Saturday, October 31, 2009
Ford sought the deal to bring its labor costs in line with Detroit rivals Chrysler Group and General Motors, both of which won concessions from the union as they headed into bankruptcy protection earlier this year.Tough luck, guys. Next time get your fat government bailout.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Extra – From Critical Condition: "The insanity of the House bill"
Yee-ouch! Let's debate!
The bill unveiled today by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should put to rest for good the thought that this year’s legislative process will produce anything other than a total fiscal and health policy disaster.
To sum it up, the House bill is nothing but a massive, uncontrolled federal entitlement expansion - at a time when the central, looming threat to the nation’s long-term prosperity is the unaffordable health-care entitlements already on the federal books. To create the impression of fiscal responsibility, the bill is jury-rigged with budget gimmicks, implausible eligibility rules, and arbitrary, government-dictated price controls - that have been tried repeatedly without success - to make it look like it costs “only” $900 billion over a decade.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Some have called the public option in health care reform a "Trojan horse" while others have called it a "stalking horse" but the meaning is the same: sneak up on the enemy in a non-threatening manner and then spring the trap.
Over at National Journal, former HHS secretary Mike Leavitt explains what will happen once the government gets into the health insurance biz:
A government-run plan is dangerous for three reasons: One, it would be cheaper for employers to stop offering private insurance and funnel their employees into the government-run plan. Employers, not employees, would get to make that choice. Two, the government-run plan would use the coercive force of government to dictate the prices that could be charged by others - by doctors, nurses, and hospitals - in a way that private entities cannot. Three, the government-run plan would be subsidized by American taxpayers, while private plans are not.Also, the "opt-out" ploy is a big scam:
Let no one be deceived into thinking that Congress would not subsidize the government-run plan. Once in place, Congress would favor it with all kinds of innovative provisions designed to “help” participants “make the right choice.”
Financial subsidies for a public plan, whether direct or indirect, would be financed by taxpayers - by taxpayers in all fifty states. States would not be allowed to opt out of having their residents pay these federal taxes. They would only be allowed to opt out of receiving their share of the federal subsidies.Harry Reid appears intent on at least bring the public option up for a vote but, if the "doc fix" vote is any indication, there are quite a few moderate Democrats unwilling to plunge into this wide, expensive world of government-run health care.
Monday, October 26, 2009
And once you get past his dismissal of inconvenient polls, you'll find this admission:
And the Massachusetts plan hasn’t yet done anything significant to contain costs.Say what now? I thought the whole point of health care reform was that "the cost of doing nothing is too great." Here's what Obama's teleprompter read this past September:
Finally, our health care system is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close. Nothing else.And here's Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on "This Week" yesterday:
"The devil we know is much worse than what we are proposing to do," she said. You can't be a serious deficit hawk," and not pass a bill, she added.Everything's going to work out fine because President Obama has sworn he will not sign a bill unless it is deficit-neutral. And – you'll see – Congress will buckle down and start making some serious cuts to the budget to pare the deficit.
Extra - Via RCP, here's Robert Samuelson: "The public plan delusion."
More - Critical Condition: "The $400 billion in Medicare and Medicaid “savings” will not happen, and Reid and other leaders are still scrambling to find a mix of $500 billion in new taxes that can win enough votes to pass. No one has put together that magic formula." In other words, the funding for the baseline plan isn't in place, even before costs go all Massachusetts on us.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
All lands of fantasy where anything can happen:
It is beyond fantastic to promise that future Congresses, for 10 straight years, will allow planned cuts in reimbursements to hospitals, other providers, and Medicare Advantage (thereby reducing the benefits of 25% of seniors in Medicare). The 1997 Balanced Budget Act pursued this strategy and successive Congresses steadily unwound its provisions. The very fact that this Congress is pursuing an expensive new entitlement belies the notion that members would be willing to cut existing ones.To get the health care numbers to come in "deficit-neutral" Max Baucus just made stuff up. He may as well factored in "gold coins raining down from heaven" since this is a more likely scenario than Congress slashing a half-trillion dollars from Medicare.
Most astounding of all is what this Congress is willing to do to struggling middle-class families. The bill would impose nearly $400 billion in new taxes and fees. Nearly 90% of that burden will be shouldered by those making $200,000 or less.
Here's Harvard economist Greg Mankiw on the value-added tax:
Which brings us to Europe. Many European countries have both a VAT and a large government. But here is the hard question: which is cause and which is effect? Did the VAT cause government to become large, as VAT-opponents fear? Or did Europeans adopt large governments and then, needing to finance it, look for a relatively efficient way to raise a lot of revenue? I am inclined toward the latter hypothesis, but I will be the first to admit that it is entirely clear which way causation runs here.By "here" Mankiw means the U.S.A. where a "feed the beast" mentality has locked us into entitlement spending that cannot be cut yet we can't afford.
