One Passenger Airline charging by the Passenger’s Weight may offer new Funding Idea for Obamacare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 7th, 2013

Week in Review

When the price of oil soars it doesn’t affect the railroads that much.  Because fuel costs are not their greatest cost.  Maintaining that massive infrastructure is.  For wherever a train travels there has to be track.  It’s different for the airlines.  The only infrastructure they have is at the airports.  And the traffic control centers that keep order in the sky.  Once a plane is off the ground it doesn’t need anything but fuel in its tanks to go somewhere.  And because the flying infrastructure is so much less than the railroad infrastructure fuel costs are a much larger cost.  In fact, it’s their greatest cost of flying.  So when fuel costs rise ticket prices rise along with them.  And they start charging more bag fees.  As well as any other fee they can charge you to offset these soaring fuel costs.

Boeing made their 787, the Dreamliner, exceptionally light.  To reduce flying costs.  They used a lot of composite materials.  Two large engines because they’re lighter than 4 smaller engines.  They even used a new lithium-ion battery system to start up their auxiliary power unit.  And made it fly-by-wire to eliminate the hydraulic system that normally operates the control surfaces.  They did all of these things to fight the biggest enemy they have in flying.  Weight.  For the greater the weight the more fuel they burn.  And the less profitable they are.

Freight airlines charge their customers by the weight of the freight they wish to ship.  Because there is a direct correlation between the weight of their freight and the amount of fuel they have to burn to carry that freight.  In fact, all shippers charge by the weight.  Because in transportation weight is everything.  But there is one mode of transportation that we don’t charge by the weight.  Passenger air travel.  Until now, that is (see A tax on overweight airline passengers: a brutal airline policy by Robin Abcarian posted 4/3/2013 on the Los Angeles Times).

When teensy-weensy Samoa Airlines debuted its pay-by-the-kilo policy in January, I doubt it expected to set off an international controversy about fat discrimination.

But that’s what happened when news seeped out this week after the airline’s chief executive, Chris Langton, told ABC News radio in Australia that the system is not only fair but destined to catch on.

“Doesn’t matter whether you’re carrying freight or people,” explained Langton. “We’ve amalgamated the two and worked out a figure per kilo.”

Samoa Air, he added, has always weighed the human and non-human cargo it carries. “As any airline operator knows, they don’t run on seats, they run on weight,” said Langton. “There’s no doubt in my mind this is the concept of the future because anybody who travels has felt they’ve paid for half the passenger that’s sitting next to them…”

“Samoa Air, Introducing a world first: ‘Pay only for what you weigh’! We at Samoa Air are keeping airfares fair, by charging our passengers only for what they weigh. You are the master of your Air’fair’, you decide how much (or little) your ticket will cost. No more exorbitant excess baggage fees, or being charged for baggage you may not carry. Your weight plus your baggage items, is what you pay for. Simple. The Sky’s the Limit..!”

One bright note to this policy: Families with small children, who often feel persecuted when they travel, stand to benefit most from this policy. Since Samoa no longer charges by the seat, it will cost them a lot less to fly than it did before.

The appeal of this policy depends on your perspective.  If you’re of average weight sitting next to someone spilling over their seat into yours it may bother you knowing that you each paid the same price for a seat and resent the person encroaching on your seat.  But if you paid per the weight you bring onto the airplane then that person paid for the right to spill over into your seat.  Which they no doubt will do without worrying about how you feel.  As they paid more for their ticket than you paid for yours.  So the person who weighs less will get a discount to suffer the encroachment.  While the person who weighs more will have to pay a premium for the privilege to encroach.

Under the current system the people who weigh less subsidize the ticket prices of those who weigh more.  It’s not fair.  But it does save people the embarrassment of getting onto a scale when purchasing a ticket.  So should all airlines charge like all other modes of transportation?  Or should they continue to subsidize the obese?  Should we be fair?  Or should we be kind?

Chances are that government would step in and prevent airlines from charging by the weight.  Calling it a hate crime.  Even while they are waging a war on the obese themselves. Telling us what size soda we can buy.  And regulating many other aspects of our lives.  Especially now with Obamacare.  Because the obese are burdening our health care system with their health problems the government now has the right to regulate our lives.  And they have no problem calling us fat and obese.  But a private airline starts charging by the weight of the passenger?  Just don’t see how the government will allow that.  For it’s one thing for them to bully us.  But they won’t let these private businesses hurt people’s feelings by being fair.  So the people who are not overweight will continue to subsidize the flying cost of those who are overweight.

