I just got a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services

charlie_rothwell

Charles Rothwell, NCHS Director.

I just received a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) asking me to provide them the vaccination information and other private health information on my 2 children age 28 and 27. They want me to give them the information in their immunization records. They said they picked me at random by my phone number.

They want me to call them at 1-877-267-8154 and disclose information that is protected by the HIPPA Privacy Rules. HIPPA is the American Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a set of rules to be followed by doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. HIPAA helps ensure that all medical records, medical billing, and patient accounts meet certain consistent standards with regard to documentation, handling and privacy.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule Ref: 45 CFR Part 160 and Part 164. The Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals medical records and other personal health information. The Privacy Rule also applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers that conduct health care transactions electronically.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization.

This information is being requested by Charles J. Rothwell the Director of the National Center for Health Statistics. Rothwell has been an adviser to the United Nations (U.N.) for automating Peru’s national statistical activities; served as a member of a U.S. team providing on-site consultative services to East Germany, and U.S. representative to a U.N. committee that helped develop electronic data transmission standards between countries. Imagine that ? I wonder if he is taking your health info and sending it to the UN ? He also served as a legislative assistant for Senator Lieberman, working primarily on bipartisan health care reform legislation. He signs off on the letter “Thank your for your cooperation.” Much like the cop in the Fifth Element.

I cooperated all right. I called the number and told them in voice-mail they are close to violating the HIPPA Act a federal law and I will report them to my Congressman. They definitely will have a bad day when they open my voice-mail. Well my Congressman Jeff Miller only contacts me when he wants a petition signed so I doubt he will respond or investigate so I am sending it across the nation as a warning to you all.

If you receive a similar letter I suggest you report it to your representative if you get such a letter.

Call them up and listen to their voice-mail. The number is 1-877-267-8154. Tell them to stop data mining our children. Its illegal and unconstitutional.

The Real State of the Economy — Not Obama’s Lies

My Father was a Certified Public Accountant and so is my older brother, now comfortably retired in Florida. I tell you this because I would be hard-pressed to balance my checkbook.

Even so, you do not have to be smart with numbers to know that the real state of the U.S. economy is pathetic these days. You can thank Barack Obama for that because, dear reader, he is utterly clueless regarding America’s economy; how it works, and what it needs to work.

Peter Ferrara, a Senior Fellow at The Heartland Institute specializing on entitlement and budget policy and a contributor to Forbes magazine, is one of the people to whom I go to understand the economy.

In a May 2 edition, in an article titled “What Obama’s Growth Recession Is Stealing From Your Wallet”, Ferrara wrote “Restoring that booming economic growth and prosperity (of past decades) is the core of solving all of our nation’s problems, not income or wealth redistribution, or addressing ‘inequality.’ But President Obama is not on the path of restoration. The latest report on real GDP growth estimates this year’s first quarter at a pitiful 0.01%. This is in the 6th year of Obama’s Presidency.”

The Heritage Foundation’s chief economist, Stephen Moore, writing on May 1st in the National Review, asked, “What happens to an economy when you do just about everything wrong?” Here’s his list:

  • Say you spend $830 billion on a stimulus stuffed with make-work government-jobs programs and programs to pay people to buy new cars,
  • you borrow $6 trillion,
  • you launch a government-run healthcare system that incentivizes businesses not to hire more workers,
  • you raise tax rates on the businesses that hire workers and on the investors that invest in the businesses that hire workers,
  • you print $3 trillion of paper money,
  • you shut down an entire industry (coal), and try to regulate and restrain the one industry that actually is booming (oil and gas).

“We made all of these imbecilic moves,” wrote Moore, “and the wonder of it all is that the U.S. economy is growing at all. It is a tribute to the indestructible Energizer Bunny that is the entrepreneurial U.S. economy that it keeps going and going even with all the obstacles.” I want to argue with his use of “we”, but enough Americans elected Obama twice to justify it.

The Associated Press, much like most of the mainstream press, paused from protecting Obama in a May 2nd article that began “Despite the unemployment rate plummeting, more than 92 million Americans remain out of the labor force.”

As Harvard Ph.D., Jerome R. Corsi, a World Net Daily senior staff reporter, noted the same day as the AP article, “The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announcement that unemployment has dropped from 6.7 percent in March to 6.3 in April was partly attributed to some 800,000 workers dropping out of the labor force last month, reducing the labor participation rate to 62.8 percent, a new low for the Obama administration.”

When people stop looking for work, they are not counted as “unemployed.” Dr. Corsi put the actual unemployment rate in April at 12.3 percent! The numbers you read about from the BLS are “virtually meaningless.” They should just drop the “L” from their acronym.

As the Wall Street Journal opined on May 3rd, “The Americans who left the workforce include older workers who retired before they wanted to, millions who have taken disability, and others who simply don’t find the job openings to be worth the cost of giving up public benefits.”

You don’t have to be an economist to know the truth that has finally sunk into the minds of millions of Americans, many of whom are unemployed or know someone who is. Obama has driven the economy into the toilet. He has foisted trillions of debt on future generations. In order to vote for “the first black President of America”, what those voters and the rest of us got was a man with no experience running so much as a sidewalk lemonade stand.

I think those voters will want a change in November when the midterm elections are held. Between now and then, I want the Republican Party to spend a little less time on the Benghazi scandal and a lot more time telling voters their plans to revive the economy because, in the end, that is the single most important issue facing all of us.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Extenders For The Millionaire’s Club

“The people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption.” – James Garfield

Wall Street Journal columnist and former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan writes in the June issue of Readers Digest that, “Someday history will write of our era, and the biggest scandal will be the thing we accepted in our leaders; chronic and endemic selfishness. History will be hard on us for that.”

Nowhere is this chronic selfishness more pervasive than in our legislative processes on Capitol Hill. Peter Schweizer writes in his groundbreaking book Extortion that:

“Politics in modern America has become a lucrative business, an industry that has less to do with policy and more to do with accessing money and favors. Bills and regulations are often introduced, not to affect policy change, but as vehicles for shaking down people for money and favors.”

And what’s the favorite vehicle for shaking people down? Why the income tax code of course; all 73,954 pages specially written by Washington’s finest lobbyists, many of whom previously served as staffers on Capitol Hill.

Don Corleone said in the movie, The Godfather, “Make me an offer I can’t refuse”. Today’s legislative equivalent of Corleone’s veiled threat has become tax extenders.

Unlike permanent legislation, tax extenders must be renewed every few years or new taxes go into effect, or the taxes that were temporarily halted under the extender are reinstated.

And make no mistake; the process of renewing tax extenders is all about filling Member’s campaign coffers. And who fills those coffers? Businesses and individuals affected by or who have an interest in the tax law (extender) up for renewal.

