Thursday, December 24, 2009

Real Health Reform

Reason has a pretty good summary of what real market-based health reform would look like.

House & Senate Health Care Bill Details

The AP did a fair job of summarizing the Senate and House health care bills.

The Senate Democratic bill (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act):

WHO'S COVERED: About 94 percent of legal residents under age 65—compared with 83 percent now. Government subsidies to help buy coverage start in 2014. Of the remaining 24 million people under age 65 left uninsured, about one-third would be illegal immigrants.

COST: Coverage provisions cost $871 billion over 10 years.

HOW IT'S PAID FOR: Fees on insurance companies, drugmakers, medical device manufacturers. Medicare payroll tax increased to 2.35 percent on income over $200,000 a year for individuals, $250,000 for couples. A 10 percent sales tax on tanning salons, to be paid by the person soaking up the rays. Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Forty percent excise tax on insurance companies, keyed to premiums paid on health care plans costing more than $8,500 annually for individuals and $23,000 for families. Fees for employers whose workers receive government subsidies to help them pay premiums. Fines on people who fail to purchase coverage.

REQUIREMENTS FOR INDIVIDUALS: Almost everyone must get coverage through an employer, on their own or through a government plan. Exemptions for economic hardship. Those who are obligated to buy coverage and refuse to do so would pay a fine starting at $95 in 2014 and rising to $750.

REQUIREMENTS FOR EMPLOYERS: Not required to offer coverage, but companies with more than 50 employees would pay a fee of $750 per employee if the government ends up subsidizing employees' coverage.

SUBSIDIES: Tax credits for individuals and families likely making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which computes to $88,200 for a family of four. Tax credits for small employers.

BENEFITS PACKAGE: All plans sold to individuals and small businesses would have to cover basic benefits. The government would set four levels of coverage. The least generous would pay an estimated 60 percent of health care costs per year; the most generous would cover an estimated 90 percent.

INSURANCE INDUSTRY RESTRICTIONS: Starting in 2014: no denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions. No higher premiums allowed for pre-existing conditions or gender. Limits on higher premiums based on age and family size. Starting upon enactment of legislation: children up to age 26 can stay on parents insurance; no lifetime limits on coverage.

GOVERNMENT-RUN PLAN: In place of a government-run insurance option, the estimated 26 million Americans purchasing coverage through new insurance exchanges would have the option of signing up for national plans overseen by the same office that manages health coverage for federal employees and members of Congress. Those plans would be privately owned, but one of them would have to be operated on a nonprofit basis, as many Blue Cross Blue Shield plans are now.

HOW YOU CHOOSE YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE: Self-employed people, uninsured individuals and small businesses could pick a plan offered through new state-based purchasing pools. Would generally encourage employees to keep work-provided coverage.

DRUGS: Grants 12 years of market protection to high-tech drugs used to combat cancer, Parkinson's and other deadly diseases. Drug companies contribute $80 billion over 10 years with the majority of the money used to limit the prescription coverage gap in Medicare.

CHANGES TO MEDICAID: Income eligibility levels likely to be standardized to 133 percent of poverty—$29,327 a year for a family of four—for parents, children and pregnant women. Federal government would pick up the full cost of the expansion during the first three years. States could negotiate with insurers to arrange coverage for people with incomes slightly higher than the cutoff for Medicaid.

LONG-TERM CARE: New voluntary long-term care insurance program would provide a basic benefit designed to help seniors and disabled people avoid going into nursing homes.

ANTITRUST: Maintains the health insurance industry's decades-old antitrust exemption.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS: Would be barred from receiving government subsidies or using their own money to buy coverage offered by private companies in the exchanges.

ABORTION: The bill tries to maintain a strict separation between taxpayer funds and private premiums that would pay for abortion coverage. No health plan would be required to offer coverage for the procedure. In plans that do cover abortion, beneficiaries would have to pay for it separately, and those funds would have to be kept in a separate account from taxpayer money. Moreover, individual states would be able to prohibit abortion coverage in plans offered through the exchange, after passing specific legislation to that effect. Exceptions would be made for cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.


The House bill (Affordable Health Care for America Act):

WHO'S COVERED: About 96 percent of legal residents under age 65—compared with 83 percent now. Government subsidies to help buy coverage start in 2013. About one-third of the remaining 18 million people under age 65 left uninsured would be illegal immigrants.

COST: The Congressional Budget Office says the bill's cost of expanding insurance coverage over 10 years is $1.055 trillion. The net cost is $894 billion, factoring in penalties on individuals and employers who don't comply with new requirements. That's under President Barack Obama's $900 billion goal. However, those figures leave out a variety of new costs in the bill, including increased prescription drug coverage for seniors under Medicare, so the measure may be around $1.2 trillion.

HOW IT'S PAID FOR: $460 billion over the next decade from new income taxes on single people making more than $500,000 a year and couples making more than $1 million. The original House bill taxed individuals making $280,000 a year and couples making more than $350,000, but the threshold was increased in response to lawmakers' concerns that the taxes would hit too many people and small businesses.

There are also more than $400 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid; a new $20 billion fee on medical device makers; $13 billion from limiting contributions to flexible spending accounts; sizable penalties paid by individuals and employers who don't obtain coverage; and a mix of other corporate taxes and fees.

REQUIREMENTS FOR INDIVIDUALS: Individuals must have insurance, enforced through a tax penalty of 2.5 percent of income. People can apply for hardship waivers if coverage is unaffordable.

REQUIREMENTS FOR EMPLOYERS: Employers must provide insurance to their employees or pay a penalty of 8 percent of payroll. Companies with payrolls under $500,000 annually are exempt—a change from the original $250,000 level to accommodate concerns of moderate Democrats—and the penalty is phased in for companies with payrolls between $500,000 and $750,000.

Small businesses—those with 10 or fewer workers—get tax credits to help them provide coverage.

SUBSIDIES: Individuals and families with annual income up to 400 percent of poverty level, or $88,000 for a family of four, would get sliding-scale subsidies to help them buy coverage. The subsidies would begin in 2013.

HOW YOU CHOOSE YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE: Beginning in 2013, through a new Health Insurance Exchange open to individuals and, initially, small employers. It could be expanded to large employers over time. States could opt to operate their own exchanges in place of the national exchange if they follow federal rules.

BENEFITS PACKAGE: A committee would recommend a so-called essential benefits package including preventive services. Out-of-pocket costs would be capped. The new benefit package would be the basic benefit package offered in the exchange.

INSURANCE INDUSTRY RESTRICTIONS: Starting in 2013, no denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions. No higher premiums allowed for pre-existing conditions or gender. Limits on higher premiums based on age.

GOVERNMENT-RUN PLAN: A new public plan available through the insurance exchanges would be set up and run by the health and human services secretary. Democrats originally designed the plan to pay Medicare rates plus 5 percent to doctors. But the final version—preferred by moderate lawmakers—would let the HHS secretary negotiate rates with providers.

CHANGES TO MEDICAID: The federal-state insurance program for the poor would be expanded to cover all individuals under age 65 with incomes up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $33,075 per year for a family of four. The federal government would pick up the full cost of the expansion in 2013 and 2014; thereafter the federal government would pay 91 percent and states would pay 9 percent.

DRUGS: Grants 12 years of market protection to high-tech drugs used to combat cancer, Parkinson's and other deadly diseases. Phases out the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage by 2019. Requires the HHS secretary to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries.

LONG-TERM CARE: New voluntary long-term care insurance program would provide a basic benefit designed to help seniors and disabled people avoid going into nursing homes.

ANTITRUST: Would strip the health insurance industry of a long-standing exemption from antitrust laws covering market allocation, price-fixing and bid rigging. The bill also would give the Federal Trade Commission authority to look into the health insurance industry at its own initiative.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS: Would be barred from receiving government subsidies but permitted to use their own money to buy coverage offered by private companies in the exchange.

ABORTION: Private companies in the exchange could not offer plans covering abortion if those plans received federal subsidy money. Most plans in the exchange would be affected, because most consumers in the exchange would be using federal subsidy money to buy coverage. The new government plan could not offer abortion coverage. Insurance companies would be permitted to offer supplemental abortion coverage in separate plans that people could buy with their own money. Use of federal money for abortion coverage would be limited to cases of rape, incest or danger to the woman's life.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Stossel Quoting Milton Friedman

“Two simple observations are key to explaining both the high level of spending on medical care and the dissatisfaction with that spending. The first is that most payments to physicians or hospitals or other caregivers for medical care are made not by the patient but by a third party—an insurance company or employer or governmental body. The second is that nobody spends somebody else’s money as wisely or as frugally as he spends his own.”

* Stossel's blog post
* Friedman's 2001 Article on the Cure for Health Care

Sunday, August 9, 2009

VIDEO: C-SPAN Caller Explains Townhall Protests

This caller is right on the money, describing perfectly the problem with the way the Democrats are trying to push through these massive bills while limiting debate and condescendingly telling us what is in the bill and why we should support it instead of fielding a fruitful conversation about the bill, and hearing constituents concerns. Some townhall protesters are overly combative, but many are just frustrated when they take the extra effort to find out where a townhall is, get there early, have trouble getting in, want to make their voices heard, but then instead get DNC talking points from their representative instead of a constructive give and take.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

VIDEO: Peter Schiff on MSNBC

Peter Schiff is right on the money in this interview, when he is allowed to speak. He is saying everything I've been screaming (figuratively) for the last few years.

