Tag Archives: Health care

ObamaCare chart updated

obamacare-chart

Republicans of the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress have released an update of a chart to help us navigate ObamaCare. (Click on it for a larger version.) From the July 2010 press release accompanying the original chart: “Four months after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously declared ‘We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it,’ a congressional panel has released the first chart illustrating the 2,801 page health care law President Obama signed into law in March. Developed by the Joint Economic Committee minority, led by U.S Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the detailed organization chart displays a bewildering array of new government agencies, regulations and mandates.”

Read all about it at Health Care Chart — Updated Chart Shows Obamacare’s Bewildering Complexity.

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.

[gview file=”http://pompeo.house.gov/uploadedfiles/130418_-_letter_-_pompeo_to_baucus_on_obamacare.pdf”]

Well-intentioned policies do more harm than good

By Derrick Sontag, Americans for Prosperity-Kansas. A version of this appeared in the Wichita Eagle.

Medicaid.gov Keeping America Healthy

Governor Brownback and legislators in Kansas must make an important decision this legislative session. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2012, Kansas must decide whether it will vastly expand its Medicaid rolls. Adding hundreds of thousands of Kansas residents to Medicaid is the exact wrong policy for our state.

The desire to expand Medicaid is well-intentioned, but will do more harm than good. The plan ignores the realities of the Medicaid system.

Medicaid is a broken, costly system traditionally serving low-income populations focusing on pregnant women, children and the disabled. Its expansion is a key component of the President’s health care law.

Unfortunately, Medicaid is rife with problems. Medicaid’s unique structure–jointly managed by the state and the federal government — results in subpar outcomes for covered families. Medicaid combines countless restrictions and paperwork requirements for providers while at the same time paying half of other insurance plans. This results in a lose-lose for providers, forcing many out of the Medicaid market. A recent study found 32 percent of Kansas doctors won’t accept new Medicaid patients.

These problems lead to even bigger problems for Medicaid patients and families. The health outcomes for Medicaid patients dramatically lag those on private insurance or Medicare. Study after study has confirmed these results.

Adding hundreds of thousands of people to this system will only make these problems worse and does not qualify as real health reform.

Even if Medicaid wasn’t a broken system, Kansas can’t afford to expand coverage.

The federal government is making gigantic promises to encourage states to comply. According to the President’s health care law, the federal government will pay 100 percent of expenses for newly eligible individuals for the first three years stepping down to 90 percent by 2020.

This seems like a great deal for Kansas. The state can leverage federal funding to provide for its residents. But not so fast.

The federal government can’t afford these promises. The President himself has twice suggested the government cut its reimbursement to states due to the high costs imposed. Even if the government honors its generous promises, Kansas taxpayers will pay an additional $525 million in the next 10 years just for this expanded population.

By refusing to create a health insurance exchange last year, Gov. Brownback admitted the health care law won’t result in better care or better outcomes for patients. Expanding Medicaid, while well-intentioned, is just another flawed health care idea coming from Washington.

Instead of subject Kansas to a broken, costly system, Kansas’ leaders should refuse to expand the Medicaid rolls in the Sunflower State.

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?

Huelskamp: Kansas needs Health Care Freedom Amendment

An open letter from Congressman Tim Huelskamp of the Kansas first district to Republican Kansas State Senators Pete Brungardt, Jay Emler, Terrie Huntington, Jeff Longbine, Carolyn McGinn, Steve Morris, Tim Owens, Roger Reitz, Vicki Schmidt, Jean Schodorf, Ruth Teichman, Dwayne Umbarger, and John Vratil. These are the “traditional,” “reasonable,” “moderate” Kansan Republicans.

July 31, 2012

Dear Senator:

While all Republicans in Washington are working hard to fulfill Kansans’ wishes to stop ObamaCare from destroying our liberties, I am disappointed that you and many other Topeka politicians are actually hindering our efforts.

The reasons to undo ObamaCare are countless. It carries a trillion-dollar price tag over the next decade. It increases family premiums, burdens our small businesses, invades our privacy, and stomps on our religious freedom. States like Kansas will continue to bear the costs of expensive federal mandates. And, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has refused to offer waivers she was more than willing to grant to unions and businesses connected to the Obama Administration.

As you may know, before being elected to Congress, I strongly supported adding the Health Care Freedom Amendment to our state Constitution. If passed, it would allow Kansans to have a say on a law they fundamentally oppose: ObamaCare. The citizens of Ohio were given this opportunity — so should the people of Kansas.

However, when this Amendment came to you during the 2012 Session, I was extremely disappointed that you refused to allow a vote of the people if the law was upheld by the Supreme Court. What a mistake. Kansans deserve to have a say on ObamaCare — whether you like it or not — and whether a narrow Supreme Court majority refuses to defend the Constitution.

As you know, ObamaCare is a significant threat to the wallets, the liberties, and health care access of Kansans. It was rammed through Congress behind closed doors, without public input, and many are still reading it “to see what was in it.” And for you to hide behind the Supreme Court and with Obama, Pelosi and Reid instead of the people of Kansas — that is very disappointing.

In closing, please reconsider your opposition to putting the Health Care Freedom Amendment to a vote of the Kansas people.

Sincerely,

Tim Huelskamp

Kansas Health Care Freedom legislation: The real story

By Kansas Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee

We need honesty and integrity in campaigns. It is crucial that Kansas citizens receive correct information about legislators’ voting records and not just rhetoric with platitudes. Kansas Senate President Steve Morris said he never supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. However, his actions and votes indicate he was not willing to protect Kansas citizens and their liberty against the controversial federal health care law.

Over the course of three years, President Morris was continually asked to allow a vote on the Senate floor for a Kansas Health Care Freedom Amendment so Kansas citizens would be able to vote for it on the ballot this year and continue to act freely concerning their own health care decisions. State sovereignty as guaranteed by the Tenth Amendment in our U.S. Constitution gives the primary duty to the state to protect the liberty of the people in regards to their health care. However, the legislation was repeatedly given roadblocks in the Senate and it was necessary to maneuver the measure around several Senate leadership-imposed barriers.

Please review the votes from official Senate journals so you are not deceived by “Washington-DC style politics.” The accurate historical record with links to these journals is on www.kansashealthcarefreedom.com, which also explains the voting gymnastics that transpired over the years.

