Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yesterday, Fox; Today, Associated Press

Showing no shame, the Obama administration today slammed a report from The Associated Press alleging the government had overstated by thousands the number of jobs it has created or saved with federal contracts under President Obama's $787 billion recovery program.

The White House seized on an initial report from a government oversight board weeks ago that claimed federal contracts awarded to businesses under the recovery plan already had helped pay for more than 30,000 jobs. The administration said the number was evidence that the stimulus program had exceeded early expectations toward reaching the president's promise of creating or saving 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year.

But the 30,000 figure is overstated by thousands -- at the very least by nearly 5,000, or one in six, based on AP's limited review of some of the contracts -- because some federal agencies and recipients of the money provided incorrect job counts. The review found some counts were more than 10 times as high as the actual number of jobs; some jobs were credited to stimulus spending when, in fact, none were produced.

Within minutes of the publication of AP's story, the White House released a statement at 12:15 a.m. Thursday that it said was the "real facts" about how jobs were counted in the stimulus data distributed two weeks ago.

"This story draws misleading conclusions from a handful of examples," Ed DeSeve, an Obama adviser helping to oversee the stimulus program, said.

"Tomorrow, more than 100,000 recipient reports will be posted on," DeSeve said. "Unlike the small number of reports reviewed by AP, these reports have been reviewed for weeks, errors have been spotted and corrected, and additional layers of review by state and local governments have further improved the data quality."

Nevertheless, the White House said it is aware there are problems. In an interview, the advisor said agencies have been working with businesses that received the money to correct mistakes. It asserted that had been a test run of a small subset of data that had been subjected only to three days of reviews, that it had already corrected "virtually all" the mistakes identified by the AP and that the discovery of mistakes "does not provide a statistically significant indication of the quality of the full reporting that will come on Friday."

"If there's an error that was made, let's get it fixed," DeSeve said.

There's no evidence the White House sought to inflate job numbers in the report, but the administration embraced the flawed figures the moment they were released.

The data partially reviewed by the AP for errors included all the data presently available, representing all known federal contracts awarded to businesses under the stimulus program. The figures being released Friday include different categories of stimulus spending by state governments, housing authorities, nonprofit groups and other organizations.

As of early Thursday, on its Web site, the government was still citing 30,383 as the actual number of jobs linked so far to stimulus spending, despite the mistakes the White House has now acknowledged and said were being corrected.

A Colorado company said it created 4,231 jobs with the help of Obama's economic recovery plan. The real number: fewer than 1,000.

A child care center in Florida said it saved 129 jobs with the help of stimulus money. Instead, it gave pay raises to its existing employees.

Elsewhere in the U.S., some jobs credited to the stimulus program were counted two, three, four or even more times.

The discrepancy raises questions about the reliability of a key benchmark the administration uses to gauge the success of the stimulus. The errors could be magnified Friday when a much larger round of reports is released. It is expected to show hundreds of thousands of jobs repairing public housing, building schools, repaving highways and keeping teachers on local payrolls.


Obama Signs Hate Crimes Law

Yesterday, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Bird Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

At best, it's a feel-good law that will accomplish nothing.

At worst, it will undermine the division of powers between the states and the national government by federalizing a wide range of violent crimes, further erode the constitutional ban on double jeopardy by inviting serial prosecutions for the same offense, and impinge on freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of religion. The threat to First Amendment rights is twofold: 1) Like other hate crime statutes, the law imposes extra punishment based on defendants' beliefs, and 2) it could be used as an excuse to investigate and/or prosecute people for aiding and abetting hate crimes through provocative speech, including pastors and other people of faith who believe that homosexuality is a sin.


The Cost of Cash for Clunkers has crunched the numbers, and according to their math, the Cash for Clunkers program cost the U.S. taxpayer $24,000 for each new car sold that would not have been sold without the program.

Granted, the math involves some guesswork. Defenders of the program will argue with the way Edmunds calculated the cost by taking out cars sold that would have been sold without the program.

Edmund's argument, and it's a valid one, is that the program was designed to stimulate sales. It was part of the "Stimulus Package," after all. Therefore, any sales that would have been made without the program should count as "Stimulus."

The logic make sense to me. What that means is that most of the cars sold under the program would have been sold whether the "Cash for Clunkers" program had been in place or not. In fact, about 5 out of 6 cars would have been sold anyway. That means that one in 6 cars sold under the program were actually generated by the program and not the need for a new car.

Those numbers are estimates, of course. Nobody can be 100% sure of the actual numbers, but by looking at sales immediately before and immediately after the program, the estimates should be fairly accurate.

