One Huge Reason to oppose Universal Health Care?

It gives the government an incentive to want you dead:

After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that would cost $4,000 a month, the newspaper reported, “Wagner was notified that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t cover the treatment, but that it would cover palliative, or comfort, care, including, if she chose, doctor-assisted suicide.”

It’s cheaper to kill people than to keep them alive. Today, it’s encouraging people to exercise their “right to die.” Tomorrow, it will likely be a “duty to die.”

Book Review: The Forgotten Man: A New History of The Great Depression by Amity Shlaes

Earlier this week, I finished Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man, a re-examination of the Great Depression that points out the errors in the commonly believed myth of that period in our nation’s history.

One example is the belief that Herbert Hoover was a straight laissez-faire President who did nothing to attempt to revive the economy. In fact, Hoover was an activist as President, and even before during his tenure as Secretary of Commerce. The primary difference between Hoover and FDR was that Hoover restricted his activity to the Constitutionally permitted powers of the federal government; FDR showed no such respect for the will of law.

Similarly, FDR and his Brain Trust are commonly believed to have selfessly focused solely on reviving America’s economy. But like another President who promised to focus like a laser beam on the economy, the objectives spread far and wide from the promised goal. In fact, FDR’s advisors were open admirers of Communist Russia who were seeking to remake America in an image they chose. The Great Depression was actually viewed as a great opportunity to remake America, rather than something that needed to be overcome.

It’s also claimed that FDR’s policies brought us out the Depression. Shlaes shows that the US went into a double-dip Depression, with the economy getting worse just when the rest of the world was growing again. Others acknowledge that fact, and claim that it was World War II spending that brought us out of the economic funk. To the extent that World War II helped us, it was that focusing on the international situation took FDR’s focus away from the domestic realm, allowing the economy to grow without further fetters being placed on it.

It’s also claimed that FDR was a decisive leader who charted a bold course. In reality, he frustrated his advisers with his indecisiveness. On at least one occasion, he even sent representatives to an international economic conference with differing instructions, resulting in parts of the American delegation negotiating against each other, angering the British Prime Minister. On another occasion, after a conference that achieved the goals he had set for it, he repudiated it, rejecting the agreement reached.

This book was excellent in dispelling a number of myths about the Depression and careful readers will note a number of policy prescriptions for the future that will allow us to avoid similar situations in the future.

McCain’s Tax Policy Economically Sound

McCain Builds Levees for Taxes

Suggesting that McCain = Disaster is weird. The fiscal program of the presumptive Republican nominee for president is hardly disastrous. Or, to put it all in diluvial terms, Mr. McCain’s levies are like levees. They may look expensive on paper. But they’ll provide a valuable infrastructure that will shore up the American house in ways that will prove more than worth it later.

Amity Shlaes, who wrote the excellent book The Forgotten Man, which I just finished last night, argues that while McCain’s tax policies may look expensive (from the government’s point of view, anyway), they will more than pay for themselves and strengthen our nation.

Why Trains Don’t Work in America

I can imagine taking the train to New York on vacation, because I am a train nut and the trip would be fun in itself. But let’s think about this as a business trip: taking the train would not only cost about 1.5 times as much — or four times as much with a compartment, and I’m just sure I’d be all set to go right to work in New York after two full days in a coach seat — but it consumes four working days in travel time. I can manage a one-day business trip by plane, but a one-day trip to New York by train is a five-day trip. Subsidies won’t help: counting in the lost time, Amtrak would have to pay me $4,000 to make up for the time difference. The travel time difference is so large that Amtrak couldn’t compete if train tickets were free.

I’ve had the same experience. I love trains and a couple years ago I was planning on taking the train to Boston for a weekend, but Amtrak was more expensive than the train and would take three to four times as long. I have to go to Cleveland for a wedding right after Christmas this year and the train ride is three to four times as long as a plane flight and twice as long as driving would be. (Plus, we’d need to rent a car while in Cleveland to get around.)

When in Europe two years ago, I took the train between cities and loved it but trains just aren’t time-efficient for the distances we need to travel here in America. While over there I discussed with a friend of a friend that Europeans also had an advantage in building public transportation because we assumed much of the demolition costs for them during World War II. We paid to clear the space they needed to build their subways and light rail systems, but having to bear the costs of demolition and construction, it becomes economically infeasible to repeat that over here. Plus, as noted the distance and the fact our cities tend to cover a larger geographic area than theirs. Comparing our use of public transportation and Europe’s really is comparing apples and oranges.

Health Care

We had our annual benefits meeting today at work and after hearing about all the various health care options and tax ramifications, I left with a headache. I told our own after the meeting: “I have never been more convinced of the need for a flat tax or decoupling health care from employment than I am right now.” Turns out both of those are interests of his. (I knew about his position on health care, but the flat tax was new.)

Our current health care and tax structures are insane. We need to start over on both. Let people decide what’s best for themselves rather than continually carving new rules at the ferderal level. Set my people free!