Friday, February 27, 2009

Heading for a crash -- Congress, Obama and out of control spending

At a time of incredible financial and economic uncertainty, President Obama presented to Congress and the American people a very bold plan for the future of America -- finding a cure for cancer, universal health care, free education and a host of other things. Of course the question is how to pay for it all. Well, raise taxes and continue to pile up debt through more government spending. Of course, recent Republican presidents and republican Congresses were guilty of deficit spending, but it's breathtaking what President Obama and the democrat Congress are proposing and doing, especially at a time of great instability.

My take is their policies will only make a bad situation worse and result in even greater financial and economic distress.
I think we're seeing the confluence of at least two things which will create the perfect economic storm. One, is the economic and financial crisis brought on by greed, corrupt and people living beyond their means. People, corporations and the government have been living beyond their means, on borrowed money, and that's merely coming home to roost.

And two, faulty ideas and understanding of what to do about the financial and economic problem. Instead of seeing part of what's happening as a necessary correction to living beyond our means and cleaning up bad debt, economic and financial policy makers think all that they need to do is pump more money into the economy to keep the good times rolling. Thus, we see a very loose money supply and very low interest rates in hopes of warding off a collapse and keep things rolling along.

And now in Washington, DC the politicians in charge, Obama, Reid and Pelosi and their advisers have drunk deeply at the well of Keynesian economic theory which says government spending is what's necessary to jump start the economy and get things flying once again. The result a $1.75 trillion dollar deficit with more to come. And out of a desire to mitigate the deficit, Obama is proposing significant tax increases on the wealthy - those making over $250,000 a year - which will only discourage small business owners from expanding their businesses and creating jobs. In other words, Obama and the Keynesian economists are looking back to FDR as their example both for spending and raising taxes. The actually result then and now will be a prolonged period of economic crisis rather than a shorter one. The Great Depression went on for over a decade. It had a period of seeming recovery but quickly lapsed back into a depression with high unemployment and a dropping stock market. Punitive tax increases were imposed on the wealthy and companies by FDR which only retarded economic growth. So too today. What they didn't have then which we do now is have significant debt issues which will only worsen the wrong moves by policy makers and give us much less room for maneuvering.

Moving towards an universal health care system will be costly and mean rationing of health care and diminution of quality of care. Climate legislation will be costly to business and do little or nothing for the environment. I sense the liberals are seeking to pass all their agenda and spending items now as quickly as possible, "while the gittin's good."

I think Keynesian ideas about government stimulus have given Congressional liberals the justification for indulging themselves at precisely the time when we can least afford to be indulging ourselves. All it means is the economic problems we see now are only a foretaste of things to come.

Things may recover briefly in terms of a stock market run up but we will be "paying later" in a big way.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is Obama's stimulus package a colossal waste of money? Some think so.

With the ink hardly dry from President Obama's pen signing into a law a $790 billion spending and tax bill designed to stimulate our economy, observers are already asking whether it's a "colossal waste" of money.

Robert Samuelson, economics columnist with the increasingly left leaning Newsweek magazine wonders whether that's not so in a recent column.

Judged by his own standards, President Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus program is deeply disappointing. For weeks, Obama has described the economy in grim terms. "This is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill recession," he said at his Feb. 9 news conference. It's "the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression." Given these dire warnings, you'd expect the stimulus package to focus almost exclusively on reviving the economy. It doesn't, and for that, Obama bears much of the blame.

Samuelson then goes on to point out that the bill won't provide much stimulus for the economy but rather is full of pork and spending programs that won't go into effect for years.

The case for a huge stimulus -- which I support -- is to prevent a devastating downward economic spiral. Spending is tumbling worldwide. In the fourth quarter of 2008, the U.S. economy contracted at a nearly 4 percent annual rate. In Japan, the economy fell at a nearly 13 percent rate; in Europe, the rate was about 6 percent. These are gruesome declines. If the economic outlook is as bleak as Obama says, there's no reason to dilute the upfront power of the stimulus. But that's what he's done.

