Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WSJ.com - The Peoples' Revolt in Iran


WSJ.com - Opinion: The Peoples' Revolt in Iran


Yesterday offered a glimpse into the [Iranian] regime's crisis of legitimacy. As in the waning days of the Shah in the late 1970s, Iranians merely need an excuse to show what they think of their rulers.

Absent religious legitimacy for the so-called Islamic Republic, the current rulers must rely on blunt means of preservation, such as the elite Revolutionary Guards and the Basiji militias. Thus Iran seems to be morphing into a military dictatorship, not unlike the Poland of Wojciech Jaruzelski after the "workers"—the supposed communist vanguard—turned against that regime.

The White House is still pleading for talks even as its December deadline passes without any concession from Tehran. Meantime, the Iranian opposition virtually begs Washington not to confer any legitimacy on the regime, and the democracy demonstrators crave American support. Iran's civil society clock may now be ticking faster than its nuclear clock. However hard it may be to achieve, a new regime in Tehran offers the best peaceful way to halt Iran's atomic program. Shouldn't American policy be directed toward realizing that goal?



Monday, December 21, 2009

WSJ.com - Change Nobody Believes In

WSJ.com - Opinion: Change Nobody Believes In


Mr. Obama promised a new era of transparent good government, yet on Saturday morning Mr. Reid threw out the 2,100-page bill that the world's greatest deliberative body spent just 17 days debating and replaced it with a new "manager's amendment" that was stapled together in covert partisan negotiations. Democrats are barely even bothering to pretend to care what's in it, not that any Senator had the chance to digest it in the 38 hours before the first cloture vote at 1 a.m. this morning. After procedural motions that allow for no amendments, the final vote could come at 9 p.m. on December 24.

The rushed, secretive way that a bill this destructive and unpopular is being forced on the country shows that "reform" has devolved into the raw exercise of political power for the single purpose of permanently expanding the American entitlement state. An increasing roll of leaders in health care and business are looking on aghast at a bill that is so large and convoluted that no one can truly understand it, as Finance Chairman Max Baucus admitted on the floor last week. The only goal is to ram it into law while the political window is still open, and clean up the mess later.


Health costs. The best and most rigorous cost analysis shows that a healthy 25-year-old in Milwaukee buying coverage on the individual market will see his costs rise by 178%. A small business based in Richmond with eight employees in average health will see a 23% increase. Insurance costs for a 40-year-old family with two kids living in Indianapolis will pay 106% more. And on and on.

These increases are solely the result of ObamaCare—above and far beyond the status quo—because its strict restrictions on underwriting and risk-pooling would distort insurance markets.

Steep declines in choice and quality. Unnoticed by the press corps, the Congressional Budget Office argued recently that the Senate bill would so "substantially reduce flexibility in terms of the types, prices, and number of private sellers of health insurance" that companies like WellPoint might need to "be considered part of the federal budget."

Blowing up the federal fisc. The truth is that no one really knows how much ObamaCare will cost because its assumptions on paper are so unrealistic.

The tragedy is that Mr. Obama inherited a consensus that the health-care status quo needs serious reform, and a popular President might have crafted a durable compromise that blended the best ideas from both parties. A more honest and more thoughtful approach might have even done some good.

These 60 Democrats are creating a future of epic increases in spending, taxes and command-and-control regulation, in which bureaucracy trumps innovation and transfer payments are more important than private investment and individual decisions. In short, the Obama Democrats have chosen change nobody believes in—outside of themselves—and when it passes America will be paying for it for decades to come.




Thursday, December 10, 2009

WSJ.com - Olympia Snowe Is Right

Mr. Obama was elected largely by promising to “change” the tone in D.C. and govern in a bi-partisan manner.  We’ve seen little of that so far, and this debate seems to only be reinforcing the partisan divide.


WSJ.com - Opinion: Olympia Snowe Is Right


Mrs. Snowe began by noting that this year's health debate is "one of the most complex and intricate undertakings the Congress has ever confronted," and that she, too, has devoted much of her three-decade political career to promoting cheaper, better quality insurance. "But it must be done in an effective, common-sense and bipartisan way," she cautioned.

Far from "systematically working through the concerns, the issues and the alternatives," Mrs. Snowe added, Democrats have instead favored "artificially generated haste" and settled on a strategy "to ram it, to jam it" through Congress. The Senator detailed her good-faith participation in the "group of six" on the Senate Finance Committee, which met some 31 times over the spring and summer and reflected "the kind of extensive, meticulous process that an issue of this magnitude requires."

Her main and telling point was that durable social reform in America has always been bipartisan, and not merely with one or two opposition party votes.