Schiff is running for Senate against Chris Dodd in Connecticut in 2010. I so hope he can win. We need an eloquent spokesman for free markets in the federal government somewhere.

Health Care Letter to My Congressmen

Thank you for hearing me out on a issue that I am very passionate about. I have not been able to find any townhalls that you will be at, so I am writing this letter.

The primary problem with our current health care system is cost increase. The other major issue, insurance coverage, is in large part a result of the high cost as well. We need to attack high cost first.

Unfortunately, all of the Democrats' plans that I have seen would exacerbate the problem instead of fix it!

The high costs are a direct result of a mostly 3rd party payer system. The more government has gotten involved with Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, coverage mandates, and allowing frivolous lawsuits, the higher costs have gone.

This is what happens whenever government subsidizes something or mandates loans or coverage. It always artificially increases demand and thus costs.

We've seen it happen in higher education. Government increasingly subsidizes tuition and provides subsidized or low cost loans which increases higher education demand, and the prices (including tuition) have skyrocketed.

We've seen it happen in the housing market, where an asset bubble was pushed up by government strongly encouraging and even arm-twisting banks into offering subprime, interest only, and low/no down-payment loans in the name of "affordable housing". It resulted in the housing crash which, combined with opaque use of derivatives and severe misjudging of risk on Wall Street, has directly led to our current economic recession.

One can argue whether the benefits obtained by the government-caused higher costs are worth it, but it is indisputable that the government is fueling a good portion of the higher costs. If cost is the big issue and we want to bring down the costs while improving efficiency and leaving the utmost freedom of consumer choice, then we need to take steps to stop government from distorting the markets and allow a free health care market to work.

Imagine for a moment if we had grocery insurance. Food is just as important as health care, right? What if your employer took some of what he could have paid you in wages and, just like health insurance, bought you grocery insurance. Everyone has the right to eat! Universal grocery insurance is a human right! You could use your insurance to go to the store and pick up whatever food you needed or wanted. No prices were posted in the store, and clerks would look at you like something was wrong with you if you asked how much something cost. You just payed a fixed copay per grocery store visit (or no copay at all!). What do you think would happen to cost?

Grocery shoppers would pay no attention to prices and would pick up far more than they needed. The increased demand, and the increased demand for more expensive items, would make total food costs EXPLODE! Pretty soon, the big bad grocery insurers would have to start limiting what food items they would cover, and denying coverage to the heaviest eaters. And Congressmen like yourself would be oblivious to how you caused the problem and would throw a fit about the evil insurance companies.

That is where we are in the health insurance system right now. Remember that the big issue is high costs, and the Democrats' non-solutions are to mandate that insurance companies cover everyone, mandate that they cover more procedures, mandate that small businesses pay more into the system (which will lower wages or hours or cost jobs), and set up a subsidized public plan that will drive private insurers out of the market and into government-controlled insurance.

And for those who say some compromise like goverment-sponsored co-ops could compete on a level playing field with private insurers, I would point them back to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Those GSE's sure turned out well. Would the co-ops really get no unfair help from the government at taxpayer expense? Would they be considered "too important to fail"?

Democratic proposals would INCREASE costs, not help bring them down!

Democrats are veering us down a dangerous road where the government, instead of the market, will be responsible for holding costs down. Government cost controls are ineffienct and totally inconsistent with freedom. Do we really want to head down a road where a panel of government bureaucrats will end up deciding what procedures are covered. Governement rationing in order to keep costs down is inevitable if we go the Democrats route. They may not be proposing a NICE board like they have in the UK right now, but once costs keep going up, they will be forced to propose it then. It is a slippery slope.

The market efficiently rations care based on the price system. As with programs like food stamps, the poor could receive health care stamps (perhaps deposited into their own HSA?) to purchase health care.

Remember, the problem is costs. The solution to bringing down costs is to shift more of the cost visibility and responsibility to consumers. We could pay less in insurance rates if we bore a higher percentage of the cost for each procedure, just like in my grocery insurance example. Catastrophic health insurance would of course need to cover a high percentage of costs, but if there were better price visibility and consumers paid 30-50% of the non-catastropic costs at time of service, they would have a much stronger incentive to limit unnecessary or borderline necessary care, and to search out the most cost effective care.

And of course, no plan to reduce cost should exclude health care litigation reform.

Please consider pushing for health care reform in a much more market-centered approach.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

CBO: ObamaCare Bends Cost Curve $820B - In Wrong Direction

HotAir has the details here.

For more background, see previous HotAir post here.

Basically, if you look at this chart of the CBO's numbers and add up all the additional federal health spending for the next 10 years, it adds up to $820 Billion (after subtracting $219 Billion in Medicare cuts). Unrelated tax increases of $581 Billion during those 10 years may mean the federal deficit will only go up by $239 Billion, but it doesn't mean that doesn't mean that ObamaCare is almost deficit neutral. It means that he is going to jack up taxes on "the rich" in order to pay for a massively expensive expansion of federal health care spending. Instead of bending the cost curve down, Obama is bending it up. The CBO numbers clearly show that federal health spending will accelerate over time. And that is assuming the CBO is right, and not undershooting the eventual costs by a factor of 7 like happened with Medicare.

The chart is originally from Keith Hennessey.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stossel: Insurance Hides Costs

Here's a good column from John Stossel from a couple weeks ago.

It really zeros in on the point I've repeatedly made that the cost problem with health care is the lack of a normal market, where consumers make hardly any choices at all based on cost. Most cost decisions are made inefficiently through third-parties, mainly health provider administrators, health insurance companies, and employers. The patient and doctor much of the time have no idea what anything truly costs.

It is very difficult to have a cost-efficient system when users of the system, the consumers and providers (patients and doctors) are completely oblivious to price.

See my grocery insurance analogy in the middle of this previous post.

Also see this American Spectator article on health care myths.
(hat tip Hotair)

Bernanke's Exit Strategy

I have noted before that while I supported the Fed increasing the monetary supply during the financial crisis last fall, I am greatly concerned about where all that money is going to go once the economy starts to recover and hundreds of billions of dollars that are sitting on the sidelines right now in bank reserves start getting lent again. It could be a recipe for huge inflation.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has an encouraging column in the Wall Street Journal today on how they plan to avoid hyper inflation.

The question rumbling around in my head now is what side effects the inflation fighting policies will have. I will have to study it more.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sotomayor's Big Fib

Powerline has the exact quotes from Sotomayor's 7/14 testimony and the original quote, with context, of (one of) the "wise Latina" speeches.

The point is that Sonia Sotomayor, in her previous speeches, quotes Sandra Day O'Connor and then explicitly disagrees with her (O'Connor says a wise man and a wise woman would come to the same judicial conclusion on a case, while Sotomayor said she disagrees and that she would hope that a wise Latina woman would more often than not come to a better conclusion than a white male). Today, she acts like she was agreeing with O'Connor. It is a flat out lie, and I'm suprised some of the GOP Senators did not call her out more forcefully on it.

Nearly All UO Professors are Democrats

Here's an interesting article by a University of Oregon journalism student, who was attacked for noting in the student newspaper that only 2 of 111 professors in the departments of journalism, law, political science, economics, and sociology were registered Republicans.

If you haven't attended a public university lately, I can vouch that what Dan Lawton describes at the UofO is very similar to what I found at Oregon State University where I attended until 2003, though as a Computer Science major almost all of my computer classes were non-political.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Government Borrowing Drains Business Investment

This article at RealClearMarkets by Louis Woodhill of The Club for Growth does a pretty good job explaining why government spending never does much to stimulate the economy, and in fact (if you accept that the government is less efficient at creating jobs than the private sector given the same amount of dollars invested) destroys more jobs than it creates.

The money government spends does not grow on trees or fall like manna from heaven. It does not appear out of nowhere. Sure, it can be printed, but you can only do so much printing of money before you start devaluing your currency and investors worldwide start pulling their money out of the dollar, at which point the dollar collapses and drags the economy down with it. Bernanke's Federal Reserve has printed about $1 trillion since last fall, but the banks in trying to right themselves have in total increased their capital reserves by about $800 billion, so they have mostly offset each other. Look for inflation to ramp up once the banks start lending more again, later this year or sometime next year. Watch closely to see how well Bernanke can head off inflation at that point.

The second way government can obtain money to spend is via taxes, but Obama was so adamant about only raising taxes on those making over $250,000 that he cannot politically get away with raising taxes on incomes below that level. And even if he taxed those making over $250,000 at 100%, he could not generated nearly enough money to pay for all his spending. In any case, he hasn't raised any taxes yet, but between the energy cap-and-tax that might pass Congress soon and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts looming in the next couple of years, the expectation of higher taxes is already changing economic behavior with those most likely to have their taxes raised starting to spend less, which doesn't help consumer spending, which is what keeps businesses in business employee people.

(calculate your potential new tax burden at if cap-and-trade passes -- mine will be a little over $1000 per year)

But the third and primary way government is getting the money to spend right now is by borrowing. As Woodhill points out in the article I linked to above, government borrowing means investors buying government bonds instead of using that money for private investment. The more the government borrows, the less private business investment (PBI) there is. The less PBI there is, the less jobs are created. This is exactly why the number of public sector jobs is growing while the number of private sector jobs is shrinking. IT IS BECAUSE OF ALL THIS BORROWING AND SPENDING!

Think about it, Obama. You suck all the private investment out of the economy, and then you scratch your head wondering why the economy is shedding jobs as a whole even as your stimulus dollars are directly creating some jobs. It's because you are preventing more jobs from being created through reducing PBI than you are creating/saving through increased government spending. In the meantime, you consolidate more power in Washington along with all the corruption, fraud, waste, red tape, and loss of freedom that goes along with it.

