National Debt Clock

Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't Bail Out The Mail

"The nation's third-largest employer, the USPS posted its second consecutive multibillion-dollar loss in 2008. And mail volume has been locked in perpetual decline."

"To make matters worse, USPS is now lining up at Congress' financial soup kitchen--seeking what amounts to a taxpayer bailout."

"Make no mistake--despite being an 'independent' government agency, the Postal Service is not self-sufficient. It is kept afloat by a number of hidden taxpayer subsidies."

"For starters, it has a monopoly on First Class and Standard mail. No private company can deliver a letter for less than $3 or twice what USPS charges, whichever is greater. And only USPS can legally use your mailbox, despite the fact that you own it."

"Meanwhile, USPS is immune from antitrust lawsuits and exempt from taxes on its massive real-estate holdings, which include over 8,000 facilities. It enjoys power of eminent domain. And it doesn't even pay parking tickets."

"Despite these and other advantages, the Postal Service is struggling to stay afloat. And rising postage rates only exacerbate the decline in mail volume."

UK Prisoners Have a Better Diet than Health Service Hospital Patients

"Despite years of Government promises to tackle poor hospital nutrition, food still arrives cold, and patients often miss out because meal times clash with tests and operations."

"The latest figures show 242 patients died of malnutrition in NHS hospitals in 2007 - the highest toll in a decade. More than 8,000 left hospital under-nourished - double the figure when Labour came to power."

"Ten hospitals spent less on breakfast, lunch and an evening meal than the £2.12 a day allocated for food by the prison service. One spent just £1."

"Although most hospitals do spend more than £2.12, prisoners end up better nourished than patients, say experts from Bournemouth University. After studying the food offered to inmates and across the NHS, they found patients face more barriers in getting good nutrition.
Professor John Edwards said around 40 per cent of patients were already malnourished when they were admitted to hospital, but their condition did not tend to improve while they were there."

"'If you are in prison then the diet you get is extremely good in terms of nutritional content,' he said. "
"The food that is provided is actually better than most civilians have."

Forgive Us Our Debts

See Uncle Sam Borrow
By Bill Bonner

The United States is in the third and fatal stage of a great country’s life-cycle – the political stage. In this stage, money and power migrate from the financial community to the political community. The politicians get away with taking trillions out of the productive economy and spending them on their pet projects and private corruptions.

“Politics is about what works,” someone once said. Someone said it…someone who is an imbecile. Politics is not about what works, it’s about what you can get away with. And what you can get away with is often exactly what doesn’t work at all.

What the United States is getting away with, from a financial point of view, in addition to counterfeiting, is grand larceny on a Super-Madoff scale. It is borrowing trillions of dollars even though it has no way to honestly pay back the money.

Still, so eager are the lenders to part with their money that the 10-year T-note yields a miserly 3.46%. The more the feds borrow, apparently, the more lenders are willing to lend. But this is a story that will end badly.

Warren Buffett described the America of the bubble years as “Squanderville.” Private citizens were living beyond their means, he pointed out. But he hadn’t seen nothin’. Now, government does the squandering. The politicians are spending trillions they don’t have on projects nobody was willing to pay for even when they had some money in their pockets.

What the government can get away with now – under cover of a financial crisis – is a big grab for money and power. It ‘works’ in the sense the feds are able to get away with it. But it will prove fatal to the dollar…and to the US economy.

The Fed is intervening in markets as no Fed ever has. Its balance sheet – a measure of how much intervention it has done – has shot up in a way that is not only unprecedented, but also almost unbelievable. In an effort to provide liquidity, the Fed has bought up the contents of every neglected refrigerator on Wall Street. This smelly, furry stuff enters the Fed’s books as an asset, along with various not-so-pungent assets like US Treasury bonds. Altogether, the Fed’s balance sheet shows more than $2.7 trillion worth of this unappetizing hodgepodge.

“It’s not sound economics – nor is it ethical – to trash the US dollar and bail out incompetent investors who poured billions into CMBS at the peak of the bubble,” says Strategic Short Report’s Dan Amoss. “There is no longer a ‘systemic risk’ argument for The Fed to be propping up the price of such securities.

What happens next?

We don’t know. But it is far too early to expect the Fed to withdraw its easy-money policy. The Fed will have to stay on this road for much, much longer. Why? Because the “green shoots” are shriveling up. There is no real economic revival. And there can’t be one until the underlying problems are corrected.

One of the big problems is too much capacity. During the Bubble Epoque the squanderers would buy anything. So, you could make an almost unlimited amount of money by providing them with things to buy. This meant building factories…buying trucks…and renting retail space. Now, however, the squanderers have come to their senses…or maybe they’ve just come to the limit of their credit lines. The squanderers now want to save their money. So, no need for so much retail space in the malls, so many trucks on the highways or so much retail space.

There are a number of sit-down restaurant chains that cater to the middle class – Applebee’s…Chili’s…Ruby Tuesday and a few others. They expanded greatly during the ’90s and ’00s in order to meet the desires of the big-spending masses. But now that the masses aren’t so free and easy with their money, the New York Times reports that these chains are in desperate competition for remaining diners. This competition is manifesting itself as price deflation.

Applebee’s offers dinner for two for only $20. Chili’s advertises entrees for just $7. Ruby Tuesday’s is going for a 2-for-1 deal. Buy one meal, get one free. All of them are making heavy use of discount coupons.

Oversupply is producing deflation. Prices are falling as suppliers fight for demand by offering more for less. And over at the Red Roof…the roof has already caved in, as the chain has defaulted on its mortgage debt.

