Students in the US and the UK enroll in the Easy Degree Programs instead of Math and Science to have more Fun at University

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 8th, 2012

Week in Review

The liberal Democrats want to provide a college degree for everyone.  They want cheap student loans.  And more money spent on grants.  Anything and everything to increase the number of kids going on to college.  There is only one problem.  They are going to college.  But few are learning anything worthwhile (see We must shift science out of the geek ghetto by Liz Truss posted 9/3/2012 on The Telegraph).

Planes and trains will help deliver prosperity, but brains are the trump card…

Scientific and technical skills top the global league; maths graduates command the highest salaries, closely followed by engineers and computer scientists. But in Britain the message isn’t getting through – especially at school, where scientific expertise is seen as specialist and difficult. The vast majority of children drop any study of science at 16.

This contrasts with emerging economies such as India, where science is a mass aspiration… Young Indians don’t aspire to be pop singers or football stars, but computer engineers or technicians…

One of the underlying problems is that students in the US and UK often do not persevere in science. In the US, 40 per cent of students taking science and engineering switch their major or drop out, recognising that students achieve higher grades in arts subjects for less work. In the UK, students drop science even earlier. Evidence suggests that the level required in science and maths A-levels has been up to two grades tougher than in communication studies or sociology. Why risk doing a harder subject and getting a worse mark..?

In Japan, 85 per cent of students achieve the equivalent of maths A-level…

Indian students study maths and science for twice as long each week at high school as their British or American counterparts. It is not surprising that this hard work builds up the appetite to take science to a higher level…

Germany managed to transform its approach in 10 years…

Standards were yanked up and it was understood that teachers and students would have to work longer and harder. Instead of ending school at lunchtime, German children often stay from 7am until 4pm or 5pm. By 2009, results had improved significantly and overtaken the UK, which was ominously described by Pisa as having “stagnated at best”.

Occupy Wall Street was full of people with college degrees that couldn’t find work.  They incurred a lot of student loan debt because people told them that a college degree was a guarantee to a better and more well-paid future.  Only no one told them that it made a difference what that college degree was in.  Universities gave out a lot of expensive albeit worthless liberal arts and social science degrees.  Those easy ones with few math and science requirements.  Because it was easier to admit students for the easier degrees.  And colleges need students to pay their faculty those generous pay and benefits.  As well as all those campus workers.  So they count on large government subsidies.  And cheap student loans to bury students in debt to get a degree that few businesses will hire them for.  Because the key to those cushy jobs in our colleges is filling those classrooms.  It doesn’t matter what they learn they just have to pay to sit in those classrooms.

Of course everything people told these kids was wrong.  But do they care?  They just go after the next batch of graduating high school seniors.  Who are eager to go to college.  But often times more for the fun than the learning.  And our educators don’t care about the lives they may destroy by giving these kids the kind of debt their degrees can’t repay.  And the Left’s answer to this?  More federal jobs.  Which people joke are jobs for the unemployable.  Like those graduating with those worthless degrees.  So a lot of new government jobs help to feed the system.  When there is enough economic activity in the private sector to pay the taxes to support these bloated public sector bureaucracies, that is.

So is there a method to this madness?  Worthless jobs for worthless degrees?  Of course there is.  It helps to expand the growth of government.  When young graduates with worthless degrees get cushy federal jobs they of course vote Democrat.  Which is the ultimate goal of the federal government-public university relationship.  You scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back.  So the universities teach students about the evils of capitalism and the urgency of global warming.  And the government hires these people.  To fill the jobs of the expanding federal government.  That interferes ever further into the private sector.  The universities and the government each get what they want.  When there is enough economic activity in the private sector to pay the taxes to support these bloated public sector bureaucracies, that is.  When there isn’t they occupy Wall Street and complain about the corporations that won’t hire them.  Instead of the education system that ripped them off.

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The US and UK following Keynesian Policies and Suffering Jobless Recoveries

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 28th, 2012

Week in Review

The US is not the only country suffering through a ‘jobless’ recovery.  Which is just another way of saying continued recession.  Or double-dip recession.  The UK is having the same problems we’re having.  And using inept government policies to try and fix them.  Just like in the US (see A recession made in Downing Street – but not caused by cuts by ALLISTER HEATH posted 4/26/2012 on City A.M.).

