Healthcare Reality

24 02 2010

Tomorrows little meeting with the Prez should be interesting, if not entertaining. But I do have a question… “Where Are The Jobs”? No matter what you guys get out of your “Healthcare Summit”, make it the last discussion you have on the subject until you fix THE JOBS PROBLEM! The president, along with Congress, should have been knee-deep in the “Where Are The Jobs”  issue until the problem was solved. However… If you idiots in DC won’t let go of Obamacare, then adopt the proposals below, make them law and be done with it. You should be working on “J-O-B-S”.

The Wall Street Journal has some of the best opinion pieces in the World, and this one is no exception.

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A Better Way to Reform Health Care

By JOHN F. COGAN, GLENN HUBBARD, AND DANIEL KESSLER

Today, President Obama will host members of Congress from both political parties at the White House to discuss health reform. He has already put on the table an ambitious plan that takes elements from the bills already passed by the House and Senate and adds others, such as an agency to control health-insurance premiums.

The fundamental question participants must address is whether to use the president’s plan as a starting point for negotiations, or to scrap it and start over.

Our recommendation: scrap it and start over. Its key elements—mandates, heavy-handed insurance regulation, and entitlement-based, middle-income subsidies—must go. None of them address health care’s fundamental problem: high and rising costs. Instead, the various versions of health reform put forth by the president and his party are based on expanding health-insurance coverage. The inevitable consequence will be to exacerbate the cost problem. And the American public knows it.

To bring down costs, we need to change the incentives that govern spending. Right now, $5 out of every $6 of health-care spending is paid for by someone other than the person receiving care—insurance companies, employers, or the government. Individuals are insulated from the reality of what their decisions cost. This breeds overutilization of low-value health care and runaway spending.

To reduce the growth of costs, individuals must take greater responsibility for their health care, and health insurers and health-care providers must face the competitive forces of the market. Three policy changes will go a long way to achieving these objectives: (1) eliminate the tax code’s bias that favors health insurance over out-of-pocket spending; (2) remove state-government barriers to purchasing and providing health services; and (3) reform medical malpractice laws.

We estimate these three changes will reduce health-care costs by over $100 billion per year and permanently reduce the number of uninsured by up to 13 million.

The tax code’s favorable treatment of employer-sponsored health insurance over out-of-pocket health-care payments means that, for most families, buying health care through an employer is 30%-40% cheaper than buying it directly. The best way to address this clear bias is by making all health spending—including out-of-pocket payments, purchases of individual insurance, and purchases of COBRA coverage—tax-deductible.

Such a policy would be especially helpful to individuals facing the high cost of chronic illness and the unemployed who have lost their employer coverage. It could be accomplished with a single, sweeping policy change. It could also be achieved by expanding Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts, which also level the tax playing field between insured and out-of-pocket spending. That is, they make the tax treatment of insured and out-of-pocket spending more similar.

Many health-policy analysts have argued that counting employer-sponsored insurance premiums as taxable income would be a more effective way to undo the current tax code’s bias toward employer-sponsored health insurance. In theory, we agree.

But the fate of the so-called tax on Cadillac insurance plans only serves to underscore the wisdom of leveling the playing field by making all health-care spending tax deductible. The beneficiaries of these high-priced plans, such as labor unions and public-sector employees, lobbied intensely and largely against the tax, and the president’s plan defers the tax until 2018. The end result is the essential elimination of the plan’s only tangible improvement to incentives.

There are two additional steps to reforming private insurance markets. First, individuals must be allowed to buy health insurance offered in states other than those in which they live. The current approach of state-by-state regulation has raised costs by reducing competition among insurance companies. It has also allowed state legislatures to impose insurance mandates that raise prices, while preventing residents from getting policies more suitable for their needs.

Second, reasonable caps on damages for pain and suffering need to be established in medical malpractice cases. Caps on these kind of damages reduce costs and decrease unnecessary, defensive medicine.

These three policies offer advantages over the president’s plan. Instead of raising health-care costs, they fundamentally change incentives among individuals, insurers, and providers to gradually slow the growth in costs by reducing inefficient demand without sacrificing quality and innovation. Instead of radically changing health care overnight, they take an incremental approach, respecting the tremendous uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of different approaches to rein in costs.

And instead of massively increasing government spending, our policies have only a negligible federal budget impact. We estimate that the three policies will reduce federal revenues by approximately $3 billion per year; a small amount of the government’s $2.2 trillion revenue intake.

Why is the budget impact so small? Taken together, the policy changes outlined here will produce a substantial decline in health-insurance premiums. Premiums will fall as workers opt for health plans with higher copayments. Insurance companies will lower premiums in the face of stiffer competition. And doctors will practice less defensive medicine.

As tax-deductible, employer-sponsored health-insurance costs decline, workers’ taxable wages will rise so as to leave total labor compensation unchanged. The increased tax revenue collected on higher wages nearly offsets the revenue loss from the new health care tax deduction.

It is also important to increase access to health care—but this should not be confused with increasing access to health insurance, and it cannot be achieved without getting costs under control. There are several ideas for improving access worth considering: removing artificial barriers to entry for physicians and within specialty groups, allowing states greater flexibility with Medicaid, providing tax credits for health spending, and expanding programs that provide services directly, such as Community Health Centers. The city of San Francisco has a promising alternative along these lines called Healthy San Francisco. It restructures the existing health-care safety net system (both public and nonprofit) into a coordinated, integrated system.

Despite the claims of some partisans to the contrary, the president’s plan is failing because it does not speak to the concerns of the majority of Americans. Instead of addressing the high and rising costs of care, it proposes mandates, invasive regulation, and unaffordable new entitlements. This will not bring health-care costs down—it will only make this problem worse.

Mr. Cogan, a senior fellow at Sanford University’s Hoover Institution, was deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. Mr. Hubbard, dean of Columbia Business School, was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. Mr. Kessler is a professor of business and law at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.





Review Is In: Tea-Party A Success!

15 02 2010

What I Saw at the Tea Party Convention

The attendees want politicians who will deliver on Obama’s promise of clean and open government.

By GLENN HARLAN REYNOLDS

Nashville, Tenn.

There were promises of transparency and of a new kind of collaborative politics where establishment figures listened to ordinary Americans. We were going to see net spending cuts, tax cuts for nearly all Americans, an end to earmarks, legislation posted online for the public to review before it is signed into law, and a line-by-line review of the federal budget to remove wasteful programs.

These weren’t the tea-party platforms I heard discussed in Nashville last weekend. They were the campaign promises of Barack Obama in 2008.

Mr. Obama made those promises because the ideas they represented were popular with average Americans. So popular, it turns out, that average Americans are organizing themselves in pursuit of the kind of good government Mr. Obama promised, but has not delivered. And that, in a nutshell, was the feel of the National Tea Party Convention. The political elites have failed, and citizens are stepping in to pick up the slack.

