Physicians ‘going Galt’

Hot Air has a thread up on a 63-year old dermatologist (a low-burnout specialty, mind you) in Scottsdale, AZ, who announced on his office door that he would retire before BHOzoCare went into full effect. There’s an interesting, lively discussion in the threads that suggests he’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In case you think a dermatologist mostly deals with teen acne anyhow, think again:

The man is in Arizona, skin cancer capital of the US and home to lots and lots of elderly people; he’s been in practice since the 70s; he’s talking about Medicare patients.[…] One Arizona retirement community can provide (or could previously provide) enough Medicare customers to keep several dermatologists in business.

The phenomenon of physicians refusing to accept new Medicare patients is not new. Now, apparently, another phenomenon begins: ‘cash-only practices’, where health care providers do not accept insurance of any kind but only ‘cash on the barrel’. If you can get a refund from the insurance company yourself, more power to you; if not, it’s your problem.

Also, get this nugget from the comments:

If the 63-year-old deciding to retire doesn’t bother you, maybe a 47-year-old deciding to will? My sister-in-law is 47, and is overworked in her practice under the current system. She hates to think of giving up the work she trained for so many years to do, and has spent nearly two decades becoming a respected professional in.

But there is a strong probability that she will do just that if Obamacare isn’t repealed. The rewards would no longer outweigh the expense and aggravation. Her good friend and partner (in a multi-physician practice) is also looking at the same thing. If they quit the practice, it will almost certainly have to break up, and its partners reevaluate their professional arrangements and even life choices.

My brother and sister-in-law aren’t sure what they’ll do. He’s an electrical engineer, and the two of them would be employable overseas, which is something they’ve been seriously considering. They hate to uproot the kids, but what matters is opportunity and a promising future.

What they will not decide is that Lynne will remain in practice in the US, under the worse conditions that are inevitable with Obamacare. It’s not even just workload and pay. As the Arizona doctor’s comments make clear, it’s loss of professional discretion while still being stuck with all the liability, and higher penalties. It just won’t be worth it. A very large number of those who have the option of dropping out will.

In the past, professionals would seek to immigrate to the USA in search of oppostunities. Now we have some seeking to emigrate to do so. The world is standing on its head.

And here is a cold shower for those of us who thought that NPs (nurse practitioners) are always a ‘good enough’ replacement for MDs:

I went to the doctor for what I thought was just a chest cold. Certainly that’s all that the signs pointed to. The nurse did a quick check and made a few notes. My doctor, an amazing woman, spent time with me and asked several dozen questions while giving me an increasingly serious set of tests.

Finally , she called for her nurse and told her to get a wheelchair, and get me straight to the (attached) hospital. The nurse looked as confused as I was. The doctor made a call to the emergency room and off I went for a battery of tests and treatments I was sure were a waste of time.

Sometimes the body can’t recognize an infection, gives up fighting an infection, or simply doesn’t know how to do so. You’ve probably heard of similar things, though often described incorrectly with such terms as “walking pneumonia”, etc

Hours later in the ICU, oxygen on high and a mix of powerful IV antibiotics and steroids pumping into my arms, I found out how close I had come to dieing. I still have some scarring and reduced lung function, and take medication to this day.

My doctor saved my life, the nurse would have given me a z pack and sent me home. That is why you use a GP. They can find that 1 out of 100 case. Sure, a nurse might get 99 right, but what if it’s your turn to be the outlier? Maybe your son, or daughter? Will you still feel that doctors aren’t really neccesary?

I, through experience, disagree.

Also from the comments, an interesting link on hidden (de facto) rationing in 0bamacare

The “what is Barack Obama” debate?

Michael Ledeen discusses the debate that broke out between David Goldman (a.k.a. “Spengler”) and John Podhoretz on exactly what is Barack 0bama. Ledeen himself takes a middle position, but feels Podhoretz should have done better fact-checking. We link, you decide — it’s a good read.

Compliance cost of the US Federal tax code: over $300billion/year

Things are hectic in realspace. Here, via Insty, is a video on the “compliance costs” resulting from the ever-more-Byzantine US Federal tax code.