The bottom line is that for ever sale generated by the program itself, the cost to the U.S. taxpayer was nearly the cost of a typical new car. They could have just given them away.

. . . And who put these geniuses in charge?


Quote of the Day

File this one under "sarcasm" and "broken promises"....

"I'm watching the whole health care reform debate on C-SPAN, just like he promised during the campaign."

-- An Anonymous Comment on another blog


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quote of the Day

Maybe I'm funny this way, but there's something that bugs me about a guy having sex with a woman, having himself a good time and then, when pregnancy is the result, sticking us with the bill for the abortion. Darn it, we didn't have sex with the woman. He did. What's next? Government funding for guys too poor to afford hookers?

-- Gregory Kane, Columnist


Read the Bill? How about Reading the Constitution?

Recently, Sen. Thomas Carper, D-DE, and Rep. John Conyers, D-MI, scoffed at the idea that they should read the health care legislation working its way through Congress (hey, it's only a matter of life and death). That attitude has inspired the "Read to Vote" campaign--designed to get congressmen to pledge to "read every word of every bill before casting my vote."

Read to Vote's efforts earned them a condescending Washington Post editorial last month, complaining that their proposal "would bring government to a standstill." (Heaven forbid.) "To read all 1,427 pages of Waxman-Markey," the Post fretted, "it would take at least 12 hours -- tough on a tight legislative timeline."

Is reading the cap and trade bill tough? Tough. If you're planning to regulate every industrial process in America, you may have to do some heavy slogging.

True enough, the bills Congress passes have become increasingly impenetrable over the years. In Abraham Lincoln's first State of the Union, he worried about the growing complexity of federal law, but noted that, with a modest effort at revision, "all the acts of Congress now in force [could fit in] one or two volumes of ordinary and convenient size." Today, the Senate Finance Committee's 1,502-page health-care bill would take up more than that much space by itself.

Worse still, most of the actual "law" in this country--the rules that citizens have to follow, at pain of fine or imprisonment--is generated by unelected administrative agencies, which use broad authority delegated by Congress to add over 75,000 new pages to the Federal Register every year.

It's said that the Roman emperor Caligula posted new laws high on the columns of buildings so citizens couldn't read them and figure out how to avoid their penalties. He could have achieved the same effect by covering the country with such a dense thicket of rules that no one could tell what the law commands.

Legend has it that Caligula also made his favorite horse a senator. Considering how lightly most of our legislators take their constitutional obligations, you could probably do worse.

In February 2003, the New York Times reported that both parties had hired lawyers to run seminars for congressmen, explaining the requirements of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law they had just passed. "I didn't realize what all was in it," said Rep. Robert Matsui (D.-CA); "A real education process," echoed Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R.-NY).

If congressmen can't be bothered to read a law that directly affects them, should we be surprised that they're not planning to read the health care bill, which won't?

But, even assuming we could force legislators to read the bills, would that lead to better government? Maybe not. Carper had a point when he said that modern legislative language "is so arcane, so confusing...[that] it really doesn't make much sense."

If congressmen had to read what they passed, they might draft shorter, more comprehensible bills. But one way to do that is by punting yet more lawmaking authority to the permanent bureaucracy, which can then issue its own mammoth set of unintelligible rules. That hardly solves the problem.

A better idea can be found in a resolution recently introduced by Sen. Jim Bunning, R-KY, requiring all new legislation to be posted online for 72 hours before consideration. That could put the distributed intelligence of the web to work, ferreting out the many devils in the details of proposed laws.

However, that's still just treating symptoms. Federal law has become incomprehensible because Congress has inserted itself into every area of American life. As James Madison explained, though, Congress's constitutional powers are "few and defined.... [to be] exercised principally on external objects," like foreign policy and international trade.

It's obvious to anyone who's read the constitution that, like many laws we currently have, the proposed health care reforms are unconstitutional. The problem is that challenging the law would be nearly impossible, and it's unlikely that a challenge would ever reach the Supreme Court.

Read the bills? It's more important for congressmen to read the Constitution. They'll be pleased to learn that it's short and written in plain English.


Obama Adds Public Option to World Series

Obama adds public option to World Series

Examiner Columnist

October 27, 2009

News fairly unbalanced. We report. You decipher.

President Obama today announced his plan to add "choice and competition" to the World Series of Major League Baseball by adding a 'public team' to the traditional end-of-season championship duel.

The president said the public option was needed because the American League champion New York Yankees and National League victors, the Philadelphia Phillies, were "motivated by greed to put their own interests ahead of the interests of the American people."