His politics compromise the program's economics. Look at the numbers. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that about $200 billion will be spent in 2011 or later -- after it would do the most good. For starters, there's $8 billion for high-speed rail. "Everyone is saying this is (for) high-speed rail between Los Angeles and Las Vegas -- I don't know," says Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association. Whatever's done, the design and construction will occupy many years. It's not a quick stimulus.

Then there's $20.8 billion for improved health information technology -- more electronic records and the like. Probably most people regard this as desirable, but here, too, changes occur slowly. The CBO expects only 3 percent of the money ($595 million) to be spent in fiscal 2009 and 2010. The peak year of projected spending is 2014 at $14.2 billion.

Big projects take time. They're included in the stimulus because Obama and Democratic congressional leaders are using the legislation to advance many political priorities instead of just spurring the economy. At his news conference, Obama argued (inaccurately) that the two goals don't conflict. Consider, he said, the retrofitting of federal buildings to make them more energy efficient. "We're creating jobs immediately," he said.

Yes -- but not many. The stimulus package includes $5.5 billion for overhauling federal buildings. The CBO estimates that only 23 percent of that would be spent in 2009 and 2010.

Worse, the economic impact of the stimulus is already smaller than advertised. The package includes an obscure tax provision: a "patch" for the alternative minimum tax (AMT). This protects many middle-class Americans against higher taxes and, on paper, adds $85 billion of "stimulus" in 2009 and 2010. One problem: "It's not stimulus," says Len Burman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. "(Congress was) going to do it anyway. They do it every year." Strip out the AMT patch, and the stimulus drops to about $700 billion, with almost 30 percent spent after 2010.

The purpose of the stimulus is to minimize declines in one part of the economy from dragging other sectors down. The next big vulnerable sector seems to be state and local governments. Weakening tax payments create massive budget shortfalls. From now until the end of fiscal 2011, these may total $350 billion, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a liberal advocacy group. Required to balance their budgets, states face huge pressures to cut spending and jobs or to raise taxes. All would worsen the recession and deepen pessimism.

Yet, the stimulus package offers only modest relief. Using funds from the stimulus, states might offset 40 percent of their looming deficits, says the CBPP's Nicholas Johnson. The effect on localities would probably be less. Congress might have done more by providing large, temporary block grants to states and localities and letting them decide how to spend the money. Instead, the stimulus provides most funds through specific programs. There's $90 billion more for Medicaid, $12 billion for special education, $2.8 billion for various policing programs. More power is being centralized in Washington.

No one knows the economic effects of all this; estimates vary. But Obama's political strategy stunts the impact from what it might have been. By using the stimulus for unrelated policy goals, spending will be delayed and diluted. There's another downside: "Temporary" spending increases for specific programs, as opposed to block grants, will be harder to undo, worsening the long-term budget outlook.

Politics cannot be removed from the political process. But here, partisan politics ran roughshod over pragmatic economic policy. Token concessions (including the AMT provision) to some Republicans weakened the package. Obama is gambling that his flawed stimulus will seem to work well enough that he'll receive credit for restarting the economy -- and not blamed for engineering a colossal waste.

If the economy continues to go south and the stimulus bill is understood by the voters as a "colossal waste", those who voted for it had better be concerned.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New policy is better than old policy on sexual orientation in Minnesota's largest school district.

A couple of weeks ago it was reported that the Anoka-Hennepin School District dropped it's "anti-gay" policy regarding the promotion of homosexuality. It was seen as a victory by gay activists.

In fact, the new policy is stronger than the old one. The old policy simply said the district would not teach homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle. The problem with that policy is it was limited to homosexuality and it was unclear what "advocate the homosexual lifestyle" meant.