Until the government determines obese people are causing an unfair burden on society.  The obese have more health issues.  Which will consume more limited health care resources.  Also, flying these heavier people around will burn more fuel.  Putting more carbon emissions into the air.  Causing more breathing problems for everyone else.  As well as killing the planet with more global warming.  So while the airlines may not want to weigh people when selling them a ticket because of the potential backlash, the government won’t have a problem.  To cut the high cost of health care and to save the planet from global warming caused by carbon emissions they may even introduce a ‘fat’ tax.  Like any other sin tax.  To encourage people to choose to be healthier.  And to punish those who choose not to.  If they can force us to buy health insurance what can stop them from accessing a ‘fat’ tax?  Especially when they do have the right to tax us.

This is where national health care can take us.  When they begin paying the bill for health care they will have the right to do almost anything if they can identify it as a heath care issue.  Because it’s in the national interest.  They’ve painted bulls-eyes on the backs of smokers.  And drinkers.  With tobacco and alcohol taxes.  And you know they would love to tax us for being fat.  Perhaps even having our doctors file our weight with the IRS.  So they can bump our tax rates based on how obese we are.  If the tax dollars pay for health care they will say they have that right.  As the obese consume an unfair amount of those limited tax dollars.  Anything is possible with an out of control growing federal government faced with trillion dollar deficits.  Especially when they can call it a health care issue.

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Kids are Fat in Canada, Too

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 10th, 2012

Week in Review

Kids aren’t obese only in America.  They’re obese in Canada, too (see N.S. to spend $2M to combat childhood obesity posted 6/7/2012 on CBC News).

The Nova Scotia government will spend about $2 million over the next year to help reduce childhood obesity and associated health problems…

“Nova Scotia is dealing with epidemic levels of childhood obesity, inactivity and unhealthy eating,” said Premier Darrell Dexter.

Their plan includes a “healthy start with a focus on breastfeeding.”  They’ll educate kids about nutrition and exercise.  Make healthy food and exercise readily available.  And spend money on trails, sidewalks and facilities to get these kids off of their fat asses.  Interestingly, there is no mention of a 16 ounce limit on sugary beverages.  New York’s Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to combat child obesity.  Though one could make the argument that breast milk is not a sugary beverage.

So if it’s not the soda pop making these kids fat what is it?

Among the surveyed Grade 3 students, about 80 per cent of both boys and girls met the physical activity standard on five or more days per week. By Grade 11, that number dropped significantly — about five per cent for boys and less than one per cent for girls.

Thompson blames electronic devices and poor attitudes for the problem.

Guess that would be cell phones.  Smartphones.  Computers.  Tablets.  And, of course, video games.  It appears that kids prefer gossiping and playing video/on-line games over physical activity.  Or they’re just so narcissistic that they have to share every thought and minute detail of their lives with their social network.  Which is just a more sophisticated way of saying “look at me, look at me, look at me.”  So they spend their passing hours with their electronic devices.  Instead of going biking or dancing they’d rather simulate that activity.  Gossip about a friend.  Or be the center of the universe.  All while getting fat in the process.

You know, it just may not be those large cups of sugary beverages causing our obesity problem.  It may be something else.  Wise words from the past come to mind.  From the wisest of wise.  The Oompa Loompas. 

Oompa, Loompa, doom-pa-dee-do
I have a perfect puzzle for you
Oompa, Loompa, doom-pa-dee-dee
If you are wise, you’ll listen to me

What do you get when you guzzle down sweets?
Eating as much as an elephant eats
What are you at getting terribly fat?
What do you think will come of that?

I don’t like the look of it

Who do you blame when your kid is a brat?
Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat
Blaming the kids is a lie and a shame
You know exactly who’s to blame

The mother and the father

Those little orange bastards were wise.  Even if they were only characters in a movie.  Then again it’s hard to parent these days.  There are so many outside influences.  And because of the high cost of living these days it often takes two incomes to raise a child.  Leaving our kids without parental supervision for a few extra hours each workday.  Where they are more likely to pick up bad habits.  Perhaps we should be looking at that.  Why does it take two incomes these days to raise a family?  High taxes and inflation.  Both have shrunk real earnings so much that a single income can’t raise a family like it did before.  It was LBJ’s Great Society spending in the Sixties that caused the massive inflation of the Seventies.  And parenting in the US has never been the same since. 

