Recent Posts From Jason Pye
Yesterday, a friend asked me to send along a list of books that I would recommend for a project. So, I figured I’d pass it along, in no particular order (please share books you recommend in the comments).
“[T]he Holy Grail of universal coverage in the United States may remain out of reach unless, through rational collective action overriding some individual self-interest, we can reduce per capita costs.” - Donald Berwick, President Obama’s nominee to head the CMS
President Barack Obama has announced that he will appoint Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services when Congress adjourns for the summer break next month.
His appointment, as Philip Klein explained back in May, is concerning:
“Cynics beware, I am romantic about the (British) National Health Service; I love it,” Berwick said in a July 2008 speech at England’s Wembley stadium. “All I need to do to rediscover the romance is to look at health care in my own country.”
While Berwick would not have the authority to impose a British health care system on the United States in one fell swoop, as head of CMS, he would be running both Medicare and Medicaid. Given that the two programs alone account for more than one out of every three dollars spent on health care in America (all government programs combined account for 47 percent), private players tend to follow CMS’s lead. Berwick himself has made this point.
In order to shore up budget shortfalls and put off making tough choices caused by their own fiscal impropriety, many states are looking at increasing “sin taxes,” such as the cigarette tax. The problem is that when a state is close to a state with a lower tax, people will travel to buy their smokes. The District of Columbia, Florida, Maryland and New Jersey are all examples of that.
New York is learning this lesson now as Pennsylvania is bringing in more revenue after the latest hikes by its neighbor:
Pennsylvania tobacco retailers along New York’s border have realized increased consumer traffic, as a new cigarette tax on New York cigarettes raised the price of a pack of smokes statewide to $9.20 and in New York City to $11, The Scranton Times Tribune reports.
“We have a lot of New Yorkers that come here, and I expect more,” said Rene Kizer, store manager of Smokin’ Joe’s Tobacco Shop in Beach Lake, Wayne County, six miles across the border from New York.
Premium cigarettes in Kizer’s store cost less than $6 and a carton of cigarettes go for $59, compared to $100 just over the Delaware River in New York.
Small business are in a pickle when it comes to health insurance for employees, according to the Wall Street Journal:
Companies whose health plans are up for renewal are seeing sharp increases for the coming year. In years past, they could simply seek other bids. But this year, the new health-care law complicates the decision to switch plans.
Under the health-care overhaul, companies that keep their existing health plans will be exempt from some of the new law’s requirements, such as providing yearly physical exams and other benefits that could add up to substantially higher costs starting in 2014.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that 20 or so new rules could raise companies’ health bills by 1% to 3% each. Companies forfeit “grandfathered” status if they change their health plans.
Many small businesses would like to keep their grandfathered status but can’t afford the premium increases. Benefits consulting firm Mercer LLC says increases are averaging about 10% in 2010, and a Deloitte LLP estimate puts the range between 11% and 15%.
In California, Blue Shield California’s small-business quotes rose an average of 18%. In New York,t Inc.’s Empire BlueCross BlueShield unit says it has raised prices for some small companies 17%. Mark Wagar, chief executive at Empire BlueCross BlueShield, attributed the higher premiums to increasing hospital prices and taxes.
The insurers argue that they have to increase prices because of mushrooming costs for hospital care, drugs and doctors. They say that the health overhaul did little to address the rising costs and that the health overhaul law’s new coverage requirements could push prices up further.
This may bother some of my friends, but I’m starting to warm up to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as a potential presidential candidate after reading this interview about books that have influenced him and helped to shape his views.
Here is an excerpt:
The other book on freedom on your list is Charles Murray, What It Means to Be a Libertarian. Are you a libertarian?
By his definition I guess I’d say so. Like all these labels these days, a lot of them have been transmuted out of their original meaning. For instance, I’m what would have been called a liberal in the 19th and early 20th century.
Can you govern as a libertarian in America? You’ve got all these state government programmes and you probably can’t get rid of a single one of them – or at least not more than one or two without a battle. Can you be a libertarian governor?
“I wish people were as motivated and angry about Elena Kagan, frankly, as they are about Michael Steele, who in the big scheme of things inconsequential.” - Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh has, somewhat, defended RNC Chairman Michael Steele, saying he is “half right about this,” as Republicans continue to call for his resignation:
You can read the full transcript here.
The goal of a new Chinese government campaign is to “eradicate all social evils” and “advocate a healthy, civilized and high-minded lifestyle,” according to the Washington Post. Some elements of the state just don’t like the way the Chinese people are using their newfound freedom.
On a different level, we face the same arguments here in the United States. Both the Hillarys and the Huckabees in our world seek to fight “social evils” and lead us to “a healthy, civilized and high-minded lifestyle.” The Huckabees focus on our souls, urging the government to stamp out sin and push us to do God’s will (as they see it). The Hillarys often focus on our bodies, with campaigns against smoking, popcorn, sodas, salt, and all manner of “unhealthy lifestyles.” Then again, the Hillarys do want to save our souls, as well, with campaigns to eradicate racism and sexism and spread the environmentalist gospel.
I’ve mentioned this before, but that does sum up Tax Hike Mike Huckabee, as Jonah Goldberg noted back during the race for the GOP presidential nomination:
President Barack Obama shouldn’t count on Justice Anthony Kennedy to step down from the Supreme Court anytime soon:
Justice Kennedy, who turns 74 this month, has told relatives and friends he plans to stay on the high court for at least three more years - through the end of Obama’s first term, sources said.
That means Kennedy will be around to provide a fifth vote for the court’s conservative bloc through the 2012 presidential election. If Obama loses, Kennedy could retire and expect a Republican President to choose a conservative justice.
Kennedy was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed 1988. He authored the opinion in the Citizens United case, which has been harshly criticized by Obama and Democrats.
Rasmussen Reports released their rankings of United States Senate seats in the 2010 mid-term elections. The rankings show 10 seats up for grabs, six of those being held currently by Democrats.
Listed below are the seats expected to be competitive in November. Not included are Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana and North Dakota, which are all currently held by Democrats but are expected to turn Republican.
- Florida (open)
- Illinois (open)
- North Carolina
- Missouri (open)
- Ohio (open)
- Pennsylvania (open)
- Kentucky (open)
- New Hampshire (open)