Here's the wording of the old policy:
"We recommend that while respect be maintained toward all people, homosexuality not be taught/addressed as a normal, valid lifestyle and that district staff and their resources not advocate the homosexual lifestyle."
The new language is as follows:
"Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations. Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student-led discussions. If and when staff address sexual orientation, it is important that staff do so in a respectful manner that is age-appropriate, factual, and pertinent to the relevant curriculum."
This expands the definition to encompass transgenderism, transvestitism, cross dressing and so forth. It also makes explicit that sexual orientation is not a part of the district's curriculum and teachers must remain neutral regarding sexual orientation, e.g. they can't promote homosexuality. And lastly, it makes clear sexual orientation is an issue best left to families and churches not the school district. This should preclude situations where homosexual teachers attempt to promote homosexuality in the classroom or in their interactions with students. Situations had arisen in the past where teachers were leading the charge regarding pro-homosexual initiatives in a particular school.

This change is significant because Anoka-Hennepin is the largest public school district in the state with over 40,000 students and can serve as an example to other district wrestling with how to address this issue

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama wants to "bend" history towards his vision of the future and embrace FDR pragmatism. The result? Loss of personal and economic freedom.

A recent column by liberal E.J. Dionne reveals a number of things about Obama which don't bode well for our nation's economic recovery. It also points to Obama's view of himself as the mover and shaper of our nation's future; a disconcerting feature considering Obama flawed moral and ethical vision and failure to understand what's actually happening with our financial crisis.

E.J. point out that
Barack Obama senses that he's in the middle of a hurricane whose gale-force winds could blow history his way.

More striking was his sense that fate has handed him opportunities few presidents ever get, and that his test will be whether he makes good use of his chance to bend history at one of its "inflection points."

"Leadership at those moments can help determine which direction that wave of change goes," he said. "I think it's very hard ... for any single individual or politician to unleash historical momentum on its own. But I think when that historical wave is there, I think you can help guide it."

Asked if this were one of those moments, he replied, flatly, "yes." That may make the situation "scary sometimes," but it should also "make people determined and excited." Maybe that explains his good mood.

The only question is where he wants to lead or "bend history." If it's his liberal vision, it will mean loss of freedom, both personal and economic. A nation saddled with incredible debt, health care rationing, and abortion and homosexuality more deeply embedded in our social fabric. No one can say President Obama has gotten us into this mess. The only question is whether he will only more deeply embed us in the mess we've been moving towards.

Obama is devoted to "FDR-style pragmatism."

"Yet Obama's purpose on Friday was not to play at being a philosopher of history, but to stress his devotion to FDR-style pragmatism. "We will do what works," he said, reprising his administration's theme song. That "will require re-evaluation" and "some experimentation -- if that doesn't work then you do something else."

What clearly didn't work well was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's effort last week to lay out the administration's bank rescue plan. Obama offered no apologies. He argued that Geithner will keep working on an approach "over the next weeks, months, probably through the end of the year" because there is no "painless, quick fix here."

The problem with this devotion to FDR's pragmatism is it led to a lengthening of the 1930s depression by a number of years. FDR wasted a lot of money on a lot of government programs which didn't work. In Obama's case he has already driven through a stimulus package which by all accounts won't provide much stimulus for the economy and when it does it will be years out. What it most certainly will do is expand our nation's debt load dramatically.

Obama at the same time says he wants to chip away at our enormous long term budget deficit.

There are many such balancing acts in Obama's world. He knows he has to spend a lot of money now, but insists he wants to "chip away at our enormous long-term budget deficit." He wants to get the "ball rolling" on health care reform because, while it "may cost money on the front end," it can "save enormous money on the back end."

How can he possibly reduce our debt load without cutting government spending? Is he willing to give up universal health care? Is he willing to cut back social security benefits? Cut back defense spending at a time when the world is becoming increasingly more dangerous and he's about to embark on a build up of troops in Afghanistan which has all the earmarks of a long term, protracted conflict. He may actually believe his rhetoric that he wants to cut our deficit, but his liberal vision for more government makes that an impossibility. (Unless he thinks he can raise taxes astronomically which will only further harm the economy.)

