Friday, December 17, 2010

Center/Right Sweden shows the way

The ebbing away of socialist dominance came just in time for Sweden

Not everything in the European Union is rotten. A few countries stand out for grounding their economic model on sounder foundations in the second part of this waning decade. They show the rest of Europe the way.

Sweden is one such case. In the last quarter, this Scandinavian kingdom achieved an Asian-style rate of economic growth—6.9 percent—compared to last year. Although the reforms of the governing “bourgeois” bloc—the Moderates, the Centrists, the Liberals and the Christian-Democrats—are more gradual than bolder spirits would want, Sweden has been steadily paring down the statist excesses of the socialist era that for most of the 20th century was eponymous with the country. This is why the coalition was re-elected three months ago.

Before and after the financial crisis of 2008, the government maintained a prudent fiscal policy, substantially reducing the debt in times of plenty. Even in the aftermath of the bursting of the housing bubble, when government stimulus was the universal policy du jour, Sweden incurred a deficit of barely 1 percent of the size of the economy (the fiscal purse will soon be in the black again). In the last four years, taxes, especially those that hampered job creation, came down while subsidies that encourage idleness were slashed. In turn, private banks, which had lent heavily in the Baltic states, have weathered the financial storm thanks to the rebound of that region.

By contrast, economic growth in the troubled eurozone will average between zero and 1 percent this year, while the markets continue to bet, despite the bailouts, that Greece and Ireland will default on their sovereign debt; that Portugal will be the next theater of financial drama; and that Spain, struggling under government deficits and private debt, is too big to fail and too big to be rescued.

It is particularly ironic that the shining star in this dark firmament is Sweden, long regarded as a socialist paradise. Sweden ceased to be that a long time ago, as many scholars have explained. This is a country where education and health care underwent the type of reform—the adoption of choice and competition, a decentralization that returned power to parents, students and patients—that causes howls of protest in the United States and other European nations. In 2009, the government expanded the reforms: Patients are now free to choose their care centers, and private companies are free to enter the system as primary health providers.

Over the years, Sweden did a much better job publicizing its multinationals—Ericsson’s technology, Ikea’s furniture, Volvo’s luxury cars, SCA’s paper products, etc.—than its gradual break from the socialist myth that fed the imagination of intellectuals and politicians.

The Swedes were able to build a highly interventionist model during part of the 20th century because they had accumulated, since the 19th century, an extraordinary amount of capital due to their innovative businesses. Their entrepreneurial rise had in part been rooted in a history of bottom-up structures—a rule-of-law tradition and a peasantry steeped in private property—that spared Sweden the feudal legacy that preserved stark class distinctions in other parts of Europe. The subsequent socialist era consumed part of the capital and sapped a big deal of the productive energy. But once it reached a crisis point, it was gradually reformed during part of the last couple of decades. The current government has gone further.

Will Sweden continue to succeed despite the rigors of the European environment in the years to come? After all, there is $2 trillion of sovereign debt outstanding in so-called peripheral countries of the EU—and most of the creditors are European banks. Sweden’s prime minister, the popular 45-year-old Fredrik Reinfeldt, is convinced that some countries, particularly Britain, where painful remedies are being adopted, will be successful. Sweden, half of whose industrial output is related to engineering and whose economy is geared toward worldwide trade, should continue to play a salient role in global technology.

However, the Swedish government is also highly pessimistic about Spain. And if it is right in its prognosis, it is hard to see how the general European environment will not directly challenge Sweden. Given its economic magnitude, a Spanish crisis of the Greek and Irish kind would probably impair the chances of recovery for the European Union for years to come.



Liberals Love Death Panels

When Sarah Palin correctly pointed out that Obamacare had built in death panels that would ultimately lead to needed medical treatments to seniors being cut to save money, the Left flipped out. They claimed that it was crazy to suggest that there was something like that in the bill and they assured everyone that they would never, ever, ever back something like that, and that they were offended that Palin even suggested it.

Of course, there was one problem with that assertion: Liberals have no qualms about lying to the American people. They do it all the time. That's how they deal with the fact that many of their views are unpopular: They just lie about what they want to do. It's such a common occurrence that liberals often just assume liberal politicians who say things that differ from the liberal line are lying. For example, do you ever wonder why liberals, for the most part at least, give Barack Obama a pass for being against gay marriage? There's a simple reason for it: They think he's lying.

