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Posts published by “Bob Weeks”

Michael Moore Confirms that Government Health Care is Sicko

This is an excellent article that exposes how little some people like Michael Moore think about the systems they consider corrupt and unworkable. It appears that Mr. Moore is so consumed with an anti-market bias that he hasn't really considered the true causes of the problem with healthcare in America. He isn't the first person to have problems with an anti-market bias, nor do I suspect he'll be the last.

Michael Moore Confirms that Government Health Care is Sicko
by Diana M. Ernst, Pacific Reserach Institute

Michael Moore showed up in Sacramento last week to promote his film Sicko. Senator Sheila Kuehl hailed Moore as a prophet of truth to the American people but the filmmaker is so mired in his own health hysterics that he regularly contradicts himself .

He rails against “for-profit” health care, but 85 percent of U.S. hospitals are non-profit, and almost half of privately insured Americans have polices from non-profit health insurers.

Moore referred to the Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor hospital in Los Angeles, where a patient died of a perforated bowel after lying on the emergency room floor for 45 minutes. Since 2004, the hospital has received more than a dozen state and federal safety citations. Hospital errors included leaving sick patients unattended which resulted in death for three of them, giving patients the wrong medications, and using Taser stun guns to restrain psychiatric patients.

This hospital is not private, however. It is owned by the County of Los Angeles. So much for reliable government care. And the private insurers Moore rails against are currently selling health policies laden with government mandates and regulations.

The Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI) has reported that mandated benefits have increased to the more than 1,800 today. In some states, mandated benefits have raised the cost of individual health insurance by 45 percent. Government solutions that create more government amount to nothing but expensive salt in the wound. Such is Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan to tax hospitals and physicians for mandated health coverage, and such is Senator Kuehl’s government monopoly plan, promoted as a "single payer" system.

We need to help insurers to be more competitive, not scrap them for big-government bureaucracy. Mr. Moore’s foolish preference of abolishing private insurance in favor of government-run, single-payer health care will not create universal care, only a government monopoly. In other words, Moore thinks the government should provide “free” health care that isn’t required to meet any standards.

Mr. Moore also thinks Canada is a good role model, but two years ago the Canadian Supreme Court found that government monopoly health care violates basic human rights. The winning plaintiff in this case, Mr. Zeliotis, needed hip surgery. When he tried to pay privately for his operation rather than wait in the public line (which takes two to four years) the Canadian government stopped him. Mr. Zeliotis argued against government interference with his freedom to choose private medical care. The denial of such a choice prolonged his pain and threatened his safety.

Mr. Moore also likes the single-payer system in Cuba, a one-party communist state. Some 11 million Cubans attend run-down facilities, receive dated prescription drugs, and are even required to bring their own sheets, food and soap to the hospital. Communist Party bosses get better treatment but when it came time for the great dictator Fidel Castro to go under the knife, he flew in a specialist from Spain. To adopt the health-care system of a totalitarian dictatorship like Cuba would be kind of, well, sicko. But government-run health care also presents problems right here at home.

Medicaid was instituted in the 1960s under President Johnson for the poor, but it has grown far beyond its capacity, putting its financial capabilities under great strain. In order to keep costs down, Medicaid underpays physicians, who have increasingly stopped accepting Medicaid beneficiaries as a result. Government restrictions on physicians also make it challenging to get prescription drugs for Medicaid patients.

Mr. Moore's remedies fail as heath-care reform and do not even amount to effective propaganda. He needs less rhetoric and more direct experience. He should get on a Canadian waiting list for treatment, try the “second” system that serves most Cubans, or follow a Medicaid patient’s struggle to get health care from the government.

Meanwhile, union nurses and hospital employees were among 1,000 people who must have taken sick time to cheer Michael Moore Tuesday. Perhaps Speaker Nuñez and Senator Kuehl will investigate how patient care suffered while their caregivers took to the streets.

Attacking Lobbyists Wrong Battle

The economist Walter E. Williams has recent column that places the recent lobbying scandal in proper perspective.

Professor Williams explains to us that given the "awesome growth of government control over business, property, employment and other areas of our lives" Washington politicians (and I would add state and local politicians too) are in the position to grant valuable favors. "The greater their power to grant favors, the greater the value of being able to influence Congress, and there's no better influence than money."

Continuing: "The generic favor sought is to get Congress, under one ruse or another, to grant a privilege or right to one group of Americans that will be denied another group of Americans. A variant of this privilege is to get Congress to do something that would be criminal if done privately."