As we enter what may well be another depressionary period or at least something more than a generic recession, President Obama is not sure how we should get through it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Liberal columnist says throwing money at our financial crisis isn't the answer to our problem.

Michael Kinsley, liberal columnist for the Washington Post, hit the nail on the head when he questioned the focus on more spending and more debt as the answer to our current financial and economic problems.

In his recent article, he says:

It sounds too good to be true, but it is true. By now we all know about the "paradox of thrift": If everyone stops spending because times are bad, times get even worse. An economist writing in the New York Times the other day addressed the wonderfully inverted problem of people who feel guilty about not spending enough. His advice: Don't feel guilty about saving money, because it's the government's job, not yours, to make sure that we spend enough. But what if you don't feel guilty about reckless borrowing and spending? What if you actually enjoy it? This has been a more common attitude in recent years. Is it still okay? Or does the medicine have to taste bad to be any good?

And can we rely on the government to spend enough? This also seems like a wonderfully upside-down problem. The answer is, apparently not. We're going to need a second stimulus package, probably a third chapter of the bank bailout, more for the auto industry and others. It's all going to cost at least two or three trillion. If it works, it will be money well spent. If it doesn't work, that means we should have spent more.

Trouble is, money well spent is still money spent. The reasons that made it a bad idea to run up all that debt haven't disappeared just because something even worse came along. Almost no one in Washington is talking about this. Since 1981, Republicans have run up massive deficits and Democrats have discovered fiscal responsibility. Now they're all having too much fun reverting to type. Republicans reject the Keynesian premise that the money is being well spent because it is being spent. Too zen for them, or something. For some Democrats, meanwhile, the very fact that a program is costly has magically become an argument in its favor.

But even if the stimulus is a magnificent success, the money still has to be paid back. The plan of record apparently is that we keep borrowing, spending and stimulating, faster and faster, until suddenly, on some signal from heaven or Timothy Geithner, we all stop spending and start saving in recordbreaking amounts. Oh sure, that will work.

There is another way. If it's not the actual, secret plan, it will be an overwhelming temptation: Don't pay the money back. So far, even as one piggy bank after another astounds us with its emptiness, there have been only the faintest whispers about the possibility of an actual default by the U.S. government. Somewhat louder whispers can be heard, though, about the gradual default known as inflation. Just three or four years of currency erosion at, say, 10 percent a year would slice the real value of our debt -- public and private, U.S. bonds and jumbo mortgages -- in half.

Anyone who regards the prospect of double-digit inflation with insouciance is either too young to have lived through it the last time (the late 1970s) or too old to remember. Among other problems, inflation works only as a surprise or betrayal. It can never be part of any public, official plan. Plan for 10 percent inflation, and you'll get 20. Plan for 20 and you'll need a wheelbarrow to pay for your morning Starbucks. But if that's not the plan, what is?

In summary, he's saying we're trying to spend our way out of a problem which resulted from irresponsible spending. It sounds like the way to made a bad situation worse. It's not a question of government doing something or nothing, but government doing the right thing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Educated fools

FOXNews reports that for the CEOs of the nation's biggest banks and corporations, it's not all in the Ivy League pedigree (Cream of the Crop Gone Sour: America's Troubled CEOs, February 17, 2009).


I thought it was interesting that the words, "character," "morality," "ethics," and "greed" appeared nowhere in the article. That's what's wrong. Our most distinguished universities are producing educated fools with lots of knowledge but devoid of a moral framework by which to lead.

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good." (Psalm 14:1)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Marijuana linked to cancer, yet some want to call it medicine.

The effort to legalize smoked marijuana for medical purposes is again up before the Minnesota legislature. This time the entire focus of proponents is on testimony from people who say marijuana was what gave their dying loved ones relief from nausea associated with chemotherapy.

What's interesting is that situation probably represents less than one half of one percent of the instances in which marijuana would be used under the bill. The language of the bill allows it be used for any situation involving pain over an extended period of time. Like a tennis elbow or bad knee. In California, only 2% of the cases involve cancer, AIDS or glaucoma. In Colorado, it's about 8%.

