Alberta Health Services privatizes some Pensions to Cut Health Care Costs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 14th, 2013

Week in Review

Public sector pensions are pushing cities and states to bankruptcy.  The Detroit bankruptcy was due in large part to the staggering debt the city took on to meet current pension obligations (and health care cost for retirees).  While the pension fund remained woefully underfunded.  The Detroit bankruptcy may set a precedent for other debt-laden cities.  Who are drowning under the costs of their bloated public sectors.  As they’ve run out of room to raise taxes any further.  Which wasn’t a problem during the initial surge of public sector growth.  But now that those retirement rolls have grown so large cities and states have found those generous pensions to be just unsustainable.  Even in Canada (see Alberta Health Services privatizing Edmonton labs posted 12/11/2013 on CBC News).

Alberta Health Services is going ahead with its plan to privatize all of its diagnostic lab services in Edmonton…

The new lab will replace hospital labs operated by AHS and Covenant Health as well as the services provided by DynaLIFE…

No jobs will be lost and all staff positions will be protected by the new employer, AHS says.

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta represents about 75% of the 2,000 workers affected by the changeover.

Even though AHS claims wages won’t change, the union believes pensions will take a hit.

“This is going to a private provider,” said HSAA president Elisabeth Ballermann.

“The private provider by definition cannot participate in the pension plan that our public sector members are currently part of and that’s an enormous loss for those workers.”

A loss perhaps for 2000 workers.  But a win for the health care system in Alberta and the people who use it.  As the cost savings from privatizing these pension obligations will free up money to spend on health care.  Something to think about as Obamacare continues to rollout and destroy the private health insurance industry on its way to establishing national health care.  Nationalizing one-sixth of the U.S. economy.  Creating a windfall of new public sector workers to vote Democrat.  And unsustainable pension costs that will increase the cost of health care.  Which will lead to longer wait times and rationing.  As well as adding to the deficit and debt.  Which will, in time, lead to the same cost-cutting actions like Alberta is taking.  Or something a little more painful like they did in Detroit.


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The Canadian Provincial Governments are ever Vigilant in Cutting High Taxes and Costly Regulations

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 14th, 2012

Week in Review

How’s this for government?  A government that has a reputation of low taxes and sensible regulatory policies is attacked.  Not for raising taxes or passing more costly regulations.  But not being aggressive enough in cutting taxes and rolling back costly regulations.  How refreshing.  And how un-American of late (see Can Alberta regain its entrepreneurial advantage? By KATHERINE SCARROW posted 4/13/2012 on The Globe and Mail).

“At one time, Alberta was clearly a leader, whether it was tax reform, cutting red tape, or any other key issue affecting entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, in the past few years, the government has been stuck in neutral, as other provinces closed the gap.”

To restore the so-called ‘Alberta Advantage,’ Mr. Truscott proposes the following steps:

1. Long-term tax relief. He acknowledges that Alberta business owners have it pretty good overall, especially since they do not have to collect and administer provincial sales tax for the government. But But the fact that the other three Western provinces reduced their small business income tax rate leaves Alberta with a higher rate, eroding any advantage it may have had previously. “Staged reductions” in the small business income tax rate would go a long way, he suggests.

2. Commitment to cutting red tape. The province used to be a pioneer at ensuring rules and regulations made sense, and didn’t burden entrepreneurs, but the government has become complacent, emphasizing that the next leader must make regulatory reform a priority.

In Canada they understand that high taxes and excessive regulatory burdens on businesses hinder job creation.  And even though the tax burden on business owners was pretty good overall it still needs to be lowered.  Because other provinces had lowered their taxes.  In America those on the Left say that our taxes aren’t too high.  In fact they want to raise them further.  And cite the high taxes in Europe as their justification.  Instead of seeing it like the Canadians.  Who see NOT having the lowest tax rates is a disadvantage in job creation.

And while the Canadians worked at cutting red tape and worried about the affects of rules and regulations had on businesses the Obama administration has buried American small business under regulation after regulation.  The biggest one, of course, being Obamacare.  Which is scaring business owners out of hiring new employees.

It would appear the provincial governments in Canada understand business.  And the American federal government does not.  At least not the current one.  Based on its actions.  And its record.  So it’s no surprise that the Canadians have emerged from the Great Recession while the Americans still suffer in it.


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In British Columbia 18 People have died in Past 6 Months from Taking Ecstasy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 4th, 2012

Week in Review

The war on drugs has been an abject failure.  Drugs have never been more powerful or available.  And the drug economy has produced a criminal underworld that has spread unspeakable violence.  So is it worth it?  This war on drugs?  Decriminalizing drugs would go a long way to end the crime and violence.  But making drugs more readily available would no doubt increase the use of these drugs.  For they are spreading now while they are illegal.  And not just in back alleys.  But into the mainstream of society.   In bars.  In homes.  And on college campuses (see Calgary police link 7th death to tainted ecstasy posted 1/30/2012 on CBC News Calgary).

