Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Future of Healthcare?

The VA hospital system is often cited as proof that government run healthcare can work. The recent scandal at the Walter Reed Memorial Hospital in Washington D.C., the premier hospital in that system, gives us a taste of the chaos that would result from a government monopoly on healthcare.

This tragedy is not the result of evil people wishing harm to others. Rather it was caused by forcing bureaucrats to try and stretch budget dollars far beyond what is reasonable. Within government there is no incentive to "rock the boat." Some people complained, yes, but those complaints were buried before they reached people with the authority to act, by middle managers more concerned with their careers than with outcomes. The people who buried the complaints probably never saw the patients. To them, their budget was their "product," and the only thing they focused on.

Imagine what would happen if this system were expanded to cover everyone, and there was no alternative. At first people would think it was terrific, because their own pocketbook would benefit. In the long run however, we would all suffer. Government, under pressure to reduce an exploding healthcare budget, would simply dictate lower prices for medicine and services. Doctors would retire or move overseas, and various drugs would be withdrawn from the market. A "Doctor shortage" would then create long delays, and force the rationing of healthcare. Government can control the price, but it can never control the cost.

Put another way, do you want your healthcare system run by the same kind of people who work at the DMV, and the Social Security Administration?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

An Open Letter to Congressman John Murtha

I heard the news today about your "slow bleed" strategy designed to slowly starve our Military of the funding it needs to be successful in Iraq. You Sir, are a traitor to The Constitution, and this nation. I don't care what your war record was; right now you are a traitor! You imagine yourself a patriot, but nothing could be further from the truth.

What I see, is a man so filled with hatred towards his own President, that he would gladly destroy this country if that's what it takes, to prevent the Executive Branch from enjoying success at anything. You are supporting our enemies, and I for one don't think you're so stupid as to not know it. I believe you know what you're doing, and just don't care!

You are a coward, and don't deserve your seat in Congress. As far as I'm concerned, you don't deserve to be a citizen of this country, and it's a shame our President doesn't have the boldness of Abraham Lincoln, who would have had you arrested and deported for your interference. You are not the Commander in Chief, and never will be. None of you in Congress have the constitutional authority to command the military, and I thank God for that!

I live in Pennsylvania but not in your district, I'm happy to say. I would never want a traitor like you claiming to represent me. You represent no one but yourself. Your selfish lust for power is an embarrassment to everyone, and you make the world a poorer place to live by your very presence.

Resign. Resign now, and let a REAL man take your place, and take on the responsibilities you obviously can't handle.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Riverfront Folly

I see that Danny Onorato and the Allegheny County Council have agreed to spend an unknown amount of taxpayer money to start buying land for 128 MILES or riverfront park. That's just great. Never mind that our local infrastructure is falling apart. Never mind that the County Parks we already have are a disgrace due to lack of maintenance, or that our mass transit system is on the verge of financial collapse, we need parks along the river by God, so the spring rains and high water can ruin them every year! Give me a break. Better yet County Council, give us all a break, and learn that public service means more than finding excuses to create more patronage jobs. Public service means dealing with the real problems even when they're not glamorous, like a broken sewer system, missing guardrails, and unsafe bridges that need replaced.

(The preceeding was printed on December 9th, 2006 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, as a Letter to the Editor.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Liberal Miscalculations

I've been watching the Mark Foley scandal with some interest. To me it's a rather transparent attempt to suppress Republican turnout this election, but was unsure if others would see it as I have.

It finally dawned on me why this effort is doomed to failure. Liberals are all about group-ism, so for them the failings of an individual reflect on the group, and visa-versa. The people who planned this little surprise must have unconsciously assumed that conservatives react the same way. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Conservatives judge individuals, and for that reason, Mark Foley's failings reflect only upon himself with conservative voters, and he's not running.

Today another suppress-the-vote attack was launched, that has tremendous potential to backfire on them. All over the news today, there were stories about potential problems with new voting machines, that there may not be enough, and lines may be long. There are just too many of these stories all at once for them to not be coordinated. The question in my mind is, who is more likely to stay home, Republicans convinced that every vote is needed, or Democrats convinced that the election is in the bag? It will be very interesting to watch the turnout results November 7th.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The State is Mother, The State is Father

Pittsburgh, and The Lies About Second-hand Smoke

The Allegheny County Politburo, er Council, has announced it's intention to override the veto of County Executive Dan Onorato, and ban smoking in all workplaces within the county. I am ashamed to live among people who would trample the rights of the people they are sworn to serve. They claim they're taking this action to protect the health of the employees, but that is a lie, and every one of them knows it.

Anyone who owns property, has a right to control how it is used, within the bounds of what is legal. Smoking is legal (unlike say, prostitution) and anyone with even a whiff of intellectual honesty and a passing familiarity with the United States constitution, would admit that people have the freedom to act as they choose, even when it is not in their long term best interest.