Extra - Hot Air: "Bait and switch"
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
For obvious reasons, I dig this post from John Steele Gordon on Contentions:
This is why I like engineers more than I like politicians. Engineers live in the real world. What they design has to actually function as advertised. So they don’t promise an airplane that is extremely fast, extremely fuel efficient, extremely quiet, and extremely safe. Those goals, each desirable individually, are mutually incompatible given the laws of physics. Politicians live in the political world and need only make sure that the bridges they build and the aircraft they design don’t crash in ruins before the next election. So they blithely ignore the laws of economics and human nature in designing programs. The political press corps equally pretends these laws don’t exist.Precisely. All through this debate on the mother of all entitlements, nobody has acknowledged the elephant in the room that we're already locked into a mountain of debt due to exploding spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. So the Senate Finance Committee makes up stories to pretend the money is there but it's already been spent ten-times-to-Sunday.
What's going to happen when the money runs dry and China won't lend us any more? Well, the government big enough to give you anything is big enough to take it away:
Meanwhile, Massachusetts is offering a preview of where all this will end up. The state passed a prototype for ObamaCare in 2006 on the same cost-control theory as Senate Finance, only to see spending explode. So now Beacon Hill is contemplating far more drastic spending-control measures, such as a plan to "require residents to give up their nearly unlimited freedom to go to any hospital and specialist they want," as the Boston Globe reported on Sunday. Paul Levy, the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told the Globe that "You can't reap these savings without limiting patients' choices in some way."A lot of pundits believe that some kind of health care reform will pass this year. I'm terrified that we're about to take that final leap from which there is no return, complete with trillion dollar deficits beyond the horizon. I always tell my kids that credit card companies love to urge you to spend money on yourself, to splurge for those "priceless" moments, but eventually you have to pay that money back. Every time we auction off another trillion in Treasury bonds, we're mortgaging away a little chunk of our freedom because the creditor nations will hold sway over federal policy.
This is the corner we're painting ourselves into, the end of the American century.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday, October 09, 2009
When I heard the 6am news on NPR during my morning commute, my jaw hit the floor. But by the time I got to work, I decided the Nobel Peace Prize would be an albatross around Barack Obama's neck for the remainder of his term.
The award was an affirmation of all those criticisms that Obama is an empty suit who is levitated by a fawning press and an international cult of personality. Thanks to five Norwegians, for the remainder of his term he'll be dogged by two characterizations: he's the guy who won the prize without actually doing anything and he's the Peace Prize winner who's Commander in Chief during wartime.
The skits write themselves. A young Obama shows up for the spelling bee and is immediately deemed the winner. Or we could see a "Celebrity Jeopardy" episode where Alex Trebek just says "close enough" to every response. Your intentions are good enough for us, Mr. President!
And what's going to happen when Obama sends 20,000 troops to Afghanistan? Can anybody take him seriously when he says military action is "on the table" when it comes to a nuclear Iran? The Peace Prize puts every military decision under a microscope that does not help Obama as Commander-in-Chief. Nine months into his Presidency, the Prize at this juncture is a net-minus.
Extra - The mockery begins: nominate Obama for the Heisman trophy.
More - At least one Brit fails to see the humor, er...humour, in the matter: "Absurd decision on Obama makes a mockery of the Nobel peace prize."
And this - More from the Minuteman.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
The current thinking on the "deficit neutral" health care bill is: if we raise taxes and cut spending elsewhere, we can have national health care, but we won't cut spending elsewhere. That leaves taxes.
Senator Charles Grassley explains:
"The huge, untold story of this CBO report is that for the 85 percent of the people that have health insurance, their premiums will still go up because there will be a new tax on insurance policies," says Grassley. "People may say, 'What’s wrong with taxing insurance companies?' but remember, corporations don't pay taxes, people pay taxes. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation says that these premiums will be passed on."Here's more from Critical Condition:
"Even though the CBO says the bill will cost $829 billion, a lot of its savings come from Medicare, which I don’t think is right," says Grassley. "We could also end up spending all of this money only to see taxes increase, and premiums increase, and still have 25 million people uninsured."
