The British love their NHS despite a Vast and Growing Number of Patients receiving Horrible Care

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 30th, 2012

Week in Review

At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London the opening ceremonies included a tribute to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).  To show to the world how wonderful it is.  And how much the British love it.  As long as they were not a seriously ill patient in the NHS.  Or had a loved one that was.  Because for these people it’s not the beautiful thing they showed in the opening ceremonies (see The cult of the NHS, flinging flans and the plight of poor old Richard Dawkins by Damian Thompson posted 12/28/2012 on The Telegraph).

Just as light entertainers prance across our screens shrieking about “charidee”, so politicians and churchmen intone their devotion to the NHS, like politburo members singing the praises of the Motherland.

Our health service doesn’t deserve this sycophancy. Or, rather, it deserves better than self-serving rhetoric whose subliminal message is: “Look at me! I lurve the NHS more than you do! I am a good person..!”

Nigel Lawson famously said that the NHS was the closest thing the British had to a national religion. He was right – but we need to ask ourselves why a system of providing health care has become so sanctified. After all, the newspapers have been running stories about dirty wards and patients left to die on trolleys for many years.

We know these stories are true; yet we still applaud when Danny Boyle uses the Olympic ceremony to present a rose-tinted vision of dancing nurses and twirling beds – “Busby Berkeley on the cancer ward,” as my colleague Tim Stanley put it.

The problem is that our health service has passed the point where it can work the magic we demand. As we reported last week, Alexandra Hospital in Redditch has apologised to 38 families for neglect that left dying people screaming in pain and one old lady unwashed for 11 weeks. The staff who taunted patients there aren’t typical of their profession – but neither are the invariably “dedicated” nurses of our imagination.

The average nurse is neither more nor less dedicated than the average accountant. But he or she does face much tougher challenges – specifically, of dealing with more and more very old people whose care is difficult and expensive to manage.

Perhaps at the next Olympics the United States hosts they will have a twirling-bed tribute to Obamacare.  For Obamacare will be similar to the NHS.  And no doubt will soon have patients left dying and screaming in pain and unwashed for 11 weeks.  For if the British have these problems the U.S. will most certainly have them when they follow the British down the path of national health care.  Because both the British and the Americans have aging populations.  Only the Americans will have 5 times those very old people who are difficult and expensive to manage.  As we have 5 times the population Britain has.

Just something to look forward to as Obamacare starts going into effect in January.  In addition to going over the fiscal cliff.  And the resulting recession from those massive tax hikes.  So Happy New Year.  It’ll definitely be a year to remember.  And one we may soon want to forget.

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Exploding Shark Tank a Sign of the Failings of a State-Controlled Economy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 30th, 2012

Week in Review

The Left loves China.  Where there is no laissez-faire capitalism.  What they have is state-capitalism.  Where the Chinese communist government calls all the economic shots.  The American Left likes that.  And would like to have that in the United States.  Because they believe government makes everything better.  Even a government with a horrific human rights record.  Who uses prisoners in labor camps to manufacture goods for export.  Or underpaid and overworked migrant labor in the big city factories.  Where there are no unions to collective bargain for the Chinese worker.  Just the Chinese communist government giving orders and enforcing their workplace rules.  So what kind of quality do you get from people working under the lash (literally and figuratively)?  Well, you get high-speed train accidents.  And a lot of little things like this (see Shark Tank Bursts at Mall posted 12/27/2012 on ABC News).

The dramatic just-released video shows four people standing immediately in front the gigantic 23 ft-by-10 ft shark aquarium at the Oriental Shopping Center moments before it shattered. Pedestrians could be seen passing by behind them…

The video shows that the force of the explosion was so strong, it tore down cosmetic stands inside the shopping center on the other side of aquarium.

The December 19 explosion left 15 bystanders injured and three sharks dead…

There is still no official explanation as to why the shark tank exploded. The popular shark tank was only two years old but it has been speculated that a sudden cold snap that day in Shanghai may have contributed to thick aquarium glass shattering.

In a state-planned economy (like the Chinese have) the state sets standards and quality controls.  Not the market.  Aquariums don’t explode like this in a market economy because an aquarium installer couldn’t stay in business if their installed aquariums exploded.  But the state can.  Because in a state-controlled economy there aren’t competitors out there trying to sell a better aquarium installation at a lower price.  Which puts pressures on all installers to improve quality while lowering prices.  Something that just doesn’t happen in a state-controlled economy like in China.  So high-speed trains crash.  Aquariums explode.  And people who are under the persecution of the Chinese Communist Party Government write notes of their oppression and slip it into the goods they manufacture under the lash.

