Tag Archives: Government health care

Krugman on solutions to health care

Following are excerpts from New York Times columns by economist and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman. You may tweet your reaction to him at @NYTimeskrugman.

Well, I know about a health care system that has been highly successful in containing costs, yet provides excellent care. And the story of this system’s success provides a helpful corrective to anti-government ideology. For the government doesn’t just pay the bills in this system — it runs the hospitals and clinics.

No, I’m not talking about some faraway country. The system in question is our very own Veterans Health Administration, whose success story is one of the best-kept secrets in the American policy debate. (Health Care Confidential, January 27, 2006)

“You see, we actually have a real live case of impressive cost control in health care: the VA system.” (Medicare and the VA, May 27, 2009)

What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the V.H.A. is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.

Many people still have an image of veterans’ health care based on the terrible state of the system two decades ago. Under the Clinton administration, however, the V.H.A. was overhauled, and achieved a remarkable combination of rising quality and successful cost control. Multiple surveys have found the V.H.A. providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers. Furthermore, the V.H.A. has led the way in cost-saving innovation, especially the use of electronic medical records.

What’s behind this success? Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense. And because V.H.A. patients are in it for the long term, the agency has a stronger incentive to invest in prevention than private insurers, many of whose customers move on after a few years. (Vouchers for Veterans, November 13, 2011)

Medicaid expansion: The impact on the federal budget and deficit

From Kansas Policy Institute.

Medicaid Expansion: The Impact on the Federal Budget and Deficit

By Steve Anderson

Medicaid.gov Keeping America HealthyThe problem with the uninsured is not going to be solved by expanding Medicaid. Even amongst Medicaid’s staunchest proponents you’ll be hard pressed to find any who will claim it to be the equivalent of high quality private health insurance coverage. The number of federal senators and representatives that choose to exclude their staffers from Obamacare shows that many Washington politicians understand the quality of government insurance plans Medicaid and Obamacare represent. The simple fact is, that health insurance is not to be confused with health care.

Medicaid’s proponents can only claim anecdotal claims of improving health outcomes of recipients. Even in pre-ObamaCare Medicaid, beneficiaries largely do not access available preventable care services. In fact, a Harvard University study shows that emergency room visits actually increased by 40 percent for Medicaid recipients in Oregon after their expansion. Citizens would do well to remember, a “decrease in ER visits” was a key selling point of ObamaCare generally and Medicaid expansion specifically. ER visits are the most expensive form of care. When these increased visits are paid for by Medicaid, the taxpayers are picking up BOTH the state and federal portion of the high cost of emergency room visits. This flies in the face of the Obama Administration’s claim that Medicaid expansion would actually save money by limiting this sort of behavior.

It doesn’t stop there and this is the part that hardly anyone has mentioned, and what the Obama Administration would rather you not know — a staggering number of those enrolling in ObamaCare will actually be sent to Medicaid and not be in the private market. And by “private market” we mean one established and controlled by government.

The following charts are the pre-Medicaid expansion projection of revenues versus expenditures from the Congressional Budget Office. They were completed before the decision by 25 states and the District of Columbia to expand eligibility.i

The three lines with the steepest slopes and therefore the fastest growing expenditures are Medicaid, Unemployment payments (called Income Security) and Other Programs. The U.S. House of Representatives has addressed the unemployment expense growth by bringing the program back to its original intent – to provide a safety net between jobs. Other Programs will be largely controlled if current trends hold and extension of the various “stimulus” programs are curtailed. However, the one that is going to accelerate with expansion and is larger than the other two combined in total state and federal expenditures is Medicaid. At least 3.9 million of Obamacare participants are expected to be enrolled in Medicaid and 19 million nationwide overall will be added to Medicaid in the next year. A 35 percent increase in Medicaid participants.ii Picture these two charts with 35 percent greater additional costs for the Medicaid entitlement and you have an idea how problematic this is for the federal budget and deficit. Is it any wonder that President Obama has started to back track from the claim that the federal government—which let’s not forget, is funded by you the taxpayer — will pay all the costs for 3 years and 90 percent thereafter. Instead, his administration and he himself talk about blended rates that will transfer a sizeable portion of the cost to state budgets.iii Despite his promises to the contrary.

The Impact on the Kansas State Budget

Even the leftist Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which typically finds spending citizens’ tax dollars an event to celebrate, is cautioning that the “blended rate” shift by the President will “likely prompt states to cut payments to health care providers and to scale back the health services that Medicaid covers for low-income children, parents, people with disabilities, and/or senior citizens (including those in nursing homes). Reductions in provider payments would likely exacerbate the problem that Medicaid beneficiaries already face regarding access to physician care, particularly from specialists.”iv This analysis actually left out the administrative cost of expansion that is largely being absorbed by the states. If anything, this suggests that reality will be more dire than CBPP’s predictions.

KPI’s own cost study of Medicaid expansion, conducted by a sitting member of the Social Security Advisory Board and former chief economist at the Federal Reserve in Cleveland, shows that Kansas taxpayers can expect to pick a $600 million tab if Medicaid is expanded. Hardly the “free money” that the Kansas Hospital Association has tried to foist on your family. They’ve even hired a former George W. Bush cabinet secretary to aggressively lobby for this “free money.” They’ve also yet to explain what services they recommend the state cut to fund the expansion and if their members are willing to pick up the additional costs when “blended rates” almost certainly take effect.

As a taxpayer you are going to pay for this on both the federal and state level and you deserve answers when any special interest groups come asking for more of your money.

http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2011/01/liberals-democrat-party-will-split-if.html
ii http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-02/obamacare-s-medicaid-expansion-may-create-oregon-like-er-strain.htm
iii http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3521
iv Ibid

Medicaid found to increase, not decrease, emergency room usage

This is an astonishing finding, and contrary to what the conventional wisdom has told us about health care.

For years, it has been the number one talking point of Obamacare supporters. People who are uninsured end up getting costly care from hospitals’ emergency rooms. “Those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it — about $1,000 per year that pays for [the uninsureds’] emergency room and charitable care,” said President Obama in 2009. Obamacare, the President told us, would solve that problem by covering the uninsured, thereby driving premiums down. A new study, published in the journal Science, definitively reaches the opposite conclusion. In Oregon, people who gained coverage through Medicaid used the emergency room 40 percent more than those who were uninsured.

Continue reading at New Oregon Data: Expanding Medicaid Increases Usage Of Emergency Rooms, Undermining Central Rationale For Obamacare

Exchange data security breaches don’t require notification

The breach of consumer data at Target has brought the issue of data security in focus. Yesterday a senator called for more protection and accountability for consumers and retailers. The following story from Watchdog.org tells us that government does not want to hold itself to the standards it wants the private sector to observe. There has been legislation proposed. Rep. Diane Black [R-TN6] has introduced H.R. 3731: Federal Exchange Data Breach Notification Act of 2013, whose title is “To require an Exchange established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to notify individuals in the case that personal information of such individuals is known to have been acquired or accessed as a result of a breach of the security of any system maintained by the Exchange.”

Feds not required to report security breaches of Obamacare exchange website

By 

HACKED OFF: Hackers or careless bureaucrats could cause private information to be spilled across the Internet. But the federal government, unlike most states, don't have to tell users when they have been compromised.

HACKED OFF: Hackers or careless bureaucrats could cause private information to be spilled across the Internet. But the federal government, unlike most states, don’t have to tell users when they have been compromised.

By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

Americans who buy health insurance through the federal Obamacare exchange website could have their personal information stolen by hackers and never even know it.

Most of the state-run health exchange websites will be covered by state laws that require notification when government databases are breached by hackers. But there is no law requiring notification when databases run by the federal government are breached, and even though the Department of Health and Human Services was asked to include a notification provision in the rules being drawn up for the new federal exchange, it declined to do so.

Other protections for individuals’ privacy, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, do not apply to the government-run exchange, only to health providers and insurance companies operating within the exchange.

Privacy advocates and cyber-security experts have had concerns about the lack of a federal notification law for years and hope the scrutiny of the Obamacare exchange will finally bringchange.

“The notification requirement is a very important part of overall security,” saidDeven McGraw, director of the Health Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “People should be told when their information is at-risk.”

The lack of a notification requirement is particularly bad for the health insurance exchange website because of all the questions surrounding the site’s security. Poor security, coupled with the website’s high-profile problems, could make it a target for hackers either seeking to steal identities or embarrass the government.

Unfortunately, security is often an afterthought for the government, said David Kennedy, CEO of TrustedSEC, an Ohio-based cyber-security firm. Kennedy has testified before Congress about security threats in the Obamacare exchange and the need for notification laws.

“All we need is something that says if the federal government is breached, all we have to do is alert the public,” he told Watchdog.org. “Healthcare.gov is just one website of hundreds that have had these issues going back through the years.”

Together it creates a possible nightmare scenario. Without strong security on the front end, the hastily built and not fully operational website could become a treasure trove for hackers looking to steal identities. But without any laws requiring that those victims be notified by the federal government users of the Federal health exchange will be in the dark about any potential security breaches of their private data.

When the federal Obamacare exchange was being developed by HHS prior to its troubled launch on Oct. 1, experts told the department that it should include a data-breach provision in its policies for the website even though one was not required under federal law.

The department flatly declined to do so.

The final rules for the exchanges were approved on March 27, 2012, meeting of HHS officials, according to the Federal Register.

At that meeting, two commenters asked HHS to ensure the exchanges would promptly notify affected enrollees in the event of a data breach or unauthorized access to the exchange’s databases. One suggested that a full investigation be launched each time such a breach occurred, with the goal of holding hackers legally and financially accountable for breaking into the website.

The department’s response: “We do not plan to include the specific notification procedures in the final rule. Consistent with this approach, we do not include specific policies for investigation of data breaches in this final rule.”

Since there is no federal notification requirement, breaches of any and all federal databases can occur without the public ever being informed.

The only way to find out a hack has occurred is when the government decides to disclose it — as several federal law enforcement agencies did last month in response to attacks from Anonymous, a group of super-hackers who threatened to take down the FBI website and others.

But hacks that happen behind the scenes —potentially stealing everything from Social Security numbers to Department of Homeland Security watch lists — never have to be reported.

“That’s alarming because there could be a number of federal databases that are compromised already and we don’t know about it,” Kennedy said. “The exchange is part of a bigger problem.”

Federal privacy protections contained in HIPAA also do not apply to the databases created by the federal exchange website, McGraw said, even though health insurers doing business through the exchange must be HIPAA compliant.

In other words, the health plan itself is covered by HIPAA and any breaches of security that affect a consumer who has purchased a specific plan would have to be reported. But the process of choosing and purchasing a plan through the federal exchange — along with any information entered into the federal exchange as part of that process — is not subject to HIPAA protections.

“The problem with the exchanges is that they are such new entities, and they are so unique that existing laws don’t really cover them,” McGraw said.

But 48 states have laws on the books requiring that they give notification to individuals who may have had personal information stolen or leaked from a government database. Many states require that government agencies and departments alert the state attorney general so investigations can be launched.

In states that opted to run their own health insurance exchanges, those laws generally cover security breaches of the exchanges, McGraw said, though it depends on the specific wording of each state law.

Those state laws are how data breaches of several state-level health insurance exchange websites have come to light.

In September, Watchdog.org reported on a data breech of the Minnesota health exchange — known as “MNsure” — that potentially affected as many as 2,400 people.

In Florida, concerns about data breaches of the state-run exchange website prompted Gov. Rick Scott to send a letter to Congress saying Floridians would not exchange privacy for insurance.

On the federal exchange, such breaches are possible, maybe even likely, since the site was launched without comprehensive testing of the security controls for the system.

A Sept. 27 memo to Medicare chief Marylin Tavernner said insufficient testing of the website before the Oct. 1 launch “exposed a level of uncertainty that can be deemed a high risk,” the Associated Press reported in October.

Even though the federal government does not have to report any breaches of security, at least a few already have occurred.

The most high-profile case so far is that of Thomas Dougall, a South Carolina lawyer who had his personal information accidentally leaked to another person after using the Obamacare exchange last month.

We logged on and compared some prices,” Dougall later told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “We came home last Friday night to have a young man from a completely different state calling to tell me that when he logged on … he got all my personal information in exchange.

Dougall only found out about that breach of security because the recipient was kind enough to give him a call.  Without a requirement that the exchanges report such problems — whether the result of nefarious hackers or glitches in the programming — it is impossible to tell how many other Americans have had their private information released by the federal exchange.

Kennedy said he would not recommend that anyone use the federal exchange until it is more secure and until breaches of security are reported.

“I would say think twice about it, at least until we get more details,” he said.

Kennedy says he supports universal health care and his criticisms of the website are not rooted in political motivations. But the former U.S. Marine whose firm provides computer security to several Fortune 100 companies says there have been “zero changes” to the security of the health insurance exchange website in the run-up to the much-touted Dec. 1 re-launch.

