Archive for January, 2010

What say you, Democrats?

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Since the birth of this nation (well, at least the last 70 years), the Democrats have been yelling that the Republicans and conservatives are tools for big business. Well, how to explain this then?

As first reported by Timothy Carney of the Washington Examiner, the host committee for the fundraiser at Pennsylvania Avenue’s Sonoma Restaurant includes lobbyists for Pfizer, Merck, Eli Lilly, Novartis and sundry other drug companies that have been among the biggest of ObamaCare’s corporate sponsors. Other hosts—who have raised at least $10,000 for Ms. Coakley—include representatives from UnitedHealthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana and other insurers. As far as we can tell, the insurance industry claims to oppose ObamaCare’s current incarnation.

Umm, that doesn’t look like batting for the little guy to me.

More here.


An intellectual beat down of Australian PM Kevin Rudd by Lord Monckton.

January 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Read it in its entirety, but here is part of the conclusion:

However, the question I address is not that but this. Is the cost of taking action many times greater than the cost of not acting? The answer to this question is Yes.

Millions are already dying of starvation in the world’s poorest nations because world food prices have doubled in two years. That abrupt, vicious doubling was caused by a sharp drop in world food production, caused in turn by suddenly taking millions of acres of land out of growing food for people who need it, so as to grow biofuels for clunkers that don’t. The scientifically-illiterate, economically-innumerate policies that you advocate – however fashionable you may conceive them to be – are killing people by the million.

You say my logic “belongs in a casino, not a science lab”. Yet it is you who are gambling with poor people’s lives, and it is you – or, rather, they – who are losing: and losing not merely their substance but their very existence. The biofuel scam is born of the idiotic notion – a notion you uncritically espouse – that increasing by less than 1/2000 this century the proportion of the Earth’s atmosphere occupied by CO2 may prove catastrophic. At a time when so many of the world’s people are already short of food, the UN’s right-to-food rapporteur, Herr Ziegler, has roundly and rightly condemned the biofuel scam as nothing less than “a crime against humanity”.

The scale of the slaughter is monstrous, with food riots (largely unreported in the Western news media, and certainly not mentioned by you in your recent speech) in a dozen regions of the Third World over the past two years. Yet this cruel, unheeded slaughter is founded upon a lie: the claim by the IPCC that it is 90% certain that most of the “global warming” since 1950 is manmade. This claim – based not on science but on a show of hands among political representatives, with China wanting a lower figure and other nations wanting a higher figure – is demonstrably, self-servingly false. Peer-reviewed analyses of changes in cloud cover over recent decades – changes almost entirely unconnected with changes in CO2 concentration – show that it was this largely-natural reduction in cloud cover from 1983-2001 and a consequent increase in the amount of short-wave and UV solar radiation reaching the Earth that accounted for five times as much warming as CO2 could have caused.

(h/t Watt’s Up With That)

Two liberal columnists figure out that Obamacare is BAD, REALLY BAD.

January 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Bob Herbert writes a fantastic column in the New York Times:

Within three years of its implementation, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the tax would apply to nearly 20 percent of all workers with employer-provided health coverage in the country, affecting some 31 million people. Within six years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax would reach a fifth of all households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually. Those families can hardly be considered very wealthy.

Proponents say the tax will raise nearly $150 billion over 10 years, but there’s a catch. It’s not expected to raise this money directly. The dirty little secret behind this onerous tax is that no one expects very many people to pay it. The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans.

These lower-value plans would have higher out-of-pocket costs, thus increasing the very things that are so maddening to so many policyholders right now: higher and higher co-payments, soaring deductibles and so forth. Some of the benefits of higher-end policies can be expected in many cases to go by the boards: dental and vision care, for example, and expensive mental health coverage.

Proponents say this is a terrific way to hold down health care costs. If policyholders have to pay more out of their own pockets, they will be more careful — that is to say, more reluctant — to access health services. On the other hand, people with very serious illnesses will be saddled with much higher out-of-pocket costs. And a reluctance to seek treatment for something that might seem relatively minor at first could well have terrible (and terribly expensive) consequences in the long run.

If even the plan’s proponents do not expect policyholders to pay the tax, how will it raise $150 billion in a decade? Great question.

And Howard Fineman writes a fine column for Newsweek:

But the crusade that is dragging itself toward the finish line doesn’t quite feel like a triumph, let alone the launch of a new New Deal. The reasons offered for the undertaking have been ever-shifting. In the campaign, it was about rationalizing the system and saving federal cash; then it was about protecting coverage of the middle class; then about the moral duty to cover the uninsured. By the time Bill Clinton met privately with Senate Democrats on Obama’s behalf, it was (in his telling) primarily about the political optics: the need to pass something, anything, to avoid defeat.

