These are the people that are “extricating” the USA from Afghanistan

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

Mike Tyson

My opinion of the Obama “administration” is that their ability to “administrate” is abysmal. I did not think it was possible for my opinion to sink still lower. Oops. I was wrong. The Obama administration has a “plan” to extricate the USA from Afghanistan. Listen to these administration officials as they answer what should be extraordinarily easy questions for them. Are these the officials that will implement our nation’s economic departure from the longest war in our history? As Mike Tyson stated above, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face,” but these gentlemen do not seem to have gone even that far.

You can just listen to the first three answers. That should be sufficient to send you to the restroom to vomit.

And thanks to JM for sending this to me.

Roy Filly

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Medicare opens the books on payments to physicians

There was a recent brouhaha in the news. Pursuant to a court order, Medicare now allows anyone to look up how much any physician bills Medicare. The news media of course focused on a small number of physicians that billed large amounts to Medicare. I would agree that some physicians billed very large sums and if these billings were in any way fraudulent, those physicians should be punished under the law.

However, the left-wing media overlooked some basic observations. An analysis of the data would cause anyone to wonder why a physician would ever take on a Medicare patient.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that $77.4 billion was paid to 880,000 doctors in 2012. That calculates to approximately $87,000 per doctor. Given that many doctors have more than 50% of cases from Medicare, that’s a salary of under 200k. No one is saying that physicians do not earn sufficient funds to live well. However, many physicians earn less than the general public would suspect (see footnote) based on the length and rigors of their education. Also, the challenges of getting into medical school means that physicians, as a general group, are among the most intelligent Americans. They undoubtedly could choose from many possible jobs or professions.

Many of the more highly compensated surgical specialties require 6 years (sometimes more) training after medical school. Students complete medical school with a median debt of $180,000 (11% have a debt exceeding $300,000). So doctors are doing well financially but it was a long and expensive process.

By comparison investment bankers are expected to get the following bonuses this year:

[Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/wall-street-bonus-predictions-2014-1]

Credit Suisse                               $388,000

Deutche Bank                              $315,000

Goldman Sachs                           $427,000

And, again, those are bonuses over and above salary. My personal preference is that I would rather that my internist earns $200,000 per year than my investment broker earns $400,000.

My point here is not that doctors do not earn enviable salaries or that I begrudge the earnings of investment bankers. Neither is the case. My point is that an analysis of the CMS data will cause you to question why I, as a physician, would ever see a Medicare patient?  Seeing Medicare patients is tantamount to doing charity work. It is unambiguously charity work when physicians see a Medicaid (MediCal) patient. To demonstrate this fact I will do something unusual. You can look up my billing and reimbursement for Medicare patients. If you go to the site below simply put in “Filly” and “Diagnostic Radiologist” and hit “Search.” You do not need to put in a zip code. The data will appear below the search tool. The page will not change.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/09/health/medicare-doctor-database.html?_r=1

You must be at least a little shocked to see the difference between the average amount billed to Medicare versus the average amount reimbursed. Below are listed some items from the data. Importantly, the manner of presentation of the CMS data is flawed. The “average billed” amount for a diagnostic radiologist includes both a “technical” fee and a “professional” fee. The technical fee covers the cost of the equipment, technologist, room, utilities, ancillary help (receptionist, janitors, security, etc.), insurance – and the list goes on. On average you may assume that 2/3 of the “average billed” amount is a technical fee and in my world that money goes directly to the hospital. The professional fee (approximately 1/3 of the “average billed amount”) is the charge for my services. I am salaried, so in my case that money goes to the Department of Radiology who in turn pays me a fixed salary. Nonetheless, if I do not earn enough to cover my salary, you can rest assured the Department of Radiology will either bid me adieu or lower my salary.

———————————————Average Billed     Ave Payment (% of billed)

Abdominal Ultrasound Complete               $764                           $30 (3.9%)

Ultrasound of the pelvis, female                 $502                           $26 (5.2%)

Ultrasound of the carotid arteries              $978                           $22 (2.2%)

Again, the data is presented as though the “average billed” is entirely for the physician. But, if it were “true” I would be paid as little as 2.2% of the billed amount. In actuality the professional fee for a carotid artery sonogram would be between $300 – $350. Thus, CMS pays me about 7% of the amount I believe the service is worth. In Marin County, California where I live a plumber will not come to my house for less than $150.

Now imagine the federal government buying a fleet of 20 Mercedes Benz E350 sedans (average price to you would be around $65,000). The government tells the dealer that they will only pay $16,830 per car (2.2%). How long will that Mercedes dealer be in business?

The poor reimbursement of the federal and state governments for medical services is mostly made up for by private insurance companies. So if you are wondering why private insurance costs so much you largely have your answer.

Roy Filly

Footnote:

This Physician Salary Survey is based on a recent nationwide, confidential survey of over 80,000 practicing physicians as well as over 40,000 newly graduated physicians in each specialty listed below.