In 2010, the proposed constitutional amendment was referred to two committees and a subcommittee (usually a bill is only referred to one committee by leadership). One committee passed it without a recommendation, and the second committee referred it to a subcommittee. In the final hours before adjournment, a motion was made to move the measure out of committee. President Morris voted against this motion. (Senate Journal April 28, 2910. A “Yea” vote was in favor of health care freedom. Yeas: Abrams, Apple, Barnett, Brownlee, Bruce, Colyer, Donovan, Huelskamp, Kelsey, Lynn, Marshall, Masterson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Schmidt D, Taddiken, Wagle. Nays: Brungardt, Emler, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hensley, Holland, Huntington, Kelly, Kultala, Lee, McGinn, Morris, Owens, Reitz, Schmidt V, Schodorf, Steineger, Teichman, Umbarger, Vratil.)

In the 2011 session, I amended the language of the Health Care Freedom Amendment into a prescription health care bill on the Senate floor as the “Kansas Health Care Freedom Act” — a law instead of a constitutional amendment. President Morris voted against the floor amendment. Only after the amendment was added and it was obvious the measure was going to pass is when “every” Republican in the Kansas Senate voted for it. (Senate Journal Mar 22, 2011. A “Yea” vote was in favor of health care freedom. Yeas: Abrams, Apple, Bruce, Huntington, Kelsey, King, Longbine, Love, Lynn, Marshall, Masterson, McGinn, Merrick, Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Schmidt V, Schodorf, Steineger, Taddiken, Teichman, Umbarger, Vratil, Wagle. Nays: Brungardt, Emler, Faust-Goudeau, Haley, Hensley, Kultala, Morris, Owens, Reitz, Schmidt A. Present and Passing: Francisco, Holland, Kelly. Absent or Not Voting: Donovan.)

In the 2012 session, the Health Care Freedom Amendment was defeated in the Senate. Interestingly, seven senators who voted for final passage first voted to send the measure back to committee. (Senate Journal Feb. 23, 2012. A “Nay” vote is in favor of health care freedom. Yeas: Brungardt, Emler, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, Kultala, Longbine, McGinn, Morris, Owens, Reitz, A. Schmidt, V. Schmidt, Teichman, Umbarger, Vratil. Nays: Abrams, Apple, Bruce, Donovan, Kelsey, King, Love, Lynn, Marshall, Masterson, Merrick, Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Schodorf, Steineger, Taddiken, Wagle. Present and Passing: Huntington.)

As far as money being involved in politics, President Steve Morris is in charge of a Senate Leadership PAC that receives out-of-state money and spends massive amounts sending out nasty and false attacks on fellow Republicans who did not vote for President Morris to be in his leadership position. President Steve Morris voted against abolishing this PAC last session.

When there are conflicting views, please get the facts and evaluate the votes. On Tuesday, August 7, be prepared to vote for the candidates who stand with integrity about their votes.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday May 2, 2012

When government pays, government controls. Although most liberals would not admit this, it sometimes slips through: When government is paying for our health care, government then feels it must control our behavior. The Wichita Eagle’s Rhonda Holman provides an example of this, when she wrote in a blog post about Kansas relaxing its smoking ban: “Especially with Medicaid costs swallowing up the state budget, lawmakers should be discouraging smoking, not accommodating more of it.”

The moral case for capitalism. “Two main charges are typically marshaled against capitalism: it generates inequality by allowing some to become wealthier than others; and it threatens social solidarity by allowing individuals some priority over their communities. … Capitalism does allow — and perhaps even requires — inequality. Because people’s talents, skills, values, desires, and preferences vary and because of sheer luck, some people will be able to generate more wealth in a free-enterprise system than others will; inequality will result. But it is not clear that we should worry about that. … If you could solve only one social ill — either inequality or poverty — which would it be? Or suppose that the only way to address poverty would be to allow inequality: Would you allow it? … More by James R. Otteson in An Audacious Promise: The Moral Case for Capitalism at the Manhattan Institute.

Moran to address Pachyderms. This Friday (May 4th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features United States Senator Jerry Moran speaking on “A legislative update.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … The club has an exceptional lineup of future speakers as follows: On May 11th: Gary Oborny, Chairman/CEO Occidental Management and Real Estate Development, CCIM Designated member of the Storm Water Advisory Board to the City of Wichita, speaking on “What is the economic impact of EPA mandates on storm water quality in Wichita?” … On May 18th: Paul Soutar, Reporter for Kansas Watchdog, speaking on “The evolution of journalism and how the new media empowers citizens.” … On May 25th: Ron Estes, State Treasurer of Kansas, speaking on “A report from the Kansas Treasurer.”

Funding pet projects without earmarks. Wonderful! While this plan still relies on government to some degree, it is largely voluntary, which is the direction we need to steer things. “There is a creative workaround that allows funds to flow to those prized pet projects: a commemorative coin bill.” Read more at Heritage Action for America.

Harm of taxes. In introducing the new edition of Rich States, Poor States, authors Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore explain the importance of low taxes. “Barack Obama is asking Americans to gamble that the U.S. economy can be taxed into prosperity. That’s the message of his campaign for the Buffett Rule, which raises income-tax rates on millionaires to a minimum of 30%, and for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. He wants to raise the highest income tax rate by 20%, double the rate on capital gains, add a new 3.8% tax on all capital earnings, and nearly triple the dividend tax rate. All this will enhance “economic efficiency,” insists a White House economic report. As for those who disagree, says President Obama, they’re just pushing “the same version of trickle-down economics tried for much of the last century. … But prosperity sure didn’t trickle down.” Mr. Obama needs a refresher course on the 1920s, 1960s, 1980s and even the 1990s, when government spending and taxes fell and employment and incomes grew rapidly.” More in the Wall Street Journal at Laffer and Moore: A 50-State Tax Lesson for the President: Over the past decade, states without an income levy have seen much higher growth than the national average. Which state will be next to abolish theirs?

Role of prices. Prices convey information more accurately and efficiently than any centralized organization — such a government. It provides a, well, automatic mechanism for adjusting to the changes in the world, changes which happen every day, and even every minute. Sometimes we may not like the information that price signals are sending, but they represent the truth. Daniel J. Smith of Troy University explains in this video from LearnLiberty.org, a project of the Institute for Humane Studies: “Why are prices important? Prof. Daniel J. Smith of Troy University describes the role that prices play in generating, gathering, and transmitting information throughout the economy. Information about the supply and demand of different goods are dispersed among different buyers and sellers in an economy. Nobody has to know all this dispersed information; individuals only need to know the relative prices. Based on the simple information contained in a price, people adjust their behavior to account for conditions in supply and demand, even if they are unaware of that information.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday March 23, 2012

Pompeo meeting tomorrow. From the congressman’s office: “Kansas Fourth District Congressman Mike Pompeo will host a town hall meeting at the WSU Hughes Metroplex in Wichita on Saturday, March 24 at 11:30 am. Congressman Pompeo will take questions from constituents and discuss issues related to Congress and the federal government. The public and members of the media are welcome and encouraged to attend.” The WSU Hughes Metroplex is located at 5015 East 29th Street North.