This is what you’d expect at the end of a long period of credit expansion. EZ credit brought forth too much demand and too much supply. Now, the demand is disappearing…and the suppliers struggle to hold on.

Even now, we’re facing an economy in which 70% of our economic output depends on consumer buying. And as we pointed out in the August 13, 2009 edition of the Rude Awakening (What is “Normal?”), consumers are in no condition to consume. Ergo, no buyers, no recovery.

Economic contraction is natural, normal and perhaps necessary to a market economy. And the current contraction will take years to sort out. Roofs have to fall in on thousands of enterprises, speculators and households. Then, the rebuilding can begin.

But the Bernanke Fed is not about to let nature take her course. Don’t expect any tightening from the Fed anytime soon, dear reader…it is far too soon for that.

Governments are essentially parasites on productive activity. So the best governments are the smallest – meaning, the least parasitic. As has been said before, “That government is best which governs least.”

But now we are in the third and fatal stage of a great country – the political stage. In this stage, the parasites take over. Government governs a lot. And governing a lot costs a lot of money. In England, the government budget is bumping up against half the total GDP of the nation. In America, health care is still largely a private matter, so the government spends a smaller percentage of GDP…but it is a percentage that is rising quickly.

Where will the money come from? Taxes? Gordon Brown has already put the income tax rate up to 50%. Michael Caine, an English actor who moved from the U.S. to England to escape the high taxes of the ’70s, says he will tolerate 50%…but not a penny more.

“If it goes to 51% I will be back in America,” he says.

Ahem…he might have to try somewhere else. Everybody’s gunning for the rich – in America as well as in England. Obama has pledged to raise taxes on the rich. The states, notably California, are desperate for more revenue too. Add federal, state and local levies…and private health care costs…and you could easily be over the 50% bracket in America too.

The history of European monarchies is largely a history of debt. Kings and queens squeezed what they could out of the turnips. Then they turned to the moneylenders. These lenders had to be careful. They were happy to extend monarchs credit, because in this way they gained a measure of control over them. But there were many dangers. Kings lost their heads…or went broke. Or, often, the monarchs could turn the tables on the moneylenders…and have their heads cut off. Reading the history of the loans to the French crown is eye-opening. It is amazing anyone wanted to lend at all. The risks were great; the rewards were few. Rarely were the loans settled honorably.

Government raises money. Sometimes it repays the loan with revenues from other taxes. Sometimes, it is the lender who pays the tax himself – either because the government defaults…or because inflation reduces the value of his money. What you come to see is that lending to the government – which always has the power to betray the loan and behead the lender – is merely another form of taxation. But the lender can blame no one but himself for his losses. The wounds he suffers are self-inflicted.

This is a story that often ends badly, if not disastrously.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Warning on Possible Pot Growers Called Profiling

"A federal warning to beware of campers in national forests who eat tortillas, drink Tecate beer and play Spanish music because they could be armed marijuana growers is racial profiling, an advocate for Hispanic rights said Friday."

"Forest Service officials said they believe illegal immigrants are being brought to Colorado by Latin American drug cartels for mass cultivation of marijuana."

"'That's discriminatory, and it puts Hispanic campers in danger,' said Polly Baca, co-chairwoman of the Colorado Latino Forum."

FCC Diversity Czar Mark Lloyd: Forget the Fairness Doctrine

"In our report, we call for ownership rules that we think will create greater local diversity of programming, news, and commentary. And we call for more localism by putting teeth into the licensing rules. But we do not call for a return to the Fairness Doctrine."

"Despite what we thought was fairly stark evidence of conservative bias, despite clear proposals to address that bias, Rush Limbaugh and other distortionists insisted that we were calling for a “return” of the Fairness Doctrine. But as we wrote, 'simply reinstating the Fairness Doctrine will do little to address the gap between conservative and progressive talk unless the underlying elements of the public trustee doctrine are enforced, in particular, the requirements of local accountability and the reasonable airing of important matters.' ”

"But the image of eager federal bureaucrats peering over the shoulders of all of America’s radio talk show hosts with a stopwatch in hand is as absurd as it is impractical."

"We want to create more ownership opportunities and more speech focused on local interests. We want either clear rules that promote these First Amendment values or a reasonable payment to the public for the use of its property."

"All of these public policy objectives are there for Congress and the FCC to act upon within current law. There is no need to return to the Fairness Doctrine."

Recommendations from "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio:
  • National radio ownership by any one entity should not exceed 5 percent of the total number of AM and FM broadcast stations.
  • In terms of local ownership, no one entity should control more than 10 percent of the total commercial radio stations in a given market
  • All radio broadcast licensees should be required to use a standardized form to provide information on how the station serves the public interest in a variety of areas.
  • Provide a license to radio broadcasters for a term no longer than three years.
  • Require radio broadcast licensees to regularly show that they are operating on behalf of the public interest and provide public documentation and viewing of how they are meeting these obligations.
  • Demand that the radio broadcast licensee announce when its license is about to expire and demonstrate how the public can participate in the processto determine whether the license should be extended. In addition, the FCC should be required to maintain a website to conduct on-line discussions and facilitate interaction with public about licensee conduct.
  • If commercial radio broadcasters are unwilling to abide by these regulatory standards or the FCC is unable to effectivelyregulate in the public interest, a spectrum use fee should be levied on owners to directly support local, regional, and national public broadcasting.
Recommendations from Mark Llyod's Prologue to a Farce:
Prologue to a Farce on Google Books

(Page 277) "Broadcasters should pay for the great privilege of a federally protected license to operate a business by using the publicly owned spectrum."

