Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thugocracy In Action

There is no free lunch. If you want increased services, then there are inevitably increased costs, with the only question being whether the costs are passed on to the recipient or absorbed by the provider. Thus, is there anyone who can possibly think that Obamacare, with its many new mandates, would not increase health insurance costs?

Some of the new mandates coming into force in the next month include:

Lifetime dollar caps on coverage are abolished, and plans must allow parents to keep their children on the policy up to age 26. Many plans will also have to guarantee coverage for children regardless of a medical condition, and provide preventive care with no cost-sharing for the patient.

And with it come the new costs:

Aetna Inc., some BlueCross BlueShield plans and other smaller carriers have asked for premium increases of between 1% and 9% to pay for extra benefits required under the law, according to filings with state regulators.” And The Wall Street Journal was not alone. The Los Angeles Times and Dallas Morning News also reported rate hikes in their states, some as high as 16%. And this comes on top of news that Obamacare is forcing health care companies to stop offering coverage for kids and forcing colleges to stop offering coverage for students.

All that is basic economics. But now that the bill is starting to come due, the Obama administration is engaging in a blatant and outrageous abuse of power to stifle the speech of any health insurers who would blame premium increases on the Obamacare mandates, threatening any who do it with, in essence, with the death of their business. This from the AP:

President Barack Obama's top health official on Thursday warned the insurance industry that the administration won't tolerate blaming premium hikes on the new health overhaul law.

"There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a letter to the insurance lobby.

"Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections," Sebelius said. She warned that bad actors may be excluded from new health insurance markets that will open in 2014 under the law. They'd lose out on a big pool of customers, as many as 30 million people nationwide.

These new health insurance markets will be the primary vehicle for the purchase of health insurance in our brave new Obamacare world. Thus, exclusion from the government market will be a death sentence for many insurance companies.

It is difficult to think of an act more violative of First Amendment rights in our nation's history. For Sebelius to condition access to the government market based on whether the insurer speaks negatively about Obamacare is something we would expect to see in a dictatorship. And indeed, as the WSJ opines:

Zero tolerance for expressing an opinion, or offering an explanation to policyholders? They're more subtle than this in Caracas.

And as Micheal Barone opines, this is more thuggery from the Obama administration:

"Congress shall make no law," reads the First Amendment, "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

Sebelius' approach is different: "zero tolerance" for dissent.

The threat to use government regulation to destroy or harm someone's business because they disagree with government officials is thuggery. Like the Obama administration's transfer of money from Chrysler bondholders to its political allies in the United Auto Workers, it is a form of gangster government.

"The rule of law, or the rule of men (women)?" economist Tyler Cowen asks on his marginalrevolution.com blog. As he notes, "Nowhere is it stated that these rate hikes are against the law (even if you think they should be), nor can this 'misinformation' be against the law."

This act of Sebelius is criminal. It is also an act that, were it perpetrated by a conservative, would be front page news for months. Yet from our MSM, only calm silence.

This also points to a larger issue involving Obamacare and, indeed, rule by 'progressives.' The Heritage Foundation sums up the larger issues at their blog, the Foundry:

Secretary Sebelius’ Hugo Chavezesque threats against the health insurance industry demonstrate why the fight to repeal Obamacare is also the fight for the soul of our country. Obamacare and the progressive movement represent a fundamental threat to our founding principles. For the left, “progress” means fundamentally transforming America through bureaucratic dictates that will engineer a “better” society by assuring equal outcomes. Through Obamacare, progressives would redistribute wealth through a distant, patronizing welfare state that regulates more and more of the economy, politics and society. The question Americans face is: Are we a country ruled by law or by bureaucrat?

If anything passed during the Obama years still stands after 2012, then the answer to that question is the latter, and our nation will continue its long, slow deterioration because of it.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Politicizing Science At U.C. Berkley

If this isn't politicized science, then I don't know what is. Dr. James Enstrom, a research scientist at U.C. Berkley, has been fired after serving over 36 years with the university. His sin - taking positions at odds with the latest act of economic suicide by the state of California, the proposed ban on trucks in the state that do not meet new, strict environmental standards. The new standards are based on decades old research and, in large part, on a study by a person who faked his academic credentials. The nominal reason given by U.C. Berkley for firing Dr. Enstrom is because his "research is not aligned with the academic mission of the Department." See if you can spot in the story where his research has gone awry.

This from Fox News:

. . . Enstrom says his studies show no causal link between diesel soot and death in California – findings that once again set him far apart from the pack and put him in direct conflict with the California Air Resources Board, which says its new standards on diesel emissions will save 9,400 lives between 2011 and 2025 and will reduce health care costs by as much as $68 billion in the state.

The expected benefits of the new standards have been used to justify their estimated $5.5 billion price tag, which opponents say will cripple the California trucking industry at a time when the state can least afford it. The new standards, the critics warn, also could set the stage for national regulations.

Enstrom questions the science behind the new emissions standards, and he has raised concerns about the two key reports on which they were based – exposing the author of one study as having faked his credentials and the panel that issued the other study as having violated its term limits.

He says his views are what have gotten him fired, raising serious concerns not only about the diesel regulations but about academic freedom and scientific research as a whole.

"It's quite unfortunate that it's come to this, considering I've been in this school 36 and three-quarter years," Enstrom said. "… but the reason I'm so passionate about this is because the careers of thousands of California businessmen are on the line."

Enstrom says he is committed to exposing flaws in the science and procedures by which the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed a series of regulations on diesel exhaust, the last phase of which will require trucks and buses that enter the state either to be retrofitted or replaced entirely to meet new emission standards.