Obamacare anniversary. Listening to President Barack Obama you wouldn’t know it, but it’s the second anniversary of his signature legislative achievement. The problem? It’s very unpopular. A recent poll found “Two-thirds of Americans say the U.S. Supreme Court should throw out either the ‘individual mandate’ in the federal health care law or the law in its entirety — signaling the depth of public disagreement with that controversial element of health care reform.” Locally, two Congressmen are not happy with the law, either. In a statement Last week U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, wrote “Two years ago, President Obama began a terrible experiment in government-run health care. Even though we are still two years away from the full implementation of the law, the devastating harm is already coming to light. There is no shortage of new ‘unintended consequences,’ usually with taxpayers and patients paying the price — literally or figuratively. The universal rule of medicine is ‘Do No Harm,’ yet the only thing ObamaCare seems to do is damage. … Americans were assured we could keep our health insurance if we like it, but the Congressional Budget Office now estimates as many as 20 million Americans could lose their employer-based coverage because of ObamaCare.” … U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita wrote “My conservative colleagues and I warned during the debate over Obamacare that having the government take over 1/6th of the U.S. economy would not reduce health care costs or improve access to health care, but Democrats rammed the bill down the throats of the American people anyway. At the time, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously declared that the Democrats needed to pass it in order to know what was in it. Now we know. Obamacare’s price tag has doubled and the newest projections show that up to 88 million Americans will not be able to ‘keep their plan if they like it,’ as President Obama so often promised in his sales pitch.”

Ambassador Hotel. The free-market organization Heartland Institute contributes coverage in the special election in Wichita regarding the Ambassador Hotel. Of special note is how some people just don’t get it. Writes the reporter: “Reflecting on the defeat of the rebate, [Wichita Downtown Development Corporation chair Tom] Docking said, ‘The anti-development, anti-tax populace out there are numerous and they’re well organized.’ Weeks objected to this characterization. ‘We’re not anti-development. I am a capitalist. . . Anti-tax, yes, we’re very much that. But ‘organized’ I don’t think applies to us at all. We beat it back this one little time.'” … Docking was also quoted as saying the election “was portrayed in a lot of circles in a way that was not accurate.” I should mention that WDDC and Docking were extended several invitations to appear at forums where the issues could be discussed. No one would agree, with Docking and others preferring to level their charges in forums where they knew they would not be challenged or held accountable.

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 July 22, 2011

Republican populism. Timothy P. Carney writing in Washington Examiner: “President Obama, ignoring his own calls to leave rhetoric at the door, has relied on populist demagoguery throughout the debt-ceiling negotiations. But given the President’s record of bailouts, his dedication to corporate-welfare handouts, and his calendar filled with $35,800-a-plate fundraisers, Republicans ought to take the populist cudgel from Obama and use it against Democrats.” Carney recommends: “Instead of trying to defend themselves against Obama’s misleading populism, Republicans ought to return fire with some sincere populism in this debt battle.”

Cost of space shuttle. It’s a difficult question to answer, writes Carl Bialik in As Shuttle Sails Through Space, Costs Are Tough to Pin Down for The Wall Street Journal: “Some media outlets have pegged the total cost of the shuttle program, and its 135 launches, at between $115 billion and nearly twice that amount, demonstrating the challenge of tallying a bill over such a long time span.” Even at the lowest figure, that’s nearly $1 billion, or $1,000 million, per launch. In the early days of the program, Bialik writes, the cost of a launch was estimated at $7 million, and it was thought there would be weekly launches. … Me, I’m still waiting for lemon-flavored Tang.

Raj Goyle spotted. Some have been wondering what former Kansas fourth district Congressional candidate Raj Goyle is doing these days, and this photograph gives us a clue. In the caption, Goyle is identified as Executive Director of the United Nations Office of Global Partnerships.

Media Mogul Charged with First Degree Murdoch. Ann Coulter reminds us that outrage is surely in the eyes of the beholder, as she looks back at a Florida couple who were caught taping cell phone conversations for political purposes.

Authority to adjust KPERS benefits. From Kansas Policy Institute: “There is a mounting realization that the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS) is facing a crisis and there is a need for immediate reform. Legal Authority to Adjust State Pension Plans, a paper released earlier this week by KPI, outlines the legal history of modifying public pension benefits. Ralph Benko, a senior economic policy advisor to American Principles in Action, authored the paper and participated in a media conference call on July 12 announcing the paper’s release. An audio recording of that conference call is available here. … “Exorbitant retirement benefits are threatening the ability of states and municipalities to deliver essential government services, and, in up to 20 states and hundreds of municipalities, are threatening their very solvency,” writes Benko. “There is a widespread misunderstanding in many states that the U.S. Constitution prohibits [adjusting pension obligations], but there is no such prohibition.” … A full copy of “Legal Authority to Adjust State Pension Plans” is available here. … KPI President Dave Trabert added the following, “The simple reality is that KPERS faces an unfunded liability well beyond $7.6 billion. KPERS acknowledges an additional $1.7 billion of losses that aren’t yet reported and a more likely rate of return puts the true liability well closer to $14 billion. Many states are faced with the same problem, but Kansas is one of the worst. We can’t solve this problem without having the full knowledge of the possible solutions and that means an understanding of the legal framework as well. Ralph does a terrific job of demonstrating that the U.S. Constitution allows state pension obligations to be changed for ‘significant’ purposes to remedy an ‘economic problem.’ If Kansas isn’t facing a significant economic problem right now, then that definition is meaningless.”

Should Kansas establish a health insurance exchange? A big part of the new national health care legislation is health care exchanges. Are these a good idea? From Americans for Prosperity, Kansas: “Beverly Gossage, research fellow with the Show-Me Institute, has helped pioneer health savings account policies for businesses in Kansas and Missouri and has testified on health policy bills before the Kansas and Missouri legislatures. She has explored the possibilities of ‘health insurance exchanges’ — or government clearinghouses for health care funds and programs — and has written about the likely consequences of these exchanges in the Sunflower State. … According to Gossage, a health insurance exchange in Kansas would simply result in more bureaucracy and higher insurance premiums, and would be a threat to the free market. We agree and encourage you to review the document as this will be an issue discussed by the Kansas Legislature later this year in an interim committee and during the 2012 Legislature.” … Gossage’s paper is at Should Kansas Establish a Health Insurance Exchange?.”

