Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: June 2011

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ICCC6 Livestream

This is some good stuff folks.  If you’re interested in the debate, you need to tune into the livestream of the conference.   Just heard a great debate between Dr. Scott Denning  and Dr. Roy Spencer on climate change.   I was happy to hear some representation of the other side, although I’d have difficulty classifying Dr. Denning as an “alarmist” (he’s a scientist who thinks there’s adequate evidence that humans are having a decided effect on climate – but his main area of research is CO2 and how it interact with our climate so I’m inclined to take him much more seriously than a, say, Al Gore). 

Spencer made a point that is important to absorb.  If a tree has an effect on climate (and it does) then so do humans.  The debate isn’t about whether humans are having an effect, it is about the degree – if any- of that effect.

Anyway, if you have the time, hit the livestream link.   And at some point you should be able to see an archive of the debate.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


How should the GOP respond to the Obama demand for increased taxes?

I have a pretty good idea, but first, here’s the gist of the demand:

President Obama pressured Republicans on Wednesday to accept higher taxes as part of any plan to pare down the federal deficit, bluntly telling lawmakers that they “need to do their job” and strike a deal before the United States risks defaulting on its debt.

Declaring that an agreement is not possible without painful steps on both sides, Mr. Obama said that his party had already accepted the need for substantial spending cuts in programs it had long championed, and that Republicans must agree to end tax breaks for oil and gas companies, hedge funds and other corporate interests.

So how should the Republicans answer this demand?

Well, as I mentioned in my post about why the GOP should stand firm on declining to raise taxes, the problem isn’t tax revenue.  It is, quite simply, spending.

What the Democrats and Obama will promise you is they’d use any increased revenue brought in by increased taxes to reduce the deficit and debt.  But that is never how it really works and we know that.  It’s like giving an alcoholic another shot – he’s going to drink it.  Revenue isn’t the problem.  Spending is the problem.

So what the GOP must do is say, “Mr. President, when the government has proven that it can indeed cut spending and cut it drastically, and it has done everything it can conceivably do in that regard, if there is a revenue problem at the bottom of it, then we can discuss tax increases.  But until such a time that it is proven – through action, you know actual cuts – that the government has done all it can in the area of spending cuts, there’s nothing further to discuss in terms of tax increases.”

Period.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


At the climate conference

Well I’ve managed to make it to ICCC6, which has the theme of “Restoring the Scientific Method”.

I’ve discussed that, in previous posts on the subject of climate change. Anyone who has followed this discussion is aware of the fact that I don’t believe the scientific method has been used well at all in advancing the alarmist message. And of course, “consensus” has absolutely no place in discussions of science.

Anyway, on with the show. To answer Huxley’s question, I’d say this is mostly a skeptic’s conference. We’ll see how it proceeds.

McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama Administration’s "Mystery Shopper" project to snoop on doctors shelved

This past weekend I pointed to a story in which it was disclosed that the Obama administration was planning to have what were characterized as "mystery shoppers" call doctor’s offices, misrepresent their health insurance status and attempt to find out whether the doctors (all primary care physicians) were taking new patients and if so whether they were taking Medicare or Medicaid patients.

Apparently the blowback was enough to have them shelve the idea (sunshine, what a concept).

The Obama administration will not move forward on a controversial proposal to have “secret shoppers” pose as patients to investigate how difficult it is for Americans to obtain primary care.

“On April 28th, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services submitted a notice to the Federal Register regarding a proposed study that would examine access to primary care,” an HHS spokesman said in a statement.

“After reviewing feedback received during the public comment period, we have determined that now is not the time to move forward with this research project. Instead, we will pursue other initiatives that build on our efforts to increase access to health care providers nationwide.”

While the administration announced the program two months ago, it did not get widespread notice until a New York Times article that ran on Monday.

And that article spurred many to write about and criticize the plan.  Which brings me to this little gem from someone named “Max Read” under the category entitled “Conspiracy Theories” and entitled “Fun new right-wing meme last barely a day”.

