Screaming Eagle”, the symbol of the 101st Airborne, on his hat.

Making conversation, I asked him if he’d been in the 101st Airborne or if his son was serving. He said quietly that he had been in the 101st.

I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served, and how many jumps he made. Quietly and humbly, he said “Well, I guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1945 . . . ” at which point my heart skipped.

At that point, again, very humbly, he said “I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy . . . . do you know where Normandy is?”

At this point my heart stopped. I told him yes, I know exactly where Normandy was, and I know what D-Day was.

At that point he said “I also made a second jump into Holland, into Arnhem.”

I was standing with a genuine war hero . . . . and then I realized that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day. I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from France, and he said “Yes. And it’s real sad because these days so few of the guys are left, and those that are, lots of them can’t make the trip.”

My heart was in my throat and I didn’t know what to say. I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in Coach, while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats.

When Shifty came forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I’d take his in coach. He said “No, son, you enjoy that seat. Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and still care is enough to make an old man very happy.” His eyes were filling up as he said it. And mine are brimming up now as I write this.

Today is a day to remember what he did and reflect on that. Of course his understated “I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy” doesn’t even begin to describe what jumping into Normandy entailed:

“I could hear bullets and shrapnel hitting the plane. As I jumped out the door, I could see that the left motor was on fire.” – Darrell Shifty Powers talking about jumping over Normandy, France, on D-Day.

Real heroes really don’t talk about it much, and they usually don’t include themselves when they do.

There are some real heroes that live among us and they deserve more than just a passing notice when they die. Shifty Powers was one of those heroes.

May he rest in peace and in the acclaim for his deeds he so richly deserves.

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother

~McQ


The Transparent Administration

Except when locked in a battle in which it is trying to fool the public into accepting a 1 trillion plus spending program as a “money saver”. Then, apparently, it is quite all right to delay the scheduled release of its revised budget numbers (based on known economic indicators):

The White House is being forced to acknowledge the wide gap between its once-upbeat predictions about the economy and today’s bleak landscape.

The administration’s annual midsummer budget update is sure to show higher deficits and unemployment and slower growth than projected in President Barack Obama’s budget in February and update in May, and that could complicate his efforts to get his signature health care and global-warming proposals through Congress.

The release of the update – usually scheduled for mid-July – has been put off until the middle of next month, giving rise to speculation the White House is delaying the bad news at least until Congress leaves town on its August 7 summer recess.

And, of course, what it hopes to have in its pocket at that time is a health care reform bill passed by Congress. So why delay the budget update? Well, it isn’t going to be kind to the administration’s rosy speculation concerning deficit and growth, that’s why:

“Instead of a dream, this routine report could be a nightmare,” Tony Fratto, a former Treasury Department official and White House spokesman under President George W. Bush, said of the delayed budget update. “There are some things that can’t be escaped.”

The administration earlier this year predicted that unemployment would peak at about 9 percent without a big stimulus package and 8 percent with one. Congress did pass a $787 billion two-year stimulus measure, yet unemployment soared to 9.5 percent in June and appears headed for double digits.

Obama’s current forecast anticipates 3.2 percent growth next year, then 4 percent or higher growth from 2011 to 2013. Private forecasts are less optimistic, especially for next year.

Any downward revision in growth or revenue projections would mean that budget deficits would be far higher than the administration is now suggesting.

And then there’s the debt problem, which is headed to new and dizzying heights:

The nation’s debt – the total of accumulated annual budget deficits – now stands at $11.6 trillion. In the scheme of things, that’s more important than talking about the “deficit,” which only looks at a one-year slice of bookkeeping and totally ignores previous indebtedness that is still outstanding.

Even so, the administration has projected that the annual deficit for the current budget year will hit $1.84 trillion, four times the size of last year’s deficit of $455 billion. Private forecasters suggest that shortfall may actually top $2 trillion.

The administration has projected that the annual deficit for the current budget year will hit $1.84 trillion, four times the size of last year’s deficit of $455 billion. Private forecasters suggest that shortfall may top $2 trillion.

If a higher deficit and lower growth numbers are not part of the administration’s budget update, that will lead to charges that the White House is manipulating its figures to offer too rosy an outlook – the same criticism leveled at previous administrations.

Of course, if it does include the higher deficit and lower growth numbers, as it should, it would also most likely kill the costly push toward health care “reform”. And that is why it is being delayed.

How do I say that with such assurance? Because this is a routine and easily produced report despite what the administration is trying to claim.

White House officials say it is now expected in mid-August. They blame the delay on the fact that this is a transition year between presidencies and note that Obama didn’t release his full budget until early May – instead of the first week in February, when he put out just an outline.

Still, the update mainly involves plugging in changes in economic indicators, not revising program-by-program details. And indicators such as unemployment and gross domestic product changes have been public knowledge for some time.

As Ed Morrissey asks:

Consider this: if those budget numbers looked good, would the White House postpone revealing them? Obama could use all the good news he can get at the moment, especially with two big-spending bills stalling in Congress.

Ironically, the White House budget director was making the rounds claiming those trying to delay the vote on health care were trying to kill it, all the while the administration is delaying the budget report with the purpose of depriving law makers the information they need in their consideration of the cost of such legislation.

Meanwhile, we are apparently on course to eat our way into prosperity as the Recovery Act spends your hard earned dollars on … cheese.

~McQ