The first problem has been the composition of the austerity package. Much of the tightening has been via tax hikes rather than spending cuts – capital gains, national insurance, stamp duty, value added tax, and now pasties and the rest. That was the wrong choice: lower taxes are good for growth, higher taxes are bad. The trick is to deliver austerity by cutting spending, not by hiking taxes.

The next issue is that the government’s supply-side agenda has failed miserably. By now, developers should have been set free to build new airports and even cities; the labour market should have been liberalised; job-reducing red tape eliminated; the top rate of tax abolished; mad EU rules abolished, and so on and so forth. Britain needed a revolution; it was granted a few over-hyped reforms…

…excessive inflation has slashed real incomes and real wealth; this, rather than cuts, is what has depressed spending the most…

Last but not least, banking rules. It was right to ensure banks held more capital and that credit became priced rationally – but the reforms have spiralled out of control…

What is most depressing is that the double-dip (if that is indeed what it is) will wrongly discredit austerity, even though the state remains incredibly profligate…

President Obama has broken deficit and debt records.  While he chastises the Right for irresponsibly spending beyond their means.  Demanding that they raise taxes to pay for this irresponsible spending.  That somehow higher taxes will fix all of America’s ills.  Or, at the least, address the social injustice of prosperity.  And happiness.

Both the UK and the US are steadfastly following the failed policies of John Maynard Keynes.  Demand-side Keynesian economics.  Tax and spend.  Because they’ve ‘worked so well’ in the past.  Of course they haven’t.  They never have.  And they never will.  What works are supply-side economics.  Those policies embraced by Margaret Thatcher.  And Ronald Reagan.  Who enjoyed real economic recoveries.  The kind that created jobs.

Politics never change.  Politicians dumb down public education so the people never learn the lessons of history.  That all of their policies are tried and failed.  So they make the same arguments every election cycle.  And the young believe in the goodness of these policies.  The fairness of these policies.  Never knowing the lives they have destroyed through the years.  Which is why politicians work so hard to get the youth vote.  Before they learn the truth.  And become conservative.

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The UK’s NHS chooses Expensive Drug from US Drug Maker Merck because it’s Better than Anything they Have

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 11th, 2012

Week in Review

What’s the difference between pre-Obamacare US health care and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS)?  Incentive.  In the US there is an incentive to pour billions of dollars into research and development.  To produce the next super drug.  Whereas in the UK drug companies only make as much as the government allows.  Or is willing to pay.  Creating a disincentive to pour billions of dollars into research and development.  Which is why the NHS’ new hepatitis C drug comes from the US (see Merck’s hepatitis C drug wins UK cost endorsement by Ben Hirschler posted 3/9/2012 on Reuters).

U.S. drug maker Merck & Co’s new hepatitis C drug Victrelis was recommended for use within Britain’s state health service on Friday, despite its hefty price tag.

Critics will say that we shouldn’t allow Merck to charge so much for their drug.  That it is wrong to profit off of disease.  That the US should stop this price gouging like they do in the UK.  So should we?  Well, to answer that question all you have to do is to consider who made this new hepatitis C drug.  And who was that?  The US, of course.  Because Merck COULD charge this much for their drug.  Which just goes to show you that when you want the best you’re better off relying on the profit system than altruism.  Because profits provide incentive to make the best.  While altruism doesn’t.

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First the State Destroys Public Education then they Destroy the Family

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 10th, 2012

Week in Review

The US is not the only country having problems with their public education.  The public education in the UK is getting so bad that parents are hardly seeing their kids anymore.  Their kids are either spending long days at school that include 2 or 3 school-provided meals.  Home work clubs.  And after school activities.  Or they’re simply going away to boarding school.  So their parents can work the extra hours to pay for a better education in a private school (see Private schools ‘acting as parents to middle-class children’ by Graeme Paton posted 3/6/2012 on The Telegraph).

Teachers are effectively acting as surrogate parents for thousands of pupils who often eat breakfast at school and remain in extra-curricular activities until the early evening, said Andy Waters, chairman of the Society of Heads of Independent Schools.