What we should be doing is encouraging PBI, by steps such as:
  • Reducing the Capital Gains Tax Rate (to encourage investment)
  • Reducing the Corporate Tax Rate (highest in the world)
  • Minimizing government borrowing as much as possible
  • Making the Bush tax cuts permanent (so "the rich" will be more likely to invest money instead of keeping it in short term savings to prepare to pay higher taxes)
  • Stop preventing higher domestic energy production

  • Instead Obama is doing exactly the opposite, out of "fairness" no doubt. He is:
  • Proposing to let the 2003 Capital Gains Tax Rate Cut lapse
  • Proposing to leave the Corporate Tax Rate at 35% and tighten the screws down even HARDER on companies who make profits overseas, which will drive more jobs out of America (already there was a story yesterday of a Canadian company that was incorporated in Deleware but is changing status so its headquarters are now in Canada which has a corporate tax rate in the low 20's)
  • Spending like there is no tomorrow, and he will have to borrow more and more as the Porkulus spending ramps up even more later this year and into the next, not to mention other spending like a $600 billion "down payment" on health care deform
  • Proposing to let the Bush tax cuts expire for those in the top income brackets
  • Taking no action to allow any energy production other than uneconomical "green energy" to expand, while at the same time raising energy costs through cap-and-tax which will raise costs for almost all businesses and decrease their ability to keep/hire employees

  • Obama and the Democrats are busy enacting exactly the wrong policies. If Woodhill is right, unemployment is headed for 14% by next year.

    Monday, July 6, 2009

    O'Grady: A Little History Lesson on Appeasement

    Mary Anastasia O'Grady has another great article in the Wall Street Journal today about Honduras and how we let Chavez bully his way to dominance in the region by appeasing him.

    Hat tip to Fausta

    Saturday, July 4, 2009

    Job Losses for All Post WWII Recessions

    Via Calculated Risk

    VIDEO: Reason TV on a New New Deal

    Think about it. There were lots of sharp recessions both before and after the Great Depression. Why is it that the one that FDR tried "bold persistent experimentation" during was the one that morphed from a sharp recession into the Great Despression? Why would we ever want to copy what FDR did while he presided for his entire 12 years over a dismal economy? If 12 years wasn't enough to turn it around... maybe you should try something different. Stop the bold governmental experimentation and let market forces steer the recovery and you would be back on your feet in 2-3 years max. Here's Reason TV's video on the subject:

    For a refresher course on Keynesian economics, also watch this video from CATO's Daniel Mitchell.

    Friday, July 3, 2009

    Obama to Block G8 Sactions on Iran?!

    Haaretz reports that while there is significant momentum for the G8 to impose new sanctions on Iran, the U.S. is "working behind the scenes to prevent new sanctions from being imposed against Iran."

    (Hat tip to HotAir)

    Apparently, Obama is still stuck on the crazy notion that he can talk the Supreme Leader of Iran to give up nukes, and doesn't want to antagonize Iran.

    Idiot! Khamenei and Ahmadinejad will never give up the nukes. Negotiations with them are worthless. Regime change is the only chance to stop them short of military action. Mousavi is still hanging on, and Khatami just spoke out against the regime. Rafsanjani is almost certainly opposed but must not have enough support in the Assembly of Experts to oust Khamenei. Right now is exactly the right time to put MORE pressure on the regime and bolster the opposition in any way possible.

    Instead Obama is putting blind faith in his ability to negotiate with the current regime when it doesn't have a chance of success. In the meantime, he won't even allow sanctions to go forward to put more pressure on the regime. Dimplomacy is only successful when it is backed up by credible threat of military or economic force.

    And if I am right so far, then all of the election protestors are about to become martyrs with no help at all from the U.S.

    Now I know what living during Carter's presidency must have been like.

    For those that need a primer on Iran's Government, first this Wikipedia graphic:

    Note that the Supreme Leader has control of the military and the judiciary, and also has almost complete control over the 12 member Guardian Council. He appoints 6 members directly and appoints the Head of the Judiciary who nominates the other 6 members of the Guardian Council, subject to Parliament's approval. The Guardian Council, in turn, controls the elections. All candidates for Parliament, President, or the Assembly of Experts must first be approved by the Guardian Council.

    The Assembly of Experts is a 86 member body that meets twice a year whose sole purpose is to appoint and monitor the Supreme Leader. They apparently have the power to remove the Supreme Leader if "the Leader becomes incapable of fulfilling his constitutional duties, or loses one of the qualifications mentioned in the Constitution, or it becomes known that he did not possess some of the qualifications initially..." I assume this could be done on a majority vote. Reform-minded Rafsanjani is currently head of the Assembly of Experts, and appears to have a majority of the members on his side. However, it is unclear if that means enough support that they could ever oust the Supreme Leader. Rafsanjani recently called an emergency meeting of the Assembly of Experts. However, all notes are classified and only viewable by the Assembly Members and the Supreme Leader, so its hard to say what they discussed. The Assembly of Experts has never publicly opposed a Supreme Leader on any matter.

    Obama's EPA Puts Politics Ahead Of Science

    Kimberly Strassel has a must read column at the WSJ on a man named Alan Carlin who works at the EPA and was silenced when trying to put out a report that recommended the science behind man-made global warming be revisited (given new peer-reviewed research that has cast doubt on the theory and the fact that temperature have been going down for 10 years which was not predicted by the computer climate models that most climate scientists were relying on).

    One of the Democrats' favorite lines about the Bush EPA was that they were putting politics ahead of science. Well, emails have been uncovered from Carlin's superior telling him to drop it because, "The administrator and the administration have decided to move forward on [classifying carbon as an] endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision. . . . I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office."

    In other words, the EPA has already decided to move forward on this, so do not bring up any science that will conflict with their already-made decision. The EPA administrator could be really unhappy with us about that.


    Thursday, July 2, 2009

    VIDEOS: Obama is a Big Fat Liar

    Guy Benson from NRO has Obama ads from last year's presidential campaign posted that illustrate that yet another one of Barack Obama's promises comes with an expiration date.

    Obama constantly ripped McCain for proposing to tax employer-provided health insurance. Of course what McCain was proposing was leveling the playing field where instead of only giving a tax DEDUCTION to those who get their health insurance through their employer, EVERYONE would get a $5,000 tax CREDIT. As I've noted before, I think over 95% of people would get a better tax scenario under McCain's plan. And it would be exactly the right step to move toward a much better functioning health insurance market.

    What Obama is now refusing to take off the table is just a plain old tax increase on employer provided benefits in order to fund his health care reforms. He's not simply restructuring the tax treatment to level the playing field as McCain proposed.

    Oregon Bans Field Burning

    Field burning is already one of the most heavily regulated activities imaginable. Farmers must pay $10/acre, not burn within buffer zones along major highways, standby ready for countless hours in hopes that they will get the call that they can burn a field, and post flaggers at both ends of any adjacent roads that will be impacted by smoke. The Oregon Dept. of Agriculture (ODA) monitors weather conditions and only allows burning on about 10 days each summer during the best wind conditions possible to achieve good lift and transport of the smoke out of the area.

    Over 500,000 acres used to be burned annually, but since legislation in 1991 phased that down, a maximum of 65,000 acres can now (before the just passed ban) be burned. The total acres burned for most of this decade averaged around 50,000 acres, dropping to 32,000 in 2007 and 38,000 in 2008.

    The Oregon Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Division's Smoke Management Program publishes an annual summary report on field burning. The ODA has Nephelometers, to measure smoke impact, located in Portland, Salem, Corvallis, Carus, Lyons, Sweet Home, Eugene, and Springfield. Going back to 2002, with only the exceptions of 2 hours in Corvallis (2006), 2 hours in Eugene (2005), 4 hours (2005) and 1 hour (2002) in Springfield, and 1 hour in Carus (2004), the only nephelometers to record any smoke at all were in Sweet Home and Lyons. The smoke impact is reported as light (no impact to visibility), moderate (12 miles visibility), or heavy (5 miles visibility). Since 2002, about 2/3 of the measured smoke impact is light and 1/3 is moderate. Obviously, there are other areas that would have been affected by smoke and not measured, but there is no way that field burning smoke, measured at about 2% of air pollution each summer, is today a major problem.

    The annual summary reports also list the number of complaints broken down by city. Unfortunately, they are not broken down by day so that they can be cross-referenced to see if there was even any open field burning on that day. Eugene, who remember has only had 2 hours of measurable smoke since 2002 and none in the last 2 years, is consistently a top complainer, registering 134 of 463 total complaints in 2008 and 368 of 776 in 2007. Sweet Home and Lyons, in comparison, have relatively few complaints.

    The field burning ban will force farmers to use more pesticides and increase ground tillage, expanding even more the summer haze of dust that now comprises 80% of summer air pollution. Even with these more expensive measures, crops will not grow as cleanly and some farmers will be driven out of business.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Heritage: Medicare has HIGHER Admin Costs

    Over the past couple weeks of the health care debate, I have continually heard the claim that a public option could lower health care costs by reducing administrative costs, and the evidence for this is supposedly that Medicare has much lower administrative costs than private insurance.

    However, the fact is that Medicare's administrative costs on a PER PERSON BASIS are actually HIGHER than those of private insurance. All the rhetoric lately of Medicare having lower admin costs is because they are taking the admin costs as a percentage of the total dollar amount spent for admin plus paying claims. Because Medicare pays more in claims per beneficiary, the admin costs are divided into a much larger denominator than private insurance's. In fact, the more fraud, waste, and abuse there is in Medicare, the lower their admin costs are as a percentage!

