Category Archives: Obama

Chet Edwards Town Hall–August 26

From our perspective, the town hall was an enormous success. Even though printed signs and recording devices were banned, we made signs in line at the event and ensured that the voices of those who do not want the government to take over our healthcare system were heard. The questioning was carried out fairly and honestly; by our count, of the twenty questions asked, 13 were explicitly against the H.R. 3200 bill, 5 were for it, and two were undecided or asked questions that were not directly related to the bill.

Obama supporters hold up supposedly banned printed signs

Obama supporters hold up supposedly banned printed signs

Congressman Edwards himself showed up right on time but was not greeted by a standing ovation as has been reported elsewhere. It is true that many supporters stood to greet him, but they were the minority of those attending. In the minutes leading up to the event, our group and other concerned citizens held up signs and a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. These signs ranged from criticisms of “Chedwards” to criticisms of the reform package in general (“Obamacare is assisted SEIU-icide”). Edwards answered most of the questions as we expected: he dodged many, twisted some statements into things they were not, and used the entire thing as a campaign event. He must have mentioned the VA clinic in Bryan that he has “saved” after every election about ten times. When asked whether he saw himself as a delegate or a trustee, he answered that he was a “representative.” He kept his cool until near the end, when he was visibly angered at the accusation that he was “allowed” by Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to vote against Cap & Trade. While we would like to take him at his word, it is very suspicious that he was the second to last person to vote on the bill. Had the bill’s passage rested on his vote, would he have voted differently?

Chet Edwards insists that he has not yet decided how he will vote on this bill. He also made it clear that he had not yet read it during the town hall. Now is the time to make calls and pressure him to vote now. You can call his Brazos Valley office at (979) 691-8797. Make it clear that if he votes for this monstrosity, you will not vote for him in November of 2010.

Obamacare is Assisted SEIU-icide

Obamacare is Assisted SEIU-icide

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Filed under Abortion, Capitalism, Government Control, Liberal A&M Professors, Obama, The Conservative Movement

Three Myths About Health Reform

One thing all Americans can agree on is that it is important for health care to be affordable and accessible to the maximum number of people. Since the Obama Administration and Congress began work on health insurance reform, there has been a vigorous debate about the best way to cover the maximum number of people. Many facts and ideas have been advanced by both sides that have little basis in reality; here I attempt to find the truth about three issues in this important national conversation.


47 million uninsured Americans?

According to the Census Bureau’s 2008 figures, the number of Americans who do not have health insurance is now 47 million(1), an amount that has been steadily rising over the past few decades. Many proponents of reform point to this number as evidence of a serious health problem in this country, but it does not tell the whole story. Over the past ten years, 90% of the growth in the number of uninsured has been among non-citizens, mostly illegal immigrants(2). Furthermore, it has been estimated that 25% of America’s uninsured are already eligible for existing public coverage (ACORN should really work on signing these people up) and 20% are able to afford health insurance but choose not to buy(3).

We cannot assume uninsured noncitizens, who account for 9.7 million of the uninsured(4), do not fall into either of the two above groups. This means that there are really anywhere between 16.2 and 25.9 million uninsured US citizens who do not have access to coverage.

Health insurance is a necessity?

One often repeated fallacy in this debate is that in order to be healthy, one must have health insurance. This is not the case. If a person has enough money to pay for any health issue that arises, he should not have insurance at all. On an infinite timeline, a person will pay more to an insurance company than will be spent on his own health, since the company wants to make a profit. Even the government, which does not work for a profit, will have to spend extra money on administrative costs. We buy insurance because, in the real world, most people do not have that kind of money and only have 78.1 years to live(5). An insurance company spreads the risk of a catastrophic accident among a large group of people so that, instead of a few paying exorbitant sums for chance occurrences, everybody pays a guaranteed smaller sum. Unfortunately, modern health insurance has moved away from that concept and toward total coverage of all health expenses, even routine doctor visits. By definition, an expense that is “routine” should not be covered by an insurance company! This would be like having car insurance that paid for the gas bills.


One real solution to rising health costs would be to encourage plans that only cover catastrophic expenses. A young, healthy student who does not smoke might only be charged $29 per month for such a plan(6). Of course, the plan would have a very high deductible, but it would encourage people to shop for the best deals in primary care and routine visits without having to worry about going bankrupt after being diagnosed with cancer. Indeed, many doctors’ offices give lower rates to people who do not use insurance because they do not have to spend time filing with the insurance companyvand because patients can negotiate for lower rates(7).