A new day in politics? John Stossel writes about the new book The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, both of Reason, the libertarian magazine of “Free Minds and Free Markets.” Ssays Stossel: “‘Independence in politics means that you can actually dictate some of the terms to our overlords,’ Welch and Gillespie write, adding that we need independence not just in politics but from politics. Welch said, ‘When we look at the places where government either directly controls or heavily regulates things, like K-12 education, health care, retirement, things are going poorly.’ … It’s very different outside of government where — from culture to retail stores to the Internet — there’s been an explosion of choice. ‘(Y)ou were lucky … 20 years ago (if) you would see one eggplant in an exotic store,’ Welch continued. ‘Now in the crappiest supermarket in America you’ll see four or five or six varieties of eggplant, plus all types of different things. … (W)hen you get independent from politics, things are going great because people can experiment, they can innovate. … We should squeeze down the (number of) places where we need a consensus to the smallest area possible, because all the interesting stuff happens outside of that.'” … Now Stossel’s television show dedicated to this topic and the book authors is available on the free hulu service.

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?

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday May 23, 2011

Wichita City council. As it is the fourth Tuesday of the month, the Wichita City Council handles only consent agenda items. The council will also hold a workshop. Consent agendas are usually reserved for items thought to be of non-controversial nature. Today’s Wichita Eagle spotlights one item where the city is proposing to hire an outside firm to inspect the roof of the airport for damage from last September’s storm. Some, including Council Member Michael O’Donnell (district 4, south and southwest Wichita) wonder why the city can’t do the inspection with it’s own engineering staff and resources. … Of further note is that the city proposes to use general obligation bonds to borrow the funds to pay for this inspection. This is similar to last December, when the city decided to also use bonds to borrow money to pay for an analysis of nine aging fire stations and what repairs and upgrades they might require. While borrowing to pay for long-term capital projects is fine, this is borrowing for thinking about long-term projects. … The workshop will cover Century II parking meters, something involving the North Industrial Corridor, and a presentation on next year’s budget. The detailed agenda packet is at Wichita City Council May 24, 2011. No similar information is available for the workshop topics. … Next week is the fifth Tuesday of a month and the day after a holiday, so there’s two reasons to explain why there won’t be a city council meeting next week.

Sedgwick County Commission. In its Wednesday meeting, the Sedgwick County Commission will consider approval of the county’s portion of the Hawker Beechcraft deal. In order to persuade Hawker to stay in Kansas rather than move to Louisiana, the State of Kansas offered $40 million in various form of incentive and subsidy, and it was proposed at the time that the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County each add $2.5 million. Last week the Wichita City Council approved its share, which can only be described as corporate welfare. It was widely reported that Hawker had received an offer, said by some to be worth as much as $400 million, to move to Louisiana. But that offer was not a valid threat of Hawker leaving Kansas, as in a December 2010 television news report, Louisiana’s governor said “they couldn’t guarantee the number of jobs that would have been required for them to come here.” … The meeting agenda is at Sedgwick County Commission, May 25, 2011.

Kobach on voter reform in Wall Street Journal. Today’s Wall Street Journal opinion section carries a piece by Kris W. Kobach, who is Kansas Secretary of State. The title is The Case for Voter ID: You can’t cash a check, board a plane, or even buy full-strength Sudafed over the counter without ID. Why should voting be different? In it, Kobach writes Kansas is the only state with all of these elements of voter ID reform: “(1) a requirement that voters present photo IDs when they vote in person; (2) a requirement that absentee voters present a full driver’s license number and have their signatures verified; and (3) a proof of citizenship requirement for all newly registered voters.” In support of the need for these reforms, Kobach provides evidence of the prevalence of election fraud. He also cites evidence that there is already widespread possession of the documents necessary to vote: “According to the 2010 census, there are 2,126,179 Kansans of voting age. According to the Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles, 2,156,446 Kansans already have a driver’s license or a non-driver ID. In other words, there are more photo IDs in circulation than there are eligible voters. The notion that there are hundreds of thousands of voters in Kansas (or any other state) without photo IDs is a myth.” … Some critics of these reforms fear that they will suppress voter turnout, and primarily that of Democratic Party voters. Kobach counters: “If election security laws really were part of a Republican scheme to suppress Democratic votes, one would expect Democrats to fight such laws, tooth and nail. That didn’t happen in Kansas, where two-thirds of the Democrats in the House and three-fourths of the Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of the Secure and Fair Elections Act. They did so because they realize that fair elections protect every voter and every party equally. No candidate, Republican or Democrat, wants to emerge from an election with voters suspecting that he didn’t really win. Election security measures like the one in my state give confidence to voters and candidates alike that the system is fair.” … The bill is HB 2067, and is the easiest way to understand it is by reading the supplemental note.

Tiahrt, former Congressman, to address Pachyderms. This week the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Todd Tiahrt, Former Congressman for the fourth district of Kansas, speaking on the topic “Outsourcing Our National Security — How the Pentagon is Working Against Us.” I suspect the prolonged decision process of selecting where the build the Air Force refueling tanker will be a topic. After the Pentagon awarded to contract to AirBus in 2008, which Boeing protested, the Wall Street Journal wrote: “The Pentagon’s job is to defend the country, which means letting contracts that best serve American soldiers and taxpayers, not certain companies. Defense Department rules explicitly state that jobs cannot be a factor in procurement and that companies from certain countries, including France, must be treated as if they are U.S. firms in contract bids. Such competition ensures that taxpayers get the best value for their money and soldiers get the best technology.” More on this decision is here. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Wichita speaker lineup set. The schedule of speakers for the Wichita Pachyderm Club for the next several weeks is set, and as usual, it looks to be an interesting set of programs. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. Upcoming speakers are: On June 3, Nola Tedesco Foulston, District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District of Kansas, speaking on “An office overview and current events at the Eighteenth Judicial District of Kansas District Attorney’s office.” On June 10, John Allison, Superintendent of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, on “An update from USD 259.” On June 17, The Honorable Lawton R. Nuss, Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice on “The State of the Kansas Courts.” On June 24, Jim Mason, Naturalist at the Great Plains Nature Center will have a presentation and book signing. Mason is author of Wichita’s Riverside Parks, published in April 2011. On July 1, Jay M. Price, Director of the Public History Program at Wichita State University, speaking on “Classes of Values in Kansas History.” On July 8, Dave Trabert, President, Kansas Policy Institute, on “Stabilizing the Kansas Budget.”