Specialty National 6 yrs Practicing Average Median Starting Range
Allergy & Immunology $246,000.00 $190,000.00
Anesthesiology $360,000.00 $265,000.00
Cardiac & Thoracic Surgery $522,875.00 $360,000.00
Cardiology $402,000.00 $272,000.00
Colon & Rectal Surgery $389,700.00 $290,000.00
Critical Care Medicine $258,750.00 $198,000.00
Dermatology $365,450.00 $234,000.00
Diagnostic Radiology – Interventional $469,800.00 $335,000.00
Diagnostic Radiology – Non-Interventional $444,850.00 $330,000.00
Endocrinology $214,550.00 $165,000.00
Family Medicine $199,850.00 $138,000.00
Family Medicine – with Obstetrics $207,900.00 $142,000.00
Gastroenterology $398,800.00 $272,000.00
General Surgery $350,000.00 $225,000.00
Gynecological Oncology $402,000.00 $300,000.00
Gynecology $233,000.00 $210,000.00
Gynecology & Obstetrics $279,750.00 $200,000.00
Hematology & Medical Oncology $314,800.00 $222,000.00
Hospitalist $210,950.00 $165,000.00
Nephrology $252,000.00 $180,000.00
Infectious Disease $225,000.00 $158,000.00
Internal Medicine $208,790.00 $145,000.00
Neonatology $275,400.00 $196,000.00
Neurological Surgery $589,500.00 $395,000.00
Neurology $237,000.00 $190,000.00
Ophthalmology $248,000.00 $210,000.00
Orthopedic Surgery $485,500.00 $315,000.00
Orthopedic Surgery – Pediatrics $395,420.00 $318,000.00
Orthopedic Surgery – Spine $625,000.00 $465,000.00
Otolaryngology $350,000.00 $222,000.00
Pediatric Cardiology $230,900.00 $189,000.00
Pediatric Endocrinology $187,600.00 $170,000.00
Pediatric Gastroenterology $230,500.00 $175,000.00
Pediatric Hematology / Oncology $210,000.00 $175,000.00
Pediatric Infectious Disease $205,00.00 $173,000.00
Pediatric Intensive Care $252,500.00 $195,000.00
Pediatric Nephrology $196,000.00 $172,000.00
Pediatric Neurology $218,200.00 $182,000.00
Pediatric Pulmonary Disease $190,000.00 $162,000.00
Pediatric Surgery $401,000.00 $295,000.00
Pediatrics $202,500.00 $162,000.00
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation $233,300.00 $178,000.00
Plastic  Surgery $382,000.00 $273,000.00
Psychiatry $211,000.00 $165,000.00
Psychiatry – Child $218,300.00 $159,000.00
Pulmonary Disease $298,000.00 $191,500.00
Rheumatology $220,500.00 $163,500.00
Trauma Surgery $400,000.00 $298,000.00
Urgent Care $215,000.00 $142,000.00
Urology $400,000.00 $250,000.00
Vascular Surgery $405,000.00 $259,400.00

 

 

 

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Is writing a coherent political blog a waste of my time?

An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight. 

Thomas Jefferson

Obama believes that the American electorate is easily distracted. Benghazi, IRS targeting of Tea Party Groups, spying on Associated Press journalists, the secret indictment of journalist James Rosen, the “Fast and Furious” gun running scandal and Solyndra are all topics the president wants to avoid during the upcoming election. President Obama believes that foot-dragging by the IRS, ATF, State and Justice Departments will cause Americans to grow tired of the investigations into wrongdoing. I think the president may be correct. American voters are poorly informed and that is the kindest way I can put it.  The following is clearly in jest – or is it?

I try to gather data to enlighten the voting public and present it in a coherent fashion in my posts. Then I see street interviews like these conducted for the Jimmy Kimmel Show’s “Lie Witness News” and must wonder, “What in God’s name do I think I can accomplish?”

Enjoy and hope to God these Americans are not representative of the voting public.

(Jared Huffman, in case you’re wondering if I knew.)

Roy Filly

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Congressional Democrat debates the Big Mac. Seriously, this is for real!

All morons hate it when you call them a moron.

J. D. Salinger

I don’t know what you think of Chris Van Hollen or even if you know who he is. He is a well-known Democrat Congressman from Maryland and frequently serves as spokesperson for the Democrat Party. The man has a propensity to stand in front of a television camera and spout off. This guy makes Senator Charles Schumer look camera shy. (It has been said in the past that the most dangerous place to be in Washington, DC is between Chuck Schumer and a microphone).

Van Hollen is the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. The Republican Chair of that Committee, Paul Ryan, Republican Congressman from Wisconsin, has proposed a budget that will take us off the path to fiscal doom. I didn’t expect the Democrats to like it but the response was absurd. Representative Van Hollen, in rebuttal to the Ryan proposal, debated the price of… are you ready… the Big Mac. We are $17 trillion in debt and the ranking Democrat member of the  House Budget Committee is debating the BIG MAC – and with charts to make his points!