This is quite separate from whether the tax burden itself is too high or low: Israel, for example, has much higher tax rates than the USA  but (at least for salaried employees) the compliance costs are quite low because the relevant tax code is very simple (in fact, so simple that most Israeli employees never file a tax return — let alone pay a tax consultant — as the automatic withholdings are almost invariably correct, and only very limited deduction opportunities exist). The country’s tax burden itself is arguably more onerous than that of the USA, but its compliance burden much lighter.

Anyway, we embed, you decide. And a flip side of a radically simplified tax code would of course be a death blow to an entire service industry — then again, the same would be true of inventing immortality treatments 😉

Some American Jews finally waking up?

Jennifer Rubin passes along an Email from one of her readers, suggesting that at least some American Jews are waking up and seeing they have a problem on their hands with their kneejerk identification with the Democratic Party:

Last night I went to a town hall meeting on Israel featuring Congressman Brad Sherman at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, CA, called by the rabbi in response to the concern over the deteriorating relationship between  President Obama and the State and the people of Israel. Sherman is a 7th-term Jewish Congressman with strong ties to the Jewish community, who has always been considered very pro-Israel. Sherman must have expected a hostile crowd, as he did not allow anyone to talk to him directly. Questions were submitted in writing and chosen and paraphrased by the moderator (Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah, who did do a very good job expressing the written concerns of the audience while also being fair and hospitable to Sherman).

Nearly all the questions dealt with the controversy. The meeting hall of this large congregation was packed, and the temple’s parking lot  was entirely full, forcing people to park on the street nearby.  Nearly all questions and audience feedback were negative, with virtually no applause for Sherman’s answers. There was lots of clapping for hostile questions, lots of hostile rumblings as he tried to answer charges, and some answers were booed. Even the moderator at the end basically accused Sherman of not actually answering a lot of the questions. The audience was not sold on Obama being pro-Israel, nor on Sherman’s excuses for the current situation.

Sherman portrayed himself as more pro-Israel and more concerned about Iran than any U.S. president during his Congressional service. He shrugged off the current controversy as something we will have forgotten in a few years, arguing that the U.S. relationship with Israel is fine because the foreign aid package remains and we haven’t yet stopped vetoing anti-Israel UN resolutions. While he promised action on his part concerning sanctions on Iran, he expressed skepticism that anything would really be done (at one point “joking” that the rabbi would be more useful than he, as if divine intervention would be required), and kept emphasizing that any military option would spike gas prices. These statements did not go over well.

Most negative were the reactions when when he repeatedly wrote off his and Obama’s critics as die hard right wingers who would be angry regardless. The moderator polled the audience and showed that the room was about 60/40 McCain voters, meaning there were in fact many angry Obama voters there (and that Obama opponents of all kinds are energized in this community). The most applause was for the question of whether many Jews would switch their votes to Republican because of this controversy — which fired up the crowd and those potential switchers.

Jennifer adds:

Well, one crowd is not necessarily indicative of the entire community, but this suggests that those most concerned about Israel — and willing to turn out to ask questions of their congressman — are the most aggrieved by Obama’s policies. Whether this translates into a drop-off in Jews’ financial support and/or votes for Obama and like-minded lawmakers is an open question. But one wonders what they are waiting for. A declaration by Iran that they do in fact possess a nuclear weapon? An announcement by Obama that he’s going to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state unless Israel accepts his imposed deal? Really, if not now, when?

Shmuel Rosner comments on polls of the general population (for a poll on American Jewish attitudes, see here) indicating that the old bipartisan consensus on US support for Israel is becoming a thing of the past:

[L]ook at the disparity that emerges when those results are sorted by party affiliation. While support for Israel vs. the Palestinians has climbed to a stratospheric 85 percent among Republicans, the comparable figure for Democrats is an anemic 48 percent. (It was 60 percent for independents.) And behind Israel’s “Top 5” favorability rating lies a gaping partisan rift: 80 percent of Republicans – but just 53 percent of Democrats – have positive feelings about the world’s only Jewish country.

Similarly, it is true that 333 US House members, a hefty bipartisan majority, endorsed the robustly pro-Israel Hoyer-Cantor letter to Clinton. But there were only seven Republicans who declined to sign the letter, compared with 91 Democrats – more than a third of the entire Democratic caucus. (Six Massachusetts Democrats were among the non-signers: John Olver, Richard Neal, John Tierney, Ed Markey, Michael Capuano, and Bill Delahunt.)