The free market can and should be the forum that resolves this issue. Many, probably most workplaces within the county are already smoke free, not because of legal restrictions, but because businesses have made that choice on their own, for a plethora of reasons. People seeking employment in a smoke free environment clearly have a multitude of choices. No one is forced to work in a smoke filled environment. If they don't like the smoke, they're free to work elsewhere.

Businesses must strike a balance between pleasing their customers and attracting competent employees at a competitive wage. If people weren't willing to work in a smoky environment, the business would have to raise wages to make the positions more attractive. Higher wages however force the business to charge higher prices, which drives away customers.

Customers also have expectations that must be met. In the restaurant business, most are now smoke free due to customer demand. With bars and a few other types of businesses, the expectations are different. The majority of customers expect to be able to smoke. If there were a demand for smoke free bars some entrepreneur would have stepped in and taken advantage of the opportunity. Right now, anyone who cares to is free to try, provided they're willing to risk the capital required to purchase a bar.

If there were compelling evidence that second-hand smoke does injure people, the actions of County Council would at least be understandable. Such evidence however, does not exist. According to Steve Milloy writing for Fox News in 2001:

"Thirty-three studies on secondhand smoke had been completed by 1993. More than 80 percent of the studies reported no association between secondhand smoke and lung cancer, including the largest of the studies. The EPA reviewed 31 studies - inexplicably omitting two studies reporting no association between secondhand smoke and lung cancer - and estimated secondhand smoke caused 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually."

"Just when it seemed anti-smoking activists finally succeeded in producing scientific reports establishing secondhand smoke as a health risk, a federal judge overturned the EPA report in 1998. He ruled the EPA cheated on the science.

Later in 1998, the WHO published the largest study ever done on secondhand smoke and lung cancer. The study reported no statistically significant association between secondhand smoke and lung cancer. Oops."

I cannot imagine that County Council is so ignorant as to be unaware of these research results. The question becomes then, why have they chosen to pass this law? I believe that in their arrogance, they have decided that the people are not competent to make the "right" choices, and like a parent, they must force their "children" to follow their rules. They don't like smoking and want everyone to quit. This law is just another turning of the screws, a step along the path towards making cigarettes such a bother that people quit in despair. Make no mistake, this will not be the end. I fully expect that within a year, we will be seeing calls to outlaw smoking in the presence of children, first in cars, and eventually in private homes.

The first thing that public servants forget it seems, is that they are Servants. It is my sincere hope that the people of Allegheny County will recognize this abuse of power for what it is, and throw the bums out at the first opportunity.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Starting Over

It's time to take another shot at building this blog. I recently started a new blog over on Yahoo! 360, and I realized I was drifting towards the same sort of paralysis that doomed this one the first time around. In short, I could never decide between posting serious, well researched articles, or more personal, off-the-cuff comments.

I've now chosen to split the topics as follows: Personal stuff will now be relegated to the 360 blog. Opinions on current events will go here, and the research will go on the Paradigm Lost website. I've missed a number of issues that I should have covered here, such as Kelo v. New London. All the sites are cross-linked, so if you've found this one, you can navigate to any of them.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Medicare Hypocricy

For four years now, we've been bombarded with hype and spin telling us that seniors need prescription drug coverage added to Medicare. Never mind that Medicare is already going broke, or that the taxpayers can't afford the bill. Never mind that the seniors have done nothing to earn that money. The Republican Congress is all set to pass the biggest new entitlement in history. You'd think at least a few people would be happy, but no! The Democratic candidates for president are screaming that it's not enough!

It gets worse. First, all the drug companies have programs wherein they give drugs to the needy for free. In other words, the only real excuse for anyone to not have the drugs they need, is that they're too lazy to fill out a few forms. Second, Drug companies are great at introducing new medicines only slightly better than the old stuff, and the new drugs cost five or ten times as much. Seniors could save a fortune by sticking to drugs that have been around at least five years or so, but they've all acquired Rolls Royce tastes on a Yugo budget. Third, this new program is an entitlement. That means everyone who's old enough qualifies, even if they're mega-rich. Ross Perot qualifies! Why should people making minimum wage be forced to help pay fo Ross' medicine? That's nucking futs! ;-)

What this really is, is vote buying at it's worst. The seniors like it, they think they're getting something for nothing. The drug companies like it. Their profits will go up because they'll now get paid for a lot of product that they currently give away. That money has to come from somewhere though, and it's going to come right out of the paychecks of the working people of America. For every new dollar spent on Medicare, there will be one less dollar spent in the private sector. Some parent will no longer be able to afford braces for his or her child. Millions of people will buy fewer clothes, or eat out less often. This loss of business will cost many people their jobs. When money is taken from one group in order to favor another, there are always secondary consequences. Don't be fooled into thinking the politicians don't know this either. They know exactly what they're doing. They don't care that they're hurting people, so long as it doesn't cost them votes.