While Social Security passed when Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House, she said, 64% of Senate Republicans and 79% of the House GOP supported it. Civil rights passed with 82% of Republicans in the Senate and 80% in the House, while 41% and 51%, respectively, voted for Medicare. Mrs. Snowe could have added the 1996 welfare reform that President Clinton signed with the support of nearly all Republicans in Congress, 98 Democratic Representatives and 25 Democratic Senators.

"Policies that will affect more than 300 million people simply should not be decided by partisan, one-vote-margin strategies," Senator Snowe explained, and Congress should not be "railroading solutions along partisan lines."

The [current] bill's main problem isn't its abortion provision or even the debate over the "public option" that Democrats will probably settle with an inartful dodge. The problem is the core of the bill: more than $400 billion in new taxes and a half-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts to pay for a vast new entitlement that is certain to increase the cost of insurance, reduce the quality of medical care and ruin the federal fisc. This is the reason Democrats have no chance of winning over Orrin Hatch, Bob Bennett, Judd Gregg, Chuck Grassley, Susan Collins, John McCain, Mike Enzi or other Republicans who have cooperated with Democrats on health care and other issues in the past.



Note: To better understand why none of the current proposals will actually improve health care in this country, be sure to read the previously posted article How American Health Care Killed My Father

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

WSJ.com - My Big Fat Government Takeover

Although I disagree with the way McGurn glosses over the problems with the Bush administration, I think he’s basically right in framing the argument between elites who think they know best for everyone else, and those who trust individuals to exercise liberty in a marketplace.  It’s too bad Republicans have tarnished their brand by embracing some of the same elitism.  We need government to be a fair referee, not a big brother or controlling nanny.


WSJ.com - Opinion: My Big Fat Government Takeover


At a time when many claim to see no difference between the two political parties, President Obama and his Democratic allies are making one distinction paramount: their operating assumption that bigger government is better government.


Many of the people in the Obama administration, the president included, enjoy all the credentials we associate with the best and the brightest: the right schools, the good grades, the successful careers. Alas, whether it be allocating health care or defining the kind of jobs the economy ought to create, the policies they favor suggest a strong belief that they know what's best not just for themselves, but for everyone else too.


Of course, the kind of people who are apt to push for government-imposed solutions are those who are also apt to believe they will be the ones imposing decisions, not the ones who have to live with decisions imposed by others... Mostly, however, their trust in government reflects their confidence that they have all the answers and that it's government's job to enforce them.


What about conservatives? Don't we have confidence in our judgment and abilities? Of course we do. The difference is that we trust free citizens to make decisions about themselves—and are skeptical about government…. That's because conservatives believe that even our smartest friend is no match for the collective wisdom of the marketplace.





Tuesday, December 1, 2009

WSJ.com - Climategate: Follow the Money

All of [these global warming advocacy & research groups] have been on the receiving end of climate change-related funding, so all of them must believe in the reality (and catastrophic imminence) of global warming just as a priest must believe in the existence of God.

None of these outfits is per se corrupt, in the sense that the monies they get are spent on something other than their intended purposes. But they depend on an inherently corrupting premise, namely that the hypothesis on which their livelihood depends has in fact been proved. Absent that proof, everything they represent—including the thousands of jobs they provide—vanishes. This is what's known as a vested interest, and vested interests are an enemy of sound science.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

WSJ.com - Major Hasan and Holy War


WSJ.com - Opinion: Major Hasan and Holy War


A domestic Islamic threat is real, and the FBI is unprepared to fight it.

It shouldn't require the U.S. to have a French-style, internal-security service to neutralize the likes of Maj. Hasan. He combines all of the factors—especially his public ruminations about American villainy in the Middle East and his overriding sense of Muslim fraternity—that should have had him under surveillance by counterintelligence units. Add the outrageous fact that he was in email correspondence with Anwar al-Awlaqi, a pro-al Qaeda imam well-known to American intelligence, and it is hard not to conclude that the FBI is still incapable of counterterrorism against an Islamic target.

For the FBI, religion remains a much too sensitive subject, much more so than the threatening ideologies of yesteryear. Imagine if Maj. Hasan had been an officer during the Cold War, regularly expressing his sympathy for the Soviet Union and American criminality against the working man. Imagine him writing to a KGB front organization espousing socialist solidarity. The major would have been surrounded by counterintelligence officers.




Monday, November 23, 2009

WSJ.com - Eric Holder's Baffling KSM Decision


WSJ.com - Opinion: Eric Holder's Baffling KSM Decision


On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to question Attorney General Eric Holder about his decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others in criminal courts rather than military tribunals. As the father of Todd Beamer, who died on United Airlines Flight 93, I was able to attend that hearing.