He said “more and more responsibility” was falling on schools during the economic downturn because of the sheer rise in parental workloads…

“Our often beleaguered parents need us to provide wrap-around care, breakfasts and evening meals, homework clubs and extra-curricular activities so that they can work the hours needed to earn the wherewithal to pay school fees,” he said…

The comments were made after figures showed an increase in the number of young children being enrolled in boarding schools as a result of the pressure on family life.

No doubt some in government like this trend.  The disintegration of the family.  For the sooner they can get these kids the sooner they can make them proper Social/Liberal/Democrat voters.  So these high-spending governments can keep spending.  Creating greater budget deficits.  And greater stresses on the family.  Until the family will be no more.  And we live in that socialist ‘paradise’ envisioned by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Where the state is supreme.  And its citizens suffer abject despair.  Living a life of subsistence in a grey world.  While those in the government do quite well.  As they always do. 

For awhile, though, there was a time when the people lived well.  And the government served the people.  It was a good run.  Kicked off in England when they introduced us to representative government.  (Which reached back to Ancient Greece.)  Which makes this development in the UK particularly sad.  A great nation in decline.  As are all the social democracies of Europe with their crushing debt burdens.  All of them clearly on the wrong path.  Yet it is the path the current US administration has chosen.  To follow these nations like a lemming to that financial cliff.

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Labour Supports Pay Freeze for Public Sector Workers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 15th, 2012

Week in Review

Deficits have consequences.  Because you can’t just keep on borrowing money you don’t have.  So eventually the day comes when everyone realizes that they must live within their means.  Even political opponents (see Balls backs public sector pay freeze posted 1/14/2012 on the BBC News UK).

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has indicated Labour will support a pay freeze for public sector workers in order to help reduce the deficit.

Mr Balls told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that getting people into jobs must come before higher pay.

The UK’s deficit is about 10% of GDP.  Ditto for the US.  The UK’s debt is about 95% of GDP.  The US is about 100% of GDP.  In Reagan’s last year as US president it was only about 51% of GDP.

Deficits and debt are rising to dangerous levels.  They’re so high in the UK that the Labour party, the party of public sector workers, will support a freeze for public sector workers.  That’s serious.  For even in the US where the numbers are even worse the Democrats (the party of public sector workers) don’t dare to breathe such sentiments.  They still talk about making the rich pay their fair share of taxes.  They never talk about cutting spending.  Never.  Unless it’s defense spending.

The Brits are trying to do the responsible thing.  Even the political opposition is going along because it’s in the best interests of their country.  Suspending politics as usual at the highest levels.  It would be nice to see something like that in their former colony.  The United States.

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The UK is Burning because they have too much Socialism and Class Warfare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 10th, 2011

You Simply can’t Keep Increasing the Burden on the Productive Class Forever 

The UK is burning.  Thanks to socialism.  And class warfare.  For people are rioting because they’re not getting enough stuff.  So they’re correcting that inequity by stealing stuff from others (see As rioting spreads UK’s Cameron vows crackdown by Stefano Ambrogi and Angus MacSwan posted 8/10/2011 on Reuters).

Youths fought running battles with police in the northern cities of Manchester and Liverpool as well as in the Midlands.

They smashed shop windows, carted off televisions and designer clothes, and torched buildings as police armed with shields and batons struggled to maintain control…

Gangs of youths in hooded tops battled police in Manchester, smashing windows and looting shops, and setting fire to a clothes shop.

In nearby Salford, rioters threw bricks at police and set fire to buildings. TV pictures showed flames leaping from shops and cars, and plumes of black smoke billowing across roads…

In Liverpool’s Toxteth district, rioters attacked two fire engines and a fire officer’s car, police said. Earlier, some 200 youths throwing missiles wrecked and looted shops…

Cars were burned and stores looted in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton in central England; and in Nottingham a gang of young men set fire to a police station. There were also disturbances in Birmingham and Leicester in central England, and Milton Keynes north of London…

In Birmingham, police launched a murder inquiry after three Muslim men died after being run over by a car in the mayhem there. A friend of the men told BBC radio they had been part of a group of British Asians protecting their area from looters after attending Ramadan prayers at a mosque.