"The Scientific Review Panel of Toxic Air Contaminates in 1998 declared diesel exhaust a toxic substance based on studying truckers and railroaders from back in the '50s, '60s and '70s, when emissions were much higher," Enstrom told FoxNews.com. "They never factored in, for example, that a very high percentage of truckers are also smokers when evaluating heath issues they may have had, yet they were using this research to declare that all diesel exhaust is a toxic substance." . . .

Enstrom also blew the whistle on a CARB staffer, Hien Tran, who authored a report that was central to the legislation – after faking his credentials.

"He said he had a Ph.D. from UC Davis. Turns out he had bought his Ph.D. online for $1,000," Enstrom said.

Tran was demoted, but his report was still used to "set the context for the health benefits of reducing diesel emissions" when the board voted on the trucking regulations, CARB spokesman Stanley Young told FoxNews.com.

What the board didn't take into consideration, Enstrom says, were the many studies, including his own, that contradict its conclusion that diesel soot has caused premature deaths in California.

So in February, he and other scientists presented the board with some of their findings, and in June he co-authored an op-ed for Forbes.com in which he voiced his concerns with the regulations.

Less than a month later he received a letter from UCLA saying his contract would not be renewed . . .

Next time you hear a greenie - or anyone on the left - complain about politicized science during the Bush years or in opposition to anything green, kick them. Kick them in the groin with extreme force. Then repeat as necessary until they have undergone an epiphany. Politicized science does not mean disagreeing with an outcome. It means attempting to silence opposing views.


Seeing The American Forest

He couldn't see the forest through all the trees.

- Anonymous

One of most famous and insightful early observers of the American experiment was not himself an American, but a French Norman aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville. As an outside observer, he was able to identify much that was different and unique about America that many Americans could not themselves see. Perhaps we are seeing another Tocqueville today in the person of Thomas Straubhaar, a professor of economics at the University of Hamburg. He sees the liberal economic policies of Obama as misguided and complains in an insightful essay in Der Spiegal that America is becoming "too European." This from Prof. Straubhaar:

There's no question about it: The 20th century was America's era. The United States rose rapidly from virtually nothing to become the most politically powerful and economically strongest country in the world. But the financial crisis and subsequent recession have now raised doubts about its future. Are we currently witnessing the beginning of the end of the American era?

A firm belief in the individual's ability, ideas, courage, will and a reliance on one's own resources brought the US to the top. The American dream promised everyone the chance of upward mobility -- literally from rags to riches, from minimum wage to millionaire. The individual's pursuit of happiness was seen as the crucial foundation for the well-being of society, rather than the benevolent state which cares for its subjects -- and certainly not the welfare state, which provides a social safety net for its citizens.

In the American system, every man was responsible for himself -- in good times and bad. No one could count on government assistance, not even the wannabe millionaire who did not make it and ended up homeless.

For many US citizens, the financial crisis has turned the American dream into a nightmare. . . .

Both the behavior of the American government and the Federal Reserve makes one thing clear: They do not see the solution to the US's economic woes in a return to traditional American virtues. Obama is not calling for the unleashing of market forces, as Ronald Reagan once did during an equally critical period in the early 1980s. On the contrary: Obama, driven by his own convictions and advised by economists who believe in government intervention, has taken a path that leads far away from those things that catapulted America to the top of the world in the past century.

The Obama administration's current policies rely on more government rather than personal responsibility and self-determination. They are administering to the patient more, not less, of exactly those things that led to the crisis.

The highest commandment of the American worldview was always to maximize individual freedoms and minimize government influence. It was an approach that was highly successful. According to that rule, self-directed action would remain the rule and government intervention the unpopular exception. But that is no longer the case.

This raises a crucial question: Is the US economy perhaps suffering less from an economic downturn and more from a serious structural problem? It seems plausible that the American economy has lost its belief in American principles. People no longer have confidence in the self-healing forces of the private sector, and the reliance on self-help and self-regulation to solve problems no longer exists.

The opposite strategy, one that seeks to treat the American patient with more government, is risky -- because it does not fit in with America's image of itself. . . .

But what is good for Europe and Germany does not automatically work for the US. The settlers of the New World rejected everything, which included throwing out anything with a semblance of state authority. They fled Europe to find freedom. The sole shared goal of the settlers was to obtain individual freedom and live independently, which included the freedom to say what they wanted, believe what they wanted and write what they wanted. The state was seen as a way to facilitate this goal. The state should not interfere in people's lives, aside from securing freedom, peace and security. Economic prosperity was seen as the responsibility of the individual.

If you take this belief away from Americans, you are destroying the binds which interlink America's heterogeneous society. Removing this belief could lead to conflicts between different sections of society, clashes which have long bubbled beneath the surface.

What could help would be a return to the American Way, the approach which made the US so historically powerful. The success of this model is illustrated by history. In 1820, twice as many people lived in the United Kingdom as the US, and its economic performance (measured by gross domestic product) was three times as strong and the average standard of living (measured by GDP per person) was a quarter higher. Today, there are about five times more people living in the US than the UK, America's economic performance is about seven times better than Britain's and the average American is about 50 percent better off than the average Briton.

What should be done? It would be more intelligent to repair the elevator which helped the US rise from the bottom of the heap to the top, instead of trying to transplant a European style of operating onto American soil. Either the US follows the American Way -- an approach characterized by a shared history, economic success and constant progress -- or the US will have to adjust itself to the "European" way, sparking economic and social tensions in the process.

If the US manages to revert to its former ways, there is potential for hope. If not, the American age will have really come to an end.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Extremists In Nevada?

The latest from Sharron Angle, highlighting Harry Reid's - and virtually the entire left wing MSM's - attempt to paint her as an extremist.

Given that Harry Reid and Crazy Nancy have overseen the most far reaching pull to the left in our nation's history, and all with predictably devastating consequences, I think America would be well served by a heavy dose of Angle's "extremism."