Did you hear that Obama wants to spy on all the doctors to ensure that they’re utilizing proper Kenyan medical techniques? No? You must be getting your news from the liberal media establishment, then!

Uh, gee ”Max”, NYT?  And by the way, the point was to stop it and it was stopped.   So for most of the right-wing, a meme lasting a day is fine especially when it ends with the desired result.  Of course, government snooping and misrepresentation ought to be a fun new left-wing meme as well.  But apparently, with a Democrat in the White House, all that is fine and dandy.

Finally, as pointed out by our own commenter John in the previous post, their first excuse when confronted with the plan?

The White House defended the survey, saying a similar technique had been used on a smaller scale in President George W. Bush’s administration.

The irony is delicious.   The anti-Bush administration who rejected all that Bush did and stood for (even while essentially repeating, renewing or simply using most of it) uses that administration as an excuse to do something.  Even a 6 year old would not try that sort of an excuse on anyone.   And the more I watch US politics, the more I see the inner 5 year-old come out.

So, even though “Max” the Conspiracy Theorist isn’t particularly impressed (and tries way to hard to be snarky and amusing about it all), its nice to see that pressure and sunlight can quickly stomp an ill-conceived, intrusive and basically dishonest attempt by government to gather information from citizens into the ground.

In fact I’m very happy to see this “fun new right-wing meme” quickly die.  It means success.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The Heartland Institute’s International Conference on Climate Change

I’m really looking forward to attending this event put on by my good friend Jim Lakely and the Heartland Institute.  I’ll be able to about the science that argues against the alarmist view of global warming from people I’ve been reading for years.  I hope to be able to interview some of them.  The theme this year is “Restoring the Scientific Method”, which is sorely needed among the purveyors of alarmism.  Anyway, here’s how the event shapes up:

ICCC6-Logo

Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, among the most prominent critics of global warming alarmism in Congress, will kick off The Heartland Institute’s sixth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-6) with a breakfast keynote address at 8 a.m. June 30.

(If you can’t make it in person, Heartland will live-stream the entire conference. Tweet coverage: #ICCC6)

Inhofe will be joined at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, DC by dozens of state and federal legislators and climate scientists who dispute the claim that “the science is settled” on the causes, consequences, and policy implications of climate change.

Past climate conferences have taken place in New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, and Sydney, Australia and have attracted more than 2,000 participants from 20 countries. The proceedings have been covered by ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, the BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Le Monde, and many other leading media outlets.

ICCC-6 will feature presentations by more than two dozen scientists, economists, and elected officials commenting on the latest research on the causes, consequences, and policy implications of climate change. Click here for an updated conference schedule. Our line-up of speakers includes:

  • Timothy Ball, Ph.D., environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He was recently sued for libel by Michael Mann, a professor and prominent figure in the Climategate scandal.
  • Alan Carlin, Ph.D., former senior analyst and manager at the EPA. In March 2009 he authored a highly critical internal review of the EPA’s draft report on endangerment from greenhouse gases, which led him to become a whistle-blower.
  • Robert Carter, Hon. FRSNZ, research professor at James Cook University (Queensland, Australia), where he was head of the School of Earth Sciences between 1981 and 1999. He is author of Climate: The Counter Consensus.
  • Scott Denning, Ph.D., professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University. Denning, who believes in man-caused global warming, spoke at ICCC-4 in 2010 and profusely thanked the organizers and attendees for a respectful, stimulating conference. (See this video.)
  • Christopher Horner, J.D., senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author of Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed.
  • Harrison Schmitt, Ph.D., former astronaut and U.S. Senator from New Mexico and the last man to set foot on the moon. Schmitt earned his Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University and is a member of Heartland’s Board of Directors.
  • S. Fred Singer, Ph.D., founder and president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, is coauthor of Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years and Climate Change Reconsidered and professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia.
  • Roy W. Spencer, Ph.D., principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he directs a variety of climate research projects. He is the author of several books, including most recently, The Great Global Warming Blunder.
  • Anthony Watts, a 25-year broadcast meteorology veteran and currently chief meteorologist for KPAY-AM radio. He hosts the popular climate change blog Wattsupwiththat.com and a Web site at surfacestations.org devoted to photographing and documenting the quality of weather stations across the U.S.