The toxicology report of Southern Alberta Institute of Technology student Cody Gorlick, 23, who died earlier this month, shows he had ingested ecstasy laced with paramethoxymethamphetamine, a methamphetamine known as PMMA…

“From what we’ve seen in these cases, and it’s very apparent, is that the drug [ecstasy] is not just used at raves anymore, it’s used by people in their homes, it’s used at bars, it’s used at all kinds of different locations,” said Bossley.

In B.C., 18 people have died after taking ecstasy in the last six months, and a 19th death is being investigated.

People say telling kids that they shouldn’t have sex until they are married is silly.  Because these kids are having sex.  After all, that’s a big part of college.  First time away from home.  You know they’re having sex.  You know they are drinking.  And you know they’re doing drugs.  Because they are.  And some are dying from those drugs.  So it’s reasonable to assume that if drugs were decriminalized that more kids would try them.  More would start using.  And more would die from overdoses.

So should we maintain the war on drugs?  Should we decriminalize drugs?  Tough to say.  Because you’re kind of damned if you do.  And damned if you don’t.  But one thing for sure is that the lesser of all evils here is for people to choose not to use drugs.  For if they did it wouldn’t matter if they were legal or not.  But getting them to choose this is easier said than done.  Religion may help.  Getting married and starting to raise a family may help.  For few things grow people up faster than becoming parents. 

And really that’s the key to the drug question.  Growing up.  Becoming mature responsible adults.  Because the sooner we become mature responsible adults the sooner we stop the foolish ways of our youth.


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High Gas Prices may be Keeping some of Us in Recession, but the Rich and our Elected Leaders are doing Okay

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 27th, 2011

The Oil Supply determines Gasoline Prices

President Obama will release approximately 30 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Reserve to try and bring down gasoline prices for this summer driving season.  Because the high cost of gasoline is leaving consumers with little disposable income.  Or a reason to reelect him in 2012 (see U.S. Consumer Spending Stalled in May by The Associated Press posted 6/27/2011 on The New York Times).

Americans in May spent at the weakest pace in 20 months, a sign that gas prices are taking a toll on the economy, according to a government report Monday.

Recessions don’t reelect presidents.  Because people don’t like recessions.  People have little money to spend on the ‘luxuries’ (dinner out, movies, vacation, etc.) in life.  And barely have enough to pay for the necessities of life.  So the high price of gasoline does not make a happy constituent.  And if you need a happy constituent to reelect you, the smart money is bet on making the constituency happy.  By bringing down gasoline prices.  Which we know how to do.  President Obama has shown us.  You simply Increase the amount of oil in the market. 

So far, drawing down the Strategic Reserve is the only thing his administration has down to increase the supply of oil.  He stopped drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  And new drilling permits have not exactly been flying out of Washington.  But there’s still hope.  Thanks to our good friends to the north.  Who have some of the largest oil reserves in the world.  And only need a way to get it to the American refineries.  Which Obama can make happen.  By saying ‘yes’ to an oil pipeline (see China eyes Canada oil, US’s energy nest egg by Rob Gilles, Associated Press, posted 6/26/2011 on Yahoo! News).

In the northern reaches of Alberta lies a vast reserve of oil that the U.S. views as a pillar of its future energy needs.

China, with a growing appetite for oil that may one day surpass that of the U.S., is ready to spend the dollars for a big piece of it.

The oil sands of this Canadian province are so big that they will be able to serve both of the world’s largest economies as production expands in the coming years. But that will mean building at least two pipelines, one south to the Texas Gulf Coast and another west toward the Pacific, and that in turn means fresh environmental battles on top of those already raging over the costly and energy-intensive method of extracting oil from sand.

Uh-oh.  Environmental battles.  You know what that means?  No relief at the pump.  Not from this administration that set green energy as the cornerstone of its economic recovery.  I mean, lowering the price of gasoline so people don’t remember the vacation that wasn’t come election time is one thing.  But making gasoline cheap and plentiful?  In an administration with Steven (somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe) Chu as Energy Secretary?  Not going to happen.

Critics dislike the whole concept of oil sands, because extracting the oil requires huge amounts of energy and water, increases greenhouse gas emissions and threatens rivers and forests. Keystone XL, the pipeline that would bring Alberta oil to Texas Gulf Coast refineries to serve the U.S. market, compounds the issue…

Environmental groups want [President Obama] to reject it, seeing it as a test of Obama’s will to fight climate change.

The Chinese may likely get their pipeline.  But the environmentalists will be pressuring Obama to just say ‘no’.  So get used to those high prices.  They’ll probably be around for a long time to come.  At least until 2012.

The Rich get Richer, We get Poorer and Senators get Bigger Offices

People are getting richer than ever before.  Even during the Great Recession.  Some feel it’s not fair.  Especially those who hate corporate America (see The rich aren’t like you and me by Michael Winship posted 6/27/2011 on Salon).