From Zogby International, meanwhile, comes still more proof of the widening gulf between the major parties on the subject of Israel. In a poll commissioned by the Arab American Institute last month, respondents were asked whether Obama should “steer a middle course” in the Middle East – code for not clearly supporting Israel. “There is a strong divide on this question,” Zogby reported, “with 73 percent of Democrats agreeing that the President should steer a middle course while only 24 percent of Republicans hold the same opinion.”

Where is Israel in all this?  A politically very well-connected Israeli told me last week that he was worried about Israel becoming a Republican pet cause — not because he has anything against the GOP (I would classify my friend’s views as fiscally conservative but socially libertarian) but because Israel cannot afford to put all its eggs in one basket. He thinks Israeli politicians are wise to steer clear of becoming overly identified with one of the major parties, and particularly to avoid even the appearance of involvement in US domestic politics.

A tour through recession America

Victor Davis Hanson has a must-read article: A tour through recession America. I cannot do it justice by selective quoting: go read it all. A couple of teasers:

Are We Parasites?

This week I drove on I-5, the 99, and 101. Except for a few stretches through San Jose to Palo Alto, most of the freeways were unchanged in the last 40 years. The California Water Project of the 1960s hasn’t been improved—indeed, it has been curtailed. My local high school looks about the same as it did in 1971. The roads in rural California are in worse condition than forty years ago.

Private houses are, of course, larger and more opulent. But the state seems not to be investing in infrastructure as before, but more in consumption and redistribution. […]

The Lost Generation

A new cohort between 21 and 30 is becoming a lost generation—and with good reason. They don’t seem to be working full-time or have good jobs with secure futures. Instead, from construction to teaching, there are far fewer sustainable careers for young people. But given family ties, they can live at home, postpone marriage, find part-time work, and rely on essentials like rent and food from the old embryo, while using what little is made for discretionary spending—allowing the veneer of middle class opulence to continue.

That is, for a deep recession, there seems to be a lot of young people out on weekdays at about 10 AM at stores, with good clothes and appurtenances, and apparently no substantial incomes. Is this sustainable, this ability to have discretionary spending, while outsourcing housing and food to one’s parents? […]

Middle-Class Veneer

The combinations of cheap Chinese goods, easy access to credit cards, and generous entitlements—such as section 8 housing, unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicaid health care, disability payments—that cover essentials and free up money for discretionary spending, have combined to give the proverbial lower middle class access to consumer purchases undreamed of twenty years ago.  As a graduate student in 1975-80, I bought a used 19-inch black and white TV for $40 and saved for weeks to purchase it. Today, 52-inch plasma televisions seem no longer the birthrights of the oligarchy.  We have created a new sort of impoverished.

In one way, dozens who shop at Home Depot and Costco and Save Mart are poor in the sense that they cannot go to Europe, or even to the aquarium in Monterey or Disneyland. But in terms of cell phones, DVD players, plasma TVs, or radios there is no difference from the upper echelons in this recession.

In the old days a poor house in rural Selma would have poor plumbing and no insulation; today’s apartment, in terms of hot water heater, oven, cook top, or air conditioner, is not much different than those found in the estates above Stanford.

I can’t quite see how imported granite countertops in a 8,000 square foot estate translate into better food preparation than does cheap tile  counters in a $500 a month apartment in Selma.

Note well that no politician ever gives the U.S. credit for extending the veneer of American consumer comfort to nearly all its 300 million residents. I say nearly all, since if someone can cross the border from Oaxaca, enter Selma, and have an I-phone that connects to the world wide internet, instant weather reports, and a GPS, then poverty as we knew is not really old-fashioned want—despite the John Edwards’ two nations rhetoric.

[…]

Where Does it All End?

I confess this week to have listened in on many conversations in Palo Alto and at Stanford, read local newspapers, and simply watched people. So I am as worried about the elite upscale yuppie as the poor illegal alien. The former have lost almost all connection with physical labor, the physical world, or the ordeal that civilization endures to elevate us from the savagery of nature.