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Associated Press  Angela McGlowan enters the GOP
primary to represent Mississippi’s First District.

This response has brought millions of Americans to the streets over the past year, and brought quite a few people to the posh Opryland Resort (with its indoor waterfalls and boat rides, it’s like a casino without the gambling) for the convention.

Pundits claim the tea partiers are angry—and they are—but the most striking thing about the atmosphere in Nashville was how cheerful everyone seemed to be. I spoke with dozens of people, and the responses were surprisingly similar. Hardly any had ever been involved in politics before. Having gotten started, they were finding it to be not just worthwhile, but actually fun. Laughter rang out frequently, and when ne w-media mogul Andrew Breitbart held forth on a TV interview, a crowd gathered and broke into spontaneous applause.

A year ago, many told me, they were depressed about the future of America. Watching television pundits talk about President Obama’s transformative plans for big government, they felt alone, isolated and helpless. That changed when protests, organized by bloggers, met Mr. Obama a year ago in Denver, Colo., Mesa, Ariz., and Seattle, Wash. Then came CNBC talker Rick Santelli’s famous on-air rant on Feb. 19, 2009, which gave the tea-party movement its name.

Tea partiers are still angry at federal deficits, at Washington’s habit of rewarding failure with handouts and punishing success with taxes and regulation, and the general incompetence that has marked the first year of the Obama presidency. But they’re no longer depressed.

Instead, they seem energized. And surprisingly media savvy. William Temple donned colonial dress knowing that it would be an irresistible lure to TV cameras. When the cameras trained on him, he regaled interviewers with well-informed discussion of constitutional history. Other attendees were hawking DVDs, books, and Web sites promoting tea-party ideals, while discussing the use of tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter for political organizing.

Press attention focused on Sarah Palin’s speech, which was well-received by the crowd. But the attendees I met weren’t looking to her for direction. They were hoping she would move in theirs. Right now, the tea party isn’t looking for leaders so much as leaders are looking to align themselves with the tea party.

It’s easy to see why. A recent Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP poll found that three-fourths of independent voters have a favorable opinion of the tea party. This enthusiasm, however, does not translate into an embrace of establishment Republicanism. One of the less-noted aspects of Mrs. Palin’s speech was her endorsement of primary challenges for incumbent Republicans, something that is already underway. Tea partiers I talked to hope to replace a lot of entrenched time-servers and to throw a scare into others.

One primary challenger is Les Phillip. He is running against Republican Parker Griffith in Alabama’s fifth congressional district. Mr. Phillip, a black businessman and Navy veteran who immigrated with his parents from Trinidad in his youth, got his start in politics speaking at a tea-party protest in Decatur, Ala., last year.

“Somebody had to speak,” he told me, “so I stepped up.” He did well enough that he was invited to speak at another protest in Trussville, Ala., after which things sort of snowballed. Of the tea partiers, he says, “Their values are pretty much mine. I live in a town in North Alabama where there are plenty of blacks driving Mercedes and living in big houses. Only in America can someone come from a little island and live the dream. I’ve liked it, and that’s what I want for my children. [But] I saw the window closing for my own kids.”

Mr. Phillip has gotten tea-party endorsements, as well as one from Mike Huckabee. The Republican establishment is siding with Mr. Griffith, who only recently switched from Democrat to Republican. That support is perhaps understandable as realpolitik, but it’s not the sort of thing that sits well with tea partiers, who think that too much realpolitik is what rendered the Republican Party corrupt and ossified over the past decade.

Mr. Phillip isn’t the only black tea-party candidate in the deep south—Angela McGlowan, who spoke in Nashville, has entered the Republican primary in Mississippi’s first district—and primary challenges aren’t the only way activists are exerting influence. Cincinnati tea-party activists are running candidates for Republican precinct executive in every precinct in their area—if elected, these candidates will help set policy platforms within the GOP and have sway over which candidates the party endorses. Activists in other states are doing the same. Adam Andrzejewski, who ran in the Republican primary for governor in Illinois, told me he will run candidates in each of Illinois’ precincts, and Utah activists are turning that state’s convention-based nominating system into a trial for incumbent Republican Sen. Robert Bennett. Plus, tea-party activists used their convention to launch a political action committee.

If 2009 was the year of taking it to the streets, 2010 is the year of taking it to the polls. With ordinary Americans setting out to reclaim the political process, it’s likely to be a bumpy ride for incumbents of both parties. I suspect the Founding Fathers would approve.

Mr. Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee. He covered the National Tea Party Convention for PJTV.com, an Internet television network.





Obama Whines About His Problem

12 02 2010

I may need to stop in mid-sentence and count to 10 to calm myself down, but let’s see what happens anyway. This is the second time that Obama has come out in the past couple of weeks to complain about healthcare costs rising. The part that grates the cheese off my pizza is… the costs have skyrocketed this past year because of Obama!

You pinheaded Progressive/Marxists want to know how I could possibly blame your crappy president, right? This is gonna be easy… When Drug Manufacturers and Healthcare Providers figured out that Obama was serious about pushing Congress until he got a Healthcare Bill, they had to sit down and make business decisions. And the decision they made was not an easy one, but it was very understandable considering all the nonsense that the Dems were putting into the bill. These companies had to raise their prices so dramatically to create a new price baseline for their products. Anotherwords, they felt confident that sometime in the next 10 years they would be forced into a situation where they would start losing money so they needed to make some of that difference up now. Plus, once the Government controls Healthcare they took an educated guess that Government was going to want lower prices so they had to have some room to negotiate from.

The bottom line is… If the price of your medicines went up like crazy this year, or your Healthcare is now costing you both arms and a leg, you can blame Obama. He’s the driving force behind all of it! Some prez huh?

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WellPoint Takes Heat Over Rates

By LAURA MECKLER

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration is seizing on a big health-insurance rate increase by WellPoint Inc. in California as fresh evidence of the need for action as it tries to resuscitate its health-care legislation.

WellPoint, the country’s largest insurer by number of members, responded Thursday to repeated criticism with a letter blaming the 39% increase in the individual market on the economy and rising health costs. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hit back with a statement saying she wasn’t satisfied.

All week, Democrats from President Barack Obama on down have cited the company’s rate plans as a justification for a health-care overhaul that would remake the individual market, where people who don’t get insurance through their jobs shop for coverage.

Complete story here.





Karl Rove Almost Right

3 02 2010

I support the Tea-Party Express. Click on pic to enlarge.

I don’t spend a lot of time agreeing with Mr. Rove. In fact, I rarely admit it, even if I do happen to agree with him. Why? Because I put a lot of blame on him as to why Conservatives are looked upon as second class citizens by the GOP. Anyway… I agree 100% with the header below about Obama being a day late and a dollar short. Everything else is up for debate!