Those numbers are phony for any number of reasons, but notice that the "deficit reduction" is the net result of $518 billion in increased spending from expanded insurance coverage, $404 billion in reduced spending from "other provisions affecting direct spending," and $196 billion in increased revenues. The $404 billion "does not include effects on spending subject to future appropriations." So: Will Congress actually cut Medicare reimbursements (by over 20 percent), unlike previous years? More fundamentally: The increase in revenues ($196 billion) is over twice the net reduction in the deficit. So put aside all the other problems with the numbers: None of this net "deficit reduction" results from spending efficiencies. It is all tax increases and more.There is no chance that Congress will cut Medicare spending by $400 billion – none. I won't even qualify it with a "virtually" to give the indication there's a possibility. It won't happen. So that leaves government health care spending propped up by new taxes funneled through insurance companies the same way tobacco companies passed on new levies to smokers. Except now the "sin tax" is living.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Since the 1930s, researchers had been using short optical fibers-solid, slender bits of glass that trap light inside, allowing it to be transmitted.Kao's discovery about glass defects led to new technologies to create pure glass from scratch instead of melting it from raw materials like the glass in your window. The result was super-clear glass that could transmit light over long distances without losing the light signal. To put this in perspective, the glass was so clear it was like seeing the bottom of the ocean. The result: a vast network of communication links carrying massive amounts of data on beams of light.
But the available fibers didn't work over long distances, Nordgren said. "After 20 meters [66 feet], most of the light was gone."
In research published in 1966, Kao discovered that, even though the glass being used for the fiber-optic cables seemed clear, it actually carried many impurities, which were disrupting the light transmission.
Kao's discoveries pushed companies to devise new ways of making ultrapure glass—eventually leading to today's fiber-optic cables, which can carry signals hundreds of miles with very little light loss.
"More than a billion kilometers of fibers around the world that connect us all, almost instantly," the Nobel Committee's Nordgren said.
"And this is due to the work by Kao, that inspired and started the evolution of optical communication that we have today."
In 1988, the first optical-fiber cable was laid under the Atlantic Ocean, capable of carrying tens of thousands of times more information than the metal cables it replaced. Today, more than 600 million miles of optical fiber have been laid, enough to circle the globe 25,000 times. High-efficiency optical amplifiers placed at strategic intervals renew the signals so they can travel such long distances.Congratulations, gentlemen, and thank you!
Fiber-optic communication "is essential for high-speed Internet and forms the optical backbone of 21st century commerce," said H. Frederick Dylla, director of the American Institute of Physics. "The CCD sensor has revolutionized technical, professional and consumer photography in the last few decades. Taken together, these inventions may have had a greater impact on humanity than any others in the last half-century."
Monday, October 05, 2009
Saturday, October 03, 2009
They are not sophisticated, erudite scientists speaking above our intellectual capacity; they are arrogant, thoughtless individuals who insult our very presence by their lack of concern for our desire to benefit from a meeting which we chose to attend.To that point, let's face it: both Michelle and Barack Obama gave awful speeches to the IOC. Ann Althouse has a long post about both presentations which were at turns illogical, mawkish, self-centered and manipulative. Michelle Obama's argument for Chicago appeared to center around the fact that her father had multiple sclerosis but really loved sports. Oh, and he was from Chicago, so there's the connection.
Friday, October 02, 2009
The Boston Globe had an editorial this morning panning Obama's trip to Copenhagen:
Obama gained support during the presidential campaign by staying cool amid an economic meltdown, while John McCain marched into Washington in an attempt to show a spirit of action. Instead, McCain showed his futility. Americans don’t like to see their leaders appearing rash or weak. If the Olympic committee rejects the president, Obama becomes just another failed salesman. It’s a mistake for him to sink so much into a cause that may not even need his help. He should have stayed home.We know that now.
Extra - Contentions: "The limits of egomania."
I've posted a dozen posts on the Massachusetts health care reform. Here's one other things to remember from the Christian Science Monitor: the costs of the program are artificially propped up with federal funds
Despite raising state taxes, the Massachusetts plan is kept afloat only by hundreds of millions of dollars of financial waivers and assistance from the federal government – i.e., by the taxpayers of the other 49 states. If the Massachusetts plan were adopted at the national level, it's unlikely that China or Russia would bail out the United States.This and much more from Dr. Paul Hsieh.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
From the "no kidding, Sherlock" WashPost: "New Economic Reports Show We're Still Hurting"
The fragile economic recovery has relied heavily on government stimulus spending, but new data show that as the money runs out, a sustained rebound may be elusive.And in case you missed it: "Stimulus spending doesn't work." Stand by for unemployment numbers tomorrow; Joe Biden will be out later to explain all the jobs "saved."
The dramatic decline in sales reported Thursday by the Big Three automakers suggested the extent to which the stimulus act has propped up the economy. The government's wildly popular "Cash for Clunkers" program drove consumer spending to its highest level in eight years in August. But after it ended, so did the growth in auto sales.
General Motors' sales plunged 36 percent in September compared with August. Ford plummeted 37 percent. Chrysler dove 33 percent.
Cash for Clunkers "was a one-time boost of sales followed by a crater," said Ben Herzon, an economist at Macroeconomic Advisers. The firm forecast that the program was likely to have no effect as a stimulant for national economic output.