Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Giuliani's Health Care Plan

I like the sound of this:

"Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani on Tuesday offered a consumer-oriented solution to the nation's health care woes that relies on giving individuals tax credits to purchase private insurance.

Critical to Giuliani's plan is a $15,000 tax deduction for families to buy private health insurance, instead of getting insurance through employers. Any leftover funds could be rolled over year-to-year for medical expenses."

Could this actually be passed by Congress if he were elected?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Meeting with Dictators

I'm not sure what all the fuss is about in relation to Obama's comments about meeting with evil dictators:
Barack Obama's offer to meet without precondition with leaders of renegade nations such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran touched off a war of words, with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton calling him naive and Obama linking her to President Bush's diplomacy.

I know the conventional wisdom is that you don't meet with them, but what does that accomplish exactly? I don't see the harm in meeting with, say, Castro, as it would provide a nice opportunity to tell him what an awful person he is.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

NHL Expansion: How about Milwaukee?

Not that I think the NHL needs to expand, but if they were to do so, why are they talking about Las Vegas and Kansas City? Why not Milwaukee, where people actually play and follow hockey?

Obama Steps In It

Apparently, Obama says we should teach sex education to kindergarteners:

ABC News' Teddy Davis and Lindsey Ellerson Report: Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told Planned Parenthood Tuesday that sex education for kindergarteners, as long as it is "age-appropriate," is "the right thing to do."

"I remember Alan Keyes . . . I remember him using this in his campaign against me," Obama said in reference to the conservative firebrand who ran against him for the U.S. Senate in 2004. Sex education for kindergarteners had become an issue in his race against Keyes because of Obama’s work on the issue as chairman of the health committee in the Illinois state Senate. "'Barack Obama supports teaching sex education to kindergarteners,'" said Obama mimicking Keyes' distinctive style of speech. "Which -- I didn’t know what to tell him (laughter)."

"But it’s the right thing to do," Obama continued, "to provide age-appropriate sex education, science-based sex education in schools."

When Obama's campaign was asked by ABC News to explain what kind of sex education Obama considers "age appropriate" for kindergarteners, the Obama campaign pointed to an Oct. 6, 2004 story from the Daily Herald in which Obama had "moved to clarify" in his Senate campaign that he "does not support teaching explicit sex education to children in kindergarten. . . The legislation in question was a state Senate measure last year that aimed to update Illinois' sex education standards with 'medically accurate' information . . . 'Nobody's suggesting that kindergartners are going to be getting information about sex in the way that we think about it,' Obama said. 'If they ask a teacher 'where do babies come from,' that providing information that the fact is that it's not a stork is probably not an unhealthy thing. Although again, that's going to be determined on a case by case basis by local communities and local school boards.'"

I don't know what he has in mind exactly, but he's going to have a lot of trouble extricating himself from this mess.

ADDED: Obama's side of things:

Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells First Read: "You can teach a kid about what's appropriate and not appropriate to protect them from predators out there." In addition, he issued a document showing that the Oregon Department of Education has guidelines for sex education for children in grades K-3 (which includes understanding the difference between a good touch and a bad touch), and that the
Sexuality Information And Education Council of the United States has curriculum for those in kindergarten.

OK, maybe I see what he's going for, although I'm still not a fan of it. But he really needs to be a lot more clear about what he's saying. You can't go out and talk about sex ed for 5 year olds without explaining exactly what you have in mind.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An Obama Court

Here's what Obama wants to see in a Supreme Court justice:

"We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges."

Oh, man, he is losing me here. I want the opposite: I want a callous misanthrope who cares only about the meaning of words. Leave the empathy to the legislature.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The School Desegregation Cases

I'm fairly happy with Justice Kennedy's opinion in the school desegregation cases. As I read it, he is saying that you can use race as a factor in deciding which students go to which school, but you have to be very careful not too overemphasize it and you must explore other options. On the facts here, these school districts were not careful enough. That seems right to me in a situation where merit was not involved, but rather a simple objective of keeping racial balance at the various schools in a district.

The U.S. Health Care System -- Not Really a Free Market

In this week's Economics Focus, the Economist explains:
TO MANY outside the United States, America's health-care system might seem an example of capitalism at its rawest. Europeans and Canadians enjoy universal health care and cheap drugs thanks to government-run systems, the argument goes, but the market-based approach taken by the world's richest nation leaves many millions uninsured and leads the rest to pay the highest drugs prices in the world. Such doubts are sure to be reinforced by this week's release of Michael Moore's “Sicko”, a much-trumpeted new film on health care that bashes the free-market Yankee model even as it praises the dirigiste alternative north of the border.

So is America's health system really red in tooth and claw? Hardly, according to a growing body of academic evidence. As a result of interference at the federal and state levels, health care is one of America's most heavily regulated industries. Indeed, its muddled approach to health-care regulation may act as a massive drag on the American economy—what one expert has called “a $169 billion hidden tax”.

I think it's good that the Economist is writing about this. There do seem to be many people who see private companies operating in the U.S. health care market and on this basis argue that it is the private-ness of the industry that makes it costly and ineffective. In reality, though, there is massive regulation in this area, and it is this regulation that is, arguably, the main problem. Take just two examples. First, health care benefits are tax-deductible, so big companies have an incentive to offer excessive health care packages, which, of course, are tied to employment with them. Second, health care insurance is regulated state-by-state, and thus moving states means you have to abandon your old plan and apply for a new one.

Updike on the Depression

I've just read John Updike's New Yorker review of Amity Shlaes' book on the depression. It was a bizarre review. Most of the review is spent summarizing the book's thesis, in essence that FDR's interventionist policies hurt more than helped, and we would have been better off with someone less interventionist. I was waiting for Updike's rebuttal, but it never really came. Instead, there was this:
My father had been reared a Republican, but he switched parties to vote for Roosevelt and never switched back. His memory of being abandoned by society and big business never left him and, for all his paternal kindness and humorousness, communicated itself to me, along with his preference for the political party that offered “the forgotten man” the better break. Roosevelt made such people feel less alone. The impression of recovery—the impression that a President was bending the old rules and, drawing upon his own courage and flamboyance in adversity and illness, stirring things up on behalf of the down-and-out—mattered more than any miscalculations in the moot mathematics of economics.

Let me try to understand. It's better to have someone who gives the impression of helping poor people than someone who actually helps poor people? Really?

He also says:
Business, of which Shlaes is so solicitous, is basically merciless, geared to maximize profit. Government is ultimately a human transaction, and Roosevelt put a cheerful, defiant, caring face on government at a time when faith in democracy was ebbing throughout the Western world.
I'm not sure what it means to say that government is a "human transaction," but as for the "faith in democracy" part, where exactly does FDR's court-packing plan (mentioned in the article) fit in?

Leegin (Mis-)Reporting

Writing about the Leegin decision, David Savage of the LA Times says:
The decision, coming on the last day of the court's term, was the 15th this year that benefits business and corporations by shielding them from lawsuits and legal claims.

Now, I don't know what the other 14 decisions he is referring to are, but does this decision really "benefit[] businesses and corporations"? Sure, it benefits some corporations, specifically producers. But it also hurts others, specifically retailers. Being very charitable in my criticism, I would say his characterization is a bit of a stretch.