[Source: Congress debated the Big Mac today. With charts. Seriously. by Wesley Lowery]

Tuesday afternoon the House Budget Committee debated a bill that would require the Congressional Budget Office to stop assuming annual increases in discretionary spending due to inflation. There are two solid arguments in favor of this strategy to curb government spending. One of these was argued by Georgia Republican Rep. Rob Woodall. He laid out the argument that if the CBO spending estimates include increases for inflation, it would create incentives for the government to spend more each year — even if it doesn’t need to — in order to hit those estimates. My experiences with “government” confirm this. While in the Air Force we were required to spend every penny allotted to us even if we had absolutely no use for the purchases. “Spend it or loose it” was the phrase of the day. This was also true of my tenure at the University of California. We were incentivized to spend the money allotted to us. The only way to control a budget is with a zero-base (see footnote).

But Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen argued against the bill, saying that the CBO must continue to factor-in inflation, otherwise budget estimates will be completely unrealistic. And when Van Hollen came back at Woodall, he came back hard — with hamburger charts, no less.

burger1Now, I still occasionally eat at McDonalds even though my children are grown. Let me assure Representative Van Hollen that the chart he is holding is NOT A BIG MAC! The Big Mac looks like this -

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 4.48.29 PM

If you intend to discuss hamburgers on the floor of the US House of Representatives, at least have the decency to show a picture of the correct hamburger!

burger2

Van Hollen’s second chart shows the cost of goods and services over time sincein 2004 — again, using the Big Mac as his example.

burger3

 

He concludes with the above image. He argues that without including inflation, the CBO budget would, over time, become more and more detached from reality. I guess believing that one can run deficits of hundreds of billions of dollars and, from time to time in the Obama administration trillions of dollars, in perpetuity is NOT DIVORCED FROM REALITY! Below is the graph that should be debated on the floor of the US Congress.

Presidents Avg Deficits v.3.preview

God save us from morons! (By the by, if my progressive readers are looking at the tiny Clinton deficits they were because he had a solid Republican Congress, Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House, and the “Dot.Com Bubble” to fuel federal revenues. Clinton was not a fiscal conservative.)

Roy Filly

Footnote:

Zero-based budgeting is an approach to planning and decision-making which reverses the working process of traditional budgeting. In traditional incremental budgeting (Historic Budgeting), departmental managers justify only variances versus past years, based on the assumption that the “baseline” is automatically approved. By contrast, in zero-based budgeting, every line item of the budget must be approved, rather than only changes. That is zero-based budgeting. During the review process, no reference is made to the previous level of expenditure. Zero-based budgeting requires the budget request be re-evaluated thoroughly, starting from the zero-base. This process is independent of whether the total budget or specific line items are increasing or decreasing. Didn’t Candidate Obama promise over and over that he would go through the budget line by line. 

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The facts about “equal pay” revisited.

A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.

Milton Friedman

Dear Readers,

Yesterday President Obama pulled out a well-worn card from the progressive/statist /altruist playbook – women are paid less than men for the “same work.” I do not know a single republican who would favor “unequal pay” for women. By the by, a computation using “average” pay showed that staff women in the White House earned 12% less than male staffers. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, explained the discrepancy using the same arguments I will use below. He also idiotically stated that 12% less was “better than the ‘national average.’” Sorry, but this post is a bit long. However, it will dispel once and for all the myth of “unequal pay.”

What follows is a series of four articles that dispel the Democrat party assertion that “equal pay for women” does not exist in America. I believe that Americans overwhelmingly agree that women should receive equal pay. I am among those that concur. But, as you will see, when apples and apples and oranges and oranges are compared, typically women are paid very similarly to men and, in many instances, women make more money than men.

Lilly Ledbetter, whose fair-pay U.S. Supreme Court case inspired the first bill President Barack Obama signed into law, noted that women make “77 cents for every dollar that men earn.”

The phrase “women make 77 cents for every dollar that men earn” has been bandied about for years. As stated above, I agree with and support equivalency. The calculus of whether an individual has two X chromosomes or one X and one Y chromosome should never enter into the computation of “pay.” However, the notion of “equal” was never intended with regard to “pay.” Indeed, the concept is ludicrous. “Equal pay for equal work” is a computation that would be daunting to a super computer. For the moment let’s forget about “men” altogether and concentrate on “equal pay between women.” Take as an example two women playing in a professional golf tournament. They both walk an equal number of yards. The both swing golf clubs. Both have practiced long hours. Both had to jump through many hoops to get onto the professional tour. But the one that does the lesser amount of work (i.e., swings the golf club the fewest number of times) gets more “pay” – a lot more “pay” – tens of thousands of dollars more “pay.” Everyone thinks this is fair. Why is that, ask you? Because, answer I, the reward – the pay – in dollars is for talent, not “work.”

