The Quality of your Health Care in the NHS Depends on Where you Live

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 12th, 2013

Week in Review

Obamacare was about providing affordable health care to everyone.  Not just to those who could afford it.  So the quality of your health care does not depend on the size of your paycheck.  Or the size of your trust.  A noble goal.  But will it work?  The odds are not good.  For the UK has the National Health Service (NHS).  Where the NHS just doesn’t make health care affordable.  It gives it away to each and every citizen.  But even the NHS can’t ensure the quality of everyone’s health care does not depend on the size of their paycheck.  Or the size of their trust (see Asthma hospital admission rates vary ‘alarmingly’ posted 5/6/2013 on BBC News Health).

There are “alarming variations” in the number of people with asthma admitted to hospital in an emergency, depending on where they live, says Asthma UK…

The figures, from the NHS Atlas of Variation: Respiratory Disease, show that the highest rate of adult emergency hospital admissions for the disease in England – 193 per 100,000 of population – was found in the London borough of Newham.

That rate was over six times higher than in Bromley, in London, at 30 per 100,000 people.

In children, aged up to 17 years, the disparity between a rate of 732.6 in Liverpool and 38.7 in Tower Hamlets was even greater…

“Quality of asthma care is of paramount importance – we estimate that 75% of hospital admissions could be prevented with the right care and management.

And to put this more into human terms.

Shannon Batt-Hilliard was diagnosed with asthma when she was a young child, living in Kent.

When she was five, the family moved to Northampton – and that’s when her mother Glynnis realised how sub-standard her daughter’s care had been.

“The difference was unbelievable. Until that point Shannon had never been given an inhaler and we’d received no care or support following her asthma attacks.

“Once we were in Northampton, she was put on nebulisers, given an inhaler and referred to an asthma nurse.

“The doctors were far more attentive and were keen to help improve and manage her asthma.

“For us as a family, relocating was the best thing we could have done health wise.”

Not exactly what one would expect under a national health service.  One would expect they would have what the Democrats in the United States say Obamacare will deliver.  The same quality of health care no matter one’s economic station.  But it’s not the case in the UK.  For the NHS can NOT deliver the same quality of health care to all its citizens.  Clearly if you live in a better part of town you get a better quality of health care.  The way it was in the U.S. before Obamacare.  And based on the experience of the NHS, the way it will be under Obamacare.  Only we’ll be paying more to get the same level of health care we once got.  That is if we’re lucky enough to keep the same level of quality we once had.

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South Koreans caught Cheating on SATs may lead to more Worthless Liberal Arts Degrees in U.S.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 12th, 2013

Week in Review

U.S. high-tech companies have trouble finding qualified applicants to hire.  So a lot of them turn to the H-1B visa.  To bring in highly skilled foreign workers.  Those with science and engineering degrees.  And good GPAs.  So the H-1B visa is a valuable commodity.  As they only allow so many H-1B visas a year.  The current limit is 65,000.  Making high-tech companies jockey for the limited number of highly-skilled foreign workers allowed into the country.

So despite a high unemployment rate there is a high demand for college graduates with degrees in science and engineering.  Which causes a lot of foreign high school graduates to take the SAT exam in hopes of going to an American university.  So they can get one of those high-paying tech jobs.  And some appear to want that a little more than others (see For the First Time, SAT Test Gets Canceled in an Entire Country by Kayla Webley posted 5/10/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Some 1,500 South Korean students who dream of attending elite American colleges are scrambling after the U.S.-based administrator of the SAT cancelled the scheduled May 4 session of the exam due to allegations of widespread cheating. It’s the first time the SAT test has been called off in an entire country…

Test center managers told the WSJ that the problem is widespread and that official test booklets can be purchased from brokers for about $4,575—a relatively small price to pay for families fighting to gain admittance to Harvard, Stanford and other prestigious American schools no matter the cost…

But South Korea is hardly alone—the high stakes nature of the exam has fueled cheating elsewhere, although on a smaller scale. Of the nearly three million SAT exams taken worldwide each year, at least a few thousand are canceled because of suspected cheating. Several hundred other potential test takers are turned away at the door each year because of questionable identification. In 2011, 20 students in Long Island, New York were charged with cheating on the SAT—five were accused of taking the test for others and 15 were accused of paying them $500 to $3,600 to take the exams.

