Friday, February 26, 2010

How Your Government "Protects" You

There was segment on this on Stossel (Fox Business Channel) last night. It was about an experimental implant for a degenerative eye disease that has shown great promise in helping some bind people see.

The doctor who created the implant has already spent 7 years and $50 million conducting FDA trials which have demonstrated that the implant works. Now the FDA wants more – another $100 million and trials that will last another 3 years.

There are too few customers for the treatment to warrant spending another $100 million on trials. So, investors won't fund the effort. The doctor is going to stop pursuing it.

A potential patient, Stephen Lonegan, was on the show who has an eye disease that could be helped by the implant. He said he wants the treatment and will take whatever risk is involved. Some FDA bureaucrat said no. They said that their restrictions are for his own safety. Stephen said: "There's nothing safe about going blind. I don't want to be made safe by the FDA. I want it to be up to me to make the decision myself."

So this poor guy is going to go blind as a result of the decision of some mindless government bureaucrat following the rules of some impersonal, uncaring government bureaucracy.

In the meantime, all we heard from the Democrats at yesterday's so-called healthcare summit is how evil insurance companies are forcing little old ladies to do things like use their dead friend's false teeth (seriously, this was a topic of discussion).

Joseph de Maistre once said that "every nation has the government it deserves". Well, here it is...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

McCain Trying To Regulate Nutritional Supplements Once Again

John McCain has introduced yet another bill to get the FDA to regulate nutritional supplements. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 321) could deny Americans freedom of access and mandate a doctor’s prescription for many dietary supplements.

Nutritional supplements have been under attack for a couple of decades. Every few years there is a push to regulate them. Fortunately, those efforts have always failed in the past.

Suzanne Somers has been fighting FDA control of suppliments for some time. As she correctly points out, the FDA did an internal study of themselves a couple of years ago and basically came to the conclusion that they lack the scientific capability and competence to evaluate new drugs and medical devices. A big reason why prescription drugs are so costly in America is because the pharmaceutical companies are at the mercy of the incompetent FDA, who takes too long to conduct drug trials.

Mandating that the FDA regulate nutritional suppliments will drive up their cost, as it has for pharmaceuticals. It will also deny Americans the freedom to do what they think is best to keep themselves healthy.

Obviously, we do need an independent body to verify the safety of potentially dangerous prescription drugs and the claims made by their manufacturers. However, that doesn't mean that we need the government to do it.

Have you ever looked at a piece of equipment or a label on an electrical chord and seen the letters UL? Underwriters Laboratories is private company that certifies products for safety and compliance with standards. Manufacturers pay UL to certify their products so that both the manufacturers themselves and their customers know that the company has delivered a safe, quality, product that is compliant with the relevant standards. The range of things they certify is stunning -- appliances; building materials; chemicals; equipment related to the production and distribution of food, water, and energy; high tech equipment; medical devices; and more.

If a product UL certifies turns out to be unsafe, the consumer can seek redress from both the manufacturer and UL. So, UL has every incentive to ensure that the products they certify are safe. Can you sue the FDA for allowing a dangerous drug on the market? Not really.

We could apply the same type of model to pharmaceuticals. Yes, require pharmaceutical companies to get certification for their new drugs. But allow private companies like UL and others to compete to provide that certification. The certification companies would complete by keeping up with the science and latest testing techniques, which would streamline the certification process, speed time to market, and lower drug costs. In the end, we'd also be safer with competing private certification companies than we are with the incompetent bureaucrats in the FDA.

The answer to the the mess the FDA created is right in front of us, but once again, neither political party is willing to make any real changes to the system at all.

In the meantime, we all need to tell the politicans to keep their sticky fingers off of our vitamins.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A few thoughts on tomorrow's Healthcare Summit

Tomorrow is Obama's big healthcare summit. Many Republicans rightfully believe that this is some sort of political set up. I agree. Obama's strategists have convinced him that the GOP doesn't have any ideas so they concocted this forum in the hopes of exposing their lack of real ideas to the American people.

My view is that the GOP needs to come to the summit ready to aggressively push a reasonable and rational plan for fixing what ails our healthcare system.