Perhaps a more telling example is this. Let’s say that you own a medium size business. You have no partners or stockholders. Every cent of profit is yours. You employ 250 men who all make widgets. They all do the same tasks or, alternatively, rotate through the tasks. You pay them each $30,000 per year including benefits. Thus, your annual expense for labor is $7,500,000, the largest expenditure in your annual budget. It so happens that you are a greedy SOB Republican. Are you telling me that it would be possible to cut your labor costs by 23% and all you need do is fire every man and replace each one of them with a woman who would do EXACTLY the same amount and caliber of work with no loss in productivity? That puts $1,725,000 dollars directly into your pocket and your business sails on without a hitch. I assure you, if that were possible, there wouldn’t be a man with a job until women were no longer available to be hired – every woman who wanted to work would be working. That women earn 23% less than men is only true if you can convince everyone that an apple is an orange.

Enjoy the following four articles (I have edited some portions to avoid repetition, although some repetition could not be avoided and still keep an appropriate flow to the article):

[From: The 'Equal Pay Day' Myth, by Carrie Lukas] “The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in the fourth quarter of 2011 that the median full-time working woman made 81.6 percent of the wages of the median fulltime working man (the 73% number used by Ledbetter is an older figure – RF).  Since then, big government, feminist organizations and liberal politicians repeat this “wage gap” statistic, implying that discrimination is its cause…

“This, however, is simply not the case.  Rather, the publication and intense focus on this presented wage gap is an exercise in statistical manipulation, espousing a conclusion that is unreal.  Aggregately comparing full-time working men and women without holding other factors constant is disingenuous — an analysis that accounts for hours worked, education and industry type would be more enlightening.

“Incorporating the number of hours worked variable, it can be found that while both men and women in the original analysis were vaguely labeled “fulltime,” this fails to capture hours put in.

“The Department of Labor’s 2011 Time Use Survey shows that fulltime working men spend… more time at work each day on the job. Therefore, it should hardly be a surprise that workers who work more do in fact earn more. Similarly, the sectors that men and women tend to dominate have to be taken into account:

▪   Men dominate fields like construction, manufacturing and trucking — jobs with higher personal risk (both in job security and safety), but with salary premiums to compensate.

▪   Women cluster in service industries, teaching, health care and the social services — jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours and greater flexibility.

▪   While radical feminists argue that women are socially pressured into these low-paying positions, the same argument can be made that men, pressured to be the bread-winner, sacrifice comfortable positions to make a better salary.

“Finally, children create an important variable.  Two new parents tend to respond oppositely to having a child.  The mother tends to seek a position with greater flexibility and time off (sacrificing salary in the process), while the father actually seeks further salary gains.  When these and other factors are taken into account, the wage gap usually disappears and sometimes even reverses.”

[From, The Real war on Women, by Thomas Sowell] “The old — and repeatedly discredited — game of citing women’s incomes as some percentage of men’s incomes is being played once again, as part of the “war on women” theme.

“Since women average fewer hours of work per year, and fewer years of consecutive full-time employment than men, among other differences, comparisons of male and female annual earnings are comparisons of apples and oranges, as various female economists have pointed out. Read Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Hudson Institute or Professor Claudia Goldin of Harvard, for example.

“When you compare women and men in the same occupations with the same skills, education, hours of work, and many other factors that go into determining pay, the differences in incomes shrink to the vanishing point — and, in some cases, the women earn more than comparable men.

”But why let mere facts spoil the emotional rhetoric or the political ploys to drum up hysteria and collect votes?

“The farcical nature of these ploys came out after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared that Congress needed to pass the Fair Pay Act, because women average 23 percent lower incomes than men.

“A reporter from The Daily Caller then pointed out that the women on Nancy Pelosi’s own staff average 27 percent lower incomes than the men on her staff. Does that show that Pelosi herself is guilty of discrimination against women? Or does it show that such simple-minded statistics are grossly misleading?”

[From, The Myth of Unfair Paychecks, by Steve Chapman] “As any debater knows, defining the issue is a major part of the battle… Democrats failed to persuade the Senate to approve the Paycheck Fairness Act. What are we to conclude from that outcome? That paychecks will be unfair, to the detriment of America’s working women.

“That’s the claim of those supporting the legislation. President Barack Obama said it would merely mandate “equal pay for equal work.” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada warned beforehand that failing to pass the bill would send “the message to little girls across the country that their work is less valuable because they happened to be born female.”

“On Rachel Maddow’s blog, the complaint was that women are ‘still only making 77 cents for every dollar men earn in similar jobs,’ but Republicans ‘seem indifferent to the problem.’

“’This is a myth resting on a deception. The Washington Post’s official Fact Checker faulted Obama’s claim, noting that… depending on how the data are viewed, in some cases it barely exists.’