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Tobacco, Smoking, Cigarettes, Sin Taxes, Obesity, Health Care Costs, Lost Tax Revenue, Abortion, Deficit and Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 5th, 2012

History 101

The Government saves Money in the Long Run when People Smoke because they Die Earlier than Nonsmokers 

A lot of people like to smoke.  Before we knew any of the adverse health effects of smoking it was as wholesome as apple pie in America.  American tobacco was one of the first cash crops of the United States.  Because it was in such high demand throughout the world.  During the American Civil War many officers chain-smoked cigars.  We put cigarettes in our soldiers’ C-rations in World War II.  Some of the most iconic photographs of battle-weary soldiers, seamen and airmen have a cigarette dangling from their mouths.  Our favorite parents from the Fifties’ sitcoms smoked cigarettes in their homes with their children playing on the floor at their feet.  If you watch AMC’s Mad Men everyone smoked cigarettes.  All of the time.  At work and at home.  In restaurants and in hospitals.  Even while pregnant.  Then the attacks against Big Tobacco began.

First they started with the sin taxes.  Greatly increasing the cost of cigarettes.  Which increased their opportunity costs.  People had to give up other things to continue to enjoy their cigarettes.  Especially the poor.  The rich still could enjoy their cigarettes without making sacrifices in their life.  And kept on smoking.  Movie stars and rock stars always have a cigarette hanging out of their mouths.  To look cool.  Which is why teenagers started to smoke.  Not because of Joe Camel.  But to look cool like their favorite movie stars and rock stars.  So people kept smoking their cigarettes.  While the government bureaucrats started tallying the health care cost of smokers.  To recover the health care cost of smoking government bureaucrats sued Big Tobacco.

According to ‘health care experts’ in the government smoking costs the health care industry some $100 billion annually.  Which is why they’re constantly raising taxes on cigarettes.  Why they sued Big Tobacco.  And why they’re ostracizing smokers everywhere by making almost every area a nonsmoking area.  But they still haven’t made smoking illegal.  Why?  High sin taxes and lawsuits.  Smoking is a cash cow for government.  And the dirty little secret about smoking is that the government saves money in the long run when people smoke.  Because of those sin taxes.  And because smokers die earlier than nonsmokers.  Up to a decade or more.  And it is in that last decade of life that seniors cost government the most.  Another decade of Social Security benefits.  And Medicare and Medicaid benefits.  Those benefits smokers paid into all of their lives.  Who forfeit them when they die early (and they don’t get passed on to their heirs).  Unlike the nonsmokers who don’t have the decency to die before collecting all of their Social Security and Medicare benefits.  Adding another decade or so for a whole sort of health ailments to inflict their fragile bodies.  Requiring more hospitalization.  Medication.  And nursing home care.  Expenses smokers help cut short by dying earlier.  Such as from an early heart attack before they even get a chance to have a lengthy and expensive hospital stay.

The Loss Tax Revenue from Abortions in the Eighties over Three Decades is Approximately $4.98 Trillion 

So government is increasing the opportunity costs of something people enjoy.  Smoking.  When in the long run smokers’ early deaths save the government money.   Not to mention those sin taxes fattening the tax pot when they’re alive.  So it’s a specious argument that the government is spending more on them in health care costs than nonsmokers who live another 10-20 years.  So why do they do it?  To boost tax revenues.  And smokers are just a convenient scapegoat.  Like the obese.  Where those on the Left make the same arguments.  Where according to ‘health care experts’ in the government obesity costs the health care industry some $150 billion annually.  Even though these people like smokers live shorter lives.  So while they’re consuming that $150 million the government is keeping about 10-20 years of their contributions to Social Security and Medicare.  So it is again a specious argument that the government is spending more on obese people than thinner, healthier people who live 10-20 years longer.  Who could, say, fall and break their pelvis requiring an extensive and expensive hospital stay.  As well as rehabilitation and possibly nursing home care.  And yet those on the left have campaigned to remove toys from Happy Meals.  And made it illegal in New York to buy a big cup of soda pop.  Why?  Again, to boost tax revenue.

All right, let’s go to the source of that tax revenue problem.  Let’s look at a decade of lost tax revenue.  From 1980 to 1983 there were about 1,300,000 abortions each year.  In 1984 there were 1,333,521 abortions.  In 1985 there were 1,328,570 abortions.  In 1986 there were 1,328,112 abortions.  In 1987 there were 1,353,671 abortions.  In 1988 there were 1,371,285 abortions.  In 1989 there were 1,396,658 abortions.  In 1990 there were 1,429,577 abortions. 

