Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Quote of the day – Jeremiah Wright, chickens and busses edition

You remember this quote from then Senator Obama:

“I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” He said Rev. Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with,” telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.

You also remember that Obama later denounced his “old uncle” as “divisive and destructive” and severed ties with him? Apparently the Rev. has revealed how far under the bus he was thrown after a 20 year relationship with the Obama family. In a letter to a group raising money for Africa relief he makes the case that his attempt to get frozen money released for use in Haiti would most likely be ignored by the administration:

“No one in the Obama administration will respond to me, listen to me, talk to me or read anything that I write to them. I am ‘toxic’ in terms of the Obama administration,” Wright wrote the president of Africa 6000 International earlier this year.

“I am ‘radioactive,’ Sir. When Obama threw me under the bus, he threw me under the bus literally!” he wrote. “Any advice that I offer is going to be taken as something to be avoided. Please understand that!”

Chickens coming home to roost. And a lesson to anyone who thinks Obama would ever go to the mat for them if they happen to be perceived as “controversial”. There is absolutely nothing “new” about that particular politician or the politics he practices.


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ObamaCare and the law of unintended consequences

Today seems to be a “government and the law of unintended consequences” day.  Below you saw the consequences of draconian diet rules.  Here we’ll see the effect of poorly written law and government intrusion into the most effective health care system in the world.  Dr. Scott Gottlieb explains:

President Obama guaranteed Americans that after health reform became law they could keep their insurance plans and their doctors. It’s clear that this promise cannot be kept. Insurers and physicians are already reshaping their businesses as a result of Mr. Obama’s plan.

Gottlieb goes on to explain why the caps on how much an insurer can spend on expenses and take for profits is going to result in huge changes in the way medicine is delivered.  One thing that is rapidly happening now is doctors, seeing the handwriting on the wall, are opting to sell their practices and services to insurance companies and hospitals.  As Gottlieb points out:

Consolidated practices and salaried doctors will leave fewer options for patients and longer waiting times for routine appointments. Like the insurers, physicians are responding to the economic burdens of the president’s plan in one of the few ways they’re permitted to.

That means they’ll work under the rules dictated by either the insurance company or a hospital – in both cases an entity which comes between you and your doctor. It means less choice, less access, fewer doctors available to see depending on your insurance plan.  And the obvious possibility that the doctor you’re now happy with may not be on your plan when all of this falls out.  Gottlieb summarizes:

The bottom line: Defensive business arrangements designed to blunt ObamaCare’s economic impacts will mean less patient choice.

There are other unintended consequences as well that point to less choice.  Texas provides the example:

Texas doctors are opting out of Medicare at alarming rates, frustrated by reimbursement cuts they say make participation in government-funded care of seniors unaffordable.

Two years after a survey found nearly half of Texas doctors weren’t taking some new Medicare patients, new data shows 100 to 200 a year are now ending all involvement with the program. Before 2007, the number of doctors opting out averaged less than a handful a year.

“This new data shows the Medicare system is beginning to implode,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the Texas Medical Association. “If Congress doesn’t fix Medicare soon, there’ll be more and more doctors dropping out and Congress’ promise to provide medical care to seniors will be broken.”

Remember this is the same government that is now messing with the rest of the system. How will Congress “fix” Medicare?  As is obvious, doctors are dropping out because they can’t afford to stay in that system.  As Dr. Guy Culpepper said:

“You do Medicare for God and country because you lose money on it,” said Culpepper, a graduate of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. “The only way to provide cost-effective care is outside the Medicare system, a system without constant paperwork and headaches and inadequate reimbursement.”

And fewer and fewer doctors are finding they can afford to do Medicare for “God and country” and stay in business.

So you have this new realignment taking place among doctors, hospitals and insurers and a growing trend of doctors opting out of the Medicare system and yet the promise of increased and better care as a result of government meddling is still being parroted by our political betters.

“If you like your doctor and you like your insurance company … blah, blah, blah.” You just have to wonder when we’ll ever learn.


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Scotland’s effort at top down healthy meals

Apparently the Scots, much like our government, have decided that Scottish children just don’t eat healthy enough meals.  So they’ve decided they’ll take the matter in hand via government and introduce their version of healthy eating in school.  After all it is “for the children” and who wouldn’t be for that?  Apparently the children:

NEW rules introduced to make school meals healthier have resulted in tens of thousands of Scottish pupils consuming a worse diet, it has been claimed.

