27.8.09

Hawaii's healthcare townhall meeting

Charles Djou hosted a townhall meeting here to discuss Obama's
healthcare plans. There were half a dozen people in the back of the
room with signs declaring "Healthcare now!" the rest of the 200+
people at the event however were opposed to socialised healthcare.

There were three panelists: an MD in favour or tort reform, a policy
analyst (from Grassroot Institute of Hawaii) promoting reform, but not
by public option or employer mandate (where employers are forced to
provide health insurance to their workers), and a representative from
the AARP who was in favour of Obama's plan.

Linda Rasmussen, the speaker for tort reform had some good arguments,
but she seemed willing to be fine with any side of the debate as long
as it included tort reform. Though I can see that tort reform may be
valuable, as I have researched a bit on the impact it has had in Texas
by bringing more doctors to the state, I do not believe that it would
redeem a socialised system.

The represntative of the AARP, Bruce Bottorff, faced a very tough
crowd, and was often booed for his statements. Yes it may have been
rude, which is why I abstained from doing so, they were generally
called for. If someone lies about things in a statement it is
understandable that this would be upsetting. Bottorff gave "myths"
about Obama's plan and would then simply say that they were false,
with no real rationale or proof that this was the case. For example,
there was the myth that Obama's plan would lead to rationing. He
attacked this saying that this was not going to happen because there
was nothing about it in the bill. This is not a solid argument at all,
because even if there is no mention of rationing in the bill, it is
still a possible consequence of a socialised healthcare system. It
cannot be prevented in a clause of the bill just as competition cannot
be created in a clause of a bill. As much as legislators would wish it
to be so, things never happen exactly as they are foreseen, which is
why the strict codes of government legislation do not work. In the
private sector there are feasibility studies to make predictions as to
how things will work, but actions are still left up to adjustment in
case things do not work exactly as planned.

19.8.09

The state is unqualified to educate Hawaii's kids

Hawaii has the lowest number of highly qualified teachers
(as defined by No Child Left Behind) in the country. Only
68% fit that description compared to the national average
of 95%*. In 2008, $1,573,852.23 was spent to send 644
public school educators to a conference on the mainland.*
The Kealakehe high-school took full advantage of the event,
sending 27 teachers out of their total of 79 (2006 figure)*,
and costing taxpayers $28,465.00. What this means is that the
state is hiring unqualified teachers, and is then paying
a great deal to have them trained

Even while 32% of the state’s public school teachers are under-
qualified they receive salaries and benefits per pupil of $6,517,
which is much higher than the national average of $5,867.* With
an expenditure of $11,060 per student, the 14th highest in the nation*,
this is higher than the tuition of many of the state’s private schools.
The tuition of Hawaii Baptist Academy for example is less, at only
$10,725*; that expenditure enabled the school’s students
to achieve an average SAT score of 1671*, which is 22% higher
than the state’s SAT average of 1370.* So spending less money
than in the state system, students in private schools
are performing at a much higher level.

18.8.09

The cost of health

Through research on the impact of tort reform in Texas
I came across some interesting articles on the situation
of healthcare. Some of them diverged from the issue and
attributed unrelated failures in the medical system to reform.
One New Yorker article investigated the state of the extremely
high costs of medical treatment in McAllen, Texas.
It was calculated that the Medicare costs in this city
were almost twice that of the national average.

The journalist discovered that the doctors were racking
up costs by regularly calling for the most expensive procedures
that were largely unnecessary. They did this because they
either 1) were entirely unconcerned with cost or 2) earned
money from the use of expensive treatments. The author
of the article thought that this showed many areas in which
Medicare costs could be cut down as a part of universal healthcare.
What I got from it however was rather different.

Since Medicare covers the costs of medical treatment
patients are often unconcerned with whatever the price.
This means that they will readily agree to take the
most expensive procedure assuming that higher prices
mean higher quality (as it sometimes is in other sectors).
In healthcare however this rule does not apply, and
costlier does not mean better. If patients were paying for
their own treatments they would have to be aware of the
costs and would go for expensive options only when
absolutely necessary. This would save a tremendous
amount of money that is wasted on unneeded procedures.

Government programs such as Medicare and that which is
proposed by Obama just go to take responsibility and
pragmatic thinking away from patients.

One article mentioned government plans to create
incentives for living healthy. That in itself is a horrible
concept, but which shows how much impact government
intervention can have on how people live. The current
system of medical care for which consumers do not
have to pay at all are incentives to 1) live unhealthy
lifestyles and 2) abuse the system and waste money.
As the article acknowledged, "Every incentive in the
system is an invitation to go the way McAllen has gone."

Once again it is shown that when people pay for what
they use, they are more responsible with how they use it.

This John Stossel bit about health insurance and responsibility
is excellent, and it has John Mackey!

7.8.09

That government is best which governs least.

I am interning at a free-market policy institute:
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. At the moment I am doing
research on renewable energy because the state has made
a great deal of legislation in that area (over 160 in the last 8 months!).
So for the legislative guide that we are working on, it is
obviously one of the issues. While doing my work on these
projects I am glad that I am doing something to prevent the
government from doing bad things and wasting our money.
The problem with politics however is that the answer is never
to do nothing, or to eliminate legislation; thus what my work
here is doing really is to advise the government how to better
spend taxpayers' money. This is a contradiction in terms for
me however, because there is NO good way for the
government to spend money for it is theft regardless.

4.8.09

Happy 97th Birthday Milton!


DOX museum, Prague - "Welcome to Capitalism" exhibition"

Members, non-members, and legislators alike
gathered together to honour the birthday of
Milton Friedman. The luncheon held at the
Japanese Cultural Centre and hosted by the
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii was a spirited meeting
with good atmosphere and conversation.
High-school students representing their campus
economics clubs were also present, and had an
opportunity to learn about a view of economics
that is not taught in most schools.

Speaker Clint Bolick, the director of the Goldwater
Institute
in Arizona, painted a warm picture of his
friend Milton Friedman: a man who wrote a response
to every letter he ever received and who insisted
on reading a book cover to cover before writing
it a review. Bolick had come to know Friedman
through their efforts to encourage voucher
systems as a means to improve public education.

In his speech, Bolick also shared stories of cases
where individuals have been protected by their
state constitutions such as that of the City of Mesa v. Bailey
concerning private property and eminent domain.
He described the fighting spirit of Arizonians to
protect their individual rights, something that
will hopefully be inspired further here in the islands.
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