Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Middle Class Tax? Knock, Knock – “Hello Out There!”

Read this carefully. This is from George Stephanopoulos:

To get the economy back on track, will President Barack Obama have to break his pledge not to raise taxes on 95 percent of Americans? In a “This Week” exclusive, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told me, “We’re going to have to do what’s necessary.”

Geithner was clear that he believes a key component of economic recovery is deficit reduction. When I gave him several opportunities to rule out a middle class tax hike, he wouldn’t do it.

“We have to bring these deficits down very dramatically,” Geithner told me. “And that’s going to require some very hard choices.”

“We will not get this economy back on track, recovery will be not strong and sustained, unless we convince the American people that we are going to have the will to bring these deficits down once recovery is firmly established,” he said.

For the gullible who believed their taxes weren’t going to go up “one dime”, Turbo Tax Tim is laying the ground work to prove your gullibility.

For those who never believed the “promise” to begin with, big surprise, right?

But the more important point is found in Geithner’s last sentence in the cite. In there he’s telling the public that they have to bear the cost of this administration’s profligacy. Because, you see, they spent your money (like the porkapalooza they called the “stimulus package”) like drunken sailors on shore leave and it is now up to you – the sober ones in this deal – to bail them out. But watch ’em – they’re going to claim they saved the economy.

And now they’re ready to save the climate and fix your health care too.

Yes some very hard choices are going to have to be made – some adults are going to have to stand up to Timmy and the boys and say “no”.

~McQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~McQ

[HT: Carly B.]

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The Revolt Of The Scientists

Apparently it is getting a little hot in the scientific community when it comes to AGW and skepticism. And it is the skeptics who are firing the broadsides. Melanie Phillips brings us the latest:

More and more scientists have just about had it up to here with the rubbish being put out as the ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming. Marc Morano reports how members of the American Chemical Society (ACS) have risen in revolt against the group’s editor-in-chief — with demands for his removal — after an editorial appeared claiming ‘the science of anthropogenic climate change is becoming increasingly well established.’

The editorial claimed the ‘consensus’ view was growing ‘increasingly difficult to challenge, despite the efforts of diehard climate-change deniers.’ The editor now admits he is ‘startled’ by the negative reaction from the group’s scientific members.

His readers had responded as you see in these two representative replies:

ACS member scientist Dr. Howard Hayden, a Physics Professor Emeritus from the University of Connecticut: ‘Baum’s remarks are particularly disquieting because of his hostility toward skepticism, which is part of every scientist’s soul. Let’s cut to the chase with some questions for Baum: Which of the 20-odd major climate models has settled the science, such that all of the rest are now discarded? […] Do you refer to ‘climate change’ instead of ‘global warming’ because the claim of anthropogenic global warming has become increasingly contrary to fact?’

William E. Keller wrote: ‘However bitter you (Baum) personally may feel about CCDs (climate change deniers), it is not your place as editor to accuse them—falsely—of nonscientific behavior by using insultingly inappropriate language. […] The growing body of scientists, whom you abuse as sowing doubt, making up statistics, and claiming to be ignored by the media, are, in the main, highly competent professionals, experts in their fields, completely honorable, and highly versed in the scientific method—characteristics that apparently do not apply to you.’

Some pretty heavy shots across the bow.  I’d love to see if Baum answers the two questions Dr. Hayden posed (especially the first).

ACS isn’t the only “revolt” that is taking place among scientists:

On May 1 2009, the American Physical Society (APS) Council decided to review its current climate statement via a high-level subcommittee of respected senior scientists. The decision was prompted after a group of 54 prominent physicists petitioned the APS revise its global warming position. The 54 physicists wrote to APS governing board: ‘Measured or reconstructed temperature records indicate that 20th – 21st century changes are neither exceptional nor persistent, and the historical and geological records show many periods warmer than today.’

The petition signed by the prominent physicists, led by Princeton University’s Dr. Will Happer, who has conducted 200 peer-reviewed scientific studies. The peer-reviewed journal Nature published a July 22, 2009 letter by the physicists persuading the APS to review its statement. In 2008, an American Physical Society editor conceded that a ‘considerable presence’ of scientific skeptics exists.

In addition, in April 2009, the Polish National Academy of Science reportedly ‘published a document that expresses skepticism over the concept of man-made global warming.’ An abundance of new peer-reviewed scientific studies continue to be published challenging the UN IPCC climate views.

I bring these sorts of examples up over and over again because it has become obvious that there is absolutely no scientific “consensus” concerning AGW – none. And those who continue to contend there is are, in fact, the real deniers.