The effort to jam the bill through Congress made the public dubious. Most Democrats voted for a version of the bill on the first round without having read, let alone digested, its thousands of pages. As the Christmas Eve vote approached, desperate last-minute stocking stuffers appeared in the small print, such as a $1.2 billion payoff to the state of Nebraska that secured Sen. Ben Nelson’s reluctant vote. Obama had promised us a transparent “Google Government,” but now we know what Obama government actually looks like: ambitious and generous, perhaps, but also secretive, Chicago-style, and way too complicated. Fewer than half of voters now support the legislation, murky as it still is to them. Crucially, support has cratered among independents.

The result is a 10-year, trillion-dollar contraption full of political risk and unintended consequences for a health-care system that constitutes one sixth of the economy. Many of the people who will benefit directly from the reforms, the uninsured, don’t vote. Insurance premiums will continue to shoot up for most of us; Democrats fret that they will be blamed for those increases in the 2010 elections. Some regulations on the industry kick in immediately, but most don’t begin until at least 2013. And yet, to allow the bill to “save” money in the first decade, most new taxes and fees go into effect immediately. “We’re collecting money before we’re giving all the benefits!” lamented a Democratic senator facing reelection. “That is a political disaster.”

So will the public “learn to love Obamacare” as White House adviser David Axelrod said? If these two liberals along with other liberals such as Markos Moulitsas, Jane Hamsher, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow dont like it chances are that no, Americans will not learn to love Obamacare but will instead come to deeply despise it.

Obama’s loan remod program making the mortgage fiasco worse, not better.

January 3, 2010 Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago I posted this to an article at the WSJ entitled “Debtors Dilemma: Pay the Mortgage or Walk Away“:

Kinda makes mortgage loan remodifications look like a bunch of bull, right?

That being said, I live in Goodyear, AZ and know first hand how tough the real estate market is out here. Because AZ overleveraged in real estate there are homes in this market that are going for as low as $60,000 that during the boom times was going for $240,000.

I was one of those people who had to walk away from the home, not because I made a bad investment because I don’t follow the philosophy that your home is your investment but because I couldn’t afford the mortgage payment. My wife and I put down $70,000, more than 20% of the value of the home, got a fixed interest rate of about 5%. Even after all that, we still couldn’t afford the home. We didn’t want to participate in any of the government’s stupid loan remod programs because 1) our problems are our own and not society’s and 2) there’s a loan remod program that already exists: foreclosures and go rent. We saved on average $700 a month not paying our mortgage and gave the keys back to the lender. Mind you, we did try to work with the lender to remodify the mortgage, but the lender is also at risk because they have to eat whatever is remodified. Also, it wouldn’t have been in our best interest to do it because at the time tax law was that loan remods did not qualify for debt relief (now it does. However, if you are foreclosed on or forced into a short sale those still do not qualify. How’s that for insanity in our tax law?). We had to file bankruptcy eventually because that was the only way to protect ourselves from the discharge of indebtedness due to foreclosure.

You want to know something? Even after all of this, we are still having trouble meeting our rent and paying our other bills. I only use myself as anecdotal evidence, but I am willing to bet that a great many people are in my same situation that even if they participated in any foolish government loan remod program they would still have trouble paying their mortgage because they have other debts that must be paid. In fact, statistics from the government as well as banking associations prove this point. This is the inanity of government programs: they look at one issue (people being foreclosed on) and create a “solution” they think solves the problem (loan remods forced on banks), but in reality the program helps no one because the people they are intending to help actually have other reasons why they can’t pay the mortgage (too much unsecured debt).

I don’t have sympathy for people like Mr. Figg. He wants to blame market “manipulation” for the real estate HOWEVER no one told him to sign on the dotted line. That is the problem with our current state of society: no one wants to take responsibility for their actions. I bet at the time Mr. Figg was thinking that he would live in the house for about five years and then flip it because of market appreciation. He was caught up in the euphoria just like the banks that gave him the mortgage was. No one made my wife and I sign on the dotted line, but we don’t blame the evil “banks” for giving us the loan to buy the home. It just goes to show that our current culture has been moved from one of responsibility to one of entitlement. I will agree with another poster: this problem started with the Congress and its decisions to make people feel they are “entitled” to things in this country. Everything is not to be given to you not because you earned it, but because you are entitled to it. This will not change until Congress owns up to the fact that it IS the problem, NOT the solution to the problem.

The reason I post this over here is because an article in the New York Times basically confirms what I said above:

The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good.

