July 2010

Florida Pundit is catching up on the news after two and a half weeks in Central Europe with very limited internet access. Quite a bit has happened here that doesn’t get covered by European newspapers.

The Obama administration was afraid of letting the Arizona immigration law go into effect and got a liberal judge to suspend most of it. Bacteria breaking down oil seem to be attacking the Gulf oil spill a lot faster than anyone but Rush Limbaugh predicted. An agriculture department employee has been fired over racist remarks and then was offered her job back (I still have to catch up on the details of this one).

GM will be selling a “green” car whose main virtue seems to be that it has a gas-based backup engine that ensures that you won’t be stranded when the battery is exhausted after just forty miles. It takes ten hours to recharge the battery for another forty mile trip. I wonder how much coal is burned in power plants to provide the electricity to charge the battery and how that compares to the one to two gallons of fuel that would be burned by a regular gasoline engine for a forty mile drive. We’ll need to follow up on this one.

A lot more has happened, but I also have collected interesting stories from my trip that I will cover over the next couple of weeks. Here are some highlights:

1. If you think we have a lot of “green” initiatives here, Western Europe is much more extreme and believe in global warming is unquestionable dogma in the media. What is interesting though is that despite a heat wave that brought 95 degree heat for more than half my trip in places with no air conditioning, no one I talked to ever linked the heat wave to global warming.

2. There is a demographic revolution occurring in big cities causing an rise in an increasingly radicalized Muslim population. Locals seem to believe that all the women in burkas (head to toe black dress covering the entire face but the eyes) are all rich Saudi Arabian tourists. This is certainly a factor, but I find it hard to believe that it is the whole story. I will provide pictures, plus the surprisingly frank comments of a monk given during a guided tour through a monastery.

3. While Western Europe is declining in political and economic power, life during this decline can still be pleasant especially if you have no children or grandchildren to worry about.

4. A visit to Prague, which Florida Pundit first visited shortly after the fall of communism twenty years ago, illustrates how the future of Europe lies in what former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, called “new Europe”, i.e. in the former communist states stretching from Lithuania to Slovenia.

5. The European Union has brought changes that make travel a lot easier. You don’t have to worry about changing currencies when traveling between countries using the Euro and crossing the border between many countries is like crossing the state line between Florida and Georgia. The only thing that remains are the abandoned border posts. Positive developments, but a lot of these changes are imposed by a European elite and, with crises like the Greek economic collapse, one has to wonder about the long-term stability of these arrangements.

Europe is a continent with a rich history, but it is in decline and faces enormous demographic changes. It is great for many Europeans to take a month vacation in summer and a couple of weeks in winter, but they are spending at the expense of future generations. When conservative governments take over from socialists all they can really do is slow the decline. The potential exceptions are some of the former communist countries of Eastern Europe where flat taxes and less regulations have created an economic boom.

President Obama is the most European president the United States has ever had. This statement probably puzzles the American left. It is not Obama’s race that is relevant, but rather his ideas. Obama is steering the US toward policies that Europe has been implementing since World War 2 and we need to reverse this direction in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

It is good to be home. More on all of this in future posts.

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Why No Updates?

July 16, 2010

Some of you may have wondered at the lack of updates over the past week. Since July 11, I have been on vacation abroad with much more limited internet access than I anticipated. I will return in late July and will resume regular updates then.

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The biggest news in sports Thursday night was that basketball star LeBron James chose to come play in Florida for the Miami Heat rather than stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He may have had many reasons – sunny weather, the nightlife of South Beach, etc. – to come to Miami, but there is another reason that makes moving to Florida a rational decision not just for a basketball superstar, but for anyone who works hard and wants to keep the fruits of his labors.

Florida has no state or local income tax. Ohio, on the other hand has both state and local taxes on income. Other celebrities like Tiger Woods and Rush Limbaugh have chosen to move to Florida. Limbaugh, a Florida resident since the late 1990s, makes no secret of the fact that New York’s excessive tax burden was an important factor for his move.

For decades, many Ohioans have moved to Florida. Even in recent years, when Florida was disproportionally affected by the subprime mortgage crisis, Florida remained the top destination of emigrants from Ohio.

States with high tax burdens like New York, New Jersey and California are facing fiscal crisis because of their disproportional dependence on high income earners for tax revenue and the ability of their wealthiest residents to flee from these states to low-tax states like Florida and Texas.