~McQ

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Dialing It Down On Health Care

Charles Krauthammer nails it today in an editorial in the Washington Post (and not just because he and I agree that something called “health care reform” is going to pass):

Yes, Obama’s aura has diminished, in part because of overweening overexposure. But by year’s end he will emerge with something he can call health-care reform. The Democrats in Congress will pass it because they must. Otherwise, they’ll have slain their own savior in his first year in office.

That’s party politics (which we’ve come to learn from both parties, usually means putting the party first and the country second). They are not going to be responsible for killing the presidency of a Democrat. But they’re also not going to pass anything like what they started out to pass.

So what will it be?

But that bill will look nothing like the massive reform Obama originally intended. The beginning of the retreat was signaled by Obama’s curious reference — made five times — to “health-insurance reform” during his July 22 news conference.

Thus the beginning of the campaign to demonize the insurance companies as “the villains”. And it is going to be a long and loud campaign until the “something” is passed.

Result?

Reforming the health-care system is dead. Cause of death? Blunt trauma administered not by Republicans, not even by Blue Dog Democrats, but by the green eyeshades at the Congressional Budget Office.

Krauthammer have a slight disagreement on this. Not that the CBO is the primary entity that put a lance through the heart of “health-care system” reform – and that is what Obama referenced repeatedly and, when you talk about type of care and changing the behavior of doctors, is obviously more than “insurance reform”.

Our disagreement stems from my belief that health-care system reformation isn’t at all dead, it’s just delayed. One things the Democrats are adept at is incrementalism. They’ve worked diligently for decades to expand relatively modest programs into huge, wasteful bureaucratic monstrosities that hand out money – at least that which finally works its way through the bureaucracy – like a political party handing out “walking around money”.

This, unfortunately will be no different. And even more unfortunately something on which the Democrats can begin their incremental construction will be law by this fall.

~McQ

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Demonization Time – Dems Target Insurance Companies

Why?  To take the heat off of them and to counter the Republican message about “government run health care”.

The message in the memo, though, won’t fit on a bumper sticker:

“Remove the insurance companies from between you and your doctor— capping what they can force you to pay in out of pocket expenses, co-pays and deductibles, and giving you the peace of mind you will be covered for the care you need, if get sick, or if you change or lose your job.”

Or, “replace the insurance companies with the government which is sure to do a much better job”.

Ye gods.

And the brains behind this message?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brought out the new message in an exchange with reporters in the Capitol, when she said, “They are the villains in this.”

Ah demonization – one of Pelosi’s favorite tactics. Apparently she didn’t learn much when she did it to the CIA.

~McQ

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Racism and Crying Wolf

As we discussed on the last podcast, as well as in various posts here at QandO, the biggest missed opportunity in the whole Gates kerfuffle was to draw attention to the civil liberties issues. By immediately crying racial profiling, Prof. Gates clouded an otherwise sympathetic view of his standing as a homeowner. Of course, if he hadn’t behaved the way that he did (calling Sgt. Crowley a racist cop), then he likely would never had been arrested in the first place. Nevertheless, what we should have taken from the l’affair Gates was that scenes such as the following are all too familiar:

Pepin Tuma, 33, was walking with two friends along Washington’s hip U Street corridor around midnight Saturday, complaining about how Gates had been rousted from his home for not showing a proper amount of deference to a cop. “We’d been talking about it all day,” said Tuma. “It seems like police have a tendency to act overly aggressively when they’re being pushed around,” Tuma recalled saying.

Then the group noticed five or six police cruisers surrounding two cars in an apparent traffic stop on the other side of the street. It seemed to Tuma that was more cops than necessary.

“That’s why I hate the police,” Tuma said. He told the Huffington Post that in a loud sing-song voice, he then chanted, “I hate the police, I hate the police.”

One officer reacted strongly to Tuma’s song. “Hey! Hey! Who do you think you’re talking to?” Tuma recalled the officer shouting as he strode across an intersection to where Tuma was standing. “Who do you think you are to think you can talk to a police officer like that?” the police officer said, according to Luke Platzer, 30, one of Tuma’s companions.

Tuma said he responded, “It is not illegal to say I hate the police. It’s not illegal to express my opinion walking down the street.”

According to Tuma and Platzer, the officer pushed Tuma against an electric utility box, continuing to ask who he thought he was and to say he couldn’t talk to police like that.

“I didn’t curse,” Tuma said. “I asked, am I being arrested? Why am I being arrested?”

It should come as no surprise that, in fact, Tuma was arrested on a charge of ‘disorderly conduct”:

D.C.’s disorderly conduct statute bars citizens from breaching the peace by doing anything “in such a manner as to annoy, disturb, interfere with, obstruct, or be offensive to others” or by shouting or making noise “either outside or inside a building during the nighttime to the annoyance or disturbance of any considerable number of persons.”

