The Locker Room

November 25, 2009

Health-care reform will save money

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:54 PM

Are you finished laughing yet? No. OK, I'll give you a couple more seconds.

Check out this blog entry and the chart below, which examine the real costs of the latest Senate proposal.

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Special interests? Oh, they're good this year, part II

Posted by Jon Sanders at 4:27 PM

(Part I.)

Imagine, if you will, the reaction from the Left — elected officials, academics, talking heads, bloggers, etc. — to a report showing that the Bush White House met hundreds upon hundreds of times in less than a year with oil industry CEOs, lobbyists, and researchers to discuss in secret legislation that would greatly change and restrict how Americans are allowed by their government to purchase petroleum products, legislation that would greatly increase the cost of those products and greatly burden the U.S. consumers and taxpayers.

Now wonder why those same people say nothing against the following, actual report from the Associated Press (which is why I didn't ask about advocates for limited government; their reaction would be the same in both cases):

Top aides to President Barack Obama met early and often with lobbyists, Democratic political strategists and other interests with a stake in the administration's national health care overhaul, White House visitor records obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press show.

The AP in early August asked the White House to produce records identifying communications that top Obama aides — including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, senior advisers David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett and Pete Rouse, and 18 others — had with outside interests on health care. The AP in late September narrowed its request to White House visitor records for those officials on health care.

The White House on Wednesday provided AP with 575 visitor records covering the period from Jan. 20, when Obama was inaugurated, through August. ... The records show a broad cross-section of the people most heavily involved in the health care debate, weighted heavily with those who want to overhaul the system. Among them were Dr. Eliot Fisher, a Dartmouth health researcher who has estimated that nearly one-third of health care dollars are wasted on unneeded services, and Dr. David Himmelstein of Harvard Medical School, who is among the top advocates of a single-payer health care system.

The list also includes George Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Health Plans; Scott Serota, president and CEO of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association; Kenneth Kies, a Washington lobbyist who represents Blue Cross/Blue Shield, among other clients; Billy Tauzin, head of PhRMA, the drug industry lobby; and Richard Umbdenstock, chief of the American Hospital Association.

Several lobbyists for powerful health care interests, including insurers, drug companies and large employers, also visited the White House complex, the records show ...

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Islam in Antebellum America

Posted by Dr. Troy Kickler at 3:09 PM

Sometimes historical scholarship tells us more about the present than about the past.  The study of Omar ibn Said, I fear, is one such case. A recent exhibit at Shaw University tells the story of Omar ibn Said, who was a slave during the antebellum era. (For more on Shaw University, read here.)  The Fayetteville slave has gained national attention because his American slave narrative is the only one known to exist in Arabic.

Current scholarship presents Said as a devout Muslim and a scholar.  He may have been a Muslim until his death, but historians jump to conclusions about Said.  They dismiss much evidence regarding Said and a possible conversion experience.   Many times, church records or missionary reports are overlooked.  Even when one dismisses evangelical hyperbole, those sources raise many questions for researchers.   For instance, Said joined the Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, made a profession of faith, was baptized, and missed few Sunday services.  (Sure, these facts can be dismissed as an insincere outward conversion, but there are missionary reports, written by four people over three decades, mentioning Said.  And early on, Jim Owen, Said's owner, allowed him to read the Koran and pray to Allah; there was no reason for Said to placate Owens.)

Said was an accomplished and fascinating figure but current presentations of him as a scholar might be misleading.  A friend of mine, a professor and scholar of Islam, who is almost fluent in Arabic, told me that Said’s writings contained elementary grammatical errors—real gaffes that someone fully literate is not likely to make.  (Images of his writings are included in Allan D. Austin's African Muslims in Antebellum America).

Said also wrote in Arabic that the Owens family “permit[ed]” him to read the gospel of God, our Lord, and Savior, and King; who regulates all our circumstances, our health, and wealth, and who bestows his mercies willingly, not by constraint. According to the power I open my heart, as to a great light, to receive the true way, the way of the Lord Jesus the Messiah.”  I contended that this was a conversion to Christianity.  My friend said, maybe.  He did say that the way Said used “a great light” made him wonder if Said was familiar with Sikhism (very likely) and if that influenced his understanding of Christianity.   

Who knows matters of the heart?  What I do know is that Said is an interesting historical figure worthy of in-depth study.  For a brief biography of Said, click here

Stay tuned for more research dealing with Said.