“The car swerved toward them. It was cold-blooded murder,” the friend said. The father of one of the men tried to save his dying son with CPR.

They’re not doing this in the US.  Yet.  Because the US is not quite the social welfare state the UK is.  Yet. 

These UK riots illustrate the problem with socialism.  ‘From those according to ability to those according to need’.  The youths rioting have no ability.  And have shown no effort to learn any ability.  Content to remain on the dole.  And it’s a very generous dole in the UK.  Well, it used to be.  Hence the rioting. 

The rioters have needs.  Great needs.  Widescreen televisions.  Designer clothes.  Seeing buildings and cars burn.  So they attended to their own needs.  Took from those having ability.  And burned the mother up.  Destroyed the property of the very people who pay taxes and fund the welfare state.  And provide jobs.  So it looks like the rioters haven’t helped their employment prospects in the community.

Getting a permanent underclass dependent on government benefits provides loyal voters at election time.  But it comes with a price.  The spending required to maintain this underclass eventually becomes unsustainable.  Because you simply can’t keep increasing the burden on the productive class forever.  They may just say screw this and go on the dole, too.  And let someone else put up with the high taxes.  And the looters.

“This disturbing phenomenon has to be understood as a conflagration of aggression from a socially and economically excluded underclass,” the liberal Independent newspaper said.

“These youths live in the heart of British cities but they do not feel part of them. Far too little has been done by successive generations of politicians and public servants to integrate these individuals into normal society. The fuse for this explosion has been burning down for many years.”

Oh, society’s to blame.  Not the people smashing windows and stealing stuff.  Or the people setting fires.  It’s the people who have been living by the rules, the law-abiding people, who are to blame.

Critics say government policies of chopping public spending and raising taxes to cut a huge budget deficit have aggravated the plight of urban youth as the economy struggles to grow and unemployment rises.

The awarding of huge bonuses to bankers has become emblematic of a culture of flashy consumption for the elite.

Corruption scandals within London’s police force and a 2009 scandal over parliamentarians’ expenses have also fueled the notion that greed is a motivating factor across the spectrum of British society.

“Everyone’s heard about the police taking bribes, the members of parliament stealing thousands with their expenses. They set the example. It’s time to loot,” a youth in the riot-torn London district of Hackney told Reuters.

“It’s time to loot.”  That says it all.  They don’t want to sit down and discuss socioeconomic issues.  They just want to get stuff while the getting is good.  I mean, there are protests.  And there is theft.  Labor standing in a picket line is a protest.  Smashing windows and stealing stuff is theft.

Is State Welfare so Generous that People don’t want to get off of State Benefits? 

Of course, some are politicizing this violence.  To make the case for more social spending.  Because if you don’t pay these thugs off they’ll come and smash your windows and take your stuff (see Do Budget Cuts Cause More Riots? by Bouree Lam posted 8/10/2011 on Freakonomics).

A couple weeks ago, Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans-Joachim Voth put out their working paper “Austerity and Anarchy: Budget Cuts and Social Unrest in Europe, 1919-2009.” It uses cross-country data in the 90-year period to examine whether riots and civil unrest increase as governments cut spending. They found a positive correlation between social instability and budget cuts.

I think the real question is this.  Is state welfare too generous?  Is it so generous that people don’t want to get off of state benefits?  And when said benefits are cut they riot?  Are they so lazy and have such a state-induced entitlement mentality that the thought of having to provide for themselves is so disagreeable that they prefer burning their own neighborhoods? 

And so they riot.  They torch their oppressors.  Probably drive these stores out of their neighborhoods.  And discourage anyone from opening a new store in such a violent and riot-prone neighborhood.  Now what?  Where are they going to shop with no stores?  Who will they riot against then?

The Balance of Power has always Determined whether there will be Peace or War 

As bad as all of this is, some are saying the US should follow the UK’s example.  Stop being a world superpower.  And enjoy harmonious bliss at home.  Like they have in the UK.  When they’re not rioting and burning the place down (see Three Cheers for Decline by Charles Kenny posted 8/9/2011 on Foreign Policy).

