Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No Reform Without Tort Reform

There's a very good column at NRO by Charles Krauthammer on the contradictions in President Obama's health care reform plans. It's these contradictions (some might call them deceptions) that are causing the plans to collapse in Congress and with them, perhaps, Mr. Obama's presidency. As we said last week, if he doesn't get health care he'll probably not get cap and trade or another stimulus bill, and if he doesn't get these he won't be able to accomplish much else over the next three years. He will, in effect, be a lame duck after less than a year in office.

Indeed, after the disastrous week he had last week (staying with the wrong side on Honduras, a weak press conference on health care reform, putting his foot in his mouth on the Gates arrest) it would not be surprising to see his approval ratings drop soon into the low forties.

Anyway, the most important part of Krauthammer's column, in my opinion, was the spotlight he cast on the vast distance between Mr. Obama's claim that his health care reform agenda is not about politics and the absence in any of the Democratic plans of tort reform:

This is not about politics? Then why is it, to take but the most egregious example, that in this grand health-care debate we hear not a word about one of the worst sources of waste in American medicine: the insane cost and arbitrary rewards of our malpractice system?

When a neurosurgeon pays $200,000 a year for malpractice insurance before he even turns on the light in his office or hires his first nurse, who do you think pays? Patients, through higher doctors' fees to cover the insurance.

And with jackpot justice that awards one claimant zillions while others get nothing - and one-third of everything goes to the lawyers - where do you think that money comes from? The insurance companies, who then pass it on to you in higher premiums.

But the greatest waste is the hidden cost of defensive medicine: tests and procedures that doctors order for no good reason other than to protect themselves from lawsuits. Every doctor knows, as I did when I practiced years ago, how much unnecessary medical cost is incurred with an eye not on medicine but on the law.

Tort reform would yield tens of billions in savings. Yet you cannot find it in the Democratic bills. And Obama breathed not a word about it in the full hour of his health-care news conference. Why? No mystery. The Democrats are parasitically dependent on huge donations from trial lawyers.

No plan that does nothing about the cost to health care consumers of malpractice insurance and defensive medicine can really be called "reform." If and when the Democrats address tort reform they should then proceed to clean out the $60 billion in fraud and waste in medicare and medicaid.

Read the rest of Krauthammer's column. It's worth the two minutes it'll take.


Colombia's War on Drugs

To get a sense of the sort of people our government has chosen to side with in the struggle for control of the Honduran presidency, read the article at Strategy Page on what's going on in Colombia between the Colombian government, the drug lords, and the leftist FARC rebels. Note the role played by Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez and the similarities between ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, Chavez, and Ecuadorean president Rafael Correia. Here's how the report begins:

The first six months of 2009 was a bad time for the drug gangs, and leftist rebels like FARC and ELN. In those six months, security forces launched over 10,000 raids, patrols and other operations against rebels and gangsters. This resulted in 834 battles, leading to the deaths of 307 rebels and their allies. Over 600 FARC camps were found and destroyed, and nearly 1,300 rebel attacks were disrupted. Some 4,000 rebels were disarmed (nearly 40 percent just from FARC). The army lost 75 troops, with another 279 wounded.

The increasing pressure on drug gangs along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts has led to increased exports of cocaine to Europe and the Middle East, via Africa. Some drug lords, like Daniel Rendon, responded to the increased pressure by offering his gunmen a $1,000 bonus for each policeman or soldier they kill. This sort of thing has happened before in South America, and usually results in more dead gangsters, and the police are less likely to try and capture armed criminals, fearing that the crooks are actually out looking for the bounty money. For Rendon, the bounty offer quickly led to his capture, and the demise of his bounty offer.

Government intel has uncovered a six month effort by FARC to get Russian made, SA-24, portable surface-to-air missiles from Venezuela. FARC has already received Swedish AT4 (bunker buster) portable rocket launchers from Venezuela, and some of these have been captured by the army.

Read the rest of this report at the link and bear in mind that our president and state department are on the same side of the Honduran imbroglio as those like Chavez and Correia who are supporting the rebels and the drug lords.



Just because President Obama is trying to turn the U.S. into a third-world country doesn't mean that he was born in one. National Review Online editors think that we've had enough on the matter of whether Mr. Obama is constitutionally eligible to hold the office he's in, and I agree.

I don't have to see his original birth certificate, if such a document even exists, but it would be nice if we could have a peek at his academic records. I'm perfectly willing to believe Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii, but I'm really curious about whether he ever took a course in economics.


Myopic Agnosticism

We mentioned the other day Brad Pitt's claim that he was "probably 20 per cent atheist and 80 per cent agnostic. I don't think anyone really knows. You'll either find out or not when you get there, until then there's no point thinking about it." Mr. Pitt is laboring under a misconception that's common in our culture that agnosticism is a completely different epistemic category than atheism.

That's not quite so. Atheism is the lack of belief in a God or gods. It comes in at least two varieties which I prefer to call "hard atheism" and "soft atheism." The hard atheist makes the bold and metaphysically indefensible claim that there is no God or gods. I say this is indefensible because it claims as truth something we can simply not know.

If there is a God presumably that is something that could be known, i.e. if God revealed Himself to us either in this life or the next, but if there is no God no one could ever discover the fact. So hard atheism is philosophically naive.

The soft atheist claims more modestly that God may exist but as yet he has seen insufficient evidence to warrant belief that He does. This is agnosticism, and it's a form of soft atheism because the agnostic lacks a belief in God but is, hypothetically at least, willing to entertain that God may exist.

When Pitt says there's not much point in thinking about whether God exists he's telling us that he lacks a belief in God but doesn't much care one way or the other. This is really a kind of soft atheism, probably very common in our secularized culture, that perhaps we could call short-sighted, or myopic, agnosticism.


Can't Have Both

Mark Krikorian writes at NRO's The Corner to fill us in on some of the new health care reform proposal's more unsavory provisions. Here's one:

Democrats have stopped even pretending to try to keep illegals from being covered by Obamacare - they rejected an amendment that would have required Obamacare applicants to be screened with the same eligibility-screening database as used for welfare applicants, thus guaranteeing that lots of illegal aliens would receive taxpayer-funded health care. Even legal immigration would be subsidized. Jim Edward's NRO piece exposed a fascinating wrinkle - you can sponsor an immigrant so long as your income is 25% above poverty, but Obamacare would expand Medicaid to those earning 50% above poverty. So, as Jim wrote, "The end result would be that someone poor enough to qualify for Medicaid would be able to sponsor new immigrants to the U.S. What are the chances that these newcomers sponsored by Medicaid recipients would be able to afford health insurance when their sponsors can't?"

Obviously, the Obamacare proposal is an abomination and Congress needs to throw it out and start from scratch. But whatever they come up with, the lesson for immigration is unchanged - in an era when we have massive transfers of taxpayer funds to the poor, whether through Medicaid or food stamps or public-education funding or whatever, you just can't keep importing more and more poor people. The libertarians will say the answer is to abolish all of these taxpayer-funded programs; but even if that's true, until we do abolish them, ongoing mass immigration is simply unjustifiable.

Either shut down illegal immigration or shut down the welfare state. As we're seeing in California you have to do one or the other. If we don't it won't be long before Americans are sneaking across the border to Mexico to try to find work.