Schweizer provided a sickening example of how the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his campaign coffers during the 2012 election cycle while overseeing that year’s tax extenders that were up for renewal.

This is the same Committee that has yet to act on the FairTax® plan.

According to Schweizer, after announcing hearings on the extenders up for renewal, “ten nervous senior executives at General Electric made donations to Camp on March 19totaling $16,000. Those executives had an enormous amount of money at stake in the tax extenders drama. They had become masters of sorts over the years in turning profits but largely avoiding taxes, thanks to a favorable and complicated tax code.”

He went on. “But Camp’s most lucrative play was targeting corporate PACs. From the beginning of March to the date of the hearings to vet which extenders might stay and which might go, he collected 120 checks totaling $230,000 from corporate or trade association PACs, the vast majority of which had money at stake in the tax extender debate.

The money came from the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Association of Home Builders, Walmart, General Motors, General Electric, Associated Builders and Contractors, Johnson and Johnson and more.”

Very neat, very tidy and it’s all legal.

After all, Congress wrote the laws.

In 2013, this same Committee announced with great fanfare the initiation of a bi-partisan plan for fundamental tax reform. Public comment was requested, a multi-city roadshow was orchestrated and public hearings were held.

In early 2014, the D.C. media all but announced that fundamental tax reform would not see the light of day in 2014. The Committee then began to focus on…. You guessed it…. Tax extenders. In 2014, there are 55 tax extenders up for renewal, and surprise, surprise, 2014 is an election year.

Is it any wonder that Congress is the new millionaires club?   

Our Founding Fathers never envisioned a Congress where, in order to affect the legislative process, businesses and individual citizens have to operate like game pieces on a Monopoly board or risk being punished by the totalitarian enforcement arm of the IRS and other government agencies.

Agencies now literally weaponized with assault rifles and sub-machine guns. As former Microsoft chief operating officer Robert Herbold told Schweizer, “You’re crazy if you don’t play along. They will go after you.”

Our nation deserves a tax code focused on her people and her nation – not one that is punitive and frightening, and fills the campaign coffers of the new millionaires club.

If you agree and have not read Peter Schweizer’s book, Extortion, please pick up this blockbuster expose. We have made it easy.

Simply click here and donate $35 or more, forward your emailed donation confirmation and your preferred mailing address to campaigns@fairtax.org, and we will send you a hardback copy of Extortion. It’s that simple.

Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything by George C. Leef

Our Legal System Poses a Grave Threat to Our Liberty.

In the gigantic theater that is American politics, one of the favorite roles for politicians to play is that of the tough guy who is determined to “crack down” on something or other. Such actions are predictably cheered by whatever voting groups the politician wants to curry favor with. An often-heard campaign line is, “Vote for me and I’ll push legislation to make it a crime to. . . .” We already have an enormous criminal code, but adding one more thing to it serves to show the voters that the pol really means business.

Like most features of our politics this mania for the criminalization of behavior is harmful. As is usual with government, the unseen problems dwarf the seen benefits. The more we criminalize conduct that voters dislike, the more we put people who never intended any wrongdoing into the quicksand of criminal prosecution. With legions of prosecutors who are more interested in making names for themselves than in doing justice, Americans are living in an increasingly dangerous country.

That’s the point of Go Directly to Jail, edited by lawyer and Cato Institute writer Gene Healy. “At one time,” he writes, “the common law doctrines of mens rea (“guilty mind”) and actus reus (“guilty act”) cabined the reach of criminal sanctions, but those protections have eroded dramatically over the past 50 years. Today it’s possible to send a person to prison without showing criminal intent or even a culpable act. . . .”

Consider this case. Edward Hanousek worked for a railroad in Alaska. One day, a backhoe operator working under his supervision accidentally ruptured an oil pipeline while removing some boulders from the tracks. Hanousek, who wasn’t even at the site of the accident, was nevertheless prosecuted for having violated the Clean Water Act, which makes it a crime if a “negligent failure to supervise” leads to any discharge that might pollute water. Hanousek was convicted for someone else’s accident. His case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which declined to review this legal abomination. Americans must now worry about criminal prosecution for all sorts of conduct that a few decades ago hardly anyone would have thought should be illegal.

The book has six chapters by different authors. Erik Luna’s “Overextending the Criminal Law” explores the unfortunate tendency for politicians to use criminal sanctions as an all-purpose tool of social control. It’s impossible to disagree with Luna’s assessment that “When the criminal sanction is used for conduct that is widely viewed as harmless . . . the moral force of the penal code is diminished, possibly to the point of near irrelevance. . . .”

In the second essay, “The New Criminal Classes: Legal Sanctions and Business Managers,” James V. DeLong observes that the spread of criminalization means that nearly anyone can fall victim to prosecution for some regulatory crime, and often the defendant finds that the law accords him a lower degree of protection for his rights than do old-fashioned criminals who rob and murder. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments have been subverted in the crusade to send people like Ed Hanousek to jail.

Legal scholar Timothy Lynch, in “Polluting Our Principles: Environmental Protection and the Bill of Rights,” shows that the incentives for environmental regulators to produce “results” (that is, convictions to prove how dedicated they are to safeguarding the environment) lead to terrible travesties of justice. The vagueness of many environmental regulations gives the enforcers almost unfettered discretion to prosecute business people. Lynch notes that individuals accused of environmental crimes are often subjected to procedures that the courts would not tolerate for normal criminal defendants. He calls it the “environmental exception to the Bill of Rights.”

Galen Institute president Grace-Marie Turner discusses criminalization in medical care, specifically, the dangerous trend toward criminal prosecution in the futile crusade against Medicare and Medicaid fraud. An especially frightening feature of the law here is that the enforcers get to keep a percentage of the fines they impose.

Editor Healy contributes a chapter on the rampant federalization of crime. To provide just one example, President Bush’s Project Safe Neighborhoods has led to a surge in federal prosecutions for illegal firearms possession. Healy writes that this law “violates the Tenth Amendment, clogs the federal courts, encourages a mindless zero tolerance policy and opens the door for every special interest group in Washington to politicize criminal justice policy.”

The book’s final chapter, again by Erik Luna, examines the nation’s sorry experience with federal sentencing guidelines, which he argues “saps moral judgment from the process of punishment.”

The U.S. is off track in many, many ways. Go Directly to Jail leaves no doubt that our legal system is careening out of control and poses a grave threat to our liberty.