"Without a public option," said Obama, "you would just see two teams trying to run up the score, without any consideration of the price a ticket to the ballpark, which is out-of-reach for so many Americans."

According to White House officials, the public option team will step in and replace any team that begins to lead its rival by more than two runs during any particular game in the series.

If a previously losing team should begin to run up the score on the public team, then it, too, shall be replaced by players on the public squad so fans can enjoy "reliable, accessible baseball."

"The problem with baseball," Obama said, "is the irrational exuberance spawned by the inherent instability. My plan removes the element of uncertainty, thus reducing the cost of a ticket to the ballpark to a price anyone could afford."

Players on the public team must meet a stringent set of regulations, outlined in a 2,700-page codebook, that ensures the public will get the highest quality of baseball available within the limited resources of the federal government.

If ticket sales should drop off, Obama said, it would trigger a "mandatory attendance provision" which would impose fines on local employers who fail to buy tickets for their employees.

Examiner columnist Scott Ott is editor in chief of, the world's leading family-friendly news satire source.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hydrogen Barackside


Monday, October 26, 2009

Reid Announces Health Care Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just announced that the consolidated Senate health care bill would include a government plan that states would be able to opt out of by 2014.

During an afternoon news conference Reid acknowledged that inclusion of the government plan would likely mean the defection of the lone Republican who has supported this bill, Olympia Snowe. He said he was "disappointed" that the creation of a government plan "frightened" Snowe, but said he hoped she would eventually come back to supporting legislation.

By losing Snowe, Reid is taking a huge gamble that every Democrat in the chamber -- even the handful opposing a government plan -- will stand with him and provide the 60 votes needed to block a Republican filibuster, even if it means that some will ultimately vote against the actual bill.

Reid said he was sending the new proposals to the Congressional Budget Office for evaluation later today, but that he would not be asking them to evaluate a proposal to "trigger" a government plan if certain metrics weren't met, which is the favored approach of Snowe.

The consolidated bill would also allow for the creation of "co-ops," which were once viewed as a substitute for a government plan but would now be offered in addition. The "co-ops" would be non-profit insurers who would enjoy tax exempt status.

Right now, the most likely Democrats to oppose the government plan would be Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, with independent Joe Lieberman being another wildcard. While Sens. Kent Conrad and Max Baucus had also opposed a form of the government plan, they would likely go along with the current bill. Baucus's main objection to a government plan was that it wouldn't get enough votes, but he was in the negotiations with Reid for the past several weeks, so presumably he signed off on the new proposal. And Conrad's main objection was to a government plan based on Medicare rates, which he said would bankrupt hospitals in his state of North Dakota. Presumably, he'd be able to get behind a bill that didn't tie payment rates to Medicare and that would allow North Dakota to opt out.

The big question is whether conservative voters in red states can put enough pressure on the remaining Democratic Senators to make them more afraid of defying their constituents than they are of defying Reid.


Medicare Fraud Blamed on Low Admin Spending

Last night, "60 Minutes" reported on the issue of rampant medicare fraud, and if you haven't seen the stunning report, I urge you to find and watch the video. After investigating the matter, even CBS acknowledged that it raised "troubling questions about our government's ability to manage a medical bureaucracy."

For the story, Steve Kroft traveled down to South Florida, where the Medicare fraud industry has become bigger than the drug trade, and visited a number of so-called clinics that billed millions of dollars to Medicare but were actually empty store fronts. He interviewed a Medicare cheat who stole $20 million from the government before getting caught, who described it as being so easy to steal that it was like "taking candy from a baby." And the show also visited with an elderly woman who in 2003 discovered phony health care charges being paid out in her name by the federal government. Even though she has been reporting these recurring charges to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the past 6 years, no action has been taken by the government to stop the fraudulent payments.

The most relevant moment to our current health care debate came when Kroft asked Kim Brandt, Medicare's director of program integrity, to explain why the government couldn't do anything to prevent the widespread fraud.

"Well, it really does come down to the size and scope of the Medicare program, and the resources that are dedicated to oversight and anti fraud work," Brandt said. "One of our biggest challenges has been that we have a program that pays out over a billion claims a year, over $430 billion, and our oversight budget has been extremely limited."

Liberals keep touting Medicare's low administrative costs relative to the private sector. To start with, those estimates exclude a number of costs that show up elsewhere in the federal budget (office rent, staff salaries, the cost of raising capital through tax collection). But to the extent that the program does have lower administrative costs, the result is far more fraud than exists in the private sector, which is more aggressive about policing claims. Estimates of the amount stolen from the government each year vary from about $60 billion to several hundred billion if you include Medicaid.