Congress has debated a federal notification law in each of the past three years, but one has never been passed.

In July, during a hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, lawmakers heard testimony from a variety of experts who explained the need for a federal breach notification requirement.

David Thaw, a law professor at the University of Connecticut who specializes in cyber-security and the legal framework around it, said data breach notification laws, combined with comprehensive data security, are an essential part of protecting consumers and businesses.

I analogize the effects of breach notification alone to locking the bank or vault door while leaving a back window wide open,” he said.

With the federal health insurance exchange, there are questions about whether the vault door has been adequately locked.

But there is no doubt that the back window is still wide open.

Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and can be reached at EBoehm@Watchdog.org. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87

Study: Kansas premiums to spike following Obamacare rollout

From Kansas Watchdog.

Study: Kansas premiums to spike following Obamacare rollout

By 

ON THE RISE: A new report from the Heritage Foundation says Obamacare premiums are significantly higher in Kansas compared to average rates before the rollout of the new health care law.

By Travis Perry, Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE — Good news: Kansas landed in the top 10 in a recent study conducted by the conservative Heritage Foundation! Bad news: It’s for massive insurance premium hikes because ofObamacare.

Kinda puts a damper on things, huh?

As I said, before dashing your optimism with harsh reality, Kansas is among the top 10 states to possibly see the largest premium increases following the rollout of the federal health care exchange, according to a recent report from Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis. In a nutshell, the report states Obamacare health premiums available to Kansans will be higher than existing policies.

According to the Heritage report, the average premium for a 27-year-old Sunflower State resident will rise from $87.40 to $200.14, a massive 129 percent bump. This gives Kansas the unfortunate privilege of boasting the sixth-highest increase for young people nationwide.

The news gets slightly better for other groups, but not by much. Average premiums for a 50-year-old adult could increase from $198 to $341.08 (72.3 percent increase), while a family of four may see an increase from $553.92 to $676.05 (22 percent increase).

“Many families and individuals will face this reality as they apply for coverage, and the implications of experiencing sticker shock are important to consider if enough people choose not to sign up for coverage for various reasons,” policy analyst Drew Gonshorowski wrote in the Oct. 16 report.

The massive increase in premiums for young people should be especially concerning, as they’re the one group Obamacare can’t afford to do without. The successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act depends heavily on the young and healthy signing up to help pay for the elderly and infirm.

It’s important to note the Heritage study compares premium prices straight-up, not including government subsidies designed to decrease the cost to low-income individuals and families.

“This analysis represents the change in unsubsidized rate levels,” Gonshorowski wrote. “The purpose of this research is to provide further details on the changing premium levels across the country.”

Source Report: How Will You Fare in the Obamacare Exchanges?

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on Twitter at@muckraker62.

A letter to the U.S. Senate regarding the federal government shutdown

From KochFacts.com.

Dear Senator,

A great deal of what you read and hear about Koch Industries is erroneous or misleading. Indeed, there was false information presented about Koch on the Senate floor by Senate Majority Leader Reid, who claimed yesterday that Koch was behind the shutdown of the federal government in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.” Because several of you have asked what our position is on this issue, we want to set the record straight and correct this misinformation.

Koch believes that Obamacare will increase deficits, lead to an overall lowering of standards of health care in America, and raise taxes. However, Koch has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution to defunding Obamacare nor have we lobbied on legislative provisions defunding Obamacare.

Instead, Koch has focused on educating the public about reducing our nation’s debt and controlling runaway government spending. We believe that Congress should, at a minimum, keep to sequester-level spending guidelines, and develop a plan for more significant and widespread spending reductions in the future. We also believe that Congress should work to rein-in rampant government spending so that it becomes no longer necessary to continually raise the debt ceiling.

Congress should focus on these efforts: balancing the budget, tightening and cutting government spending, curbing cronyism, and eliminating market-distorting subsidies and mandates.

We are hopeful this sets the record straight and that in the future Senator Reid and other politicians will stop misrepresenting and distorting Koch’s positions.

Sincerely,
Philip Ellender
President, Government & Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

ObamaCare employer mandate delayed, start of train wreck?

aspirin-bottleScheduled to take effect on January 1, the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) has been delayed for one year.

Curiously, this announcement was made on an obscure Treasury Department blog, along with articles titled “Meeting, and Exceeding, Our Small Business Procurement Goals in FY 2012″ and “In Case You Missed It: Top Executives Say U.S. Is #1 for Foreign Direct Investment.”

The employer mandate requires those who employ more than 50 full time-equivalent employees to provide insurance or pay a penalty. Cato Institute’s Michael D. Tanner notes the general problem, and a specific problem based on the decision to delay the employer mandate:

In postponing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate until after the 2014 mid-term elections, the Obama administration has tacitly admitted what critics of the law have long contended: that Obamacare is unworkable and would be a significant burden for American business and the economy at large. Stay tuned for further dominoes falling.

Actually, the Administration’s decision to postpone the employer mandate may make a bad situation worse. Because the individual mandate remains in place, workers may now face a situation where they must purchase their own insurance or pay a penalty because their employers don’t provide coverage. In effect, the administration’s decision shifts the cost from employers to workers. This hardly seems fair, and may force the administration to rethink the individual mandate as well. (And So the Obamacare Train Wreck Begins … )

Will the implementation of other parts of ObamaCare be delayed? I think it seems likely. But: Section 1513 AVC states, regarding the employer mandate: “The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.” So does the administration have the legal authority to make changes like this?

uninsured-estimates-2013-05

Also: For all the wrenching debate and changes, there will still be many uninsured people. Here’s a chart based on the Congressional Budget Office May 2013 estimate of the effects of the Affordable Care Act on health insurance coverage.

This is just the start of discovery of pathologies built into ObamaCare. Here’s Avik Roy explaining an incentive contained within the employer mandate:

The strong penalty vs. the weak penalty

The employer mandate actually consists of two different penalties, based on two different categories of employer behavior. These originate from Section 4980H of the Affordable Care Act. Subsection (a) requires steep penalties for employers who offer no coverage at all. Subection (b) requires modest penalties for employers who offer “minimum essential coverage under an eligible employer-sponsored plan.” This difference — between the strong penalty in 4980H(a) and the weak penalty in 4980H(b) — is crucial to understanding how things will play out in the future.

Under the strong penalty, in which an employer “fails to offer to its full-time employees…the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage,” and “at least one full-time employee” enrolls in an exchange, the employer has to pay a fine of $2,000 times the total number of full-time-equivalent employees at the firm, minus 30. (The employer mandate only applies to firms with 50 or more full-time-equivalent workers.) So if you employ 50 workers, that’s a fine of 20 * $2,000 = $40,000. And the fine isn’t tax-deductible, adding to the pain.

Under the weak penalty, in which an employer does offer “the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage,” but that coverage doesn’t meet Obamacare’s requirements for affordability or actuarial value, and at least one worker enrolls on an exchange instead, the fine is $3,000 times the number of workers who enroll on the exchanges. So, if you employ 50 workers, and three of them get coverage on the exchange instead, the fine is a much lower 3 * $3,000, or $9,000. (Technically, in subsection (b), employers pay the lesser of the weak penalty or the strong penalty, but this in most cases should be the weak penalty.)

So: Employers avoid the strong penalty and gain eligibility for the weak penalty by offering “minimum essential coverage.”

Roy goes on to explain that “minimum essential coverage” means coverage my any insurance plan that can legally be sod in a state, including plans that provide limited coverage or services. Roy writes that companies may offer these bare-bones plans to their employees and escape the penalties.

This behavior, which federal officials have confirmed is allowed, evidently wasn’t considered by officials, writes Roy: “Nonetheless, Obamacare’s designers expressed surprise that employers would do such a thing. ‘Our expectation was that employers would offer high quality insurance,’ said Robert Kocher, a former Obama health care adviser. It wouldn’t be the first time that the law’s authors didn’t recognize how economic incentives actually work.”

Economic incentives are what makes the world work. They’re based on human behavior, and that isn’t easily changed, even to suit Barack Obama’s desires.

The future of Obamacare, now he tells us

This is a sad commentary on the state of politics and governance in the U.S., from the Boston Globe:

Unencumbered by the political pressures of a reelection campaign, Baucus is in a position to call out both the failure of federal officials to prepare for implementing Obamacare as well as the unintended consequences of its complex regulations.

A short while ago, before U.S. Senator Max Baucus announced his retirement, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita noticed the incongruity of Baucus complaining about a law he passed, tweeting the following:

Following are excerpts from a letter Pompeo sent to Baucus, followed by the entire letter.

My shock wasn’t because I disagreed: You’re right to say this legislation has led to great uncertainty for hard-working Americans, small business owners, and families. No, I was shocked because you wrote this bill. I was saddened because your acknowledgment of the harm caused by PPACA has come so late.

No one in the country bears more responsibility for the complexity of this law than you. When your supermajority couldn’t pass the bill using normal procedures, you and your Senate colleagues rammed through the final legislation by using parliamentary gimmickry. Then, in the House, Speaker Pelosi cheerfully urged members to pass the legislation “in order to find out what’s in it.” This was not good policy-making, and now we’re seeing the consequences.

Secretary Sebelius’s implementation of the law is certainly flawed, but the policy process produced a law that could not possibly be implemented successfully. As legislators, it is our responsibility to write bills that clearly explain our meaning and have achievable goals. By your own admission, this law is a disaster.

You drafted it, you twisted arms to get it passed, and, until now, you have lauded it as a model for all the world. Your attempts to pass the buck to President Obama’s team will not work, nor will they absolve you of responsibility for the harm that you have brought via this law.

Download (PDF, 125KB)

ObamaCare explained: What could go wrong?

An Illinois State Senate candidate who happens to be a physician diagnoses and explains the problems with the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare. Here’s a transcription of what Barbara Bellar said:

Let me get this straight: We’re going to be gifted with a healthcare plan we are forced to purchase,
and fined if we don’t,
which purportedly covers at least 10 million more people,
without adding a single new doctor,
but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents,
written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn’t understand it,
passed by a congress that didn’t read it but exempted themselves from it,
and signed by a president who smokes,
with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn’t pay his taxes,
for which we will be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect,
by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare,
all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese,
and financed by a country that’s broke.

So, what the blank could possibly go wrong?

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday March 8, 2012

Candidate representatives at Pachyderm. This Friday’s meeting (March 9th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Republican presidential candidate spokespersons. In addition, Lora Cox, Executive Director of the Sedgwick County Republican Party will be on hand to answer questions regarding the mechanics of Saturday’s Republican Party Caucus. … The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Sedgwick County pre-caucus rally. Friday afternoon (March 9th) Kansans for Liberty is producing a pre-caucus rally at Century II. Ron Paul is scheduled to appear. There will be other speakers and live entertainment, say event organizers. Tickets are $25. For more information, see Kansans for Liberty.

Libertarian ideals. The Winfield Courier criticizes U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo for his bill that would eliminate all tax credits for energy, writing “This is a case of putting libertarian ideals ahead — far ahead — of the interests of our region and our state.” But the libertarian ideals of personal liberty, economic freedom, and free markets ought to be all that government concerns itself with. … This is not the only way this op-ed is misinformed on facts. The anonymous author writes: “New, life-changing technologies, from the railroads to the Internet, have long had the active support of our national government.” But: Consider the railroads. The government-subsidized railroads involved in the transcontinental project went bankrupt. Only The Great Northern Railroad, which was built without government subsidy, was profitable and not a burden on the national treasury. (See Interfacing with Obama’s Intercontinental Railroad). Shame on the Winfield Courier so being so misinformed on U.S. history and the proper role of a limited government.

High Kansas taxes. Kansas Reporter covers more of the Tax Foundation’s report on the high cost of Kansas business taxes: “A new national study says Kansas business owners pay some of the highest taxes in the country. … Kansas businesses that are 3 or fewer years old pay the third-highest total taxes in the nation among all 50 states and Washington, D.C., the study found. Older businesses, such as Midway Wholesale, pay the fourth-highest totals. The findings contrast sharply with previous surveys, including some by the Tax Foundation, that put Kansas closer to the midpoint in regard to tax burden. As recently as January, for example, the foundation released its latest compilation of its Business Tax Climate Index, which put Kansas almost dead center — in 25th place — among lightest- to heaviest-taxed states. ‘Those surveys focus on tax policies, such as what types of taxes do states have or what are their tax rates,’ said Scott Hodge, the foundation’s president. ‘This new study looks at the issue from a business’ viewpoint and what they actually pay.'” … More at New study finds KS tax loads worse than reported.

Harm of individual mandate explained. In the following short video, Elizabeth Price Foley of the Institute for Justice explains the harm of the individual mandate that is the centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). She explains that if the U.S. Supreme Court fails to strike down the individual mandate, there will be nothing to stop Congress from forcing people into other contracts against their will — employment contracts or union membership, for example. If we still have a constitutional republic in which the federal government’s powers are limited, then the Court should strike down this law. More information on IJ’s brief is contained in this press release.