Past ICCCs have featured presentations by members of Congress, the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, and scientists who view themselves as “skeptics” as well as “alarmists.”

The theme of ICCC-6, Restoring the Scientific Method, acknowledges the fact that claims of scientific certainty and predictions of climate catastrophes are based on post-normal science, which substitutes claims of consensus for the scientific method. This choice has had terrible consequences for science and society. Abandoning the scientific method led to the Climategate scandal and the errors and abuses of peer review by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

More information is available at the conference Web site.

Get Twitter updates of the conference, and tweet your own coverage, by following @HeartlandInst and using the hashtag #ICCC6.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

As you might imagine, for the next few days, most of what I blog about will have to do with the subject that I’ve followed closely for years and is of extreme interest to me.   Any questions that you might have are welcome.  I’ll actually have two days to get them answered this time vs. the hour I had with Dr. Kissinger, so I should be able to put them too most of the players there.  I’ve talked with Horner before during an interview on WRKO.  I’ve read Singer and Spencer’s stuff for years and have also haunted Anthony Watts site at certain times to read or find explanations to the latest attempt by the alarmists on one subject or another.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Chicago lawyer amazingly claims Boeing’s move to South will net workers with "poor skills"

Honest to goodness, if this doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will.

Yet the Boeing case has a scarier aspect missed by conservatives: Why is Boeing, one of our few real global champions in beefing up exports, moving work on the Dreamliner from a high-skill work force ($28 an hour on average) to a much lower-wage work force ($14 an hour starting wage)? Nothing could be a bigger threat to the economic security of this country.

We should be aghast that Boeing is sending a big fat market signal that it wants a less-skilled, lower-quality work force. This country is in a debt crisis because we buy abroad much more than we sell. Alas, because of this trade deficit, foreign creditors have the country in their clutches. That’s not because of our labor costs—in that respect, we can undersell most of our high-wage, unionized rivals like Germany. It’s because we have too many poorly educated and low-skilled workers that are simply unable to compete.

We depend on Boeing to out-compete Airbus, its European rival. But when major firms move South, it is usually a harbinger of quality decline.

Wow … really?  So all those F-35s being built in Ft. Worth, and all those C-130s and F-22 Raptors being built in Marietta, GA, not to mention the myriad of car manufacturing plants, specialty steel plants, hi-tech industries, etc. all have seen ‘quality declines’ because they’re located in the South?

Good grief, my guess is this guy hasn’t been out of Chicago since 1970?  You’ve got to love the correlation he tries to draw between “high-skill” and $28 bucks an hour with “low-skill” and $14 bucks an hour.  Yeah, that works, doesn’t it?   It’s a bit like saying a guy who opens and closes a blast furnace door at $28 bucks an hour is a “high-skilled” worker.   Doesn’t correlate at all does it?  But that was an actual wage for an actual job at a steel plant before it went out of business because it was uncompetitive, thanks to unions, years ago.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the guy writing this is a labor union lawyer and he thinks everyone who reads the Wall Street Journal is an idiot.

Here’s his one and only example of why he thinks he’s got this all figured out.  As he says, he “represented the workers” in the first plant.  He’s speaking of Outboard Marine Corp:

In the 1990s the company went from the high wage union North to the low wage South and was bankrupt by 2000. There are reasons workers in the North get $28 an hour while down in the South they get $14 or even $10. Adam Smith could explain it: "productivity," "skill level," "quality."

Of course the reason it went bankrupt might have absolutely nothing to do with any of that.  It might be because the corporation was uncompetitive well before the move and the move was a last ditch effort to save itself.  But we don’t know, and this yahoo decides it is “productivity”, “skill level” and “quality” which were the problem.  Of course BMW’s plant in SC doesn’t suffer from any of those problems does it?  In fact one of the reasons the Germans are making their cars there is because of the productivity they achieve there.  Same with all the car plants across the south to include those opened fairly recently by Honda, Kia, Hyundai, BMW, and Mercedes – in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for heaven sake.  The reason they’re in the South is they get more “productivity”, “skill” and “quality” for the wage than they do in the North.