“A difference, in any event, does not prove discrimination…

“‘The gender gap shrinks to between 8 percent and 0 percent when the study incorporates such measures as work experience, career breaks and part-time work,’ Baruch College economist June O’Neill has written…

“A fact sheet from the American Association of University Women (which favors the bill) acknowledges that ‘10 years after graduation (from college), 23 percent of mothers in our sample were out of the workforce and 17 percent worked part time. Among fathers, only 1 percent were out of the workforce, and only 2 percent worked part time.’ It’s safe to assume that men who make similar work decisions experience similar consequences.

“You could argue that oppressive social conventions saddle mothers with the main responsibility for (the) task (of child rearing). But given the drastic changes in sex roles and expectations over the past half-century, why should we assume that this one is being forced on women? If they tend to place greater importance on child-rearing than men, they will be more inclined to interrupt their careers, even at a sacrifice in long-term earnings.

“Pay differences stemming from factors within the control of females are a ‘problem’ only if you define them as one. By that logic, we need a Higher Education Fairness Act because men earn only 43 percent of all bachelor’s degrees and 40 percent of master’s degrees.

“If universities are taking steps to discourage guys from enrolling, it’s a problem that may be amenable to government action. But if the imbalance is the result of males skipping college in favor of other options, there is no social injustice to undo.

“What the alleged gender pay gap reflects is the interaction of supply and demand in a competitive labor market. Even in a slow economy, companies that mistreat women can expect to lose them to rival employers.

“The Paycheck Fairness Act would upend these processes, with the government and courts assuming responsibility for what each worker should be paid, according to Harry Reid’s standards of justice and fairness. Every salary decision would be fraught with the dread prospect of litigation — promoting rigid pay scales simply to minimize the liability risk.

“The result would be a less nimble and efficient economy, which over time dampens productivity improvements and stifles wage growth. The effect on paychecks? Not fair, but foul.”

[From, Equality or Inequality, by Walter Williams] “Kay S. Hymowitz’s article ‘Why the Gender Gap Won’t Go Away. Ever,’ in City Journal (Summer 2011), shows that female doctors earn only 64 percent of the income that male doctors earn. What should be done about that? It turns out that only 16 percent of surgeons are women but 50 percent of pediatricians are women. Even though surgeons have many more years of education and training than do pediatricians, should Congress equalize their salaries or make pediatricians become surgeons?

“Wage inequality is everywhere. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Asian men and women earn more than white men and women. Female cafeteria attendants earn more than their male counterparts. Females who are younger than 30 and have never been married earn salaries 8 percent higher than males of the same description…

“There are other inequalities that ought to be addressed. With all of the excitement about New York Knick Jeremy Lin’s rising stardom, nobody questions league domination by blacks, who are a mere 13 percent of our population but constitute 80 percent of NBA players and are the highest-paid ones. It’s not much better in the NFL, with blacks being 65 percent of its players. Colleges have made diversity their primary calling, but watch any basketball game and you’d be hard-put to find white players in roles other than bench warming. Worse than that, Japanese, Chinese and American Indian players aren’t even recruited for bench warming.

“There’s inequality in most jobs. According to 2010 BLS data, the following jobs contain 1 percent female workers or less: boilermaking, brickmasonry, stonemasonry, septic tank servicing, sewer pipe cleaning and working with reinforcing iron and rebar. Maybe the reason female workers aren’t in these occupations is that too many are in other occupations. Females are 97 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers, 80 percent of social workers, 82 percent of librarians and 92 percent of dietitians and nutritionists and registered nurses.

“Anyone with one ounce of brains can see the problem and solution. Congress has permitted — and even fostered — a misallocation of people by race, sex and ethnicity. Courts have consistently concluded that “gross” disparities are probative of a pattern and practice of discrimination. So what to do? One remedy that Congress might consider is to require females, who are overrepresented in fields such as preschool and kindergarten teaching, to become boilermakers and brickmasons and mandate that male boilermakers and brickmasons become preschool and kindergarten teachers until both of their percentages are equal to their percentages in the population. You say, ‘Williams, that would be totalitarianism!’ But if Americans accept that Congress can make us buy health insurance whether we want to or not, how much more totalitarian would it be for Congress to allocate jobs in the name of social equality and the good of our nation?

Roy Filly

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Remember Greece?

In the turmoil over the “launch” of ObamaCare Americans seem to have forgotten about poor old Greece. The European Union has been “saving” Greece from its own folly. The Greeks are the masters of cradle-to-grave government service and support. So how are things going now that the Great Recession is over?

Sadly, things aren’t going well in Greece. It appears there is a point of no return when it comes to the socialist dream. The dream turns into a nightmare from which there is no awakening. Observe the following:

[Source: Richard Rahn, "Greece Shows How Far an Economy Can Fall,”}

Greece is now in its fifth year of decline.