Incidentally, the House health reform bill would make all individual, private insurance plans, including high-deductible, catastrophic care plans, illegal(8).


Tort reform will decrease costs?

In conservative circles, the establishment of caps on the award judgments from medical malpractice lawsuits, also known as tort reform, has been advanced as a solution to high health costs. In some ways, this is a good idea. Civil courts exist for the sole purpose of the redress of grievances; to include punitive damages in malpractice judgments unfairly skews the court system in the favor of plantiffs. If a doctor does damage to a person that costs a million dollars to repair, the doctor (or his insurance company) should pay a million dollars to the plantiff, plus court costs. It would be unfair to award the plantiff three million in punitive damages, but it would also be unfair for a law to limit the judgment to $500,000.


While common sense would dictate that low award caps would decrease the cost of medical visits since doctors have to charge more to cover malpractice insurance, experience shows that this is not the case. The cost of medical malpractice suits only comes to half a percent of overall health spending(9). According to the Congressional Budget Office, only 1.5% of cases of negligence even lead to a claim, and there is “no statistically significant difference in per capita health care spending between states with and without limits on malpractice torts”(10). The real problem with torts is the high legal expense. The most effective reform would be a “loser pays” rule: it would discourage people from filing frivolous lawsuits, but decrease awards by allowing lawsuit winners to keep the entirety of their awards.

Sources:

  1. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/567737

  2. http://www.ebri.org/pdf/notespdf/EBRI_Notes_08-20081.pdf

  3. http://www.healthaffairs.org/RWJ/Dubay2.pdf

  4. http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2009/07/20/daily34.html

  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy

  6. http://www.studentdoc.com/affordable-health-insurance.html

  7. http://www.insure.com/articles/healthinsurance/haggling.html

  8. http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tom-blumer/2009/07/16/ibd-individual-private-health-insurance-illegal-under-house-bill

  9. http://www.slate.com/id/2145400/

  10. http://www.justaskourdoctors.com/statistics-detail.asp?id=11

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Filed under Capitalism, Government Control, Obama, The U.S. Economy

Language of "Investment" in Politics

I’m tired of hearing politicians say they want to “invest” more of the taxpayer’s money in this or that, as if they could spend our own money more wisely than us.

Here is a sampling of President Obama’s “investment”-talk in his address to a joint session of Congress:

“A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future.”

“Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down.”

“But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world.”

“That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future:  energy, health care, and education.”

“We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.”

“And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.”

“Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives.  It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time.  And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.”

“Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan.”

“We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. “

Government spending sounds so good when it is couched in terms of “investment,” doesn’t it?

Now you tell me: when was the last time government EVER gave the American people a return on an “investment” of taxpayer dollars in energy, health care, or education? Last time I checked, the federal government wasted billions of money subsidizing ethanol and other unproductive sources of energy. It created the sleeping giants of Medicare and Medicaid whose unsustainability and fraud are eating up larger and larger portions of the federal budget each year. And we spend more and more money on government-run school systems that seem to get worse over time.

An investment is when people freely use their own money to their own risk and reward.

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Filed under Obama, The U.S. Economy

Agriculture in a Time of Change

Updated version.  Updates in red.

On the horizon of a new presidential administration, with major agriculture corporations filing for bankruptcy, food prices continuing to rise, ranchers to be taxed for animal methane emissions,  and the government handing out trillions in bailouts, what does the future hold for agriculture?  While Obama’s cabinet is starting to take shape, one appointment that is still lacking is the Secretary of Agriculture.  Around the time of posting this blog, Obama announced former governor of Iowa Tom Vilsack as the Secretary of Agriculture. The issue of U.S. agriculture has not been a mainstream issue in the election, but it might be one of the most important ones.  Many liberals and enviro-fascists are calling for the end of the agriculture industry as we know it today.  Along with this, we will also see the end of the safe, cheap, and domestic food supply that we currently enjoy.

Happy cows raised by a conservative rancher

Happy cows raised by a conservative rancher

Consuming less that 10% of most Americans’ disposable income, food is taken for granted by most of America.  Working through immense government regulation, the agriculture industry has been able to provide the best, cheapest, and safest food in the world; however, many are screaming for reform and Obama is listening.  Michael Pollan – a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley and environmental activist – claims to hold the reform that the agriculture industry needs; he believes that agriculture must be transformed from a cheap energy fossil fuel driven industry, to a sunlight driven industry with small localized farms.  He wants to “change how things work at every link in the food chain.”  This seems catchy to some, but what are consequences to such a plan?