But to admit that would be to admit that perhaps the problem is unions, not Southerners.

However, our clueless lawyer isn’t done:

Here is yet another American firm seeking to ruin its reputation for quality. Why? To save $14 an hour! Seriously: Is that going to help sell the Dreamliner? In terms of the finished product, the labor cost is minuscule: $14 in hourly wage, at most. It’s incredible that conservatives claim such small differences in labor cost would be life or death to Boeing. It’s not labor cost but labor skill that is life or death to the survival of Boeing, never mind pilots and passengers.

If the history of runaway shops proves anything, it’s that many go "South" in more than one sense of the word. If that sounds unfair to the South, it is union busting that has inflicted the real unfairness in the region: income inequality and inferior schools.

Yessiree – those airplanes they’ve been building in Marietta GA and Ft. Worth TX have just been falling out of the sky because of all that income inequality and those inferior schools.  What, no “redneck”, “hillbilly” or “barely in shoes” included?  No NASCAR jokes?  Remarks about family trees that don’t fork? Dueling banjoes?  He missed his chance, didn’t he? 

Of course the reason Boeing is opening a plant in SC has nothing to do with wages per se.  His point is correct as far as it goes.  The plant is opening so Boeing and its customers aren’t held hostage to the work stoppages that are normal fare in the union plant in Washington.  And it is hard to blame them for doing that, isn’t it?

Of course pig-headed ignorance about an area like this simply has to be seen to be believed and he proves himself as the poster boy for that.  If abject and unqualified ignorance is bliss, this is one happy, happy labor lawyer.

Wow … 2011 and you find something like this in the Wall Street Journal.  Who said their editors don’t have a wicked sense of humor?

Give ‘em enough rope …

[HT: J.E. Dyer]

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Common sense reasons why GOP should stand firm on tax increases

James Pethokoukis provides the reasons.  As you’ll note, economically, they’re not rocket science, but they certainly are something that the left seems to want to ignore in focusing its solutions to the debt problem on getting tax increases included.

One – the economy will not tolerate a tax increase at this time.   It is simply not in the shape in which it can shrug a tax increase off.   And it certainly won’t matter if the tax is only on “the rich”.  As someone once asked, “ever get a job from a poor man?”  The increase in revenues generated by taxing the rich (or anyone for that matter) will not offset the loss it will generate in hiring or expansion of business.  Pethokoukis points out that the economy is in incredibly fragile shape at the moment.  Thus:

…[T]he economic recovery is sputtering with stall speed fast approaching. Now would be a terrible time to penalize investors and business, both big and small, with new taxes.

Common sense 101.

Two –  Tax revenue isn’t our problem when it comes to debt.  Spending is the problem.  Yet as I pointed out Saturday, the solution the left seems to prefer involves nothing but tax revenue increases or tax increases.   What they’re less inclined to do is focus on the spending problem and make appropriate spending cuts.  “Greek heroin” is the reason.  Take a look at this:

By 2021, the the CBO says, the annual budget deficit would be 7.5 percent of GDP and by 2035 a truly monstrous 15.5 percent. Throughout this period, tax revenue would be 18.4 percent, right around the historical average. But spending would be 25.9 percent in 2021, 33.9 percent in 2035 vs. an average of roughly 21 percent. It’s spending that’s way out of whack, not revenue.

That means that if the so-called “Bush tax cuts” (they’re just the current tax rates) are left in place, that’s where we find ourselves in 2035.   As Pethokoukis proves, it isn’t tax revenue that’s the problem.   Unless you believe that it’s the government’s money in the first place and they have every right to determine how much you get to keep. 