The problem with marijuana is simply it's a dangerous drug. It's addictive, impairs judgment, and is a gateway drug for hard drug use. Yet now it's being misrepresented as medicine.

I recently came across an article pointing out to a link between marijuana use and testicular cancer. Yet some suggest that marijuana should be prescribed to cancer patients.

Marijuana should go through the FDA drug approval process rather than circumventing it through state referendums or state legislatures.

Frankly, the damage to lives resulting from legalizing it, e.g. crime, addiction, and harmful message to young people it's OK, far outweigh any medical benefits.

I believe that the ultimate goal of the major proponents of medical marijuana is general legalization of marijuana. Medical marijuana is merely the camels nose under the tent.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Delaying the day of reckoning means it will only be much worse.

Many years ago there was a car commercial which ended with the line, "You can pay now or you can pay later." Applied to our nation's economy we are choosing the latter.

Minnesota's state government is facing a projected $4.8 billion budget deficit which could easily grow to $6 to 7 billion when the March forecast comes out. The $780 billion federal economic stimulus bill could send up to $2 to 3 billion to the state to plug the gap. Along with it will be strings attached on how the money should be spent.

All of this is an exercise in economic foolishness. The federal government is merely allowing state governments to put off the day of reckoning. They are enabling, tempting state's to not make the tough decisions now. In addition policymakers assume that the national debt will not impact us here in Minnesota. It's as though the federal government and economy are free from the laws of economics. The trillions of dollars in new debt won't come back to haunt us some day.

Earlier this week Obama's Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner suggested the Treasury Department and the Fed will spend another $2 trillion to keep things afloat.
Together, the stimulus plan in Congress and the financial rescue plan being overseen by Treasury and the Fed could end up marshaling nearly $3 trillion toward revitalizing the economy, and the enormity of the task is contributing to anxiety among policymakers, corporate America and individual investors and consumers.

"We're really operating in uncharted waters. The stimulus package and the financial-institutions rescue package are really crap shoots. We really don't have any sense of how they're going to work out," said Ross Baker, a Rutgers University politics professor. "We're really talking about remaking the American economy and the banking system."

At the heart of the problem is the unwillingness of us as a society to live within our means. It's a radical "live for the moment", me-centered mentality. There's no thought of the long range implications of what we're doing.

All indications are the wake up call of our economic problems from the last several months hasn't woken up a lot of people.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Economic stimulus bill is "anti-religious"!

That's the analysis of the economic stimulus bill from former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee who came in second to McCain in the race for the Republican nomination. I mentioned this in an earlier blog but the prominence given to it by Huckabee and others will make this a much bigger issue.

In an article on Politico newsblog:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee warned supporters Tuesday that the $828 billion stimulus package is “anti-religious.”

In an e-mail that was also posted on his blog ahead of the Senate’s passage, Huckabee wrote: “The dust is settling on the ‘bipartisan’ stimulus bill and one thing is clear: It is anti-religious.”

The former Republican presidential candidate pointed to a provision in both the House and Senate versions banning higher education funds in the bill from being used on a “school or department of divinity.”

“You would think the ACLU drafted this bill,” Huckabee said. “For all of the talk about bipartisanship, this Congress is blatantly liberal.”

“Emily’s List, radical environmental groups, etc. all have a seat at the decision making table in Washington these days,” he continued. “Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are in charge and they are working with an equally ‘progressive’ President Obama (remember his voting record is more liberal than Ted Kennedy!).”

In the e-mail, Huckabee concedes that there is little that conservatives can do in the near term, but advocated mobilization to defeat those “masquerading as ‘conservative Democrats.’”

“This is the opening round of the Democrats’ campaign for big government,” he wrote. “We cannot afford to sit round one out, because if we do, they will only become more emboldened and their grab for power more audacious and damaging to our country and our freedoms.”