Of course, the United States still possesses greater military strength than any other country in the world. But what good has being the world’s policeman done for Americans? Wielding that might meant the United States saw more combat deaths overseas last year than any other country, according to data from Uppsala University. Beyond the blood is the treasure: U.S. military spending increased 81 percent between 2001 and 2010 and now accounts for 43 percent of the global total — six times its nearest rival, China. The U.S. military burden is equivalent to 4.8 percent of GDP, the largest economic burden of any OECD country.

Everyone attacks U.S. defense spending.  Something, by the way, called for in the Constitution.  Unlike entitlements.  Now 4.8% of GDP is too high and should be cut.  Whereas entitlement spending is twice that amount and yet no one calls for any spending cuts there.  So it’s not a money thing.  It’s a ‘let’s weaken the U.S. thing’.

Freed from the distractions of colonial oversight and global leadership, it could retire its planet-spanning chain of military bases, shrink the Royal Navy, and devalue the pound without fears that the world would come to an end. And the country learned to collaborate without feeling equal status was a slight to its dignity — joining the European Union, for example, and signing the Kyoto Protocol.

Could the United States go down the same track toward contented (well, most of the time), pretty-good-power status?

But let’s not forget something.  When the sun never set on the British Empire the world was a more peaceful place.  We call it Pax Britannica.  Latin for British peace.  The British Empire was a benign one as far as empires go.  There was prosperity and peace.  And little war.  Something only a powerful military can give you.  When in British or American hands, at least.

The world is a dangerous place.  Always has been.  And the balance of power has always determined whether there will be peace.  Or war.  When the Nazis had it there was war.  When the British had it during the Pax Britannica there was peace.  Yes, the US and UK have made some mistakes.  But ask yourself this.  Who would you feel more comfortable having the kind of military might the US has?  China?  Iran?  Russia?  I think not.

So the US should give up its national security interests.  And take that money and spend it on more state benefits.  Like the UK did following the end of her empire.  So the permanent underclass can grow larger.  And more restive.  Demanding ever more benefits.  And rioting when they don’t get what they want.  Not a very good tradeoff for living in a less safe world if you ask me.

People Dependent on Government Benefits tend to vote for Candidates who Promise more of the Same

The rise of the welfare state has created a permanent underclass dependent on government.  Because overly generous benefits made it attractive to remain in the underclass.  Happy not to be productive.  Living off the labors of those who are.  It’s good politics.  People dependent on government benefits tend to vote for candidates who promise more of the same.

But there is a limit to how much wealth you can transfer from the productive class to the nonproductive.  If you take too much away the productive class may just join the ranks of the nonproductive.  Because that’s where the incentive is.  So the government can only tax up to a certain point.  Then they have to start borrowing.  Until the borrowing creates deficits too great to borrow anymore.  So then the spending cuts begin.  And, of course, the rioting.

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The International Fight against Universal Health Care

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 16th, 2011

The Most Effective Cost Control Mechanism is Market Forces

They keep saying that they’re not trying to nationalize our health care.  In fact, Obama promised that if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor with the new Obamacare.  Of course, that decision won’t be entirely yours.  For your doctor may choose to drop you.  And if they keeping cutting Medicare doctor reimbursements, doctors will finally say enough is enough.  I’m outta here.  No more Medicare patients.  Which could force you to find another doctor.  Even though Obama promised that wouldn’t happen.

There’s a lot of talk about controlling costs in Medicare.  And there’s only one way to that with the current system.  You pay doctors less.  Which they are always trying to do.  Is that fair?  Put yourself in their position.  Would you keep seeing patients?  After doing what so few other people do (go to college, medical school, serve an internship and a residency after racking up huge student loan debt that has to be paid back at the same time you have to pay ever rising medical malpractice insurance premiums leaving you with little money to enjoy the first decade or so of your new medical career)?  Because some government bureaucrat says you’ve earned enough money?  All the while no government restrictions are placed on public sector pay and benefits?  To add the ultimate insult to injury, a lot of those same bureaucrats telling doctors that they’ve earned enough money and should be happy with what the government deems is appropriate will no doubt make more than the doctor.  With far less training.  And far less responsibility.  Which just ain’t right.