(Page 278) “Federal and regional broadcast operations and local stations should be funded at levels commensurate with or above those spending levels at which commercial operations are funded,” Lloyd wrote. “This funding should come from license fees charged to commercial broadcasters. Funding should not come from congressional appropriations. Sponsorship should be prohibited at all public broadcasters.”

Qaddafi Son: 'Obvious' Lockerbie Bomber's Release Tied to Oil,2933,543979,00.html

Qaddafi said it was "not a secret" that his father inked a 2007 prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) with Britain's then-Prime Minister Tony Blair at the same time the two governments were signing favorable oil and trade deals.

"This whole deal with the British stinks," King told FOX News. "Obviously, to me (the British are) looking for oil, and as a result of that to allow such a known terrorist, a convicted terrorist out of jail, absolutely shameful."

Bill Would Give President Emergency Control of Internet

CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to "direct the national response to the cyber threat" if necessary for "the national defense and security." The White House is supposed to engage in "periodic mapping" of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies "shall share" requested information with the federal government. ("Cyber" is defined as anything having to do with the Internet, telecommunications, computers, or computer networks.)

Charlie Rangle's Tax Issues

Earlier this month the Chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee "amended" his 2007 financial disclosure form—to the tune of more than a half-million dollars in previously unreported assets and income. That number may be as high as $780,000, because Congress's ethics rules only require the Members to report their finances within broad ranges. This voyage of personal financial discovery brings Mr. Rangel's net worth for 2007 to somewhere between $1.028 million and $2.495 million, while his previous statement came in at $516,015 and $1.316 million.

When you're a powerful Congressman and working diligently to increase tax rates to pay for President Obama's health-care plan, we suppose it's easy to lose track of one of your checking accounts. That would be the one at the federal credit union with a balance somewhere between $250,001 and maybe as high as $500,000. And when you're crunched for time and pulling together bills to pass in a rush, we guess, too, that you might overlook several other investment accounts, even if some of them are sizable, such as the ones Mr. Rangel missed at JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Oppenheimer and BlackRock.

And now introducing, the guy who writes the tax code! What if you or I did this? I doubt we would be let off so easily.

Surprise: Cash for Clunkers Rebate Taxable!,89084

But many of those cashing in on the clunkers program are surprised when they get to the treasurer's office windows. That's because the government's rebate of up to $4500 dollars for every clunker is taxable.

"They didn't realize that would be taxable. A lot of people don't realize that. So they're not happy and kind of surprised when they find that out," Nelson said.

So the government taxes the people's money, gives it back to some of the people, then taxes it again. What is wrong with this picture? Why not give the dealers $4000 and $3000 and say it's tax free?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Obama Administration Urged to Consider Expanded Interrogation Methods

"The Army Field Manual is very, very restrictive in what it can do," said Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee. "For high-value detainees, it's a joke. ... In theory, it sounds great."

The guidelines are all psychological in nature. The methods include good cop-bad cop, the silent treatment, and a trick in which interrogators can pretend to be from another country.

Charles Stimson, who as the former deputy assistant defense secretary for detainee affairs worked on the 2006 revision of the field manual, said the administration is expected to consider other techniques.

While Stimson defended the field manual guidelines as effective in many cases, he said there are others that could be put to good use.

"We will be constraining ourselves, inappropriately so, if we confined the CIA (or HIG) to the 19 techniques in the Army Field Manual," he said. "Our enemy trains to our protocol, studies our protocol ... (They) will know how to resist."

Other methods are mild enough to be authorized in any school principal's office.
One method, the "direct approach," is simply when the interrogator asks questions. Another involves creating incentives for cooperation. The "emotional pride" approach is when the interrogator flatters the prisoner into cooperating by appealing to his ego. The "silent approach" is also relatively mild.

Vive Le French Care?

France's system isn't that cheap and is financed by high taxes on labor that have heavy economic consequences.

This raises the cost of labor to prohibitive levels and puts a brake on economic growth. This helps explain why French unemployment hovers around 10%.

French taxpayers fund a state health insurer, Assurance Maladie. Assurance Maladie has run in the red since 1989, and this year's shortfall is expected to be 9.4 billion euros ($13.5 billion) and 15 billion euros in 2010, about 10% of its budget.

Official World Health Organization statistics show the U.S. lagging behind France in infant mortality rates — 6.7 per 1,000 live births vs. 3.8 for France. Halderman notes that in the U.S., any infant born that shows any sign of life for any length of time is considered a live birth. In France — in fact, in most of the European Union — any baby born before 26 weeks' gestation is not considered alive and therefore doesn't "count" in reported infant mortality rates.

In France, the supply of doctors is so limited that during an August 2003 heat wave — when many doctors were on vacation and hospitals were stretched beyond capacity — 15,000 elderly citizens died."

Students' Take-Home Assignment: Census Kits

You might remember that this is the same census that asks all those private questions. Way to turn the kids against their parents.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blowing Smoke at Terrorists

"An Agency (redacted phrase) interrogator admitted that, in December 2002, he and another (redacted phrase) smoked cigars and blew cigar smoke in al-Nashiri's face during the interrogation," said the IG report.

In a more serious incident, a CIA interrogator reported that some unspecified interrogators told Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, that they would kill his children if America was attacked again.

"Sometime between 28 December 2002 and 1 January 2003, the debriefer used an unloaded semi-automatic handgun as a prop to frighten al-Nashiri into disclosing information," said the IG report.