ABOUT GEORGE C. LEEF

George Leef is the former book review editor of The Freeman. He is director of research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

RELATED STORY: ‘She’s Just a Child’: 9-Year-Old Taken Away in Handcuffs

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

Obamacare’s Health Insurance Tax Could Cost Up to 286,000 Jobs

As I’ve written previously, small businesses should brace for big health plan premium increases. Some are already seeing this happen. Rod Winter, a Wisconsin business owner told the Wall Street Journal:

Our 440-employee business just received its initial premium from United Healthcare for our July 1 renewal. The renewal premium represents a 29% increase over the current premium. UHC indicated that our premiums are going up 11% to bring our deductibles and out of pocket maximums in line with the provisions of the ACA. In other words, without the ACA, our premiums would be going up approximately 18%, not 29%.

New research finds that the added costs of one of Obamacare’s taxes will be brutal on employment.

The National Federation of Independent Business’ Research Foundation estimates that the Health Insurance Tax (HIT)

will result in a reduction in private sector employment of 152,000 to 286,000 jobs by 2023, with 57 percent of the job losses coming from small businesses.

This will amount to a reduction of U.S. real output (sales) by between $20 billion to $33 billion during the same time frame.

The chart above breaks out how individual states will be affected.

The HIT, which went into effect on January 1, 2014, levies a tax on health plans sold on the fully-insured market. Eighty-eight percent of it is made up of small businesses. Revenue from the tax will rise by 41% in 2015 and reach $14.3 billion in 2018.

“Small businesses are crucial to rebuilding an economy that allows all Americans to prosper,” Katie Mahoney, Executive Director of Health Policy at the U.S. Chamber said. “We need to work to find ways to ensure small businesses and their employees have the tools to build on their current success, not hinder future growth.”

The HIT tax simply adds to their burdens, as Fox Business’ Gabrielle Karol reports:

“When employers are faced with double-digit rate increases, to add a few additional percentage points to the renewal just makes that health insurance less affordable and makes it less likely for them to recruit additional employees to provide better services,” says Tom Harte, president of the National Association of Health Underwriters.

“Just yesterday, I was sitting with a non-profit organization in New Hampshire whose rate increase was over 18% from the prior year, and embedded within that was the HIT. For that non-profit organization to instead be faced with a 15% increase versus 18% would have certainly helped them to deliver more services and provide for additional compensation for their employees,” adds Harte.

The Stop the HIT Coalition released a new tool that will help small businesses and their employees calculate how much the tax will cost them. It will also help them contact their Member of Congress to strengthen the bipartisan support for repealing this harmful tax.

RELATED COLUMNThe Problem With Obamacare’s Employer Mandate

Florida is one of 31 states that have emissions-free energy from this —

There’s one source of energy that will operate 24/7 – through heat waves or cold snaps – all while producing zero emissions. Seem incredible? That’s just the start of what nuclear energy provides the U.S.

Nuclear energy is powering the country with emissions-free electricity from 100 reactors located in 31 states across the U.S.

Soon, five new reactors will be added to that list with the capacity to produce enough electricity for more than 1 million homes and businesses for the 60 next years.

Nuclear energy directly employs 120,000 workers nationwide, including engineers and skilled tradesmen who provide an economic boost to their communities.

Nuclear is a key component of America’s energy future as it provides affordable, reliable and emissions-free energy for us all. Let’s ensure our energy policy supports a future that includes nuclear.

nuclear power infographic

Nuclear is indispensable to our country’s energy future. Today, explore our infographic, then share the facts on FacebookTwitter, or by email.

Czech Book Dusting off Tucker (Benjamin, not Jeffrey) by Lawrence W. Reed

The literature of liberty, free markets, and individualism is immensely rich and getting richer with each passing year. Today’s great minds are building on yesterday’s greats. Taken as a whole, liberty’s library constitutes a most incredible collection of inspiration and insight into the boundless potential of human society. The only sad thing about it all is the extent to which those of an anti-liberty, statist perspective won’t tell their acolytes about it. Have you ever noticed how well “our side” knows Marx and Keynes while those on the other only think they know Hayek, Mises, Friedman, or even Smith?

Among the great thinkers of barely a century ago was Benjamin Ricketson Tucker. Critic of corporate welfare and a welfare state of any kind, Tucker edited and published a remarkable journal called Libertyfrom 1881 to 1908. It featured the bylines of many other great minds as well. Tucker was a fascinating advocate of “individualist anarchism,” which he also called “unterrified Jeffersonianism.”

In September 2013, the Foundation for Economic Education cosponsored a conference in the Czech Republic. Our partner in the effort was CEVRO, a private college in Prague devoted to advancing liberty ideas. Among the students in attendance was Lukáš Nikodym. He approached me afterward with a project he and his brother Tomas were contemplating: an online book of selected articles from Tucker’s old journal. “Will you write the foreword?” Lukáš asked. I hesitated not a second.

The book is now available, and I commend it to our readers, along with these related materials:

  1. The Individualist Anarchists: An Anthology of Liberty” (1881-1908)” by Greg Pavlik
  2. Forgotten Critic of Corporatism” by Sheldon Richman
  3. Liberty Fund’s Online Library of Liberty

Download fileDownload the PDF here

20130918_larryreedauthorABOUT LAWRENCE W. REED

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of FEE in 2008 after serving as chairman of its board of trustees in the 1990s and both writing and speaking for FEE since the late 1970s. Prior to becoming FEE’s president, he served for 20 years as president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan. He also taught economics full-time from 1977 to 1984 at Northwood University in Michigan and chaired its department of economics from 1982 to 1984.

Florida: Sheriff Jim Manfre from Flagler County wants to ban your rifle!

Sheriff Jim Manfre from Flagler County in Florida wants to ban your rifle and leave you defenseless against the tyranny flowing from Washington D.C. He calls these rifles “assault weapons.” My AK-47 sits happily in the closet and it has never assaulted anyone. Only people assault other people. Whether its with guns, knives, hammers or bottles.

According to Lee Williams of the Herald-Tribune:

At a meeting Tuesday night of the The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida held in Palm Coast, Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre called for a ban on “assault weapons,” said he wanted tighter regulation on private firearm sales, and called for changing existing laws on background checks.

According to a news story written about the meeting written by a reporter at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the sheriff also said his “sensible gun control” ideas were supported by the Florida Sheriff’s Association.

Yesterday, Nanette Schimpf, spokesperson for the Florida Sheriff’s Association, told me the news story was inaccurate. The FSA has never called for ending private sales, banning “assault weapons” or changing background check laws.

Manfre also supports the legalization of marijuana, something the Florida Sheriffs Association is against. Indeed Sheriff Jim Manfre is just another Obama supporter who needs to voted out of office. He is unwilling to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and Florida, as he has sworn to do.