That being the case, I would love for someone to explain to me how creating a multi-trillion dollar government insurance boondoggle is going to save us money by cracking down on fraud and abuse.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quote of the Day

David Harsanyi:

"...if this administration can't handle one cable station's opposition, what does that tell the American people about its mettle on issues that matter?"


Popular Mechanics Interview Provides Health Care Perspective

Of all places to find a unique perspective on the health care debate, I was ready a copy of Popular Mechanics (the current issue) over this past weekend. The magazine's Editor-in-chief interviewed inventor Dean Kaman, who invented, among other things, one of the first insulin pumps for diabetic patients.

While I won't record the whole interview, some highlights from that interview confirmed a number of things that I've believed about the health care debate all along. Kaman says that the current debate (from both sides) is completely backwards. Instead of cutting costs of innovation and technology to save costs, we should be spending more on innovation and technology in health care.

PM: Yet health-care costs do keep rising. Is there a point at which we simply can't afford the most advanced treatments?

I think this debate shows a fundamental lack of vision, a lack of confidence, a lack of understanding of what's possible.”

Diabetes alone, if you include all of the long-term, insidious consequences of a lifetime of diabetes, is responsible for about 30 percent of the federal reimbursement for healthcare. Taking care of the diabetic every day is a small piece of it. But what if tomorrow we could wipe out diabetes, suddenly everybody takes a pill and it cures the people that have it, and it inoculates the other people so they'll never have it? Forgetting what a great life that would give people and their families, you take care of 30 percent of what now we project as this insurmountable problem of healthcare, which they project is going to kill us.

Well, it would kill us if we look at the 30-year actuarial data based on our 19th century confidence in technology. But I'm sure in 1920 if you asked actuaries to say what percentage of our GDP are we going to spend taking care of people with polio, they'd say: "They get polio, it goes to their lungs, they sit in iron lung machines, they could live a whole lifetime with three people watching over them. We can't support them all."

But what did it cost to deal with everybody with polio? Oh, $2 apiece. We gave them the Salk vaccine. But in the 1920s Salk wasn't around yet.

PM: So you're saying that rather than trying so much to control costs, we should be encouraging new cures?

Can somebody in this country explain to me why we ought to be spending about twice as much supporting sports as on all of our pharmaceuticals?
Kamen: Every drug that's made is a gift from one generation to the next because, while it may be expensive now, it goes off patent and your kids will have it essentially for free.

Whatever the marketplace, if talented people are given resources they're going to keep driving us to having better, simpler, cheaper solutions to problems. And, by the way, if they come up with a better solution but it can't be cheaper—which, in the beginning, most things aren't—nobody says you have to buy it. If you think this new drug is too expensive, it's not a good deal, we have a crisis, buy the old one. It's a generic now. It's cheap.

You can't look at the problem and say, "I want them to do more, better, faster miracles—and not invest in research, not invest in development, and have those miracles delivered to me free." It's unrealistic. And people know that about most things. They do. Nobody expects that just because they've made computers better they're going to give them to you free.

Kamen: We spent on all pharmaceuticals in the United States last year $260 billion. That means all those vaccinations to prevent diseases, all those pills to treat diseases, all those pills to cure them so we don't have to treat them anymore. We spent in all branches of all our pharmaceutical suppliers, $260 billion.

That's certainly way up from what it was in the early days of the world, but we also spent way more money on computers and other things that didn't exist back then, either, and we don't claim we have a computer crisis. We spent more money on our iPhones last year than we did ten years ago cause there were no iPhones. But let me compare $260 billion to other things. How much did we spend in the United States last year on tobacco? $88 billion. That's a significant piece of 260. It's the reason we spent some of that 260. How much did we spend last year on alcohol? The government doesn't subsidize that, you don't have a right to it, it's discretionary spending and if you were really in trouble you would probably spend a little less on alcohol. We spent $90 billion.

Last year what did we spend in the United States on soft drinks? $121 billion. Nearly half of what we spend on all of our pharmaceuticals, on soft drinks. I'm not against soft drinks—I think you ought to buy all the soft drinks you want.

Last year what did we spend supporting professional sports? $409 billion.

Now if somebody in this country wants to explain to me that we ought to be spending about twice as much supporting sports as on all of our pharmaceuticals, then stop spending. You don't like that drug? You don't want to cure this disease? Don't buy it. But don't make villains out of people so that we can turn what is a real social responsibility issue into a political debate.


About This Blog

This blog is about my opinions and world view.  I am a conservative, evangelical Christian.  Generally speaking, if you post a comment, I'll allow you to express your view.  However, if you say something hateful, untruthful, or just generally something I don't like, I may remove it.

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