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Climategate: the musical

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 2:37 PM

This is a must see You Tube musical on Climategate sung to "Dragin the Line."  This version is called "Hide the Decline."



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Charles Murray criticizes Glenn Beck

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 1:07 PM

In this blog post, AEI's Charles Murray criticizes Glenn Beck for playing fast and loose with the facts, a charge that I mostly agree with.   The problem, it seems, is that Beck does not demand that his staff double and triple check the information before he puts it on the air.  This is Murray's take on the problem:

Beck was, as usual, standing in front of his blackboard. Chalked on it was:

“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” Thomas Jefferson

It is a sentiment with which I completely agree. I’ve written whole books with that sentiment as the subtext. The problem: The quote is a fake. Thomas Jefferson never said it. Jefferson would have been sympathetic to the idea, as other writings clearly imply. But he didn’t actually say it. In front of a national television audience, Glenn Beck put up a quote that his researchers would have discovered is a fake if they had done the slightest bit of Googling.

On the positive side, Murray states:

Beck is spectacularly right (translation: I agree with him) on about 95 percent of the substantive issues he talks about. He is a full-throated libertarian in a world of wishy-washy Republicans. The man is a gifted communicator. His style doesn’t happen to be one I like, but many times I’ve sat there on my sofa wishing I could make the same point as effectively.

But Murray's conclusion is absurd:

It’s not in our power to decide whether Glenn Beck’s show continues. He will save the Republic or fail to save it whatever we do. All we can do is be honest about what we think. I’ll go first. I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it. What Beck does is propaganda. Maybe propaganda has its place, but let’s not kid ourselves. Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann are brothers.

For me, this is yet another example of the disagreement between the "thinkers" and the  "communicators" in the movement.


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Kelo Part II?

Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:58 AM

As reported, the New York Court of Appeals (the highest court in NY) held that private property in Brooklyn could be seized and be used as part of a massive economic development project (Atlantic Yards project). The project will feature a new arena for the New Jersey Nets and high-rise buildings for both commercial and residential uses.

This case in many ways shows how prohibiting takings for economic development isn't enough when the government can seize private property using a very broad definition of "blight."

The New York Court held that the takings were permissible because the property met the definition of "blight." The Court stressed that it must be deferential in allowing the legislature to determine what "blight" meant.

One of the Court's major errors was not recognizing that the taking was actually for "economic development," and blight was simply a pretext.

In other words, the only reason why there were takings was because of economic development reasons--the blight excuse was used after the fact.

The dissent (Justice Smith) identified this point:

It is clear to me from the record that the elimination of blight, in the sense of substandard and unsanitary conditions that present a danger to public safety, was never the bona fide purpose of the development at issue in this case....

According to the petition in this case, when the project was originally announced in 2003 the public benefit claimed for it was economic development -- job creation and the bringing of a professional basketball team to Brooklyn. Petitioners allege that nothing was said about "blight" by the sponsors of the project until 2005.

In light of the special status accorded to blight in the New York law of eminent domain, the inference that it was a pretext, not the true motive for this development, seems compelling.

Key points about this case and problems with the "blight excuse":

1) Broad definitions of blight, even if they have little to no connection what really is "blight," allows the government to seize property for any reason. Courts usually will allow these excessively broad definitions.

2) Even when economic development is clearly the primary motive, the blight excuse will give the government the necessary basis for taking property for economic development--showing that blight is a pretext is tough.

3) By its nature, taking property for blight is also, simultaneously, taking property for economic development--a city isn't going to seize property unless it has some development plan in mind.

If the NC legislature really wants to address economic development takings, then a constitutional amendment needs to clarify that private property may only be taken for blight when the property itself poses a clear risk to the health and safety of the public.

What happened in New York is just as bad as what happened in New London (in Kelo). Properties in perfectly fine condition are being seized to help developers. The only difference is New London was honest in admitting that the taking was for economic development, as opposed to blight.

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If you wonder why Obama's folks seem flummoxed by the economy

Posted by Rick Henderson at 11:43 AM

Consider this post and stunning chart from Nick Schulz at AEI's American blog recounting the prior private sector experience of Cabinet from every administration since Theodore Roosevelt's.

As Schulz says:

When one considers that public sector employment has ranged since the 1950s at between 15 percent and 19 percent of the population, the makeup of the current cabinet—over 90 percent of its prior experience was in the public sector—is remarkable.