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has the solemn duty of serving and protecting the citizens of our great state. The following is contact information for Sheriff Manfre:

Address: 1001 Justice Lane, Bunnell, FL 32110
Email: jmanfre@flaglersheriff.com
Phone: (386) 437-4116
Fax: (386) 586-4820

Notice how his disclaimer is to protect the citizens, yet he wants to disarm law abiding citizens, so his disclaimer is a lie. This man is another example of Obama’s reach into the great State of Florida.

I will not disarm. I will not give up my 2nd Amendment rights to some Sheriff. He has betrayed his oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and must be removed from office. I told him so in an email.

As for my weapons nobody will take them. I am protected under the 2nd Amendment. I gave sheriff Manfre my cell phone number. Lets see if he has the guts to call me back.

US Mortgage risk increases due to growth in FHA’s market share and loan level risk

Washington, DC, May 12, 2014—American Enterprise Institutes’s National Mortgage Risk Index (NMRI) for home purchase loans hit a new series’ high of 11.89% for April, up from 11.50% in March.  The increase was due to FHA, which had higher market share and increasing loan level risk.  The FHA’s April home purchase volume was 41,756, an increase of 36% over March.  By contrast Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had April home purchase volume of 101,050, an increase of 24% over March and down 4% from the same month last year.

Overall April purchase volume was up 27% over March, the result of the Spring buying season ramping up.

The April NMRI for FHA loans also hit a new series high of 25.12% up from 24.77% in March.

The April NMRI for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans declined slightly to 5.93% from 6.00% in March.

Complete results will be presented on the monthly NMRI briefing phone call scheduled for Tuesday, May 27 at 10AM EDT.  To RSVP now, please email Emily.Rapp@AEI.org.

The NMRI score is an objective and transparent mortgage risk measure. It represents an estimated cumulative default rate for new home purchase loans under the assumption of stress conditions from 2007-2012.   An overall index level of less than 6% is indicative of conditions conducive to a stable national market.  For more information about the NMRI, please visit HousingRisk.org.

AEI’s International Center on Housing Risk produces the NMRI monthly.

PA Attorney General Charges and Arrests Test Cheaters — FL AG Bondi Missing in Action

Taking a cue from former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers (R) and former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) charged and arrested a principal and four teachers for cheating on standardized tests at Cayuga Elementary School in Philadelphia over a four year period (2008-2012).

Kane said the educators changed student answers, provided test answers to students and improperly reviewed Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test questions before giving the tests. After the cheating stopped in 2012, the schools test scored dropped dramatically, Kane noted.

In 2008-09 state proficiency tests, Cayuga’s fourth graders excelled: 88.8% pass math and 83.9% pass reading. By 2012-13, the most recent numbers available, fourth graders at the school struggled with 31% passing math and 25% passing reading.

Those charged are:

  • Evelyn Cortez, 59, Dresher, Montgomery County;
  • Jennifer Hughes, 59, Jeffersonville, Montgomery County;
  • Lorraine Vicente, 41, Philadelphia;
  • Rita Wyszynski, 65,  Philadelphia; and
  • Ary Sloane, 56,  Philadelphia.

In Georgia, numerous teachers, and principals were convicted or took plea deals and are in prison. Superintendent Beverly Hall had her plea deal rejected and awaits trial in August 2014.

Unfortunately for Florida students and taxpayers, Attorney General Pam Bondy and Governor Rick Scott took a different course of action in response to test cheating: they did absolutely nothing.

Hard evidence was sent to both of these Constitutional officers and elected officials concerning various violations concerning professional development fraud, teacher certification fraud, teacher observation and evaluation fraud, and test cheating – all of which were documented in a state report issued by the Auditor General of Florida and the Miami-Dade OIG Final Report which concluded that, “Miami Norland has benefited in the form of attaining a higher school grade and may have received financial compensation or other benefit resulting from its high pass rate on the industry certification exams” (page 13).

Katherine-Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade State Attorney of the 11th Judicial Circuit, did not respond nor take action on these allegations, stating she can do nothing per “local control,” and that the responsibility for investigation and resolution rests with the employee of the perpetrators – Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

After appearing before investigators with the Office of the Auditor General for the State of Florida and the Miami-Dade Office of Inspector General in April and May 2012, in which sworn statements, evidence, and produced two witnesses (teachers who corroborated the test cheating) were given, to ensure that these investigations would be acted upon by the state, the findings were sent to Governor Rick Scott for action.

Governor Scott’s Inspector General emailed a written response declining assistance for lack of jurisdiction and deferred to the Miami-Dade OIG, who declined to investigate this particular matter as the Auditor General’s Office was investigating it.

On February 6, 2013, the FLDOE OIG, sent a written response claiming “lack of primary jurisdiction.” One would think they would have a secondary jurisdiction to investigate violations of state law pertaining to test cheating and any and all related frauds (money) to protect students, teachers, and taxpayers.

Worse yet, I emailed Florida’s and Miami-Dade’s chief law enforcement officers, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle respectively, and the response was disappointing.

On March 8, 2013, Attorney General Bondi emailed the whistle-blower, Trevor Colestock, back basically citing lack of jurisdiction and passing the buck to the school district of all places and various local and federal agencies.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney did not respond whatsoever, though she did prosecute teachers and school administrators in the MOTET teacher certification scandal 8 years earlier.

These improprieties and related crimes (using computers to commit fraud, wire fraud, malfeasance, test cheating, and 20,000+ counts of record tampering and teacher certification fraud) were reported on by multiple media outlets. However, Governor Scott, Attorney General Bondi, FLDOE bureau chiefs and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle appear to have a “see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil” when it comes to stopping cheating and fraud in Florida’s public schools.

Though the state has inherent police and supervisory powers to enforce and regulate its laws, Florida (unlike the States of Georgia, Texas, and Pennsylvania) has been a passive spectator concerning school districts and test cheating to the detriment of Florida students, teachers, and taxpayers.

Perhaps it is time for Governor Scott and Attorney General Bondi to stop passing the buck and stand against cheating in Florida’s public schools?

The Commonizing of Common Core

Patrick O’Donnell’s Cleveland Plain Dealer articles of April 17 and 20, regarding Common Core, stated that our educators were surprised that Common Core tests were tough. Why did these people in positions of trust accept the new curriculum before evaluating the complete package and its potential damage? The payoffs far outweighed all other considerations, including the children’s maturity levels and welfare.

Despite the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment that prohibits a federally controlled education system, President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus package) bribed cash-strapped states with $4.35 Billion, Bill Gates Foundation added $200 million more, and states (Ohio: $10 million) will be heavily taxed to cover operational costs of this program that spells disaster.

Gates and “research company,” Achieve, Inc., selected non-academic people to design the standards, excluding educators, parents, and professionals in the disciplines. A 24-member team headed by David Coleman, who also lacks experience with English instruction, signed a non-disclosure agreement, keeping parents and school boards entirely in the dark. And the standards, although accepted, violated three federal laws – Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965), General Education Provisions Act, and Department of Education Organization Act.