Blue Ribbon Commission coming to Wichita. “Local residents will have an opportunity to voice concerns and offer suggestions on how to improve the state’s court systems during two public meetings next week in Wichita. A panel from the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC), which was appointed by the Kansas Supreme Court to review the state’s court systems, will listen to public comments during the meetings at 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm, Thursday, May 26, 2011 at Century II, in Room 101, in Wichita. The BRC will examine ways to assure proper access to justice, the number of court locations, services provided in each location, hours of operation, the use of technology, possible cost reductions, and flexibility in the use of court personnel and other resources, and any other topic that may lead to the more efficient operation of our courts.” For more information, see the Blue Ribbon Commission Website.

School choice cast as civil rights issue. Star Parker, after citing the case of a homeless mother who falsified an address so her child could get into a good school: “Public school reality today for black kids is one that overwhelmingly keeps them incarcerated in failing, dangerous schools. It’s evidence of the indomitable human spirit that, despite horrible circumstances, many poor unmarried black mothers understand the importance of getting their child educated and will do whatever it takes to get their kid into a decent school. … But let’s not forget the bigger picture that the NAACP has consistently opposed school choice and voucher initiatives and has been a stalwart defender of the public school system that traps these kids and prohibits the freedom and flexibility that these mothers seek. … Generally, black establishment politicians and organizations such as the NAACP have defended government public schools and education status quo and sadly have hurt their own communities. Nothing contributes more to the growing income gaps in the country than disparities in education, and the impact continues to grow.” … A common choice of allowing widespread school choice is that poor and uneducated parents aren’t capable of making wise selections of schools for their children.

Medicare reform necessary. Wall Street Journal in Republicans and Mediscare: Paul Ryan’s GOP critics are ObamaCare’s best friends: “With ObamaCare, Democrats offered their vision for Medicare cost control: A 15-member unelected board with vast powers to set prices for doctors, hospitals and other providers, and to regulate how they should be organized and what government will pay for. The liberal conceit is that their technocratic wizardry will make health care more rational, but this is faith-based government. The liberal fallback is political rationing of care, which is why Mr. Obama made it so difficult for Congress to change that 15-member board’s decisions. Republicans have staunchly opposed this agenda, but until Mr. Ryan’s budget they hadn’t answered the White House with a competing idea. Mr. Ryan’s proposal is the most important free-market reform in years because it expands the policy options for rethinking the entitlement state.” The unelected board referred to is the Independent Payment Advisory Board. With its mission to reduce spending, some have aid this board is the feared “death panel.”

Science, public agencies, and politics. Cato Institute Senior Fellow Patrick J. Michaels explains the reality of cap-and-trade proposals in this ten minute video. If the Waxman-Markey bill was implemented, world temperature would be reduced by 0.04 degrees. That compares to a forecast increase of 1.584 degrees. If implemented worldwide by the Kyoto nations, the reduction would be 0.08 degrees worldwide. … Michaels says the growth in emissions by China eclipses anything we in America can do. … Michaels echos Dwight Esienhower’s warning that “we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.” He goes on to explain some of the dangers of “public choice science.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday May 19, 2011

Kansas growth clusters. H. Edward Flentje, Professor at the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University: “For starters, the Brownback economic plan sends a mixed message; it argues against state policies that target incentives to the lucky few but then proceeds to target individuals moving to ‘rural opportunity zones’ for special income-tax breaks and payoffs of student loans.” The hope of the governor is that counties that have been losing population can be revived. But Flentje tells of the difficulties these rural counties face: “Rural Kansas relies much more heavily on state and federal assistance, and the cost of delivering essential public services to sparsely populated areas is substantially higher. Brownback’s preferred counties will be hammered disproportionately by his reductions in school finance and social services, and the limited amenities available in these areas will be further diminished by his cuts in public broadcasting and the arts, among other programs.” … The nostalgia for the glory days of small-town Kansas may not be in our best interests. In his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy, which has influenced Governor Brownback’s economic policy, Dr. Art Hall wrote that productivity, which should be our ultimate goal, is related to population density: “Productivity growth is the ultimate goal of economic development. Productivity growth — the volume and value of output per worker — drives the growth of wages and wealth. Productivity growth results from a risky trial and error process on the front lines of individual businesses, which is why Kansas economic development strategy should focus on embracing dynamism — a focus virtually indistinguishable from widespread business investment and risk-taking. Productivity growth tends to happen in geographic areas characterized by density. This pattern shows up in Kansas. The dense population centers demonstrate superior productivity growth.”

Obamacare waivers go to Pelosi district. From Daily Caller: “Of the 204 new Obamacare waivers President Barack Obama’s administration approved in April, 38 are for fancy eateries, hip nightclubs and decadent hotels in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Northern California district. … Pelosi’s district secured almost 20 percent of the latest issuance of waivers nationwide, and the companies that won them didn’t have much in common with companies throughout the rest of the country that have received Obamacare waivers.”

SRS chief to speak in Wichita. This Friday (May 20) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Robert Siedlecki, who is Secretary of Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS). His topic will be “The SRS and Initiatives.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … Upcoming speakers: On May 27, Todd Tiahrt, Former 4th District Congressman, on the topic “Outsourcing our National Security — How the Pentagon is Working Against Us.”

Kansas welfare money gets around. From NBC Action News: “At a time when the number of people relying on public assistance continues to grow, millions of dollars worth of Missouri and Kansas welfare money is being spent all over the country, including states like California and Florida, and even as far away as Hawaii and Alaska.” Kansas funds were withdrawn from ATM machines on and near the Las Vegas gambling district, and there were “back-to-back withdrawals totaling $363 at a Disney World gift shop.” Kansas Watchdog’s Earl Glynn contributed to the NBC story, and offers his own reporting at Kansas out-of-state Electronic Benefit Transfer payments .

Kansas Bioscience Authority contract. Kansas Watchdog: “Tom Thornton’s contract as president of the Kansas Bioscience Authority shows a total pay, bonus and benefit package potentially worth more than $463,200 for fiscal year 2010. That’s more than four times Governor Sam Brownback’s $99,636 salary and $63,200 more than President Barack Obama’s salary. Media reports pegged Thornton’s pay and bonus at about $365,000, but a copy of his contract obtained through multiple sources by KansasWatchdog shows several incentive opportunities and a full breakdown of benefits.” … Thornton resigned from his position in April under criticism from legislators, and the local district attorney is conducting an investigation into unspecified matters. The legislature passed a bill divorcing funding of a federal project in Kansas from the KBA, so that questions about the KBA’s activities don’t jeopardize this funding.