    Read the entire Heritage memo here:
    June 25, 2009
    Medicare Administrative Costs Are Higher, Not Lower, Than for Private Insurance

    Money quote is:

    The fact is that, in recent years, Medicare administrative costs per beneficiary have substantially exceeded those costs for the private sector, this despite the fact that, as critics note, private insurance is subject to many expenses not incurred by Medicare. Contrary to the claims of public plan advocates, moving millions of Americans from private insurance to a Medicare-like program will result in program administrative costs that are higher per person and higher, not lower, for the nation as a whole.

    And here's the Heritage graphics:

    Hat tip to Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics where I spotted this first.

    Saturday, June 27, 2009

    Deficit Spending & Shedding Jobs

    Two graphs I've got to catalog on my blog before I forget where I found them.

    First is a graph of the Bush era deficits compared against the CBO and White House estimates under Obama, courtesy of Heritage and the Washington Post.

    The second graph is the most recently updated unemployment figures from Innocent Bystanders

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    VIDEO: Democrats Hypocrisy on Medicare Cuts

    Democrats screeched for years while Bush tried to make modest reforms (tens of Billions of dollars) to limit the explosive cost growth of Medicare. Now the Democrats are proposing $622 Billion in cuts!

    Check out this montage on YouTube.

    Amazing. This is almost as bad as the Democrats hypocrisy on the Iraq War.

    IBD: Breakdown of the Health Uninsured

    Make sure to read this IBD editorial.

    This is in line with analysis I have seen before, that if you take out illegal aliens, those who can afford health insurance but decide not to purchase it, and those who are only temporarily without insurance while between jobs, the number of uninsured drops from 47 million to somewhere in the 10-20 million range, depending on the estimate. You can cut the number down even further if you exclude the people who are eligible for government programs but have not taken advantage of them. After all of this, you end up with 2-5% of the population that is uninsurable or falls into a gap where government assistance still does not help enough to afford insurance in states with expensive health insurance.

    If you wanted to attack these reasons for uninsurance, you would:
  • Enforce immigration laws.
  • Enact some form of an individual mandate to purchase at least basic catastrophic health insurance (with similar justifiction to mandating all drivers maintain car insurance, although I would be really nervous that this mandate would not be structured right). Withhold employee's portion toward paying for this from paycheck similar to FICA witholdings.
  • Increase health insurance portability, mainly by breaking the link between jobs and health insurance. The best step to take to achive this is to level the playing field by extending a tax deduction or credit for health insurance to everyone, not only those who receive insurance through their employer (this is what McCain proposed during the 08 presidential campaign). Employers could still provide benefits that helped pay for your insurance, but instead of being stuck with the employer group one-size-fits-all plan, you would have much a better choice to pick the best plan for you from your employer or the private market.
  • Do a better job educating those eligible for public assistance.
  • Enact free market reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance. Expand HSA's, encourage insurance companies to increase copays and make them percentage based (so consumers have incentives to shop around for best value) in exchange for lower insurance premiums, and encourage health providers -- and other private groups -- to increase price and quality transparency so that consumers can truly choose the best value for them. Reduce the number of mandates. Allow individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines. Enact tort-reform to cap the amount of non-economic awards in frivolous lawsuits -- every dollar that doctors have to pay in liability lawsuit awards or for liability insurance is a dollar that is passed along to consumers in the form of higher health insurance premiums. Stop cost-shifting the failing Medicare program's costs to the private insurers by underpaying doctors for care provided to Medicare patients -- this forces providers to raise prices for everyone else to stay afloat, inflating health insurance premiums in the private individual and group markets. Allow nurses and physician assistants to provide more care that they are capable of providing instead of mandating that only a more expensive doctor can provide it.
  • Sunday, June 14, 2009

    Netanyahu's Vision for Middle East Peace

    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech on his vision for peace with the Palestinians. For anyone not familiar, he gives a good overview of the history of the conflict and all the major issues.

    For Netanyahu's reputation as a "hardliner", I have trouble finding fault with ANY of his requirements for peace. Given the Arabs' desire to eliminate the state of Israel, it is understandable that he asks for a disarmed & peaceful Palestinian state.

    Saturday, June 6, 2009

    Bush's 2004 D-Day Speech

    I ran across this interesting article describing George W. Bush's 2004 D-Day speech, which was barely covered because Ronald Reagan had passed away that very morning. Make sure to read all the way to the end.

    "Our boys had carried in their pockets the book that brought into the world this message: Greater love has no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends. America honors all the liberators who fought here in the noblest of causes."

    Turning then toward Chirac, Bush delivered the speech's kicker. "And America would do it again, for our friends."

    The field of green was silent for a moment before the aging audience broke into heartfelt applause. Chirac, clearly moved by Bush's words, approached the American president, grasped both his hands, and for a poignant moment, did not let go.

    Dude, Where's My Stimulus?

    I know, I know. Unemployment is a lagging indicator, and not the best measure of whether recent stimulus has kicked in. Nevertheless, it is insightful to compare the current numbers against what was promised by Obama and his economic team while pushing the $787 billion Porkulus bill back in January & February. It is becoming much harder for Obama to claim his government spending is doing much good, and all the negative consequences of out of control (and inherently inefficient) government spending -- massive borrowing (higher interest rates) and printing of money (inflation) and raising taxes (obvious negative impact to those who are taxed more) -- will start to be felt more and more all the time.

    Hat tips: Innocent Bystanders & HotAir

    Also, see my previous post on the Obama administration's claims

    Monday, June 1, 2009

    Ted Kennedy's Health Care

    Here's my comments at the HotAir Green Room post by Karl.

    Sunday, May 24, 2009

    Saturday, May 23, 2009

    VIDEO: California's Path to Economic Ruin

    From Reason TV this time, another must watch video detailing the problems of out-of-control spending in California under the Governator. It includes several clips of Tom McClintock who was the 3rd candidate in the 2003 recall election in California, with 13% of the vote. I remember at the time that I had really wished McClintock could have won, but that Arnold was probably the best you could expect out of California.

    What is so disappointing about Schwarzenegger is that I thought he would be so much better on economic issues. In 2003, I had recently watched the entire Free To Choose series by Milton Friedman from 1980, which had recently been made available online. When Friedman did an updated series in 1990, Arnold Schwarzenegger actually INTRODUCED THE SERIES.

    The idea that such a huge fan of Milton Friedman would now be leading California as governor toward economic peril through uncontrolled increases in government spending must have Friedman churning in his grave (Friedman passed away a couple years ago, may he RIP).

    Schwarzenegger followed this up with pretty solid rhetoric during the 2003 recall campaign, and seemed to be true to his word initially. But after he got his hat handed to him by the unions because they spent HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dollars to defeat his 2005 series of ballot initiatives (a level a spending the unions ironically could not have done had Proposition 75 passed, requiring union employees to opt-in in order for their union dues to be used for political purposes), he seemed to do a complete 180 and focus only on getting elected again in 2006.

    He seems to have taken the approach that the people of California had spoke in 2005, and so he was going to give them what they wanted. I'm not sure if he just wanted to be popular, or look out for his political career, or if he truly believed all his talk about "the people" in the 2003 recall race, but since that defeat in 2005, he has lost all conservative tendencies whatsoever and is now worse for the Republicans than ever because he will get Republicans tagged with the blame as California suffers. Much better to have stood strong on conservative principles even if it would have led to an election defeat in 2006 (which I don't think it would have -- the 2005 propositions may have been defeated, but he was still popular enough). Instead, he is helping tear apart the Republican party from within.

    It's a sad thing to watch. Sure, governing is tough, and it requires tough decisions, especially when they are the right but not popular decisions.

    Why, Arnold, are you acting like such a political girlie man?

    Friday, May 22, 2009

    VIDEO: Cheney at AEI on National Security

    This is a must watch speech. Former VP Dick Cheney gives an excellent speech reminding us all why we have avoided another attack on the homeland since 9/11.

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Obama Spends His Own Money Like Crazy Too

    You've got to take a look at this. It looks like Obama has spent well beyond his means until he struck gold with book royalties in 2005. The article points out that Obama has never had to face the consequences of reckless spending in his personal finances. The problem is that there is no similar path out of debt for the U.S. as a whole. It's a scary thought.

    Thursday, May 7, 2009

    "Do you believe in evolution?"

    Here is my comment at HotAir on the post where Chris Matthews asks Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) if he believes in evolution (trying to use that somehow to discredit Pence on carbon cap-and-trade legislation by establishing Pence as 'anti-science').

    Science is limited to what can be observed, measured, repeated, and empirically verified. It cannot prove anything about the past. Science only gets us as far as proving facts about the present. Those observed processes must then be extrapolated into the past to try to explain how past events occurred, with varying levels of validity or certainty. Assumptions about the past must be made, such as the rate things decay today is the rate they have always decayed, and no catastrophic events (like say a worldwide flood) occurred.

    A creationist and an evolutionist will almost always agree on the hard facts of what can be observed, like current rate of decay, what material fossil bones are made of, deviation within a species, etc. Where they vary is once they take the hard data and try to interpet it and develop an overarching theory or framework to explain the past and predict the future.

    The theory of evolution is not science any more than ID or creationism is. It is a pretty poor theory chocked full of holes. I have heard 3 hour lectures describing instance after instance of known scientific knowledge that the theory of evolution can not explain.