In his opening remarks, Attorney General Holder acknowledged that these defendants could have been brought to trial in civilian court or before military tribunals. But he made the argument that trying them in our criminal courts would restore the integrity of our judicial system. He assured us that the trials would be quick, that the safety of New Yorkers would be paramount, that classified information would not be revealed, that the evidence was overwhelming, and that justice would be served.

Then the Republican members proceeded to ask Mr. Holder thoughtful questions. Some examples:

How can we be assured that these enemies will be found guilty? Given that criminal courts are now the presumed venue for those captured on the battlefield, will soldiers need to read them their rights at the time of capture? Since you wish to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis to the presumed civil venue, don't all those captured need to be read their rights and have the opportunity to remain silent? Won't this venue expose intelligence to our enemies? Can our classified information really be secured? Can we in fact predict how the judge will rule? If these people are brought into the country will they get additional rights under immigration law? What if they claim asylum?

The attorney general seemed bewildered in the face of these inquiries. Recurring themes in his responses included "I think," and "I can't imagine," and "I am not an expert in immigration."

Has our attorney general not considered these issues, or imagined the possible unintended consequences that will arise from his historic decision? It certainly seemed that way. If he had, he would have had better answers.





Friday, November 6, 2009

How American Health Care Killed My Father

You really need to read this article!  (even if you delete all my other ones – read this one!)

I have read, literally, hundreds of articles on health care this year; this article is the best I’ve come across from any source.  It is written by a Democrat (and Obama supporter), but it is not partisan at all.  If you want to understand the many forces standing in the way of better health care, read this article!  A few paragraphs are quoted below.





Keeping Dad company in the hospital for five weeks had left me befuddled. How can a facility featuring state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment use less-sophisticated information technology than my local sushi bar? How can the ICU stress the importance of sterility when its trash is picked up once daily, and only after flowing onto the floor of a patient’s room?...  Why, in other words, has this technologically advanced hospital missed out on the revolution in quality control and customer service that has swept all other consumer-facing industries in the past two generations?


I’m a businessman, and in no sense a health-care expert. But the persistence of bad industry practices—from long lines at the doctor’s office to ever-rising prices to astonishing numbers of preventable deaths—seems beyond all normal logic, and must have an underlying cause. There needs to be a business reason why an industry, year in and year out, would be able to get away with poor customer service, unaffordable prices, and uneven results—a reason my father and so many others are unnecessarily killed.


All of the actors in health care—from doctors to insurers to pharmaceutical companies—work in a heavily regulated, massively subsidized industry full of structural distortions. They all want to serve patients well. But they also all behave rationally in response to the economic incentives those distortions create. Accidentally, but relentlessly, America has built a health-care system with incentives that inexorably generate terrible and perverse results. Incentives that emphasize health care over any other aspect of health and well-being. That emphasize treatment over prevention. That disguise true costs. That favor complexity, and discourage transparent competition based on price or quality. That result in a generational pyramid scheme rather than sustainable financing. And that—most important—remove consumers from our irreplaceable role as the ultimate ensurer of value.


I’m a Democrat, and have long been concerned about America’s lack of a health safety net. But based on my own work experience, I also believe that unless we fix the problems at the foundation of our health system—largely problems of incentives—our reforms won’t do much good, and may do harm. To achieve maximum coverage at acceptable cost with acceptable quality, health care will need to become subject to the same forces that have boosted efficiency and value throughout the economy. We will need to reduce, rather than expand, the role of insurance; focus the government’s role exclusively on things that only government can do (protect the poor, cover us against true catastrophe, enforce safety standards, and ensure provider competition); overcome our addiction to Ponzi-scheme financing, hidden subsidies, manipulated prices, and undisclosed results; and rely more on ourselves, the consumers, as the ultimate guarantors of good service, reasonable prices, and sensible trade-offs between health-care spending and spending on all the other good things money can buy.


Would our health-care system be so outrageously expensive if each American family directly spent even half of that $1.77 million that it will contribute to health insurance and Medicare over a lifetime, instead of entrusting care to massive government and private intermediaries?


But let’s forget about money for a moment. Aren’t we also likely to get worse care in any system where providers are more accountable to insurance companies and government agencies than to us?



Tuesday, November 3, 2009

WSJ.com - The Worst Bill Ever

Hyperbole? Maybe. Maybe not.

In a rational political world, this 1,990-page runaway train would have been derailed months ago. With spending and debt already at record peacetime levels, the bill creates a new and probably unrepealable middle-class entitlement that is designed to expand over time. Taxes will need to rise precipitously, even as ObamaCare so dramatically expands government control of health care that eventually all medicine will be rationed via politics.