Huelskamp on spending, health information database, and Buffett

Addressing members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club last Friday, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp of the Kansas first district updated the audience on national spending and debt, a health information database that poses privacy risks, and Warren Buffett’s taxes.

On being a new member of Congress, Huelskamp said people ask me “is Washington everything you thought it would be?” And I answer yes — and much worse.

He told the audience that the Washington Post newspaper has identified him as a member of the “Apocalypse Caucus,” a group of twenty lawmakers that have voted no for almost everything, including raising the debt ceiling. The Post says these lawmakers would be willing to shut down the government simply to make a point. Huelskamp told the audience “The point we need to remember is there is an apocalypse ahead unless we rein in spending, unless we rein in this president, unless we rein in the regulations.”

Huelskamp said that for every dollar spent in Washington, 41 cents is borrowed money. And while some in Washington say that there is a plan to get things under control, he said this is not happening yet.

He described a budget committee hearing in which four economists testified. He asked how long do we have until we reach the point of no return such as Greece is at presently, where they can’t pay back their debt? The first economist, a conservative, said “act as if you have no time left.” The other three economists — moderates and liberals — said they agreed with the first economist’s assessment.

During a series of budget negotiations in the spring, Huelskamp said that initially House leadership had started with the idea of cutting $100 billion. But that number was thought to be too much, and eventually Congress and the president settled on cuts of $25 billion. But the actual spending that was cut was only $350 million, or just about one-third of a billion dollars.

Huelskamp described the debt ceiling negotiations in the summer as a situation where the president had to have Congress’s permission to raise the debt ceiling. But he said Congress agreed to no cuts at all, despite having this power. He didn’t want to vote to just “kick the can down the road,” and that’s why he voted against raising the debt ceiling in August.

He also told of hearing from a high-ranking Chinese official at a budget committee hearing. The official — Huelskamp reminded the audience that China is a communist country — told the committee members the things they would have to do with the budget. While Huelskamp agreed with the official’s assessment of what the U.S. needed to do with its budget, he wondered how do we get in this position, where we turn over, often, our sovereignty to foreign nations.

Huelskamp cited a national poll that found that 48 percent believe the American dream is dead. In his town hall meetings — he’s held about 70 so far — he estimates 90 percent believe the American dream is gone, or soon to be gone. “Most Americans, including Kansans, as optimistic as we are, are worried about what’s going on in Washington. And they don’t know who to blame, and they’re going to start blaming everybody. I’m one of the few who believe the American dream is still alive and well.”

Switching topics, Huelskamp described former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, now Secretary of Health and Human Services, as the third-most powerful person in Washington, due to her position implementing national health care.

Regarding health care, Huelskamp is troubled by a database HHS is proposing that will be used to regulate insurance companies. If insurance companies sign up healthy people, they will be taxed, and they will receive subsidies for insuring sick people. Huelskamp said the only way to determine this behavior by insurance companies — are they insuring the healthy or sick? — is by looking at the health insurance histories of the individual people each company insures. He views this as a threat to patient privacy.

According to Wichita Eagle reporting, HHS will collect only information that is not personally identifiable.

But in a Washington Examiner op-ed on this topic, Huelskamp wrote: “The federal government does not exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to managing private information about its citizens.” He provided several examples of data being lost.

As ObamaCare is evolving in the rule-making process overseen by Sebelius, we can’t be sure what requirements, regulations, or uses might be found for this patient health history data.

On Warren Buffett, Huelskamp said that Buffett sheltered $24 million from taxation on his most recent tax return. “Mr. Buffett doesn’t want Mr. Obama to have his money, either. It’s called hypocrisy. He doesn’t trust him with his money. Which is why — you’ve got to give him credit — he’s planning to give every single last dime to charity.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday September 23, 2011

Downtown Wichita site launched. As part of an effort to provide information about the Douglas Place project, a proposed renovation of a downtown Wichita office building into a hotel, a group of concerned citizens has created a website. The site is named Our Downtown Wichita, and it’s located at dtwichita.com.

Keystone pipeline hearing, bus trip. On Monday the United States Department of State will hold hearings in Topeka concerning a proposed petroleum pipeline. Says Americans for Prosperity: “Our great country has an opportunity to complete a project that would provide billions of dollars in economic activity, create thousands of high-paying manufacturing and construction jobs, and at the same time take a significant step toward providing for greater U.S. energy security and independence. … Because the project originates in Canada and would provide a pipeline extension to the Gulf Coast, through Kansas, the project requires State Department approval. TransCanada owns the Keystone pipeline, which currently runs from Canada to Oklahoma. … It has finally received tentative approval from the Environmental Protection Agency and now sits before the State Department. The State Department is holding a hearing in Topeka on Monday, September 26th from noon to 3:30pm and 4:00pm to 8:00pm at the Kansas ExpoCentre, located at the corner of Topeka Blvd. and 17th Street South.” … To help citizens attend this unusual hearing, AFP has organized a free bus trip from Wichita. The bus will load from 7:30 am to 8:00 am at the Lawrence Dumont Stadium Parking Lot. It will return to Wichita around 7:00 pm. Lunch is provided. For more information on this event contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at sestes@afphq.org or 316-681-4415.

Health care reform. “Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer spent nearly two hours with the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Policy Oversight Monday explaining the imperative and complexity of solving problems with government health care he likened to a Rubik’s Cube. The challenge of the 1974 puzzle and the current Medicaid and health care debate is finding a way to align multiple facets of each side without upsetting another side.” More from Kansas Watchdog at Public Health Care System Reform a Governmental Rubik’s Cube .

Pompeo defends against Obama’s attack on aviation. “Rep. Mike Pompeo (KS-04) spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in defense of the general aviation community, which is so important to job sustainability and job growth in South Central Kansas.” Video from C-Span is at Pompeo House speech on aviation.

Wichita corporate welfare opposed. This week the Wichita City Council granted another forgivable loan. Thank you to John Todd for appearing and offering testimony opposing the loan. In his remarks, Todd said: “Over the past few months, I have watched a majority of this council fall into the trap of trying to buy customer business with free-money economic development schemes out of the public treasury. This program might work if the public treasury held unlimited funds and the public gifts were offered to every business owner on an equal basis. … In 1887 President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill that would have given $10,000 for seed to farmers in drought-stricken Texas saying something to the effect that he could not be a party to taking money out of the treasury to benefit one group of people at the expense of another group, no matter how worthy the cause, stating that it is the responsibility of citizens to support the government and not the responsibility of government to support the people. Cleveland further issued a challenge for private charitable giving for the farmers. A number of newspapers adopted the relief campaign and in the end Americans voluntarily donated not $10,000 but $100,000 to the afflicted farmers. I would suggest a similar publicly driven voluntary relief campaign in lieu of the forgivable loan you are considering today to see if there is public sentiment to charitably fund this local economic development project.” … I’ve been told what the target company really needs is relief from a regulatory trap.

The trap of job creation. Today on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal program, Rhone Resch of the Solar Energy Industries Association appeared. He promoted solar energy as great for creating jobs, telling viewers that solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than any other form of power generation. This illustrates the trap that politicians and those who benefit from government subsidy usually fall into: that more jobs is a good thing. Wouldn’t it be much better if we could generate all the electricity we wanted using fewer jobs? Then these surplus employees could be put to work on something else — or simply enjoy leisure. … A few years ago an editorial written by a labor union official appeared in Kansas, praising the job-creating power of wind energy. In response, I wrote “After all, if we view our energy policy as a jobs creation program, why not build wind turbines and haul them to western Kansas without the use of machinery? Think of the jobs that would create.” … In a video produced by the Cato Institute, Caleb Brown explains the problems with relying on government and its spending for jobs: “Politicians and entrepreneurs face different problems. Entrepreneurs care about creating wealth, both for their customers and themselves. This means getting more output with fewer inputs. Politicians often care more about maximizing inputs like labor, even when that job creation could make all of us materially worse off. It would be easy for the president and Congress to create new jobs: They could simply ban the use of computers, farm machinery, or any other labor-saving device. But that would clearly raise prices … It’s hard to see how that improves anyone’s standard of living.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday August 3, 2011

Debt ceiling. What is the real value of the debt ceiling? Has it ever constrained the growth of government debt, until now? Thomas Sowell in Debt-Ceiling Chicken: “Some people may have been shocked when the credit-rating firm Moody’s recently suggested that the debt-ceiling law be repealed, in order to avoid fiscal crises which can throw world financial markets into turmoil that can injure countries around the world. Anyone who wants to show that Moody’s is wrong should be prepared to show the actual benefits of the debt-ceiling, not its goals or hopes. That will not be easy, if possible at all. … The national debt-ceiling law should be judged by what it actually does, not by how good an idea it seems to be. The one thing that the national debt-ceiling has never done is to put a ceiling on the rising national debt. Time and time again, for years on end, the national debt-ceiling has been raised whenever the national debt gets near whatever the current ceiling might be. Regardless of what it is supposed to do, what the national debt-ceiling actually does is enable any administration to get all the political benefits of runaway spending for the benefit of their favorite constituencies — and then invite the opposition party to share the blame, by either raising the national debt ceiling, or by voting for unpopular cutbacks in spending or increases in taxes.”

Was August 2nd a deadline? All through the debate over raising the federal debt ceiling it was taken as granted that the deadline — the day the U.S. Treasury would run out of money — was August second. U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, has released data that shows otherwise. A chart on his website shows a declining balance in the treasury, but projections show a positive balance far past August second.

Despite drag of government health care, Canada thrives. The unemployment rate in Canada has fallen, GDP growth is healthy, and there were no bank bailouts. It has been able to reduce the size of its government relative to its economy, writes Jason Clemens in Why Canada Is Beating America: It shrank government, and now unemployment and debt are declining: “Total government spending as a share of the economy peaked at a little over 53% in 1993. Through a combination of spending cuts in the 1990s and spending restraint during the 2000s, it declined to a little under 40% of GDP by 2008.” … For 2010, government spending at all levels in the U.S. amounted to 36.22 percent of GDP, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. While that compares favorably with Canada’s level, the trend in the U.S. is for spending to increase, having risen from 30.82 percent in 2004. … According to Clemens, the success of Canada’s economy is in spite of its government health care, not because of it: “The unavoidable challenge is the country’s health-care system. … Canada devotes a relatively high share of its economy to health care without enjoying commensurate outcomes. Of the 28 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that have universal access, Canada has the sixth-highest rate of health spending as a share of its economy.” It would be one matter if Canadians enjoyed good results from all this health care spending. “But Canadians’ access to care is poor, despite high spending. The country ranks 20th of 22 OECD countries for access to physicians. … Waiting times for treatment continue to worsen.” … Liberals in the U.S. point to Canada as a model for government health care, but the actual situation is not one that we should aspire to.

Kansas government website revamped. Kansas has remodeled its main website, kansas.gov. Besides a new look, I think a useful feature will be the use of a Google site-specific search feature. These generally work very well, applying the power of the popular and effective search engine to a specific website. Time will tell as to whether the design is useful. The state does not have a good record in recent times of website redesigns, as the effort to replace the legislature’s website right as the session started was a disaster. The press release with other details is at New State Web Portal Provides Better Experience, Mobility.

Demand is not the problem. A recent letter to the Wichita Eagle started with “The only thing that creates jobs is demand for product.” This idea of economic wealth deriving from consumer demand is a Keynesian concept, and we’ve seen over and over the wreckage that Keynesian economics leaves on countries — starting with our own efforts to cure the Great Depression to the failing economic policies of President Barack Obama. It’s also curious to blame economic stagnation on the absence of desire of people for more stuff. People want more stuff — that’s human nature. It is by producing more that we create the wealth necessary to satisfy our demands. Production benefits from capital formation, and the policies of the United States are not favorable for this. … The author also promotes increasing exports while at the same time urging Americans to buy only U.S.-made products. This ignores the fact that trade — no matter who the trading partner — is a source of wealth. Both parties are made better-off through trade; otherwise the transaction would not take place.

Debt ceiling bill. A budget cut only by Washington standards. “Throwing in the towel.” All the angst over the past month seems to have produced very little in the way of meaningful reform. Here several Cato Institute policy experts comment on this week’s lawmaking. “This week’s bipartisan deal to raise the debt limit and achieve some spending reductions will do little in the way of actual spending cuts, defers all the tough decisions on spending and debt to a “SuperCongress” committee and will do little to protect the United States credit rating. Cato Institute Senior Fellows Dan Mitchell and Jagadeesh Gokhale and Director of Tax Policy Studies Chris Edwards comment on the debt deal.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday June 29, 2011

We have tried that before. Burt Folsom, who has written a book on Franklin Roosevelt’s economic policies and spoke in Wichita on that topic, warns us of the folly of government spending as a means to economic recovery. Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury to FDR, said this seven years into the New Deal: “Now, gentlemen, we have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work.” … Some have charged that this quotation is a fabrication, but Folsom has the proof in his article We Have Tried Spending Money. … The quotation by Morganthau continues with: “And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong … somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. … I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. … And an enormous debt to boot.”