While many were fit, and seem to work out, bike, ski, and hike, none understood the mechanics that lie beneath the veneer of the good life—the chain-sawing, hammering, drain-unplugging, tractor-driving, irrigating, and welding that allows a pleasant afternoon Greek salad and cappuccino on University Avenue—the disconnect between those Pennsylvania “clingers” and Obama’s arugula-eating crowd.

So much hinges on impressions. I listened to two young attractive women bemoan housing prices in Menlo Park—$1,000,000 for a modest 2 bath-3 bedroom older cottage in a “good” neighborhood. For that amount, each would be royalty in Fresno, perched on the bluffs over the San Joaquin River in a massive 5,000 sq. foot estate, with a half-acre yard.

A strange elite I supposed likes and pays for the ambience—that is, living among people like themselves—of upscale university centered communities. Why? I have a theory. It allows them to be liberal and progressive in the abstract, without having to live the logical consequences of their utopianism, or deal with the underbelly of American life. […]
As I watched this teeming recession-era energy—thousands leaving squalor in Mexico for the life raft of the U.S., thousands in the middle buying as birthright what a few decades would be considered the playthings of the aristocracy, and thousands living in a progressive bubble disconnected from the grime and mess that fuels it, I hope there are still enough around to keep all this going. I say that because a new Microsoft program, a better search engine, another recent arrival from Chiapas, someone out of work and still at Best Buy, simply are not going to get us out of this recession, find the energy to keep the country fueled, and create the money to pay off a soon-to-be $ 20 trillion deficit. In short, from this week’s observations, I think our so-called poor need to read a bit more, and our assumed elite to read a bit less.

Yom HaShoah post: Shostakovich, 13th Symphony, “Babi Yar”

Tonight and tomorrow until sundown, Israelis and by many Jews abroad mark Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day).

On September 29–30, 1941, an Einsatzkommando shot 33,771 Jews in a ravine named “Babi Yar” outside Kiev.

Dimitri Shostakovich wrote his 13th symphony in B flat minor, “Babi Yar” in commemoration of the victims. He used texts by the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko for the vocal sections.

Below is a YouTube of the first ten minutes of this long work. The Russian texts are subtitled in English.

As for the victims, HaShem yikom damam.

Parasitic worms protect against allergies, MS, type 1 diabetes?!

Those of us in middle age or older, and living in affluent (or newly affluent) countries, all have a lot of anecdotal evidence that allergies are a lot more common nowadays than they used to be.

I used to ascribe this to “masking” by more serious diseases in the past, to greater awareness, and even to a quarter-baked version of the “hygiene hypothesis” (basically, that an underworked immune system overreacts for want of anything to do).

Now the MIT Technology Review (via Insty) has an incredible story on how parasitic worm infections — which used to be very common in less sanitary times — actually had beneficial effects on the immune system:

As blossoming spring trees spew pollen, many allergy sufferers would be grateful for a more effective way to alleviate their itchy misery. How about swallowing a batch of pig whipworm eggs, or deliberately infecting oneself with the fecal-dwelling hookworm? Yucky as these options sound, mounting evidence in both humans and animals suggests that infection with these parasitic worms seems to protect against a number of inflammatory diseases, including asthma and allergy, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and type 1 diabetes.

Because parasitic infection is unappealing to even the most severe allergy sufferer, some scientists hope to decipher how these organisms control the immune systems of their human hosts and to develop new therapies that replicate the parasites’ beneficial effect. “We can treat people with worms, or can we figure out how worms protect, and discover a new way to treat allergies by mimicking what worms do,” says Ed Mitre, a physician and scientist at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD. “My general feeling is that we should be trying to induce the types of immune responses we see in chronic worm infections.”

A number of epidemiological studies have shown that people infected with parasitic worms suffer less from allergies and other immune diseases, and research in animal models designed to mimic these diseases supports these findings. The rise in allergies and other ailments in rich countries over the last few decades has been matched by a decrease in parasitic worm infection, among other factors. “When you have organisms that have lived together for hundreds of thousands of years, they become mutualistic rather than combative,” says Joel Weinstock, a physician and scientist at Tufts University, in Boston. “Possibly we became dependent on helminths [parasitic worms] and made ourselves vulnerable to immunologic diseases.”