Common Core mandates prohibit teachers from lecturing for more than 15 minutes per day per subject! This “Type #2” agenda is student-centered learning, where the teacher is reduced to facilitator, unable to provide history, purpose, and background for comprehension. How does one grasp a Constitutional Amendment without its foundation and purpose – or find the essence of a speech without the events that inspired it? America’s founding, exceptionalism and achievements are de-emphasized; Islam is whitewashed and accentuated in great detail.

The program is designed to close the education gap by reducing expectations, and emphasizing skills over literary or cultural knowledge. Their perception of college readiness is not academic preparation but abundant test taking that take time from learning, creativity, and encouraging imagination. Great literature and fiction are sacrificed for new sexualized novels that emphasize social activism. Fifty percent of the reading material comprises informational texts and instructional manuals that discourage reading.

Note the test material given for Test I, Grade 3, deals with trickery, disappointment, feelings, social engineering – not resourcefulness, achievement, success. Test 3, Grade 11, deals with aloneness, divisiveness, social issues, and the errors in word usage and punctuation confirm the carelessness that also permeates the history books. Imagine being tested about the Declaration of Independence and speech by Patrick Henry before disambiguating, studying and analyzing them. A brief video would be valueless.

English and Math courses contain social concerns. Students are being taught what to think – that America is a nation of bigots, poverty-creating capitalists, intolerant war-mongering imperialists, anti-immigrants; and segregating, discriminating, disenfranchising racists; and that they should want big government that relies on redistribution of wealth, globalization, etc. Key concepts of America are negative or openly hostile.

The math places students more than two years behind their international peers by eighth grade. High school students will have to pass college exams on faulty information. Reform math is fracturing our society – teachers cannot help the parents who cannot help the children with homework, leading to frustration and anger, and the children are losing interest in school. Our Education Establishment is alienating them from learning.

Highly degreed and qualified professionals, Dr. Sandra Stotsky (developed one of the country’s strongest sets of academic standards for K-12 students and the strongest academic standards and licensure tests for prospective teachers), Stanford University professor Dr. James Milgram and New York University professor Jonathan Goodman refused to sign off on Common Core, citing the damage to education posed by its methods.

Microsoft and Achieve’s State Longitudinal Database System, will capture, analyze, and use students’ personal and confidential data from preschool through employment. Through “functional magnetic resonance imaging,” “skin-sensitive equipment” and “cameras that judge facial expressions and posture, data about student frustration, motivation, confidence, boredom and fatigue, plus private family statistics” will be available for workforce development in this German model system.

Pearson publishers are responsible for the textbooks and tests, apps, international media, business information, and more, although their books are shoddily assembled and written. Most notable are the history textbooks that present history out of time context, a smokescreen for what has intentionally been excluded. Our high school students are being brainwashed so that they will be intellectually incapable of dealing with the subversive threat to our country coming from the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters in the American Islamic community.

Today’s students will be tomorrow’s teachers and leaders, obedient to the state, robbed of their freedom to thrive. Common Core is destructive and it is up to the parents to recapture our educational system from the grip of the current administration.

Hawaii Spends the Most and Florida Spends the Least on Obamacare

“April 30 was the final deadline to signup for Obamacare.  All the numbers are in.  Hawaii spent $920 per enrollment, and $87 per uninsured person and enrolled the fewest people in the USA.  Nobody spent more and nobody achieved less,” notes Andrew Walden.

Here is the news:

State-based exchanges spent far more per consumer than states in the federal marketplace did

National Journal: Hawaii spent $920 to enroll each new Obamacare consumer, while Florida spent only $16….

New data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation details the amount spent on consumer assistance for the Affordable Care Act in each state, and like overall enrollment numbers, the state totals vary a huge amount.

Consumer-assistance programs are those intended to help individuals understand and enroll in coverage under Obamacare, including the Navigator program, the In-Person Assister program, and Certified Application Counselors. The totals do not include funding for the exchange systems or other types of public and private outreach….

Overall, the state-based marketplaces spent far more to help get residents enrolled than states in the federal marketplace. State exchanges accounted for 50 percent of total consumer-assistance funds, yet have only 31 percent of all uninsured, according to RWJF. Federal marketplaces accounted for 33 percent of the funding but house 63 percent of the uninsured, and the five partnership states received 17 percent of the assistance funding, yet include only 6 percent of the total uninsured.

State-based exchanges had far more discretion over how much of their exchange establishment grants they would allocate for consumer assistance, while funding on the federal exchange was based to a larger degree on the number of uninsured residents. Thus state-based exchanges had a much larger range in assistance funding: While spending in federal-marketplace states ranged from $16 per enrollee in Florida to $186 per enrollee in Alaska, spending in state-based exchanges was across the board, from $40 in Idaho to $920 in Hawaii.

Top Five Spenders per Enrollee:

  1. Hawaii: $920 per enrollee, $7,904,918 total (state-based exchange)
  2. District of Columbia: $645 per enrollee; $6,906,057 total (state-based exchange)
  3. Arkansas: $442 per enrollee; $19,211,296 total (partnership exchange)
  4. West Virginia: $385 per enrollee; $7,647,178 total (partnership exchange)
  5. Maryland: $385 per enrollee; $25,620,449 total (state-based exchange)

Bottom Five Spenders per Enrollee:

  1. Florida: $16 per enrollee; $15,932,367 total (federal exchange)
  2. Wisconsin: $20 per enrollee; $2,772,728 total (federal exchange)
  3. Virginia: $20 per enrollee; $4,263,053 total (federal exchange)
  4. Pennsylvania: $22 per enrollee; $6,905,518 total (federal exchange)
  5. Georgia: $23 per enrollee; $7,194,944 total (federal exchange)

Hawaii’s Exchange Spent $87 on ‘Consumer Assistance’ for Every Uninsured Person in State

NRO: Hawaii’s exchange was particularly troublesome for users from its beginning. Perhaps almost as infuriating for residents is the small fortune that the state spent on efforts to help people sign up; the state is spending $87.86 in “consumer assistance funding” for every eligible uninsured person in the state, according to a new report by the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Hawaii’s insurance exchange ranked among the nation’s most dysfunctional, not working at all for the first two weeks. It was supposed to be self-sustaining starting next year but enrollment — 8,742 as of mid-April — fell short of projections; state lawmakers approved another $1.5 million in spending to prop up the exchange for the next year.

But Hawaii wasn’t the champion spender. The District of Columbia spent $163.90 per eligible uninsured person, according to the report….