How can the Fed be so clueless? Investor’s Business Daily: “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says he’s puzzled by the failure of the economy to respond to our government’s many ministrations. Which explains much of why our economy is such a mess. … Not to be rude, but can the nation’s top banker really be so clueless? Anyone with half a lick of common sense looking at our economy knows what’s wrong: We’ve spent the better part of three years with government making the most extraordinary interventions in the economy in our nation’s history. Government spending, as a share of the economy, has soared 25%. Regulations, many of them arbitrary and foolish, such as the ban on incandescent light bulbs, have never been more numerous.” … The piece goes on to list many of the unwise policies the government has followed: ARRA stimulus, TARP, GM and Chrysler, Dodd-Frank, etc. In conclusion: “A handful of bureaucrats can never set prices or allocate goods or decide what should be made as efficiently as millions of people acting in their own interest through a free and open market. Our policymakers seem to have forgotten this. They make statements that indicate they don’t know the damage their policies are doing or they are willfully oblivious to them.”

Deficit is probably worse than thought. “We should be prepared for upward revisions in official deficit projections in the years ahead — even if a deal is struck,” writes Lawrence B. Lindsey in The Wall Street Journal. The reasons why projects of deficits are too optimistic are three: The interest rates being contemplated for Treasury borrowing are probably too low, the growth rates for the economy are too large, and the long-run costs of ObamaCare are way too low. Writes Lindsey: “There is no way to raise taxes enough to cover these problems. The tax-the-rich proposals of the Obama administration raise about $700 billion, less than a fifth of the budgetary consequences of the excess economic growth projected in their forecast. The whole $700 billion collected over 10 years would not even cover the difference in interest costs in any one year at the end of the decade between current rates and the average cost of Treasury borrowing over the last 20 years.” He recommends long-term reduction in entitlement spending as the only cure. See The deficit is worse than we think: Normal interest rates would raise debt-service costs by $4.9 trillion over 10 years, dwarfing the savings from any currently contemplated budget deal..

Blue pill or red pill? “Great expectations” are placed on the hope of Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) as a way to save money on health care costs, both in the private and public sector. Now a report published by Manhattan Institute finds that this technique, despite its appealing name and promise, may not be the magic pill that President Obama is relying on: “This result seems counterintuitive: How can it be that, when a CER study shows no difference between two drugs, limiting coverage for the more expensive drug could actually increase costs?” The report explains that individuals are different, and what applies to the “average” patient may not be right for a large number of other patients. A second reason is “variance in dependence in patient responses across therapies.” The report provides illustrations of where CER-based policies cost more. … Concluding, the executive summary states: “Our results suggest that CER will not fulfill its promise unless it is implemented differently by researchers and understood differently by policymakers. Simply put, seeking the treatment that is most effective on average will not improve health or save money. However, CER can be conducted in a way that takes difference and dependence into account and measures their effect. If CER is applied in this way — as a tool for matching individual patients to the best treatments for those individuals — it will realize its potential to reduce costs without inhibiting freedom of choice for doctors and patients.” … The report is Blue Pill or Red Pill: The Limits of Comparative Effectiveness Research

Even quicker. “For the roughly four million homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments, the federal government is offering yet another remedy: free money to catch up on their loans.” See SmartMoney: More Money for Struggling Homeowners. … The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has issued a boil water advisory for the city of Waterville, which is located in Marshall County. I guess there’s no water in Waterville today. … Strong public support found for “Cut, cap, and balance,” a program to bring the federal budget under control. See National Taxpayer Union: New Poll Highlights Public Support for Cut, Cap and Balance. … Rasmussen: “Most voters continue to feel America needs to do more to develop domestic gas and oil resources. They also still give the edge to finding new sources of oil over reducing gas and oil consumption.” … Becker on Speculators: “Put differently, speculation tends to be stabilizing when speculators are making money because they have correct expectations about price movements, and destabilizing when they are losing money because their expectations turn out to be wrong. Given that the fundamentals imply large price movements from rather small shocks to supply and demand, and that successful speculation tends to moderate price movements, it is hard to believe that speculation has played a major role in causing the large swings in oil prices.” Do you hear that, Bill O’Reilly?

Reform health care so it really works

One year after the passage of major health care legislation, Harvard economist Jeff Miron says more reform is still needed. Dr. Miron gives his top 3 policy proposals for fixing the U.S. health care system: 1) Throw away the notion that health care is a right; 2) Repeal Obamacare; and 3) Phase out Medicare.

Miron’s latest book is Libertarianism, from A to Z.

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Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday March 23, 2011

Health information campaign. What happened to an all-star group that was to promote President Obama’s health care plan? Politico reports: “Democrats are under siege as they mark the first anniversary of health care reform Wednesday — and they won’t get much help from the star-studded, $125 million support group they were once promised. Wal-Mart Watch founder Andrew Grossman unveiled the Health Information Campaign with great fanfare last June. … But nine months later, the Health Information Campaign has all but disappeared.”

Eisenhower book author to speak in Wichita. At this Friday’s meeting (March 25) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club, David A. Nichols, Ph.D. will speak on his new book Eisenhower 1956: The President’s Year of Crisis — Suez and the Brink of War . Nichols is formerly of Southwestern College in Winfield. Copies of the new book will be available for purchase at the meeting. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … Upcoming speakers include Derrick Sontag of Americans for Prosperity on April 1, Deputy Public Defender Jama Mitchell on April 8, Kansas Senator Chris Steineger on April 15, Friends University Associate Professor of Political Science Russell Arben Fox on April 22, and Wichita State University Political Scientist Ken Ciboski on April 29.

Kansas agencies mum on travel spending. From Kansas Policy Institute: “State agencies, boards and universities in Kansas claimed they did not have to disclose details on $21.4 million in spending on various forms of travel and entertainment in FY 2010, according to a Kansas Policy Institute (KPI) analysis of the state’s checkbook.” According to KPI president Dave Trabert: “$39 million is a lot to spend on travel in any year, and especially so when some agencies say they are being forced to cut services. Maybe the Kansas Bureau of Investigation needs some discretion when conducting investigations, but the breadth and volume of these confidentiality claims are incomprehensible.” While the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) has many categories of information that are exempt from disclosure, agencies have discretion as to which information to disclose. None of the exemptions mention travel. Says Trabert: “State checkbook records don’t indicate which exemption from disclosure is invoked on travel spending, but disclosing the names of hotels, airlines and restaurants that received taxpayer money would not be an unwarranted invasion of anyone’s personal privacy. It is, however, an unwarranted invasion of taxpayers’ right to not know how their money is being spent and state law should be changed to eliminate gaping loopholes in KORA.” … I’m really curious to learn more about this finding: “KPI’s review of state travel records also found many examples of the vendor being listed as the agency or university itself rather than the actual vendor that provided the service.” … KPI’s press release is at State Agencies Claim Confidentiality on Travel Spending.

Kansas wind energy jobs. Again we find that the promise of green energy projects being an economic development driver is overplayed. In “Goal of many more ‘green’ jobs is elusive” (February 14, 2011 Kansas City Star) we find the same skepticism that most now see justified regarding ethanol is applicable to wind power: “‘We need to temper our expectations on wind energy,’ said David Swenson, an Iowa State University economist known for deflating the ethanol industry’s job claims. Now, he says, the same ‘environment of hype’ is developing around wind power.” It’s been good for China, though: “… more than 80 percent of $1 billion in federal stimulus grants for wind projects went to foreign countries. One of the projects, a $1.5 billion wind farm in Texas, expected to collect $450 million in stimulus money — but use wind turbines made in China.” The counting of a job as “green” is highly suspect, as the article notes: “Kansas officials have trumpeted that the state already has 20,000 green jobs — and hopes for 10,000 more, many from manufacturing and assembly work for generating wind power. But so far, most of the jobs in that count by the state Department of Labor have been around for years, including carpenters installing energy-efficient windows and plumbers putting in toilets that don’t use much water. Even maids, if they use green products, are classified as green-collar workers.” … Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer promotes manufacturing of wind power machinery as good for Wichita’s economic development, and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback supports renewable energy standards for Kansas.

The role of profits and losses. From Robert P. Murphy, Lessons for the Young Economist: Many naïve observers of the market economy dismiss concern with the “bottom line” as a purely arbitrary social convention. To these critics, it seems senseless that a factory producing, say, medicine or shoes for toddlers stops at the point when the owner decides that profit has been maximized. It would certainly be physically possible to produce more bottles of aspirin or more shoes in size 3T, yet the boss doesn’t allow it, because to do so would “lose money.” On the other hand, many apparently superfluous gadgets and unnecessary luxury items are produced every day in a market economy, because they are profitable. Observers who are outraged by this system may adopt the slogan: “Production for people, not profit!” … Such critics do not appreciate the indispensable service that the profit and-loss test provides to members of a market economy. Whatever the social system in place, the regrettable fact is that the material world is one of scarcity — there are not enough resources to produce all the goods and services that people desire. Because of scarcity, every economic decision involves tradeoffs. When scarce resources are devoted to producing more bottles of aspirin, for example, there are necessarily fewer resources available to produce everything else. It’s not enough to ask, “Would the world be a better place if there were more medicine?” The relevant question is, “Would the world be a better place if there were more medicine and less of the other goods and services that would have to be sacrificed to produce more medicine?” … Loosely speaking, the profit and loss system communicates the desires of consumers to the resource owners and entrepreneurs when they are deciding how many resources to send into each potential line of production. … In a market based on the institution of private property, profits occur when an entrepreneur takes resources of a certain market value and transforms them into finished goods (or services) of a higher market value. This is the important sense in which profitable entrepreneurs are providing a definite service to others in the economy.

Obama health care rejected in Missouri election

What are we to think when President Obama’s signature legislative achievement is highly unpopular with Americans?

Scott Rasmussen has written: “One of the more amazing aspects of the health-care debate is how steady public opinion has remained. Despite repeated and intense sales efforts by the president and his allies in Congress, most Americans consistently oppose the plan that has become the centerpiece of this legislative season.”

Now we have election results that show that Americans — Missourians, anyway — don’t like what they see in the Obama health care plan. The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto reports on the Missouri election.

Mo. to O.: ‘No’

They said voters would learn to stop worrying and love ObamaCare. They were wrong.
By James Taranto

They told us that Americans would learn to stop worrying and love ObamaCare. To judge by yesterday’s election in Missouri, they were wrong.

Official election returns show that citizens of the Show Me State voted overwhelmingly–71% to 29% in favor of Proposition C, a ballot measure described in a pre-election report from Time magazine:

The specific issue boils down to this: Can the government require that citizens buy health insurance? Mandatory insurance is a key element of the health care reforms passed by congressional Democrats and signed by Obama this year. Adding healthy people to the insurance pool spreads the cost of policies for people with health problems. Missouri’s referendum rejects that mandate by asking voters whether state laws should be amended to forbid penalties for failing to have health insurance.

Time describes the vote as “largely symbolic.” Other states have already passed such opt-out laws via legislative action rather than voter initiative, and the real test will come in the courts. But symbolism matters. If the constitutional question is a difficult one, it’s possible that judges will resolve it on the side of public opinion. And of course the public’s reaction to ObamaCare is likely to influence the politicians who have control over its implementation and possible repeal.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for June 25, 2010.

Public sector grows along with KPERS dependency

(Kansas Liberty) “Between April 2008 and April 2010, the private sector in Kansas has experienced an overall loss in jobs of approximately 5.89 percent, while the public sector has experienced an overall gain in employment of approximately .83 percent. … As the public sector and its salaries continue to grow, so does the dependence on the state’s pension plan, KPERS.”

Kansas working toward implementing aspect of Obamacare

(Kansas Liberty) “The Kansas Department of Insurance is working with the federal government to create a temporary high-risk insurance pool, in accordance with regulations set forth by the new federal health-care law. High-risk insurance pools are designed to provide coverage for residents with pre-existing conditions who are unable to find coverage elsewhere. The temporary high-risk pool will operate until 2014, when the law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions.”

Budget cuts hit small towns harder, KC Fed reports

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas government’s continuing financial jam may threaten the economic recovery of the state’s small town and rural communities, according to a new analysis published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.”

Researchers debate number of student dropouts

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – By one count, slightly more than one in 100 students drop out of school; by another count, only 75 students out of 100 actually receive diplomas. Trying to figure out the number of students in Kansas who have graduated high school, versus the number that have dropped out before graduation is tricky and confusing business.”