The mechanism behind the organisms’ protective power is not yet clear. Infection with parasitic worms induces an allergic response called TH2, the same one triggered by allergens, raising levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Binding of thatantibody to specific immune cells in the blood signals the cells to dump their contents, including histamines, into the bloodstream, triggering the typical allergy symptoms. However, “people with parasite infections have lots of IgE in their serum and lots of the cells that cause allergies, but they don’t have allergies,” says Lisa Ganley-Leal, an immunologist at Boston University.

The researchers found that people with parasitic infections have these unique protein fragments in their bloodstreams, while unaffected people have few or none. “We think the worm modifies this protein as an immune invasion tactic,” says Ganley-Leal, who presented the research at a conference in Boston earlier this week. “By blocking IgE’s ability to bind to cells, we think the worm is protecting itself, and that also seems to protect the host.” Her team is now producing this modified protein, which they plan to test in mice that have the human version of IgE receptors. Ganley-Leal has formed a company called Epsilon Therapeutics to commercialize the technology.

[…] In fact, the IgE system may have evolved as a way to keep parasites in check. As our environment became cleaner and infection more rare, at least in rich countries, pollen and food allergies may have developed as collateral damage. By studying these organisms, “we may be getting at the basic pathophysiology of these diseases,” says Weinstock. “In terms of drug discovery, this is a major unexplored area. But it’s hard to know if a single component of worms will ever work as well as worms themselves.”

Small-government Democrats? Wishful thinking

Prof. Stephen Bainbridge quotes one  Will Wilkinson, who together with Brink Lindsey, author of “Against the dead hand”) is trying to sell Democrats on the idea that “more market-oriented policies do a better job of achieving liberal goals than do the more heavily centralized, technocratic policies favored by current Democratic opinion elites.” He then comments:

This sort of naivety is so cute.The philosophy of political parties is, at best, only partially a product of ideology and understandings of the good. As Amitai Etzioni explained in Capital corruption: the new attack on American democracy, strong political parties historically tended to moderate interest groups. As political parties become weaker, however, interest groups become stronger. Since the 1960s, political parties in the United States have become weaker and weaker.

Today, the Democratic Party is dominated by a handful of interest groups. At or very near the top of the list are public sector unions, as Daniel Henninger recently observed:

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy planted the seeds that grew the modern Democratic Party. That year, JFK signed executive order 10988 allowing the unionization of the federal work force. This changed everything in the American political system. Kennedy’s order swung open the door for the inexorable rise of a unionized public work force in many states and cities.

This in turn led to the fantastic growth in membership of the public employee unions—The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the teachers’ National Education Association.

They broke the public’s bank. More than that, they entrenched a system of taking money from members’ dues and spending it on political campaigns. Over time, this transformed the Democratic Party into a public-sector dependency. …

There’s no way out for these Democrats. They made a Faustian bargain 40 years ago with the public unions.

Need evidence? Over the last 20 years, public sector unions have donated over $186 million to political parties. Over 90% went to the Democrats.

The NY Times recently took note of the phenomenon, reporting that:

For the first time in American history, a majority of union members are government workers rather than private-sector employees, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday.

Fred Siegel, a visiting professor of history at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative research organization, said, “There were enormous political ramifications” to the fact that public-sector workers are now the majority in organized labor.

“At the same time the country is being squeezed, public-sector unions are a rising political force in the Democratic Party,” he said. “They depend on extra money for the public sector, and that puts the Democrats in a difficult position. In four big states — New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California — the public-sector unions have largely been untouched by the economic downturn. In those states, you have an impeding clash between the public-sector unions and the public at large.”

The math is simple. Public sector unions love big government. The Democrats need public union support. Hence, as long as the Democrats remain in thrall to the public sector unions (and, for that matter, lawyers), they will be the party of big government. It’s a matter of simple rational actor political economics.

So if you want me to take seriously the proposition that “an organized effort to articulate a moderate libertarian philosophy in terms attractive to liberals” will do squat, explain to me how it changes the interest group dynamics. Otherwise, it’s just wishful thinking.

Zombie reports on “Queers for Palestine” protest

There’s tough competition for the most insane group on the whacked-out looney left, but any shortlist for that dubious distinction must include the gang of kooks going under the moniker “Queers Undermining Israeli Terror”, a.k.a. “Queers for Palestine”, a.k.a. “Chickens for Colonel Sanders”. My blog-ancestor chronicles their latest antics in his/her latest report, which is — believe it or not — against a film festival focusing on “ghey” culture in Israel.