    There is, at best, VERY LITTLE support in the fossil record for a slow evolution from one species to another. On the contrary, the fossil record shows an overwhelming abundance of specific current or extinct species with basically no intermediate species to speak of. It became such a problem for evolutionists that they had to evolve their own theory by saying that ALL of the change from one species to another came in quick short bursts that would have left no trace in the fossil record.

    To be sure, Creationism assumes there is a God who created all living things, and this is FAR outside the reach of science. But that does not mean that science disproves God, only that science has nothing to say about the existence of God. Remember science is only the observation and empirical verification of the natural world as it operates today. It does not attempt to explain the supernatural.

    Similarly, Intelligent Design assumes there is a designer. From my perspective though, ID is quite different from Creationism and assumes much less. The basic crux of the theory is that the more and more we learn about how complex our natural world is, the more and more ludicrous it becomes to try to assert, as evolution does, that it all happened by chance. When you drive through a city and take note of all the building and roads, it is obvious that there was intelligent design behind the city. The city, even if you gave it billions of billions of years, would never have sprung up there by itself with no intelligent direction. To believe that it would have is the definition of crazy. And yet that it was those who believe in evolution would have us believe, that even at the cellular level, where a cell itself is thousands of times more complex than a major city, all of that just happened to align itself by chance, and take every step of the evolutionary ladder by chance without ever failing and snuffing life back out. It is scientific evidence itself that inspires belief in ID. Creationism is an extension on ID in that it asserts much more about who the Designer was, and how He designed it.

    It is evolutionists, though who are most closed minded. They immediately rule out the supernatural, and dogmatically mandate that everything must be explained in the natural. They venture far beyond the limits of science into the realm of whacky theory, and hide behind the badge of science all the while. And worst of all, they militantly try to snuff out any opposing view, keeping a fascist grip outlawing opposing theories in the universities, and refusing to debate ID proponents or Creationists.

    What are they afraid of? If their theory is so foolproof, why not debate the Creationists and expose their silly theories for the fraud that they think they are. Oh, that’s right, because when they tried that 30 years ago, they got their clocks cleaned by the Creationists.

    Exit question: When was the last time you actually heard ANY scientific debate at all on the actual evidence itself?

    Another comment from later on:

    The problem I see with evolution is that it requires a lengthy chain of events to all be true, where if any one of them is not true, the entire theory fails. Whenever I have dug into or heard discussion and summaries of the ACTUAL SCIENCE, and especially the points put forth by Creationists or other skeptics, my take is that the theory of evolution is so full of holes and specific pieces wholly unsupported — and close to disproved — by the evidence, that I think it takes far more faith to believe in the theory of evolution than it does to believe that God created the universe.

    Evolution’s answer always seems to be that if you allow enough time, anything is possible. If you try to point out how unique life is, and how improbable it is that random chance is responsible for what we scientifically observe today, the evolutionist just ups the ante and says, “See how amazing this process of evolution is!

    Many a evolutionist is so convinced that their theory is correct that it seems impossible to find any way to falsify it. I think a revealing question to put to an evolutionist is what would it take to convince them that their theory is false.

    Tuesday, May 5, 2009

    "The Language of Healthcare 2009”

    Politico is reporting on a confidential report prepared by Republican consultant Frank Luntz for Congressional Republicans that outlines the best political language for Republicans to employ on Healthcare Reform. It includes this interesting list:

    Luntz’s 10 pointers in “The Language of Healthcare 2009”:

    (1) Humanize your approach. Abandon and exile ALL references to the “healthcare system.” From now on, healthcare is about people. Before you speak, think of the three components of tone that matter most: Individualize. Personalize. Humanize.

    (2) Acknowledge the “crisis” or suffer the consequences. If you say there is no healthcare crisis, you give your listener permission to ignore everything else you say. It is a credibility killer for most Americans. A better approach is to define the crisis in your terms. “If you’re one of the millions who can’t afford healthcare, it is a crisis.” Better yet, “If some bureaucrat puts himself between you and your doctor, denying you exactly what you need, that’s a crisis.” And the best: “If you have to wait weeks for tests and months for treatment, that’s a healthcare crisis.”

    (3) “Time” is the government healthcare killer. As Mick Jagger once sang, “Time is on Your Side.” Nothing else turns people against the government takeover of healthcare than the realistic expectation that it will result in delayed and potentially even denied treatment, procedures and/or medications. “Waiting to buy a car or even a house won’t kill you. But waiting for the healthcare you need – could. Delayed care is denied care.”

    (4) The arguments against the Democrats’ healthcare plan must center around “politicians,” “bureaucrats,” and “Washington” … not the free market, tax incentives, or competition. Stop talking economic theory and start personalizing the impact of a government takeover of healthcare. They don’t want to hear that you’re opposed to government healthcare because it’s too expensive (any help from the government to lower costs will be embraced) or because it’s anti-competitive (they don’t know about or care about current limits to competition). But they are deathly afraid that a government takeover will lower their quality of care – so they are extremely receptive to the anti-Washington approach. It’s not an economic issue. It’s a bureaucratic issue.

    (5) The healthcare denial horror stories from Canada & Co. do resonate, but you have to humanize them. You’ll notice we recommend the phrase “government takeover” rather than “government run” or “government controlled” It’s because too many politician say “we don’t want a government run healthcare system like Canada or Great Britain” without explaining those consequences. There is a better approach. “In countries with government run healthcare, politicians make YOUR healthcare decisions. THEY decide if you’ll get the procedure you need, or if you are disqualified because the treatment is too expensive or because you are too old. We can’t have that in America.”

    (6) Healthcare quality = “getting the treatment you need, when you need it.” That is how Americans define quality, and so should you. Once again, focus on the importance of timeliness, but then add to it the specter of “denial.” Nothing will anger Americans more than the chance that they will be denied the healthcare they need for whatever reason. This is also important because it is an attribute of a government healthcare system that the Democrats CANNOT offer. So say it. “The plan put forward by the Democrats will deny people treatments they need and make them wait to get the treatments they are allowed to receive.”

    (7) “One-size-does-NOT-fit-all.” The idea that a “committee of Washington bureaucrats” will establish the standard of care for all Americans and decide who gets what treatment based on how much it costs is anathema to Americans. Your approach? Call for the “protection of the personalized doctor-patient relationship.” It allows you to fight to protect and improve something good rather than only fighting to prevent something bad.

    (8) WASTE, FRAUD, and ABUSE are your best targets for how to bring down costs. Make no mistake: the high cost of healthcare is still public enemy number one on this issue – and why so many Americans (including Republicans and conservatives) think the Democrats can handle healthcare better than the GOP. You can’t blame it on the lack of a private market; in case you missed it, capitalism isn’t exactly in vogue these days. But you can and should blame it on the waste, fraud, and abuse that is rampant in anything and everything the government controls.

    (9) Americans will expect the government to look out for those who truly can’t afford healthcare. Here is the perfect sentence for addressing cost and the limited role for government that wins you allies rather than enemies: “A balanced, common sense approach that provides assistance to those who truly need it and keeps healthcare patient-centered rather than government-centered for everyone.”

    (10) It’s not enough to just say what you’re against. You have to tell them what you’re for. It’s okay (and even necessary) for your campaign to center around why this healthcare plan is bad for America. But if you offer no vision for what’s better for America, you’ll be relegated to insignificance at best and labeled obstructionist at worst. What Americans are looking for in healthcare that your “solution” will provide is, in a word, more: “more access to more treatments and more doctors…with less interference from insurance companies and Washington politicians and special interests.”

    In general these strike me as good tips. However, I am concerned by a couple things.

    First, I'm leary that following these talking points too closely without explaining the economics behind the assertions will come across as too political, but maybe I'm wrong and all the ignorant folks out there will be swayed by personalized anecdotal arguments.

    Second, you don't have to rest your entire argument on, or lead your arguments with economic theory, but it is important to educate people on the subject. Otherwise, you are just fighting a war of words with the Democrats. The key is to find ways to briefly yet convincingly put forth the economic arguments in a way that bolsters your overall argument and educates the public.

    What is wrong with, for example, after explaining what single payer government-controlled health-care would look like, educating folks on why their health insurance premiums keep going up at 5 times the rate of inflation. I will attempt to do so briefly here. (well, it turns out to be not-so-brief, so this is a horribly bad example of what I was just saying, but please read on)

    What if we purchased food the way we purchase health care? Your employer would provide you with a food insurance plan where you paid a $1 copay for every food item you bought regardless of its actual price. There would be no prices posted in the stores. In fact, it would be hard to find any employee in the store who could tell you how much any particular food item actually cost. When you asked them, they would look at you like something was wrong with you and say, "Why do you care, your insurance covers it anyway." Furthermore, if a grocery store sold you food that made you sick, you could sue the pants off them and a jury would award you $20 million, so they would make sure to only stock the shelf with the best produce possible, would throw away anything that even might be questionable, and would purchase massive amounts of liability insurance as well. What would happen to the cost and availability of food in such a system?

    Well, with no price transparency, most people would go to the nicest or most convenient store and purchase whatever they thought they wanted/needed without regards to price. People would purchase more food than they would otherwise because the true cost is hidden from them at the point of purchase. The food insurance companies would enact clunky ways to try to keep costs in check (not nearly as effective as each consumer being careful to get the best bang for the buck with their own money) by putting maximum prices on each food item that the grocery store could bill them for and trying to deny insurance coverage to those who were purchasing the most food. The government would step in and either mandate the insurance companies cover the heavy food consumers or offer government food insurance for the uninsured. It would cost the grocery stores far more to stock the shelves with food items because they would have to factor in all the preventative throwing away of questionable food and the steep liability insurance.