"Here's just one among possibly thousands of examples. If Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) used goons and violence to stop people from buying sugar from Caribbean producers so that sugar prices would rise, making it easier for ADM to sell more of its corn syrup sweetener, they'd wind up in jail. If they line the coffers of congressmen, they can buy the same result without risking imprisonment. Congress simply does the dirty work for them by enacting sugar import quotas and tariffs. The two most powerful committees of Congress are the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees. These committees are in charge of granting tax favors. Their members are besieged with campaign contributions. Why? A tweak here and a tweak there in the tax code can mean millions of dollars."

What is the solution? I believe, and I know Dr. Williams does too, that we should reduce the power that government has over our lives. I believe we should rely more on free markets for solutions to problems, as these markets are composed of people voluntarily entering into transactions, rather than a coercive government forcing decisions on us based on who lobbied the hardest. Dr. Williams also relates this story and solution: "Nearly two decades ago, during dinner with the late Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek, I asked him if he had the power to write one law that would get government out of our lives, what would that law be? Professor Hayek replied he'd write a law that read: Whatever Congress does for one American it must do for all Americans."

Hayek also wrote in his book The Road to Serfdom: "As the coercive power of the state will alone decide who is to have what, the only power worth having will be a share in the exercise of this directing power." We are well down this road, where government becomes more important than liberty and individuality. This is the battle we need to fight. Lobbying scandals are just a symptom and manifestation of the larger problem.

Adjusting the Testing Gap

In the July 25, 2006 Wall Street Journal Charles Murray has a commentary titled "Acid Tests" which describes how the way that the No Child Left Behind program uses test scores is misleading. Actually, misleading is too mild a word. The subtitle of Murray's article is "No Child Left Behind is beyond uninformative. It is deceptive."

How are the performance measures that are the yardstick of the success of No Child Left Behind deceptive? By adjusting what states use to measure "proficiency," states can appear to be closing the gap between different groups of students. In Texas, the gap between the percentage of white and black students that passed a test was at one time 35 percentage points. Now it is only ten. Does that mean the gap in true student learning and performance has decreased?

The answer, Murray says, is we can't tell from the data we have. Perhaps Texas made the test easier, or changed the definition of passing, or "taught to the test." Any of these could explain the narrowing of the gap. As Mr. Murray wrote: "If there really was closure of the gap, all that Texas has to do is release the group means, as well as information about the black and white distributions of scores, and it will easy to measure it."

The fact is that these tests, administered by the individual states, are subject to manipulation that is not in the best interests of schoolchildren:

Question: Doesn't this mean that the same set of scores could be made to show a rising or falling group difference just by changing the definition of a passing score? Answer: Yes.

At stake is not some arcane statistical nuance. The federal government is doling out rewards and penalties to school systems across the country based on changes in pass percentages. It is an uninformative measure for many reasons, but when it comes to measuring one of the central outcomes sought by No Child Left Behind, the closure of the achievement gap that separates poor students from rich, Latino from white, and black from white, the measure is beyond uninformative. It is deceptive.

You can learn more about deceptive testing from a recent study performed by The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. A press release titled "Testing the NCLB: Study shows that NCLB hasn't significantly impacted national achievement scores or narrowed the racial gaps" is at http://www.civilrightsproject.harvard.edu/news/pressreleases/nclb_report06.php.

The Charles Murray article may be read here: http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110008701

Winning lawsuits: how being irresponsible pays off

They are everywhere -- in the office, on the street, in the malls, and even in your house. They can end up costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars. No, it’s not pests I’m referring to. What is this pervasive problem, you ask? Torts.

The Shine Is Off Corn Ethanol

Our economy is so intertwined and interdependent that it is impossible for the government to guide it in any direction without setting off a long chain of consequences. This is another example of the folly of centralized economic planning.

Economic fallacy supports arts in Wichita

Recently two editorials appeared in The Wichita Eagle promoting government spending on the arts because it does wonderful things for the local economy. The writers are Rhonda Holman and Joan Cole, who is chairwoman of the Arts Council.

I read the study that these local writers relied on. The single greatest defect in this study is that it selectively ignores the secondary effects of government spending on the arts.

I, Pencil: A Most Important Story

I, Pencil is one of the most important and influential writings that explain the necessity for limited government. A simple object that we may not give much throught to, the story of the pencil illustrates the importance of markets, and the impossibility of centralized economic planning.

Why Subsidy is Bad Policy

From an article by Kenneth P. Green on energy policy. It explains why subsidy in any form is bad policy.