Most Hawaii exchange enrollees didn’t receive aid

AP: Sixty-two percent of the 8,592 people who bought plans as of March 31 didn’t get aid, data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed. That leaves 38 percent who got help buying a plan.

The numbers run counter to national enrollment figures, for states participating in the federally run exchange as well as for states operating their own exchanges, like Hawaii. Nationally, 85 percent of people who bought plans through an exchange set up under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul got financial aid….

The only other jurisdiction that had a majority of enrollees sign up without financial assistance was the District of Columbia, which enrolled 10,714 people, 84 percent without using financial assistance….

The last-minute Obamacare shoppers were bargain hunters

WaPo: What explains this federal-state difference in bronze enrollment? Federal subsidies appear to have driven Americans to more expensive silver plans. HHS reported that 86 percent of people selecting plans in the federal exchanges qualified for federal assistance, compared to 82 percent of people in the state-run exchanges.

There was a pretty wide disparity in the percentage of people qualifying for federal subsidies in some state-run exchanges. In the District of Columbia, for example, just 16 percent of sign-ups qualified for premium subsidies. The subsidy eligibility rate was also relatively low in Colorado (60 percent), Hawaii (38 percent) and Vermont (59 percent). In Hawaii’s case, major technical problems with the exchange prevented people from applying for subsidies, officials there said.

Related: Feds Release Profile of Hawaii Health Connector Signups

Crain’s Business News: Exchanges with the lowest enrollments (as of April 19, 2014) were Hawaii, 8,592, North Dakota, 10,597, the District of Columbia, 10,714, and Wyoming, 11,790….

UPDATE: Final figures May 2, 2014: Hawaii Health Connector Claims 9,785 Enrollees (still the lowest in USA)

RELATED STORIES:

Insurance CEO: Shut down Hawaii health exchange – Yahoo News
$474 M for 4 failed Obamacare exchanges – Jennifer Haberkorn and Kyle Cheney – POLITICO.com

Hip Hop: A Free-Market History by Brandon Maxwell

Hip hop is not just music. It’s a culture. It includes dance, apparel, perfumes, jewelry, cinema, radio, television, books, magazines, and even beverages. That is, there are very few trades that hip hop hasn’t touched. And while hip hop’s lifeblood may be the complex grouping of rhythms, beats, vocals, tones, and lyrics, it was abetted at every stage by the free market.

Twenty-four million people around the world listen to hip hop each day. A half-million people see hip hop live in concert each month. And 28 million people purchase hip hop in stores each year. It is a $10 billion industry and growing. And yet its story resembles one familiar to Freeman readers: Leonard Read’s description of the vast complexity that goes into making a simple pencil.

Pass the Mic

Hip hop did not become a commercial and cultural powerhouse overnight. The free market acted as a catalyst. The market’s processes—competition, refinement, and augmentation—shaped the genre and the culture over time. They complemented the recording, mixing, and mastering process and aided hip hop in discovering new listeners. And, as is the way of the market, it helped listeners discover hip hop.

Hip hop’s free market venture first began 35 years ago in the northernmost borough of New York City with a handful of bored, mostly lower-income kids. They improvised lyrics over funk and soul music generated by DJs at block parties. As simple as it may seem to point out, none of this would have been possible without a variety of tools devised and made available through commercial means.

As spoken-word artists matured, New York City witnessed the advent of “emcees” (noun) bidding to “emcee” (verb) over personalized beats. With this development emcees needed additional tools, like samplers, synthesizers, and drum machines accompanied by tape players and record needles. “Rap” as a subgenre was born.

Likewise, emcees began to compete with each other. They contended not just for esteem, but for listeners in and around the neighborhood and city. This early competition elevated certain performers and improved the product overall, eventually allowing a select few to become famous. Throughout this process, as they competed with each other, emcees and DJs had to keep their customers satisfied. The audience could refuse to show up, walk out, heckle, or maybe even come up onstage and perform better themselves.

And consider the bedrock of hip hop: the beat. Going through old records—some forgotten, others much-beloved—artists found beats and breakdowns, extracted them, and turned them into the basis for an entirely new industry. To put it another way: They made gasoline out of oil refinery “waste.” And they made it possible for one person, or a handful, to put together music that would have required an expensive array of musicians just a few years before—and might not have been conceivable without the availability of new instruments like samplers and drum machines.

More Tools, More People

But these were far from the only tools hip hop purveyors and enthusiasts would need. On the contrary, hip hoppers would still have to have millions more tools, arbitrageurs, and entrepreneurs to carry them on their journey from block party boredom to billboard dominance. The process involved the collaboration of millions of people around the world and across time, very few of whom had any idea that they were, in fact, involved in the same endeavor—and no single one of whom could have created this force on his own.

Consider the millions of television sets and radios and the hundreds of radio stations it took to propel hip hop beyond its Bronx origins. Ponder the millions of power lines and hundreds of radio waves it took to transmit hip hop to those television sets and radios. And contemplate the number of television and radio station employees it took to ensure everything was transmitted properly. All of this is to say nothing of the level of productivity necessary to give millions of people both leisure time and disposable income to use on filling that time.

East Coast, West Coast, Dirty South

As hip hop spread across the United States, new emcees emerged, each meticulously tailoring variations on the music for a different audience. The result of these subtle adaptations was that hip hop gave rise to diverse qualities and styles, with each style suiting a different demographic or geographic location. That is, while hip hop could be heard in different cities across The United States, its sound in New York City, which found inspiration in energetic artists such as James Brown, did not often mirror its sound in Los Angeles, which found inspiration in the laid back funky basslines of Zapp and Roger. Its sound in Los Angeles was considerably different from the sound that emerged in the Deep South, which experimented outside of the usual 4/4 time signature. And its sound in the Deep South could be contrasted with the Midwest sound, which used faster tempos.

But in order for each different geographic location and demographic to continue to access hip hop over the decades, yet more tools were required. These tools consisted of millions of record players, tape players, CD players, mp3 players, and computers—not to mention millions of pairs of headphones, ear buds, and ¼-inch jacks, each meticulously designed to be used in conjunction with one another. It would require thousands of retailers across the world to transport and carry these accouterments. Thousands of companies would have to promote, advertise, and vend records, tapes, CDs, and mp3s. And as each new innovation appeared, it opened up new creative possibilities for entrepreneurs alert to the opportunity and for artists seeking new modes of self-expression. (And made it even easier for one person to play both entrepreneur and artist simultaneously.)

Production Value

Before arriving at this juncture, hip hop had to first achieve a polished and professional sound. This meant people had to design and build recording studios, which in turn meant the involvement of construction companies, masons, engineers, and architects. Construction workers use numerous power tools, thousands of nuts and bolts, hundreds of pounds of concrete, and dozens of beams for structural support—all of which had to be transported to a location. Once constructed, these recording studios would then be outfitted with mixing boards, microphones, monitors, preamps, limiters, compressors, and sound insulation—each item manufactured by a different company excelling in a distinct area of sound and recording (with components coming from all over the world).