    Prices would soar steadily as all these inefficiencies ballooned the costs. Insurance companies would have to keep raising rates to stay in business, and employers would not be able to keep footing the entire bill for insurance, resulting in employees feeling the more visible pain of more and more being withheld from their paychecks to pay for insurance. While most people (at least those that have insurance) are satisfied with their access to and choices for food, they are constantly irritated by the rising insurance costs and worried about those who can no longer afford insurance.

    So what is the solution? Should the government take over and provide universal food insurance for all? People would be tempted to support it because on the surface it appears less would come directly out of their pocket. Those who pay little or no taxes would be especially supportive since food basically becomes free for them. But has the government really done anything to decrease the overall cost of the system? No! In fact, by shielding more and more of cost from directly influencing consumer decisions, they will have exacerbated the cost problem as people take advantage of free (at least at the point of purchase) food. In order to prevent costs from exploding, the government will have to ration in some fashion the amount of food each person can have. They will start telling grocery stores they will only be reimbursed a certain amount for each food item. Each time the costs keep rising and government deficits increase, the government will ratchet down the amount they will reimburse for each food item. Grocery stores' profits will vanish. To stay in business they will start offering to sell some food types to those willing to pay with their own money, and will start refusing to sell to those with government insurance. Of course the government can not allow this and will mandate that no one can buy food outside the universal food insurance system. While people are demanding more food, stores are going out of business. Growing demand coupled with shrinking supply creates food shortages. At first people start growing hungry. If something is not changed soon, people will start starving to death.

    Ok, so universal government-controlled food insurance is not a good solution. What's the alternative. How about returning to a market-based approach where prices do their job of most effectively allocating resources, coupled with governemnt assistance for those truly in need. This is exactly how food is purchased right now! Everyone pays full price for their own food, and government provides assistance to the needy through food stamps. (food is a bit different than health care in that just about everyone does need catastrophic health insurance to help with a major medical situation)

    How do we get from here to there. In my food insurance example, you want to shift the price visibility back to the point of purchase. You want to post prices back on the shelves. You want to encourage employers to shift from footing the bill for food insurance to increasing the employees wages by a similar amount. This creates a vibrant insurance market with competition that keeps insurance prices down. Each person buys the right amount of insurance for them, instead of an inefficient one-size-fits-all approach of your employer deciding what insurance coverage you get (which may be less insurance than you want or more than you need). You want to limit lawsuit payouts to a fair and reasonable amount so that grocery stores do not need to spend vast sums of money on liability insurance. Now that poeple are faced with much or all of the true cost of purchasing a food item, they will spend their money much more wisely and efficiently than they spent the insurance company's money. With a more price efficient system in place, the reduction in insurance costs and taxes leaves plenty of room in the budget for the great majority of families to purchase all the food they need. Those who are less fortunate and truly need assistance are given food vouchers (food stamps) to purchase food like everyone else.

    In health care, the policy changes should be:
  • Increase price visibility by strongly encouraging doctors to be able to provide patients with on-the-spot price quotes and/or a menu of prices for each medical procedure. For any medical service that in not an emergency, patients would be able to shop around for the best price/quality combination they were comfortable with. There is no reason that patients should be getting an MRI at one hospital for $2000 when a hospital 20 miles away, in some cases, may only charge $1200 for an MRI.
  • Increase the implementation of Health Savings Accounts which provide individuals with lower insurance rates in exchange for higher copays and deductibles, thus increasing the price at point of purchase. This will help prevent people from overburdening the system with unnecessary care. For all care that is truly needed, the patients will be willing to pay from the nest egg saved up in their HSA.
  • Revise the tax code to stop encouraging everyone to get their health insurance through their employer. Currently, health insurance is only tax deductible if provided through your employer. It doesn't make sense, and it's not fair to those who don't get their health insurance through their employer. Most employers do not provide you with car insurance, renters insurance, homeowners insurance, flood insurance, life insurance, or disability insurance. Some may provide some limited amount of those, usually for additional withholding from your paycheck, but none of those are tax-advantaged. Employer-provided health insurance is ubiquitous primarily because of the tax deductibility in the current tax code. The biggest problems with employer-provided health insurance are that it hides more of the true cost of health care (when all it really does is reduce your wages by the amount that your employer foot for health insurance -- you would be better off with the higher wages and purchasing your own insurance), and it is not portable between jobs (when was the last time you had to switch your car insurance plans when you moved to a different job). The deductibility also benefits those with higher incomes who are in higher tax brackets more than those with lesser incomes in lower tax brackets (someone in the 35% tax bracket with a $1000/mo. health plan gets a $350 tax break, while someone in the 15% tax bracket with the exact same $1000/mo. health plan only gets a $150 tax break) and encourages expensive gold-plated health plans with little or no copays, otherwise known as first-dollar coverage (an employer is more likely to provide a more expensive plan when they can deduct the cost of the plan from their taxes). John McCain had a very generous plan in the 2008 presidential campaign to replace the current tax deductibility for employer-provided health insurance with a $5000 refundable tax CREDIT for EVERYONE. That means unless you were in at least the 25% tax bracket AND your employer was withholding at least $1667/mo. for your health plan, you would have been better off with McCain's plan. I don't know what the exact numbers are, but I have to believe it would have been above 95% of people that would have been better off with the $5000 tax credit.
  • Cap the amount of pain and suffering damages (those above and beyond any medical costs that a medical provider is liable for because of a mistake) that juries can award to $250,000.
  • Reduce some of the mandates for insurance companies to cover stuff like sex-change operations.
  • Get the government out of the business of providing health insurance as much as possible and instead provide those who need assistance with "health stamps" to go buy their own insurance and/or health care.
  • VIDEO: Reason TV on D.C. Voucher Cut

    This video is a must watch. Nothing makes me angrier than the way Democrats and liberals pay lip service to education being "for the kids", when in reality they keep throwing more and more money at an inefficient and failing school system just to pacify their teacher union base. Note that in the case of the D.C. vouchers, the $7,500 voucher is much CHEAPER than the $14,000 per student that the failing D.C. public school system spends. Parents LOVE the program because they can send their kids to a better school. The kids test scores go up. It sounds like a win-win-win.

    But the teacher's unions want to keep the government monopoly over public schools. The unions don't want to lose their power by losing union members (teachers) to private schools. The teachers like all the benefits and job security provided by the union and don't want to have to compete for their jobs by doing a good job like all of us out here in the non-unionized private sector have to do. The teacher's unions and Democrats are either completely ignorant of the facts or don't give a damn about the students. While a lot of teachers are probably just acting out of selfish ignorance, I think the union leaders and liberal politicians fall into the latter category. They know their policies are not the best for the kids, but are best for themselves and their own hold on power.

    When the average public school in the country spends over $10,000 per student and the average private school tuition is less than $4000, why wouldn't a $5000 voucher per student for every student across the country make sense? Keep the public financing but give the choice to parents. We could cut our education spending in half while improving test scores and providing all parents with the choice of which school is best for their kid. The good public schools would still do fine if they are good enough for parents to choose to send their kids there. It's a win all around, except for the government monopoly and teacher's unions.

    Sorry for going off. I promised a video:

    I have to follow up by venting a bit of frustration with some of the parents in the video. While I can understand their enthusiasm for Obama for other reasons, I cannot understand why the parents could not see the voucher cuts coming. I cannot understand why over 90% of parents in highly African-American sections of cities across the country keep voting for liberal Democrats. At least for those who want school choice, why, why, why can't they see that it is the Republicans that stand with them for a better education system for their kids? The parent in the video wants to ask Obama why. I want to ask her why she voted for Obama. Does she really not know what Obama's policies are? What will it take for people's eyes to be opened?

    While I'm at it, why haven't the Republicans gone full bore in trying to highlight the cut of the voucher program and attempted to partner with these voucher supporters like those in the video to put the political pressure necessary to keep the program. In addition to fighting for conservative principles in education and being the right thing to do for the kids and for the country, it would also be a great opportunity to make inroads into the black community. Who cares if these aren't people who will likely vote Republican in the next election? If you ever want to win these people over, you've got to start somewhere, and there couldn't be a better place to start than with helping these parents provide a significantly better life for their kids!

    Sunday, April 26, 2009

    Liz Cheney: We Did Not Torture

    Follow this link to HotAir and watch Norah O'Donnell debate Liz Cheney (Dick Cheney's daughter) about interrogation techniques. It really encapsulates most of the arguments on both sides. Liz Cheney provides one of the best and most complete arguments for our enhanced interrogation program after 9/11 that I've heard in years.

    While you're there, be sure to follow Allahpundit's link to HotAir archives from 2006 which has audio of Bill Clinton scoffing at the idea that you wouldn't have 100% agreement that it would be OK to rough a guy up a little if an attack was imminent and we had someone in custody who knew the details and wouldn't talk, and that was the only way to get the information out of him and prevent the attack.

    Note that this is before the liberals (and McCain) got going with their argument that "torture" does not work and/or does not produce reliable information.