A lot of the problems with the healthcare system originate in the state governments. The GOP likes to mention our litigious tort system. This is clearly a state-driven problem. The states have caused other problems as well, for example:

1.) Most states have legislated minimum types of coverage for health plans. Like everything else the government gets its sticky fingers into, what winds up as part of the "minimum coverage" is largely decided by special interests. So, if I don't want to pay for acupuncture or massage therapy, tough luck -- these must be included in the plan by law, which makes the plan more expensive.

2.) The issue with not being able to offer insurance across state lines is also largely the fault of the states that restrict the companies that get to offer health insurance in their states. Of course political payoffs, like campaign contributions have nothing whatsoever to do with who gets to offer insurance and who doesn't.

3.) Finally, most states have legislated out all creativity and innovation from the insurance industry. For example, a couple of months ago a clinic in New York started offering unlimited patient visits for a flat fee of $75 a month. Everyone thought this was a wonderful idea, except the brain dead state government who said it was illegal to do this because that would make the clinic an insurance company.

This is actually a larger problem than just healthcare. All heavily government regulated industries are laboring under foolish laws that makes them uncompetitive in an increasingly competitive world.

The country needs legislation, or maybe even a constitutional amendment that forbids federal, state, and local governments from granting monopolies to businesses or doing anything else that restricts businesses from entering markets. (Professional licensing, etc. would still be okay as long as it was applied uniformly to everyone.)

If we unshackle the creative and competitive nature of the American people, the big problems that we have today won't be so big tomorrow.

We Can't Balance the Budget without cutting Overseas Military Expenditures

The U.S. government is facing annual trillion dollar plus budget deficits as far as the eye can see. Economists warn that in 10 short years interest payments on the debt will consume a whopping 80% of all federal tax revenue. This is not sustainable. Long before we reach that point, the U.S. government will have to devalue the dollar and/or default on the debt, making us all poorer in the process.

There are plenty of ways to squeeze money out of domestic programs. We don't need 29 federal welfare programs. We don't need the departments of Education, Agriculture, Labor, or Commerce. Does anyone know what the Commerce Department does anyway??? The poorly managed Post Office loses $5 billion a quarter. It should be privatized. We need to take a hard look at all domestic spending.

However, one fact is becoming increasingly clear -- it is not possible to balance the federal budget without reducing the size of our overseas military expenditures.

Our current global defense posture is a relic of the Cold War. The Cold War ended more than 20 years ago when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. Maintaining Cold War era defense programs and commitments detracts us from meeting the actual threats that we face today. It is also heavily contributing to our enormous annual budget deficits.

Unfortunately, reform will be very difficult. Here's why: the GOP's electoral coalition was largely built around defending us from the communists. So, the GOP is going to be very hesitant to make any changes that could jeopardize that coalition.

After the Soviet Union fell in 1989, a few people on the right like Pat Buchanan started making noises about bringing the troops home from Europe and Japan. This scared the heck out of the GOP establishment, especially the neo-conservatives. So, they started beating the drums against so-called "Red" China (which in many ways is actually more capitalistic than the U.S. is today)

The sad fact is that 9/11 saved the neo-conservatives and the Cold War coalition because they could stand up and say: "see, the world is still a dangerous place and you need us to protect you".

Fortunately, people are starting to wake up to the fact that al Queda is not a country that we can invade and subdue, like we did to Germany and Japan during World War II. Instead, al Queda is a roaming band of bad guys who can easily pack up their things and move elsewhere. We invade Afghanistan so they move to Pakistan. We invade Pakistan and then they go to Yemen. If we invaded Yemen, they would high tail it to Somalia. On and on...

The so-called "war on terror" is a prescription for endless war, growing government power at home, and a mounting pile of debt that will quickly bankrupt the country.

Think about this real hard: Does it make sense for us to borrow money from the Europeans to protect the Europeans? Does it make sense for us to borrow money from the Saudis to protect the Saudis?? Does it make sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to protect Asia from the Chinese??? This is exactly what we are doing. It's insane.

It's time to bring the troops home from Europe and Japan. The European Union collectively has a higher GDP than does the U.S. Japan is the second largest national economy in the world behind the U.S. (China will likely pass Japan this year.) These are rich countries who are more than capable of defending themselves. So why are we borrowing money to subsidize their defense???