  • Gross domestic product is 28 percent lower than it was just four years ago, and official unemployment sits at 27.5 percent.
  • For young people, unemployment is a staggering 60 percent.
  • Ten million Greeks currently live in Greece, spread across 2.8 million households with “relationships” with the Tax Office. Of those 2.8 million households, 2.3 million are in debt to the Tax Office.
  • One million households cannot pay their electricity bill in full.
  • Of the 3 million in the Greek labor force, 1.3 million are without jobs.
  • Half of Greek businesses still in operation are in serious financial trouble due to pension contributions and the social security fund.
  • Greece depends on Russia for more than three-quarters of its natural gas, and most of that gas passes through Ukraine. Ouch!
  • Greeks get their health care through a national Health Insurance Program. Won’t that be nice when the country finally declares bankruptcy and defaults. ObamaCare writ large!

On 2 May 2010, the Eurogroup agreed to provide bilateral loans pooled by the European Commission (so-called “Greek Loan Facility” – GLF) for a total amount of €80 billion to be disbursed over the period May 2010 through June 2013. Since May 2010, the euro area Member States and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been providing financial support to Greece through an Economic Adjustment Programme in the context of a sharp deterioration in its financing conditions. In total, the second programme foresees financial assistance of €164.5 billion until the end of 2014. Greece’s GDP is only €182 billion. Thus the EU has loaned Greece 90% of their GDP! That would be the equivalent of loaning the USA $15 trillion. And, Greece is still going down!

The progressive/statist/altruists had such benevolent plans for the population of Greece. Look at it now. Socialism, like communism, is an experiment that has been tried and failed – failed big time! Capitalism is the only universally successful economic system ever devised. Yes, it produces winners and losers. Sorry about that, Mr. President, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

Roy Filly

 

 

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Do the right thing… as long as it doesn’t impact my lifestyle.

Dear Readers,

Once again my hero, Victor Davis Hanson, has written an exposé on the dichotomous “progressivism” that typifies California. I think the thing that I find most egregious about progressive/statist/altruists is that they want what is “righteous” but not for themselves. Al Gore is the penultimate example of such a progressive/statist/altruist. He makes a fortune as a spokesman and investor in “carbon-friendly” causes and businesses and yet has a personal carbon footprint that makes a Chinese coal-fired electric plant look “green.”

Mr. Hanson’s article highlights many facts well known to Californians, but not so well known to the remainder of the nation. Blue, blue California is a testament to near continuous Democrat liberal and progressive notions… and the “testament” is damning!

Roy Filly

One California for Me, Another for Thee

Victor Davis Hanson

No place on the planet is as beautiful and as naturally rich as California. And few places have become as absurd.

Currently, three California state senators are either under felony indictment or already have been convicted.

State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) made a political career out of demanding harsher state gun-control laws. Now he is facing several felony charges for attempting to facilitate gun-running. One count alleges that Lee sought to provide banned heavy automatic weapons to Philippines-based Islamic terrorist groups.

State Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), who had succeeded one brother, Thomas, in the state Assembly and was succeeded by another brother, Charles, now faces felony charges of wire fraud, bribery, money laundering and falsification of tax returns.

State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), originally entered politics as a champion of social justice. Not long ago, the Democratic leaders of the California Senate in secretive fashion paid $120,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual-harassment suit against Wright. But this time around, not even his fellow senators could save Wright, who was convicted earlier this year on eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud.

What is the common denominator with all three California senators — aside from the fact that they are still receiving their salaries?

One, they are abject hypocrites who campaigned against old-boy insider influence-peddling so they could get elected to indulge in it.

Two, they assumed that their progressive politics shielded them from the sort of public scrutiny and consequences that usually deter such deplorable behavior.

Criminal activity is the extreme manifestation of California’s institutionalized progressive hypocrisy. Milder expressions of double standards explain why California has become such a bizarre place.

The state suffers from the highest combined taxes in the nation and nearly the worst roads and schools. It is home to more American billionaires than any other state, but also more impoverished residents. California is more naturally endowed with a combination of gas, oil, timber and minerals than any other state — with the highest electricity prices and gas taxes in the nation.

To understand these paradoxes, keep in mind one common principle. To the degree a Californian is politically influential, wealthy or well-connected — and loudly progressive — the more he is immune from the downside of his own ideology.

Big money is supposed to be bad for politics. But no money plays a bigger role in influencing policy than California’s progressive cash, from Hollywood to Silicon Valley. Billionaire hedge-fund operator Tom Steyer is canonized, but he is on track to rival the oft-demonized Koch brothers in the amount of money spent on influencing policymakers and getting his type of politicians elected.

Nowhere are there more Mercedes and BMWs per capita than in California’s tony coastal enclaves. And nowhere will you find more anti-carbon activism or more restrictive laws against new oil production that ensure the highest gasoline prices in the continental United States for the less well off.