The last thing Obama and Democrats in Congress want to do is charge up religious conservatives in the first few months of the new session. The economic stimulus bill has something to upset everybody.

Who's the real hero?

How ironic that events abound today for evolutionist Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, but not for emancipator Abraham Lincoln's (Pioneer Press, Happy birthday, Darwin. Oh, you too, Lincoln.).

What does it say about a society when it largely overlooks the man who ended the evil of slavery in the United States, but widely celebrates the legacy of a man who unleashed the most unspeakable evils in the history of the human race?

How did Darwin do that? By dressing up with a veneer of scientific respectability a dehumanizing worldview that justifies genocide as survival of the fittest. Think Hitler, Stalin, Mao...

Darwinists should be apologizing to the world in shame, not celebrating.

Abraham Lincoln is the real hero whose birth 200 years ago today is cause for celebration.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who's responsible for our financial crisis? The government says Stanford economist.

I've been listening to "The Forgotten Man" by Amity Shlaes, a history of the Great Depression 1930s era. What's happening today sadly sounds like a rerun of what happened in the 1930s.

I'm up to the 1934s and FDR's New Deal which was really just an amalgam of unrelated and uncoordinated government activities instituted in response to the economic crisis and based on the "progressive" ideology which guided FDR and his advisers. They really didn't know what they were doing. FDR's policies were really just an extension and massive expansion of Hoover's after the crash of 1929.

At a point, when things weren't turning around, the Roosevelt Administration went looking for scapegoats, particularly business leaders.

Here's a link to an interesting analysis of our financial crisis by a Stanford professor John B. Taylor who outlines missteps made by the Bush Administration and the Fed over the past several years.
My research shows that government actions and interventions -- not any inherent failure or instability of the private economy -- caused, prolonged and dramatically worsened the crisis.

The classic explanation of financial crises is that they are caused by excesses -- frequently monetary excesses -- which lead to a boom and an inevitable bust. This crisis was no different: A housing boom followed by a bust led to defaults, the implosion of mortgages and mortgage-related securities at financial institutions, and resulting financial turmoil.

Monetary excesses were the main cause of the boom. The Fed held its target interest rate, especially in 2003-2005, well below known monetary guidelines that say what good policy should be based on historical experience. Keeping interest rates on the track that worked well in the past two decades, rather than keeping rates so low, would have prevented the boom and the bust. Researchers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have provided corroborating evidence from other countries: The greater the degree of monetary excess in a country, the larger was the housing boom.

The effects of the boom and bust were amplified by several complicating factors including the use of subprime and adjustable-rate mortgages, which led to excessive risk taking. There is also evidence the excessive risk taking was encouraged by the excessively low interest rates. Delinquency rates and foreclosure rates are inversely related to housing price inflation. These rates declined rapidly during the years housing prices rose rapidly, likely throwing mortgage underwriting programs off track and misleading many people.

Adjustable-rate, subprime and other mortgages were packed into mortgage-backed securities of great complexity. Rating agencies underestimated the risk of these securities, either because of a lack of competition, poor accountability, or most likely the inherent difficulty in assessing risk due to the complexity.

Other government actions were at play: The government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were encouraged to expand and buy mortgage-backed securities, including those formed with the risky subprime mortgages.

Government action also helped prolong the crisis. Consider that the financial crisis became acute on Aug. 9 and 10, 2007, when money-market interest rates rose dramatically. Interest rate spreads, such as the difference between three-month and overnight interbank loans, jumped to unprecedented levels.

Diagnosing the reason for this sudden increase was essential for determining what type of policy response was appropriate. If liquidity was the problem, then providing more liquidity by making borrowing easier at the Federal Reserve discount window, or opening new windows or facilities, would be appropriate. But if counterparty risk was behind the sudden rise in money-market interest rates, then a direct focus on the quality and transparency of the bank's balance sheets would be appropriate.

Early on, policy makers misdiagnosed the crisis as one of liquidity, and prescribed the wrong treatment.