Medicare reform explained. A video from Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation features Dan Mitchell explaining the necessity for reform of Medicare, and how it should proceed. Reform of Medicare is necessary, and it can go one of two ways: “Obama’s bureaucrats decide whether you get care” or we can put seniors in charge of their care and let markets — not government — lead reform. A market-based solution, as advanced by Paul Ryan, would let seniors select their own insurance, paid for by a voucher from the government. “Programs like Medicare are akin to a all-you-can-eat restaurant with someone else picking up the tab.” That’s a recipe for disaster, says Mitchell. Competition through markets — capitalism, in other words — can provide an increasing array of services of all kinds at lower prices, including health care for all. But capitalism is not allowed to flourish in health care markets, especially for seniors. … The voucher program for seniors has been characterized by liberals as “killing Medicare.” The present system will kill itself, as even President Obama acknowledges. The end of Medicare is not the end of health care for seniors, contrary to the lies of liberals. The benefit of market competition for seniors’ health care business promises better outcomes. For Wichita, which is betting on economic development through industry using composites to create products such as replacement hip joints, it is essential that such surgeries remain affordable enough that they are commonplace. The future of Obamacare, which is rationing, is not favorable for these prospects.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday May 16, 2011

Wichita City Council this week. This week the Wichita City Council handles several important issues. One is approval of the policies regarding incentives for downtown development. Then, the council will consider approval of the city’s portion of the Hawker Beechcraft deal. In order to persuade Hawker to stay in Kansas rather than move to Louisiana, the State of Kansas offered $40,000 in various form of incentive and subsidy, and it was proposed at the time that the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County each add $2.5 million. Of note is the fact that Hawker’s campus in east Wichita … oops, wait a moment — their campus is not within the boundaries of the city. Like Eastborough, Hawker is surrounded on all four sides by Wichita, but is not part of the city itself. I don’t know if this should have any consideration as to whether the city should give Hawker this grant. … Then, there’s approval of the Industrial Revenue Bonds for the Fairfield Inn in downtown at WaterWalk. The agenda material says that the hotel is now complete, so the construction loan is being refinanced with the IRBs, “which will be initially purchased by the construction loan lender and then later redeemed with the proceeds of a permanent commercial loan insured by the Small Business Administration.” The benefit of the bonds is that the hotel escapes paying $328,945 in sales tax on its furnishings, etc. The city has already issued a letter of intent to do this, so it’s likely this item will pass and someone else will have to pay the sales tax this hotel is escaping. … The complete agenda packet is at Wichita City Council May 17, 2011.

Wichita as art curator. The controversy over spending $350,000 on a large sculpture at WaterWalk promoted one reader to write and remind me of the city’s past experience as custodian of fine art. In 2004, the city mistakenly sold a sculpture by James Rosati as scrap metal. Realizing its mistake, the city refused to complete the transaction. The buyer sued, the city lost and appealed, losing again. Estimates of the sculpture’s worth ranged up to $30,000. Editorialized Randy Scholfield at the time in The Wichita Eagle: “That the sculpture ended up in an auction of surplus junk in the first place says something about how much the city valued it or exercised proper stewardship.”

Legislature fails to confront KPERS. This year the Kansas Legislature failed to confront the looming problem of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, or KPERS. A small revision was made to the program, and a study commission was created. Neither action comes anywhere near to solving this very serious problem, as described in Economist: KPERS must undergo serious reform.

Over 30 major news organizations linked to George Soros. Business and Media Institute: “When liberal investor George Soros gave $1.8 million to National Public Radio, it became part of the firestorm of controversy that jeopardized NPR’s federal funding. But that gift only hints at the widespread influence the controversial billionaire has on the mainstream media. Soros, who spent $27 million trying to defeat President Bush in 2004, has ties to more than 30 mainstream news outlets — including The New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press, NBC and ABC.” … This is from the first of a four part series.

Romney seen as candidate of business, not capitalism. Timothy P. Carney in To Mitt Romney, big government is good for business: “Mitt Romney has the strongest business backing of any Republican presidential hopeful, and he carries himself as a technocratic problem solver. … Examine Romney’s dalliances with big government that have caused him such grief, and you’ll see a trend: They all are described as ‘pro-business,’ they all amount to corporate welfare, and they all reflect the technocratic mind-set you’d expect of a business consultant. Romney’s record and rhetoric show how managerialism veers away from the free market and into corporatism.” … Carney discusses Romney’s disastrous health care program in Massachusetts — which is seen as a prototype for Obamacare, his efforts to lure business to the state with subsidies, his support of ethanol subsidies, a national catastrophic insurance fund, and the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Programs for elderly must be cut. Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post: “When House Speaker John Boehner calls for trillions of dollars of spending cuts, the message is clear. Any deal to raise the federal debt ceiling must include significant savings in Social Security and Medicare benefits. Subsidizing the elderly is the biggest piece of federal spending (more than two-fifths of the total), but trimming benefits for well-off seniors isn’t just budget arithmetic. It’s also the right thing to do. I have been urging higher eligibility ages and more means-testing for Social Security and Medicare for so long that I forget that many Americans still accept the outdated and propagandistic notion that old age automatically impoverishes people.” … Samuelson goes on to show that many are doing quite well in old age and gets to the heart of the problem: “The blanket defense of existing Social Security and Medicare isn’t ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive.’ It’s simply a political expedient with ruinous consequences. It enlarges budget deficits and forces an unfair share of adjustment — higher taxes, lower spending — on workers and other government programs. This is the morality of the ballot box.” In other words, the elderly, which are a powerful voting bloc, have found they can vote themselves money. Concluding, he writes “Social Security was intended to prevent poverty, not finance recipients’ extra cable channels.”

Social Security seen as unwise, financially. A video from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, explains that apart from the political issues, Social Security is a bad system from a purely financial view. Explained in the video is that 22 year-olds can expect to earn a 1.6 percent rate of return on their “investment” in Social Security contributions. Further, the “investment” is subject to a “100 percent estate tax.”

Market development in Wichita. From Wichita downtown planning, not trash, is real threat: “While the downtown Wichita planners promote their plan as market-based development, the fact is that we already have market-based development happening all over Wichita. But because this development may not be taking place where some people want it to — downtown is where the visionaries say development should be — they declare a ‘market failure.’ But just because people make decisions that visionaries don’t approve of, that’s not market failure. And this is one of the most important reasons why Wichitans should oppose the downtown plan. It proposes to direct public investment away from where free people trading in free markets want public investment to be. The public investment component of the downtown plan says that people who decided not to live or work downtown are wrong, and they must now pay for others to be downtown. … We have market-based development in Wichita. We don’t need a government plan to have market-based development.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday March 28, 2011

Wichita Eagle endorsements. Yesterday the Wichita Eagle released its endorsements for Mayor, Wichita City Council, and Wichita school board. It is no surprise that in each case the newspaper editorial board recommended that voters select the candidate most likely to support the board’s big-government interventionist policies, thereby (unwittingly?) providing a guide as to who not to vote for, if you value limited government and economic freedom.