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The President’s GOP Outreach Comes Too Late

By KARL ROVE

Last Friday, President Obama met with House Republicans in Baltimore. He took questions, parried criticisms, and allowed all of it to be put on television.

Framed as an opportunity for the president to hear from the other side, Mr. Obama’s real aim was to portray Republicans as obstructionist and boost his own public standing in the process.

Afterward, Gallup found that Mr. Obama’s approval hit 51%, up from 47% after the State of the Union address two days earlier. But in winning that small victory, Mr. Obama also further poisoned his relationship with Republicans by repeatedly saying things that are demonstrably not true.

For example, when Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling asked if the president’s new budget would, “like your old budget, triple the national debt” and increase “the cost of government to almost 25% of the economy,” Mr. Obama denied it. But that’s exactly what Mr. Obama proposed doing in his budget framework that Congress passed last April, according to both Congressional Budget Office and White House documents.

0129obamaAFP/Getty Images
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In Baltimore, Mr. Obama criticized the GOP’s response to last year’s $787 billion stimulus package saying, “I don’t understand . . . why we got opposition . . . before we had a chance to actually meet and exchange ideas.”

In truth, the president met with congressional Republicans to talk about the stimulus package the day before the press said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey completed drafting the 1,073-page bill. What occurred was a photo-op, not an exchange of ideas. Democrats at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue were scornful of Republican input.

When Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price complained in Baltimore that the president kept saying “that Republicans have offered no ideas and no solutions,” Mr. Obama shot back, “I don’t think I said that.”

But of course Mr. Obama and his people have said that repeatedly. They did so starting in April, when White House aides swarmed Sunday talk programs to label the GOP the “party of no” and say that the party lacked both constructive ideas and vision.

Republicans did score a small victory in Baltimore. They got Mr. Obama to admit that the GOP has offered ideas on health-care reform, economic growth and spending restraint. But that doesn’t mean the president will now draw on any of those ideas.

Mr. Obama’s problems remain reality rather than optics. Over the past year, he hemmed himself in by leaving it to Democratic congressional leaders to draft his health-care reform and other items of his agenda and by not pressing those leaders to negotiate with Republicans.

Until Mr. Obama changes those practices, the country will see more party-line votes in Congress, albeit with increasing defections among vulnerable Democratic members.

The next battle brewing in Washington is over the president’s proposed budget, released earlier this week. Under Mr. Obama’s blueprint, federal spending would rise to $3.8 trillion in the next fiscal year, up from $3.6 trillion this year. The budget is filled with gimmicks.

For example, the president is calling for a domestic, nonsecurity, discretionary spending freeze. But that freeze doesn’t apply to a $282 billion proposed second stimulus package. It also doesn’t apply to the $519 billion that has yet to be spent from the first stimulus bill. The federal civilian work force is also not frozen. It is projected to rise to 1.43 million employees in 2010, up from 1.2 million in 2008.

As Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have dropped, the White House has been consoled by the Republican Party’s poor image. But that’s changing. Since last October, Democrats dropped from a 30-point net favorability to a one-point advantage over the GOP today, according to a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll.

The fall of support for Democrats is also reflected in the generic ballot. Since October, Democrats have gone from six points up (49%-43%) to three-points behind (45%-48%) according to Gallup. The GOP has a seven-point (45%-38%) lead in the latest Rasmussen generic ballot survey.

Every week, it seems, more bad news accrues for Mr. Obama’s party—whether it is a bad poll, a lost election, or a new retirement of a House Democrat in a competitive district. Democrats are in the midst of the painful realization: Mr. Obama’s words cannot save them from the power of bad ideas.





Compensation Question For Obama

31 08 2009

Even I understand in a recession that pay raises will have to be cut, so I only want one answer out of Obama… With the 2% raise he approves of in this article for Federal employees, do the employees also get the 2.4% COLA on top of the raise?

147511516_946dd15975Here’s why I’m asking… There are going to be millions of Senior Citizens that won’t be getting a COLA in their SS Checks for the next two years. If they find out that the employees get a raise and a COLA, they may storm the White House in their wheelchairs and walkers.

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Obama Curbs Federal Pay Increases

By JONATHAN WEISMAN

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama blocked large pay raises slated for tens of thousands of federal employees Monday, overriding statutory formulas to hold pay increases to 2% in 2010.

Invoking the “national emergency” declared after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the president said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that under pay formulas set in 1990, federal employees with pay levels set according to comparable local wages are set for average pay increases of 18.9%.

White House officials say the declaration was routine. Ever since Congress passed the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act in 1990, presidents have been invoking the emergency clause to hold down pay increases due under the formula that mandates wages comparable to local pay levels.

That has created a yawning gulf. If Mr. Obama did nothing, the comparability formula would dictate a 16.5% pay increase, on top of the 2.4% cost of living increase.

That would be a $22.6 billion hit to the ailing federal budget in 2010. Cost of living adjustments alone were to boost pay by 2.4% for most federal employees.

Citing his right in an emergency to use an alternative formula, the president said he will keep the pay increases to 2%, the level he called for in his budget earlier this year.

“With unemployment at 9.5 percent in June to cite just one economic indicator, few would disagree that our country is facing serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare,” Mr. Obama wrote. “The growth in Federal requirements is straining the Federal budget. Full statutory civilian pay increases costing $22.6 billion in 2010 alone would put even more stress on our budget.”

Instead, the 2% pay raise will cost taxpayers $2.7 billion next year.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, expressed disappointment with the decision, noting the military is slated for wage increases of either 2.9% or 3.4%. Congress is still finalizing the 2010 budget.

“NTEU recognizes that it has been a very difficult year for the economy,” she said. “However pay parity is an important and accepted principle and reflects the reality that civilian and military workers both contribute strongly to our country and deserve the same percentage pay increase.”

Write to Jonathan Weisman at jonathan.weisman@wsj.com





Healthcare – The Real Story

26 08 2009

journo_editedI’m not a journalist, nor do I pretend to be one. With the reputation that journalists have today I’m not even sure if I want to ever be associated with them, but that’s for another post. I want to comment on the Headline and what I’m going to call the Sub-Header (see now why I backed off of claiming to be a journo?). The Header you see below in the color blue, and the Sub-Header you se in the color red, are the actual headers, and in that order if you were to go to the Wall Street Journal website. Click on the blue header to see for yourself.

The only reason why I find any of this interesting is how the sub-header in this case is the important start of this article. The actual headline is simply an after-thought. Combine what’s in this article with the fact that Seniors and those on S.S. Disability will NOT be recieving a ‘cost-of-living-increase’ in their monthly checks for the next two years, and you are going to have one very large pissed-off group of voters. Even those that are confined to a bed will want to crawl to the nearest polling site to vote out anyone dumb enough to sign on to the complete overhaul of our healthcare system. Or what is rightfully known as… Socialism.

