High Prices in Canada sends Canadians South of the Border to do their Shopping

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 18th, 2012

Week in Review

The Canadians are running south of the border for a better deal.  Much to the chagrin of local businesses stuck on the wrong side of the border with their higher costs (see Canadians outraged at attack on cross-border shoppers posted 8/15/2012 on 24 HOURS).

Annoyed at parking problems and long lineups at the stateside Costco, some residents there have set up a Facebook page calling for American-only hours when they can shop Canadian-free…

A Vancouver man who runs a website offering comparison prices, said lower prices and parity in the dollar still sends many bargain hunters south of the border. Cross-border shopping has also likely been spurred by Ottawa’s June increase on the amount Canadians can spend without paying duty (although day-trips are excluded…)

“We shop regularly in the states, especially for groceries. I can advise that organic goods are pretty much the same cost as regular goods,” said crossbordershopping webmaster Henry Tenby. “On average, you’re looking at saving about 50 per cent in terms of groceries…”

Shafiq Jamal of the Retail Council of Canada said local businesses are suffering and urged Canadians to keep their dollars at home.

A 50% savings on groceries when the exchange rate between Canadian and U.S dollars is almost 1 for 1?  That doesn’t leave much for the price difference between Canada and the U.S.  Other than taxes.  If the same food is 50% cheaper south of the border there is a reason for that.  Higher property taxes?  Higher business taxes?   A value added tax (VAT)?  Import tariffs?  A national health care tax?  A combination of all of the above?  It’s something.  And whatever it is the Canadian people don’t like it.  As they express their dislike by going south of the border to buy things they feel are more fairly priced.

There is nothing more irritating than having a Canadian friend that constantly badmouths the U.S. while he and most Canadians living near the border high-tail it south to do their shopping.  For they love their country.  But not enough to shop in it.

Canada is a great country.  Sired like the U.S. by a great country.  Britain.  But Britain is close to Europe.  And their social democracies.  And that contagion has infected her.  And it has drifted across the Atlantic to infect Canada.  Even the U.S.  Big government nanny state spending.  That requires a lot of taxation to support.  And forces people south of the border.  But that may not last.  For as the Americans catch up to the Canadians and the British nanny states their taxes will rise bringing parity to prices of their consumer goods.  Which is the only way to fix the problems in a social democracy.  By bringing other countries down to their level of economic misery.  For to have socialism succeed you can’t let anyone escape its oppressive utopia.

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Australia’s First Attempt at digitizing Health Records off to a Poor Start

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 18th, 2012

Week in Review

For a glimpse into the world of Obamacare consider the digitizing of health records in Australia (see Cool response to online health record scheme by Fran Molloy posted 8/14/2012 on The Sydney Morning Herald).

Despite more than 15,000 patients having consented to a shared e-health record in one Brisbane test area alone, only 5000 people have registered with the federal government’s eHealth scheme nationally…

The Queensland initiative was one of three national wave sites trialling the new health record system since February 2011.

Australians attempting to register online have met with a cumbersome process, which requires several clicks and a redirection to the Australia.gov.au website before the registration process can begin…

Sydney IT worker Garry Stevens last week detailed his experience in a letter to the Health Minister, in which he called the registration site a masterpiece of incompetence with interface issues including browser incompatibility, punctuation problems and irritating time-outs.

How many times did the Obama administration say that digital medical records would solve most of the problems in the health care industry?  I don’t have the exact number but it was somewhere around a lot.  And it’s a big part of Obamacare.  There is only one problem.  The organization trying to bring the health care industry into the modern era is the same organization that has left it in the old era.  Somehow trusting the people who have done such a poor job of maintaining records to modernize these same records doesn’t fill one with a whole lot of confidence.  Which is why a lot of Australians are not signing up for this program.

And then there’s the matter of security.  I mean, how many people are going to trust these people with putting their most private and sensitive information on line when they can’t get the little things right?  Like punctuation?  Or browser compatibility?  You just know that there is some kid out there that will be able to easily hack their system.  Or some political operative trying to dig up some dirt on a political opponent.  Worse, they’ll probably not even know if they were hacked.  Well, a politician will know when his or her sexually transmitted disease becomes public.  Should they have one.

And what do we gain from this?  Not much.  Other than a more impersonalized health care system.  Where doctors will spend less time with their patients.  As they use their computer systems to process more patients per hour.  To improve efficiency.  And cut costs.  Because time is money.  And talking to patients just wastes time.