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Thanks, Newt

Posted by Becki Gray at 11:20 AM

In a lovely letter to his friends today, Newt Gingrich reminds us who to thank tomorrow.  In part he says,

Tomorrow we give thanks to the Creator who is the source of our sovereignty.

We pause in gratitude to He who has endowed us with the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And just as no government has granted these rights, no government can legitimately take them away.

This is the freedom the pilgrims prayed for, Washington fought for and Lincoln stood for.  

That same freedom that the Locke Foundation has been fighting for in North Carolina for almost twenty years.  It's fitting that Newt Gingrich will be our special guest as we celebrate our 20th Anniversary in 2010. Plans are underway.  Save the date for January 13. 

 P.S. Tickets make great holiday gifts!

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Open letter to Roy Cooper

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 11:01 AM

My post on the 20 bullies in the state legislature inadvertently went up last night while I was still writing it. You can now read the directors cut here.

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You might be a progressive if....

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 09:58 AM believe that government health care bureaucrats will be better than the Arlington Cemetary bureaucrats who cannot identify the bodies of fallen soldiers.

The progressives at Salon are rightly upset about:

Arlington National Cemetery superintendent John Metzler has told Army investigators his deputy failed to inform him that workers discovered unknown, unmarked remains there in 2003 and kept it covered up for six years, according to a recently released Army investigation. 

But these same Solon progressives are pushing here as hard as they can for the massive bureaucratic take-over of the health care system.  Go figure??

Liberals are frustrated these days, and they have reason to be. They helped Democrats win a theoretically filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and now the part of the [health care] reform bill they prize most highly faces death at the hands of members of the Democratic caucus.

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Revised GDP numbers - Cash for Clunkers

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:48 AM

Original reports showed the economy growing 3.5 percent in the third quarter, with 30% of that coming from car sales. The revised numbers, released yesterday, show the economy growing at a slower 2.8 percent rate with car sales contributing 52% of the growth.

If the auto industry growth were at all sustainable, one might expect Government Motors (GM) to have found a buyer for Saab or Saturn.

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Another Obama power grab

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 09:32 AM

It is not enough that Obama administration is busy expanding government control over health care and energy (cap and trade), it is also trying to take over the Internet.  A Washington Post article here noted that White House deputy chief technology officer Andrew McLaughlin equated the Internet censorship in China during Obama's visit with the network neutrality issue in the US. This FEE article clarifies the "net neutrality" debate. 

While network-neutrality advocates claim to want to ensure fairness and competition, the government regulation they propose will result in anything but those things. In the free market, competition ensures that customers receive the services they demand. Government control, by contrast, ensures that they receive whatever services the politicians and bureaucrats in power at the time deem appropriate (not to mention the inevitable and endless litigation about who could offer what services when and for how much).

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Creative job counting

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:19 AM

The departments of Commerce and Cultural Resources don't have good news to report on the jobs front, so they're making it up. With the financial sector shrinking, the state government now finds that creative jobs are more plentiful than banking jobs. That means redefining "creative" workers to include the teenager at the concession stand of your local multiplex.

Expect Linda* Carlisle, secretary of cultural resources, to ignore the inflated numbers as she uses the taxpayer-funded report to seek more taxpayer dollars for arts groups, create cultural districts across the state, and carve out new sales-tax breaks for handcrafted goods.

I wonder if all the work related to this report was considered creative.

* corrected name

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Government health care in Germany 1918-1945

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 09:16 AM

FEE's daily "In Brief" notes this 1993 article that recounts the progression of government health care in Germany from 1918 to 1945.  While responding to the Clinton government health care take-over, it is highly relevant for the debate today.

In the United States the medical profession operates in a mixed (not a national socialist) economy which does not yet have the institutionalized mechanisms of control and regulation of Weimar Germany and in a democratic political system which thankfully does not have the political ideology of the Third Reich. But the “banality of evil” described by Hannah Arendt in the Third Reich may stem largely from a government bureaucracy in which 90 percent of the people think 90 percent of the time about process—not purpose. Does the modern bureaucratization of medicine hold any real risk for a possible return with new health reforms and new medical technologies—to some of the horrors of National Socialist medicine? Removal of personal responsibility (“I was only following orders”), personal authority, and personal choice in a bureaucratized system may leave less and less room for individual ethics in the conduct of medical science and practice.

Politicized medicine is not a sufficient cause of the mass extermination of human beings, but it seems to be a necessary cause. The Nazi Holocaust did not happen for some inexplicable German reason; it is not an event that we can afford to ignore because we are not Germans or not Nazis. The history of Germany from 1914 to 1945 is a telescoping of modernity from monarchy, war, and collapse to democracy and the welfare state, and finally to dictatorship, war, and death.