QUIT is accusing Israel of “pinkwashing” its treatment of Palestinians by promoting how gay-friendly the nation is while sweeping under the rug its “apartheid policies” toward Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. I invite you to read QUIT’s manifesto above and try to wrap your mind around their point of view — which may not be an easy task. Note how QUIT in no way disputes the fact that Israel is queer-friendly; nor do they dispute the fact that gays in Palestine generally face immediate execution (by mob violence, government dictate, or even at the hands of their own families) if ever found out. Mostly, QUIT conveniently fails to mention what happens to gays in Palestine, but to the extent that they do mention it, they lay the blame on Israel. QUIT’s “logic” goes like this: Israel has the Palestinians trapped like rats in a cage, and it is this desperate social condition which causes Palestinian society to become so twisted that it oppresses its own people; furthermore, by closing the borders, Israel prevents gay Palestinians from fleeing the horrors of Palestine for the freedom of . . . Israel.

Dizzy yet?

Of course, my analysis is this: The members of QUIT are in a “hipper-than-thou” arms race with other far-left radicals, and realized that if they want to be at the forefront of leftist political activism, they absolutely need to be anti-Israel and pro-Palestine, as that has become a defining feature of far-left ideologies. But as a gay rights group, QUIT was confronted by the deeply unfortunate fact that gays are safe, free and happy in Israel, while being oppressed, closeted and/or dead in Palestine. Other far-left groups coped with this problematic political conundrum by studiously ignoring the whole issue, thus obviating the need to resolve it. QUIT, on the other hand, uniquely has attempted to address the issue head on. Yet in order to somehow justify being pro-Palestine while at the same time supporting gay rights, QUIT necessarily needed to engage in the most ludicrous philosophical gymnastics in order to find some way to reconcile two irreconcilable positions.

But the end result is worse than QUIT could have imagined, because when all is said and done, they are promoting a society in which gays are simply not allowed to exist, and end up championing the grotesquely oppressive Arab/Islamic social order.

If QUIT truly cared about the rights of gays in Palestine and the Middle East, they would celebrate the treatment of gays in Israel and point to it as a model for other Middle Eastern countries to emulate. Instead of fighting for Arab self-rule in Palestinian territories — which would inevitably lead to a complete extirpation of all gay rights if not all gay people — QUIT should take the position that Israel should administer the Palestinian territories, because only under Israeli rule could gay Palestinians have any chance of survival. And instead of advocating that Palestinians continue their violent confrontational stance against Israel, QUIT should absolutely insist on Palestinian non-violence, which would allow the endless Intifada to fade away, quell all terror incidents, and allow Israel to once again open the border to Palestinian day workers and immigrants — and allow gay Palestinians to escape to the freedom of Israeli society.

But no. QUIT does the exact opposite of all those things. Which makes them among the most mystifying, and in some ways, the most loathsome of all leftist protest groups.

UPDATE: a commenter there notes that just one block away, radical Islamists shot a homosexual man near a bar that, ironically, is called “Andalus” (the name Arabs give to the Iberian peninsula, which survives as the name of one region of Spain).

In my day job, I have known some scarily intelligent people that were however unable to distinguish between essentials and particulars, or to prioritize issues to deal with or work to do. (Others do so naturally, yet others have to be taught.) In politics, the way many American Jews of an older generation (generally not themselves looney-left liberal) are easily scared into voting Democrat might be one example. Likewise, at this stage, whatever the beef homosexuals have with residual “homophobia” in Israel is at the level of arguing about interior decoration while the house is on fire. Of course, assuming Q.U.I.T. to be even this rational is giving them more credit than they are worth.

“These are the smart people? Oh please…”

Must-read the whole thing: just a taste:

Yes, we have a highly educated, Ivy League president.  Yes, we have a whole flock of back-patting, self-congratulating, fully credentialed staff.

But smart?

Oh, please.

So what will the campaign slogan of the other party be for 2012?

I’ll have a whack at it:

Obama lied; hope died.

The Iranians got the A-bomb, the Russians got their jive back, and the Chinese own everything.