Let’s go with that.  Let’s see what happens if the left gets its way:

But let’s say all the Bush tax cuts were left to expire, as was AMT relief. Assuming no economic fallout, according to the CBO, revenue would be 23.2 percent of GDP by 2035. Three problems here: a) even with all those tax increases, the annual budget deficit would still be nearly an unsustainable 10.7 percent of GDP in 2035; b)  the U.S. tax code has never generated that level of revenue and almost certainly can’t without a value-added tax; and c) there would be tremendous economic fallout. Axing all the Bush tax cuts would chop three percentage points off GDP growth, according to Goldman Sachs, certainly sending America back into recession. Tax revenue would again plummet.

Spending, not tax revenue, is the obvious problem.

Common sense 101.

Three – boosting economic growth is the fastest way to increasing tax revenues.   However there’s one problem to that as far as an intrusive government is concerned.   It has to get out of the way.

Pethokoukis and I part ways a bit here as he endorses a consumption tax vs. an income tax and further endorses raising the revenue percentage of government’s part of the GDP to 19%.   Can’t go there with him even if Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan is similar.  I’m not so much against a consumption tax (it at least taxes what you consume thereby not penalizing you for what you save, nor do you get double taxed assuming the income tax goes away) but I am against such an increase in the tax percentage.  I think very aggressive cuts in government spending plus fairly massive deregulation (and the obvious cuts in compliance spending by businesses that would save) would yield a fast recovering and growing economy.  Granting an increase in the historic percentage of GDP that government has taken opens a door of precedence I don’t want opened.  It is time government lived within its means and understood that that economic growth takes precedence over government growth – every time.  

It is spending – uncontrolled and wasteful spending – that is our problem.   Not tax revenue.  Government must be cut and cut fairly severely.  That’s something the heroin addicts don’t want to hear.   So they spin out solutions which always end up in one place – “the problem is revenue, we need more revenue”. 

No.  They don’t.

And the GOP, if it is to have any credibility with voters come 2012, had best not cave on this point.

Again, Common Sense 101.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The Greek tragedy (or socialism runs out of other people’s money)

And, of course, Greece isn’t the only country going through this at the moment, it is only the worst off of the bunch.   In fact, it is a case study in the end result of socialist programs (although you’d think, given its fairly recent collapse, that much could have been learned from the Soviet Union).   Greece has, for decades, piled up more and more debt than the other European socialist countries and, with the global economic downturn, was the first of the Euro zone to hit the shoals of bankruptcy – although Europe is doing everything it can to forestall that.

The problem is that socialism and its benefits (whether they’re affordable or not) are like being hooked on heroin.  Even if you know you have too, you just can’t seem to get off the stuff.   Addicts deny reality, fight the cure because it is horribly painful and thus somehow come to believe they can continue to survive on the drug as they have before.   And it slowly and inexorably kills them.

Greece, if it isn’t able to kick the habit, is on its economic death bed.  Europe understands this and also sees the possibility that Greece’s inability to break this habit, i.e. pass and impose austerity measure – draconian austerity measures – might also mean the death of Europe’s currency, the Euro and conceivably the break up of the European union.

That’s how serious it is.

But the addict continues to fight the cure.  Led by the two major unions, Greece has been shut down for 2 days as protesters vent their spleen about the unacceptability of these austerity measures.   The irony, of course, is the measures are being imposed by a socialist government which has been given no choice but to impose such measures.

However, that government is seen as week and socialist members who supported the measures at first are now opposing them.

But the austerity program has met with resistance from within the ranks of Mr. Papandreou’s own party, especially over the privatization of state companies whose workers have traditionally been at the heart of the Socialists’ constituency.

As many as four Socialists in Parliament have said they will consider opposing the measures, including one who opposes the planned privatization of the water utility of Thessaloniki, in her district.

Another Socialist, Alexandros Athanasiadis, said he would vote against the plan to reduce the state’s stake in the Public Power Company to 34 percent from 51 percent. Some of the company’s coal-burning plants are in his district in northeastern Greece.

Naturally the socialists oppose privatization because, you know, the government has done such a bang up job to this point of running businesses it has no business being involved in.  Why?  Because the government, and therefore the parliamentary members, control the jobs, pay and pensions.   More heroin.  As government gets more involved in areas it has no business and it (those who run it) begin to understand the power such intrusion brings them, they’re loathe to give it up, even when they’re doing a horrible, inefficient and costly job that could be better and more cheaply done by private industry.