Had these abortions not happen in 2006 there would have been an additional 1,300,000 taxpayers aged 26.  In 2007 there would have been an additional 1,300,000 taxpayers aged 27 and an additional 1,300,000 taxpayers aged 26.  And so on.  If you crunch the numbers over a 30-year period by decades you get an additional 72,006,665 people paying taxes at all levels of government in the first decade (2006-2015).  An additional 146,913, 940 tax-paying people in the second decade (2016-2025).  And an additional 88,169,092 tax-paying people in the third decade (2026-2035).  The average age in the first decade is 29.  It’s 32 in the second decade.  And 42 in the third decade.  Assuming those age 29 earn on average $30,000 annually, those age 32 earn on average $40,000 annually and those age 42 earn on average $50,000 we get the following incomes per decade: $2.16 trillion, $5.88 trillion and $4.41 trillion, respectively.  Assuming that we pay approximately 40% of all our earnings in taxes at the city, state and federal level the lost tax revenue (at all levels of government) for those same decades equals $864.1 billion, $2.35 trillion and $1.76 trillion, respectively.  For a grand total of loss tax revenue for those three decades of approximately $4.98 trillion.  Or on average $165.9 billion per year.  These numbers are conservative.  Yes, some of these people may not survive to become taxpayers.  But some of these could become millionaires and billionaires, paying more in taxes.  There could have been another Lady Gaga, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Barbara Streisand, George Clooney, Steve Jobs, etc.  A few of these added to the calculations would make the lost tax revenue numbers larger.

From the Government’s Perspective Abortion has a Far Greater Opportunity Cost than Smoking and Obesity 

This is the opportunity cost of the abortions in the Eighties.  So much loss tax revenue that the government has attacked smokers and the obese.  Whose health care costs are not adding much if anything to the federal budget.  Thanks to their early deaths compared to nonsmokers and thin people.  (If the government starts refunding remaining Social Security and Medicare benefits to the surviving family that may change.)  Yes they are costing the health care system.  But their costs are just brought up earlier in their lives as opposed to someone living 10-20 years longer making the nursing home to hospital to nursing home roundtrip a few times in the last 10 years or so of their life.  Because they have lived so long.  And had a chance to suffer every disease and trauma those smokers and obese can’t due to their early deaths.

It is interesting to note that the federal deficit in 2006 was $282.14 billion.  The lost tax revenue from the Eighties’ abortions was on average $165.9 billion per year in those three decades.  Granted not all of that money would have been federal taxes.  But with the conservative estimate of that loss tax revenue it is safe to say it would have come close to balancing the federal budget.  And if you factor in the abortions of the Seventies (there were fewer than in the Eighties but they would have been higher earners in the 2000s) the federal deficit may have become a surplus.  At least holding the federal debt to the $9.34 trillion it was in 2006.  Perhaps even reducing it.

Smoking and eating an unhealthy diet may be bad for you.  But it probably doesn’t cost the government anymore in tax dollars.  But they increase the opportunity costs of these things we enjoy to dissuade us from enjoying them.  So those who enjoy smoking and eating and drinking ‘bad’ things enjoy life less.  By not choosing what they want to choose.  Why? To pay for the lost revenue from another choice that government doesn’t try to dissuade people from.  Abortion.  Which from the government’s perspective has a far greater opportunity cost than smoking and obesity.  And yet government paints a bulls-eye on the back of smokers and the obese.  Why?  Because they’ve so demonized and oppressed them they can.  While the abortion issue too much of a sacred cow to those on the Left.

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FT120: “Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day; give him a job and he can have an obesity problem.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 1st, 2012

Fundamental Truth

In Warfare Starvation and Famine are the most Potent of Weapons

Starvation and famine has plagued mankind since the dawn of time.  It was the driving force in evolution.  Those who took control of their food supply lived.  Those who didn’t disappeared from the evolutionary path.  Like Neanderthal.  And those who came before him.  Our earliest civilizations massed their populations to farm.  And the masses lived in cities.  Setting down roots and saying goodbye to their hunting and gathering ways.  In the Wei River valley.  In the Indus River valley.  The valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris.  In the Nile River valley.  Where modern life took root.  Produced our first food surpluses.  And gave birth to urban life.  And the middle class.

