Monday, June 29, 2009 - Honduras Defends Its Democracy

A good explanation of what’s been going on. - Opinion: Honduras Defends Its Democracy

Honduras is fighting back by strictly following the constitution. The Honduran Congress met in emergency session yesterday and designated its president as the interim executive as stipulated in Honduran law. It also said that presidential elections set for November will go forward. The Supreme Court later said that the military acted on its orders. It also said that when Mr. Zelaya realized that he was going to be prosecuted for his illegal behavior, he agreed to an offer to resign in exchange for safe passage out of the country. Mr. Zelaya denies it.



Thursday, June 25, 2009 - The Cap and Tax Fiction - Opinion: The Cap and Tax Fiction

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has put cap-and-trade legislation on a forced march through the House, and the bill may get a full vote as early as Friday. It looks as if the Democrats will have to destroy the discipline of economics to get it done.

Despite House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman's many payoffs to Members, rural and Blue Dog Democrats remain wary of voting for a bill that will impose crushing costs on their home-district businesses and consumers. The leadership's solution to this problem is to simply claim the bill defies the laws of economics.

The hit to GDP is the real threat in this bill. The whole point of cap and trade is to hike the price of electricity and gas so that Americans will use less. These higher prices will show up not just in electricity bills or at the gas station but in every manufactured good, from food to cars. Consumers will cut back on spending, which in turn will cut back on production, which results in fewer jobs created or higher unemployment.



Monday, June 22, 2009 - The NEA's Latest Trick - Opinion: The NEA's Latest Trick

Public school teachers are supposed to teach kids to read, so it would be nice if their unions could master the same skill. In a recent letter to Senators, the National Education Association claims Washington, D.C.'s Opportunity Scholarships aren't working, ignoring a recent evaluation showing the opposite.

President Obama pledged to support whatever works in schools, ideology notwithstanding. But neither he nor Mr. Duncan have dared to speak truth to the power of the NEA. Military families can join urban parents on the list of those who matter less to the NEA than does maintaining the failed status quo.


Friday, June 19, 2009 - Too Big to Fail, or Succeed - Opinion: Too Big to Fail, or Succeed

In a speech at the White House yesterday, President Barack Obama outlined what he envisions for future regulation of the financial system. He called his plan "a new foundation for sustained economic growth . . . a transformation on a scale not seen since the reforms that followed the Great Depression." Indeed it is.

His plan, if adopted, will fundamentally change the nature of our financial system and economy. The underlying concerns and assumptions are clear, and they are made clearer by considering other ways that his administration has dealt with the consequences of competition -- particularly the faux bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler and the impending change in antitrust policy. Although the president said in his speech that he supports free markets, these initiatives confirm that the administration fears the "creative destruction" that free markets produce, preferring stability over innovation, competition and change.

In AIG, GM, Chrysler, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac we can see the future that the administration envisions for our economy -- a sclerotic and unchanging structure of big companies working with, protected by, and relying on big government. - 'The Fear Is Gone'

Wow. - Opinion: 'The Fear Is Gone'


Voices from Iran.

The following are firsthand accounts that were solicited by Journal assistant editorial features editor Bari Weiss. Some were translated from Farsi. Surnames have been omitted to protect the writers.


We reformists have no radio, no newspaper, and no television. All our Internet sites are filtered, as well as social networks such as Facebook. Text messaging and mobile communication were also cut off during the demonstrations. And yet we had hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

The state-run TV station has announced that riot police will severely punish anybody that demonstrates. Ahmadinejad called the opposition a bunch of insignificant dirt who try to make the taste of victory bitter to the nation. But his remark was answered by the largest demonstrations ever.

Older people compared Monday's gathering to the demonstrations of 1979 which marked the downfall of the Shah's regime. They even said that this event was larger.

Democracy is a long way ahead. I may not be alive to see that day. With eyes full of tears in these early hours of June 16, I glorify the courage of those who have already been killed. I hope that the blood of these martyrs will make every one of us more committed to freedom, to democracy and to human rights.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - Health Reform and Competitiveness - Opinion: Health Reform and Competitiveness

Employers may write the checks to the insurance companies, but workers still pay for the coverage they get from those employers. The total cost of an employee is what matters to businesses, and fringe benefits are as much a part of compensation as cash wages. When health costs rise, firms don't become less competitive, as if insurance were lopped out of profits. Instead, nonhealth compensation drops. Or wages rise more slowly than they otherwise would.

A recent study from none other than the White House Council of Economic Advisers notes exactly this point: If medical spending continues to accelerate, it expects take-home pay to stagnate.

It's certainly true that the U.S. employer-based insurance system can dampen entrepreneurial spirits. There's the "job lock" phenomenon, in which employees fear leaving a less productive job because they're afraid to lose their health benefits. Another problem is that insurance costs more for small groups than the large risk pools that big corporations assemble, meaning that it's harder to form new businesses that can offer policies. But all this is really an argument for developing the individual health insurance market, where policies would follow workers, not jobs.