The College Board and ETS say they expects to be able to offer the SAT in South Korea in June, but in the meantime, and out of fear of additional problems, there have been reports of students flying to Japan and Hong Kong to take the test there in order to get their scores in time to apply for college in the U.S. this summer.

This no doubt greatly disappoints those American high-tech companies.  To have such widespread cheating caught like that.  “Why?” they probably cried, “did these kids have to get caught?”  You see, they want these kids to get into the American universities.  For they will take the hard classes and study.  Not only to get good grades but to become intimate with the material.  Unlike too many American kids entering American Universities (see Only 150 of 3500 U.S. Colleges Are Worth the Investment: Former Secretary of Education by Lauren Lyster posted 5/7/2013 on Yahoo! Finance).

The U.S. is home to some of the greatest colleges and universities in the world. But with the student debt load at more than $1 trillion and youth unemployment elevated, when assessing the value of a college education, that’s only one part of the story.

Former Secretary of Education William Bennett, author of Is College Worth It, sat down with The Daily Ticker on the sidelines of the Milken Institute’s 2013 Global Conference to talk about whether college is worth it.

“We have about 21 million people in higher education, and about half the people who start four year colleges don’t finish,” Bennett tells The Daily Ticker. “Those who do finish, who graduated in 2011 – half were either unemployed or radically underemployed and in debt…”

The problem, Bennett says, is people going to second-tier schools, majoring in less-marketable liberal arts fields, and taking on debt to do so.

And now you see why high-tech companies are so desperate for those H-1B visas.  Too many American kids go to college to party.  Even choosing their school by where they rank as a party school.  All play and no work leads to, of course, about half of those enrolling in a 4-year program failing to graduate.  And too many of those who do graduate majored in the liberal arts.  Which is of no use to a high-tech company.  Leaving them to rely more on the H-1B visa.  And kids who can cheat better on their SATs.  Because these kids will not only enter and finish a 4-year program.  But they will graduate with a degree in science or engineering.  For no parents in a foreign country are going to spend that kind of money to get their kid into a 4-year college just so they can have a good time and come back home to live in their basement.

In America some are questioning if college is worth it.  While in South Korea they will do just about anything to get into an American University.  Because unlike many of their American counterparts they will make going to college well worth it.  As they land one of those high-paying jobs high-tech companies are so desperate to fill.

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President Obama is OK with Food Assistance for Illegal Immigrants but wanted to charge Legal Border Crossers a Toll

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 12th, 2013

Week in Review

Does the Obama administration have a spending problem?  Or a revenue problem?  Well, according to an article in the Examiner, since Obama has been president the food stamp program (SNAP) has “increased at 10 times the rate of job creation, the annual spending on SNAP has doubled, and one in seven Americans now participates in SNAP.”   The USDA even sent a Spanish-language flyer to the Mexican Embassy “advising Mexicans in the U.S. that they do not need to declare their immigration status in order to receive financial assistance.”

The Obama administration is giving away so much food assistance that the treasury will soon be unable to borrow money fast enough to pay for it.  Showing a real spending problem.  And a love for illegal immigrants living in the country.  Or who would like to live in the country.  Basically throwing open our southern border.  While at the same time President Obama wants to make Mexicans and Canadians crossing the border legally pay a toll (see U.S. Senate nixes planned U.S.-Canada border tolls by Paul Koring posted 5/10/2013 on The Globe and Mail).

Obama administration plans to impose a toll on land travellers crossing the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico were scrapped Thursday.

The proposed toll, which sparked angry responses on both sides of the borders, was blocked in a rare show of bipartisan unanimity by Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate…

It effectively killed a Homeland Security suggestion contained in Mr. Obama’s proposed budget that tolls on pedestrian and vehicular traffic crossing the Canada-U.S. and Mexico-U.S. borders be considered as a means of raising revenues for the cash-strapped federal government.