The rise of the middle class allowed civilization to flourish.  For every person that didn’t have to produce food could do something else.  Build better tools.  Create a better government.  Create art.  In general, think about other things.  Those other things that made humans different.  By giving us a more interesting life.  And more sophisticated ways to express ourselves.

But this growth was a double-edged sword.  For large urban populations that made life more enjoyable was also a great threat to the food supply.  A cool and wet summer could destroy crops.  Poor food storage could spoil the food surplus.  A war could see an enemy purposely destroy your crops and your food surplus.  Causing famine.  Where half or your city population could easily die before the next harvest.  Or more.  Especially if the famine resulted from an act of war.   As an act of genocide.  To clear people off land that others want to use for their own food needs.  Which was Hitler’s plan in Russia.  To take the food from the Ukraine.  Kill the indigenous population.  And replace them with Nazis.  Thus creating more living space for the Third Reich.  Or Lebensraum.    Because in warfare starvation and famine are the most potent of weapons.

History has shown that the most Food-Abundant Countries are the most Capitalistic

England led the way in agricultural advances.  Increasing crop yields such that small tracts of land could support greater populations.  As well as produce such huge food surpluses that they had food to export.  As the British Empire spread across the globe so did their advanced agricultural ways.  During the 19th century starvation and famine were becoming rarer in the technologically advanced West.  The 19th century Irish Potato Famine reduced Ireland’s population by up to 25%.  A tragedy of epic proportions.  But it was an exception to the rule.  For food was growing so abundant in the advanced Western World that rarely did people go hungry.  Or feared famine.  And when mechanization and chemistry hit the farm our crop yields exploded.

During the Twentieth Century the Western World produced so much food that food prices plummeted.  Causing the Great Depression.  There was so much food available that farmers couldn’t sell their food at a high enough price to service the debt that they incurred mechanizing their farms.  But not everyone was producing bumper crops in the Twentieth Century.  Both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China set records for death by famine.  As they shunned the ways of the West.  And the state took over their agricultural sectors.  States that were so inept at good farming practices and things economic that crop yields plummeted.  North Korea to this day can’t even grow enough food for her own people.  And has recurring famines.  Because they hold on to the communist ways of Stalin and Mao.  While the Russians and the Chinese have long abandoned them. 

History has shown that the most food-abundant countries are the most capitalistic.  Countries whose agricultural sectors use the latest in technology.  And/or have a rich and vibrant economy that can buy all the food they need if they can’t produce their own.  Like Hong Kong.  Basically a rock off the Chinese mainland.  It has little arable land.  Few natural resources.  But what it does have is low taxation and free trade.  And laissez-faire capitalism.  The Chinese lost Hong Kong to the British Empire (who have since given it back).  And the British used laissez-faire capitalism to make Hong Kong the gem it is today.  Where people are free and in want of little.  And in this island nation that can’t grow enough food to feed their population famine is unheard of.  Why?  Because they have the wealth to trade for all the food they desire.  In fact, while Mao gave the people in the People’s Republic of China famine Hong Kong were doing just fine.  Because they were wealthy and could trade for what they needed.  And they had the Royal Navy protecting her.

In America our Food Supplies are so Abundant and so Cheap that Poor People are becoming Obese

Poverty is the biggest killer.  Famine is prevalent in poor countries.  Like Haiti.  North Korea.  And sub-Saharan Africa.  People suffer in these countries unlike they do in the West.  Despite the amount of aid the West pours into them.  And it’s not because Western nations were blessed with natural resources.  Hong Kong doesn’t have anything other than laissez-faire capitalism.  Protected by the Rule of Law and minimal government interference into the private sector economy.  The very things that are missing from Haiti, North Korea and sub-Saharan Africa.  Where corruption rules supreme.  There is little regard for human rights.  Or property rights.  And no one can protect their people from the abuses of government.  Or from warring neighbors.  Like the Royal Navy protected Hong Kong.  And pretty much the rest of the world during the 19th century.  Just like America’s military might made the world safe for capitalism in the Twentieth Century.

Third world nations are not a victim of first world nations.  They are a victim of themselves.  Where corrupt rulers collect Western aid and live well while their people suffer.  Especially the nations that eschew capitalism.  And embrace socialism.  Like the Soviet Union did.  Like the People’s Republic of China did (the current Chinese regime is enjoying economic growth by allowing some capitalism into their still communist country).  And like North Korea still does.  These socialist utopias were a living hell for their people.  Where they live in fear of their government.  And of famine.