The government distorted sound money practices in an effort to keep the economy chugging along. Those actions and then ones in response to the financial crisis have only deepened the crisis we're facing.

Seeing what's happening with the Obama mega-billion economic stimulus bill looks like something the "progressives" would have done during the Roosevelt Administration. Lots of pork, social spending and efforts to further regulate and control society and the economy.

Then as today, the Keynesian economists were in the driving seat in terms of influencing government policy. The whole rationale behind the stimulus bill is that government spending is necessary to jump start the economy. Lot's of observers say that won't happen and will only add to the debt burden facing our government and society.

Getting it right doesn't like look like it's in the cards for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First step towards nationalized, government directed health included in national economic stimulus bill

The financial and political leviathan called the economic stimulus bill is being criticized for the amount of money it's spending, $800 to 900 billion, what it's being spent on, and how much it will actually stimulate the economy. But there are other provisions discovered in the bill which should also give lawmakers pause.

Earlier, I mentioned the provision which prohibits funding to public facilities which are used for worship services. Now there's a provision which is a key building block for moving towards a national health care system.

According to a Bloomberg news story:

Tragically, no one from either party is objecting to the health provisions slipped in without discussion. These provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department.

Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version).

The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.

But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”

Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.

New Penalties

Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)

What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.

The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.

For a government run or directed health care system to work, it's essential they gain access to all patients' medical records and in turn start to decide who can receive what treatments. Universal, government run health care means bureaucrats will start injecting themselves into what were formerly patient-doctor decisions.

This has been fought in Minnesota for a number of years where certain legislators have attempted to exert more state control and regulation of health care. With the Obama Administration, the same effort is now being made in Congress. The ultimate consequence of more government involvement in health care is rationing and reduced health care quality.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Maybe the economic stimulus bill isn't such a good idea after all.

With all the haggling in Washington DC over the $800 to 900 billion stimulus bill, there isn't much discussion if any about whether it should be done at all. The debate is only over size and contents.

The Congressional Budget Office has now come out with a report suggesting the long run benefits may well not be there. A Washington Times news story notes:
CBO, the official scorekeepers for legislation, said the House and Senate bills will help in the short term but result in so much government debt that within a few years they would crowd out private investment, actually leading to a lower Gross Domestic Product over the next 10 years than if the government had done nothing.

CBO estimates that by 2019 the Senate legislation would reduce GDP by 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent on net. [The House bill] would have similar long-run effects, CBO said in a letter to Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, who was tapped by Mr. Obama on Tuesday to be Commerce Secretary.

The House last week passed a bill totaling about $820 billion while the Senate is working on a proposal reaching about $900 billion in spending increases and tax cuts.

But Republicans and some moderate Democrats have balked at the size of the bill and at some of the spending items included in it, arguing they won't produce immediate jobs, which is the stated goal of the bill.

The budget office had previously estimated service the debt due to the new spending could add hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of the bill -- forcing the crowd-out.

CBOs basic assumption is that, in the long run, each dollar of additional debt crowds out about a third of a dollars worth of private domestic capital, CBO said in its letter.

CBO said there is no crowding out in the short term, so the plan would succeed in boosting growth in 2009 and 2010.

The agency projected the Senate bill would produce between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent higher growth in 2009 than if there was no action. For 2010, the plan would boost growth by 1.2 percent to 3.6 percent.

CBO did project the bill would create jobs, though by 2011 the effects would be minuscule.

I've wondered whether in the long run the bill is a good idea because of the debt burden we'll adding and it's government generating the activity rather than the wealth creating private sector.

The stimulus bill debate seems to me to point out the current mentality of living for the now. Rather than planning for the future we're driven by quick fixes. That's what got us into this mess, e.g. enormous debt, making a quick buck and so forth. Trying to avoid the inevitable correction by pouring billions of new money generated by more debt seems to me to be going exactly the wrong direction. Eventually, somebody will have to pay the bill whether now or later. Ultimately, there's no such thing as a free lunch even when the government is involved.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stimulus bill and muzzling religion -- The "God crushers" are at it again.