In addition, a great number of people would be needed to assist in the actual recording process, with each individual wielding a select set of skills—e.g., producers and often separate engineers for sound, recording, mixing, and mastering.

And what about people who want to record from the comfort of their own homes? Can the free market help?

The evolution of the digital audio workstation (DAW) alone is a testament to the free market and Adam Smith’s division of labor. Dozens of individuals and companies have had to carefully work together in order to conceive a way to allow individuals the freedom to record from the comfort of their own homes.

The first precursor to Pro-Tools (the software most used in modern digital recording) was conceived in California by two college undergraduates. The result was a worldwide revolution in recording and an affordable way for millions of aspiring emcees to create quality music without commissioning the use of otherwise expensive mixing boards, effects processors, and analog tape machines.

Markets vs. Magistrates

Could hip hop as we know it today have been possible in a country devoid of a free market economy? Could any one man or government have rightfully determined and differentiated the kind of hip hop the West Coast wanted to hear from the kind of hip hop the East Coast wanted to hear? Could any one legislator or body of legislators have predicted the way hip hop would evolve—including the countless variations, textures, and styles? Could anyone have known beforehand that there was this unsatisfied—even undiscovered—hunger for a new kind of music, let alone offshoots in fashion and other industries?

Liberation

A free market does not inhibit, it liberates. A free market has no prejudices or preferences as to who benefits or who doesn’t. The market, rather, is a system that people animate with their creativity and service. The quality of the product rests solely on the shoulders of the entrepreneur—nobody else. And yet it is driven by communities.

The free market affords individuals and companies a platform to advance mutual interests. And in return, it offers consumers a variety of choices, options, and avenues, which sustainably advance yet more mutual interests.

It is because of these mutual interests that hip hop has become a household name. It’s even easier to access than water in some countries. And yet, it remains only one facet, one story, in an invisible agglomeration of individuals and businesses voluntarily collaborating across every hour of every day.

ABOUT BRANDON MAXWELL

Brandon Loran Maxwell  is a freelance journalist, playwright, and regular contributor to Street Motivation Magazine, Los Angeles’s largest independent hip hop and urban publication.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

The Real Cost of Healthcare: Questions Not Asked or Answered

A quick review of current literature on healthcare costs and healthcare cost containment is not a very productive use of one’s time.  Within minutes of beginning a review of the published literature, the researcher quickly finds himself so deep into the weeds that it is impossible to make any sense of what is being conveyed.

Throughout the entire public debate over the efficacy of Obamacare, no one seemed to be asking the pertinent questions.  No one has asked, why is healthcare so expensive, and who gets all that money?

I can recall once reading a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about a Southeast Asian family who arrived in Philadelphia with their infant daughters… Siamese twins joined at the abdomen. Upon examination by a team of surgeons and pediatricians, doctors concluded that it would be possible to surgically separate the twins and that, after a period of recovery, the two little girls could expect to live happy and productive lives.

But then one of the reporters asked the operative question.  The Asian family had no healthcare insurance and very little money, so the question arose, how much would the estimated eleven-hour procedure cost?  The hospital spokesman responded, quite matter-of-factly, saying, “About a million dollars.”

No one batted an eye; no one questioned the estimate and no one asked for a cost breakdown.  Yet, it is necessary to ask, who gets all that money?  How many physicians would participate in the separation procedure?  How many nurses?  What would be the cost of disposable medical equipment?  What would be the cost of post-operative care?  A million dollars is a hell of a lot of money for an eleven-hour surgical procedure and a month or so of post-operative pediatric care.

If we assume five attending physicians… two surgeons, an anesthetist, an obstetrician, and a pediatrician… at $1,000 each per hour for eleven hours, the cost for physician’s services would come to $55,000.  If we assume five operating room and neo-natal nurses at $100 per hour for eleven hours, the cost of nursing care would come to $5,500.  If we assume a cost of $1,000 per hour for the use of the operating theater, the cost of surgical facilities would come to $11,000.  And if we assume a cost of $5,000 for drugs, medicines, and miscellaneous medical equipment, the direct costs accumulated on the day of the separation procedure would come to $76,500.

Then, if we assume a post-operative stay of 30 days for the twins, at $400 each, per day, for a bassinette in neo-natal recovery, that cost would come to $24,000.  And if we assume a cost of $1,000 per day to have surgeons look in on their patients, $500 per day for nursing care, and $500 per day for miscellaneous medicines, food, and diapers, the total cost of post-operative care would come to $84,000.  That would bring the total cost of the separation procedure and the post-op care to $160,500.

All of these estimated costs and daily and hourly rates are admittedly inflated.  So if the hospital prepares an invoice for $1,000,000, who gets the other $839,500?

No one in Congress, the White House, or in the mainstream media is asking the operative question that needs to be addressed.  No one is asking why healthcare is so expensive.  No one is asking, who gets all that money?

A part of the answer to that question was suggested by a recent caller to the Rush Limbaugh radio show.  The caller was a bookkeeper in the finance department of a major hospital; her husband was an orthopedic surgeon who practiced at the same hospital.  The woman explained that each time an orthopedic surgeon performed a hip-joint or knee-joint replacement, he/she was paid a flat rate of $1,250 for their time and talent.  However, when the manufacturer billed the hospital $8,000 for a prosthetic hip joint, the hospital routinely billed the patient, or the patient’s insurance company, $32,000… a 300% markup for the hardware.

Over the past three or four years, a close friend and neighbor has survived a serious bout with cancer.  And although I am unaware of the total cost of his cancer treatments by local physicians and cancer specialists at the M.D. Anderson Clinic in Houston, I am aware that the bill for his bone marrow transplant procedure came to approximately $1.2 million.

Again, how many physicians and nurses actually saw him?  How many hours did they spend treating him?  What was the actual cost of a few hours of operating room usage?  How was that $1.2 million split up between a few doctors, a few nurses, a few lab technicians, and the clinic itself?   Who got all that money?

In recent weeks, Dr. Tom Coburn has announced that he will retire from the U.S. Senate with two years remaining on his current term.  Dr. Coburn is one of the two or three finest members of the U.S. Senate and his departure will be a great loss to Oklahomans and to the country.  Unfortunately, Dr. Coburn suffers from cancer and is undergoing treatment at M.D. Anderson in Houston.  What caught my attention was a recent statement by Dr. Coburn, saying that each time he has a consultation at M.D. Anderson, he is billed for $32,000.