Wichita City Council this week. As it is the fifth Tuesday of the month, the Wichita City Council will not meet. While some might say the mayor and council members need to get to work and do their jobs, I’m more aligned with Will Rogers when he quipped: “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”

Sedgwick County commission this week. At Wednesday’s meeting, the Sedgwick County Commission has two economic development incentives to consider. These are forgivable loans, essentially grants of money, to be made to MoJack Distributors, LLC and Apex Engineering International LLC. Each has already received a forgivable loan from the City of Wichita, as well as other subsidy of various forms from governments state and local. More discussion is at Wichita again to bet on corporate welfare as economic development. The commission’s agenda is available at Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners, March 30, 2011.

Kansas judicial selection. A legislative maneuver could force the Kansas Senate to debate and possibly vote on the method of selecting judges for the Kansas Court of Appeals. This is despite the efforts of Senator Tim Owens, an attorney and Republican from Overland Park, to block the bill in his committee. See Method of choosing judges could see debate.

Kansas Department of Labor computer system. From Kansas Reporter: “A $50 million, six year project to upgrade unemployment claims technology within the Kansas Department of Labor was grossly mismanaged, resulting in massive system flaws according to Labor Secretary Karin Brownlee.” Brownlee took office earlier this year after being appointed by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. More at Massive waste, inefficiency in Labor Department technology upgrade, secretary says .

General Electric: no taxes for me. Competitive Enterprise Institute explains how General Electric, one of the largest companies in the world, earns large profits and manages to pay no income tax.

Freeloaders come in all types. This weekend John Stossel had an hour-long special show that focused on freeloaders. Not just panhandlers, although Stossel did work in disguise as a panhandler and discovered he could make over $90 a day. Tax free, he added. One segment of the show uncovered farmers who received $50,000 because they were discriminated against by lenders. But — some of these farmers merely grew potted plants or fertilized their lawn to qualify as a farmer. Another reported on homeowners who stopped paying their mortgages on advice of a website. The homeowners and the website operator said there is no moral obligation to pay their mortgage loans. Corporate freeloaders didn’t escape, as General Electric was mentioned as a large recipient of government handouts. And, they won’t pay taxes: “Despite billions in profit, they’ll pay no taxes this year,” reported Stossel. … The severe poverty of American Indian tribes that live on government-managed reservations and living on government handouts is contrasted with a tribe that accepts no handouts and has no casinos. … Stossel covered his own beach house, which was covered by low-cost subsidized federal fund insurance. It suffered losses twice. … Standing in front of the U.S. Capitol, Stossel said “We rich people freeload off you taxpayers all the time, because the over-promisers in there keep churning out special deals for politically-favored groups. And they tend to be rich people, because the rich can afford lobbyists. … Think about how much money we could save if these guys just didn’t pass so many laws that encourage freeloading. But they do, year after year. They micromanage life with subsidies. And the winners are not so much the needy, but people like Bon Jovi, Ted Turner, Maurice Wilder, and — me. So let’s hope for an end to all this freeloading.”

New York City may seek waiver from ObamaCare. One of the strongest advocates for ObamaCare may seek an exemption for the city he represents. Politico reports in Anthony Weiner: Waiver might work for New York. … So far over 1,000 waviers have been issued, exempting businesses, labor groups and a handful of states from at least some of the requirements of the Affordable Health Care Act.

Economic freedom and a better life. Economics professor Josh Hall explains that economic freedom leads to greater human well-being. If we look at average income, life expectancy, income of the poorest 10%, and other factors, we see that when governments let citizens make economic decisions for themselves, this leads to greater human flourishing. This video refers to the Economic Freedom of the World index, which was the subject of a lecture delivered last year in Wichita by Robert Lawson. In that lecture, Lawson warned of the path of the United States in terms of economic freedom, as I reported: “Speaking about the United States, Lawson said that the numbers are likely to go down in the future. While the U.S. ranks above the world average, its measurement of freedom has been declining since 2000. At the same time, the rest of the world is on an upward trend. ‘It’s no longer accurate to say the United States is among the very top tier in the economic freedom index,’ Lawson said, adding that he blames George Bush for this. The decline is partly due to the increasing size of government, but the largest cause of the decline is in the area of property rights. This area is measured largely by surveys asking people how they feel about property rights in America. The perception, Lawson, said, is that the security of property rights are on the decline.”

Government investment specialty. Gene Callahan, in his book Economics for Real People: An Introduction to the Austrian School, explains some of the problems inherent in government acting as investor. Writing about a plan to build a sports stadium in Hartford: “The Public Choice School has pointed out another force weakening that incentive, indeed, in most cases, completely negating it. Strong incentives exist for politicians to favor special-interest groups at the expense of the general public. Those upon whom benefits are concentrated are motivated to campaign hard for those benefits. As the costs of most political actions are spread across the public as a whole, the average person has little motivation to become involved. In the context of the stadium project, we can see that, even at a total cost of $374 million, the cost to each Connecticut resident is only about $100. It is simply not worth much of any individual citizen’s time to become devoted to the cause of stopping the stadium. However, for the construction companies who hope to get work on the stadium and the owners of businesses and land nearby, the potential benefits are enormous. They have a strong incentive to lobby hard for the project, to donate to the campaigns of politicians who support it, and to sponsor studies that will make the project look good. In fact, if there were a profit to be made in some particular investment, private investors would be likely to act quickly to take advantage of the opportunity with their own funds. … Private investors will turn to the risky business of lobbying the government to support a project only when it is not clear to them that it is profitable without taxpayer subsidies. Thus, the government is likely to specialize in money-losing projects.”

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: Thursday January 20, 2011

Pompeo to host first district event. This Saturday (January 22nd) newly-elected Kansas fourth district Congressman Mike Pompeo will hold an event billed as “Mike Pompeo’s Conversation with the Congressman.” It well be held Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 10:00 am, at the WSU Hughes Metropolitan Complex Sudermann Commons, 5015 E. 29th Street (at Oliver).