Info about Ethics Commission meeting not found by attending

(Kansas Watchdog) “On Tuesday the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission held their monthly meeting in Topeka. The agenda for the meeting was a bit curious: The plan was for a 15-minute session that started at 11:45, followed by a 30-minute session 90 minutes later.”

Business Owners Ask Kansas Courts to Stop Smoking Ban

(Kansas Watchdog) “Owners of private clubs and bingo operations have asked the courts to stop the statewide smoking ban (HB2221) from taking effect July 1. Attorney Tuck Duncan Friday filed a motion to intervene in a temporary injunction sought by Michael Merriam to stop implementation of the ban while courts hear claims that the ban violates various U.S Constitutional rights.”

Tiahrt and Moran Trade Shots Over Support for Federal Bailouts

(State of the State KS) “The Tiahrt (R) and Moran (R) campaigns traded shots Wednesday over the issue of government bailouts with Tiahrt firing the first shot saying Moran was misleading voters when Moran said claimed he never voted for a bailout.”

Opinion by Senate President Stephen Morris – The 2010 Legislative Session: Keeping Our Promises to Kansans

(State of the State KS) “The 2010 Legislative Session is now officially history. When this chapter of the Kansas story is written, it will go down as perhaps the most significant since the Great Depression. In fact, the challenges facing lawmakers this year were unprecedented. As we enter the election season, you may hear a lot of misinformation about what actually happened in Topeka this year; I would like to set the record straight.”

Response by Americans For Prosperity to Opinion Article by Senate President Steve Morris

(State of the State KS) “The recent letter to the editor submitted by Senate President Stephen Morris caught my attention. He claims passing the largest sales tax increase in Kansas history was the ‘only responsible way’ to address the budget shortfall. A shortfall he blames on an ‘economic crisis.'”

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for June 7, 2010.

Bond Savings to Be Spent, Not Used to Pay Down Debt

(Kansas Watchdog) “Wichita school district officials will spend surplus bond funds rather than cut taxes. Contractors are bidding below district projections for construction projects funded by the 2008 USD259 bond only 51 percent of voters approved. It authorized the district to spend ‘an amount not to exceed $370 million’ on a broad range or projects. So far, contracts for the first phase of bond construction are as much as 23 percent below projections. The district could save tens of millions of dollars if the Wichita Board of Education chose to return the savings to taxpayers.”

Fed finance bill hurts Kansas consumers and economy

(Kansas Liberty) “The federal finance bill that passed the Senate May 20 is in conference, where a select group of senators and representatives is working to reconcile two versions of the legislation. The Restoring American Financial Stability Act was crafted by Democrats to stabilize Wall Street and diminish the potential of a future fiscal crisis comparable to the 2008 catastrophe that resulted in billions worth of taxpayer dollars being used to bail out big business. While the bill was touted as being aimed at Wall Street, its influence will be felt here in Kansas within community banks, businesses and by consumers, according to local leaders in the business sector.”

Sebelius health-care propaganda reaching Kansas seniors

(Kansas Liberty) Last week Sen. Pat Roberts sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services Department Kathleen Sebelius questioning her about ‘misinformation’ provided to senior citizens via a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid mailer. … Tiahrt refers to mailer as an ‘incomplete piece of literature that is trying to sell a product.'”

Number of jobs in government balloons while private sector stagnant

(Kansas Liberty) “Kansas Republicans are not impressed with today’s United States Bureau of Labor Statistics report that said the national May unemployment rate is at 9.7 percent, which is a decrease from last month. Out of the total 431,000 nonfarm positions added in May, 411,000 of the positions are temporary government jobs created for Census 2010 workers.”

Keeping a close eye on the $131 million

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – Kansas is among the more than 30 states that built budgets assuming Congress this year would approve additional federal matching dollars for Medicaid and child welfare programs. And it is among a dozen or so states that have no contingency plan should that assumption prove wrong.”

Kansas, U.S. tax burdens vary widely, researchers find

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas’ lowest income taxpayers pay slightly more than a national average share of federal income taxes collected in the state, and its wealthiest taxpayers pay slightly less, tax researchers calculate.”

Two states: Two different decisions about competing for federal dollars

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Despite the similarities Kansas shares with its neighbor Oklahoma, the two states made very different decisions about competing for federal dollars for education.”

State General Fund out of balance as fiscal year winds down

(Kansas Reporter) TOPEKA, Kan. – Entering the last month of the fiscal year, the State General Fund is about $89 million out of balance. Unless June brings in much more than anticipated revenue amounts, the state will have to resort to maneuvering cash and delaying payments, said J.G. Scott, the chief fiscal officer for the Legislative Research Department. ‘If June comes in higher than anticipated everything will be fine,’ Scott said. ‘If it comes in where we expect it, we’ll still have an issue.'”

O’Neal and Davis On The Last Day of Session

(State of the State KS) “Friday marked the last official day of the legislative session, called Sine Die, and legislators gathered at the capitol one last time before heading home until next January. Governor Parkinson and a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans worked together this session to pass a one cent sales tax increase that filled a budget shortfall, leaving programs for education, social services and public safety in place.”

Attorney General Steve Six Announces Run For Top Legal Office in Kansas

(State of the State KS) “Kansas Attorney General Steve Six (D) kicked off a five city tour Thursday to announce his run for for the top legal office in the state. He said that after years of personal and political scandal, he brought a new culture to the AG’s office.”

KAKE-TV and WIBW-TV Launch New Sunday Morning Political Show

(State of the State KS) “Starting, Sunday June 6 at 9:00 AM, KAKE TV in Wichita and will begin a new public affairs program called ‘This Week in Kansas’. Hosted by well-known local journalist Tim Brown, this half-hour program will review the major political events and issues in our state every week. Frequent guests throughout the year will include newsmakers, legislators, politicians and journalists.”

Dr. Milton Wolf at AFP Kansas summit

At the Kansas Defending the American Dream Summit 2010, produced by Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, Dr. Milton Wolf addressed the crowd on health care issues. Wolf is a physician and second cousin to President Barack Obama.

“Three months ago I had never been to a political rally,” he told the audience. He started a website — The Wolf Files — and became involved.

He told the audience of some of the personal attacks he’s received.

“Freedom isn’t free, and liberty cannot be a spectator sport.” The government takeover of health care is really a cover for an assault on our freedom, he told the audience. Deep in the thousands of pages of the bill is health care rationing, which its supporters claim is not the purpose of the bill.

Wolf said that by coming between citizens and their doctors, there is no other part of life that regulators can’t touch.

Donald Berwick, the head of Medicare, says that there will be rationing. He compliments the British health care system, but doesn’t talk about the results. Wolf said that the results for cancer survivability in Great Britain are much worse than in the United States.

He said that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius received a report from her own agency that said health costs will rise after government reform, but that she withheld release of the report until after Congress voted.

There are free market solutions for health care. First, get the government out of the patient exam room. Government should not be regulating who get mammograms.

Second, make health care insurance companies answerable to consumers, not their employers. Where free markets are allowed to work in medicine, such as laser eye surgery, the costs have come down tremendously.

Third, eliminate junk lawsuits. From $100 billion to $200 billion is spent each year on defensive medicine, he said. He mentioned a novel concept: health care dollars get spent on health care, not lawyers.

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for March 29, 2010.

Passenger Trains Are One Step Closer To Rolling Into Kansas

(State of the State KS) “Governor Parkinson (D) signed two bills Wednesday that pave the way for passenger rail in Kansas.”

Governor Mark Parkinson on the Economy, the Budget and Kansas Health

(State of the State KS) “Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson (D) addresses budget shortfalls, key Capitol legislative issues and the need for bipartisan work in Kansas and Washington.”

Chamber vs. Chamber: The Battle of Economic Theories

(State of the State KS) “The growing divide between the Chambers of Commerce reflect the battle of economic theories facing off at the Capital.”

President Obama Signs Health Care Reform Prompting Some To Block The Law Locally

(State of the State KS) “President Obama signed historic health care reform into law Tuesday prompting some Kansas Republicans to try to block pieces of the legislation.”

Rep. Moore’s wife interested in Third District race

(Kansas Liberty) “Moore afraid of threats but doesn’t fear for his wife.”

Health care freedom amendment fails in House

(Kansas Liberty) “The Kansas Health Care Freedom Amendment failed to pass out of the Kansas House today after the measure gained a vote of 75-47, which was nine votes short of what was needed for the legislation to be adopted.”

Kansas GOP playing defense against ObamaCare

(Kansas Liberty) “Kansas legislators from the local and the national level have already waged a full attack against the health-care reform bill President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday. Kansas lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have started to promote bills that would repeal the health-care plan, and proposed initiatives to ensure that the health-care overhaul does not receive federal funding. Several congressional candidates have taken a different approach by asking Kansas Attorney General Steve Six to join the list of attorneys general who are legally questioning the constitutionality of the health-care bill.”

Senate stands against EPA ruling

(Kansas Liberty) “The Kansas Senate passed a resolution today 34-3 which sends a message to the federal government criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling that greenhouse gasses are harmful to the public’s health.”

Groups claiming to represent the interest of business ask for tax hike

(Kansas Liberty) “Representative says residents who benefit from taxpayer dollars have ‘infiltrated’ local chambers of commerce, resulting in the pro-tax message.”

Much undone as Legislature heads for first adjournment

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – The Legislature will take first adjournment sometime this week with budget and tax work far from complete and a statewide smoking ban still one of the few far-reaching accomplishments of the session.”

“I’ve been defamed,” Kansas Speaker O’Neal tells panel

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, told an investigating panel Tuesday that he’s been defamed by House Democrats who earlier this month filed an ethics complaint against him.”

Kansas teacher policies fall short

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas teacher policy standards did not make the grade in 2009 according to a new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality. The state policies received an overall grade of D-minus. The report examined areas in which state policy affects the delivery of well prepared teachers by schools in the state; expansion of the teacher pool; identifying effective teachers; retaining effective teachers; and exiting ineffective teachers.”

My View: Kansas should pass shield law

(Kansas Watchdog) “Trust, confidence, protection, faith — these are the words that describe the relationship between doctors and patients, lawyers and clients, and reporters and sources. However, only two of those three relationships are provided legal protection from sharing the secrets passed between parties. In several states, reporters have absolutely no protection when it comes to revealing their sources on a given story.”

Obama’s second cousin, a doctor from Kansas, pushes for Kansas Health Care Freedom

(Kansas Watchdog) “On his web site Barack Obama’s second cousin, Dr. Milton R. Wolf, Leawood, is pushing for passage of the Kansas Health Care Freedom Amendment.”

Bigger danger of healthcare bill: the arrogance of Congress

By Eric O’Keefe.

We may never fully know the damage that will be done by the massive health care bill Congress passed on Sunday, but one thing is certain: It will lead to lower-quality care at higher costs.

Dozens of new health boards will come on line in the next few years, as bureaucrats gradually take control of our health care system. Who knows how many bright college students will decide to avoid medical careers because they don’t want to follow orders from these bureaucrats?

As alarming as some of the bill’s provisions are, what’s more dangerous is the arrogance this Congress demonstrated.

The House of Representatives used to represent; now it rules.

This health care reform was widely debated for a year, and it became less popular by the month. A weekend poll by Rasmussen Reports showed the depth of that unpopularity, with only 26 percent strongly supporting the reform and 45 percent strongly opposing it.

How can elected representatives defy the considered will of the people?

Because defiance becomes an easy habit when you know that there is almost no chance you will lose your next election. The loss of accountability enables public servants to indulge their own lust for power. As Lord Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

If we do not address the problem of a permanent class of rulers in Congress, we will watch Congress bankrupt the country and destroy the republic.

Most members of the House represent specially drawn districts where one party dominates. As a result, these members face no primary election challengers and only nominal competition in the general election.

Congressional entrenchment is not a product of popularity; Congress has routinely been unpopular the past 30 years. A February survey by Rasmussen Reports showed approval of Congress at a historic low, with only 10 percent rating their performance as good or excellent. Rasmussen also found 63 percent favor replacing the entire Congress.

Unfortunately, that will not happen. Even during this year’s extreme political turmoil, you can be confident that over 80 percent of House incumbents will win yet again in November. In most modern US elections, more than 95 percent of House incumbents are reelected.

The reason is a century of entrenchment by incumbents looking out for themselves. They have large staffs and budgets to run a permanent campaign; they have pork and patronage to distribute at taxpayer expense; and they enacted campaign restrictions to hobble challengers.

With mostly one-party districts, incumbents own their seats unless they face serious primary challenges. But party organizations controlled by incumbents work to discourage primary challenges, regardless of the performance of the incumbent. In fact, only eight incumbents have lost their primary races in the past three elections combined – that’s a renomination rate of over 99 percent.

To regain congressional accountability, we must work outside the political parties to set the standard of acceptable behavior, and to enforce it in primary elections.