Yet at this point, Democrats have dumped any pretense of genuine bipartisan "reform" and moved into the realm of pure power politics as they race against the unpopularity of their own agenda. The goal is to ram through whatever income-redistribution scheme they can claim to be "universal coverage." The result will be destructive on every level—for the health-care system, for the country's fiscal condition, and ultimately for American freedom and prosperity.

A new "health choices commissioner" will decide what counts as "essential benefits," which all insurers will have to offer as first-dollar coverage. Private insurers will also be told how much they are allowed to charge even as they will have to offer coverage at virtually the same price to anyone who applies, regardless of health status or medical history.

The cost of insurance, naturally, will skyrocket. 

As Congress's balance sheet drowns in trillions of dollars in new obligations, the political system will have no choice but to start making cost-minded decisions about which treatments patients are allowed to receive. Democrats can't regulate their way out of the reality that we live in a world of finite resources and infinite wants.

Monday, November 2, 2009

WSJ.com - Obama and the Old Hat People

In a world defined by nearly 100,000 iPhone apps, a world of seemingly limitless, self-defined choice, the Democrats are pushing the biggest, fattest, one-size-fits all legislation since 1965. And they brag this will complete the dream Franklin D. Roosevelt had in 1939.

The health-care bill is big, complex, incomprehensible and coercive—all the things people hate nowadays.

It's easy to make jokes about how insubstantial the millions of people seem to be who are constantly using technologies like Twitter. But these new digital and Web-based technologies, which have decentralized virtually everything, now occupy most of the average person's waking hours at work or at home. 

The one lump that won't change is government. Government in our time is looking out of it.

The larger point here isn't necessarily partisan. It's a description of the way people live their lives in a 21st century world, and how disconnected politics has become from that world.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

WSJ.com - Sins of Emission

WSJ.com - Opinion: Sins of Emission

The ethanol boondoggle is also an environmental catastrophe.

The latest embarrassment [for the clean energy economy] arrives via the peer-reviewed journal Science, not known for its right-wing inclinations. A new paper calls attention to what the authors (led by Princeton's Tim Searchinger) call "a critical accounting error" in the way carbon emissions from biofuels are measured in climate-change programs world-wide. Bernie Madoff had a few critical accounting errors too.

Though you won't hear it from the biofuels lobby, ethanol actually generates the same amount of greenhouse gas as fossil fuels, or more, per unit of energy. 

In other words, not only is cap and trade self-defeating on its own terms but it also risks creating a genuine ecological disaster.

By way of a solution, Mr. Searchinger and his coauthors modestly suggest doing away with the regulatory three-card monte and counting net ethanol emissions from where they are actually emitted. But this is political heresy on Rep. Henry Waxman's Energy and Commerce Committee, which passed its own cap-and-tax program in July with the votes of farm-state Democrats, because the bill all but banned the Environmental Protection Agency from studying land-use changes. So much for letting "the science" guide public policy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WSJ.com - This Is Your Brain Without Dad

WSJ.com - This Is Your Brain Without Dad

Conventional wisdom holds that two parents are better than one. Scientists are now finding that growing up without a father actually changes the way your brain develops.

WSJ.com - Freaked Out Over SuperFreakonomics

I read "Freakonomics" a couple years back.  Looks like I need to read the sequel too!

WSJ.com - Opinion: Freaked Out Over SuperFreakonomics

Suppose for a minute—which is about 59 seconds too long, but that's for another column—that global warming poses an imminent threat to the survival of our species. Suppose, too, that the best solution involves a helium balloon, several miles of garden hose and a harmless stream of sulfur dioxide being pumped into the upper atmosphere, all at a cost of a single F-22 fighter jet.

More subversively, they [University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and writer Stephen Dubner, authors of "SuperFreakonomics"—the sequel to their runaway 2005 bestseller "Freakonomics"] suggest that climatologists, like everyone else, respond to incentives in a way that shapes their conclusions. "The economic reality of research funding, rather than a disinterested and uncoordinated scientific consensus, leads the [climate] models to approximately match one another." In other words, the herd-of-independent-minds phenomenon happens to scientists too and isn't the sole province of painters, politicians and news anchors.

But perhaps their biggest sin, which is also the central point of the chapter, is pointing out that seemingly insurmountable problems often have cheap and simple solutions.

...it may well be that global warming is best tackled with a variety of cheap fixes, if not by pumping SO2 into the stratosphere then perhaps by seeding more clouds over the ocean. Alternatively, as "SuperFreakonomics" suggests, we might be better off doing nothing until the state of technology can catch up to the scope of the problem.

All these suggestions are, of course, horrifying to global warmists, who'd much prefer to spend in excess of a trillion dollars annually for the sake of reconceiving civilization as we know it, including not just what we drive or eat but how many children we have. And little wonder: As Newsweek's Stefan Theil points out, "climate change is the greatest new public-spending project in decades." Who, being a professional climatologist or EPA regulator, wouldn't want a piece of that action?