Monday, June 15, 2009 - How Safeway Is Cutting Health-Care Costs - Opinion: How Safeway Is Cutting Health-Care Costs*


Market-based solutions can reduce the national health-care bill by 40%.


At Safeway we believe that well-designed health-care reform, utilizing market-based solutions, can ultimately reduce our nation's health-care bill by 40%. The key to achieving these savings is health-care plans that reward healthy behavior. As a self-insured employer, Safeway designed just such a plan in 2005 and has made continuous improvements each year. The results have been remarkable.

Safeway's plan capitalizes on two key insights gained in 2005. The first is that 70% of all health-care costs are the direct result of behavior. The second insight, which is well understood by the providers of health care, is that 74% of all costs are confined to four chronic conditions (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity). Furthermore, 80% of cardiovascular disease and diabetes is preventable, 60% of cancers are preventable, and more than 90% of obesity is preventable.

As much as we would like to take credit for being a health-care innovator, Safeway has done nothing more than borrow from the well-tested automobile insurance model. For decades, driving behavior has been correlated with accident risk and has therefore translated into premium differences among drivers. Stated somewhat differently, the auto-insurance industry has long recognized the role of personal responsibility. As a result, bad behaviors (like speeding, tickets for failure to follow the rules of the road, and frequency of accidents) are considered when establishing insurance premiums. Bad driver premiums are not subsidized by the good driver premiums.



Monday, June 8, 2009 - Obama's Voodoo Health Economics - Opinion: Obama's Voodoo Health Economics


On Monday President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers released a report called "The Economic Case for Health Care Reform." The report argues that Americans must curb their consumption of medical care in order to avoid soaring federal deficits, unsustainable burdens on family budgets, and damage to the economy. All of these claims are untrue.

In truth, Medicare can be fixed without subjecting the nation to medical scarcity. Telling all Americans they have to cut back on health care because Medicare is fiscally unsound is like ordering all Americans to go on diets because the food stamp program is in trouble.

It would be safer to reduce government's share of the health-care bill rather than lowering the standard of care for everyone and depressing the nation's largest industry.

Two-thirds of annual health spending increases are the result of the rapid development and use of new medications and devices, according to the CBO. But, as the CBO reminds us, these innovations "permit the treatment of previously untreatable conditions." If you had a heart attack in the 1980s and made it to the hospital you had only a 60% chance of living a year. Now your chance is over 90%. No one wants 1980s medicine at 1980s prices. And in 10 years, no one will want 2009 care.



Thursday, June 4, 2009 - What I Saw at Tiananmen

For those who don’t remember, and even for those who do.  Today is the 20th anniversary. - Opinion: What I Saw at Tiananmen

It's now 20 years since I ran through a cross-fire of tracer bullets, heading into Beijing's Tiananmen Square in the early hours of June 4 to witness the end of the uprising in which millions of Chinese, in the spring of 1989, peacefully seized control of their own capital and demanded democracy.

In a long career as a reporter, which has included both tanks and gunfire elsewhere, there is no story I have covered that has been more haunting, inspiring and important than that Tiananmen uprising. And there is no story that, in its plotline, has been more heartbreaking. - School Reforms on the Brink - Opinion: School Reforms on the Brink

The education establishment and its political allies employ multiple methods to keep kids trapped in rotten schools. One tactic is to use control of school boards to prevent or limit the creation of charter schools. Another is to smother existing voucher programs with rules and red tape. Real world examples are currently playing out in Milwaukee and New York City.

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program provides vouchers for some 20,000 low-income, mostly minority children to attend private schools. Because the 20-year-old program polls above 60% with voters, and even higher among minorities, killing it outright would be unpopular. Instead, Democratic Governor Jim Doyle wants to reduce funding and pass "reforms" designed to regulate the program to death. The goal is to discourage private schools from enrolling voucher students and thus force kids to return to unionized public schools.

The great moral outrage of our time is the way the public schools establishment puts its interests ahead of children, trying to kill every school choice program whatever its success. Genuine reformers should be shouting from the rooftops.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009 - The End of the Affair

Not much news here, but an interesting historical commentary for anyone still in love with cars. - The End of the Affair


The fate of Detroit isn’t a matter of economics. It’s a tragic romance, whose magic was killed by bureaucrats, bad taste and busybodies. P.J. O’Rourke on why Americans fell out of love with the automobile.


The fate of Detroit isn’t a matter of financial crisis, foreign competition, corporate greed, union intransigence, energy costs or measuring the shoe size of the footprints in the carbon. It’s a tragic romance—unleashed passions, titanic clashes, lost love and wild horses.


The American automobile is—that is, was—never a product of Japanese-style industrialism. America’s steel, coal, beer, beaver pelts and PCs may have come from our business plutocracy, but American cars have been manufactured mostly by romantic fools.

America’s romantic foolishness with cars is finished, however, or nearly so. In the far boondocks a few good old boys haven’t got the memo and still tear up the back roads. Doubtless the Department of Transportation is even now calculating a way to tap federal stimulus funds for mandatory OnStar installations to locate and subdue these reprobates.