In 2006 and 2008, Democrats won the close House races and took control of Congress because voters were tired of big-spending Republicans. In 2010 voters will defeat Democrats in close elections, and the House is likely to return to Republican control. But what will those Republicans do? Should we trust them to behave this time?

I would say no. Congress will not behave on its own because the political parties now exist to serve the politicians, not the taxpayers.

That’s why the development of the tea party movement has been so forceful and swift. Tea party leaders stepped up because both parties had failed us. Yet they understand that you don’t solve the problem of two unaccountable parties by creating a third. What we really need is a way to hold politicians of any party accountable, and that begins with independent organizations demanding accountability, and backing primary challengers to representatives of both political parties who fail to live up to their job title: Representative.

In 2010, tossing out some big-spending Democrats may be all that voters can accomplish. But if we don’t solve the bigger problem of creating the organizations to systematically hold politicians accountable, we will only get another round of broken promises on the road to ruin. The fate of the republic depends on building an independent system to hold Congress accountable to the taxpayers.

Eric O’Keefe is chairman of Sam Adams Alliance, a Chicago-based nonprofit focused on communicating free-market principles.

Health care amendment fails to pass in Kansas, protest filed

Today the Kansas House of Representatives failed to pass House Concurrent Resolution 5032. This resolution would have amended the Kansas Constitution to provide Kansas protection from federal health care mandates. Specifically, the explanatory section of the bill states: “The purpose of this health care freedom amendment is to preserve constitutionally the right and freedom of Kansans to provide for their health care.”

The resolution failed to pass by a vote of 75 to 47. Two-thirds, or 84 votes, were required for passage of this constitutional amendment. This vote is part of the Kansas Economic Freedom Index.

A group of House members filed a protest, which is printed in the journal for the day. It’s a useful analysis of what the just-passed federal law will do for us, complete with references to the legislation:

MR. SPEAKER: Pursuant to Article 2, Section 10, of the constitution of the State of Kansas, we protest the non-adoption of HCR 5032.

The Federal Health Care legislation is a violation of the United States Constitution. The legislation is not within the powers granted to Congress through the Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8. The legislation is unprecedented and unconstitutional because never before has Congress attempted to compel Americans to purchase any good or service simply as a requirement of lawful citizenship. Health Care has historically been a primarily a state responsibility.

Additionally, we protest the passing of Federal Health Care legislation, in part, for the following reasons:

The sections described below are taken from HR 3590 as agreed to by the United States Senate and from the reconciliation bill as displayed by the Rules Committee.

You are young and don’t want health insurance? You are starting up a small business and need to minimize expenses, and one way to do that is to forego health insurance? Tough. You have to pay $750 annually for the ‘‘privilege.’’ (Section 1501)

Continue reading Health care amendment fails to pass in Kansas, protest filed

After U.S. health care reform, where will Canadians go?

Now that the Democrats’ health care reform package has passed Congress and is sure to be signed into law, wealthy Canadians will need to start looking for somewhere else to travel for surgery.

Earlier this year Danny Williams, the premier of the Canadian province of Newfoundland traveled to Miami for heart valve surgery. As Sally C. Pipes explains in a San Francisco Chronicle article: “With his trip, Williams joined a long list of Canadians who have decided that they prefer American medicine to their own country’s government-run health system when their lives are on the line.”

In an interview defending his decision, Williams said “This is my heart. It’s my health and it’s my choice.” Williams, a millionaire, has the resources to make a choice that most Canadians don’t have.

Pipes writes that 40,000 Canadians travel to the United States each year for medical reasons. But as big-government health care reform starts to drag down American health care to that of the level of Canada, we can expect to see that number decline.

Medical tourism is a benefit to Wichita’s economy. Galichia Heart Hospital in Wichita offers a wide variety of surgical procedures — not just heart surgery — to people willing to travel to Wichita. The hospital has a website — Galichia Medical Tourism — complete with prices for some procedures. A promotional video on the site specifically mentions categories of surgery that Canadians are finding difficult to obtain in their own country.

Will Galichia be able to maintain this business after the full effect of Obama-style health care reform is realized? Will we have a health care system that Canadians will want to use? It will take some time to know the answer.

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for March 22, 2010.

Republicans on the left help defeat Health Care Freedom Amendment

(Kansas Liberty) “Greg Ward, co-founder of the Kansas 9.12 Project and founder of the Kansas Sovereignty Coalition, was disappointed in the outcome, but said he was especially concerned about the actions of the Republican members who voted against the measure. ‘I am amazed at the number of Republicans working to limit the liberties we have instead of limiting the overreaching government on both the federal and state level that seeks more and more control of our lives,’ Ward told Kansas Liberty.”

House, Senate committees take a stand against increasing taxes

(Kansas Liberty) “The House Appropriations Committee adopted a budget plan today that could patch the state’s deficits for fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2011 — without raising taxes. The proposal would leave the state with positive balance of more than $300 million in fiscal year 2011 and would cut approximately $360 million. The Republican plan would create a 1 percent across-the-board cut, excluding education and health and human services caseload.”

Tax on sugary beverages could still be considered

(Kansas Liberty) “The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee made it clear yesterday that it was not interested in several of the tax-increasing proposals brought before the committee — including a proposal to create a tax on sugary beverages. For legislation to be voted on during a committee meeting, a member has to make a motion for the legislation to be passed out of committee, and that motion has to be seconded. However, the Senate Taxation Committee did not even have enough tax-supporting members for the majority of the proposals to be considered for a vote.”

Day-care bill passes GO in Senate

(Kansas Liberty) “Voice vote in general orders indicates Kansas Senate wants all child-care providers licensed and inspected by state.”

Kansas tax panel offers balanced budget, no new taxes

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas House Appropriations committee members unveiled a new plan Thursday for balancing next year’s state budget without raising taxes.”

Exemptions severely erode Kansas’ tax bases, audit finds

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas property tax exemptions for machinery and equipment created in 2006 have significantly eroded local tax bases across the state, state auditors reported Wednesday.”

KOSE seeks more protection for whistleblowers

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Some state employees feel they have a way to gain more revenue for Kansas. Two members of the Kansas Organization of State Employees (KOSE) testified before the Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday that strengthening whistleblower protection for state employees would mean less waste.”

Debunking Myths in the School Funding Debate

(Kansas Watchdog) “Protesters pushing for tax increases to end education funding cuts chanted, ‘We want what’s right, not what’s left’ at the State Capitol Tuesday.”

3rd District Candidates Debate

(Kansas Watchdog) “Overland Park, Kan. – A candidate debate and forum of eight 3rd Congressional District candidates was held Saturday at the Blue Valley Northwest High School. About 300 people attended to listen to 7 Republicans and a Libertarian candidate.” Related: Closing Statements from 3rd District Debate (video).

Sun Editor Steve Rose Needs Facts and Figures not Fear Mongering about Schools

(Kansas Watchdog) “Steve Rose in his ‘Memo’ this week, ‘Teachers, programs slashed. Thanks, Ray,’ needs more hard facts and figures instead of fear mongering about ‘slashing’ school budgets.”

Congressional Candidates Debate at Hope For America Meeting in Overland Park

(State of the State KS) “Republican and Libertarian candidates for Congress debated in Overland Park Saturday in the race for Congress in the 3rd District.”

U.S. House passes historic health reform legislation

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – The U.S. House has spoken on health reform, approving 219-212 a Senate-passed health reform bill that now goes to the president for signature into law. But the debate in Kansas, and across the country, continues.”

Menu labeling discussed

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – It’s not clear what will happen to federal health reform legislation that would require chain restaurants to label menu items, but the Kansas Legislature won’t take any action on the measure this year.”

Health care about to get worse

A good summary of the problems with American health care, and of what the future holds is from Competitive Enterprise Institute‘s Gregory Conko. In his piece Health Care Crisis About to Get a Whole Lot Worse he writes:

Most of the problems in America’s health care system — high and rising prices, lack of consistent and reliable access for millions, rampant cost shifting, and an inability to distinguish between effective and ineffective services or between high and low quality, to name just a few — stem not from some supposed market failure, but primarily from existing government interventions in the market for health care and health insurance.

One of the government interventions that leads to market dysfunction is the reliance on employers to provide health insurance for so many Americans. This happened because of government policy, not by accident. As a result, workers have little choice in their coverage, and some feel tied to their present jobs just for the insurance.

Americans — some anyway — complain that health insurers will collect premiums for years, and then not pay when the covered become sick. There’s also not a vigorous market for health insurance for individuals, partly because the employer market swamps out efforts to sell to individuals or families.

Contrast this situation with the market for automobile insurance. This is a product that is regulated, to be sure, but much more lightly than health insurance. It’s something that no employers purchase for their workers and their private cars. Instead, drivers have to seek out and purchase their own policies.

And what is the result? There’s a thriving and competitive market for auto insurance. The pitchmen for two large companies — the quirky lizard and the exuberant Flo — are well known to television viewers. Auto insurance companies innovate to see who can produce products that meet the needs of consumers.

Do auto insurance companies fail to pay claims, as it is alleged health insurance companies do? If an auto insurance company developed a reputation for not paying, customers would quickly and easily leave that company for others. That is a credible threat, as there is a competitive market for auto insurance. Those who feel they have been wronged by a health insurance company often have no alternative to turn to — there is no credible threat of taking one’s business to another company.

One of the things that President Obama’s health care reform is designed to do is to create a marketplace for health insurance. But we don’t need more government regulation to accomplish that. Such government-sponsored effort is likely to fail. Less government intervention and less regulation, like in the market for auto insurance, would produce a result better for consumers.

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for January 25, 2010.

Kansas Republicans and Democrats agree Massachusetts upset could benefit Kansans

(Kansas Liberty) “Republican Senatorial candidate Scott Brown made history last night when he defeated Democratic candidate Martha Coakley in the election for Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts seat. Kansas Republicans are lining up to proclaim how this victory could signal a change in the tide for the Democratic Party and for the Democrats health care plans.”

Rally members frustrated by mainstream media coverage

(Kansas Liberty) “Last Friday, approximately 400 liberty-minded Kansans flocked to the Statehouse to support a Senate Concurrent Resolution that claims state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. The resolution serves notice to the federal government to cease and desist certain mandates, provides that certain federal legislation should be prohibited or repealed, and it directs distribution of the resolution to Congress and the President. … According to legislators and organization members who were present at the rally, the grassroots support for the amendment was substantial, but many of the mainstream media outlets painted a watered down picture of the outpouring of support. Several reports also focused in on the sole opponent who testified during the hearing, an educator at Wichita Collegiate School, which is a private K-12 school.”

New coalition plotting to lobby legislators for tax increases

(Kansas Liberty) “Roughly a dozen tax-increase advocacy groups have banned together to form the Kansans for Quality Communities Coalition. According to its mission statement the organization’s key goal is to ‘ensure the prosperity of Kansas communities through the responsible investment of taxpayer dollars.’ To achieve this goal the group is heavily lobbying for tax increases, an action already sanctioned by Democratic leaders, including Gov. Mark Parkinson.”

AG Six requests Kansas Supreme Court to refrain from reopening Montoy case

(Kansas Liberty) “Attorney General Steve Six has asked the Kansas Supreme Court to deny the Schools for Fair Funding coalition’s request to reopen the Montoy v. State of Kansas lawsuit. “The Court in 2006 issued its mandate directing the district court to dismiss the case, and on the stipulation of all parties, the district court did so,’ Six said in a statement issued to the Kansas Supreme Court yesterday. ‘This case is over.’ Six referred to the request as ‘unprecedented’ and said that it ‘achieves no efficiencies, and is merely an attempt to circumvent the procedures for initiating new cases.'”

Kansas Senator Chris Steiniger on County Consolidation and His New Campaign

(State of the State KS) “Kansas Senator Chris Steiniger (D) talks about county consolidation and his recent announcement to run for Secretary of State.”

Legislators Speak at Energy Conference in Wichita

(State of the State KS) “House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Ward (D) and Kansas Senator Carolyn McGinn (R) spoke at an energy panel hosted by City of Wichita’s Dale Goter.” Full video of the conference is at Wichita Energy Conference Legislative Panel .

ProPublica predicts insolvency for Kansas’ unemployment insurance fund

(Kansas Watchdog) “Propublica, a national independent non-profit investigative journalism organization, on Wednesday reported that two dozen states have unemployment funds in the red, with nine more to be in the red within six months.”

U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance won’t affect Kansas much

(Kansas Watchdog) “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that businesses and unions may spend freely on political campaigns, but this ruling only affects federal races in Kansas. ‘It won’t affect us at all’ was the response from Carol Williams, the executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. Williams said that 24 states had corporate and union contribution bans but Kansas did not.”

Wichita Chamber Will Lobby Against Income Tax

(Kansas Watchdog) “The Wichita Business Journal reported in today’s edition that the Wichita Chamber of Commerce is beginning what will likely be a multi-year effort to repeal the personal and business income taxes in Kansas.”