The symbiotic relationship between the unions and the MPs is mutually beneficial and ensures an incumbent who properly plays the game (support union demands) remains in power (see public sector unions and Democrats here).  That, of course, has led to unaffordable pensions, wages which aren’t competitive and a public stuck with the ever increasing bill.

Well, the bill has come due.

On Monday, Mr. Venizelos, a Socialist veteran known for his ability to rally his troops, told lawmakers that the measures might be “tough and even unfair” but that they were unavoidable. “We have to finally come to our senses and get serious,” he said.

With 2 days of protests, one has to wonder whether indeed the Greeks are going to actually come to their senses and get serious”, because if they don’t the repercussions could be devastating.

And knowing all of that, and looking at our debt problems, one also has to wonder why we seem bent on creating an addiction of our own, given the real world examples of where that must eventually lead.

It makes absolutely no sense, does it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Are businesses sitting on their money in the hope of a change in the regulatory regime (i.e. an Obama loss in 2012)?

Marylin Geewax brings us the following story about the overall economic picture.  And it isn’t pretty:

The latest surveys show that both business owners and consumers have been losing confidence in the U.S. economy. That pessimism is just the latest blow to hopes for a speedy recovery.

Last week, even Federal Reserve officials said they have grown more pessimistic about the economic outlook this year. The policy makers cut their forecast for 2011 to a growth rate of just 2.7 to 2.9 percent — down from their April estimate of 3.1 to 3.3 percent.

Economists say growing pessimism and a lack of confidence tends to depress spending. Chris Christopher, an economist with the forecasting firm IHS Global Insight, says the large cash reserves corporations are holding are evidence that our budding optimism is fading.

I’d only ask, “what budding optimism”?   Most who’ve been following the so-called “recovery” have seen little, in terms of economic indicators to elicit “budding optimism”.  As we discussed in yesterday’s podcast, part of the problem, in fact a big part of the problem is the unsettled regulatory regime.  Businesses have no idea where the administration is going with regulations, but what they’ve seen thus far provides them with no incentive to expand and hire and every incentive not to do so.  Consequently:

U.S. corporations have about $1.65 trillion in cash available to them, he noted. But managers are so wary about the near-term outlook that they are not spending that cash on hiring workers or expanding operations.

And that brings us to another factor one can’t help think is at least beginning to have an effect as well.  As we approach the second half of 2011, the 2012 presidential election looms.   Are businesses now factoring in the possibility of change in the White House (real change we could live with) and holding back until that’s settled?  It is certainly something that would make sense.  With the administration’s war on business these past two plus years, there’s no reason to commit to expanding a business or hiring new employees if doing so is going to end up being a net negative.  So why not wait and see?  Sit on the cash and have it ready to use if and when the current administration is shown the door and a less draconian regulatory regime is on the horizon?

That’s common sense business.

Of course that’s not the only reason business is hanging back.  There are other factors:

Other concerns involve a spring slump in manufacturing activity and the ongoing problems in real estate. For example, last week, a report from the National Association of Realtors showed existing home sales fell again in May, down 3.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.81 million units, the lowest rate in six months. Even worse, the median price was down 4.6 percent from a year earlier.

Consumers, whose spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of all U.S. economic activity, also lost confidence this spring as gasoline prices rose to nearly $4 a gallon in early May and unemployment ticked back up last month. The unemployment rate had gotten down to 8.8 percent in March, but was back up to 9.1 percent by May.