If the Saudis want us to protect them and their oil fields, let's have a national debate on whether or not we should. If we do, then the Saudis can pay us with free oil to keep them safe.

It's also time to find a better way to protect ourselves from the terrorists than costly foreign wars without end. A good place to start would be to reform the failed Border Patrol and the TSA to reduce the chances of another attack at home.

The rapidly mounting debt should be a huge wake up call for all Americans. Obama's measly little spending freeze on discretionary domestic programs won't do a thing to solve the problem. The GOP doesn't even have a plan. If and when they come up with one, it likely will not contain any serious assessment of our costly overseas military commitments. That's a big problem for our future.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Germany wants U.S. to remove its Nuclear Weapons

There is a report out today that Germany wants the United States to remove its nuclear weapons from German soil, with officials describing them as a "relic of the Cold War". Conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a written policy statement to her party starting: "We will advocate within (NATO) Alliance and with our American allies the removal of the remaining nuclear weapons from Germany".

This is exactly right. Th Soviet Union died in 1989. There is no more credible state-sponsored international communist threat. Russia and the Germans are good friends.

Maintaining our Cold War defense posture detracts us, in terms of both focus and money, from meeting the actual threats that we face today.

So, why in the heck do we continue to spend our tax money supporting something that is not wanted and not needed??? I'll tell you why -- because we are living in a hidebound country, controlled by special interests (including, but not limited to defense contractors), who are completely resistant to any and all change.

Put modernizing our defense strategy on a long list of changes that need to be made to our illustrious government in the District of Columbia.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hatch worried that the Tea Party will tear GOP apart

Orin Hatch has been bellyaching that the Tea Party threatens the GOP establishment. He joins a growing chorus of GOP regulars who are becoming very worried about the consequences of Tea Party activism. GREAT!!! They should be worried. While there are a small handful of good people in the GOP, most of the SOBs in the party need to get booted from office along with the Democrats.

I cast my first vote in 1980. I voted for Reagan. For 20 years, I listened to GOP excuses. Reagan couldn't cut spending in the 1980s because he had a Democrat congress. Gingrich and the GOP Congress couldn't cut spending in the 1990s because they were laboring under a Democrat President. For 20 years I said: I want to see the GOP run it all so that they can make the changes they talk about.

Well, now we've seen the GOP run it all under Bush and it wasn't a pretty site.

They created the first new entitlement program since LBJ. They initiated the largest federal intrusion into the classroom in history. They created the largest pork barrel programs the world has ever seen. According to the Heritage Foundation, Bush oversaw Hurricane Katrina "victims" spending OUR TAX MONEY on things like Caribbean vacations, Dom Perignon champagne, Girls Gone Wild videos, and at least one SEX CHANGE OPERATION. They embarked on a costly, demented, and belligerent foreign policy that has left America weaker in the world.

As a result, they turned a balanced budget into a massive annual deficit. They doubled the national debt and had to borrow a TRILLION dollars from the Chinese to do so. They collapsed the economy. Then they gave Wall Street Banksters $700 BILLION dollars of OUR TAX MONEY, which was promptly used to lavish bonuses on FAILED executives.

Of course, one could point out that Obama is even worse, but to do so would be missing the entire point, which is: Both parties are sprinting towards hell. I don't want to go to hell. I want someone to turn around and go the other way. The GOP has shown that they won't. That's the problem.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mounting debt points to dire consequences ahead

We learned last week that the Social Security system is finally paying out more each year than it is taking in. As a result of Carter raising Social Security taxes in the 70s, the Social Security system has been taking in more money than it was paying out over the last 30 years. Of course, the money wasn't being saved for a rainy day. Instead, the kleptomaniac politicians pilfered it to pay off special interests, including big agribusinesses, Wall Street Banksters, and other large corporations who don't want to compete in the market; leftist "community organizers" like Acorn; government union bosses; corrupt university scientists studying "climate change"; welfare queens; and an endless parade of other leeches. The politicians' theft of the Social Security surpluses masked the true magnitude of annual budget deficits for more than 30 years. Now those surpluses are gone.