Vote for the un-cool, work-experienced, good-without-a-teleprompter guy or gal who knows a friend from a foe and can add 2 + 2 and get 4 every single time.

Polish President, many government officials killed in plane crash

Wretchard (Richard Fernandez) discusses the story, shows examples of blatant editorializing against Kaczynski’s conservative views, points out the historical irony of this happening nearly at the exact site of the Katyn Forest Massacre, and wonders whether anyone will ever believe no foul play was involved. Go read it all.

UPDATE: Arthur Chrenkoff comes out of retirement. Some interesting stuff in the comments: “Wind Rider” (presumably the retired Air Force pilot that used to blog at Silent Running) has the following to say:

Excellent summary of internal Polish politics, but with the further revelations os circumstance coming out, the Russians are probably off the hook for this one. Reports are surfacing that the plane was waved off from three previous landing attempts due to reduced visibility from fog, and a Russian military plane was diverted for the same reasons. Apparently the pilot decided to press the approach on the fourth attempt. The Russains may take some hits for the instrumentation and NAVAIDS at the field being out of calibration, which is a possibility, as the airfield is described as ’seldom used’. A review of the previous wrecks involving this specific aircraft type don’t appear to indicate an inherent design or recurrent mechanical flaw, as most of the other tragedies appear to also be pilot error or other external factors.

Still, the Russians would do well to provide as much transparency as possible with the investigation, and two things would go a long way towards side-stepping any adverse political fallout due to mis-perceptions – first, have Vladimir Putin overcome his ‘I’ll take charge and get to the bottom of this’ approach, then literally and figuratively remain on the sidelines as an interested observer only; secondly, it would probably go along way towards heading off any wild conspiracy BS to request, no, insist upon EU participation and assistance with the accident investigation.

Naturally, that all depends upon the Russians seeing the long term political benefits as outweighing any short term huffing and puffing about sovereignty or indignation over irrelevant perceptions of competence.

Bloat in the NJ school system: an eye-opener

Just one example of the reverse Midas touch of the US government can be found here: Yes, there’s bloat in New Jersey public schools. Since 2001, the NJ school system added 3/4 of an employee for every additional student, with basically less than nothing to show for it.

[T]he real budget-buster has been health and pension costs. Between 2001 and 2006 (the latest year data are available), total benefit costs rose by a whopping 115 percent, adding several billion dollars to school costs.

After this runup, outlays are now a whopping $16,000 per student, nearly 60 percent above the national average. Jersey already was a leader in this spending category back in 2001; the spending spree has widened the gap, at great taxpayer cost.

There’s been little educational payoff. Performance on national education-assessment tests has been a mixed bag. On crucial eighth-grade reading tests, for instance, the percentage of Jersey students scoring at or above proficient in 2009 was just 42 percent, up slightly from 38 percent in 2005.

Let me get this straight. $16K/pupil and where 3 out of 5 kids can’t even read at grade level?!

FAIL.

Jonah Goldberg: If the USA becomes like Europe, Europe is in trouble

Jonah Goldberg:

By now you may have heard: America is on its way to becoming another European country.

Now, by that I do not mean that we’re moving our tectonic plate off the coast of France or anything, but rather that a century-long dream of American progressives is finally looking like it might become a reality. The recently passed health-care legislation is the cornerstone of the Europeanization of America. And to pay for it, the White House is now floating the idea of imposing a value-added tax (VAT) like the ones they have throughout most of Europe.

In the egghead-o-sphere, there’s been an ongoing debate about whether America should become more like Europe. The battle lines are split almost perfectly along left-right lines ideologically. Liberals like Europe’s welfare states, unionized workforces (in and out of government), generous benefits, long vacations, etc. Conservatives like America’s economic growth, its dynamism and innovation.

From what I can tell, everyone agrees that you can’t have Europeanization without European-size governments. Hence, America’s government outlays (pre-Obama) have tended to hover around 20 percent of GDP (the average of the last 50 years), while Europe’s are often more than twice that. In France, government outlays are nearly 55 percent of GDP. In 2009, the bailout and the Obama budget sent America’s government outlays to 28 percent of GDP, but that should decline a bit over the next decade, unless Democrats have something else in mind.