Meanwhile in the Western capitalist nations what do they suffer from?  Especially the poor people in America?  Obesity.  In New York they’re passing laws restricting the size of sugary beverages because they are dangerous to your health.  While they pass out free condoms and birth control as sex is far less risky behavior than a delicious carbonated beverage.  Apparently.  Yes, in America our food supplies are so abundant and so cheap that poor people are becoming obese.  Because capitalism has made those food supplies abundant and cheap.  And capitalism gave people jobs where they could afford to buy so much food that they can give themselves an obesity problem.  A problem they just don’t have in Haiti, North Korea or sub-Saharan Africa.  Because they can’t grow enough food.  Or earn enough money to buy enough food.  For they don’t have an environment conducive to creating jobs.  Which is why these nations are still impoverished and/or suffering famine despite all the aid the West gives them.  Food aid will run out.  And then they’ll just be starving once again.  If they have jobs, though, they’ll be able to buy food whenever they’re hungry.  Because it’s like that old saying.  Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day; give him a job and he can have an obesity problem.

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Government Bureaucrats are bad for your Health in the UK and in the US

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 2nd, 2011

 To be Great be like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan

People have said that the British and the Americans are one people separated by a common language.  We’re very similar.  Even if we speak the Queen’s English a bit differently.  It turns out that’s not the only thing we share.  We also bend over backwards to compare ourselves with great conservatives from our past (see Look at what the Conservatives are achieving by Michael Fallon, MP for Sevenoaks and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, posted 3/2/2011 on the UK’s Telegraph).

Yes, Thatcher abolished the dock labour scheme – 10 years after she was elected. Yes, she tackled trade union power: they finally lost their closed shop in 1988, nine years after she started. Yes, she set up grant-maintained schools, independent of local authorities. But when we left office, they comprised less than 5 per cent of the country’s total.

David Cameron’s Government has moved further and faster. Take the public finances: public borrowing, cyclically adjusted, will be 0.3 per cent of GDP by 2015, well below the 2.6 per cent it was in 1990, and the budget will be back in surplus. Corporation tax was 34 per cent when Thatcher left office; by 2015 it will be 24 per cent. Small business tax, 25 per cent in1990, will have fallen to 20 per cent.

Not only is David Cameron Thatcher-like, he’s even out ‘Thatchered’ her.  This speaks volumes about the greatness of Margaret Thatcher.  In America, it’s the other half of that dynamic duo.  Ronald Reagan.  Come election time, every candidate is trying to show how Ronald Reagan he or she is.  Even the Democrats.  Even Barak Obama as his poll numbers plunge.

For a first-term prime minister leading an entirely novel coalition, the essential tasks might be enough: growing the economy; weaning it off its over-reliance on public spending, financial services and an unsustainable property boom; and pulling our finances back from the brink over which Greece and Ireland plunged.

Yet far more significant is the quiet revolution that is turning government inside out – away from Whitehall and targets and regional authorities and back to councils, GPs, head teachers, police commanders, community groups and charities. Ending the state monopoly in almost all public services, encouraging new providers, ensuring competition and choice – these are the most radical reforms since the Attlee government.

And Obama couldn’t be any more un-Ronald Reagan-like if he tried.  He’s trying to take America in the opposite direction that David Cameron is trying to take the UK.  Cameron is trying to decentralize while Obama is trying to centralize.  Especially health care.

Poor Quality, High Cost and Rationing in the National Health Service

The National Health Service in the UK has high costs and quality concerns.  The costs have been addressed in the past by rationing services.  The quality concerns have been addressed by layers of bureaucracy that have often been the original cause of the quality concern.

The problem with the NHS is size.  It’s a behemoth.  And because of that, it has layers of bureaucracy.  Which results in bureaucrats making decisions for patients instead of doctors.  They’re trying to change all this by grouping together and empowering local general practitioners (GPs) into consortia (see Hospitals shake-up essential, says King’s Fund by Nick Triggle posted 3/2/2011 on the UK’s BBC).

The government has protected the NHS budget by giving it small above-inflation budget rises over the next four years.

But the report said it was still entering a “cold climate” because demands and costs were outstripping the settlement.

It said without change there could be a “downward” spiral of falling income, growing deficit and declining quality.

Will this fix all the woes of the NHS?