When the president wants to make people pay for the privilege of crossing our border to spend their money in our economy it’s time to admit you have a spending problem.

It is interesting that the Department of Homeland Security wants more money to secure the border when they continue to refuse to secure the border.  Which seems to be more of a policy decision than a cost factor.  Especially when the USDA is telling illegal immigrants that they can get food assistance without being able to speak English or prove that they are a legal citizen.

Bridges and tunnels need maintenance.  Which is why we charge tolls at river-crossings.  But we don’t charge tolls at land-crossings.  To do so would add a tariff to cross-border trade.  Violating the North American Free Trade Agreement.  As well as defeating the purpose of a free trade agreement.  To encourage cross-border trade.

The problem is with America’s southern border.  Making Canadians pay for the problems at our southern border would be unfair to say the least.

President Obama has a spending problem.  And he needs to fix that problem by cutting spending.  Not by raising taxes everywhere and on everyone.  Higher taxes and a less friendly business environment destroy economic activity.  And he should know this.  As he had a front-row seat for his destructive economic policies that have created the worst recovery since that following the Great Depression.  And yet all he ever comes up with is more of the same failed policies of the past.  It’s as if he just tries them one more time they will have a different outcome.  Which is either a sign of insanity.  Or of someone that puts politics before all else.

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Big Box Stores going after Mom and Pop Stores again, this time on the Internet

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 12th, 2013

Week in Review

The big box stores put Mom & Pop stores out of business everywhere.  Mom and Pop cried foul.  But the big box stores told them to cry them a river.  This is business.  If you want to play with the big boys then you have to figure out how to stay in business selling at the big boys’ prices.  Which Mom and Pop never could do.  Not with the big box stores’ purchasing power.  And their big box stores and warehouses that can house massive inventories.  When Mom and Pop could only buy a handful of stuff at a time.  Quantities so small they got the worse pricing from their suppliers.  Who could care less if they stopped buying from them.  Because it was the big box stores that kept the suppliers in business.

So the big box stores had a mighty advantage over Mom and Pop.  Some would even say it was unfair.  Even causing people to protest the opening of another big box store in their neighborhoods.  To protect the Mom and Pop stores.  For the people knew the moment a better deal was available they’d leave Mom and Pop and flock to the big box stores.  Where they could get real value for their hard-earned money.  And now the shoe is on the other foot.  And Mom and Pop have found a way to beat the big box stores.  Who are now crying foul (see You’re probably a tax cheat! Even if online stores don’t charge it, you’re supposed to pay it and new law will try to force you by AP Reporter posted 5/5/2013 on the Daily Mail).

Few taxpayers know they’re expected to pay sales tax on online purchases, so a new law likely to pass in Congress Monday will help states force retailers to pay up, thus forcing the retailer to charge its customers tax…

Supporters say the bill is about fairness for local businesses that already collect sales taxes, and lost revenue for states…

Supporters say the bill makes it relatively easy for Internet retailers to comply. States must provide free computer software to help retailers calculate sales taxes, based on where shoppers live. States also must establish a single entity to receive Internet sales tax revenue, so retailers don’t have to send them to individual counties or cities…

‘Complying and living under the tax laws of 50 states is a major undertaking because the process of complying with tax law goes far beyond just filling out the right forms,’ said Brian Bieron, eBay’s senior director of global public policy. ‘You have to deal with the fact that all of these government agencies can audit you and can question you and can actually take you into court and sue you if they think you are doing something wrong.’

Not charging sales tax does not give Mom and Pop an advantage over the big box stores.  It’s not having a brick and mortar store that gives them the advantage.  And not much of a one at that.  For unlike the big box stores everything Mom and Pop sell over the Internet includes something the big box stores don’t.  Postage and handling.  Which can be greater than the sales tax the big box stores adds to their sales.