The annual wealth report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini finds that the assets of these so-called “high net worth individuals” reached $42.7 trillion in 2010, a rise of nearly ten percent from the previous year at a time when, as The Guardian observed, “austerity budgets were implemented by many governments in the developed world…”

Ernest Hemingway claimed that when F. Scott Fitzgerald once said to him, “The rich are different from you and me,” he archly replied, “Yes, they have more money.” Whether it’s true or not, the Hemingway in the story got it wrong. The rich not only have more money, they have more power, more clout — and more to hide.

Interestingly, this hasn’t changed during the Obama administration.  In fact, crony capitalism has never been better.  Bailouts for friends on Wall Street.  GE with a booming green energy business thanks to Obama’s green energy initiatives (and who are NOT, by the way, paying any income taxes).  Automotive bailouts that favored the UAW over actual stakeholders.  Oh, it’s good to be king.  And part of the ruling elite.  Now it’s time to reward them for a job…done (see Senators Stay Put in Hideaways by Daniel Newhauser posted 6/27/2011 on Roll Call).

A number of long-serving Senators are sitting out this year’s draw for coveted hideaways…

It’s a Senate tradition that is a cross between “Trading Spaces” and the NBA draft. Every two years, after some of the longest-serving lawmakers retire or pass away, the remaining Senators start the process of shuffling spaces, seeking to enhance their status with a coveted secret office.

The Great Recession lingers on because of high gasoline prices caused by government policies that hinder bringing more oil to market.  George W. Bush and Dick Cheney never did anything like this to drive up the price of oil.  And they were oilmen.  Who would have profited handsomely from high oil prices.  As the Democrats and the mainstream media pointed out endlessly as gasoline prices entered $4/gallon territory.  No such accusations now.  Just silence.  As the Obama policies leave a swath of destruction across the fruited plain.  Congress could do something about this.  But there is more important business to attend to.  Namely, showing other senators who has a bigger office.

Four of the 10 longest-serving sitting Senators decided it was time for an upgrade, including Hatch, who snagged the legendary space once occupied by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Levin, who moved into the impressive hideaway of former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

Hatch said his elegant new third-floor office, with a fireplace, large windows and high arched ceilings, is a significant upgrade, especially because it is just paces from the Senate floor.

And a nicer office.  Elegant?  Fireplace?  High arched ceilings?  What is this?  Imperial Rome?  Some get so upset when the rich get richer but when the people’s representatives, our servants, live just as good as the rich there is barely a whisper of disapproval.

Leahy, meanwhile, said he was in no hurry to move.

“Why would I want to give up mine?” he asked. “I’ve got the most beautiful view probably in the whole Capitol.”

An avid photographer, the second-most-senior Senator, brandishing a professional-grade digital camera, scrolled to a freshly snapped photo to prove his case.

“Recognize that guy?” he asked Wednesday, pointing to a man clad in familiar orange-tinted sunglasses, his arm casually resting on a balcony ledge looking out on a spectacular view of the Washington Monument. “It’s Bono.”

The seven-term Senator is the proud inhabitant of a first-floor hideaway, formerly the stomping grounds of the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). With a fireplace, built-in bookshelves, a private bathroom and a balcony, it is a rare gem among the Capitol’s hidden offices, and certainly enough to impress even a rock star.

This is your U.S. Senate.  Taking care of the people’s business.  Totally insulated from the Great Recession.  While taking the time to swoon over celebrities.  From the balcony of a gem of a hidden office.  It would appear that the rich are not the only ones who have more money, more power, more clout — and more to hide.

Out of Touch with American People

The Left attacked Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush as being out of touch with the American people.  Tax breaks for the rich.  And spending cuts for the poor.  That neither saw the suffering masses their policies created.  Well, President Obama is addressing this income disparity.  By making everyone poorer.  Except, of course, his cronies who are generous with the campaign cash donations.

The high cost of gasoline is hurting Americans and keeping the Great Recession alive and well.  And we can blame Barack Obama now for the high cost of gasoline.  By restricting the supply of oil to the market.  Because more oil means lower gas prices.  (Obama proved he knows this by drawing down the Strategic Reserve to do just that.)  His administration placed a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  His administration is making it difficult to get drilling permits.  And now his administration may say ‘no’ to that pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.  Or delay saying ‘yes’ for as long as possible to appease the environmentalists.  Meanwhile, the Chinese will move ahead and do whatever it takes to get that Canadian oil.  Because without oil a modern economy will grind to a halt.  And no amount of windmills or solar panels will change that. 

The Chinese know this.  And they’ll probably get that Canadian oil while the Obama administration is still dithering over the environmental impact of the proposed pipeline.  Completely indifferent to the plight of struggling American families.  And quite happy to sit by and watch the price of gasoline get to European levels.  To advance their green energy policies.  So they can reward their most generous cronies.

And it was Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush who were out of touch with American people?


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