The company which provides school meals in Glasgow revealed yesterday that 30,000 fewer children are eating school lunches since healthier meals were introduced.

Uptake of school meals in Glasgow has fallen from 61% to 2006 to 38%, with some schools as low as 24 per cent. Across Scotland, the number of secondary school pupils taking school meals fell to 39.2 per cent in 2009 – the lowest level for a decade.

Fergus Chambers, managing director of Cordia, which provides school meals in Glasgow, urged the Scottish Government to carry out a “root and branch” review of the regulations which limit salt, fat and sugar content.

He said: “The original objective of the legislation was to improve uptake and improve health.

“But I believe the most recent rules, which allow no flexibility to those providing school meals, have fallen victim to the law of unintended consequences.

The unintended consequence isn’t just that they don’t eat the school meal.  It is that they leave school during the lunch period and go to the nearest fast food franchise.

The answer to that?  Well certainly not improving the food.  Instead some schools have “experimented” with banning kids from leaving the grounds at lunchtime.  But consider changing the draconian rules that have them fleeing?  Of course not:

“Fat, salt and sugar levels are now set so low as to be almost non-existent. We can no longer sell diet drinks, flavoured water or even fruit juice of any reasonable portion size. Confectionery, including most home baking, is banned – yet pupils can walk out and buy anything they want.

Damn those students.  How dare they attempt to exercise their freedom to eat what they want.  Oh wait, here’s a solution – John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said:

“It is clear that if local authorities and ministers are serious about boosting the take-up of healthy school lunches, then providing them free to all pupils is by far the most effective action they can take.”

Well there you go – just give it to them “free” and they’ll eat what they’ve already demonstrated they won’t eat .  What would we do without the advocates and experts.

Growing kids need a certain level of fat, salt and even sugar.  They’re not going to eat what they don’t like, no matter how “healthy” it is purported to be.  That’s something any parent can tell you.  When the state takes over those responsibilities and attempts to impose it’s ideas about healthy eating, these are the sorts of results you can expect.  The law of unintended consequences, as Fergus Chambers notes, couldn’t be more evident than in this case.

Coming to a “war on childhood obesity” near you soon.


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Dale’s Tweets for 2010-05-17

  • Miss USA is Muslim lass. I guess that means we'll be disappointed in her swimwear shots. #
  • Lemonade from lemons: The € crisis has resulted in record capital inflows to the US, keeping treasury yields.down.¦ #
  • I soooo want one of these. ¦ #
  • Schwarzenegger has proposed eliminating the CalWORKS welfare program. Democrats, who run the legislature, want taxes. #
  • Local California governments boycott Arizona, due to new immigration law. Arizonans notice. Hilarity ensues. ¦ #
  • Government spending is bankrupting the country. We know it. But, we will do nothing until it all comes crashing down. ¦ #

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Lord help us if he runs for governor

This is a commercial for Alabama Agricultural commissioner.  Ag commissioner.  You heard me, right – Ag commissioner. One of those high profile jobs.

This is a nuanced beauty of a commercial Think T-Rex in a sheep herd nuanced. See if you pick up on all the subtle signals he’s sending. Frankly, I enjoyed the hell out of given the gales of laughter it caused. Ah the state of politics today. Monitoring it you will never find yourself bored. And, I bet he wins the election as well:


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The theory of the “Howling Mob”

Like many of us, Michael Barone is puzzled by the administration’s obvious attempts to avoid linking Islam with the terrorists who have attempted to attack us.  He wonders:

Why the reluctance to state the obvious truth, that we are under attack from terrorists motivated by a radical form of Islam?

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Arab-American Miss USA

I note this for a single reason:

Fakih, an Arab-American from Dearborn, Mich., told pageant organizers her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths. She moved to the United States as a baby and was raised in New York, where she attended a Catholic school. Her family moved to Michigan in 2003.

Pageant officials said historical pageant records were not detailed enough to show whether Fakih was the first Arab American, Muslim or immigrant to win the Miss USA title. The pageant started in 1952 as a local bathing suit competition in Long Beach, Calif.

How will the Arab nations accept Ms. Fakih’s win given she was seen “strutting confidently in an orange and gold bikini” during the contest?