Monday, October 26, 2009

WSJ.com - Why Government Health Care Keeps Falling in the Polls

WSJ.com - Opinion: Why Government Health Care Keeps Falling in the Polls

The health-care debate is part of a larger moral struggle over the free-enterprise system.

...public resistance [to ObamaCare] stems from the sense that the proposed reforms do violence to three core values of America's free enterprise culture: individual choice, personal accountability, and rewards for ambition.

First, Americans recoil at policies that strip choices from citizens and pass them to bureaucrats. ObamaCare systematically does so. The current proposals in Congress would effectively limit choice across the entire spectrum of health care: What kind of health insurance citizens can buy, what kind of doctors they can see, what kind of procedures their doctors will perform, what kind of drugs they can take, and what treatment options they may have.

Second, Americans believe we should be responsible for the consequences of our actions.

Third, ObamaCare discourages personal ambition. The proposed reforms will institute a set of government mandates, price controls and other strictures that will make highly trained specialists, drug researchers and medical device makers less valued now and in the future. Americans understand that when you take away the incentive to make money while saving lots of lives, the cures, therapies and medical innovations of tomorrow may never be discovered.

...most Americans think our increasingly redistributionist government is overstepping its bounds. 

The health-care debate is part of a moral struggle currently being played out over the free enterprise system. It will be replayed in every major policy debate in the coming months, from financial regulatory reform to a cap-and-trade system for limiting carbon emissions. The choices will ultimately always come down to competing visions of America's future. Will we strengthen freedom, individual opportunity and enterprise? Or will we expand the role of the state and its power?

WSJ.com - Why We're Failing Math and Science

WSJ.com - Why We're Failing Math and Science

A panel of experts talks about what's wrong with our education system—and how to fix it

The problem is well-known: The U.S. lags far behind other developed countries at the K-12 level in terms of measured performance in math and science courses.  What can be done to change that? 

Friday, October 23, 2009

WSJ.com - The Chicago Way


WSJ.com - Opinion: The Chicago Way

When Barack Obama promised to deliver "a new kind of politics" to Washington, most folk didn't picture Rahm Emanuel with a baseball bat. These days, the capital would make David Mamet, who wrote Malone's memorable movie dialogue, proud.

A White House set on kneecapping its opponents isn't, of course, entirely new. (See: Nixon) What is a little novel is the public and bare-knuckle way in which the Obama team is waging these campaigns against the other side.

What makes these efforts notable is that they are not the lashing out of a frustrated political operation. They are calculated campaigns, designed to create bogeymen, to divide the opposition, to frighten players into compliance.

They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way.

–Jim Malone,

"The Untouchables"






Thursday, October 22, 2009

WSJ.com - Immigrant Scientists Create Jobs and Win Nobels


WSJ.com - Opinion: Immigrant Scientists Create Jobs and Win Nobels


Of the nine people who shared this year's Nobel Prizes in chemistry, physics and medicine, eight are American citizens, a testament to this country's support for pioneering research. But those numbers disguise a more important story. Four of the American winners were born outside of the United States and only came here as graduate or post-doctoral students or as scientists. They came because our system of higher education and advanced research has been a magnet for creative talent.

Unfortunately, we cannot count on that magnetism to last. Culturally, we remain a very open society. But that openness stands in sharp contrast to arcane U.S. immigration policies that discourage young scholars from settling in the U.S.

Those policies come at a high price. Graduate and postgraduate student immigrants are essential to creating new, well-paid jobs in our economy. From MIT alone, foreign graduates have founded an estimated 2,340 active U.S. companies that employ over 100,000 people.

Today, discovery and innovation increasingly spring from a creative network of the finest talent everywhere across the globe. From new advances in medicine to scientific breakthroughs that spawn new industries and sustainable jobs, the work of science and engineering is being done by individuals who can live almost anywhere.

To be part of that global creative network we must inspire more young Americans to pursue scientific careers, and we must rapidly reform U.S. immigration policies that drive away talented young scholars who would otherwise decide to live, work and innovate here.






Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WSJ.com - Health Costs and History


WSJ.com - Opinion: Health Costs and History


Washington has just run a $1.4 trillion budget deficit for fiscal 2009, even as we are told a new health-care entitlement will reduce red ink by $81 billion over 10 years. To believe that fantastic claim, you have to ignore everything we know about Washington and the history of government health-care programs. For the record, we decided to take a look at how previous federal forecasts matched what later happened. It isn't pretty.

Let's start with the claim that a more pervasive federal role will restrain costs and thus make health care more affordable. We know that over the past four decades precisely the opposite has occurred.