To be fair, liberals insist conservatives are wrong to think that Europeanizing America will necessarily come at any significant cost. New York Times columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman says that, in exchange for only a tiny bit less growth, Europeans buy a whole lot of security and comfort. [However, ]economists such as Stanford’s Michael Boskin say Europeans have a standard of living about 30 percent lower than ours and are stagnating. Others note that the structural unemployment rate in Europe, particularly for young people (it’s over 20 percent in many countries), is socially devastating.

Obviously, I’m in the conservative camp. But I think the debate misses something. We can’t become Europe unless someone else is willing to become America.

[…]

Europe is a free-rider. It can only afford to be Europe because we can afford to be America.

The most obvious and most cited illustration of this fact is national defense. Europe’s defense budgets have been miniscule because Europeans can count on Uncle Sam to protect them. Britain, which has the most credible military in NATO after ours, has funded its butter account with its gun account. As Mark Steyn recently noted in National Review, from 1951 to 1997 the share of British government expenditure devoted to defense fell from 24 percent to 7 percent, while the share spent on health and welfare increased from 22 percent to 53 percent. And that was before New Labour started rolling back Thatcherism. If America Europeanizes, who’s going to protect Europe? Who’s going to keep the sea lanes open? Who’s going to contain Iran — China? Okay, maybe. But then who’s going to contain China?

But that’s not the only way in which Europeans are free-riders. America invents a lot of stuff. When was the last time you used a Portuguese electronic device? How often does Europe come out with a breakthrough drug? Not often, and when they do, it’s usually because companies like Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline increasingly conduct their research here. Indeed, the top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other single country combined. We nearly monopolize the Nobel Prize in medicine, and we create stuff at a rate Europe hasn’t seen since da Vinci was in his workshop.

If America truly Europeanized, where would the innovations come from?

Europhiles hate this sort of talk. They say there’s no reason to expect America to lose its edge just because we have a more “compassionate” government. Americans are an innovative, economically driven people. That’s true. But so were the Europeans — once. Then they adopted the policies they have today and that liberals want us to have tomorrow.

CBO chief: US debt “unsustainable”

You don’t say. (H/t: JCM)

The nation’s fiscal path is “unsustainable,” and the problem “cannot be solved through minor tinkering,” the head of the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday morning.

Doug Elmendorf, best known for arbitrating the costs of various health care proposals, added his voice to a growing chorus of economic experts who predict dire consequences if political leaders don’t scale back spending, increase taxes or both — and soon.

Elmendorf noted a recent CBO report that pegged an increase in the public debt from $7.5 trillion at the end of 2009 to $20.3 trillion at the end of 2020 if President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget were to be implemented as written. As a percentage of gross domestic product, the debt would rise from 53 percent to 90 percent, CBO forecasted. The last time the percentage was that high was right after World War II.

Elmendorf’s remarks to reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor echo the recent sentiments of a pair of Federal Reserve chiefs — the current head, Ben Bernanke, and former Chairman Paul Volcker.

Volcker said earlier this week that the U.S. should consider adopting a value-added tax, an idea he described as being less toxic than it has been in the past.

“If at the end of the day we need to raise taxes, we should raise taxes,” Volcker said.

On Wednesday, Bernanke said in a speech in Dallas that the government must cut entitlements or raise taxes.

“These choices are difficult, and it always seems easier to put them off — until the day they cannot be put off anymore,” Bernanke said.

There’s little apparent political appetite to do either.

VAT, 2nd foreclosure wave, more employment

3wood of the JammieWearingFool team also hosts the “All about the Benjamins” economics section on Correspondence Committee (my other hangout). Some recent, depressing, “read the whole thing” entries:

Some of 0bama’s more overheated detractors claim that he and his acolytes are destroying the USA. The truth may be bad enough — that his policies may transform the USA into a ‘me too’ version of European Union countries, with high taxes, permanent 10%-range unemployment, permanent 20%-range youth unemployment, low economic growth, limited economic mobility, and unsustainable healthcare systems that eventually lead to rationing.

Except that the only people that make Euro government clerks looks like paragons of competence and mental agility are their US counterparts. (In most Euro countries, government service is considered a respected career path rather than ‘only for those too dumb and/or lazy to make it in the private sector’, and as a result attracts some people of real ability.)