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Obama Targets Medicare Advantage

Seniors would lose with health ‘reform,’ and seniors vote.

By KARL ROVE

President Barack Obama was wise to vacation this week on Martha’s Vineyard. Not because it’s one of the few places in America where his health-care plan is still popular, but because by getting out of Washington he gave staff time to repair his vaunted message machine, which was starting to break down.

Two weeks ago, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod said in a now legendary “viral” email that, “It’s a myth that health insurance reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits.” This was sent out the day before Mr. Obama told a Montana town hall that he’d pay for health-care reform by “eliminating . . . about $177 billion over 10 years” for “what’s called Medicare Advantage.” And it was two days before Mr. Obama told a Colorado town hall he’d cover “two-thirds” of the “roughly $900 billion” of his plan’s cost by “eliminating waste,” again citing Medicare Advantage.

Who’s right? As a former senior adviser, I can tell you who: the president. What’s more, according to a White House fact sheet titled “Paying for Health Care Reform,” Mr. Axelrod was misleading his readers. It notes the administration would cut $622 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, with a big chunk coming from Medicare Advantage, to pay for overhauling health care. Mr. Obama heralded these cuts as “common sense” in his June 13 radio address.

Medicare Advantage was enacted in 2003 to allow seniors to use Medicare funds to buy private insurance plans that fit their needs and their budgets. They get better care and better value for their money.

Medicare Advantage also has built-in incentives to encourage insurers to offer lower costs and better benefits. It’s a program that puts patients in charge, not the government, which is why seniors like it and probably why the administration hates it.

Already, an estimated 10.2 million seniors—one out of five in America—have enrolled in Medicare Advantage. Mr. Obama is proposing to cut the program by nearly 20% and thus reduce the amount of money each will have to buy insurance. This will likely force most of them to lose the insurance they have now. Yet Mr. Obama promised in late July in New Hampshire that, “if you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan.”

There are roughly 23,400 seniors on average in a congressional district who have Medicare Advantage, but who face losing it if Mr. Obama has his way. That’s enough votes to tip most competitive House and Senate races.

Back in 2006, Mr. Obama and other Democrats railed against GOP efforts—modest though they were—to slow future Medicare spending growth. Now he and his party may reap what they have sown. As the president pushes to enact an overall cut to Medicare he will imperil Democrats in tough re-election races. Mr. Obama has a dangerous old tiger by the tail. Seniors are much more likely to vote than the population at large.

Adding to the Democrats’ woes are polls that show weak support for ObamaCare among Independents and Democrats. In the new ABC/Washington Post poll, only 45% approved of Mr. Obama’s plan and 50% opposed it—with 40% “strongly” opposed.

Despite Mr. Obama’s barnstorming tour, last week’s Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll said “the health care reform legislation being considered right now” is opposed by 21% of Democrats, 50% of Independents, and 81% of Republicans. Only 37% of Democrats and 15% of Independents think their families would be better off if it passed.

The problem for Mr. Obama is that he lacks credibility when he asserts his plan won’t add to the deficit or won’t lead to rationing; that people can keep their health plans; that every family’s health care will be better, not worse; and that a government run plan isn’t a threat to private insurance. A large number of Americans don’t believe the president on this.

With this week’s $2 trillion upward revision in the White House’s deficit projections, August has been the cruelest month for Mr. Obama. The president is now facing a politically explosive mix of unpopular policies and an angered electorate.

It’s still too early to count Mr. Obama out. His team will be back in Washington next week. They’ll work on their messaging and have more than $100 million—much of it from pharmaceutical companies—to spend on ads bludgeoning reluctant Democrats and energized Republicans.

The White House will exert enormous pressure—and in the spirit of Chicago-style politics, employ threats when necessary—with Senate and House Democrats. The health-care battle, already intense, will get more so in the months ahead. ObamaCare is unpopular, but it is far from defeated.





Finally, The Truth

18 08 2009

ObamaCare Is All About Rationing

 

By MARTIN FELDSTEIN

rationbookAlthough administration officials are eager to deny it, rationing health care is central to President Barack Obama’s health plan. The Obama strategy is to reduce health costs by rationing the services that we and future generations of patients will receive.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers issued a report in June explaining the Obama administration’s goal of reducing projected health spending by 30% over the next two decades. That reduction would be achieved by eliminating “high cost, low-value treatments,” by “implementing a set of performance measures that all providers would adopt,” and by “directly targeting individual providers . . . (and other) high-end outliers.”

The president has emphasized the importance of limiting services to “health care that works.” To identify such care, he provided more than $1 billion in the fiscal stimulus package to jump-start Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) and to finance a federal CER advisory council to implement that idea. That could morph over time into a cost-control mechanism of the sort proposed by former Sen. Tom Daschle, Mr. Obama’s original choice for White House health czar. Comparative effectiveness could become the vehicle for deciding whether each method of treatment provides enough of an improvement in health care to justify its cost.

In the British national health service, a government agency approves only those expensive treatments that add at least one Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) per £30,000 (about $49,685) of additional health-care spending. If a treatment costs more per QALY, the health service will not pay for it. The existence of such a program in the United States would not only deny lifesaving care but would also cast a pall over medical researchers who would fear that government experts might reject their discoveries as “too expensive.”

One reason the Obama administration is prepared to use rationing to limit health care is to rein in the government’s exploding health-care budget. Government now pays for nearly half of all health care in the U.S., primarily through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The White House predicts that the aging of the population and the current trend in health-care spending per beneficiary would cause government outlays for Medicare and Medicaid to rise to 15% of GDP by 2040 from 6% now. Paying those bills without raising taxes would require cutting other existing social spending programs and shelving the administration’s plans for new government transfers and spending programs.

The rising cost of medical treatments would not be such a large burden on future budgets if the government reduced its share in the financing of health services. Raising the existing Medicare and Medicaid deductibles and coinsurance would slow the growth of these programs without resorting to rationing. Physicians and their patients would continue to decide which tests and other services they believe are worth the cost.

There is, of course, no reason why limiting outlays on Medicare and Medicaid requires cutting health services for the rest of the population. The idea that they must be cut in parallel is just an example of misplaced medical egalitarianism.

But budget considerations aside, health-economics experts agree that private health spending is too high because our tax rules lead to the wrong kind of insurance. Under existing law, employer payments for health insurance are deductible by the employer but are not included in the taxable income of the employee. While an extra $100 paid to someone who earns $45,000 a year will provide only about $60 of after-tax spendable cash, the employer could instead use that $100 to pay $100 of health-insurance premiums for that same individual. It is therefore not surprising that employers and employees have opted for very generous health insurance with very low copayment rates.

Since a typical 20% copayment rate means that an extra dollar of health services costs the patient only 20 cents at the time of care, patients and their doctors opt for excessive tests and other inappropriately expensive forms of care. The evidence on health-care demand implies that the current tax rules raise private health-care spending by as much as 35%.