The lesson here is that spending on nearly all federal benefit programs grows relentlessly once they are established. This history won't stop Democrats bent on ramming their entitlement into law. But every Member who votes for it is guaranteeing larger deficits and higher taxes far into the future. Count on it.






Monday, October 12, 2009

WSJ.com - Job Creation 101

WSJ.com - Opinion: Job Creation 101

Congress raised the minimum wage again in July, a direct slam at low-skilled and young workers. The black teen jobless rate has since climbed to 50.4% from 39.2% in two months. Congress is also moving ahead with a mountain of new mandates, from mandatory paid leave to the House's health-care payroll surtax of 5.4%. All of these policy changes give pause to employers as they contemplate the cost of new hires—a reality that Democrats are tacitly admitting as they now plot to find ways to offset those higher costs.

Alas, their new ideas are little more than political gimmicks that aren't likely to result in many new jobs.

The lack of U.S. job creation is a big problem, but the quickest way Washington could help would be to stop imposing more financial burdens on hiring. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

WSJ.com - The Conscience of a Capitalist

Fascinating insight into a Fortune 500 CEO who started as a counterculture anticapitalist.


WSJ.com - Opinion: The Conscience of a Capitalist


The Whole Foods founder talks about his Journal health-care op-ed that spawned a boycott, how he deals with unions, and why he thinks CEOs are overpaid.


"Before I started my business, my political philosophy was that business is evil and government is good. I think I just breathed it in with the culture. Businesses, they're selfish because they're trying to make money."

At age 25, John Mackey was mugged by reality. "Once you start meeting a payroll you have a little different attitude about those things." This insight explains why he thinks it's a shame that so few elected officials have ever run a business. "Most are lawyers," he says, which is why Washington treats companies like cash dispensers.

Mr. Mackey tells me he is trying to save capitalism: "I think that business has a noble purpose. It's not that there's anything wrong with making money. It's one of the important things that business contributes to society. But it's not the sole reason that businesses exist."

What does he mean by a "noble purpose"? "It means that just like every other profession, business serves society. They produce goods and services that make people's lives better. Doctors heal the sick. Teachers educate people. Architects design buildings. Lawyers promote justice. Whole Foods puts food on people's tables and we improve people's health."

Then he adds: "And we provide jobs. And we provide capital through profits that spur improvements in the world. And we're good citizens in our communities, and we take our citizenship very seriously at Whole Foods."


The Whole Foods health-care story has been largely ignored by proponents of a government-run system. But it could be a template for those in Washington who want to drive down costs and insure the uninsured.

Mr. Mackey says that combining "our high deductible plan (patients pay for the first $2,500 of medical expenses) with personal wellness accounts or health savings accounts works extremely well for us." He estimates the plan's premiums plus other costs at $2,100 per employee, and about $7,000 for a family. This is about half what other companies typically pay.

This type of plan does not excite proponents of a single-payer system, who think that individuals can't make wise health-care choices, and that this type of system is "antiwellness" because it discourages spending on preventive care.

Mr. Mackey scoffs at that idea: "The assumption behind that is that people don't care about their own health, and that somebody else has to—a nanny or somebody—has to take care of me because people are too stupid to make these decisions themselves. That's not been our experience. We find our team members [employees], not surprisingly, seem to care a whole lot about their health."






Tuesday, October 6, 2009

WSJ.com - Rent-Seekers Inc.

WSJ.com - Opinion: Rent-Seekers Inc.

Three utility giants have made news recently by quitting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Their finer sensibilities, they explained, would no longer allow them to associate with an organization lacking in environmental fervor.... As much as supporters of cap and tax would like to spin this as a new corporate ethic, the reality is less edifying. The lesson here is that big business political rent-seeking is alive and thriving.

"The carbon-based free lunch is over," declared Exelon CEO John Rowe, neglecting to mention that his company's free lunch is only beginning. Under the House's climate-change bill, a few utilities—primarily those that have made big bets in renewable and nuclear energy—are poised to clean up once Congress hands them carbon emission credits. The bill sets aside 35% of the free credits for utilities. Exelon and other "renewable" utilities will get a huge piece of that pie.

An internal memo produced by Bernstein Research in June described how Mr. Rowe met with investors to rejoice that the House legislation will allow Exelon to rake in additional revenue—by some estimates, up to $1.5 billion a year. Others will pay for this Exelon privilege, of course—notably, Midwestern customers of traditional coal utilities who will see their energy prices double. But hey, all's fair in love and lobbying.

WSJ.com - Clunkers in Practice


WSJ.com - Opinion: Clunkers in Practice*

Remember "cash for clunkers," the program that subsidized Americans to the tune of nearly $3 billion to buy a new car and destroy an old one? Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared in August that, "This is the one stimulus program that seems to be working better than just about any other program."