[…]

Tuma spent a few hours in a holding cell and was released early Sunday morning after forfeiting $35 in collateral to the police, he said. A “post and forfeit” is not an admission of guilt, and Tuma doesn’t have a court date — but the arrest will pop up if an employer does a background check.

So, adding insult to injury, Tuma gets arrested for expressing his opinion on a public street, spends the night in jail, and then is “legally” pickpocketed by the police. This is a problem, just as it was with the Gates mess, and is the real issue that should be discussed.

Forget racial profiling and other obscurants for a moment and contemplate just how much power has been granted to the police here. Is that a wise decision? Surely we want the police to be able to use their judgment in a given situation, but when a law is drafted so broadly as to provide cover when a cop feels insulted then such law flies in the face of constitutional protections.

Furthermore, situations like this really undermine the concept of police being “professionals”. Having the power to arrest someone because they get a little mouthy is not a power any real professional should want or need. Being a professional means being able to negotiate the situation through one’s abilities, not through one’s grant of extraordinary power. I mean, could you imagine if lawyers had the ability to throw people in clink for insulting them? Who would be safe?

The fact of the matter is that there are just too many laws to begin with. Cut down on number if infractions cops are expected to enforce, and you will cut down on the number of incidences where the police overstep their authority. When the only thing in danger is a cop’s feelings, then I think it’s safe to say that incarcerating anyone is a monumental waste of time and resources that could be better spent going after real criminals.

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Welfare Statism Update

I showed you the chart yesterday – here are the numbers and trends behind it:

The top 1 percent, those earning over $410,000, consists of 1.4 million taxpayers, while the bottom 95 percent contains 134 million.

In 2000, before the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that some claim disproportionately benefited the rich, the top 1 percent paid less than 38 percent of income taxes while the bottom 95 paid almost 44 percent. Since the tax cuts, the top 1 percent’s share increased over 2 percentage points while the bottom 95 percent’s share decreased 5 percentage points. Those that argue the tax cuts solely benefited the rich are mistaken.

President Obama plans to raise the top 2 marginal tax rates on those making over $250,000 a year, and Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) wants to slap a 6 percent surtax on top of that to partially pay for a government take over the health care system. These tax hikes, in addition to damaging the already badly weakened economy, will further shift the burden of the income tax to the highest earners.

In contrast, the bottom 40% of taxpayers pays no income taxes on average. In fact, they get money from the tax code well above anything they paid in because of refundable credits. And President Obama’s Make Work Pay credit, passed as part of the stimulus, will increase the money redistribute to these non-taxpayers.

So you have 1.4 million paying more in income taxes than the bottom 134 million. And 40 million of those 134 pay nothing and, in fact “get money from the tax code well above anything they paid in”, which, of course, would be any withholding.

Fair? Of course not. Additionally Democrats are interested in increasing the marginal rate by 2% on those making $250,000 a year (can you even begin to imagine how many small businesses that will impact?) with Rangel all for piling another 6% on top of that.

And yet the economic picture is looking up?

I’m emphasizing this story because of the impact it has on this obvious movement from less freedom and more welfare statism. This is directly out of that playbook. Like the old saying goes, the problem with, in this case welfare statism, is at some point you run out of other people’s money.

~McQ

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Dan Rather Petitions The Government

From my favorite drama queen:

Rather called on President Barack Obama to form a White House commission to help save the press Tuesday night in an impassioned speech at the Aspen Institute.

“I personally encourage the president to establish a White House commission on public media,” the legendary newsman said.

Such a commission on media reform, Rather said, ought to make recommendations on saving journalism jobs and creating new business models to keep news organizations alive.

At stake, he argued, is the very survival of American democracy.

“A truly free and independent press is the red beating heart of democracy and freedom,” Rather said in an interview yesterday afternoon. “This is not something just for journalists to be concerned about, and the loss of jobs and the loss of newspapers, and the diminution of the American press’ traditional role of being the watchdog on power. This is something every citizen should be concerned about.”

Here’s a novel idea Dan – why doesn’t the “public media” commission its own commission on saving itself without dragging the government into it?

For such an advocate of a “truly free and [an] independent press” why are you courting the government as your savior? No strings in that approach are there?

In effect, this is Dan Rather implicitly trying to lay the groundwork for a government bailout of the press – and then he’d demand afterword that we all consider the product a “truly free and independent press”. Yeah – like GM is a truly free and independent car company, huh Dan?

~McQ

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