As far as lost tax revenue for the states?  It is not as bad as they claim.  For instead of sales tax cities and states are generating fuel taxes on the fuel the delivery trucks consume.  They’re generating payroll and income taxes from the delivery truck drivers, the package sorters, the mechanics keeping the trucks on the road, etc.  In addition to the taxes these workers pay they spend what they keep.  Spending it in the local economy.  Where they even take their wages into those big box stores.  Purchase something.  And pay sales tax.

This is real economic activity that Internet sales drive.  Which DOES create a lot of tax revenue in these states.  So this isn’t as much about an unfair tax advantage Internet retailers are getting away with.  It’s about the big box stores who just don’t like the shoe being on the other foot.  So they hope to destroy that competition by putting Mom and Pop under an additional 49 (or more when adding in cities and counties that charge sales tax) tax jurisdictions.  Which will just suck the life out of dear Mom and Pop.  Again.

And it’s a chance for government to suck more wealth out of the private sector to pay for their bloated public sector.  Who are drowning under the weight of their costly public sector union contracts that they will grab any tax they can.  Leaving the taxpayers with less money in their pockets.  Which is why they turned to the Internet in the first place.  To get as much value as they can from their rapidly shrinking paychecks.

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How a 12-Year Old Canadian and U.S. Unions see Business Differently

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 12th, 2013

Week in Review

Advancing technology has greatly increased productivity.  Allowing fewer workers to do what workers a generation earlier did.  Causing our workforce to age.  Fewer workers are entering the workforce than are leaving it.  And costly union contracts paying pensions and health care to those who have left the workforce has decimated union membership.  For the costs they place on business have made these businesses uncompetitive in the market place.  Chasing manufacturing jobs out of the country.  Leaving union membership in the private sector at its lowest rates since the heyday of the labor movement.  To understand why let’s take a business lesson from the Canadians.  Who are trying to encourage their kids to become entrepreneurs.  Unlike in America.  Where business and profits have become a 4-letter word (see Canadian entrepreneurs: Born or made? by BARRIE McKENNA posted 5/10/2013 on The Globe and Mail).

[Entrepreneurial Adventure] pairs students with local business people to create a business, design a product, sell it and then give the profits to charity.

Why?

Evidence suggests Canada suffers from a weak entrepreneurial culture. While it’s relatively easy to start a company, the record of turning start-ups into fast-growing and successful enterprises is less convincing.

A 2010 study by Industry Canada…

… found that Canada generates a lower proportion of fast-growing companies than other developed countries, that relatively few small companies export and that the age profile of business owners is getting older…

Many business schools, including McGill University and the University of Toronto, now offer special entrepreneurship programs.

This is a problem.  For the number one job creator in any free market economy are small business owners.  People who go into business for themselves.  Taking great risk.  And hiring people as they grow.  This is the entrepreneurial spirit.  People who start out small.  And become someone like Steve Jobs.  Most people don’t understand the entrepreneurial process.  And the importance of having a business-friendly environment to encourage entrepreneurialism.  To create jobs.  To grow a healthy economy.  Creating new products that make our lives better.  And to do that one of the first things an entrepreneur must learn is what this 12-year-old learned.

“Some things work and some don’t,” acknowledged Alim Dhanani, 12, who worked on project management and Web design for the company. “To sell something, you have to have the right price. Not too small, so you have a profit, but not too big, so people will buy it.”

A 12-year-old can understand this.  The role of prices in the economy.  They have to be high enough to pay the bills.  But low enough to encourage people to buy from you.  Often times it’s not a matter of a business owner determining the price he or she wishes to charge.  They have to figure out how to pay their bills (and earn a profit) at the prevailing market price.  Something labor unions don’t understand.  Or they simply don’t care (see Fast-food workers in Detroit walk off job, disrupt business by Steve Neavling and Lisa Baertlein posted 5/10/2013 on Reuters).

Hundreds of fast-food employees in Detroit walked off the job on Friday, temporarily shuttering a handful of outlets as part of a growing U.S. worker movement that is demanding higher wages for flipping burgers and operating fryers.