Even I was surprised to see an effort by US House democrats to use the economic stimulus bill to stifle religious expression at institutions receiving public dollars.

According to a Fox news story referring to a provision in the House economic stimulus bill:

The provision bans money designated for school renovation from being spent on facilities that allow "religious worship." It has ignited a fury among critics who say it violates the First Amendment and is an attempt to prevent religious practice in schools.

According to the bill, which the Democratic-controlled House passed despite unanimous Republican opposition, funds are prohibited from being used for the "modernization, renovation, or repair" of facilities that allow "sectarian instruction, religious worship or a school or department of divinity."

Critics say that could include public schools that permit religious groups to meet on campus. The House provided $20 billion for the infrastructure improvements, of which $6 billion would go to higher education facilities where the limitations would be applied.

The term "God crushers" was a term relayed to me many years ago by a civil libertarian associated with the Minnesota Civil Liberties Organization used to describe a stream of civil libertarians moved by an extreme animus to all things religious.

In the final analysis, I have no concerns about who will win the battle between God and His protagonists but in the meanwhile his opponents are under the delusion they can be successful. A fly eating an elephant is analogous albeit in a very superficial way.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Senator John Marty goes for the trifecta: Homosexual marriage, condom/alternative sex promotion in schools and abortion on demand

Senator Marty has scored the trifecta when it comes to the sex revolution.

He's chief author or author of:

SF 120 "Marriage and Family Protection Act" which legalizes homosexual marriage in Minnesota and would require Minnesota to recognize homosexual marriages from other states.

SF 273
, "The Responsible Family Life and Sexuality" bill which mandates all Minnesota public schools grades 7 through 12 promote condom use among Minnesota teenagers. And along with it will come the invariable promotion of alternative sexual behaviors like oral and anal sex.

SF 115, the "Reproductive Privacy Act" which codifies abortion on demand from conception through all nine months of the pregnancy.

What do all these bills have in common? For one they use misleading and deceptive titles. Redefining marriage out of existence is anything but "marriage and family protection." Promoting sexual activity among teens is anything but "responsible family life and sexuality" education. And "reproductive privacy" does not do justice to the reality that the unborn child in the womb would be utterly defenseless from those who are empowered to destroy their lives in the womb from conception through nine months.

And second, they all seek to further the goals of the sexual revolution -- unrestrained sexual behavior free from consequences. The problems are the consequences aren't free for either the participants or third parties. Abortion kills a human being and often leaves the woman having the abortion dealing with guilt, remorse, depression and/or physical side effects. Sexually transmitted diseases leave one with permanent disease conditions which if not treated can lead to infertility and in some cases death. Out of wedlock births often means poverty and children raised without a mother or a father which in turn often means poorer educational performance and criminal activity.

What Senator Marty is seeking to do is codify protection and thus encouragement of these behaviors in state law.

I almost forgot. He's also author of SF 97, the bill legalizing smoked marijuana for medical purposes. But that's for another day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Homosexual" Central: The Obama Administration

I was recently directed by someone to the Obama Administration's web page at regarding their "civil rights" agenda. It was really quite revealing. They aren't out to insure colorblind enforcement of the laws rather to implement the homosexual activist agenda throughout American society. A good 75% of their agenda is explicitly homosexual related.

Here's what it says:

Support for the LGBT Community

"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."

-- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007

  • Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
  • Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
  • Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
  • Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
  • Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
  • Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.
  • Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.
Basically what they want to do is elevate sexual orientation to the level of race. Of course, most of the African American community objects to this. One's skin color is a fundamentally different attribute than who one is sexually attracted to or in fact has sex with, e.g. how does one know for purposes of the law what a person's sexual orientation is except by an individual's behavior? You can't. One's skin color is obvious.

A consequence is the dilution and legitimization of the historical civil rights movement. As some have said, "Homosexual activists are trying to hijack the civil rights movement." The Obama Administration is in the vanguard of efforts to do so.