Just curious.


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The problem with public sector unions

Anyone who has followed the financial woes of the states are able to trace much of it back to the explosion of public sector unions and the generous compensation and pension plans they enjoy. Each have become budget busters, with California alone looking at 500 billion in unfunded future payouts.

Mort Zuckerman explores that phenomenon and points to a particularly insidious relationship that exists between those unions such as the SEIU and politicians such as Barack Obama and many Democrats:

The business community and a growing portion of the public now understand the dynamics that discriminate against the private sector. The public sector unions organize voting campaigns for politicians who, on election, repay their benefactors by approving salaries and benefits for the public sector, irrespective of whether they are sustainable. And what is happening with California is happening in slower motion in the rest of the country. It must be one of the reasons the Pew Research Center this year reported that support for labor unions generally has plummeted “amid growing public skepticism about unions’ power and purpose.”

There has been a transformation in the nature of our employment. Labor is no longer dominated by private sector industrial workers who were in large part culturally conservative and economically pro-growth. Over recent decades public sector employment has exploded and public workers have come to dominate the labor movement. These public sector employees have a unique and powerful advantage in contract negotiations. Quite simply it is their capacity to deliver political endorsements and votes for the very people who are theoretically on the other side of the negotiating table. Candidates who want to appear tough on crime will look to cops, sheriffs’ deputies, prison guards, and highway patrol officers for their endorsement.

These unions and the politicians they support are selling out the states and the country for increased personal compensation and pension benefits in return for political office. Whereas public sector jobs were once among the lowest paid, they’ve become some of the highest paid with unsustainable pension plans a key feature. And when budget woes hit a state and any politician has the temerity to suggest cutting those plans or benefits, he or she is roundly shouted down and organized against at the next election.

Play ball with the unions, however, and they’ll organize for you, provide the key endorsements you need and participate in GOTV efforts on election day. This presents a problem which must be addressed and changed:

What we suffer is a ruinously expensive collaboration between elected officials and unionized state and local workers, purchased with taxpayer money. “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” No wonder the Service Employees International Union has become the nation’s fastest-growing union: It represents government and healthcare workers. Half of its 700,000 California members are government employees. More and more, it wins not on the picket line but at the negotiating table, where it backs up traditional strong-arming with political power. It spends vast amounts of money on initiatives that keep the government growing—and the gravy flowing. Similarly, for the teachers unions—with the result that California and its various municipalities, especially Los Angeles, face budget shortfalls in the hundred of millions of dollars. California can no longer rely on a strong economy to support this munificence. Its unemployment rate runs about several points higher than the national rate and its high-tech companies are choosing to expand elsewhere. Why stay in a state with such higher taxes and a cumbersome regulatory environment?

First pensions must be scaled back in the neighborhood of competative private sector pension plans. This is one of the reasons Greece is in trouble today.  The states can’t afford what they’re presently obligated to pay. Secondly they should go from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution plans like a 401k.  If it is good enough for the private sector, it is good enough for the public sector.  Third -salaries should be competative but not, like in New York, greater than equal private sector jobs. Government jobs are paid by private sector taxpayers.  The job of government isn’t to create government jobs, but to serve those taxpayers.  And I can’t imagine a reason such workers should receive better pay and benefits than those they serve.  Lastly, public sector unions must be reined in politically. Their influence, because of what and who they represent, is outsized and pernicious. 

This problem is perfect GOP fodder.  It is something which needs to be highlighted and fought.  It addresses the outrageous cost of government, the future liability of such compensation and pension plans and the effect of union politics on the taxpayer and the politicians who play along.  And, especially at state levels, they can point to this as some of the results of its continuance:

The lopsided subsidies for pension and health costs are a large part of the fiscal crises at the state and local levels. The subsequent squeeze on education and infrastructure investment is undermining the very programs that have made it possible for our economy to grow—thousands upon thousands of teachers let go, schools closed, mass transit slashed.

Tally ho!


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Observations: The Qando Podcast for 16 May 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss DADT, The Euro, and the spiraling cost of ObamaCare…even before we’ve gotten any of it.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.


DADT – time for it to go or should it be left in place?

The Euro Zone – doomed or will it survive?

ObamaCare – more surprises, more cost, more promises found to be smoke and mirrors.

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