The best solution to this problem of private overconsumption of health services would be to eliminate the tax rule that is causing the excessive insurance and the resulting rise in health spending. Alternatively, Congress could strengthen the incentives in the existing law for health savings accounts with high insurance copayments. Either way, the result would be more cost-conscious behavior that would lower health-care spending.

But unlike reductions in care achieved by government rationing, individuals with different preferences about health and about risk could buy the care that best suits their preferences. While we all want better health, the different choices that people make about such things as smoking, weight and exercise show that there are substantial differences in the priority that different people attach to health.

Although there has been some talk in Congress about limiting the current health-insurance exclusion, the administration has not supported the idea. The unions are particularly vehement in their opposition to any reduction in the tax subsidy for health insurance, since they regard their ability to negotiate comprehensive health insurance for their members as a major part of their raison d’être.

If changing the tax rule that leads to excessive health insurance is not going to happen, the relevant political choice is between government rationing and continued high levels of health-care spending. Rationing is bad policy. It forces individuals with different preferences to accept the same care. It also imposes an arbitrary cap on the future growth of spending instead of letting it evolve in response to changes in technology, tastes and income. In my judgment, rationing would be much worse than excessive care.

Those who worry about too much health care cite the Congressional Budget Office’s prediction that health-care spending could rise to 30% of GDP in 2035 from 16% now. But during that 25-year period, GDP will rise to about $24 trillion from $14 trillion, implying that the GDP not spent on health will rise to $17 billion in 2035 from $12 billion now. So even if nothing else comes along to slow the growth of health spending during the next 25 years, there would still be a nearly 50% rise in income to spend on other things.

Like virtually every economist I know, I believe the right approach to limiting health spending is by reforming the tax rules. But if that is not going to happen, let’s not destroy the high quality of the best of American health care by government rationing and misplaced egalitarianism.

Mr. Feldstein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan, is a professor at Harvard and a member of The Wall Street Journal’s board of contributors.





Obama’s Soul Is Deaf

12 08 2009
Here we find Obama searching for the truth in a young ladies back-side.

Here we find Obama searching for the truth in a young lady's back-side.

This is a wonderful piece I came across in the Wall Street Journal. It helps lend credence to the idea that Obama is unfit to govern because he lacks the capacity to do something as simple as L-I-S-T-E-N to the people.

It’s either that, or he’s an incompetent boob.

Gio-

By DOROTHY RABINOWITZ

It didn’t take chaotic town-hall meetings, raging demonstrators and consequent brooding in various sectors of the media to bring home the truth that the campaign for a health-care bill is, to put it mildly, not going awfully well. It’s not hard now to envision the state of this crusade with just a month or two more of diligent management by the Obama team—think train wreck. It may one day be otherwise in the more perfect world of universal coverage, but for now disabilities like the tone deafness that afflicts this administration from the top down are uninsurable.

Consider former ABC reporter Linda Douglass—now the president’s communications director for health reform—who set about unmasking all the forces out there “always trying to scare people when you try to bring them health insurance reform.” People, she charged, are taking sentences out of context and otherwise working to present a misleading picture of the president’s proposals. One of her key solutions to this problem—her justly famed message encouraging citizens to contact the office at flag@whitehouse.gov if they got an email or other information about health reform “that seems fishy”—set off a riotous flow of online responses. (The word “fishy,” with its police detective tone, would have done the trick all by itself.)

These commentaries, packed with allusions to the secret police, the East German Stasi and Orwell, were mostly furious. Others quite simply hilarious. Ms. Douglass, who now has, in her public appearances, the air of a person consigned to service in a holy order, was not amused.

Neither has she seemed to entertain any second thoughts about the tenor of a message enlisting the public in a program reeking of a White House effort to set Americans against one another—the good Americans protecting the president’s health-care program from the bad Americans fighting it and undermining truth and goodness.

She intended no such outcome, doubtless. That this former journalist, now a communications director, failed to notice anything amiss in the details of that communiqué is a bit odd but not altogether surprising.

Crusades are busy endeavors, the enlistees in this one, like those in every undertaking of this White House, concerned with just one message. Which is that the Obama administration is in possession of vital answers to ills and inequities that have long afflicted American society (whether Americans know it or not), and that those opposed to those answers and that vision are cynics, or operatives of the powerful vested interests responsible for the plight Americans find themselves in (whether they know it or not), or political enemies bent on destroying the Obama administration.

It shouldn’t have been surprising, either, that the tone of much of the commentary on the town-hall protests was what it was. There was Mark Halperin for one, senior political editor for Time, bouncing off his chair, Sunday, in agitation over all the media coverage of this rowdiness—”a horrible breakdown of our political culture, our media culture” and so “bad for America,” as he told CNN’s Howard Kurtz. “I’m embarrassed about what’s going on, as an American.” The disruptions and coverage thereof distorted serious discussion, he explained. Mark Shields said much the same on Friday’s PBS NewsHour, if with less excitation, pointing out that these events were “not good for the democratic process,” and were a breakdown of civil debate.

There was no such hand-wringing over the decline of civil debate, during, say, election 2004, when cadres of organized demonstrators carrying swastika-adorned pictures of George W. Bush routinely swarmed about, and packed rallies. There was also that other “breakdown of our media culture,” that will dwarf all else as a cause for embarrassment, the town-hall coverage included, for the foreseeable future. That would be, of course, the undisguised worshipful reporting of the candidacy of Barack Obama.

That treatment, or rather its memory—like the adulation of his great mass of voters—has had its effect on this president, and not all to the good. The election over, the warming glow of those armies of supporters gone, his capacity to tolerate criticism and dissent from his policies grows thinner apace. His lectures, explaining his health-care proposals, and why they’ll be good for everybody, are clearly not going down well with his national audience.

This would have to do with the fact that the real Barack Obama—product of the academic left, social reformer with a program, is now before that audience, and what they hear in this lecture about one of the central concerns in their lives—his message freighted with generalities—they are not prepared to buy. They are not prepared to believe that our first most important concern now is health-care reform or all will go under.

The president has a problem. For, despite a great election victory, Mr. Obama, it becomes ever clearer, knows little about Americans. He knows the crowds—he is at home with those. He is a stranger to the country’s heart and character.

He seems unable to grasp what runs counter to its nature. That Americans don’t take well, for instance, to bullying, especially of the moralizing kind, implicit in those speeches on health care for everybody. Neither do they wish to be taken where they don’t know they want to go and being told it’s good for them.

Who would have believed that this politician celebrated, above all, for his eloquence and capacity to connect with voters would end up as president proving so profoundly tone deaf? A great many people is the answer—the same who listened to those speeches of his during the campaign, searching for their meaning.