Furlough idea for legislators is dropped

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Furloughs for the Kansas Legislature are off the table until late in the legislative session, at the earliest, state Senate President Stephen Morris said.”

More budget cuts would hurt Kansas for years, tax backers say

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas school children, the state’s elderly and its most fragile citizens simply cannot afford any more state budget cuts, proponents of a proposed one-percent sales tax increase told a Kansas House tax policy committee Thursday.”

School’s reserves total at least $1.4 billion

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – In the fight over school funding, both sides agree that school districts in Kansas are sitting on at least $1.4 billion in cash reserves. The battle over whether that money is available to spend played out during two competing presentations Thursday morning in front of the House Appropriations Committee.”

Kansans speculate on future of federal health reform

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – The shockwaves emanating from Republican Scott Brown’s U.S. Senate victory in Massachusetts on Tuesday are being felt beyond the Bay state and Washington, D.C. They’re registering in state capitals across the country, including Topeka.”

Senate GOP leaders say some tax increases will be necessary

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – Senate leaders today said a combination of tax increases and spending cuts would be the best way to balance the state budget. Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said he thought a plan to close sales tax exemptions and increase the tobacco tax could win legislative approval as lawmakers try to close a projected $400 million budget gap. Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood, said balancing the budget solely with more spending cuts would be ‘catastrophic.'”

To some, Democrats not bold enough, despite Massachusetts results

A coalition of liberal political action groups has released a poll that contradicts the conventional wisdom stemming from Tuesday’s election.

The poll, conducted after Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the United States Senate election in Massachusetts, was sponsored by Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, and MoveOn.org.

According to a communique from Democracy for America, Democrats in Washington should “Be bold, fight for more change — not less, and pass healthcare with a public option.”

The message speaks of “Stay-at-Home Voters and Obama-Voting Independents” as a new set of swing voters. These voters, DFA claims, were responsible for Brown’s victory.

The poll results, delivered under the sub-heading “Even Scott Brown voters want the public option, want Democrats to be bolder” is interpreted by Charles Chamberlain, political director of Democracy for America this way: “In an election between Scott Brown and the public option, the public option would have won.”

Further, according to DFA, “Both sets of swing voters don’t think the current Senate bill goes far enough and over 80% of them want a public option. … If a public option was in the Senate bill then these swing voters would have delivered victory to the Democrats.”

‘The Audacity of Hypocricy’ in Wichita

The Great American Forum hosts another event: “Come hear our panelists discuss the failed policies of the first year of the Obama Administration, and common-sense solutions to fixing our country! The topics will be: Homeland Security & Defense (Ben Sauceda), Cap & Trade (Rick Macias), Healthcare (Kenya Cox), and Economics (Brandon Rudkin). There will be a question and answer period.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm, at Rhatigan Student Center Room 215 at Wichita State University.

Left’s obsession with funding diverts attention from issues and its own funding

One of the duties of being a blogger on the left is constant disparaging of the source of funding or leadership of your opposition. All done, of course, while ignoring the painfully obvious problems with your own.

As an example, a recent Boston Globe column — its title is In glitzy shadows, a health reform foe lurks — makes claims that are false. Others are actually something to be proud of, not ashamed.

I don’t recommend you actually read the Globe piece. As one comment left to the article stated: “What an amazingly biased and unbalanced piece.” It’s not worth the time.

Instead, read the Examiner.com’s analysis at Boston Globe falsely claims Koch Industries astroturffed Obamacare protests.

At issue is the funding of Americans for Prosperity, which describes itself — accurately, I would say — as “an organization of grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state and federal levels.” Liberals and those in favor of big-taxing and big-spending government make continued charges that AFP is funded by “shadowy” interests — remember the Globe headline — that somehow manipulate ordinary Americans into coming to tea parties and engaging in other forms of political activism.

A key part of the Examiner.com analysis is a quote from a Koch Industries statement: “Not every issue focused on by AFP or AFP Foundation receives support from Koch Industries or a Koch foundation. For example, neither Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch have contributed funds to AFP’s and AFP Foundation’s efforts on the health care issue, which have included town-hall meetings and citizen rallies around the country.”

As to the totality of AFP funding, a statement that I received a few months ago from Missy Cohlmia, Director of Communications for Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC indicates that David Koch’s contributions to AFP are a relatively small portion of its total budget: “Less than 5 percent of the funding AFP or the AFP Foundation has received in 2009 has been contributed by David Koch, Koch Industries, or Koch foundations.”

Cohlmia also told me about the relationship between Fred Koch and the John Birch Society, which is another favorite talking point of the Left: “Fred Koch, who died in 1967, was a supporter, not a founder, of the John Birch Society in the 1950s. His anti-communist sentiment stemmed from time he spent in the Soviet Union between 1929 and 1932 when his engineering company designed and built oil cracking units to be erected in refineries in the U.S.S.R.”

Charles Koch’s recent book The Science of Success contains this about his father’s experience in Stalin’s Russia:

Fred found the Soviet Union to be “a land of hunger, misery and terror.” Virtually all the Soviet engineers he worked with were purged by Stalin, who exterminated tens of millions of his own people.

This experience, combined with what his Communist associates told him of their methods and plans for world revolution, caused Fred Koch to become a staunch anti-communist.

It reminds me of Ronald Reagan’s quip about an anti-communist being someone who has read Marx and Lenin and understands them. Or, in the case of Fred Koch, someone who actually saw the problems with communism through direct experience.

Additionally, David Koch is very interested in health care. Some details of his contributions to medical and cancer research, and also to education and science are detailed at David H. Koch Charitable Foundation and Personal Philanthropy.

Another source of information about David Koch, his background, and his charitable giving is from The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In a way, I can understand leftists’ continued harping on these factors. It’s easier for them to focus on the personalities and the source of funding and leadership than on the actual issues. For example, even the headline of the Globe piece — alluding that opposing health care reform is evil — assumes that what the liberals are working through Congress is actual reform: “changes and improvements to a law, social system, or institution.” Many thoughtful people strongly disagree that the Obama plan will improve America’s health care system.

Besides, when you talk about personalities, there are few worse than George Soros, funder of many leftist causes and institutions. A speculator — one of the most evil of all players in the liberal world view — and not just any speculator — a currency speculator — Soros was actually convicted of insider trading.

Yet, the Left welcomes his millions in funding for all sorts of causes opposed to free markets and economic freedom. In fact, the author of the Globe piece is an employee of the Center for American Progress, one of several organizations funded by Soros.

Articles of interest

Education, health care, Kansas school funding, unintended consequences.

Charter schools: Two studies, two conclusions

This Washington Post article looks at two recent studies of charter schools to try and determine whether they perform better or worse than regular public schools. Kansas, in effect, has no charter schools. They’re allowed by state law, but local boards of education must approve them. Few are approved, as the education establishment, including the teachers union, is firmly opposed to charter schools. Most charter schools operate on a much lower budget than regular public schools. As Kansas tries to work its way out of a tight budget, charter schools could provide a way to create diverse educational opportunities at lower cost.

Health Care is Not a Right

(Competitive Enterprise Institute) A discussion of why there is no right to health care, at least not in a country that understands the true meanings of rights. “Whereas genuine rights protect citizens from state coercion, the ‘right to health care’ serves to justify state coercion against a particular part of the population: those who pay taxes. Moreover, by their very nature, such positive demands cannot be clearly defined and hence are capable of infinite expansions. As one need is satisfied, others arise.”

School Districts: Extra Funds Cannot Replace Legislative Budget Cuts

A story from KAKE Television about Kansas State Board of Education member Walt Chappell and the huge fund balances that Kansas schools are holding. Chappell says that some of the money in these funds could provide a way to get through a year of reduced funding from the state. The Kansas Association of School Boards, a group that advocates for more school spending and tax increases to support it, disagrees.

Bush Was a Big-Government Disaster

A Reason Magazine editorial took a look backwards at the George W. Bush presidency: “Bush’s legacy is thus a bizarro version of Ronald Reagan’s. Reagan entered office declaring that government was not the solution to our problems, it was the problem. Ironically, he demonstrated that government could do some important things right—he helped tame inflation and masterfully drew the Cold War to a nonviolent triumph for the Free World. By contrast, Bush has massively expanded the government along with the sense that government is incompetent.”

The Henry Ford of Heart Surgery

The Wall Street Journal article The Henry Ford of Heart Surgery: In India, a Factory Model for Hospitals Is Cutting Costs and Yielding Profits reports on a new model for reducing health care costs: economies of scale. “By driving huge volumes, even of procedures as sophisticated, delicate and dangerous as heart surgery, Dr. Shetty has managed to drive down the cost of health care in his nation of one billion. His model offers insights for countries worldwide that are struggling with soaring medical costs, including the U.S. as it debates major health-care overhaul.”

Cash for Clubbers

An example of unintended consequences at work: The Wall Street Journal found that the cash for clunkers program worked for something else, too: “We thought cash for clunkers was the ultimate waste of taxpayer money, but as usual we were too optimistic. Thanks to the federal tax credit to buy high-mileage cars that was part of President Obama’s stimulus plan, Uncle Sam is now paying Americans to buy that great necessity of modern life, the golf cart. … This golf-cart fiasco perfectly illustrates tax policy in the age of Obama, when politicians dole out credits and loopholes for everything from plug-in cars to fuel efficient appliances, home insulation and vitamins. Democrats then insist that to pay for these absurdities they have no choice but to raise tax rates on other things — like work and investment — that aren’t politically in vogue. If this keeps up, it’ll soon make more sense to retire and play golf than work for living.”

Wall Street Journal on government health care

The Wall Street Journal has compiled its editorials and op-eds into a collection titled The WSJ Guide to ObamaCare. It’s an invaluable collection of reporting and analysis.

For example: The German model, promoted by American liberals as a model to follow? “Alas, the German system is starting to come apart at the financial seams.” (The Stressed German Model: It took the Germans 125 years to figure out that their health-care system doesn’t work)

On learning from the states: “Like participants in a national science fair, state governments have tested variants on most of the major components of the health-care reform plans currently being considered in Congress. The results have been dramatically increased premiums in the individual market, spiraling public health-care costs, and reduced access to care. In other words: The reforms have failed.” (The Lesson of State Health-Care Reforms)

On the purported right to health care: “The question of health care is not one of rights but of how best in practice to organize it. America is certainly not a perfect model in this regard. But neither is Britain, where a universal right to health care has been recognized longest in the Western world. Not coincidentally, the U.K. is by far the most unpleasant country in which to be ill in the Western world. Even Greeks living in Britain return home for medical treatment if they are physically able to do so.” (Is There a ‘Right’ to Health Care? In Britain, its recognition has led to substandard care.)

On Obama’s tall tales: “To highlight abusive practices, Mr. Obama referred to an Illinois man who ‘lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found he hadn’t reported gallstones that he didn’t even know about.’ The president continued: ‘They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it.’ Although the president has used this example previously, his conclusion is contradicted by the transcript of a June 16 hearing on industry practices before the Subcommittee of Oversight and Investigation of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.” (Fact-Checking the President on Health Insurance: His tales of abuse don’t stand scrutiny.)

Failure of one program doesn’t justify forming another

The blogger at the KRA got it just right in the post Liberal-socialists ignore government failure in insuring children.

It seems that at a recent rally in Johnson County, a sign said there were 58,000 uninsured children in Kansas.

The blogger points out “But doesn’t the state of Kansas already have a program in place that is supposed to insure children when their family can’t afford to do so? Of course, it’s called Kansas Healthwave!”

At the national level a similar problem exists: people are eligible for government programs, but they don’t sign up. As I wrote in Uninsured count needs explanation:

There’s also the issue that many people are eligible for some sort of government assistance with health insurance, but they don’t take advantage of it. Yet, these people are counted as uninsured. As explained in The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care: A Citizen’s Guide by Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute: “As many as 14 million of the 45.7 million uninsured — poor and low-income Americans — are fully eligible for generous government assistance programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP. The problem is, they’re just not enrolling in these programs.”

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for November 9, 2009.

Political involvement and Kansas smoking ban

(State of the State Kansas) “This week we focus on two issues: the proposed smoking ban in public places and getting young people involved in the political process.”

Districts Have Funds To Meet Projected $100 Million Shortfall

(Kansas Watchdog) “Kansas school districts will fall about $100 million short of needed funds by the end of the current 2010 fiscal year according to Dale Dennis, Deputy Commissioner of the Kansas Department of Education. But school districts statewide had $175.7 million in their contingency reserve funds at the beginning of the current fiscal year. Dennis says those taxpayers’ dollars can be used to cover the shortfall, but once districts spend that money it’s gone.”

Does not compute: Kansas to use “stimulus” debt to save future interest payments?

(Kansas Watchdog) “So, we’re using $159.2 million in stimulus spending to realize interest savings on bonds? But that $159.2 million is new debt. We’re trading ‘saved interest’ for more debt? What we’re doing is only increasing the debt and the interest we owe.”