With (redacted) consent, the debriefer entered the detainee's cell and revved the drill while the detainee stood naked and hooded. The debriefer did not touch al-Nashiri with the power drill."

Other reported instances in which CIA interrogators used unauthorized techniques did not merit a separate IG investigation, according to the report. "These included the making of threats, blowing cigar smoke, employing certain stress positions, the use of a stiff brush on a detainee and stepping on a detainee's ankle shackles," said the report.

How pansy are we? So, apparently we are the bad guy because we blow smoke, threaten, bring a prop gun, rev a drill, and step on shackles. Cowboy up America!

Stimulus Money Sent to 4,000 Cons

One day after the Herald reported some surprised Bay State inmates - including murderers and rapists - were cashing in $250 stimulus checks, federal officials revealed the same behind-bars bonus was mailed to nearly 4,000 cons nationwide.

The Inspector General of Social Security is now tracing the checks that were mailed to 3,900 prisoners at a cost of nearly $1 million after yesterday’s report in the Herald.

And we trust these people to run our healthcare?

Obama Raises 2010 Deficit Estimate to $1.5 Trillion

U.S. unemployment will surge to 10 percent this year and the budget deficit will be $1.5 trillion next year, both higher than previous Obama administration forecasts because of a recession that was deeper and longer than expected.

US Debt Clocks

Governments national debt is $38,000 per person. Unfunded liabilities = $192,000 per person.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy dies at 77, Chappaquiddick Haunts Legacy

Though his accomplishments are now legion, the ghost of Chappaquiddick has haunted Kennedy over a lifetime, raising questions about his honesty and courage. Some never forgave him.

Thousands of UK Women Giving Birth Outside Maternity Wards Because of a Lack of Midwives and Hospital Beds.

"It shows the incredible waste that has taken place that mothers are getting this sort of sub-standard treatment despite Gordon Brown's tripling of spending on the NHS."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nashua, NH Ranks No. 4 When it Comes to Federal Stimulus Cash

The report also revealed that through the end of June that stimulus money created or saved 796 jobs, with 700 of those state workers who did not have to get laid off thanks to the federal grants, Fitch said.

What's going to happen to these jobs when the money stops coming? These aren't sustainable jobs. The government has put on another bandaid and called it a day. Only the free market can create sustainable jobs that don't come at the expense of you and I.

Canadians Visit U.S. to Get Care

The agreements show how a country with a national care system -- a proposal not part of the health care changes under discussion in Congress -- copes with demand for care with U.S. partnerships, rather than building new facilities.

Three Windsor-area hospitals have arrangements with Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, to provide backup, after-hours angioplasty. Authorities will clear Detroit-Windsor Tunnel traffic for ambulances, if necessary. The Detroit Medical Center also provides Canadians complex trauma, cancer, neonatal and other care.

"The ministries are quite aware of" waits for care in Sarnia and Hamilton, she said. "That's why we are investing in a wait list strategy" to best determine how to prioritize cases for people who need hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and treatment for cancer, for example.

Health Insurers Fear Probe By House Dems Is Reprisal for Opposing Part of Obama's Plan

Health insurers have until Sept. 4 to provide Congress a detailed list of every employee who made over a $1 million dollars a year between 2003 and 2008. Democrats also want documents about conferences and any events held off company property as well as the types of transportation, lodging, food, entertainment and even gifts exchanged.

Raising the intimidation stakes: the Waxman letter offers insurers no explanation of what is being investigated or why.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Double Flip Flop on Health Options

The Obama administration now says it remains fully behind the idea of a "public option" for government-run insurance, despite clear signals over the weekend from top officials that the public option is not a deal-breaker and is just a "sliver" of the overall reforms it seeks.

Just kidding!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Obama Ends Illegal Immigration Arrest Quotas

"The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement says arrest quotas are no longer being used in a program aimed at tracking down immigrants who have skirted court orders to leave the country."

AARP Loses Members Over Health Care Stance

About 60,000 senior citizens have quit AARP since July 1 due to the group's support for a health care overhaul.

Obama was for a Public Option Before he was Against It.

"All I'm saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform," the president told a town hall-style audience in Grand Junction, Colo., on Saturday. "This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it."

"That's why any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, cost and track records of a variety of plans -- including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest -- and choose what's best for your family," he said on July 18.

Cost of Credit Card Debt Soaring,terry-savage-credit-debt-081709.savagearticle

Law of unintended consequences. The government seeks to protect customers so credit card companies charge customers more in different ways. Genius.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Economic Cost of High Tax Rates

Research on the major changes in tax rates over the last several decades—the lower tax rates enacted in 1981, 1986 and 2001 or the higher tax rates enacted in 1993—finds that the behavioral responses can be large. This research generally finds that for every 1 percent decrease in the after-tax reward from earning income, taxpayers reduce their reported income by about 0.4 percent.

An often underappreciated feature of our tax system is that roughly one-third of all business taxes are paid by owners of flow-through businesses—the sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations that are often small in size and entrepreneurial—when they file their individual tax returns.

Obama's Budget: Almost $1 Trillion in New Taxes Over Next 10 yrs, Starting 2011

1) On people making more than $250,000.

Total: $636 billion/10 years

2) Businesses:

Total: $353 billion/10 years

Post Offices Remove Clocks (2007)

Instead of making their customer-facing operations more efficient, so you move through the line faster, they remove the clocks, hoping you won’t notice how long you’re having to wait. As if you didn’t have a watch.