Currently, the industry is efficient due to specialization of labor and economies of scale.  That efficiency would be lost.  We also raise crops and animals where it is most efficient to do so.  Pollan’s goal is to eliminate specialty or monoculture operations.  In the name of saving the environment, they are willing to severely affect our ability to feed the world, and they are ok with that.  Pollan says,  “[W]e have no choice but to find out whether sustainable agriculture can produce enough food.”  We do have a choice: we can continue to let personal interest act in a way that is the most efficient.  In fact, we could actually help make things more efficient by creating a freer market in agriculture by removing subsidies, unnecessary regulations, and relaxing government control.

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan

To keep this blog from becoming 9 pages long (like Pollan’s open letter to Obama), I will list a few more radical changes Pollan would like to make.

1.        Pollan can’t wait to move cattle from feedlots where they are in “crowded, filthy and miserable existence” to small farms where they will be grass fed.  He also notes that we could get by with 40% less grain if we did not feed grain to animals.  On the issues of animal welfare and “humane” treatment, people that raise animals do so because they love animals; if not, they would not be in the industry.  Animals are more productive the better they are treated; it is in one’s best interest to treat their animals well.  I actually just dropped off a load of steers at the meat processing plant last night, and the steers were happy and had been waited on like children their entire life.

2.       Move to small regional sunlight polyculture farms and create government incentives to do so (aka tax successful businesses); however, most large farms are family owned, so when they say they support family farms, it is not entirely true. 

3.       Pollan notes that “To grow sufficient amounts of food using sunlight will require more people growing food – millions more.”  Why would anyone want to move to a system that inefficient?  Basically they want to move us back a century.  And do they really think that Americans will want to do these jobs?

4.       Raise the price of food.  “Yes, sun food costs more.” Poorer Americans spend more of their income on food, and these liberals want to make things harder for them!

5.       Much of the reasoning behind such a plan is supposedly to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  Instead of asking to remove tractors and put workers in the fields with hoes, why don’t we produce more oil domestically?

6.       Of course it comes back to the environment; the main reason for these changes is the environment.  Pollan lists numerous reasons why agriculture is allegedly ruining the environment.  Vilsack added today, “promote American leadership in response to global climate change.”

7.       Agriculture is also blamed for the increase in health costs, worsened public health, and obesity.  Yes, it is the industry, not the consumer that makes the decisions on what and how much to eat…. “While the surfeit of cheap calories that the U.S. food system has produced since the late 1970s may have taken food prices off the political agenda, this has come at a steep cost to public health.”  Vilsack is also dedicated to “making America a nation truly dedicated to health and nutrition.”

USDA Budget in 2007

USDA Budget in 2007

As someone with a decent background in agriculture, I think that Pollan needs to learn a thing or two about agriculture before he creates “the sun-based regional agriculture we need”; however, many don’t feel the way I do.  In fact, thousands have petitioned to the Obama Administration to make Michael Pollan the next Secretary of Agriculture.  Just recently, another letter to Obama was published along with an online petition; Pollan was #3 to sign the letter.  Besides recommending 6 people for the post of Sec. of Agriculture, the letter reinforced many of Pollan’s ideas.

“America must come to understand the environmental and human health implications of industrialized agriculture. From rising childhood and adult obesity to issues of food safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for: recreating regional food systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda.”

Obama talking to farmers
Obama talking to farmers

If all of this seems too crazy for even Obama, think again.  In an October interview Obama said:

“I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollan about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they’re contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs”

Obama added in the press conference today: (click here for video)

“And it means ensuring that the policies being shaped at the Departments of Agriculture and Interior are designed to serve not big agribusiness or Washington influence peddlers, but family farmers and the American people.”

Industries have a choice.  They do not have to locate in the U.S.  If such policies are adopted, a noticeable portion of the industry will move to foreign countries.  Do people really think that other countries will do it better?  Will other countries treat animals better?  Will other countries pay their employees better?  Will other countries care about the environment?  By over-regulating we are pushing industries across our borders to places where animals will be abused, pollution will not be important, and things are done a lot worse than here in America.

The bottom line is that these policies are harmful and give the federal government more control over the lives of Americans. By raising the price of food, the poorest among us will suffer more. With another new government-created crisis – a “Hunger Crisis” – calls for more government intervention into the food industry will arise. For the sake of hyped pseudoscience and “public health,” the government will make it harder for the poor to feed themselves, prevent America from feeding the world,  and slowly extinguish the freedom of all Americans.

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Filed under Agriculture, Obama