It took this battle over health care to reveal the bloom coming off this rose, but that was coming. It began with the spectacle of the president, impelled to go abroad to apologize for his nation—repeatedly. It is not, in the end, the demonstrators in those town-hall meetings or the agitations of his political enemies that Mr. Obama should fear. It is the judgment of those Americans who have been sitting quietly in their homes, listening to him.

Ms. Rabinowitz is a member of the Journal’s editorial board.





Obama Dismisses ‘The People’

4 08 2009

The arrogance of our president is astounding on so many levels. This one article pretty much sums up how Obama feels about his peons.

Behold the mighty Obama!

Gio-

White House Isn’t Concerned by Health-Care Protests

By HENRY J. PULIZZI

WASHINGTON — The White House isn’t concerned that increasingly vocal protests around the country are frustrating its push for health-care legislation.

Briefing reporters Tuesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs suggested that the opposition is being organized by a small group seeking to create “manufactured anger.”

“I hope people will take a jaundiced eye to what is clearly the AstroTurf nature of so-called grass-roots lobbying,” Mr. Gibbs said.

In recent days, administration officials and Democratic members of Congress have been shouted down by angry protesters at town halls in Pennsylvania and Texas, an uproar that could grow when lawmakers return to their districts for the August recess.

Mr. Gibbs compared the protesters with the “Brooks Brothers Brigade” that he said appeared in Florida after the 2000 presidential election.

“I seem to see some commonality in who pops up at some of these things,” he said, without elaborating. “You can see quite a bit of similarity between who shows up where.”

While protests intensify, the White House also has stepped up its response. It reacted early Tuesday to one online video featuring clips of President Barack Obama appearing to suggest that his health-care plans would eventually replace the private insurance sector, producing its own video shooting down the claim. In the White House’s video, its main health-care spokesperson, Linda Douglass, accuses opponents of taking old footage and using it out of context as a scare tactic.

“They simply cherry-pick and put it together, and make it sound like he’s saying something that he didn’t really say,” Ms. Douglass says in the video, which can be seen on the White House’s Web site.

Asked why the administration decided to respond, Mr. Gibbs said, “There’s a tremendous amount of misinformation floating around on health care.”





Impeach Obama

24 07 2009

Thank God for the journalism displayed at The Wall Street Journal.

Exactly thirteen words into this article the truth about Obama’s method of operation is revealed. This guy will end up being the least trusted President this country has ever elected.

Gio-

P.S.  And for the record, I’m only half kidding about my headline. If he keeps shoving his crappola ideas down Americans throats, I will be the first to draw-up a petition to get his sorry butt Impeached! 

 

Health Reform’s Hidden Victims

By JOHN FUND

President Barack Obama’s health-care sales pitch depends on his ability to obfuscate who is likely to get hurt by reform. At Wednesday’s news conference, for example, he was asked “specifically what kind of pain and sacrifice” he would ask of patients in order to achieve the cost savings he promises.

He insisted he “won’t reduce Medicare benefits” but instead would “make delivery more efficient.” The most Mr. Obama would concede is that some people will have to “give up paying for things that don’t make you healthier.” That is simply not credible.

While Democrats on Capitol Hill dispute claims that individuals will lose their existing coverage under their reform plans, on other issues many Democrats privately acknowledge some people will indeed get whacked to pay for the new world of government-dominated health care.

Democrats have been brilliant in keeping knowledge about the pain and sacrifice of health reform from the very people who would bear the brunt of them. They’ve done so by convincing health-care industry groups not to run the kind of “Harry and Louise”-style ads that helped sink HillaryCare in 1993.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) says the pressure not to run ads has been “intense, bordering on extortion.” “Groups were told if they did they’d give up their seat at the table,” says former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “What they weren’t told is that they’d be at the table as lunch.”

Here are some of the groups on the menu if anything like the existing Senate or House health plans become law:

• Young people. If the government mandates that everyone must have health insurance, healthy young people will have to buy policies that don’t reflect the low risk they have of getting sick. The House and Senate bills do let insurers set premiums based on age, but only up to a 2-to-1 ratio, versus a real-world ratio of 5 to 1. This means lower prices for older (and wealthier) folks, but high prices for the young. “They’ll have sticker shock,” says Rep. Paul Ryan, ranking Republican on the Budget Committee.

• Small Businesses. Employers who don’t provide coverage will have to pay a tax up to 8% of their payroll. Yet those who do provide coverage also have to pay the tax—if the law says their coverage is not “adequate.” Amazingly, even if a small business provides adequate insurance but its employees choose coverage in another plan offered through the government, the employer still must pay.

• Health Savings Account (HSA) holders. Eight million Americans, according to the Treasury Department, are covered by plans with low-cost premiums and high deductibles that are designed for large, unexpected medical costs. Money is also set aside in a savings account to cover the deductibles, and whatever isn’t spent in one year can build up tax-free. Nearly a third of new HSA users, according to Treasury figures, previously had no insurance or bought coverage on their own.

These policies will be severely limited. The Senate plan says a policy deemed “acceptable” must have insurance (rather than the individual) pay out at least 76% of the benefits. The House plan is pegged at 70%. That’s not the way these plans are set up to work. Ray Ramthun, who implemented the HSA regulations at the Treasury Department in 2003, says the regulations are crippling. “Companies tell me they could be forced to take products off the market,” he said in an interview.

• Medicare Advantage users. Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats want to cut back this program—care provided by private companies and subsidized by the government. Medicare Advantage grew by 15% last year; 10.5 million seniors, or 22% of all Medicare patients, are now enrolled.

The program is especially popular with those in badly served urban areas and with those who can’t afford the premiums for Medicare supplemental (MediGap) policies. A total of 54% of Hispanics on Medicare have chosen Medicare Advantage, as have 40% of African-Americans, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the Department of Health and Human Services.

These plans tend to provide better coordinated and preventive care, and richer prescription drug coverage. But Democrats dislike Medicare Advantage’s private-sector nature, and they have some legitimate beefs with its unevenly generous reimbursement rates. This week Mr. Obama told the Washington Post that the program was “a prime example” of his efforts to cut Medicare spending, because he claims people “aren’t getting good value” from it.

That’s not what others say. In January, Oregon’s Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski wrote the Obama administration expressing his concern about its efforts “to scale back Medicare Advantage” because the plans “play an important role in providing affordable health coverage.” He noted that 39% of Oregon’s Medicare patients had chosen Medicare Advantage, and that in “some of our Medicare Advantage plans . . . with proper chronic disease management for such conditions as heart disease, asthma and diabetes, hospitalization admission rates have declined.”

The $156 billion in Medicare Advantage cuts over the next decade proposed by Mr. Obama will force many seniors to go back to traditional Medicare at greater expense. A new study for the Florida Association of Health Plans found that because Medicare Advantage plans have richer benefits and lower deductibles and copayments than traditional Medicare, seniors in that state would face dramatically higher payments if forced to give up their Medicare Advantage plans. Cost increases would range from $2,214 a year in Jacksonville to $3,714 a year in Miami.