Scandals such as Mid Staffordshire, where an official report found hundreds of patients died needlessly because of poor care, could not be ruled out.

Probably not.  But it’s a step in the right direction.  For the patients, at least.

A Department of Health spokesman said GP consortia would strengthen the ability of the NHS to make the right decisions.

“We urgently need to modernise the NHS – that is why our plans include many measures to make services more responsive to patients and to consistently drive up quality.”

The key to good health care has always been the doctor patient relationship.  The more people that get in between the doctor and the patient the poorer the health care gets.  Because the focus shifts from quality to cost efficiency.

This is a step in the right direction, but it’s still a heavy bureaucracy.  There is another way to ensure quality, though.  Competition.  When my dad had his first heart attack the paramedics gave us a choice of two hospitals they could take him to.  One had a bad reputation.  The other didn’t.  We chose the one with the good reputation. 

That other hospital continued to do poorly for years and eventually had financial troubles.  Then a big hospital bought it and brought it up to their standards.  And many years later, both of these hospitals are now providing quality care.  You see, competition makes everything better.  Even health care.

Using High-Fructose Corn Syrup instead of Sugar making us Obese?

The British and Americans have something else in common.  We like our sweets.  While one of us loses their teeth to this indulgence, the other has gotten obese (see The Fight Over High-Fructose Corn Syrup by Sharon Begley posted 2/28/2011 on The Daily Beast).

Now a stream of studies shows that sugar and corn sweeteners differ in important ways, including how they affect the appetite-control centers in the brain. That suggests that [High-Fructose Corn Syrup] HFCS may be partly responsible for the obesity epidemic…

The new study is too small to decide the question—it included only nine people—but it fits with other research on both humans and lab animals.  Scientists led by Jonathan Purnell of Oregon Health & Science University gave fructose, glucose, or salt water to volunteers and then measured brain activity with functional MRI scans. Over several regions of the cortex, activity increased in people given glucose but decreased in those given fructose, the scientists will report in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. Cortical regions that responded differently included the orbital prefrontal, a key player in the reward circuit, and regions that process the pleasurable effects of food. “It’s evidence that fructose and glucose elicit opposite responses in the human brain,” says Purnell…

Rats eating equal calories from the two gained significantly more weight on HFCS than on table sugar, scientists led by Bart Hoebel of Princeton reported in 2010. The HFCS-fed animals also had increases in abdominal fat and triglycerides. And in a 2010 review, scientists at the University of California, Davis, noted that, in people, fructose added to abdominal fat and other measures “associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.” HFCS is not the sole culprit in obesity. But the body and brain don’t seem to treat it as an innocent bystander, either.

Great Britain’s early Caribbean colonial possessions sent shiploads of cane sugar back to England for their tea.  And to make their chocolates.  They so liked their sweets.  And, as a consequence of this sugary indulgence, their bad teeth are legendary in the world of dental hygiene.  George Harrison even wrote a song about a fellow Brit with a chocolate addiction.  Eric Clapton.  Who he warned that he’ll have to have all his teeth pulled out after the Savoy Truffle (a song on the BeatlesWhite Album).

So the British are the butt of many a dental hygiene joke.  But they aren’t obese.  Like the Americans are.  Who also have a sweet tooth.  But we don’t eat sugar.  We eat HFCS.  Why?  Not because we prefer it.  But because of our government.  Big Corn lobbies Congress for sugar tariffs.  And Congress delivers.  Which makes imported sugar more expensive than HFCS.  So we eat HFCS not by choice.  But by government fiat.  And it now appears it may be part of the cause for the explosion in obesity and diabetes in America.  How about that? 

Yet another reason to keep government bureaucrats out of our health care system.

Conservatism Works every time it’s Tried

Bureaucrats are good at shuffling paper.  They aren’t good research scientists.  Or doctors.  So it’s best to keep them shuffling paper.  And let the professionals determine what we should eat.  What we probably shouldn’t eat.  And take care of us when we get sick.  I’m sure we’d all live a longer and healthier life if we do.

The dynamic duo of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan knew this.  Their conservatism worked.  It made the UK and the US great again.  And this is why everyone bends over backwards to show how much they are like these great conservatives from our past.  Even those who couldn’t be more opposed to their philosophy.  Because they know that conservatism works and has worked every time it’s been tried.  And they’re willing to admit that (a little) at election time.  Even if they’re lying through their teeth.  That is, if they haven’t been pulled out yet after the Savoy Truffle.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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