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The President sends you his Thanksgiving greetings

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 08:57 AM

President Washington's 1789 proclamation of "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer..." (for the entire proclamation go here.)

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

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The invincible ignorance of Thomas Frank

Posted by George Leef at 08:56 AM

The Wall Street Journal's village idiot, Thomas Frank, does it again in his column today.

Gloating over our economic turmoil, he says "We hear much less nonsense about the wisdom of markets these days."

The markets that have crashed are those where federal intervention distorted incentives for decision-makers and created the "heads we win, tails the taxpayers lose" mentality. In true markets, individuals make decisions knowing that they'll gain if their choices are good, but that they'll lose if they're bad. Is Frank unaware that federal meddling has destroyed those essential conditions in many markets?

He takes literally the idea that "markets" act. Markets are abstractions. People act. Left alone, they'll search for the best uses of their talents and resources and that means finding things they can do or produce that other people want to buy. They aren't always right. People make mistakes, but they quickly change as soon as they realize they've made a mistake. We only get massive upheavals as a result of government intervention, such as creating artificially low interest rates.

Is Frank that ignorant? Or is he trying to exploit the ignorance of others?

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Barone's latest take on ObamaCare

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 08:53 AM

Michael Barone examines the impact of President Obama's health-care reform proposals on the federal budget deficit.

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What's wrong with the economy?

Posted by George Leef at 08:42 AM

The Wall Street Journal today has an editorial that's right on target.

Here's the core of the editorial: "Consider what private decision-makers see in their future: A 2074 page, trillion-dollar health-care bill to redesign 17% of the economy. A carbon tax -- cap and trade -- that remains an Obama priority ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit next month. A falling dollar and gyrating commodity prices, with no idea where those prices will go next. Democratic liberals are talking about an income tax surcharge to pay for any commitment in Afghanistan. Card check, to expand unionization in the private economy, remains a priority. Domestic discretionary spending in fiscal 2010 is set to rise at 12.1% with inflation near zero."

Obama's whole agenda is about expanding the scope and power of the state. That growth necessarily comes at the expense of the productive sector.

Years ago I saw a cartoon with a horse struggling to pull a heavily loaded cart up a hill. A bystander says to the driver, "Why not throw on a few more sacks -- then you'll get moving." That was back in the Carter days. The load of government is much greater today.

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Win one for the Gipper?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:06 AM

Howard Fineman uses his latest Newsweek column to compare President Obama’s political strategy to that of our 40th president.

At one point, Fineman contends that Obama would like to mirror the political path Reagan followed in his first term.

Obama fully expects Democrats to get clobbered in 2010, and then, he hopes, a revived economy will validate his decisions and win him reelection in 2012.

But following Reagan's script is harder than it looks. It requires an obstinate clarity of message that the current president has not always achieved, and an outsider's agitating stance that does not fit Obama's equable insider mentality.

There’s another important element that would help Obama follow Reagan’s script: policies that work.

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Galbraith believes Obama’s economic policies aren't working

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:05 AM

I was pleasantly surprised to see Newsweek report that James K. Galbraith, son of one of the most famous of the liberal Keynesian economists, recently sided with a debate team challenging the proposition that “Obama’s Economic Policies Are Working Effectively.”

Unfortunately, Galbraith criticizes Obama because Galbraith prefers even goofier policies:

The stimulus did some good, it helped forestall the complete collapse of state and local government budgets, it created some construction jobs. The question is, was it enough? And I think it's pretty clear that it was not. It was based on a forecast that unemployment would not rise past about 8 percent by the middle of this year and would decline after, which was wildly optimistic. We think the housing crisis is important, the collapse of small business is important, we think 10 percent unemployment as far as the eye can see is a disaster. Better than nothing is not good enough.

What would a working program look like? It would dissolve rather than coddle the toxic banks. It would stop the displacement of people from their homes, not just slow it … and it would fund a lot of new green jobs all across the country, providing every American who wants it a chance to work.

Why not throw in a partridge in a pear tree?

For a saner take on the value of government stimulus, click the play button below.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:52 AM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Sarah Okeson's report on state Treasurer Janet Cowell's plans to make up to $250 million in "economically targeted investments."

John Hood's Daily Journal takes on the "Davis-Bacon wage floor," which makes it harder for businesses to pursue government contracts.

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