If that's true, heaven help the other programs. Last week U.S. automakers reported that new car sales for September, the first month since the clunker program expired, sank by 25% from a year earlier.  Some 700,000 cars were sold in the summer under the program as buyers received up to $4,500 to buy a new car they would probably have purchased anyway, so all the program seems to have done is steal those sales from the future. Exactly as critics predicted.

Cash for clunkers had two objectives: help the environment by increasing fuel efficiency, and boost car sales to help Detroit and the economy. It achieved neither. … Rather than stimulating the economy, the program made the nation as a whole $1.4 billion poorer.

The basic fallacy of cash for clunkers is that you can somehow create wealth by destroying existing assets that are still productive, in this case cars that still work. Under the program, auto dealers were required to destroy the car engines of trade-ins with a sodium silicate solution, then smash them and send them to the junk yard. As the journalist Henry Hazlitt wrote in his classic, "Economics in One Lesson," you can't raise living standards by breaking windows so some people can get jobs repairing them.

In the category of all-time dumb ideas, cash for clunkers rivals the New Deal brainstorm to slaughter pigs to raise pork prices. The people who really belong in the junk yard are the wizards in Washington who peddled this economic malarkey.




Thursday, October 1, 2009

WSJ.com - Why Obama Bombed on Health Care

Restoring the "price tags" to health care:

Yes, the politics are difficult when it comes to restoring price tags. Voters would have to understand how a tax code that allowed them to choose for themselves how much of their incomes to devote to health care would serve their interests.

They would have to be persuaded of the benefits of a marketplace where insurers are free to design policies to appeal to different budgets and needs.

They might have to decide for themselves whether they have better uses for their income and savings than extending life at all cost.

In that sense, the jabbering on Capitol Hill is irrelevant to the central problem, wherein consumers see larger and larger chunks of their income mysteriously and involuntarily sucked into health care for questionable benefit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WSJ.com - Why Medical Malpractice Is Off Limits

This is not just a partisan viewpoint.  See the last paragraph I quote below.

WSJ.com - Opinion: Why Medical Malpractice Is Off Limits

Eliminating defensive medicine could save upwards of $200 billion in health-care costs annually, according to estimates by the American Medical Association and others. The cure is a reliable medical malpractice system that patients, doctors and the general public can trust.

But this is the one reform Washington will not seriously consider. That's because the trial lawyers, among the largest contributors to the Democratic Party, thrive on the unreliable justice system we have now.

Almost all the other groups with a stake in health reform support pilot projects such as special health courts that would move beyond today's hyper-adversarial malpractice lawsuit system to a court that would quickly and reliably distinguish between good and bad care. The support for some kind of reform reflects a growing awareness among these groups that managing health care sensibly, including containing costs, is almost impossible when doctors go through the day thinking about how to protect themselves from lawsuits.

Howard Dean, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, was asked why there is nothing in the health-care proposals about liability reform. Mr. Dean replied: "The reason that tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers. . . . And that is the plain and simple truth."

Monday, September 28, 2009

WSJ.com - Health 'Reform' Is Income Redistribution (from Young to Old)

This article includes simple explanations of the terms: Guaranteed issue, Community rating, and Individual mandate

WSJ.com - Opinion: Health 'Reform' Is Income Redistribution

Let's have an honest debate before we transfer more money from young to old.

Let's start with basics: Insurance protects against the risk of something bad happening. When your house is on fire you no longer need protection against risk. You need a fireman and cash to rebuild your home. But suppose the government requires insurers to sell you fire "insurance" while your house is on fire and says you can pay the same premium as people whose houses are not on fire. The result would be that few homeowners would buy insurance until their houses were on fire.

There are wiser and more equitable ways to ensure that every American has access to affordable health insurance. Policy experts and state policy makers have experimented with different solutions, including high risk pools and taxpayer-funded vouchers subsidized for those who are both poor and sick. Medicaid, charity care, and uncompensated care provided by hospitals cover some of these costs today.

These solutions are imperfect, but so are the reforms being proposed in Congress. Congress should be explicit about who will pay more under its plans.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WSJ.com - Charter Schools Pass Key Test in Study

New York City students who win a lottery to enroll in charter schools outperform those who don't win spots and go on to attend traditional schools, according to new research to be released Tuesday.

Ms. Hoxby's study found that the charter-school students, who tend to come from poor and disadvantaged families, scored almost as well as students in the affluent Scarsdale school district in the suburbs north of the city. The English test results showed a similar pattern. The study also found students were more likely to earn a state Regents diploma, given to higher-achieving students, the longer they attended charter schools.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools, typically with nonunion teachers, that are granted more freedom by states in curriculum and hiring, and are often promoted as a way to turn around failing schools.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

WSJ.com - Getting Well: It's About Time

This article doesn’t draw any policy conclusions, but I think it comes back to the main problem with the 3rd-party payer system.  If it is not our money on the line, we aren’t concerned about being wise with its use.  We need to reconnect the health consumer with the costs for routine care.