Prognosticator Journey to address Pachyderms. Friday’s (January 21st) meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features District Court Judge and former Kansas Senator Phil Journey speaking on the topic “Musings and Prognostications on State and Federal Government.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Feeling too good about our schools. Eric Hanushek looks at the results of U.S. students on the recent international tests and the attempts to explain away our generally poor performance. Is education important to our country’s economy? Absolutely, Hanushek explains: “Research has shown that international performance on these tests is very closely related to the economic growth of nations. Does the difference between 550 points (roughly Finland) and 500 points (roughly the U.S.) make a difference? By the historical record of growth, such a difference is consistent with one percent per year in the growth of per capita income. If we project this out over the lifetimes of children born today, the present value of economic gains from the U.S. reaching the level of Finland would be $100 trillion! These potential economic gains from improved schools should be compared to the huge political fights in the U.S. over a stimulus package of one trillion dollars, or one hundredth of the magnitude of the gains we are leaving on the table from ignoring the achievement in our schools.” Hanushek explains that the relatively free enterprise economy of the U.S. has attracted the “brightest from abroad” and has created an economy that spurs innovation. But our advantage is fading, he says, and the brightest often stay at home. We need to fix this now, or in a decade or two it may be impossible to recover.

Obama order on regulation seen as ineffectual. The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a watchdog on federal regulation, having published Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State since 1996. On President Obama’s recent order to review the effect of regulations, CEI is not impressed. In a press release, the organization said: “The number of rules in the pipeline at agencies has surged in the past year, from 4,041 at the end of 2009 to 4,225 now, as will be detailed in CEI’s upcoming Ten Thousand Commandments report. ‘Major’ rules, those expected to cost over $100 million annually, have experienced an even greater surge. Indeed, just to get where we were a year ago, many rules would have to be cut. Yet Obama’s Wall Street Journal op-ed today announcing the Executive Order utterly glossed over the EPA CO2 rules, the FCC’s unauthorized net neutrality push, and the torrent of rules yet to come from the health care and financial reform bills.” … CEI notes that an executive order issued by President Bill Clinton, still in effect, already orders what Obama’s order does. CEI asks: “Actually confronting regulation, the crippling extent of which remains unappreciated by both parties, requires going far beyond the words of an executive order.” … Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity is interviewed on this topic and notes the problem of “back door” legislation through regulation. … It should be noted that Obama inherited many regulations, as despite the claims of liberals, President George Bush greatly expanded the scope of the federal regulatory state.

Massachusetts health care presages Obamacare. Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute, writing in Investor’s Business Daily, notes the promises and the reality of health care reform in Massachusetts. The plan was implemented by Mitt Romney, a Republican, who promised, according to Pipes, “Every uninsured citizen in Massachusetts will soon have affordable health insurance, and the cost of health care will be reduced. And we need no new taxes, no employer mandate and no government takeover to make this happen.” But here’s the reality of what’s happened, again according to Pipes: “The only measure by which Massachusetts can be judged a success is the number of people enrolled in Medicaid and other government-subsidized insurance plans. Of the 410,000 newly insured in Massachusetts, three in four are either paying nothing or very little for their insurance. … Despite the near-universal insurance, the state still spends $414 million on uncompensated care, an expense that Romney and his architects promised would disappear. Emergency-room use has not dropped as predicted. From 2006 to 2008, emergency room use under Mass Care increased by 9%. And private employer insurance costs, far from dropping, have continued to increase.” … Prior to this plan, health insurance premiums in Massachusetts increased at a rate slower than the national average. Now they increase faster than average.

Sowell on fixing America’s economic problems. Thomas Sowell has published the fourth edition of his now-classic work Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy. Now eighty years young, Sowell appears in an interview on the topics in his book.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday January 18, 2011

Education reformer to speak in Kansas. Next week the Kansas Policy Institute hosts education reform expert Dr. Matthew Ladner at several events in Kansas. In Wichita, he will speak at a free breakfast event on Tuesday January 25th. Information on that event and those in Topeka and Overland Park can be found at Kansas Policy Institute Upcoming Events. Ladner, of the Goldwater Institute, will speak on the topic “Good to Great — Lessons for Kansas from Florida’s education revolution.” Florida has been at the forefront of education reform in recent years, according to a study by EducationNext. Kansas, on the other hand, ranks very low in studies that look at education reform among the states. An invitation to the Wichita event is here. RSVPs are requested by January 20th.

Wichita council candidate websites spotted. This is not a comprehensive list of candidates. Instead, these are city council candidates’ websites that have been noticed. District 2, currently held by Sue Schlapp, who may not run due to term limits: Steve Harris, Paul Savage, Charlie Stevens. … District 3, currently held by Roger Smith on an interim basis: Clinton Coen, James Clendenin…. District 4, currently held by Paul Gray, who may not run due to term limits: Joshua Blick, Michael O’Donnell. … District 5, currently held by Jeff Longwell: Jeff Longwell, Lynda Tyler.

Schools’ funding claims questioned. “Much of the increase in state spending for schools since 2005 has accumulated in cash reserve funds rather than being spent in classrooms, according to an analysis of unencumbered cash reserves held by districts.” The Kansas Watchdog story by Paul Soutar continues: “Carryover cash in accessible district funds has increased by $306 million since 2005, the year the Kansas Supreme Court’s Montoy decision went into effect. Cash in these funds grew to about $743 in 2010, up $187 million since 2008. The carryover, or unencumbered cash, is money appropriated in previous years but not spent and with no claims against it for unpaid bills or other obligations. The cash accumulates in more than 30 distinct funds.” … The balances in these funds rise when money is not spent as fast as it is put in. School districts argue that they need some fund balances — and they do — but the growing balances, year after year for most districts, undermines the claims of school spending advocates.

Kansas schools rated. “Kansas elementary and secondary schools rose one spot in a new national performance ranking, but are still below the U.S. average and many other states, the publishers of Education Week reported this week. The publication’s 15th annual ‘Quality Counts’ survey of how precollegiate schools are faring across the nation, ranks Kansas’ performance 37th in the nation, up one place from last year’s assessment, but still lower than the national average.” The Kansas reporter story mentions state school board member Walt Chappell and his concern that Kansas’ state-controlled student achievement scores — which show rapidly rising performance — may not be valid or reliable: “Even so, the Education Week rankings and others like them are important, said Walt Chappell, a state board of education member who in the past has expressed skepticism about claims of educational excellence that he believes don’t square with students’ college entrance exams or the state’s double digit high school dropout rates. At the very least, ‘here is another outside observer taking another look at our schools and telling us there is room for improvement,’ Chappell said.”

Insurance costs on the rise in Kansas. From Kansas Reporter: “Health insurance premiums have gone up 5 to 7 percent in Kansas because of the federal Patient Affordable Care Act, an underwriters’ group official told lawmakers Thursday.” Mandates for increased coverage are seen as a cause.