They like to blame the doctors for the runaway costs.  But they’re not the lone scapegoat.  They also blame the pharmaceutical companies.  The hospitals.  And, of course, the great ‘big bad’ in the health care industry, the insurance companies.  Whose costs keep going up.  Greater than the rate of inflation.  So the runaway costs in the health care system must be their fault.  Because they’re greedy.  It can’t have anything to do with the system we force them into.  Where third party payments shut out all market forces (the person receiving the service isn’t paying the bill), thus eliminating the only effective cost control mechanism.  And introduces government.  Making health care a public good.  Where non-health care government bureaucrats determine fair pricing, supply and demand.  And you know where that will lead to.  To the here and now.

Labour fights against Market Forces for the NHS in the UK

Government bureaucrats don’t like privatization.  Or market forces.  They’d rather manage things.  Because they’re smarter.  Narcissistic.   And they covet that money and power.  They want all those tax dollars funding health care to go through their fingers.  And having people dependent on them for their health care makes that a whole lot easier.  So when conservatives try to introduce effective cost mechanisms, liberals push back.  In the US.  In Canada.  And in the UK (see NHS bill to ‘substantively’ change, says Oliver Letwin posted 4/16/2011 on the BBC).

Labour wants the plans for the NHS in England, which encourage more private sector competition, to be scrapped.

Under the shake-up, GPs are also to be given control of much of the NHS budget.

To cut costs, reduce wait times and improve quality of the NHS, the UK is trying to decentralize the NHS.  Give more decision-making authority to the general practitioners (GPs) in the local communities.  Letting the local health care providers in the communities they serve determine how to best spend the NHS money.  Which, of course, is anathema to Big Government liberals.  Such as Labour in the UK.

Liberals fight against Market Forces for the CHA in Canada

Wherever you find national health care, you’ll find bitter partisan debate over the money paying for that health care.  Except in Cuba.  Or North Korea.  Luckily, for them, there are no opposition parties.  And no one complains about anything.  For they know better.  But Canada has a national funded health care system.  And opposition parties.  Which can get pretty nasty when they’re trailing in the polls (see Liberals drop gloves with attack ad on Harper’s ‘secret’ health agenda by John Ibbitson posted 4/16/2011 in The Globe and Mail).

Conservatives are reacting with fury to a Liberal attack ad that accuses them of harbouring a secret agenda to cut health care funding if they obtain a majority government.

“The Liberal ad uses some of the dirtiest tricks in the book — including twisting words out of context and deliberately altering dates to make old words appear recent,” Tory campaign manager Jenni Byrne wrote to party supporters in reaction to the new attack ad.

In America, the go-to strategy is to threaten Medicare.  In the UK it’s the NHS.  In Canada, it’s the Canada Health Act (CHA).  The reason is, of course, the sheer size of this budget item.  If you’re trying to cut a budget deficit, that’s where you do it.  Cuts elsewhere just won’t be big enough to matter.  And everyone knows it.

If Mr. Harper is given “absolute power,” the ad warns, he plans to cut $11-billion from the federal budget. “Where would Harper’s cuts leave your family’s health?” the narrator asks.

“The stakes are too high. Vote Liberal.”

So you threaten certain death for you and your family should the opposition get elected.  While all the time promising yourself to cut the deficit.  Which, of course, you won’t.  For it will require cuts in health care funding.  And you’re not going to do that.  For there will be another election.  Eventually.  Sure, it makes you a hypocrite.  But a hypocrite with a job.

The Conservatives do plan to cut government spending as part of their own plan to balance the budget, but they promise to do so without reducing transfers to provinces, including health transfers.

It is true that the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien cut funding for health care in the 1990s as part of its efforts to eliminate the federal deficit. Once the budget was balanced, the Paul Martin government signed a ten-year accord to increase funding by six per cent a year. The Conservatives, when they came to power, honoured that commitment, and pledge to continue the arrangement, as does Mr. Ignatieff.

Anyone living near the Canadian-US border only knows too well the consequences of painful health care cuts.  When doctors and nurses get pay cuts, they scoot across the border for higher paying jobs in the US.  Which makes Canadians’ long waits for health care even longer.  This is the ultimate consequence of national health care.  Cost problems you solve by rationing services.  Whether in the UK.  Canada.  Or the USA.