Cleveland should not put its hopes for an economic revival on the presence of a basketball star. It would be better off focusing on slashing its excessive government burden and creating a more welcoming economic climate for attracting capital and getting wealthy individuals to stay.

We welcome LeBron James to Florida and hope that the people of Ohio will learn from their loss and work to change their state and local governments and their excessive appetite for taxing the creators of wealth.

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President Barack Obama bypassed a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday and, in a recess appointment, named Dr. Donald Berwick, a Harvard professor, to run Medicare and Medicaid. Recess appointments are a tool the president has to appoint people when the Senate is not in session. Obama is using this power to avoid a public hearing on Berwick’s radical views. But he will not be able to hide his intent because Berwick has expressed his views in public in the past.

Berwick is an outspoken advocate of rationing health care especially for older people and has been described as a “one man death panel.”

“Donald Berwick is a one-man death panel. While Americans may not remember the agency he heads, he will quickly become known as Obama’s rationing czar,” predicts David N. O’Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life, where medical ethicists fret that Dr. Berwick’s policies could ultimately deny lifesaving care to aging, ailing Americans.

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly discusses the concerns about rationing and death panels with a liberal, a doctor and a priest:

Listen to Berwick in a speech to Britain’s National Health Service celebrating its 60th anniversary. He states that health care should be about the redistribution of wealth and that a free market in health care is bad.

Here are some excerpts from Berwick’s speech:

Here, in England, accountability for the NHS is ultimately clear. Ultimately, the buck stops in the voting booth. You place the politicians between the public served and the people serving them. That is why Tony Blair commissioned new investment and modernization in the NHS soon after he took office, it is why the government has repeatedly modified policies in the search for traction, it is why your government now chartered the report by Lord Darzi. Government action in the NHS is not mere restlessness or meddling or recreation; it is accountability at work through the maddening, majestic machinery of politics.

You could have obscured – you could have obliterated – accountability, or left it to the invisible hand of the market, instead of holding your politicians ultimately accountable for getting the NHS sorted. You could have let an unaccountable system play out in the darkness of private enterprise instead of accepting that a politically accountable system must act in the harsh and, admittedly, sometimes very unfair, daylight of the press, public debate, and political campaigning.

Fifth, please don’t put your faith in market forces. It is a popular idea: that Adam Smith’s invisible hand would do a better job of designing care than leaders with plans can do. I do not agree. I find little evidence anywhere that market forces, bluntly used, that is, just consumer choice among an array of products with competitors’ fighting it out, leads to the health care system that you want and need.

Sixth, avoid supply-driven care like the plague.

If a free market in health care does not work, maybe we should stop relying on the free market in countless other industries. Let’s have the government take control of how food and clothing are distributed. We know how this would end. Here is an example of the how well rationing food worked in Poland when it was ruled by communists:

This is the future of ObamaCare. You are sick? Well, we don’t have anything to offer to you. You will just have to get better on your own or die.

There are real reforms to the health care system that we could make that would remove the obstacles to paying health care that our government imposes. Let people chose plans that ensure against major expenses, but where you pay for routine care. That’s how insurance works in other areas. Let insurers compete across state lines to increase competititon. Let people deduct health insurance when they go out and get it themselves rather than go through their employer. Implement tort reform to reduce the cost of medical care driven by the threat from frivolous law suits.

These types of changes would empower Americans to make choices and the government would get out of the way and set better rules on lawsuits.

President Obama is again demonstrating that the implementation of ObamaCare will result in massive rationing, less choices for the consumer and, yes, death panels. His goal is that politicians and government bureaucrats and not individual Americans make health care decisions.

Since there is no support for such a radical plan, Obama pushed a complex law through Congress and is using stealth recess appointments to achieve his goals.

We must stop this madness by electing a freedom-focused Congress in November and a new president in 2012.

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The Obama administration is now getting criticized by Democrats for their decision to sue Arizona over its immigration law. Freedom’s Lighthouse reports:

Arizona Democrat Gabrielle Giffords [tells] President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder: “We Need More Boots on the Ground, Not More Lawyers in the Courthouse.” Giffords made the comment in reaction to a statement by Holder that diverting funds to Border Security takes money away from the fight against dangerous terrorists. Giffords pointed out that gun battles are raging just south of the U.S. Boder among narco-terrorists, and said it is in the national security interests of the U.S. to secure the border.

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have a history of ill-conceived, ideological decisions on where to apply Department of Justice resources.

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