All of that in combination have businesses reticent to do what is necessary to help the recovery.   I just wanted to bring the other factor  -  unsettled regulatory regime – to the fore as it simply doesn’t get the coverage it deserves.  Draconian regulations which cost businesses high compliance costs are a drag on economic expansion.  The possibility of relief from such a regime is a legitimate reason to not expand or hire and incur those increased compliance costs.   As I’ve said any number of times, the government can help the economy best by getting the hell out of the way.  Instead it seems the inclination is to meddle and intrude even more and, as should come as no surprise, this sort of non-recovery “recovery” is the result.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama administration and its health care “mystery shoppers”

One of the things many who have studied the problem of health care in the US have known for quite some time is that there is and will be a shortage of primary care doctors in the US.  These doctors are the gatekeepers in the system in which health insurance providers require primary care doctors manage the health care of patients and be the ones to authorize referrals to specialists.

The shortage of these doctors isn’t news nor is it something new.  Only 30% of practicing doctors are in primary care.  65 million Americans live in areas where a shortage of primary care doctors exists.  And ObamaCare’s extension of insurance benefits will add another 30 million to the roles who will have to seek a primary care physician.

So, how does the administration plan to address this known problem?  With incentives for such doctors to take Medicare and Medicaid patients whose reimbursement for services is known to be lower than that of private insurance?   Announce a plan to incentivize incoming medical school students to become primary care doctors?

Nope.   It’s to snoop on existing primary care doctors by enlisting “mystery shoppers” who will falsely identify themselves as potential patients with various types of insurance (Medicare, Medicaid and private) to determine whether the physicians called discriminate among who they’ll accept.

Alarmed by a shortage of primary care doctors, Obama administration officials are recruiting a team of “mystery shoppers” to pose as patients, call doctors’ offices and request appointments to see how difficult it is for people to get care when they need it.

The administration says the survey will address a “critical public policy problem”: the increasing shortage of primary care doctors, including specialists in internal medicine and family practice. It will also try to discover whether doctors are accepting patients with private insurance while turning away those in government health programs that pay lower reimbursement rates.

As you might imagine, doctors who’ve learned about this upcoming attempt are not at all happy with it:

Dr. George J. Petruncio, a family doctor in Turnersville, N.J., said: “This is not a way to build trust in government. Why should I trust someone who does not correctly identify himself?”

Dr. Stephen C. Albrecht, a family doctor in Olympia, Wash., said: “If federal officials are worried about access to care, they could help us. They don’t have to spy on us.”

Dr. Robert L. Hogue, a family physician in Brownwood, Tex., asked: “Is this a good use of tax money? Probably not. Everybody with a brain knows we do not have enough doctors.”

In response the administration says:

In response to the drumbeat of criticism, a federal health official said doctors need not worry because the data would be kept confidential. “Reports will present aggregate data, and individuals will not be identified,” said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the plan before its final approval by the White House.

Christian J. Stenrud, a Health and Human Services spokesman, said: “Access to primary care is a priority for the administration. This study is an effort to better understand the problem and make sure we are doing everything we can to support primary care physicians, especially in communities where the need is greatest.”

Now, being the skeptic I am and having watched government operate for decades, I tend to see other possibilities in this sort of an effort.  Remember, ObamaCare was passed by Democrats, most of whom see health care as a “right”.  Thus, they feel they have the right to mandate that a) everyone have insurance and b) that everyone with insurance have access to a physician.   They got the “a” done in ObamaCare.  Left undone is the mandate that all insured have access to a doctor – without exception.  That mandate would be perfectly in-line with their belief that they can demand the skills, assets and time of one to serve the pseudo-right of another.

Why else would this “stealth survey” involving people falsely identifying themselves to doctors to determine whether they discriminate against lower paying insurance programs be planned?  The doctor shortage is known.  The administration claims that ObamaCare “includes several provisions intended to increase the supply of primary care doctors” and that this survey is intended to “evaluate the effectiveness of those policies. “  Really?  Considering that the law has been in effect only a short time and is not fully in effect, one might find it a bit hard to believe that bit of spin.

Instead it seems much more likely that this is a prelude to something else.  This is information gathering to prove something – i.e. doctors are discriminating.  And we all know that in our new, brave world, “discrimination” is a mortal political sin.  Does anyone not believe the outcome of such a survey might be used to attempt to pass an anti-discrimination law or a law which requires primary care physicians to accept anyone with insurance who applies regardless of coverage? 

Yeah, me too.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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