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With Further Escalating Train Fares it may be Cheaper to Drive in Britain than to Take the Train

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 18th, 2012

Week in Review

Britain privatized their trains in the Nineties.  But they still have to subsidize them.  Despite incredibly high rail fares (see Rail commuters face ‘Great Train Robbery’ as fares rocket by up to 11% with some season tickets costing £6,000 by Ray Massey posted 8/14/2012 on the Daily Mail).

Rail passengers face fare rises of up to 11 per cent next year after a higher-than-expected jump in the inflation rate.

The increases will add hundreds of pounds to annual season tickets, with some commuters seeing season ticket fares to London crash through the £6,000 barrier.

And there is no end in sight to the inflation-busting hikes, as ministers admitted they will continue every year until at least 2015.

Train company bosses, whose firms will pocket much of the extra cash, passed the buck by insisting it was not their decision to hike the fares – it was government policy.

From next January 1, train firms can raise their ‘regulated’ fares – which include rush-hour commuter travel, season tickets and off-peak fares – by three percentage points more than the RPI inflation figure for July, which was revealed yesterday as 3.2 per cent.

That means commuter and other ‘regulated’ fares will be allowed to rise by 6.2 per cent…

But passenger groups, campaigners and unions said it was a ‘rip-off’ and yet another ‘Great Train Robbery’ that would benefit only rail bosses and their bonus pots at the expense of hard-pressed travellers and commuters…

By 2015 the annual cost of commuting to London from Birmingham will have soared from £9,004 to £10,663, which accounts for 28 per cent of the average London salary, says the campaign group.

That’s a lot of money, £10,663.  Based on today’s exchange rate that comes to about $16,741 US.  Or about $321.94 each week.  So how much gas would that buy?  A lot.  Who pumps $321.94 of gas into their tank each work week (5 days)?  I’m guessing not many.  If we did what would that get us?  Well, let’s make a few assumptions.  If gas was $6/gallon that would get us 53.7 gallons of gasoline.  Or as they say on the other side of the pond, petrol.  If you’re driving something shoe boxy like they do in Europe that gets 35 miles per gallon on the highway that would let you travel 1,878 miles each work week.  Or 376 miles each work day.  Or 188 miles one way.  And another 188 miles back home.  So how far are Birmingham and London from each other?  Approximately 120 miles.  Which means ‘saving money’ by using mass transit will cost more than driving a car.  As you can drive a distance three times longer for the same cost as the train.

The above figures don’t even take into account government subsidies.  So on top of these incredible rail fares are government subsides.  Making passenger rail even less of a bargain.

Trains are simply not the bargain people claim them to be.  Other than hauling heavy freight.  Where only a ship can compete with them.  But passenger rail?  It’s a money loser.  Requiring heavy government support.  Or astronomically high passenger fares.  Or both.  Why are they so expensive?  Because they require so much infrastructure.  And enormous amounts of people to make them work.  Which is why in the transportation industry they are least affected by spikes in fuel costs.  Because unlike trucking, bussing and flying, fuel is not their greatest expense.  Because everything else costs so much more than fuel.

This is something to keep in mind whenever politicians talk about building passenger rail.  Especially high-speed rail.  Very few of these can pay for themselves.  Freight railroads can operate at a profit for they are the best alternative to transporting heavy freight.  But when it comes to transporting passengers there is always a better alternative.  And a more cost efficient alternative.  From flying to driving to taking the bus.

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Obamacare caused Economic Uncertainty that Retarded Job Growth which may cause Heart Disease and Cancer

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 18th, 2012

Week in Review

President Obama got it wrong.  In trying to make Americans healthier he has made them sicker.  Because his policies have destroyed the economy.  Small business owners are so confused about what Obamacare will do to them that they won’t hire anyone unless they absolutely have to.  Jobs are scarce and people aren’t spending for fear that they, too, will lose their job.   It turns out making Obamacare a priority in his first two years was a big mistake.  Not only for the economy.  But for our own wellbeing.  For laughter may be the best medicine.  But a job appears to be the best preventative medicine there is (see Health Suffering In Austerity Britain by Thomas Moore posted 8/14/2012 on Sky News).

The economic downturn is having a significant impact on the nation’s health, according to a survey of GPs.

The research shows 17% of family doctors report more women are requesting abortions for financial reasons, while 77% have seen more patients seeking medical help for anxiety disorders.

Nearly two-thirds of the GPs said their patients are drinking more to cope. A total of 60% have given up sports activities because of financial hardship.