Massachusetts:  Blueprint for Obamacare

We have Obamacare now.  Maybe.  We’ll see.  There’s a popular movement to repeal it.  After it was snuck through Congress.  By the time people learned what was in it (long after Congress voted it into law), the majority of the population didn’t want it.  It’s a big reason why the Republicans won back the House of Representatives in the 2010 mid-term elections.  For the people felt betrayed by their representatives.  So they fired a bunch of them.  Except Nancy Pelosi.  Who the good people of San Francisco reelected with like 80% of the vote even though her national approval numbers as Speaker of the House were closer to 10%.  Which makes it clear that the San Francisco district she represents is an anomaly in the American fabric.  Where the people think against the national grain, so to speak.  But I digress.

Anyway, before Obamacare there was Massachusetts.  And their little experiment in universal health care.  Which now covers every man, woman and child.  Well, almost.  Only 98% are covered.  That other 2% are the state’s Republicans.  I’m kidding, of course.  I don’t know who that 2% is.  Except that they must be the most unlucky sons of bitches ever to live in Massachusetts.  To live in a state where everyone gets free health care and they still get bupkis.  Imagine how that would make you feel.

But even there, in that universal health care utopia, they have a problem.    They gave health care to everyone (except that unlucky 2%, the poor bastards) but they never figured out how to pay for it (see Massachusetts, pioneer of universal health care, now may try new approach to costs by Amy Goldstein posted 4/15/2011 on The Washington Post).

Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) is trying to “shove,” as he put it, the health-care system here into a new era of cost control. He is proposing a new way of paying for care that would try to propel changes in the way it is delivered. It would give lump payments to teams of doctors responsible for almost all the care of a group of patients, with bonuses for saving money and dispensing high-caliber services that keep people healthy.

Interesting.  Sort of going the route of the GPs in the UK.  Decentralizing the health care system.  After they just centralized it.

Massachusetts in 2006 created a health insurance exchange, a requirement that most residents carry coverage and subsidies to help them pay for it — central elements now in the federal law. As a result, 98 percent of the residents here are now insured, the highest rate in the nation. But the state’s first round of health-care changes devoted far less attention to medical costs.

“We did access first,” said state Senate President Therese Murray (D). “Now we have to figure out how we afford that.”

Oops.  No doubt during the debate for universal care the opponents said something like, “Are you out of your minds?  You have any idea what something like that will cost?”  Which, of course, the proponents replied, “Don’t worry about it.  We have a plan.”  And that plan was apparently to get the law passed first then figure out how to pay for it.

Fee-for-service medicine “is a primary contributor to escalating costs and pervasive problems of uneven quality,” the commission unanimously concluded in 2009.

Despite the consensus, huge questions loom: Who should be part of the new medical teams? How would the idea work for most doctors who practice alone or in small groups? How much clout should the state wield to blunt the ability of powerful local health systems to drive up costs? And, importantly, how heavy a hand should the government use to compel change?

Fee for service is NOT the problem.  It’s never the problem.  If I want to hire a contractor to build a deck in my backyard, I’ll ask some contractors to quote their fee to build a deck.  If the prices are $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000 for identical services, guess who I’m going to hire.  Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say that each of these prices are fair prices for each of these contractors because of their cost structure (e.g., one may have his office on the beach and pays ten times as much in property tax as the others and therefore has to charge more). 

Now in a system where the government steps in to make prices fair, let’s see what happens.  Say a bureaucrat gets three quotes and determines the fair price is $10,000 (the average of the three).  So the contractor who quoted $15,000 now has to build decks at $10,000 and lose money, eventually going out of business.  The contractor that quoted $5,000 will get rich making over a 100% profit on each deck.  And me?  I’ll end up paying twice as much as I had to for the deck.  This is what happens when you don’t let the market set prices.  You get a mess.

In the pressure-cooker of medical costs in the United States, Massachusetts offers a particularly vivid example. The spending per person on health care is 15 percent higher than the national average — even taking into account the comparatively high wages here and outsize role of medical research and training. The move to near-universal coverage, state figures show, accounts for a sliver of recent increases in insurance premiums, which have soared above inflation. The main reason has been a rapid escalation in prices.

“The growth is outstripping every single measure of society’s ability to keep up,” said Glen Shor, executive director of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector, which runs the insurance exchange.