White House will Change E-mail Rules

After a few such recipients appeared on Fox News, White House officials determined that advocacy groups on the right or left could have sent in the names without the person knowing it.

For instance, a group might have sent a comment from each person who had signed an online petition, and the White House would have captured the e-mail address.

Ahh that explains it.

Markets are Pricing in a lot of Good News

I found the most enlightening comment to be regarding why there has been a rebound. A restocking of inventories doesn't exactly mean that the demand is there to sustain production:

"The rebound is based on restocking of inventories but, once that is complete, there are concerns about sustainability of growth in 2010 as the consumer remains burdened by high debt, rising job losses and sharply lower housing prices. "

Conservatives Now Outnumber Liberals in All 50 States, Says Gallup Poll

“While Gallup polling has found this to be true at the national level over many years, and spanning recent Republican as well as Democratic presidential administrations, the present analysis confirms that the pattern also largely holds at the state level,” said Gallup. “Conservatives outnumber liberals by statistically significant margins in 47 of the 50 states, with the two groups statistically tied in Hawaii, Vermont, and Massachusetts.”

More proof that Obama was elected not because of his policies, but simply because he was on the other side of the aisle as Bush.

Overhauling Health-Care System Tops Agenda at Annual Meeting of Canada's Doctors

"We all agree that the system is imploding, we all agree that things are more precarious than perhaps Canadians realize," Doing said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"We know that there must be change," she said. "We're all running flat out, we're all just trying to stay ahead of the immediate day-to-day demands."

Ouellet has been saying since his return that "a health-care revolution has passed us by," that it's possible to make wait lists disappear while maintaining universal coverage and "that competition should be welcomed, not feared."

White House disables e-tip box

Chalk up yet another win for we the people.

Voters Give GOP First Lead on Healthcare
  • Voters favor the GOP on the issue of healthcare by a margin of 44 percent to 41 percent.
  • The GOP holds a six-point lead on the top issue of the economy.
  • The GOP holds a three-point lead on the issue of education.
  • The GOP holds a four-point lead on the issue of social security.
  • The GOP holds a four-point lead on the issue of national security.
  • The GOP holds a strong 16-point lead on the issue of taxes.
  • The GOP holds a 10-point lead on the issue of abortion.
  • The parties are tied on the issue of the war in Iraq.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

White House Appears Ready to Drop 'Public Option'

"Facing mounting opposition to the overhaul, administration officials left open the chance for a compromise with Republicans that would include health insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run plan."

"All I'm saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform," Obama said at a town hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colo. "This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it."

It's hardly the same rhetoric Obama employed during a constant, personal campaign for legislation.

"I am pleased by the progress we're making on health care reform and still believe, as I've said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest," Obama said in July.

Whitehouse Sending Unsolicited Emails?

"In a related development, Fox on Friday filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain the full e-mail distribution list for the Axelrod health care e-mail and all internal White House e-mails about the list's creation."

Might turn out to be nothing. Head on Foxnews today that they are now offering the emails to the Whitehouse who say they don't want them. You would think that if the Whitehouse denies this they would seek to prove that the owners of those emails were on some kind of subscribed distribution list.

More to come I suspect...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Who's Working on Remaking the Health Care System?

Ezekiel Emanuel, White House official, is working to remake the health care system. Dr. Emanuel is a special adviser to the budget director, Peter R. Orszag. He is also the older brother of Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. The following are quotes from papers that he has written.

From: Principles of allocation of scarce medical interventions, January 31, 2009
"Strict youngest-first allocation directs scarce resources predominantly to infants. This approach seems incorrect. The death of a 20-year-old woman is intuitively worse than that of a 2-month-old girl, even though the baby has had less life. The 20-year-old has a much more developed personality than the infant, and has drawn upon the investment of others to begin as-yet-unfulfilled projects.... Adolescents have received substantial substantial education and parental care, investments that will be wasted without a complete life. Infants, by contrast, have not yet received these investments.... It is terrible when an infant dies, but worse, most people think, when a three-year-old child dies, and worse still when an adolescent does."

"Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years. Treating 65-year olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not."

"Ultimately, the complete lives system does not create 'classes of Untermenschen whose lives and well being are deemed not worth spending money on,' but rather empowers us to decide fairly whom to save when genuine scarcity makes saving everyone impossible."

"When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated."

"Every favor to a constituency should be linked to support for the health-care reform agenda. If the automakers want a bailout, then they and their suppliers have to agree to support and lobby for the administration's health-reform effort."

From: What Are the Potential Cost Savings from Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide? New England Journal of Medicine, July 1998
"There is a widespread perception that the United States spends an excessive amount on high-technology health care for dying patients. Many commentators note that 27 to 30 percent of the Medicare budget is spent on the 5 percent of Medicare patients who die each year. They also note that the expenditures increase exponentially as death approaches, so that the last month of life accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the medical care expenditures in the last year of life. To many, savings from reduced use of expensive technological interventions at the end of life are both necessary and desirable."

"Many have linked the effort to reduce the high cost of death with the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. One commentator observed: "Managed care and managed death [through physician-assisted suicide] are less expensive than fee-for-service care and extended survival. Less expensive is better." Some of the amicus curiae briefs submitted to the Supreme Court expressed the same logic: "Decreasing availability and increasing expense in health care and the uncertain impact of managed care may intensify pressure to choose physician-assisted suicide" and "the cost effectiveness of hastened death is as undeniable as gravity. The earlier a patient dies, the less costly is his or her care."