Since President Obama announced the program in February, it has lowered mortgage payments on a trial basis for hundreds of thousands of people but has largely failed to provide permanent relief. Critics increasingly argue that the program, Making Home Affordable, has raised false hopes among people who simply cannot afford their homes.

As a result, desperate homeowners have sent payments to banks in often-futile efforts to keep their homes, which some see as wasting dollars they could have saved in preparation for moving to cheaper rental residences. Some borrowers have seen their credit tarnished while falsely assuming that loan modifications involved no negative reports to credit agencies.

In essence, the Obama program is a failure, but since the government does not believe itself to be the problem it will not unhook itself. Indeed, in another case of seeing how educated people can’t see what is right in front of their faces, Mark Zandi of states that the government should not stop the program, but instead give banks hush money reimbursements for any losses they have to incur from the loan remod:

Mr. Zandi proposes that the Treasury Department push banks to write down some loan balances by reimbursing the companies for their losses. He pointedly rejects the notion that government ought to get out of the way and let foreclosures work their way through the market, saying that course risks a surge of foreclosures and declining house prices that could pull the economy back into recession.

“We want to overwhelm this problem,” he said. “If we do go back into recession, it will be very difficult to get out.”

This is foolishness beyond the pail. It starts with the assumption that everyone is entitled to a home and that the government should ensure that people stay in their homes by continuing to manipulate the market. The reason we had this recession is because the government manipulated the mortgage market (not to mention the debt market with a loose monetary policy). We don’t need more market manipulation by the government: we need an explicit admission by the government to stay out of the market and tell people they are not entitled to their homes until they pay off their mortgage. Don’t hold your breath for that: with the government extending the bailout of Fannie and Freddie we should expect that the government will keep its grubby little hands in the mortgage market for a very long time.

Mayo Clinic to stop serving Medicare patients.

January 3, 2010 Leave a comment

This tidbit was mentioned months ago during the intense healthcare debate in the Washington Post, but it never got any scrutiny. The Mayo Clinic in my home state is going to reduce the number of Medicare patients that it will take because the reimbursement rates from the government are too low:

The Mayo Clinic, praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little.

More than 3,000 patients eligible for Medicare, the government’s largest health-insurance program, will be forced to pay cash if they want to continue seeing their doctors at a Mayo family clinic in Glendale, northwest of Phoenix, said Michael Yardley, a Mayo spokesman. The decision, which Yardley called a two-year pilot project, won’t affect other Mayo facilities in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota.

First of all, people being “forced” to pay cash for services is a good thing. The way the article uses the word to describe how patients must pay physicians is a suggestion that the authors believe that healthcare is a “right”. Of course, the logical question of this is how will this right be “enforced”? If clinics start drying up and physicians stop taking more government paying patients, how will people get this “right” to healthcare?

Secondly, one other thing that should be inferred from this article is the unrealistic assumption that the Congress will cut Medicare reimbursement rates. If Congress cuts Medicare reimbursement rates you will see more and more physicians declining to accept Medicare patients as they will not be able to afford to stay in operation. So Congress will not do what it says it will and the numbers that it has been presenting to the CBO to show that the healthcare bills will be “deficit neutral” has been flawed or downright deceitful. Can you imagine what would happen if a private business were to engage in such chicanery? Well, you don’t have to imagine: Enron went bankrupt and its executives ended up in jail. Of course, since government supporters see the push for universal healthcare as a benevolent goal, nary a peep arises at the blatant attempt to deceive the American people.

Finally, this article also features a little tidbit for so-called “intellectuals” to see the answer that is right in front of their faces:

Mayo’s Medicare losses in Arizona may be worse than typical for doctors across the U.S., Heim said. Physician costs vary depending on business expenses such as office rent and payroll. “It is very common that we hear that Medicare is below costs or barely covering costs,” Heim said.

Robert Berenson, a fellow at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center in Washington, D.C., said physicians’ claims of inadequate reimbursement are overstated. Rather, the program faces a lack of medical providers because not enough new doctors are becoming family doctors, internists and pediatricians who oversee patients’ primary care.

Umm, Mr. Berenson, perhaps the reason no one is becoming a family doctor, internist or pediatrician is because the cost of running an office for basic services is kinda expensive and the reimbursement rates from both Medicare AND private insurance are not commensurate to what it costs to actually run an office, even if private insurance reimburses at “50 to 100%” for any services the doctor provides (probably because private insurance only reimburses the Medicare rate plus an extra percentage above the Medicare rate as an incentive to the doctor. Not exactly a way to run a business, no?)?