The survey of 300 GPs by the Insight Research Group found 76% said their patients were becoming unhealthier because of the economic climate…

“Heart disease and even cancer are linked to unemployment. So the more people we can keep in work – and keep in work healthily – means we will have a healthier nation in future.”

It is rather ironic.  To make Americans healthier he championed Obamacare into to law.  Which will provide health care for everyone.  Whether they want it or not.  But in the process the president tanked the economy.  Which will make people sicker.  Stressing the health care system.  Calling for cost savings and rationing of health care services at exactly the same time more people are getting sick.  Whereas if he didn’t champion Obamacare into law the recession may not have become the Great Recession.  And the recession may have already ended.  With unemployment falling.  And people finding jobs.  That either provide health insurance.  Or at least provide income for people so they don’t have to abort their babies, give up their sports activities, suffer anxiety, eat poorly or become drunks.  Thus avoiding the costly treatments of heart disease and cancer.

So president Obama’s policies are not only bad for the economy.  They may be bad for our health.  Further reason to repeal Obamacare.  Before it can do any more harm.

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President Obama’s EPA Policies are Causing High Food Prices and Global Hunger

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 18th, 2012

Week in Review

President Obama says he cares for poor people.  But his actions clearly show that unless there’s something in it for him he doesn’t care for poor people.  Even if they are going hungry (see White House offers drought relief, feels heat to waive ethanol mandate by John W. Schoen, NBC News, posted 8/13/2012 on Economy Watch).

President Barack Obama announced emergency measures Monday to ease the impact of the worst drought in half a century, but stopped short of waiving the government’s requirement that a large portion of the now-shriveled corn crop be diverted to make ethanol…

As the lowest yields in nearly two decades squeeze feed supplies, livestock producers are asking the government to waive a five-year-old requirement that gasoline sold in the U.S. contain roughly 9 percent ethanol. Because most ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn, roughly 40 percent of the corn crop, in a good year, is purchased by the biofuel industry…

With the rest of the world’s food chain already strained, the competition for each kernel of corn is going global. Last week, a United Nations food index jumped 6 percent, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization warned against the kind of export bans, tariffs and buying binges that worsened the price surge four years ago. The U.N. food agency stepped up the pressure on the U.S. to ease its biofuel policies…

Ethanol production had already begun slowing before this summer’s drought, as fuel suppliers have approached the limit of demand for the biofuel. Though higher concentrations are sold in a few stations, most gasoline formulated with ethanol is limited to a 10 percent blend.

Cutting production, though, could produce a bigger political backlash from another key contingency in an election year: American drivers. Since other additives have been phased out over the past five years, gasoline refiners have overhauled their plants and rely on ethanol to produce high-octane fuel that burns cleanly enough to meet air quality standards.

Save the planet.  Kill the people.

You know food prices are rising when the UN is asking the U.S. to ease its biofuel policies.  These are, after all, the same people pushing for economy-destroying environmental policies on the entire world.  Particularly on the advanced economies of the world.  So this food crisis is serious.  Which is why they are urging President Obama to stop using 40% of the corn crop for fuel.  And to use this food as food instead.  To save starving children in the less economically advanced parts of the world.  But President Obama’s answer?  “No.”  Why?  Does he not care for the starving children of the world?  Apparently not.  For he apparently cares more about the campaign donations from the ethanol lobby.

President Obama has shown he has no problem using executive orders to overrule the Constitution.  So he clearly could use his executive powers to change policies he has the legal authority to change.  Such as relaxing his EPA requirements during this hot and dry summer.  Let the cars pollute for a year until this crisis ends.  Then he can re-cripple the economy with his punishing EPA requirements later.  He can do it by executive order.  But he won’t.  Because the ethanol lobby is too well connected.  Besides a lot of his rich Hollywood contributors are all environmentalists who will never have a problem putting food on their tables.  But they will have a problem putting campaign cash on President Obama’s table if he rescinds any environmental policies.  So people will starve.  So the president can please his cash-contributing friends.

Never before has one man caused so much suffering to so many for the benefit of so few.  Well, actually, there have been a lot of people who have done this.  But they were usually warmongering dictators.  Not the leader of the free world.  Which makes this especially sad.  Unlike his republican rival for the presidency this fall, our president clearly takes care of his rich friends while poor people suffer in the United States from high food prices.  And poorer people throughout the world suffer hunger.  Because of President Obama’s EPA policies.  Something that even the UN says are harmful to poor people everywhere.  And is begging the president to stop willfully hurting these people.