Human services and school funding dragging state into a deep deficit

(Kansas Liberty) “If Kansas maintains full funding for human-service caseloads and school financing — including the huge outlays for special education — the state’s budget will plummet into a deficit of $722.5 million within the next two years, according the state’s Consensus Estimating Group.”

Roberts warns Democratic health plan may cost taxpayers $2.4 trillion

(Kansas Liberty) “Kansas’ U.S. Senator Pat Roberts said Wednesday that the Democratic health care plan could result in a $2.4 trillion tax burden being placed on United States residents over the next decade. ‘The rushed health care reform proposals being debated behind closed doors could end up costing the taxpayer $2.4 trillion over ten years while doing nothing to lower the rising cost of care for patients and causing insurance premiums to rise,’ Roberts said in a statement. Roberts’ data comes from the Senate Budget Committee, a spokesperson said.”

Proposed health insurance ‘exchanges’ worry Blue Cross

(Kansas Liberty) “The Democratic health care plan’s creation of a ‘health insurance exchange’ brings up some concerns for private health insurance providers — and for Republicans who are opposed to an expansion of government. The exchange will create a marketplace, likely online, which will allow for businesses and individuals to select their health insurance on their own. This will differ from most current practices in which either health insurance brokers, or in-house employees work as facilitators to match businesses and individuals with health insurance plans, although it also duplicates existing private enterprise solutions. … ‘And what we do not need is an insurance version of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac.'”

Kansas News Digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for November 2, 2009.

Kansas House leaders question secretary of commerce’s departure to Missouri

(Kansas Liberty) “The Republican leadership of the Kansas House is questioning the timing of former Kansas Secretary of Commerce David Kerr’s resignation to take a job as the director of the Department of Economic Development in Missouri. The Show-Me State is Kansas’ rival for a $414 million economic development project expected to create 4,500 jobs.”

State lawmakers push to preserve Kansans’ right to decide on health care

(Kansas Liberty) “Kansas House and Senate Republicans are joining together to promote an amendment that they say protects Kansans from any government-managed health-care reform that might come out of the U.S. Congress.” More coverage from Kansas Watchdog is at Legislators Propose Health Care Amendment to Kansas Constitution . A contrary view from Forward Kansas is at KS Republican Legislators Waste More Time Scaring the Public on HCR.

Despite AG’s findings, Howe pledges to keep doors closed to some public meetings

(Kansas Liberty) More problems with open records and open meetings in Kansas. “Attorney General Steve Six, responding to an inquiry from state lawmakers about the scope of the Kansas Open Meeting Act, determined that taxes and budget issues cannot be discussed during meetings that are closed to the public, except in cases in which it is “burdensome and impractical, if not impossible” to do so.” Kansas Watchdog coverage is at Letter to JoCo DA from Kansas Press .

Kansas store moves 100 feet to Missouri to avoid taxes, regulations

(Kansas Watchdog) “Normally the opening of a new QuikTrip store is not a news item. But, tomorrow the QuikTrip Convenience Store at 27 Southwest Blvd will reopen in Kansas City, Missouri after ‘moving’ about 100 feet from Kansas to avoid higher taxes and more burdensome regulations in Kansas.”

Small Businesses Struggle with Health Insurance

(State of the State Kansas) “The Wichita Independent Business Association helps small businesses obtain health insurance but it may not be enough.”

Is Populism the Way Out of Desert for Kansas Democrats?

(Kansas Free Press) “It is a sad state of affairs when only multi-millionaires can speak their minds AND succeed in politics. Now both parties feel the need to ‘suck up’ to The Man — corporate plutocracy. But before the Democratic party goes too far down that road, shouldn’t we try the ‘Great Commoner’s’ prescription first?”

In Winfield, citizens don’t agree with their opinion leaders

On Wednesday the Winfield Daily Courier printed an editorial titled ‘Tea party’ bunch is going to extreme.

While criticizing a move made by some Kansas legislators, it uses loaded language like “in full Glenn Beck mode,” “they look silly,” “appealing to prejudice rather than reason,” and “should just laugh at the ‘tea party’ jesters.”

The anonymous author of this piece — probably Dave Seaton, identified in the newspaper’s website as “responsible for the Courier’s editorial content” — seems to be more than a bit out of touch with readers, at least those who have left comments to the editorial.

One comment writer left this: “Kansas is among the states that want it the least. The vote in the last Presidential election showed that a majority didn’t want it or it’s author! We didn’t believe the author’s ‘Kansas Values’ ad then and certainly don’t now!”

Another wrote: “You seem very quick to decry the ‘tea party’ people and Glenn Beck as the demon. You’ve yet to enumerate any inaccuracy held and posed by them, though. … Could that be because you’ve openly embraced and adopted the Saul D. Alinsky tactic of smear and defame those you cannot overcome with clear logic and fact?”

One, identifying himself as the Ayn Rand character John Galt, wrote: “Someone at the Winfield People’s Courier both needs a little fresh air, and reminds me why I generally have done well to avoid the bien pensant opinion of most printed newspapers these days.”

(bien-pensant: right-minded, one who holds orthodox views. I had to look that up.)

It seems like many people in Winfield don’t care for the editorial stance of their newspaper. I understand why.

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for October 26, 2009.

Kansans will have to pay to support health care in states favored by Democrats

(Kansas Liberty) Special treatment and favors pollute health care reform bill: “Senate Democrats have worked in extra provisions to the reform plans that would give their states special advantages, including financial assistance with Medicaid costs, additional Medicare benefits and extra tax breaks for some residents. Republicans point out that these advantages will shift some of the costs of the plan to other states, including Kansas. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has been instrumental in adding in extra benefits for himself and for his Democratic colleagues.”

Financial crisis may finally make schools ‘participate in cuts’

(Kansas Liberty) Last week’s meeting centered on discussing possible ways to make additional cuts, and many conservative Republicans are continuing to look at K-12 as a way to decrease state spending. The committee also discussed the possibility of school consolidation to save funds, identifying state agencies that could possibly be scaled back or eliminated, and possibilities for spurring job growth within the state as a way to increase revenues. … Democrats had already started planting the idea that tax increases are necessary.

Flint Hills Changes Name to Kansas Policy Institute

(Kansas Watchdog) “The Flint Hills Center for Public Policy has changed its name to the Kansas Policy Institute. The non-profit, non-partisan organization will continue to pursue the same free market interests under the new name.”

Kansas is Headed for a Budgetary Train Wreck

(Kansas Watchdog) “Educators say K-12 schools need $70 million more in 2010. And the state is expecting a budget shortfall of $500 million or more in 2010 — even without factoring in requests for more spending. One way to help fix the problem might be more honest reporting on the nature of the state’s budgetary woes.”

Labette Community College President reimbursed with tax dollars for political donation

(Kansas Watchdog) “Labette Community College president George Knox donated $500 to the campaign of State Treasurer Dennis McKinney according to a report by KOAM TV. A donation to a political candidate by a private citizen is not unusual, but KOAM TV reported that LCC trustee Mike Howerter questioned the reimbursement claim for the political donation by the college president.”

Letter from the Newsroom: Health Insurance Edition

State of the State Kansas takes a look at health insurance this week, featuring video interviews with Kansas Senator Jim Barnett, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, Mary Beth Chambers from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, and others.

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for October 19, 2009.

Letter from the Newsroom: National Security Edition

This week State of the State Kansas takes an in-depth look at national security, with interviews of Mike Pompeo, Bob Beatty, Dennis Farnsworth, and news stories as well.

Film and Mike Smith Debunk Global Warming

(Kansas Watchdog) Coverage of “Not Evil Just Wrong” and the presentation before the film. “A 50-minute presentation by atmospheric scientist Mike Smith of Wichita preceded the presentation. Smith, CEO and Founder of WeatherData Inc., talked about the science and opinion behind manmade global warming theory. Smith, like the film that followed his presentation, debunked many claims of global warming theorists who are calling for major changes in environmental and economic policy.”

Eye on the Stimulus: 209 New Jobs in Kansas

(Kansas Watchdog) “On Thursday Recovery.gov released its first hard data on stimulus jobs.”

CPA Steve Anderson talks about Performance Review of Johnson County Government

(Kansas Watchdog) “At the October meeting in Overland Park of the Sunflower Republican Club,which was open to the public, CPA Steve Anderson talked about the Performance Review he conducted of Johnson County Kansas government for Americans for Prosperity Kansas. … Anderson said a standard performance review was a look at a single point in time, where his ‘enhanced finanical reporting’ attempted to look at trends in five-years of data and added cost-benefit analysis. Anderson pointed out several issues he had with Johnson County Government, and suggested a ‘second set’ of books detailing true cost and benefits would give better government transparency and accountability.”

Roberts: Baucus plan would raise taxes and cut benefits for seniors

(Kansas Liberty) “Before the vote, Roberts cautioned his fellow committee members that the ‘so-called moderate’ Baucus plan would become ‘radically’ different once it was voted out of the committee.”

Report recommends changing the way schools can spend special-ed funds

(Kansas Liberty) “So-called ‘catastrophic’ funding to be made more flexible. One big question: How did Shawnee Mission schools go from zero claims to 333 — in one single year?”

State Financial Mess; Please Not the Same Old Thinking

(Kansas Free Press) The case for more taxes in Kansas is made: “I believe we must look at tax fairness. Make sure everyone is paying their fair share. This will mean some who have received tax breaks in the past will need to step up.”

Cerner-Kansas City Wizards Development in Village West Advances

(Forward Kansas) “Great first step in bringing new jobs to Kansas! This a great opportunity for Wyandotte County and Kansas as a whole!”

Physician to speak on health care reform in Wichita

Please note: Effective October 2, 2009, the location of Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings has changed. The new location is the Wichita Petroleum Club.

This Friday (October 9, 2009) the Wichita Pachyderm Club at the Petroleum Club of Wichita presents Dr. George Watson, D.O. The topic will be “We Need Change in Health Care, and the Correct Diagnosis!”

Dr. Watson operates a patient direct practice, meaning he accepts no government or insurance company payments. He serves his patients 100% and they pay him directly. He is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. On August 27 this group filed a free speech violations case in the health care battle against the White House.

Lunch is $10.00 and is a buffet lunch. The meeting starts at noon.

The Wichita Petroleum Club is on the ninth floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway) in Wichita, Kansas (click for a map and directions). Park in the garage just across Broadway and use the sky walk to enter the Bank of America building. Bring your parking garage ticket to be stamped and your parking fee will be $1.00. There is usually some metered street parking nearby.

In health care debate, can we trust the president?

In the health care debate, President Obama pleads with Americans to get the facts straight before making up their minds. But that’s easier said than done, and by his actions, I wonder if the president really believes this.

Here’s an example: A page at mybarackobama.com under the title “Setting the Record Straight” holds this prominent statement: “It seems like a new lie about health insurance reform crops up each day. These lies create fear and anger — and we’re seeing the results around the country. It’s time to work together to set the record straight and expose the special interests and partisan attack groups who deliberately spread these rumors and lies in a desperate attempt to preserve the status quo.”

A direct quote from the president shown on this page is “Where we do disagree, let’s disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that’s actually been proposed.”

So what are “things that are real,” Mr. President? Here’s some Wall Street Journal reporting (Fact-Checking the President on Health Insurance: His tales of abuse don’t stand scrutiny, September 14, 2009) that casts doubt on the president’s truthfulness. Referring to the president’s address to Congress earlier this month:

Later in his speech, the president used Alabama to buttress his call for a government insurer to enhance competition in health insurance. He asserted that 90% of the Alabama health-insurance market is controlled by one insurer, and that high market concentration “makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly — by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest; by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage; and by jacking up rates.”

In fact, the Birmingham News reported immediately following the speech that the state’s largest health insurer, the nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, has about a 75% market share. A representative of the company indicated that its “profit” averaged only 0.6% of premiums the past decade, and that its administrative expense ratio is 7% of premiums, the fourth lowest among 39 Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans nationwide.

Similarly, a Dec. 31, 2007, report by the Alabama Department of Insurance indicates that the insurer’s ratio of medical-claim costs to premiums for the year was 92%, with an administrative expense ratio (including claims settlement expenses) of 7.5%. Its net income, including investment income, was equivalent to 2% of premiums in that year.

In addition to these consumer friendly numbers, a survey in Consumer Reports this month reported that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama ranked second nationally in customer satisfaction among 41 preferred provider organization health plans. The insurer’s apparent efficiency may explain its dominance, as opposed to a lack of competition — especially since there are no obvious barriers to entry or expansion in Alabama faced by large national health insurers such as United Healthcare and Aetna.

The president and the Birmingham News certainly have different views of the facts.

That speech also told two tales of patients allegedly abused by their private insurance companies. Congressional testimony, however, provided a different set of facts than what the president presented in his speech (Fact-checking the president on health insurance).