"Although the cost savings to the United States and most managed-care plans are likely to be small, it is important to recognize that the savings to specific terminally ill patients and their families could be substantial. For many patients and their families, especially but not exclusively those without health insurance, the costs of terminal care may result in large out-of-pocket expenses. Nevertheless, as compared with the average American, the terminally ill are less likely to be uninsured, since more than two thirds of decedents are Medicare beneficiaries over 65 years of age. The poorest dying patients are likely to be Medicaid beneficiaries. Extrapolating from the Medicare data, one can calculate that a typical uninsured patient, by dying one month earlier by means of physician-assisted suicide, might save his or her family $10,000 in health care costs, having already spent as much as $20,000 in that year."

"Drawing on data from the Netherlands on the use of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide and on available U.S. data on costs at the end of life, this analysis explores the degree to which the legalization of physician-assisted suicide might reduce health care costs. The most reasonable estimate is a savings of $627 million, less than 0.07 percent of total health care expenditures."

From: Where Civic Republicanism and Deliberative Democracy Meet, Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec.1996
"This civic republican or deliberative democratic conception of the good provides both procedural and substantive insights for developing a just allocation of health care resources. Procedurally, it suggests the need for public forums to deliberate about which health services should be considered basic and should be socially guaranteed. Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity-those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberations-are to be socially guaranteed as basic. Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia."

"I’m a Fan of Disruptors"

"So I thank all of you who have spoken out for your courage, your point of view. All of it. Your advocacy is very American and very important."

"I'm a fan of disruptors."

But a few years later when on the other side of a debate...

"An ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt...civil dialogue. These disruption are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views, but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American."

Obama's Deadly Defense Cuts

The Pentagon’s proposed 2010 budget would cut the funding for homeland missile defense – known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD – in half, allowing the U.S.’s only defense against long-range ballistic missiles to stall and eventually become obsolete.

The budget halts the installation of interceptor missiles in silos in Alaska and California, leaving us approximately a dozen missiles short of what security analysis has shown we need to counter the threat from North Korea.

Foreclosures rise 7 percent in July from June

Foreclosure filings were up 32 percent from the same month last year, RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday. More than 360,000 households, or one in every 355 homes, received a foreclosure-related notice, such as a notice of default or trustee's sale. That's the highest monthly level since the foreclosure-listing firm began publishing the data more than four years ago.

Banks repossessed more than 87,000 homes in July, up from about 79,000 homes a month earlier.

Retail Sales Dip Unexpectedly, Jobless Claims Rise

We're not out of the woods yet.

The Effect of State Regulations on Health Insurance Premiums

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No More Talk Radio Hosts on CNN?

"CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein asked his show producers to avoid booking talk radio hosts"

Hmm, which way do talk radio show hosts typically lean? And they say Fox News is unbalanced.

"I Feel [Global Warming] When I'm Flying"

Michigan just experienced its coldest July on record; global temperatures haven't risen in more than a decade; Great Lakes water levels have resumed their 30-year cyclical rise (contrary to a decade of media scare stories that they were drying up due to global warming), and polls show that climate change doesn't even make a list of Michigan voters' top-ten concerns.

Obama's Numerous Gaffes at Healthcare Townhall
  • "I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter," the president said. Yet the Heritage Foundation Web site points out that his own campaign Web site quotes him stating at a 2008 Ames, Iowa campaign rally: “If I were designing a system from scratch I would probably set up a single-payer system. … So what I believe is we should set up a series of choices….Over time it may be that we end up transitioning to such a system.”
  • The president implied his proposed health exchange would be similar to that available to members of Congress: “That’s what the health exchange is all about, is that you — just like a member of Congress — can go and choose the plan that’s right for you.” But the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program does not have a "public option" government provider, a costly and controversial element of Obama's proposal. The president continues to insist that no one will have to change insurances providers if they like their current plan. He has previously acknowledged, however, that he can't control business owners' efforts to reduce their costs, and the public option plan could lead to more than 88 million Americans losing their current coverage, according to a Lewin Group study commissioned by the Heritage Foundation. It is hard to argue against the facts," Nina Owcharenko, deputy director of the Center for Health Policy Studies for the Heritage Foundation, tells Newsmax. "The Lewin Group estimates more than 88 million could lose their current employer-based coverage under the House bill. Other estimates, by the Congressional Budget Office and Urban Institute, although lower than Lewin, still find millions of Americans could lose their current coverage." Obama again tried to paint insurance companies as the bad guys: "But let's face it, now is the hard part – because the history is clear – every time we come close to passing health insurance reform, the special interests fight back with everything they've got." The problem with this characterization is that pharmaceutical companies and health insurance firms have tried hard to work with the administration to shape the proposals coming out of Congress. "In stark contrast to the healthcare reform debate in the 1990s," reports The Hill, "the health insurance industry has refrained from launching attacks on Obama or the plans working their way through Congress. Insurance lobbyists have been very active on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue trying to shape the legislations, but so far the industry has not used its considerable resources to stop the process, despite numerous Democratic proposals it opposes." Robert Zirkelbach, communications director for the America's Health Insurance Plans trade organization, tells Newsmax: "The inconvenient fact is that our industry strongly supports healthcare reform and we actually proposed last year the insurance market reforms and consumer protections that people are talking about today."
  • Obama touts his ability to obtain voluntary drug-cost cuts from pharmaceutical companies, but doesn't tell the whole story. "Now, in terms of savings for you as a Medicare recipient, the biggest one is on prescription drugs, because the prescription drug companies have already said that they would be willing to put up $80 billion in rebates for prescription drugs as part of a healthcare reform package. Now, we may be able to get even more than that." The White House admitted last week that a New York Times report that the administration had cut a backroom deal with the pharmaceutical companies was accurate. This after the administration promised a new style of politics that would keep lobbying interests at arm's-length.
  • Obama stated that more preventive care saves money, but the director of the Congressional Budget Office has already weighed in that it does not. "And finally," Obama said, "and this is important – we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – (applause) – because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. That makes sense, it saves lives; it also saves money – and we need to save money in this healthcare system." Unfortunately for Obama, Douglas W. Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, recently addressed this point in a seven-page letter posted on "Although different types of preventive care have different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall." That's because finding one disease in its early stages requires expensive screening procedures for countless others, which actually increases the costs of medicine. That's not to suggest preventative care isn't a good idea -- but to say it will reduce healthcare costs is at variance with the facts.
  • Obama promised reform would not increase the deficit, stating: "First of all, I said I won't sign a bill that adds to the deficit or the national debt. OK? So this will have to be paid for." Actually, the CBO estimates reform will increase the deficit by $239 billion over the next decade. Even if Obama and congressional Democrats find a way to bridge that gap, the real cost of the current proposals comes after year 10. Based on CBO estimates, those costs of the program will increase by 8 percent per year, adding over $188 billion to the deficit each year beyond 2020.

Press Largely Ignored Incendiary Rhetoric at Bush Protest

It's only patriotic protest if it is directed at an evil white man, otherwise it's hate-speech, fear-mongering, and unamerican.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Obama was for a Single Payer System Before he was Against It?

"I have not said I was a single payer supporter."
"I'm not promoting a single payer plan."

"I happen to be a proponent of the single payer universal healthcare plan."
"A single payer healthcare plan, a universal healthcare plan, that's what I'd like to see."

Transcript: Q&A at New Hampshire Health Care Town Hall

Little Girl Who Asked Obama Question at New Hampshire Town Hall Was a Plant

Obama: "I don't want people thinking I just have a bunch of plants in here."

Surprise, surprise!

Obama Falsely Claims AARP Endorses his Health Plan

"While the President was correct that AARP will not endorse a health care reform bill that would reduce Medicare benefits, indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate."

The sad thing is that the majority of people who heard that won't be corrected and will be forming an opinion upon a mistake. Will Obama come out and correct this for all the hear? We shall see, but I'm not holding my breath.

GM Turns to eBay to Sell Cars

The website allows consumers to compare pricing across models and participating dealerships, negotiate prices, and arrange financing and payment. Consumers can agree to pay the advertised price or indicate the price they are willing to pay and can negotiate online with the dealer for the vehicle.

This is genius, if it works. And you know why, because it lets the free market determine prices. However, given the cost it takes GM to make a car vs. imports, I wonder if it is sustainable.

It’s the Post Office That’s Always Having Problems

1:45 p.m.: Fifth question “from a Republican so I don’t know what I’m doing here.” Question on a universal health care plan, and that if you create a public option, whether it will lead to an entirely government run system. Obama says there’s a difference between a “universal” plan and a “single-payer” plan. Obama says the private industry can compete against the government. “They do it all the time,” he says. “If you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.”

Really Mr. President? If it is the public version of an industry that is always having problems, what makes you think that your government run health care will be any different? UPS and FedEx work because of a profit motive, something that you demonize. However, without it, capitalism and the exchanging of goods and services ceases to function as efficiently. In the case of healthcare it won't be mail that is lost, but lives.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Meese: Obama Wrong on Cold War Win

“Make no mistake: this change did not come from any one nation alone,” [Obama] said. “The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.”

But Meese, who advised President Reagan on foreign affairs as part of the National Security Council, said such moral relativism is “simply not true.”

Meese describes Obama’s foreign policy as “part of the cult of personality that has characterized the Obama administration in which he goes around the world saying things that get a round of applause from his audience without him appreciating or recognizing the negative impact it has on the United States.”

Meese said that if this type of diplomacy persists over Obama’s first and potential second terms, “I see a continued deterioration of the overall standing of the United States in the world.”

Opposition Emerges to House's Jet Spree

Because the Appropriations Committee viewed the additional aircraft as an expansion of an existing Defense Department program, it did not treat the money for two more planes as an earmark, and the legislation does not disclose which Member had requested the additional money.

The plan to upgrade the fleet of government jets, which was included in a broader defense-funding bill, has also sparked criticism from the Pentagon, which has said it doesn't need half of the new jets.

Geithner Asks Congress to Increase Federal Debt Limit

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asked Congress to increase the $12.1 trillion debt limit on Friday, saying it is "critically important" that they act in the next two months.

Deficit Grew by $181 Billion in July

Spending through July of 2009 has increased by $530 billion, which is 21 percent over the same period in 2008. The bailout money for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae accounted for almost half of the spending increase. Unemployment benefits have more than doubled, Medicaid spending has grown by a quarter and Medicare spending has increased by 11 percent.

The independent budget scorekeeper has projected the deficit to reach $1.8 trillion by the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. The deficit in 2008 reached $455 billion, which was a record at the time.

Inherited my @$%.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Honduras Has Won

As it turns out, the U.S. Senate can't find any legal reason why the Honduran Supreme Court's refusal to let Zelaya stay in office beyond the time allowed by Honduran law constitutes a "military coup."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sebelius to America: Don't Sweat the Details

"The details matter because they are about government deciding who gets treatment when sick and who does not, who lives and who dies. Are there any details more important than that? Why would anyone trust government with his health and life when there are so many things government already does poorly and inefficiently?"

"As Rick Scott, chairman of Conservatives for Patients' Rights, has noted, 'Americans want lower health care costs, not a government-run system. And there are several reforms we can do immediately to lower costs that won't cost a dime, [such as] allowing insurers to compete across state lines, requiring doctors and hospitals to post their rates and results to allow consumers to shop around, and creating one standardized reimbursement form for all insurers.'"

Facts are Stubborn Things

"Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to"

Wow this is quite divisive. Let's turn in our fellow citizens to government because something seems "fishy."

Gov't insurance would allow coverage for abortion

They stick it in amongst everything else hoping that such a politicized topic will get pulled along with the bigger bill. What a way to get something done that otherwise could not stand on its own merit.

Bill Clinton's Hollywood Blockbuster

This is disgusting. It makes you wonder what the motives were. Were saving two lives really as important as getting yourself back in the news and creating all this staged hoopla? A true hero acts heroically even when no one is watching. The same cannot be said of Bill Clinton.

About half of U.S. mortgages seen underwater by 2011


Home price declines will have their biggest impact on prime "conforming" loans that meet underwriting and size guidelines of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bank said in a report. Prime conforming loans make up two-thirds of mortgages, and are typically less risky because of stringent requirements.

Tell me that without Freddie and Fannie all this would still be happening?

Deutsche's dire assessment comes amid a bolt of evidence in recent months that point to stabilization in the U.S. housing market after three years of price drops.

It ain't over and my guess would be that this report is swept under the rug for few months until its predictions start coming true.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Carol Browner: U.S. Energy Czar

"Carol Browner has been exposed as being a member of Socialist International, a highly influential group that advocates the implementation of global government."

Cass Sunstein: U.S. Regulatory Czar

"Advocated a "Fairness Doctrine" for the Internet that would require opposing opinions be linked and also has suggested angry e-mails should be prevented from being sent by technology that would require a 24-hour cooling off period."

"Sunstein first proposed the notion of imposing mandatory "electronic sidewalks" for the Net. These "sidewalks" would display links to opposing viewpoints."

"We propose a Civility Check that can accurately tell whether the e-mail you're about to send is angry and caution you, 'warning: this appears to be an uncivil e-mail. do you really and truly want to send it?'" they wrote. "(Software already exists to detect foul language. What we are proposing is more subtle, because it is easy to send a really awful e-mail message that does not contain any four-letter words.) A stronger version, which people could choose or which might be the default, would say, 'warning: this appears to be an uncivil e-mail. this will not be sent unless you ask to resend in 24 hours.' With the stronger version, you might be able to bypass the delay with some work (by inputting, say, your Social Security number and your grandfather’s birth date, or maybe by solving some irritating math problem!)."

In a 2007 speech at Harvard he called for banning hunting in the U.S.
In his book "Radicals in Robes," he wrote: "[A]lmost all gun control legislation is constitutionally fine. And if the Court is right, then fundamentalism does not justify the view that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms."

In his 2004 book, "Animal Rights," he wrote: "Animals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives …"

In "Animal Rights: A Very Short Primer," he wrote "[T]here should be extensive regulation of the use of animals in entertainment, in scientific experiments, and in agriculture."

Van Jones: U.S. Green Czar

"Jones was a founder and leader of the communist revolutionary organization Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement, or STORM. That organization had its roots in a grouping of black people organizing to protest the first Gulf War. STORM was formally founded in 1994, becoming one of the most influential and active radical groups in the San Francisco Bay area."

"Jones said he first became radicalized in the wake of the 1992 Rodney King riots, during which time he was arrested. 'I was a rowdy nationalist on April 28th, and then the verdicts came down on April 29th," he said. "By August, I was a communist.'"

31-Year-Old in Charge of Dismantling G.M.

"Brian Deese, a not-quite graduate of Yale Law School who had never set foot in an automotive assembly plant until he took on his nearly unseen role in remaking the American automotive industry."

"Mr. Deese’s role is unusual for someone who is neither a formally trained economist nor a business school graduate, and who never spent much time flipping through the endless studies about the future of the American and Japanese auto industries."

Obama in ‘03 (Uncut): I’d Like to See a ‘Single Payer Health Care Plan’

“I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Myth of Free-Market Health Care in America

"The only sustainable system that avoids this Hobson's choice is one that is based on a genuine free market in which there is some connection between what patients pay for coverage and the services they receive. That is emphatically not what America or any Western country has today. Looking to these countries for solutions, as Obama and other advocates of universal health coverage are doing, will lead to false diagnoses and false cures."

Bush vs Obama Deficit

Inherited? I think not.

Constituents Make Congressman Tim Bishop Sweat

Uncovered Video: Obama Explains How His Health Care Plan Will ‘Eliminate’ Private Insurance

But seriously, who didn't see this coming?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

SURPRISE! 2 Obama administration officials can't guarantee middle-class Americans won't see tax hike

"Cannot rule out higher taxes to help tame an exploding budget deficit"

I know a better way to tame an exploding budget deficit...STOP SPENDING MONEY!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Text of "Cash for Clunkers"

This was really hard to find and the reason being because it isn't its own bill. No, it is buried within the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009, Title XIII which interestingly enough appropriates "public funds for spending in the Iraq War and Afghanistan War during the 2009 fiscal year." Who knew tanks and cars went together?