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Canada may have National Health Care but they don’t Pay for all Life-Saving Drugs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 18th, 2012

Week in Review

You ever go to a microbrewery?  Where they will have numerous homebrewed beers to try?  Brew masters can create new flavors and tweak them until they find special ones people love.  And then they sell them.  Pretty simple.  Unlike bringing new life saving drugs to market.

Making new drugs is a costly endeavor.  It takes a lot of research.  A lot of pouring through data.  Studying how disease develops in the body.  Looking for things.  Thinking about things.  Hypothesizing about things.  Resulting in a proposed new drug.  Then experimentation.  Figuring out dosages.  Looking for side effects.  Adjusting chemical formulas.  The few promising ideas advance forward.  While the majority become discarded dead-ends.  After a lot of time human trials begin.  Where more times than not a brilliant idea fails to show a positive result.  And the drug is abandoned.  The tiny few that do show promise make it to the next level.  And eventually to FDA approval.  For some usages.  A new cancer drug may be approved for one or two types of cancer.  Providing a very limited market to recoup all those sunk costs.  So these new drugs carry high price tags.  Some drugs may receive FDA approval for other uses.  Some uses may lose their FDA approval as the drug may not show enough benefit to justify the cost.  Or the side effects.  Making it very difficult to recover costs on some drugs.  As well as funding new research and development on other drugs.

Developing new drugs is costly.  It takes enormous amounts of capital.  And time.  That someone has to pay for.  Even in countries with national health care systems.  Even in America under Obamacare.  For they may tax everyone to pay for health care.  But they must rely on others to make everything that’s good in those health care systems.  Especially those life-saving drugs (see Saint John man struggles to pay for cancer drug posted 8/13/2012 on CBC News).

A Saint John man and his family are struggling to figure out how they will pay for an expensive cancer drug that could prolong his life…

But the drug will cost $10,600 a month and it is not covered by the provincial government…

The couple appealed to the Department of Health for financial help to pay for the drug. But the provincial government also refused…

The New Brunswick government announced in 2009 that it would cover Avastin under the provincial drug program for people with metastatic colorectal cancer.

The Saint John man has a brain tumor.  While New Brunswick will authorize payment for Avastin for metastatic colorectal cancer it will not authorize payment for its use to treat brain tumors.  Because so far Avastin has not shown the same positive results in treating brain tumors that it has in treating metastatic colorectal cancer.  Provincial budgets are limited.  As they are at health insurance companies.  If they spend enormous amounts of money on treatments that offer a minimal chance of success they can’t spend that money on treatments that show far greater chances of success.  Meaning that overall more people will go without treatment.  And overall survival rates will fall.

There really is nothing more heart wrenching to know that there is a drug out there that may help but its cost puts it out of reach.  But it is important to understand what it took to get that drug to this level.  A drug company may have spent money developing it for 10 years or more before seeing a dime in revenue.  Contrary to popular belief, these drug companies aren’t evil corporations.  People work at these drug companies.  And as noble as it may be they can’t work without pay for 10 years.  Especially when a lot of their employees have PhDs with enormous student loan debt.  So the drug companies borrow a lot of money and take a lot of risks.  Even the successful ones that show fantastic profits can lose everything in one class-action lawsuit.

So there are great profits because there are great costs.  And great risks.  Which no one would take if there wasn’t a chance for great profits.  Which is why there is so much research and development at these drug companies.  Because we will reward the one that finds a cure for cancer with great profits.  Which is what we want.  Because we want their drugs.  The more they bring to market the better our treatment options.  And the more treatment options there are the quicker we’ll find those life saving-drugs.  That are so successful in treating patients that everyone will authorize payment for them.  Without worrying that doing so will cause other people to die.

Canada may have a national health care system but that doesn’t change this fact.  Nothing is free.  And taxpayers’ pockets just aren’t deep enough to provide the Utopian health care system people think of when they think of national health care.  It’s often not what people living outside these systems think they are.  They have real budgets.  Long waiting times.  Rationing of services.  And treatments.  As the Avastin drug clearly shows in Saint John.  And the more people a national system covers the worst it will be.  Because on top of everything else there will be a great health care bureaucracy pulling even more limited funds out of the health care system.  Where Obamacare will be the worst of them all.  Because of the advanced nations America has the greatest population of them all.  And will have the greatest number patients of them all.

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