Government economists predict that even when (if?) we come out of this recession, the growing demands of the baby boomers on Social Security and Medicare will force the debt to keep piling up.

Honest people have been warning about entitlement spending for more than 30 years. For a long time, nothing was done to reform anything because every time someone tried to tell the truth the left would demagogue the issue, accusing the reformers of being heartless sadists who wanted to throw grandma into the snow without her shawl.

To make matters worse, the last two knuckleheads in the Oval Office have made the situation even worse. George Bush created the first new entitlement since LBJ (a costly prescription drug program for the elderly). Not to be outdone, Obama created a $1 trillion "stimulus" bill that failed to stimulate anything except the salivary glads of power hungry politicians. He also proposed (and hopefully has failed) to expand government healthcare entitlements from 50% of healthcare spending today to 100%.

Given the endless orgy of spending, government economists predict that interest on the debt will gobble up a whopping 80% of all federal revenues by 2020. EIGHTY PERCENT. There won't be any money left to do anything else.

We're not going to be able to just switch out the Congress and make a few tweaks to the system like we did in 94. It's too late for that. Given that the politicians are too corrupt and cowardly to make real changes, we are looking a a grim future ahead.

Mark my words, one or more of these three things WILL happen long before 2020:

A.) The government will undertake a massive tax increase (probably in the form of a Value Added Tax) that will cripple the economy even further and decimate middle class living standards.

B.) The government will create a hyperinflation to pay off the debt with worthless dollars, and wipe out what remains of middle class savings and investment.

C.) The government will default on its debt and collapse the global economy.

All empires come to an end. Thanks to corrupt politicians, lobbyists, and Wall Street bankstes,the post WWII American empire may be next. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It all depends on what comes next.

One path points us in the direction of freedom. It requires that we stand up to the federal government and reassert our rights with state nullification of federal laws (which is already happening in a few states with regards to gun control), a constitutional amendment that strictly limits federal power (including closing the "interstate commerce clause" loop hole, which has been used by the politicians to get their grubby little fingers into every aspect of our lives), repeal of the 16th and 17th amendments (which are the root cause of our problems), and potentially secession, if need be.

The other path -- of more government spending and debt -- could very easily end up with a strong man in charge of the country. Remember, the hyperinflation in Germany directly led to the ascension of Der F├╝hrer. That's the last thing we need.

We're on an uncharted course, at least for America. But we can learn from history and the mistakes that other countries have made. Hell, we can learn from the mistakes that other countries are making TODAY, namely the PIGS -- Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. Frankly, the U.S. situation is about as dire as theirs in terms of debt to GDP ratio. The only difference is that the U.S. is such a large and important country that it will take longer before our day of reckoning arrives. Make no mistake, it will arrive, and when it does it will be even worse than theirs because there will be no one left to bail us out.

It's long past time to learn from history and get our fiscal house in order. The magic question is whether or not we will learn.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Short, open letter to Glenn Beck

Glen,

A few minutes ago you told a caller not to worry about people going back to sleep after the next election. I disagree.

In 92, the country was every bit as angry as they are today. The result? We gave Ross Perot 19% of the popular vote -- the second highest total of any third party candidate in the 20th century (Teddy Roosevelt won 27% of the vote as a Progressive candidate in 1912. We did this even after we knew he was crazy (remember the whole "Bush is going to sabotage my daughter's wedding" thing???). If Perot had the type of voter concentration that Wallace did in 68, he could have swept the west the sent the election to the Congress.

Fortunately, people stayed angry for two more years and we swept the GOP into control of the Congress.

The GOP congress did a great job in the 90s. But then most people went right back to sleep. They stayed asleep when George Bush and his GOP congress escalated spending faster than any President since LBJ, created the first new entitlement program since LBJ, and initiated the largest federal intrusion into the classroom in history.

It took one of the worst economic collapses in our lifetimes to wake people up again.

My view is that we are in deep trouble for a long time. I am afraid that it is too late to simply elect some new people who can tweak the system and make it all better. We may have to entirely reboot the system from the bottom with a new a constitutional convention that puts the politicians into there place. Regardless of what happens this year and in 2012, we are in for a long, scary ride.