    The only difference I can see between Bill Clinton's described scenario and what the Bush administration was faced with was Clinton did specify in his definiton of "imminent" that we knew an attack was going down within 3 days. The problem with Clinton's definition is that it is very difficult to guage how "imminent" an attack is before the high-value terrorist detainee talks. It is reported that when they tried to interrogate Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and asked him if any further attackes were planned, he said something to the effect of "You will soon find out." In that situation, the responsible course of action for our national security apparatus to take is to assume that an attack is imminent. There could have been another attack within days or weeks, or it could have been months or even year(s) away. We did not know, but we knew we had someone in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who did. Anyone who says they would not aggressively interrogate in this scenario to obtain the information necessary to protect Americans from another attack has no business being in charge of our national security. And any country who acts like they wouldn't have done at least as much as we did in an identical scenario is lying.

    Sunday, April 5, 2009

    Obama refuses repayment of TARP money

    If this doesn't send shivers down your spine, it should. I was really worried about how Obama would handle the increased government power that Bush was forced to hand over to Obama after Bush's response to the financial crisis last fall with TARP, and this is a NOT a good sign. It's starting to smell like socialism, or if not, at least WAY to much government intrusion into the private sector.

    Obama is fanning the flames of panic and public outrage to build the case for government power to regulate Excecutive pay. Then he is trying to tell Michigan what type of autos to build, and threatening bank CEO's in an attempt to exert power over the financial industry. Now he won't let banks who were forced by Paulson to take TARP money to repay it, because he doesn't want to lose his power over the bank!

    If we let him takover his favorite 3 industries -- health care, education, and energy -- what will be left of the economy that isn't larglely controlled by government?

    If a pollster called me today, I would definitely say the country is headed in the wrong direction.

    Friday, April 3, 2009

    Gun Statistic Is A Flat Out Lie

    HotAir highlights a Fox News report debunking a widely-cited statistic that 90% of all guns recovered at crime scenes and raids on drug cartels in Mexico are from the U.S. The statistic makes it sound like the U.S. is the overwhelming supplier of firearms to Mexican drug cartels. Supposedly, they just come up into some of the border states, buy a bunch of guns, and then drive them back to Mexico.

    The problem is that the statistic, when stated this way, is flat out false. Fox News did some digging and found that Mexico's own numbers show that only 17% of such firearms are traced to the U.S.

    Because of gun regulations in the U.S., guns manufactured in the U.S. have good markings that make the guns traceable. Mexico submits about 1/3 of the guns they find, the ones that have good markings, to the U.S. to see if they can be traced. About half of these guns are successfully traced, and it is of that subset, the ones that Mexico has pre-screened to be most likely to be from the U.S., that 90% are traced to the U.S. This proves nothing more than that the U.S. originated guns are more easily traced than the other 83% that came from black markets around the world, which is a good thing. It allows for more effective efforts to stem the flow from the U.S.

    So you have quite a stark difference between the lie, "90% of the guns recovered by Mexico in drug cartel busts are from the U.S.," and the truth, "only 17% of the guns recovered can be traced back to the U.S."

    Be wary when you hear statistics bandied about, even by politicians where you would think, "They wouldn't say that unless there was a strong element of truth to it, right?" You think that they wouldn't dare to say something so blatantly false that could be so easily disproved. But the media, save Fox News and some bloggers, does not do its job in this country, and so the politicians can get away with it, and so they will keep repeated outrageously misleading statistics.

    Sunday, March 29, 2009

    The Economist Has Buyer's Remorse

    After endorsing Obama during the campaign, The Economist is the latest in in a string of people that have become disenchanted with Obama.

    Ed Morrissey at HotAir has the details and analysis.

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    AP: The White House Fudges Stimulus Estimates

    The AP actually wrote some good analysis explaining how Obama's "Bold Claims of Stimulus Jobs Can't Be Measured"

    Some of my favorite assumptions behind the White House's estimate of 3.5 millions jobs being saved or created:

  • For every two jobs directly created by the stimulus spending, a third job will be indirectly created. The 2-to-1 ratio is rough and varies considerably by sector.

  • A tax cut has only one-quarter of the value of a spending increase of the same size, in terms of expanding the economy.

  • Every dollar spent on unemployment benefits is worth $1.63 of quick economic expansion. Food stamps boost the economy even more.

  • What planet are these people living on?!

    AIG Losing Executives

    If you want a completely new perspective on the AIG bonuses, try reading Jake DeSantis' Resignation Letter.
    (or click on the first result from this Google Search if you are not a resgistered member of

    Follow that up with news of more AIG employees jumping ship.

    This is exactly what I predicted would happen back on March 21st:

    Second, AIG needs to be able to retain its valuable employees. It is simply not fair to blame the entire Financial division at AIG for the decisions a few executives likely made. My understanding is that most all of the executives that were most responsible for misjudging risk and overselling their financial products have been let go. You simply cannot lose all the employees in a division of a company and expect the company to be able to continue to function well, and we REALLY need AIG to be able to continue to function, at least for now. How well would the company you work at function if 80% of the employees left all at once? When AIG started to realize how bad of shape all the investment banks were in, and that they themselves were headed for insolvency as a result, they were afraid many of their employees would leave the company. How many employees would stay at the company and have their reputations sullied by their continued association with AIG if they were not promised additional compensation in return? In early 2008, AIG offered retention bonuses to anyone who would stay until March 2009, and more bonuses for those who would stay until 2010. We just hit the round of bonuses that were due on March 15, 2009, and the bonuses were paid as promised. It is important to realize that the bonuses were NOT performance bonuses, they were retention bonuses. These valued employees that may have had little if any responsibility for the financial crisis were promised bonuses if they would stay on at AIG. They fulfilled their part of the contract, and their contracts should be honored. It is VERY DANGEROUS to go down the road of breaking contracts. Government is supposed to help enforce voluntary contracts, not force companies to break them.

    Discussion: Government Taking Over?

    Here's a good discussion that got going on one of my friend's Facebook page:

    Kyle Miller's Notes
    "The Way I See It" - #35
    Tue 3/24/09 8:12am

    U.S. seeks expanded power to seize firms (

    Is anyone paying attention out there????? Does this latest "political move" scare anyone else? Where will it end??

    This article tries to portray the government as "protecting" the interests of the American people by "managing" financial institutions to keep them solvent. Don't let the wool be pulled over your eyes! This is nothing more than a move to control our financial system from Washington and set up a Nationalized Banking system so the GOVERNMENT controls our banking infrastructure.

    The sub-title of this article even states this gross understatement claiming, "Goal is to limit risk to broader economy". What a crock!!

    Is that along the same lines as "Gun control goal is to limit firearms in the hands of criminals"??? Yeah, like that's worked really well.

    This is typical of a liberal regime. The American people are too stupid to handle their own business so we, the smart, intellectual, educated, responsible government lackies will step in and remove the knife from the stupid kid in the room. COME ON PEOPLE!!!!!

    If the government starts controlling our banks - our economy will most certainly take a nose dive. Anyone else care to notice what happened to the DOW today when this news came out? whenever Obama took a dive. When just yesterday, all the liberal drive by media types were trying to give Obama the credit for a 7% increase in the DOW! When did Bush ever get recognition for the DOW going up??? No, the only news we ever heard when the DOW went up was how the rich fat cat oil companies were supposedly lining their already silk pockets. But when the DOW goes up under the almighty Obama regime, it's because it's a victory for Obama and his policies.

    Wave bye-bye to competitive rates for loans! Wave bye-bye to banks investing in their local communities. Bye-bye capitalism! It was great to have you here, but you threaten a tyrannical leaders control over a nation, so you must go. You will be missed, but we won't be allowed to mourn your absence, because we'll be told that socialism is now "Modern" European Socialism and that it's for our best interest.

    WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!

    Kyle Miller at 8:20am March 24
    And again...there's apparently no time for discussion or review of this policy. Just like the $800 Billion bailout plan it HAS to be done NOW or else...I fear this is becoming an all too common theme with the Obama regime to force feed liberal agenda's down the throat of the American people. They're supposedly voting on this measure THIS WEEK! So EVERYONE needs to call their representatives and tell them to VOTE NO on this unprecedented government control.

    Tobias Wilson at 12:49pm March 24
    Hello Socialism.... i hope that at least one reporter at the primetime news conference will ask the president "isn't your plan too much like socialism!"

    Kyle Miller at 1:22pm March 24
    They might try...but if you remember back to the election process, we're not allowed to ask that question because the WORLD is socialist now, and we should be more like "Modern Europe". I don't want to be more like Europe, and the questions from the right will continue to be ignored because this President feels he has won political equity because the majority (all be it a majority by a small margin) of the American people voted him President.

    Toby Bierly at 2:17am March 25
    Treasury Secretary Geithner is still trying to work out details for the proposal -- as far as I know, it hasn't been presented to Congress at all yet. An initial proposal could be sent to Congress later this week. I think this is prompted more than anything by the failure of Lehman Brothers last year, and underscored with the recent furor over AIG bonuses. I think most people who have studied the issue carefully would agree that letting Lehman Brothers fail the way it did greatly destabilized the financial markets. That said, I do not really trust the Treasury department to know the right action to take. Any such proposal MUST be very carefullly thought out and fully deliberated, and there should be clear checks on the Treasury's power and clear guidelines on exactly what would trigger the need for Treasury to take action with someone like a Lehman Brothers. It should be very limited in scope and only ever used as a measure of last resort. I don't trust Congress to get it right.

    Kyle Miller at 10:36am March 25
    Well here's my concern...government intervention, at any level, no matter how "noble" always opens the doors to more and more regulation. DEregulation is a term that isn't in their vocabulary. So if it starts here, where does it end?