So much for the theory of an insurance exchange being the panacea Obama claimed it would be.  For whenever has a bureaucracy been cost efficient?  Never.  It’s impossible.  You can’t manage an economy and do better than market forces.  It’s never happened yet in human history.  So why do some people (i.e., Big Government liberals) still think they can do a better job?  Oh, but we must remove filthy, nasty profits from health care.  This ‘public good’ deserves better.  It deserves the tender love of a caring government bureaucracy.  Not some evil corporation trying to maximize profits.  Of course, look at what happens when these corporations do just that.  Stuff we like and want to buy is plentiful and inexpensive.  But God forbid if we do that to health care.

Some doctors are embracing the new way of working. David C. Pickul is the medical director of the physicians group affiliated with Lowell General Hospital, in an economically bruised community about 30 miles northwest of Boston. The group is in the third year of a five-year “alternative quality” contract with Blue Cross involving a hub of 70 primary care doctors and a looser group of 200 specialists who are responsible for 20,000 HMO patients. The team now has a financial incentive, Pickul said, to track down patients when it is time for their mammograms or for eye exams for those with diabetes. Under Blue Cross’s quality rating, Lowell has soared the past two years.

Blue Cross is not alone. At Partners HealthCare, the famous Boston-based medical system that dominates health care here, Massachusetts General Hospital has been conducting a Medicare experiment in which nurses are assigned to coordinate care for about 2,500 older patients with multiple ailments. The experiment, which began five years ago, so far has reduced hospital re-admissions by one-fifth and cut medical spending by 7 percent.

“Frankly, the market has already . . . responded,” said Gary Gottlieb, Partners’ president and chief executive. “There is enough momentum for us to do this without instrumental regulation” by the state.

The governor and some other officials disagree. The need to lower costs, they say, is urgent enough that the government should step in, and they have been laying groundwork.

Financial incentive?  Isn’t that another word for profit?  And this pursuit of profits has done what?  Improved patient quality?  Reduced hospital readmissions by one-fifth?  And cut medical spending by 7 percent?  Amazing what will happen when you let the market respond.  What a success story.  But they want to do what?  Step in?  To lower costs?  After the market lowered costs already by 7 percent?  You got to be kidding me.  Whatever happened to if it ain’t broke don’t fix it?

And Alice Coombs, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, is especially concerned about physicians who work alone or in small groups, older physicians who might choose to retire rather than switch or new doctors who might leave for other states.

And how do you solve that problem?  With compulsory medical service.  Which universal health care coverage gives you.  If you worry about doctors opting out of a new cost-contained system, you make it impossible to opt out.  You simply nationalize health care.  Letting the doctors know, yeah, they may be miserable and unhappy with the new system, but you’ll be just as miserable and unhappy where ever you go.  So why move out of state?  For any where you go, we’ll be there.  Understand?  So just keep curing the people and stop your bitching. 

Sure will make all that medical school, internship and residency worth it, won’t it?

The Song Remains the Same

Liberals everywhere want to expand the size of government.  And a national health care is the holy grail of government expansion.  But everywhere it’s tried the same thing happens.  Cost and wait times increase.  Quality decreases.  And services are rationed.  Most people (especially liberals) want to blame the greed of those who work in health care.  So they come up with new ways to manage and control costs.  Which inevitably adds yet more layers of bureaucracy.  Which benefits liberal governments.  At the expense of the taxpayer.  And patients’ health.

But nothing they try works.  Costs keep going up.  For good reason.  Because the problem is not the greed of the health care people.  It’s the health care system.  There are no market forces in it.  Which is the most efficient cost control mechanism.  Of course, admitting this is an admission that Big Government has failed.  And liberals can’t have that.  So they fight.  Demonize.  And scapegoat. And try to scare the bejesus out of everyone by saying conservatives want to cut health care funding so they can kill your family.

Whatever the name, whatever the country, the song remains the same.  Conservatives will try to cut deficits by reforming the biggest budget item.  And liberals will fight them every step of the way.  Ultimately giving us a health care system with greater costs, longer wait times, lower quality and rationed care.  As demonstrated everywhere in countries with a national health care system.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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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.

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