That's how it is with death panels. When a bill with death panels in it was in front of the American people, liberals claimed to be against death panels. But isn't it funny that since Obamacare became law, stories about liberals who support death panels keep dribbling out?

See, that's how it works. They lie to get you to support their position, then they start talking about it a little bit, and then eventually, liberals start talking about it en masse like everyone knew what they were getting into right from the start.

Want some examples?

Currently, Medicare is not allowed to deny a treatment based on cost alone, but in the coming years, "it will be difficult to sustain coverage of these very costly procedures considering the Medicare program is facing a huge long-term deficit," Howard says.

"Ten years, 20 years down the road, Congress is going to have to rewrite the law to allow cost to play into coverage decisions." -- David Howard, assistant professor in the department of Health Policy and Management at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.
"Some years down the pike, we're going to get the real solution, which is going to be a combination of death panels and sales taxes. It's going to be that we're actually going to take Medicare under control, and we're going to have to get some additional revenue, probably from a VAT. But it's not going to happen now." -- Paul Krugman
That's a tradeoff society is making because of very, very high medical costs and a lack of willingness to say, you know, is spending a million dollars on that last three months of life for that patient, would it be better not to lay off those ten teachers and to make that tradeoff in medical costs. But that's called a death panel and you're not supposed to have that discussion. -- Bill Gates

Know why society never has that conversation, Bill? Because when conservatives point out that liberals want to do something unpopular, like kill old people by withholding medical treatment in order to save money, liberals deny that's what they believe. Hell, PolitiFact, which is a left-wing organization that pretends to be a right-down-the-middle outfit, actually declared that 'Death Panels' was the "Lie of the Year" for 2009. Certainly that wasn't true! Certainly that could never happen! Yet, the bill passed, and suddenly liberals are trying to lay the groundwork to kill Grandma because we can't have everyone else paying for her medical treatment.

Of course, the extra cost of paying for that medical treatment is built into the current system and it's one of the reasons prices have risen so fast. Could we cut the costs of medical treatment in the United States dramatically by cutting back on the amount of end-of-life medical treatment that we give people? Absolutely.

However, most Americans don't like this idea because they're good hearted people and also because they know that those they love may very well be in that position one day and they don't want to see them denied medical treatment. Conservatives tend to like the idea even less than the average American because we put a particularly high value on innocent human life. We're not the pro-life party for nothing. Liberals, on the other hand, kind of like the idea of letting old people die to save money for the state, but when it was time to make the case, they didn't have the guts to argue for what they believed in. So instead, they denied that was what they wanted to do, they put it in the bill anyway, and now they're trying to prepare the public for it while they hope some nameless, faceless, unelected committee full of bureaucrats will just force it on the American people.

Heck, if all you "useless eaters" out there who are a net drain on the state could be so kind as to go ahead and die, liberals like Hanna Rosin at Slate will even go so far as to call you a "hero" for it,
Ann Hulbert’s late mother is my new hero. In this lovely essay in the American Scholar, Ann describes how her mother, in her last months, turned down radical medical intervention of dubious value. She did not do this because she googled a million medical sites and called in favors from doctor friends who weighed the evidence. She did it in order to stay true to her temperament and her philosophy.

Here is the exchange between Ann’s mother and the doctor:
“If geezers like me have lots of tests and treatments,” she told the doctor, “there isn’t going to be enough money to spend on the other end. This health-care mess isn’t going to be fixed if we aren’t ready to get out of the way.” Nonplussed on his little stool, he shook his head and raised an eyebrow. “Well, I’ve heard that view before, but never from someone in your situation. People generally change their tune when it suddenly applies to them.”

If you choose not to get medical treatment to try to extend your life when you're very ill, that's your choice. Some people who are sick and in a lot of pain may look at the quality of their life and decide it's not worth it. I respect that decision. But, it doesn't make you a hero and honestly, it's sick to applaud a woman for ending her own life in order to "get out of the way" of the government's health care plan.



All cancer patients are not the same

But in good Leftist style, the Obamabots pretend they are

Avastin is a cancer-fighting drug that works by starving tumors of vital nutrients and oxygen. Although Avastin doesn’t cure cancer, it can improve quality of life by slowing the disease’s spread. The Food and Drug Administration approved its use for colon cancer (2004), lung cancer (2006), and advanced breast cancer (2008).

But now the FDA is on the brink of rescinding that last approval, relegating breast cancer to the category of an “off-label” use. In our semi-socialized health care system, that’s significant because government-funded insurance plans (such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare, which serves the military) refuse to reimburse off-label prescriptions, and private insurers generally follow their lead.