The protests in the Motor City – which is struggling to recover from the hollowing out of its auto manufacturing sector – marked an expansion in organized actions by fast-food workers from ubiquitous chains owned by McDonald’s Corp, Burger King Worldwide and KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut parent Yum Brands Inc.

Fast-food workers, who already have taken to the streets in New York, Chicago and St. Louis, are seeking to roughly double their hourly pay to $15 per hour from around minimum wage, which in Michigan is $7.40 per hour…

“People can’t make a living at $7.40 a hour,” said Rev. Charles Williams II, a protest organizer. “Many of them have babies and children to raise, and they can’t get by with these kind of wages.”

Those workers face high hurdles in their fight for better pay. Low-wage, low-skill workers lack political clout and face significantly higher unemployment than college graduates…

The Detroit action was put together by the Michigan Workers Organizing Committee, an independent union of fast-food workers, that is supported by community, labor and faith-based groups such as the Interfaith Coalition of Pastors, UFCW Local 876, SEIU Healthcare Michigan and Good Jobs Now.

The unions want to do to fast-food what they did to the automotive industry.  In this case the union basically gave unskilled workers the wages and benefits of skilled workers.  Sounds great if you’re an unskilled worker.  But the UAW priced the U.S. auto manufacturers out of the market.  The Big Three are a shell of what they used to be.  With both General Motors and Chrysler requiring taxpayer bailouts to avoid bankruptcy.  And pay for their crushing pension and health care cost obligations.  For GM was paying for more people not working than they were paying to work.  Even a 12-year-old can understand that this is a business model that just won’t work.

So what will happen in fast-food restaurants if you raise the labor wage from $7.40 per hour to $15 per hour?  That’s a labor cost increase of 103%.  In the restaurant business the rule of thumb for calculating your selling prices is as follows.  You calculate your food cost then triple it.  For in general one third of a menu price goes to food.  One third goes to labor.  And one third goes to overhead (utilities, rent, insurance, etc.) and profit.  Now let’s take a typical combination meal (sandwich, fries and beverage) price of $7.50.  One third of this price is $2.48 which represents the labor portion of the price.  The increase in labor is 103%.  So we take 103% of the $2.48 ($2.54) and add it to $7.50 to get the new selling price of the combo meal.  Bringing it to $10.04.

What will customers do?  Now that the combo meal will cost $2.54 more will they just continue to eat fast-food like they once did?  Will they stop adding an extra item from the dollar menu?  Will they just buy a burger and eat it with a beverage from home?  Will they just buy from the dollar menu instead of buying combos?  Of course, with the increase in labor costs that dollar menu will have to become the $2.03 menu.  Will people stop going to fast-food as often as they once did?  Some may decide that if they’re paying for a $6 hamburger the may go to a diner or bar for a $6 hamburger.  Worried about the lost business would fast-food owners try to cut their costs elsewhere to try to continue to sell fast-food at the market price?  By hiring fewer people?  Pushing current workers to part-time so they don’t have to give them costly health insurance?  Or will they just close their restaurant.  As people just won’t pay fancy restaurant prices for fast-food.

That 12-year-old in Canada would understand how the higher labor costs would affect business.  Causing changes in buying habits.  And changes in business practices.  He would not start up a fast-food franchise if labor prices were 103% higher than they are now.  For he would have to raise prices high enough to pay the bills.  But when he did they might be too high to get people to come in and buy food.  Causing a fall in business.  And a loss in revenue.  Making it more difficult to pay the bills.  That 12-year-old would see this as bad business.  Because he understands that a business owner can’t charge whatever he wants to charge.  He has to figure out how to stay in business while selling at the prevailing market price.  And though he may love fast-food he knows that his allowance won’t be able to buy as much as it once did.  So he would reduce his purchases at fast-food restaurants.  Just as his father will probably take the family out less often because of the higher prices.  Just as single mothers struggling to pay their household bills will, too.  But the unions don’t understand this.  Or simply choose not to.  Instead they just tell the workers that their employers are greedy.

It’s a sad day when a 12-year-old has better business sense than our unions.  Then again if unions cared about business they wouldn’t have bankrupted two of the Big Three.

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