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Japan clings to the same Keynesian Policies that have Failed for over 20 Years

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 30th, 2012

Week in Review

The fiscal cliff negotiations are all about deficit reduction.  The Right wants to do it with spending cuts.   The Left wants to do it with new taxes.  So they can spend more.  This is why they can’t reach an agreement.  The Right wants to reduce the deficit.  While the Left wants to increase spending.  For benefits.  For education.  For investments in Green Energy.  For infrastructure.  For economic stimulus.  Which will only increase the deficit.  So the Democrats are not exactly sincere when they talk about deficit reduction.  Which is why they can’t make a deal with the Republicans.  Who are serious when they talk about deficit reduction.

Another reason why the Democrats want to spend so much money is that they are Keynesians.  Who believe the government can bring an economy out of a recession with stimulus spending.  Despite that failing every time we’ve tried it.  In the United States in the Seventies.  Again during the Obama administration.  In the Eurozone.  In Asia.  Especially in Japan.  Where they’ve been trying to stimulate themselves out of a recession since their Lost Decade.  The Nineties (see Japan’s New Stimulus: The Race With China To The Bottom by Gordon G. Chang posted 12/30/2012 on Forbes).

The universal consensus is that the fall in manufacturing bolsters the case for Shinzo Abe’s plans to stimulate the economy.  The new prime minister is pursuing a broad-based program of shocking Japan out of its fourth contraction since the turn of the century.

First, Abe is going to prime the pump in a big way…

Second, Abe is going to push the yen down to help struggling exporters…

Third, the just-installed prime minister is leaning on the Bank of Japan to open up the taps…

Markets may love Abe’s stimulus solutions, but they are at best short-term fixes.  Tokyo, after all, has tried them all before with generally unsatisfactory results.  What Japan needs is not another paved-over riverbed—past spending programs have resulted in useless infrastructure—but structural reform to increase the country’s competitiveness.

Tokyo’s political elite, unfortunately, has got hooked on the false notion that governments can create enduring prosperity.  Two decades of recession and recession-like stagnation in Japan are proof that repeated government intervention in the economy does not in fact work.

If you keep trying to stimulate yourself out of a recession with Keynesian policies for over twenty years perhaps it’s time to give up on those failed policies.  Of course to do that may require some spending and tax cuts.  And you know how well that goes over with big government types.  It’s why the Americans can’t make a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.  And why the Japanese are going to try more of the same failed policies of the past.

Another impetus for these bad policies decisions is what’s happening in China.  Whose economy is much younger than Japan’s economy.  So they don’t have years of failed Keynesian policies digging their economy into a deep hole.  And because of that they’re going to go big.  Their stimulus is going to include the building of cities.  And that’s what the Japanese see.  That, and the (one time) economic explosion of their export economy.  Something they once had in Japan.  And would love to have again.  So they are going to follow China’s lead.  Even though their economic expansion is pretty much at its end.

Although there has been a “recovery” beginning in October, it looks like the upturn is already running out of steam.  China’s technocrats know they’re in trouble: they are apparently planning to increase the central government’s planned deficit for 2013 by 41% to 1.2 trillion yuan ($192 billion).  At present, it is now slated to be only 850 billion yuan.  Much of the shortfall is going toward an urbanization push next year.  Last year, Beijing announced its intention to build 20 new cities a year in each of the following 20 years.

The two biggest economies in Asia are ailing at the same time, and both Beijing and Tokyo have decided that government intervention is the shortest path to long-term growth.  Neither government’s program, however, looks viable.  Unfortunately, both China and Japan are going down the wrong road at the same time.

This could help the U.S. economy.  If they enacted spending cuts for their deficit reduction they could cut tax rates to spur the economy along.  And make the U.S. competitiveness soar while Japan and China dig themselves into deeper holes.  But the Americans, being the foolish Keynesians they are, are going to follow the Japanese and the Chinese into economic stagnation.  And with President Obama’s reelection they will stay Keynesian.  Drive over the fiscal cliff.  And compete with the Japanese to see who can have more lost decades

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Keynesian Economics and Liberal Democrat Policies increase the Cost of Raising Children

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 30th, 2012

Week in Review

A generation or two ago people got married to raise a family.  The husband typically earned the money.  And the wife raised the family.  On a single salary.  A time when most children grew up in a two-parent household.  Where boys grew up playing with toy guns.  But never took a real one to school.  Today it’s a lot harder to raise a family on a single income (see Cost of Raising a Child Up to $235K—Before College by Chris Wadsworth, special to USA TODAY, posted 12/24/2012 on CNBC).

According to the latest statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, parents will spend an average of $235,000 to raise a child born in 2011 to the age of 17. (And that’s not taking into account any savings for college).

Housing, food, clothing, health care, child care, schooling … the list of compulsory expenses goes on and on. Discretionary spending such as family vacations, birthday gifts, music lessons and the like are mostly extra…

The greatest share of these expenses is housing, which is 30 percent of the total. It’s followed closely by child care and education at 18 percent and food at 16 percent…

“Our day care expense for just our older son was over $1,000 a month,” Sutton says. “If we had put our younger son in day care as well, it would have been about $2,200 a month. That was more than our mortgage payment.”