Again, how many physicians and nurses actually see him on each visit?  How many hours do they spend treating him or evaluating his condition?  What is the actual cost of the tests he undergoes?  How is that $32,000 split up between a few doctors, a few nurses, a few lab technicians, and the clinic itself for just a few hours of their time?   If the same team of doctors, nurses, and technicians see even as few as eight patients a day, the total income generated would come to $256,000.  Who gets all that money?

Those who work in the healthcare industry… in hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices… always have a ready answer.  They claim that it is the cost of high-tech equipment and facilities that runs up the cost of healthcare.  Baloney!  There are few hospitals or clinics in the country that cannot obtain the most expensive items of diagnostic equipment, such as MRI machines, through local philanthropy.

And those large portraits of distinguished-looking men and women hanging on the walls of hospitals and surgical wings?  Those are not oil portraits of the hospital’s “Employee of the Month.”  No, those are the portraits of the men and women who have shared their wealth by donating millions of dollars to build a wing onto the local hospital and whose names are enshrined in concrete and marble over the front door.

What is needed is a complete understanding by all concerned… especially those of us who pay the bills… of how a single dollar bill makes its way through the healthcare system and how it is divvied up at the end of the day.  To do so, it would be necessary to conduct a complete micro-economic study of a select number of major medical facilities, identifying over a specified period of time the source of every dollar that comes in the front door, and the recipient of every dollar that goes out the back door.

In other words, in any overhaul of our healthcare system, our first order of business should be to figure out exactly who is bilking the system… who is getting rich, and who is being bankrupted in the process.  Compared to the actual direct cost of healthcare, the price that consumers are asked to pay is far out of balance… perhaps by a factor of as much as four or five.  So who gets all that money?

Early in his first term, Barack Obama promised that he and congressional Democrats would reshape the American healthcare system.  They promised to insure 40 million uninsured, to substantially reduce the cost of healthcare for everyone, to save the average family as much as $2,400 a year in out-of-pocket healthcare costs, to increase the quality of healthcare for all Americans, and to do it all without increasing the number of doctors, nurses, and hospitals.

No one with an I.Q. larger than their hat size would believe they could do what they promised.  But enough low-information Kool-Ade drinkers fell for Obama’s false promise and they elected him.  Now they have to live with what he, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have produced.  When the small company and large company extensions granted by Obama expire sometime in 2016, or before, everyone will be able to see the disaster that Obamacare is.

It is likely that, beginning in 2015, a Republican-controlled House and Senate will be left with the task of cleaning up Obama’s mess.  And when they do we can only hope that they will be wise enough to begin by asking the question, who gets all the money that pours into the healthcare system?  Until we confront that question, real healthcare reform will be nothing more than an impossible dream.

Downsizing Australia’s Government and Repealing Green Laws

Try to imagine a commission of the U.S. government recommending that it get rid of the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, countless agencies, and, for good measure, restructure Medicare so it doesn’t go broke. There are few Americans who will argue that our federal government isn’t big enough and many who trace our present problems to Big Government.

That is why what has been occurring in Australia caught my attention because its voters rid themselves of a political party that imposed both a carbon tax and renewable energy tax on them. The purpose of the latter was to fund the building of wind turbines and solar farms to provide electricity.

Taxing carbon emissions—greenhouse gases—said to be heating the Earth has happily died in the U.S. Senate, but in Australia the taxes were a major reason that the Liberal Party (which is actually politically conservative despite its name) took power after a former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, pushed it and the renewable energy tax through its parliament.

Gillard became the first woman PM after she challenged then PM Kevin Rudd to lead the Labor Party (which is politically liberal.) Like John Kerry, Gillard was against the taxes before she was for them. How liberal is Rudd? In February he was named a senior fellow of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Like Obama, Rudd came out in favor of same-sex marriage when he was the PM.

Bjorn Lomborg, writing in The Australian in late April, noted that both of the taxes “have contributed to household electricity costs rising 110 percent in the past five years, hitting the poor the hardest.” I repeat—110 percent!

It didn’t take Australians long to discover what a disaster taxing carbon emissions was and how useless renewable energy is. In both cases the taxes were based on the notion that “fossil fuels”, coal, oil and natural gas, are a threat to the environment. Despite an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the Earth has been cooling for the last seventeen years. Mother Nature always has the last word.

As of this writing, the repeal of the two Green laws is in the Parliament’s Senate after having won assent in the lower House. A September 2013 election provided enough new Senate lawmakers  to ensure the repeal.

The Commonwealth of Australia is the sixth largest nation by total area. It was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and New South Wales was used as a penal colony initially. As the general population grew and the continent was explored, five more self-governing crown colonies were established. On January 1, 1901, the six colonies and several territories federated to form the Commonwealth. The population is approximately 23 million is highly urbanized and lives primarily in the eastern states.

Australia is the world’s 12th largest economy making it one of the wealthiest in the world, but the environmentally-inspired taxes had a deleterious impact on its economy, particularly the mining of coal and iron. As noted, the cost of electricity skyrocketed.

The present Prime Minister is Anthony John “Tony” Abbott. He has held the office since 2013 and has been the leader of the Liberal Party since 2009. A Member of Parliament, he was first elected in 1994 as the representative of Warringah. He made a lot of news when he protested a proposed Emissions Trade Scheme and forced a leadership ballot that defeated it, becoming in the process the Liberal Party leader and leader of the opposition to Rudd and Gillard’s Labor Party.

As reported in the April 30 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, Abbott’s Commission of Audit “has recommended massive cuts to the size of government, with whole agencies to be abolished, privatized, or devolved to the states, in what would be the biggest reworking of the federation ever undertaken.”

The Commission, the Herald reported, has 86 recommendations, among which are “calls for the axing of multiple agencies and the surrender of huge swathes of responsibility back to the states in education, health, and other services.”

The Australian reported that Joseph Benedict “Joe” Hockey, Australia’s Treasurer as part of the Abbott government, said that the proposed budget would axe “the vast number of (environmental) agencies that are involved in doing the same thing.” Hockey is no fan of wind power, saying “If I can be a little indulgent, I drive to Canberra to go to parliament and I must say I find those wind turbines around Lake George to be utterly offensive. I think they are a blight on the landscape.” That kind of candid talk, if he was an American politician, would be considered astonishing.

The best “transformation” America could undergo is not President Obama’s version, but a return to the limits set forth in the U.S. Constitution, a document that reflected the Founder’s distinct distrust of a large central government and its allocation of civic responsibilities to the individual states to the greatest degree possible, and to “the people.”

Australia is way ahead of the U.S. in that regard, learning from the errors of environment laws and the expansion of its government into areas of health and education. We would do well to follow its example.

© Alan Caruba, 2014