First, subsidies breed corruption. They don't create incentives for honest people that already have a market-worthy product -- such people can already sell their goods into the market easily. Rather, subsidies create a fertile garden for rentseekers who are unable to sell their goods competitively in a free-market, and prefer to tap the coercive and redistributionist force of government to lever their uncompetitive good into the market at the public's expense. Rather than contribute to overall social welfare by giving consumers the best goods at the least cost, or even maximizing the efficient use of people's taxes, rent-seekers undermine social welfare by foisting inferior or over-priced goods onto the market while taking money from people that could be used for other important purposes. This is a particular problem in countries with relatively weak property rights regimes, and countries with legal institutions insufficient to prevent it.

Full article at http://www.aei.org/publications/filter.all,pubID.26353/pub_detail.asp.

Urban Renewal: A Flawed Idea That Failed 50 Years Ago

Urban renewal failed across the United States in the 20th century. The urban renewal efforts from the 20th century that are the foundation for the newly proposed redevelopment agency in Wichita rely upon these old Kansas laws that require an increase in local government’s powers. There are no clearly defined steps that will avoid repeating these past mistakes in the public hearing discussions so far.

Bureaucratic Incentives Create Deadly Consequences

Walter Williams summarizes why the Food and Drug Administration is likely to delay the approval of drugs that benefit people. Simply stated, they adopt a risk-averse strategy to avoid being criticized for allowing a dangerous drug on the market, even though almost all drugs can be dangerous.

Wasteful Kansas statehousesSpending

Wasteful spending at the Kansas statehouse is nothing new. What is new is the wasteful spending on the Kansas statehouse. This building still has the ugly look of a construction site with a soaring price tag. In 2007 a bipartisan group of legislative moderates are intent on continuing this unlimited statehouse spending spree.

Testimony supporting an arena re-vote

We need to correct the flawed downtown arena proposal’s mistakes. Since the legislature authorized the county sales tax for the downtown arena it has become abundantly clear that the case against proceeding with the flawed arena project has been made. Enclosed with this testimony is a copy of the 2004 flyer used in that election campaign that shows that the critics of this proposal were correct on the key points in this project.

Floods and whirlwind (of spending in Kansas)

Kansans are focused upon the floods as well as the results of the tornados that tore up this state in early May. The wrath of Mother Nature is upon us just as the Kansas legislature has left its own flood of spending and whirlwind of legislative changes on this state. The legislature’s fiscal wrath might be overlooked by Kansans focused upon their flooded basements or providing help and assistance to the devastated folks who survived in Greensburg. Kansans ignoring the legislature do so at their peril.

Recycling in Wichita: Be Careful What You Wish For

The Wichita Eagle editorial board, particularly Randy Scholfield, has been pressing for mandatory recycling. Here's an example of the type of legislation we might see if reason fails us.

The miracle and morality of the market

In this short article we learn the simple mechanism that makes our economy work so well. Interfering with that mechanism is not only harmful, it is immoral.

Recycle, if you wish

Should we in Wichita or Sedgwick County be forced to recycle?

Prices for commodities and goods represent the best available information about the worth of them -- that is, unless the government is manipulating prices. The prices people are willing to pay for recycled goods, therefore, tell us everything we need to know about their worth. These prices tell us that there isn't much worth in most recycled goods.

A downtown Wichita urban renewal success story … not

This history lesson from Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network tells the story of what might have been for downtown Wichita, and shows how close Wichita came to losing a company very important to our local economy, even if they're not located downtown.

It’s not yours to cut

It's the people who “give” tax money to the government, not the government who “gives” it back to the people in the form of tax cuts. If the government cuts taxes, the government gives us nothing. It simply takes less of what is ours in the first place.

The Real Cost of Higher Taxes

A column in the Wall Street Journal explains how certain tax cuts generate additional growth and thus lead to some degree of revenue feedback to the Treasury. The authors point out that higher taxes, by contrast, would impose harsh costs on the economy for every dollar collected by the IRS.

Hillary Clinton and Milton Friedman: The Contrast

"The unfettered free market has been the most radically destructive force in American life in the last generation."
-- First Lady Hillary Clinton on C-Span in 1996 stating her troubles with the free market

"What most people really object to when they object to a free market is that it is so hard for them to shape it to their own will. The market gives people what the people want instead of what other people think they ought to want. At the bottom of many criticisms of the market economy is really lack of belief in freedom itself."
-- Milton Friedman, Wall Street Journal, May 18, 1961

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