There are reasons that Blue Dog Democrats in Congress are leery of their party’s health-care reform plans. Many are in districts or states carried by John McCain, and they worry about the political fallout when these groups realize they will be paying for health-care reform.

They also know that every government entitlement winds up becoming a money pit. In 1965, Sen. Allen Ellender (D., La.) dismissed promises that Medicare would be a modest program to save seniors from bankruptcy. “Let us not be so naïve as to believe that the Medicare program will not be increased from year to year to the point that the government will have to impose more taxes on the little man or else take the necessary money out of the Treasury,” he told colleagues.

Ellender was right, and his warning is even more relevant in our era of skyrocketing deficits and Medicare costs. The only way the House and Senate health plans can pass is if the costs they impose on vulnerable parts of the population continue to be hidden.

Mr. Fund is a WSJ.com columnist.





Abortion Cannot Find Middle-Ground!

3 06 2009

I have a sneaky suspicion that the Author of this piece made up, out of thin air, the following statement… “The bumper-sticker slogans in the abortion debate pit the right to choose against the right to life. Many Americans, though, seek a middle ground.”

Middle-ground my ass, for the first time in many years, a recent poll shows that a majority of Americans are firmly against abortion. That’s not finding middle ground, that’s coming to the realizatiuon that abortion is murder.

Before I blabber on with my opinions, I’ll quit here so you can read and make you’re own mind up. One last note: ‘Dr. Tiller the baby killer’ made $6 Million dollars a year killing babies. He was NOT a hero!!! 

Gio-

Common Ground on Late-Term Abortion: Anguish

The Killing of Dr. George Tiller Has Rekindled an Old Debate, but Partisans on Both Sides Acknowledge Each Other’s Pain

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By STEPHANIE SIMON

Wichita, Kan.

In a faceless building by the freeway, George Tiller performed thousands of abortions a year. Some of his patients were well advanced in pregnancy — seven, eight, even nine months along. And so his clinic became a battleground.

Fewer than 1% of all abortions in the U.S. — perhaps 1,000 a year — are performed late in the second or third trimester. But they are a potent symbol of a deep cultural divide. In the abortion debate, little elicits more emotion than the idea of killing a viable fetus, weeks or even days from birth.

Dr. Tiller was killed in church Sunday, and an antiabortion protestor has been charged in the case. In the days since, even as they condemn the violence, some abortion opponents have held up Dr. Tiller as a symbol of the worst excesses of a culture they believe devalues human life — a culture of “abortion on demand.” Many of Dr. Tiller’s patients have praised him, through tears, as a hero who put his life at risk to help them through their darkest hour.

The bumper-sticker slogans in the abortion debate pit the right to choose against the right to life. Many Americans, though, seek a middle ground. But where to draw the line? At what point does the fetus’s interest outweigh the mother’s? Looking closely at the extremes of the debate — at the decisions made in the Wichita clinic — can help define the stakes.

Both sides agree on one thing: Late-term abortions are anguishing. Nearly all the late-term abortions at Dr. Tiller’s clinic involved fetuses that were deformed or disabled in some way, said Peggy Bowman, who worked at the clinic as a top aide to Dr. Tiller for a decade. Some mothers had painted nurseries, set up cribs, purchased tiny booties — only to get the devastating news, late in pregnancy, that their babies had genetic deformities.

So they found their way to the Wichita clinic, where they paid Dr. Tiller thousands of dollars to inject a needle into their wombs to stop their babies’ hearts.

“We loved our baby boy too much to suffer the misery of waking up every morning awaiting his impending death,” said Miriam Kleiman, who found out in her third trimester that her son had fatal brain abnormalities. Dr. Tiller performed the abortion in 2000.

Dr. Tiller also took some late-term patients with healthy fetuses. Though the clinic’s medical records typically remain confidential, he said they were only the most desperate cases: very young girls, victims of rape, drug addicts, women in abusive relationships. “The idea that someone would get a late abortion so she fits in her prom dress is outrageous,” he once said in an interview.

The procedures are expensive, at least $6,000 cash, upfront. There are risks to the mother — 8.9 maternal deaths per 100,000 late-term abortions, compared with 7.1 deaths per 100,000 births, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal abortion but is regarded by both sides in the debate as a reliable source of statistics.

Late-term abortions also are grueling. In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on one late-term procedure, sometimes called “partial-birth abortion,” in which the physician begins to deliver the fetus, feet-first, then punctures its skull. Doctors are still allowed to dismember the fetus in utero. Dr. Tiller’s preferred method is also legal. He stopped the fetal heart with an injection of digoxin, a drug used to treat adult heart patients. Then he would induce labor. Patients said they would wait in hotel rooms through two to three days of contractions until they were ready to deliver their stillborns at his clinic.

Such procedures discomfit some abortion doctors. William F. Harrison, who performs abortions in Fayetteville, Ark., said he considered Dr. Tiller a friend and called him “a very brave and great doctor.” Yet he has long expressed concern about Dr. Tiller’s willingness to abort into the ninth month. “Some of his practices are hard to defend,” Dr. Harrison said.

Numerous public-opinion polls over the years show Americans are uneasy with letting women choose abortion at any time, for any reason. The polls, from a variety of organizations including FOX News, CNN, Gallup and Harris, generally show that less than 30% of Americans — in some polls, just 15% — believe abortion should be legal in every case, though a solid majority supports keeping abortion legal in most cases.

Over the years, Dr. Tiller’s clinic — just one of three in the country to do late-term abortions — has been bombed, blockaded and vandalized. In 1993, he was shot through both arms by a protester. Opponents have also regularly picketed his home and the homes of his staff. The “Truth Truck,” a white van covered with photos of aborted fetuses, is a familiar sight around Wichita.

Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, said calling attention to late-term abortions emphasized the fundamental truth that abortion ends a budding life.

“We’ve showed that Mr. Tiller was not aborting a blob of tissue; those are real children,” Mr. Newman said.

Protesters, including Mr. Newman, express great sympathy for women carrying disabled children. But they point out that some of the conditions women cite when seeking abortions from Dr. Tiller aren’t fatal, such as Down syndrome. Others, including some heart ailments, could possibly be corrected through surgery.

Even in the worst cases, abortion opponents urge women to carry to term and cuddle their babies for as long as they survive. God doesn’t “cut us off after we fail,” and neither should women abort disabled babies, said Marilyn Manweiler, who works next door to Dr. Tiller’s at Choices Medical Clinic.

The Choices clinic offers a free prenatal hospice to support women carrying fetuses with fatal deformities. Clients get medical consultations, as many ultrasounds as they would like to help them bond with their babies, and support from volunteers who help them plan for the birth and the funeral that will follow.