    My opinion, is that if companies like AIG, Lehman Bros, etc fail, then they fail. Will it hurt the economy? Yes. Will it hurt the global economy? Yes. But growing pains are never easy. Why do we have the success we do today? Because of the stock market crash. Am I saying we need to have another crash of that magnitude? No. But what I do believe is that having a natural "reset" of financial companies failing that got greedy and "got it wrong" should fail so that better run companies can rise up.

    I read an article the other day talking about why we can't allow AIG to fail, and the ONLY reason they could come up with is because of the shear volume of cash they circulate around the world. So if they fail they fail. Will it hurt? Yes. Like anything that grows strong it must have a pruning period. If I ran a vineyard and just let the dead vines stay connected to the live vines, the live vines are gonna eventually die and my whole crop will be lost. The dead vines must be cut away so that the healthy vines can flourish.

    Government intervention at any level only means one thing, control. And once they have a little, they'll lobby and push and pull till they get even more. It's a never ending cycle.

    If anything, if they truly want to set up an "oversight" committee, a third party private organization should be brought in to oversee and review their finances. I mean, if I buy a ton of stuff with a credit card, and then decide to tell the credit card company, "I'm sorry, I don't have the money to pay you." Do you think they're just gonna say, "Ok, no problem." and be done with it? No!

    They're gonna hit my credit score from every which way they can and make it impossible for me to obtain another line of credit with any other lender.

    Why shouldn't the same principal be applied to these companies?? We like to think these companies are run by the smartest people who have the "little man's" best interest at heart. And the truth is, they could care less about the little man, and are run by regular people just like you and me that get greedy, get powerful, and think they're indestructable. They should have to pay the same price ANY OTHER COMPANY OR PERSON WOULD HAVE TO PAY. And if that means the company goes down the toilet, and their stocks are worth $0 then so be it.

    Toby Bierly at 9:49pm March 25
    Here's a good description of the type of risk that the feds would have been taking if they let AIG fail:

    We are talking about a possible meltdown of the entire global financial system. Think of the frozen credit market last fall and expand that throughout the entire financial system. Major economies could contract by 25-50% like happened to the U.S. at the start of the Great Depression.

    Believe me, I'm a free market guy, and in 99% of cases I say if a company cannot manage itself properly, it should be allowed to fail. This to me is an exception to the rule.

    And it's REALLY SCARY, because creates a situation where there is enough agreement that the government needs to take action that the government will take action, and it's about a 30% chance they actually make the right moves

    Toby Bierly at 10:02pm March 25
    By the way, I think you make a lot of good points, but blaming greed is anti-capitalist. Every company tries to make money. That is the entire point, isn't it? Every company tries to maximize profit and grow. And it is usually healthy, because in order to grow in a free market, you have to offer services that others are willing to pay for. The beauty of a free market system is that it typically channels everyone's self-interest in service of their fellow man.

    The more relevant point is that they "got it wrong". Even those with the best of intentions can get it wrong. And if they got it wrong, they deserve to fail. But my argument is not based on what AIG deserves, but what is best for the economy as a whole, and I do not think a completely dysfunctional financial system helps anyone. That is the risk that a failed AIG poses. We are not talking about pruning the vineyard, we are talking about taking a machete to the completely wipe out a huge part of the vineyard!

    Toby Bierly at 10:11pm March 25
    One area I bet we are in TOTAL agreement on is the necessity to stop Obama from passing his proposed budget through Congress. Radically shifting people toward government provided health insurance (the only way they can "cut costs" is by denying care, either directly for certain procedures or indirectly through price controls which result in supply shortages), wasting hundreds of billions on ineffiicient and more expensive alternative energies, mindlessly throwing more federal money at schools when we already spend by far the most per student in the world, and increasing taxes on all fossil fuels and on "the rich" in the middle of a recession are ALL the EXACT OPPOSITE of what we should be doing.

    Kyle Miller at 11:02am March 26
    And I guess the idea of total economic meltdown is where we would have to disagree then, because I'm of the opinion that no matter how much it hurts, it needs to be done or else the core issue will never be truly dealt with and the cancer will be allowed to continue.

    If the government steps in, does it REALLY stop the potential for an economic meltdown or only slow it? I mean, if a balloon has a hole in it, tape will stop the outflow of air for awhile, the fact still remains that there's a hole in the balloon and air is going to eventually expose the weakness and pop.

    When I say greed, I'm not referring to a companies right to make a profit or expand or grow. I'm all for that. What I'm referring to is when certain CEO's start making selfish decisions because it will benefit THEIR OWN personal bottom line, no matter the cost. Enron is a perfect example, and I'm sure we'll find out that AIG had a lot of the same characteristics.

    Kyle Miller at 11:05am March 26
    You are right that we agree that more money is not the answer. Neither is increased taxes. If they want to really stimulate the economy, put more money on a regular basis in the pockets of the American people, and that's accomplished by letting them keep more of their monthly paycheck.

    All these "stimulus checks" do is increase the spending for that quarter. It's not ongoing, sustained spending, it's a little blip in the overall financial system for that year.

    Regardless, I think we have to realize that this President is going to spend us into the largest fiscal deficit in the history of our country. And then the next four presidents are going to have to work to try to fix it.

    Toby Bierly at 9:51pm March 26
    When the credit markets froze last year, it wasn't because there weren't plenty of credit-worthy institutions; it was because everyone got spooked after Bear Sterns and AIG had to be bailed out with loans and guarantees, and then Lehman failed. With such big names dropping like flies, and with so many smaller institutions being affected, no one knew who it was safe to lend to, and whether or not the government would step in. It was a crisis of confidence.

    If the government had not injected some of the TARP I funds, the credit market would have stayed frozen, and it would have resulted in a cascade of banks all across the country failing. That in turn would have caused a swell of business failures and lack of new business startups, and unemployment would have skyrocketed as GDP fell.

    This phenomenom of cascading bank failures is what started the Great Depression, when more than half the banks in the U.S. failed and the economy shrunk in half.

    Toby Bierly at 9:59pm March 26
    On CEO incentives, it is true that a lot of board of directors who make most of the decisions are focused on whatever short-term incentive plans that will help them meet short-term growth goals, and in doing so can sacrifice, purposefully or not, long-term growth and/or stability of the company. Those incentives need to be changed. The biggest question is how to do so. I don't really want the government stepping in and mandating what a good bonus program is. That gives them too much power, and they will likely mess it up and politicize it. We somehow have to get the power back in the hands of shareholders with enough education and intiative to police the companies they own. This is barely being talked about though.

    Stimulus checks give an artificial boost to GDP for a quarter or two, and hurts long term growth because of deficit spending. Sooner or later the goverment has to increase tax revenues or print the money which stifles the economy or results in inflation.

    Toby Bierly at 10:09pm March 26
    But the recent "stimulus" bill was not even much stimulus; it was the next 5-8 years of Democratic spending jammed into one huge pork-laden bill that no one bothered to read, merely labeled as stimulus. Most of the spending is not even scheduled to happen in the next year, thus most of the quote "stimulus" will likely occur after the economy has already started recovering (assuming Obama doesn't screw things up so bad that we have not started recovering by then).

    What will happen is that Obama will raise taxes, but tax revenues will not increase significantly because of weak economic growth. And then we will be forced to print money which will sharply increase inflation (back to the 70's!) and devalue the dollar. If that happens enough, we could risk a run on the dollar. Then our money will be worth much less and you will see prices go up and standards of living decline.

    Kyle Miller at 7:51am March 27
    Agreed. :-)

    Toby Bierly at 9:10am March 27
    Thanks for "listening". I don't know hardly anyone who wants to talk about politics. Almost everyone is ignorant of or apathetic about public policy, usually uninformed because they are too busy, have "more important" things to do, don't see how it affects them, assume it will all sort itself out without their help, find it excessively boring, desperately want to avoid any disagreement or arguments, find it too confusing, or just plain don't care.

    Kyle Miller at 9:21am March 27
    LOL - you're right...I run into that issue as well...although I have tagged quite a few people in this note that usually do have strong opinions, none of them have responded. Maybe cause they don't share the same view, or are just tired of the debate. :-) I'm never too tired of the debate, especially when it's about a President I so vehemently disagree with. :-) Feel free to tag me in any notes you post regarding political issues, I'm more than willing to chime in! :-)

    Toby Bierly at 8:53pm March 27
    What I would really like to focus on is sharing ideas with those who aren't necessarily political. I'd like to expand the discussion to include as many people as possible. It seems like the only people you can find to talk politics with are those already informed or involved. But who we need to reach are the great mass of people that don't pay much attention by somehow creating a place where those who do have some interest are comfortable speaking up and entering the conversation.

    Toby Bierly at 9:53pm March 27
    Geithner to Seek Power Over Hedge Funds, Derivatives

    Here's the broad outline of what Geithner is proposing. Not sure quite what to think on this yet. I think it is appropriate for the government to set some sensible rules for large financial institutions, the equivalent of saying to an individual, "No you cannot use $10,000 equity in your home to borrow $300,000 to start a business."

    Although government doesn't need to do that for an individual because it is so obvious a risk that no one would lend him the money. I think the same principle would work with investment banks and other large financial firms if there was enough transparency that people could accurately assess the risk.

    One of the major untold stories of the financial collapse was that the government approved credit rating agencies like S&P and Moody's were WAY off giving Mortgage Backed Securities AAA ratings (the best).

    Toby Bierly at 10:03pm March 27
    Maybe the best answer is to require financial institutions to release more information to give proper transparency in the market. Buyers should always be presented with sufficient information about what they are buying.