Since an Avastin breast cancer regimen costs as much as $88,000 annually, withdrawal of FDA approval would, in effect, lock the medicine cabinet and throw the key onto a high shelf, unreachable by many desperately sick patients.

The FDA is slated to decide whether to follow the advice of its own Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee, which back in July voted 12-1 that Avastin does not “represent a favorable risk/benefit analysis.” Does that mean the drug fails to help any woman more than it hurts her? Not at all — many individual women benefit from the drug. But the FDA regards such facts as sentimental distractions, to be deliberately ignored when deciding the fate of a drug like Avastin. The FDA’s idea of a risk/benefit analysis deals with health in the aggregate, as revealed in statistics involving large populations, not with the health of individuals.

But can risks and benefits really be weighed at the level of society as a whole? A society is only a collection of individuals. A society doesn’t enjoy life, or suffer — only individuals do. Metaphors aside, a society doesn’t get sick and die — only individuals do. To appreciate the difference, consider how a rational patient with breast cancer decides whether to undergo drug treatment.

Such a patient weighs (among other things) the statistical likelihood of a favorable result against the statistical likelihood of painful side effects. At all times, her judgment is individual and personal: How will my life improve if these tumors temporarily stop growing? How might side-effects interfere with my enjoyment of life? How much better will I feel if the results are above average — or how much worse, if the results are below average? How much is an additional year, month, or week of relatively normal life worth to me?

The FDA’s experts take professional pride in refusing to allow such individual considerations to influence their decisions. Instead, they float among the statistical clouds, observing that Avastin delays tumor growth by only 3 to 12 weeks on average and that some patients actually get worse after taking the drug. From behind a veneer of scientific respectability supplied by charts and graphs that ignore the individual patient, these experts then ask a question to which no rational answer can be given: What is the meaning to society of one month in an individual’s life?

At this point, you may be sympathetic to these women’s plight and yet also concerned about the national economy. Won’t cancer patients spend us into bankruptcy with expensive drugs like Avastin? Well, that’s the kind of question that arises only when health care is collectivized by such programs as Medicare, Medicaid, and ObamaCare.

The antidote is to challenge the notion that health care is a right, to be funded by shoving everyone’s wealth into one big pot and spreading it among those in need. On a free market, in which health care is purchased by a combination of private insurance, savings, and charity, your neighbor’s decision to take an expensive drug like Avastin will be no more concern of yours than his choice to wear an expensive watch or drink an expensive wine.

This ongoing Avastin travesty pits a cancer-fighting drug against a drug-fighting cancer — an out-of-control federal agency whose mission unashamedly includes choking off patients’ access to vital drugs. Reform should start by targeting the FDA’s power to substitute collectivized decisions for individual choice.




Reid abandons omnibus bill amid GOP opposition: "With Senate Republicans uniting against a massive $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill and threatening to demand a time-consuming oral reading of the 1,924-page measure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tonight elected to ditch the controversial bill. In recent days, Republicans blasted the $8.3 billion of earmarks in the measure and vowed to force an oral reading of it on the Senate floor.”

And So the Bias Begins again: "The Washington Post yesterday chose not to report results of its own poll revealing ObamaCare's lowest popularity ever -- but today was perfectly happy to trumpet the news that the"public is not yet sold on the GOP" (who haven't even taken control yet)! This kind of reporting, frankly, is just the shape of things to come for the Republicans. If they are going to succeed in actually getting things done and changing the way Washington does business, they are going to have to be willing to put up with predictable, relentless criticism from left-leaning MSM which knows -- and likes -- Washington as it has always been. It's a remarkable double standard, though, isn't it?"

An unhealthy mandate: "If you don’t want to pay the minimum wage, you can refuse to start a business. If you don’t want to buy car insurance, you can take the bus. But if you don’t want to buy health insurance, your only options are to leave the country or depart this vale of tears. The question in this case is not just whether this part of the health care reform will stand. It’s whether there are any limits on the powers of the federal government in matters economic.”

Former FBI agent to be top Republican on House Intel Committee: "Rep. Mike Rogers, a former FBI agent and vocal critic of the Obama administration’s dealing with terrorists, will head the House Intelligence Committee when Republicans take control of the House next year. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner announced Wednesday his choice of the Michigan Republican to lead the panel which oversees the secret work and the budgets of the 16 agencies and departments which make up the intelligence community.”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


No comments: