Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Health care smorgasbord

The indefatigable Robert Bidinotto constantly unearthes new articles on the health care debate and shares them on Facebook. I’ve provided some of them below with selected quotes. The first item is one I found, coming from Investor’s Business Daily. It provides some interesting information comparing our health care system with Canada and England.

Health Care Here And Over There by Investor's Business Daily

[D]ata from the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, hardly a right-wing organization, show that the U.K.'s heart-attack fatality rate is almost 20% higher than America's, and that angioplasties in Britain are only 21.3% as common as they are here.

Or it's easy to forget that in March, the U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) ruled against the use of two drugs, Lapatinib and Sutent, that prolong the life of those with certain forms of breast and stomach cancer.

So it's no surprise to discover that while breast cancer in America has a 25% mortality rate, in Britain it's almost double at 46%. Prostate cancer is fatal to 19% of American men who get it; in Britain it kills 57% of those it strikes. We are not making this up.

According to Scott Atlas of the Hoover Institution, British patients wait about twice as long as Americans — sometimes more than a year — to see a specialist, have elective surgery such as hip replacement or get radiation treatment for cancer. In Britain, nearly 1.8 million people are waiting for a hospital admission or outpatient treatment.

The U.S. has 34 CT scanners per million citizens compared with eight in Britain. The U.S. has almost 27 MRI machines per million compared with about six per million in Britain. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40% higher than in America.

David Gratzer, a physician and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, says the difference is that in the U.S., internists recommend that men 50 and older get screened for colon cancer. In the National Health Service in the U.K., screening begins at 75.

Avastin, a drug for advanced colon cancer, is prescribed more often in the U.S. than in the U.K., by some estimates as much as 10 times more.

As mentioned, British patients wait longer to see specialists. Gratzer notes that a clinical oncology study of British lung cancer treatment found that 20% "of potentially curable patients became incurable on the waiting list."

Firms with Obama ties profit from health push by Sharon Theimer, Associated Press Writer

President Barack Obama's push for a national health care overhaul is providing a financial windfall in the election offseason to Democraticconsulting firms that are closely connected to the president and two top advisers.

Coalitions of interest groups running at least $24 million in pro-overhaul ads hired GMMB, which worked for Obama's 2008 campaign and whose partners include a top Obama campaign strategist. They also hired AKPD Message and Media, which was founded by David Axelrod, a top adviser to Obama's campaign and now to the White House. AKPD did work for Obama's campaign, and Axelrod's son Michael and Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe work there.

How Free Health Care Got So Expensive By Steven Malanga

State government mandates and favorable tax treatment in Washington have so distorted the market for health insurance that a generation of Americans now look on medical coverage as something very different from other kinds of insurance that we buy. While we will pay several hundred bucks out of our own pockets to have a plumber come repair a leaky pipe, we'll balk at deductibles and a $50 co-pay for a doctor's visit. We've been schooled in this attitude by politicians who have mandated that health insurance do things that we'd never expect from other kinds of insurance, and by consumer advocates who will demand our legislators do something about a health insurance company that doesn't cover some optional procedure that has nothing to do with life and death.

ObamaCare Is All About Rationing By MARTIN FELDSTEIN

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

The Ugly Truth of Obamacare by John Stossel

[T]here is good reason to worry about Obama's nationalization scheme.

The reason can be found in Econ 101. Medical care doesn't grow on trees. It must be produced by human and physical capital, and those resources are limited. Therefore, if demand for health care services increases -- which is Obama's point in extending health insurance -- prices must go up. But somehow Obama also promises, "I won't sign a bill that doesn't reduce health care inflation".

This is magical thinking. Obama, talented as he is, can't repeal the laws of supply and demand. Costs are real. If they are incurred, someone has to pay them. But as economist Thomas Sowell points out, politicians cancontrol costs -- by refusing to pay for the services.

It's called rationing.

Advocates of nationalization hate that word because it forces them to face an ugly truth. If government pays for more people's health care and wants to control costs, it must limit what we buy.

So much for Obama's promise not to interfere with our freedom of choice.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

ObamaCare: Extensive Links Compiled by Robert Bidinotto

Although Robert Bidinotto is not actively blogging (unfortunately) he is still posting great stuff on his Facebook account. Robert has complied an extensive listing of sites related to the debate over the pending health care bill. Below is his posting.

To friends who oppose ObamaCare:

You will find this information useful in the coming weeks. Please forward it to others.


Text of HR 3200, the main House bill: (Note that each section listed is a link to the text in that section)

Text of the initial Senate bill:


Here is Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) June 15 letter to Sen. Ted Kennedy analyzing his Senate committee version of the healthcare legislation, which proposes “health insurance exchanges.” It concludes that this would add one trillion dollars to existing federal deficits over a decade, with a net decrease in the number of uninsured of only 16 million out of the 47 million currently claimed to be uninsured:

Here is the CBO’s more recent letter, demolishing the argument that “preventive medicine” and “wellness” options will lower the overall costs of Obamacare. In fact, says the CBO, these measures will raise costs:

Here is the CBO’s July 17 assessment of H.R. 3200, one of the House bills, projecting a net deficit increase of $239 billion over ten years, with far greater costs after 2019. This analysis, of course, is limited solely to financial cost considerations; it says nothing of the other onerous, coercive provisions of the bill, including skyrocketing taxes on “the rich,” and “employer mandates” on small businesses. Nor does it discuss the inevitable negative impact of the legislation on the supply of healthcare (e.g., doctors, hospitals, etc.):

Here is the CBO’s June 16 letter to two senators, which outlines more generally the budget impact of an expanding federal role in healthcare, after factoring in increased subsidies and universal coverage. Pages 2-3 of the supporting document say this would lead to a “permanent increase of roughly 10 percent in the federal budgetary commitment to healthcare,” and actually “cause national spending on healthcare to increase.” The CBO then assesses an array of potential cost-saving mechanisms. However, some of the most fruitful of these—i.e., changing the tax-exempt status of employer-provided health insurance, and tort reform—have already been taken off the table by congressional Democrats. Nor will the current rush to pass legislation give Congress enough time to properly weigh and assess these options and determine their likely unintended consequences. The potential for real long-term savings is thus bleak, and the CBO projections of budget-busting long-term cost increases remain:


A section-by-section analysis and critique of major provisions in House bill 3200:

“Five Freedoms You’d Lose Under ObamaCare,” from Fortune magazine

A concise presentation, in Time magazine, of basic internal contradictions in ObamaCare claims:,9171,1914973-1,00.html

A systematic refutation of numerous claims made by President Obama during his New Hampshire “town meeting” on healthcare:

An article explaining that what Democrats are advocating is not insurance, but the elimination of the basic principles of insurance, as such -- and the substitution of a new governmental welfare entitlement for insurance:

A brief compilation of comparative medical care statistics from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain, demolishing many myths about the alleged superiority of nationalized healthcare:

Links to statements by leading Democrats and prominent Obamacare supporters, all acknowledging that various “public option” proposals, including the “co-op” and “insurance exchanges,” are mere stepping stones toward the eventual implementation of “single-payer” nationalized healthcare, and the elimination of private healthcare insurance:


Barney Frank:

Obama, Frank, and Cong. Jan Shakowsky

Writers in the liberal Huffington Post

A senior editor of The New Republic

A Washington Post editorial staff member raises serious, non-exaggerated concerns about the “end-of-life counseling” provision in the House bill:


A Washington Post report quantifying the huge impact of “defensive medicine” in increasing healthcare costs, yet noting the refusal of Democrats and the lawyer lobby to any efforts at tort reform, which could dramatically reduce these unnecessary healthcare costs:

Links to comprehensive information about the various government proposals, and also to a host of free-market alternative plans that Obamacare proponents refuse to consider: (what to do about people with pre-existing conditions)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Obamacare's Fatal Flaw

Obamacare\'s Fatal Flaw

It's a sure sign of trouble when a mainstream media outlet like Time magazine cast doubt on Obama's relentless push to socialize health care. (Hat tip to Robert Bidinotto for the reference.)

Here are some key quotes from this article.

Again and again, their effort has brought us into a land of paradoxes. Public skepticism is warranted when the President promises to cut costs while simultaneously providing coverage to nearly 50 million uninsured people. It is even more warranted when his congressional allies seek to raise taxes to pay for all the new spending that this cost-cutting entails. We aren't talking about short-term spending either; this isn't a trillion-dollar investment in a new system that will ultimately save money. The Congressional Budget Office says the leading health-care-reform proposals will increase health-care spending and make the budget harder to balance in the long run. Yet saving money is the President's principal stated rationale for reform.

Health-care reformers send out mixed messages on the uninsured as well. The moral imperative of improving their health care is what drives the passion of most liberal activists for reform. But when you read the liberal policy analysts, it quickly becomes clear that getting young and healthy people to pay more in premiums than they will spend on medical expenses is the point of forcing them to buy insurance. Which is it? In aggregate, are we trying to rescue the uninsured or bilk them? Is reform something we are doing for them or to them?

The reformers' speed belies their words as well. If health-care reform is so critically important, as they keep insisting, why not take the time to get it right? Hard as it is to believe, at one point Obama was urging the House and Senate to pass legislation by three weeks after they began debating it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Liberal Death Watch Begins by Robert Bidinotto

Robert Bidinotto recently posted the essay below for his Facebook friends. He has graciously granted permission for me to post it here.

The Liberal Death Watch Begins

After just a half year of radical leftist governance, voters are turning against liberal Democrats in droves. Now, so-called Democrat "moderates" -- "Blue Dog" Democrats, first-term freshmen, and Dems elected in "swing" districts -- are becoming scared witless about the upcoming 2010 congressional elections, fearful that they will lose their seats in a voter rebellion against the left.

Even at the time of the last election, I anticipated Obama would face this quick collapse in public support. My assessment was that Obama, like most liberals -- and most Democratic presidential candidates going back to Adlai Stevenson -- is a man of boundless arrogance. His self-image is that he's oh-so-much-smarter, better educated, and more sophisticated than the crude rubes who populate Flyover America. In this, he's cut of the same psychological cloth as McGovern, Kerry, Gore, Carter, and Dukakis: "progressive" technocrats with intellectual pretensions, whose intellectual great-granddaddy was progressive icon Woodrow Wilson. All ooze sanctimonious, self-righteous superiority from their every condescending pore.

But such politicians face a formidable challenge: America is, at core, the nation of individualism. Knowing this, "progressives" must try to camouflage their true nature and values while running for office, in order to fool voters into thinking that they, too, are Regular Guys who share the values of ordinary Americans. Most of them have been awkward in their masquerading, however, which is why they never got elected.

Barack Obama, though, is much more politically slick and savvy than his leftist predecessors. Knowing a radical agenda would never sell in America, he laid the groundwork for his ascendancy in careful steps. He sanitized his background by writing self-serving autobiographies, creating a Horatio Alger "narrative" for public consumption. As state legislator, he avoided taking tough stands that might later come back to haunt him. During his presidential run, he threw his past radical associates under the campaign bus. For years, he's polished and perfected a subdued, reasonable, moderate style and public image, using measured, vacuously noncontroversial language. He also played gently upon America's past racial guilt: A vote for Obama became a vote of racial penance and expiation of sins.

Still, Obama shares with his less-successful liberal forerunners the same smug arrogance that is ever their Achilles' Heel. Liberals think that they know, better than all of us mere mortals, how to run our lives for us. If only we would live according to their all-wise edicts and values, the world would become perfect. So, once in power, they simply cannot resist the temptation to overreach -- to push a radical agenda far, far outside the voters' political comfort zones.

So, I knew that Obama would have to overreach. However, the man's sheer grandiosity and power-lust astonished even me. He aimed at nothing less than to nationalize everything in sight -- overnight. Think of it: the banking and financial sectors of the economy; the auto industry; the housing industry; the entire energy industry; now, the entire health-care industry. Make no mistake; this is deliberate. Obama is a well-read ideologue who cut his teeth on Marx and Alinsky. He knows what he is doing. He aimed to impose his agenda in a rush, before the rest of us realized what he was doing or could organize to stop it.

It hasn't quite worked out as planned, though, precisely because he overreached. The "tea party" rebellion was unexpected. So was the huge influence of conservative talk radio, which has hammered him relentlessly. So was the public's realization that the "stimulus" was a fraud. His hidden values are revealing themselves in countless ways: in his apologies for America on foreign soil; in unscripted racist accusations against police; in befriending foreign enemies and betraying friends. In short, he's living down to every public expectation of what a radical leftist is. And as a result, Obama's poll numbers are tanking; the majority now disapprove of him and his agenda.

Which is why I think we're at the beginning of the liberal death watch.