We hear this all of the time.  But we never really hear the why.  Why is it that it takes two incomes to raise a family these days?  Forcing parents to pay so much for day care that they could buy another house with that money.  Why that house expense is so expensive.  And why education and food costs so much.  So let’s look at the why.  And here’s why.  Keynesian economics.  And liberal Democrats.

Liberal Democrats champion Keynesian economics as it sanctions what they want to do most.  Tax, borrow, print and spend.  When Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold the great devaluing of the dollar began.  In 2012 it took $8.21 to buy what $1 would by in 1955.  A $15,000 house in 1955 would cost about $127,000 today.  So that’s part of the reason why housing is so expensive.  The other reason is that Keynesian monetary policy.  Where the Federal Reserve (America’s central bank) kept interest rates artificially low to encourage people to buy houses.  Which they did.  In droves.  Driving up the price of housing.  Creating housing bubbles.  The last one bursting into the subprime mortgage crisis.  Giving us the Great Recession.

But it’s just not the Federal Reserve devaluing the dollar.  Gasoline cost about $0.23/gallon in 1955.  If you adjust that for inflation it would bring it up to $1.89 today.  At the end of summer 2012 the average gasoline price was $3.72/gallon.  Which is a $1.83 premium over the inflation-adjusted price.  A 96.8% increase in price.  What caused this near doubling in price?  Well, the American Left has shut down a lot of oil drilling due to environmental issues.  Raising the cost of crude oil.  Which increased the cost of gasoline refined from that crude oil.  Further, new environmental regulations have increased the cost of refining.  Requiring a plethora of blends depending on the time of year.  Further increasing the price of gasoline.

Higher gasoline prices make everything more expensive wherever gasoline is used.  On the farm.  The transportation from the farm to the food processor.  Transportation from the food processor to the food wholesaler.  Transportation from the food wholesaler to the food retailer.  Transportation from the family home to the grocery store and back.  High gasoline prices raise prices everywhere.  And consume more of the family budget.

Education is the one industry no one every blames those in control of the industry for being greedy.  No one every blames our universities for their high tuition fees.  They blame the taxpayers who don’t approve higher taxes to subsidize the high cost of education.  Which is high due to very generous pay and benefit packages for teachers, professors, administrators and support personnel.  Much more generous than those found in the private sector.  Why do they get away with this when liberal Democrats attack business owners for being greedy?  Because business owners don’t have as their primary mission to produce Democrat voters.

So what is increasing the cost of raising children so much?  Liberal Democrat policies.  They depreciate the currency, inflate the cost of housing (and cause Great Recessions), add huge regulatory costs that increase prices throughout the supply chain and create and protect a privileged class.  Consuming more and more of the family budget.  Making it ever more costly to raise children.

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Unions lose Members as they Spend Millions in Union Dues on Liberal Candidates and Causes

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 30th, 2012

Week in Review

The past few years haven’t been great for organized labor.  They’ve spent a fortune in union dues to win President Obama’s reelection.  But though they won that battle they may be losing the war (see Spending large sums in state labor battles adds to unions’ problem of losing members by FOX News/AP posted 12/23/2012 on FOX News).

Unions represented roughly 30 percent of the country’s workforce in the early 1980s, when the federal government started tracking those numbers, but they now represent 11.8 percent.

The declining numbers are in part the result of the country’s shrinking manufacturing sector, but the situation has been compounded by recent efforts in Michigan and Wisconsin to limit unions’ power.

Unions had already spent roughly $22 million in Michigan on a failed November ballot issue regarding collective bargaining, before Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation this month that stops unions from making workers pay dues or representation fees to keep their jobs…

They also spent more than $20 million in Wisconsin to remove Republican Gov. Scott Walker this year in a recall election after he signed 2011 legislation stripping most public employees of much of their collective-bargaining power, but Walker still won that election.

The unions also spent roughly $24 million last year in Ohio to overturn an anti-union measure.

But unions spent more in California this year to defeat a ballot measure that would curb dues collection than they did total on political efforts in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

James Sherk, a labor expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, estimates Michigan unions, including United Auto Workers, will lose an additional $100 million annually as a result of the changes and members leaving.

Workers have already “left unions in droves in Wisconsin, Idaho and Oklahoma,” he said.

If you do the math that adds up to $66 million for Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.  Double that to add in California and that brings it up to $132 million.  Throwing in the estimated $400 million in the 2012 elections that brings the total up to $532 million.

That’s half a billion in union dues they spent for political purposes.  Perhaps explaining why workers are leaving the unions in droves where they can.  Especially when the American people identified themselves at the end of 2011 as 40% conservative, 35% moderate and 21% liberal (see Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S. by Lydia Saad posted 1/12/2012 on Gallup).  As a lot of those union dues go to support liberal candidates and liberal causes they no doubt bothered the 79% of the population that isn’t liberal.  Especially those paying those dues.

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