California’s reserves of natural gas exceed those of nearly every other state. And in California, electricity prices are the highest in the nation. The cost falls on those in the interior and Sierra who suffer either from scorching summertime temperatures or bitterly cold winters. Those who set energy policies mostly live in the balmy coastal corridor where there is no need for expensive air conditioning or constant home heating.

In drought-stricken California, building new Sierra Nevada dams and reservoirs was long ago considered passé, but not the idea of diverting precious stored water from agricultural use to help out fish.

Yet the waters of the Sierra Nevada Hetch Hetchy reservoir are exempt from such fish diversions, apparently because they supply 80 percent of San Francisco’s daily water supply. Those who wish to either stop more dam construction or divert dammed reservoir water from its original intended use draw the line on restricting their own quite unnatural water sources.

High-speed rail is billed as the transportation of the future in California. But its progressive coastal boosters believe that it should first be tried out on farmers in sparsely settled rural areas rather than in their own precious high-density Bay Area or Los Angeles.

In California, open borders and non-enforcement of existing immigration law are also popular progressive causes. But the immediate impact of illegal immigration on public schools is circumvented for the elite by the growing number of private prep schools along the coast.

Professing that you are progressive can be wise California politics. It means you sound too caring ever to do bad things, while the costly consequences of your ideology usually fall on someone else. And that someone is usually less hip, less wealthy and less powerful.

 

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How a single regulation can end thousands of businesses.

“That government is best which governs least;” and I should like to see it acted upon more rapidly and systematically.

Henry David Thoreau

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

Thomas Jefferson

One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation.

Thomas B. Reed

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt

If you are not free to choose wrongly and irresponsibly, you are not free at all.

Jacob Hornberger

The more corrupt the state, the more it legislates.

Tacitus

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed—and hence clamorous to be led to safety—by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H. L. Mencken

When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.

P. J. O’Rourke

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

Robert A. Heinlein

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.

Pericles

More laws, less justice.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

The true danger is when Liberty is nibbled away, for expedients.

Edmund Burke

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

Louis Brandeis

OK, I overdid the quotes today. But you must admit that enshrined in those quotes is wisdom for the ages.

The statistics on the number of regulations and their repercussions are, at least to my mind, staggering. According to the Office of the Federal Register, in 1998, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the official listing of all regulations in effect, contained a total of 134,723 pages in 201 volumes that claimed 19 feet of shelf space. The past fifteen years have been no slouch, either, with 81,883 new regulations hitting the books during that time. That’s a new regulation every two hours and nine minutes—24 hours per day, 365 days per year, for 15 years. And lest I forget to mention, another 80,000 pages were added in 2013. Praise be to the Lord, the safety of the consumer is secured.

All presidents add to the federal register, but guess which president is the winner? Right you are!

2012-04-30_Federal_Register

How much government intervention is necessary in a free enterprise system? This ongoing question is a source of consternation for advocates on both sides of the debate. Far to one side are laissez-faire capitalists like myself. On the opposite side are proponents who argue that continual and intense government monitoring is necessary to protect the consumer. Each year, the government produces thousands of pages of new regulations spelling out in painstaking detail what businesses can and cannot do. One of the truly confounding problems is that the effects of regulation cannot easily be quantified in terms of cost of goods or quality of life. It is difficult to assess whether the regulation is causing more harm than good. There has been a general belief in the U.S. that the more restrictive our government is in regulating an economy, the lower the growth rate.

The estimates are that the annual costs to comply with federal regulations for Americans add up to $1.75 trillion. These estimates come to us from the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. Today we will look at just one new regulation among the tens of thousands that are already on the books. This regulation, however, will put thousands of independent freight brokers and agents nationwide out of business. These Americans will tell you that the immediate cost to them is the death of their business and the livelihood of their family.

A new provision in the federal transportation bill will cause the surety bonds that freight brokers and forwarders must pay to increase from $10,000 to $75,000. All freight brokers who wish to have their license renewed will now have to post a $75,000 freight broker bond, as opposed to the $10,000 in effect since the 1970s. A freight broker bond is required as a guarantee that freight brokers will pay carriers and will not use unethical business practices in dealings with their clients. To add insult to injury, all $10,000 bonds will have to be cancelled, and new $75,000 amounts obtained, meaning brokers will not be allowed to “add-on” to their existing $10,000 amounts. Don’t our civil and criminal courts provide this “surety?”

Since its rollout last fall, the provision — which critics allege was slipped into the massive transportation bill and greased by the massive contributions of interests representing the mega freight brokers — has forced more than 7,500 active brokers to shut down according to the Association of Independent Property Brokers and Agents. The association claims there were 21,565 brokers on Oct. 1. Six months later 36 percent of these brokers are out of business. This new regulation will cost Americans more because the increased costs and loss of competition always have this result.