Holland Kisch came to Choices this spring when an ultrasound midway through her pregnancy showed that her daughter, Aida, had a fatal condition that covered her face in tumors. Ms. Kisch and her husband decided that an abortion felt wrong. Instead, she chose to carry Aida as long as she could. “She brought us great joy for the little time we had with her,” Ms. Kisch said. Aida was stillborn, prematurely, in March. Around her neck, Ms. Kisch wears a tiny ring the Choices volunteers gave the baby.

Ms. Kisch said she could understand how other women facing a tragic diagnosis might choose differently. “For me, it was the best choice,” she said. “I don’t know how I can say what’s right for someone else.”

Thirty-seven states, including Kansas, prohibit late-term abortions. But under Supreme Court precedents set in 1973 in Roe v. Wade and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, state restrictions on abortion must generally include exceptions for the woman’s life and health, which includes mental and emotional health.

Medical records subpoenaed by prosecutors in Kansas indicate Dr. Tiller approved some late-term abortions on the grounds that the women suffered from anxiety or depression. To opponents, those are shockingly flimsy excuses. But several attempts to prosecute Dr. Tiller for violating the law failed.

Christine Becker, who lives in Tennessee, was 28 weeks pregnant with her first child, a boy that she and her husband named Daniel, when tests showed he had a fatal form of dwarfism. Ms. Becker is Catholic, and had always considered abortion a sin. Yet as she and her husband prayed over several days, she said, they decided they could not bear to think of Daniel suffering.

“We wanted him to be released as an angel,” Ms. Becker said. Dr. Tiller aborted Daniel in 2000.

Dr. Tiller’s killing has pushed some young doctors to commit to a career in abortion. Lisa Hofler, a medical student at Emory University, had been mulling over the idea for some time despite her husband’s concern for her safety. Now, she said, she’s determined to offer abortions as part of her practice.

Still, she expects to limit her practice to first-trimester abortions. She doesn’t feel comfortable, she said, pushing the boundaries.

Write to Stephanie Simon at stephanie.simon@wsj.com

Don’t forget to take the pledge.





The Coming “Green” Scam

22 05 2009

 

There is a new scam. It’s the “climate change” or Green Scam. It’s being perpetrated by people who are using “climate change” to stoke our fears to line their own pockets. (Recall that “climate change” used to be called “global warming” until evidence keeps mounting that the world isn’t warming, but instead may be heading toward a new ice age).

h/t to intrepid Giovanni’s World member Steve for the following article!

~Eowyn

…………………………………….

"Climate change" guru Al Gore's enormous energy-consuming mansion in Nashville, TN

"Climate change" guru Al Gore's enormous energy-consuming mansion in Nashville, TN

MAY 22, 2009

The Climate-Industrial Complex

Some businesses see nothing but profits in the green movement

Some business leaders are cozying up with politicians and scientists to demand swift, drastic action on global warming. This is a new twist on a very old practice: companies using public policy to line their own pockets.

The tight relationship between the groups echoes the relationship among weapons makers, researchers and the U.S. military during the Cold War. President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned about the might of the “military-industrial complex,” cautioning that “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” He worried that “there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.”

This is certainly true of climate change. We are told that very expensive carbon regulations are the only way to respond to global warming, despite ample evidence that this approach does not pass a basic cost-benefit test. We must ask whether a “climate-industrial complex” is emerging, pressing taxpayers to fork over money to please those who stand to gain.

This phenomenon will be on display at the World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen this weekend. The organizers — the Copenhagen Climate Council — hope to push political leaders into more drastic promises when they negotiate the Kyoto Protocol’s replacement in December.

The opening keynote address is to be delivered by Al Gore, who actually represents all three groups: He is a politician, a campaigner and the chair of a green private-equity firm invested in products that a climate-scared world would buy.

Naturally, many CEOs are genuinely concerned about global warming. But many of the most vocal stand to profit from carbon regulations. The term used by economists for their behavior is “rent-seeking.”

The world’s largest wind-turbine manufacturer, Copenhagen Climate Council member Vestas, urges governments to invest heavily in the wind market. It sponsors CNN’s “Climate in Peril” segment, increasing support for policies that would increase Vestas’s earnings. A fellow council member, Mr. Gore’s green investment firm Generation Investment Management, warns of a significant risk to the U.S. economy unless a price is quickly placed on carbon.

Even companies that are not heavily engaged in green business stand to gain. European energy companies made tens of billions of euros in the first years of the European Trading System when they received free carbon emission allocations.

American electricity utility Duke Energy, a member of the Copenhagen Climate Council, has long promoted a U.S. cap-and-trade scheme. Yet the company bitterly opposed the Warner-Lieberman bill in the U.S. Senate that would have created such a scheme because it did not include European-style handouts to coal companies. The Waxman-Markey bill in the House of Representatives promises to bring back the free lunch.

U.S. companies and interest groups involved with climate change hired 2,430 lobbyists just last year, up 300% from five years ago. Fifty of the biggest U.S. electric utilities — including Duke — spent $51 million on lobbyists in just six months.

The massive transfer of wealth that many businesses seek is not necessarily good for the rest of the economy. Spain has been proclaimed a global example in providing financial aid to renewable energy companies to create green jobs. But research shows that each new job cost Spain 571,138 euros, with subsidies of more than one million euros required to create each new job in the uncompetitive wind industry. Moreover, the programs resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy, or 2.2 jobs for every job created.

The cozy corporate-climate relationship was pioneered by Enron, which bought up renewable energy companies and credit-trading outfits while boasting of its relationship with green interest groups. When the Kyoto Protocol was signed, an internal memo was sent within Enron that stated, “If implemented, [the Kyoto Protocol] will do more to promote Enron’s business than almost any other regulatory business.”

The World Business Summit will hear from “science and public policy leaders” seemingly selected for their scary views of global warming. They include James Lovelock, who believes that much of Europe will be Saharan and London will be underwater within 30 years; Sir Crispin Tickell, who believes that the United Kingdom’s population needs to be cut by two-thirds so the country can cope with global warming; and Timothy Flannery, who warns of sea level rises as high as “an eight-story building.”

Free speech is important. But these visions of catastrophe are a long way outside of mainstream scientific opinion, and they go much further than the careful findings of the United Nations panel of climate change scientists. When it comes to sea-level rise, for example, the United Nations expects a rise of between seven and 23 inches by 2100 — considerably less than a one-story building.

There would be an outcry — and rightfully so — if big oil organized a climate change conference and invited only climate-change deniers.

The partnership among self-interested businesses, grandstanding politicians and alarmist campaigners truly is an unholy alliance. The climate-industrial complex does not promote discussion on how to overcome this challenge in a way that will be best for everybody. We should not be surprised or impressed that those who stand to make a profit are among the loudest calling for politicians to act. Spending a fortune on global carbon regulations will benefit a few, but dearly cost everybody else.

Mr. Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus, a think tank, and author of “Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming” (Knopf, 2007).