WSJ.com - Getting Well: It's About Time


What cures colds, flu, sore throats, sore muscles, headaches, stomach aches, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, hangovers, back pain, jaw pain, tennis elbow, blisters, acne and colic, costs nothing, has no weird side effects and doesn't require a prescription?

Plain old-fashioned time. But it's often the hardest medicine for patients to take.

An estimated one-third to one-half of the $2.2 trillion Americans spend annually on health care in the U.S. is spent on unnecessary tests, treatments and doctor visits. Much of that merely buys time for the body to heal itself.





Sunday, September 20, 2009

WSJ.com - Mandatory Insurance Is Unconstitutional

WSJ.com - Opinion: Mandatory Insurance Is Unconstitutional

The elephant in the room is the Constitution. As every civics class once taught, the federal government is a government of limited, enumerated powers, with the states retaining broad regulatory authority. As James Madison explained in the Federalist Papers: "[I]n the first place it is to be remembered that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects." Congress, in other words, cannot regulate simply because it sees a problem to be fixed. Federal law must be grounded in one of the specific grants of authority found in the Constitution.

Congress cannot so simply avoid the constitutional limits on its power. Taxation can favor one industry or course of action over another, but a "tax" that falls exclusively on anyone who is uninsured is a penalty beyond Congress's authority. If the rule were otherwise, Congress could evade all constitutional limits by "taxing" anyone who doesn't follow an order of any kind—whether to obtain health-care insurance, or to join a health club, or exercise regularly, or even eat your vegetables.

This type of congressional trickery is bad for our democracy and has implications far beyond the health-care debate. The Constitution's Framers divided power between the federal government and states—just as they did among the three federal branches of government—for a reason. They viewed these structural limitations on governmental power as the most reliable means of protecting individual liberty—more important even than the Bill of Rights.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

WSJ.com - Energy 'Sprawl' and the Green Economy

Whether the author is right or wrong about nuclear power, he’s absolutely right that we need to consider the sprawl issue in our environmental debates.


WSJ.com - Opinion: Energy 'Sprawl' and the Green Economy


We're about to destroy the environment in the name of saving it.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced plans to cover 1,000 square miles of land in Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah with solar collectors to generate electricity. He's also talking about generating 20% of our electricity from wind. This would require building about 186,000 50-story wind turbines that would cover an area the size of West Virginia not to mention 19,000 new miles of high-voltage transmission lines.

This "sprawl" has been missing from our energy discussions.

The 1,000 square-mile solar project proposed by Mr. Salazar would generate, on a continuous basis, 35,000 megawatts of electricity. You could get the same output from 30 new nuclear reactors that would fit comfortably onto existing nuclear sites.

Renewable energy is not a free lunch. It is an unprecedented assault on the American landscape.




Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WSJ.com - The Man Who Defused the 'Population Bomb'


WSJ.com - Opinion: The Man Who Defused the 'Population Bomb'


Norman Borlaug arguably the greatest American of the 20th century died late Saturday after 95 richly accomplished years. The very personification of human goodness, Borlaug saved more lives than anyone who has ever lived. He was America's Albert Schweitzer: a brilliant man who forsook privilege and riches in order to help the dispossessed of distant lands. That this great man and benefactor to humanity died little-known in his own country speaks volumes about the superficiality of modern American culture.

Often it is said America lacks heroes who can provide constructive examples to the young. Here was such a hero. Yet though streets and buildings are named for Norman Borlaug throughout the developing world, most Americans don't even know his name.





WSJ.com - Health-Care Reform and the Constitution


WSJ.com - Opinion: Health-Care Reform and the Constitution


Rep. Clyburn, like many of his colleagues, seems to have conveniently forgotten that the federal government has only specific enumerated powers. He also seems to have overlooked the Ninth and 10th Amendments, which limit Congress's powers only to those granted in the Constitution.

One of those powers—the power "to regulate" interstate commerce—is the favorite hook on which Congress hangs its hat in order to justify the regulation of anything it wants to control.

The same Congress that wants to tell family farmers what to grow in their backyards has declined "to keep regular" the commercial sale of insurance policies. It has permitted all 50 states to erect the type of barriers that the Commerce Clause was written precisely to tear down. Insurers are barred from selling policies to people in another state.

That's right: Congress refuses to keep commerce regular when the commercial activity is the sale of insurance, but claims it can regulate the removal of a person's appendix because that constitutes interstate commerce.