In fairness to the counter argument, the surety bond was raised because of increasing “identity theft.” Here is how the scam works. A company posts an available load through a trusted load board. The company receives a call from a carrier indicating they want to haul the load. The company and the carrier come to an agreement on rate. Then, the company gathers the carriers information, looks up their safety record, verifies their insurance, and they seem to meet all proper requirements. A dispatch approving the pick up is sent. The carrier arrives, picks up the load, and then vanishes. This is a new wrinkle on highjacking. The thieves are more sophisticated than the thugs that used to run the truck off the road, beat the driver senseless and then abscond with the cargo, but the result is the same. The question is, will increasing the price of a “surety bond” solve the problem. The facts before us allow no conclusion about the hoped for effect. In the meantime 7,500 brokers are out of business.

Frankly, I’d be pissed off!

Roy Filly

 

 

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Obama and the suppression of the free press.

When a pulitzer prize winning New York Times journalist makes the following accusation against a Democrat administration, you can believe it. James Risen is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Not only does he work for the New York Times but previously worked for the Los Angeles Times. I am confident than no one disputes these two publications as leftward-leaning (so far leftward, in fact, that they frequently fall over). Speaking last week at a New York conference called Sources and Secrets, Risen voiced his concern about the Obama administration’s interaction with journalists.

Risen is fighting an order that he testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him, opened the conference earlier by saying the Obama administration is “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.” The administration wants to “narrow the field of national security reporting,” Risen said, to “create a path for accepted reporting.” Anyone journalist who exceeds those parameters, Risen said, “will be punished.”

When a Democrat administration will not allow the New York Times the freedom to print what it believes, the nation is in serious trouble.

Roy Filly

 

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Warmer or colder? I’ll take “warmer!”

The fact that the climate is getting warmer doesn’t scare me at all. There’s no reason why one should be scared.

Freeman Dyson

One thing the global warming alarmists do not want you to hear is that “warmer is better.” In some respects it is unfortunate that global warming has stalled for the past 16 years. The only good thing about it is that it makes the global warming “models” look as ridiculous as they are.

Indeed, no one would deny that that the Earth is warmer today than it was 150 years ago. But, unlike the claims of the global warming alarmists, the increase has been beneficial not harmful. Although, a sustained and continuous warming of the globe may eventually be harmful, recent studies indicate that for the foreseeable future a warming trend will be beneficial.

[Source: The growing benefits of a warmer world, by H. Sterling Burnett]

  •        A study by economist Richard Tol found that until 2080, and potentially beyond that, a warming trend would have a positive impact on the world’s economy. Over the last 150 years, the globe has warmed an average 0.8 degrees Celsius. An additional 2.2 degree rise in temperature would continue to yield substantial benefits.
  •        Climate change over the last century has added 1.4 percent to global economic output, Tol found. By 2025, that figure should reach 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
  •        Increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) have added 0.8 percent to GDP because of the boost to agriculture. Similarly, the temperature increase has reduced the demand for heating, adding 0.4 percent to GDP.

With higher CO2 levels, plants thrive and become more efficient in their use of water. And because most of the warming has reduced low nighttime temperatures, the globe has seen fewer growth-stunting frost events, as well as longer growing seasons.

  •        Agronomist Craig Idso determined that a 300 parts per million rise in CO2 increases plant biomass 25 percent to 55 percent.
  •        From 1961 to 2011, the annual value of improved plant growth grew from $18.5 billion to more than $140 billion, amounting to a total of $3.2 trillion.
  •        From today to 2050, Idso determined that increases in CO2 will result in $9.8 trillion in additional crop production.

Notably, it is Africa that is benefiting largely from improved agricultural production.

  •        Growing faster than all other continents, one-third of African countries are growing at 6 percent per year. And from 2005 to today, the amount of people living below the poverty line has fallen from 51 percent to 39 percent.
  •        African farmers are replacing crops introduced by colonial governments with traditional crops that grow best in warm, dry conditions. In sub-Saharan Africa, the growth of agricultural GDP increased from 2.3 percent per year in the 1980s to 3.8 percent each year from 2000 to 2005.
  •        Food production is actually outpacing population growth in Uganda and the 15 countries of West Africa. The poverty rate in Ghana has fallen in half, while farm output has increased 5 percent every year for the last two decades. Even Ethiopia and Malawi are growing record amounts of crops and exporting surpluses.

Specifically, many determinants of human well-being — hunger, malnutrition, mortality rates, life expectancy, the level of education, and spending on health care and on research and development — improve as the level of economic development (measured by GDP per capita, a surrogate for both per capita income and wealth) increases. These factors improve with increases in Earth temperature through, at least, 2090. By then we should have figured out whether man, the Sun, or other factors are causing increases in Earth’s annual average temperature. If you are interested in an in-depth treatise on the subject may I suggest you read the following:

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/downloaddoi=10.1.1.322.1169&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Roy Filly

 

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