Friday, July 12, 2013
Sanford Police Prepare for Zimmerman Riots
On Monday, the Broward County Sheriff's Office in Florida released a public service announcement attempting to convince young people not to riot in case George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, was acquitted of second-degree murder. That likelihood remains high, thanks to the fact that the prosecution itself was weak and pushed forward by a breathless media desperate for a racial hot point to drive ratings.
The sheriff's office announced that it was "working closely with the Sanford Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies" on a "response plan in anticipation of the verdict." Sheriff Scott Israel appeared in a video alongside a rapping duet of two teenagers, one a Hispanic female and another a black male, who tell the public, "Raise your voice, and not your hands! We need to stand together as one, no cuffs, no guns. ... I know your patience will be tested, but law enforcement has your back!"
Despite the passions elicited in both the black community and the white community over Zimmerman, one fact remains clear: Americans are far more concerned with the possibility of a minority riot over Zimmerman's acquittal than they are with the possibility of a white riot over Zimmerman's conviction. That's not unreasonable. Al Sharpton of MSNBC, among others, has threatened civil disobedience in Sanford before, and Americans still remember the Crown Heights riots of 1991, the Los Angeles riots of 1992, the St. Petersburg riots of 1996, the Cincinnati riots of 2001 and the Oakland riots of 2009, among others.
Why, exactly, are Americans so seemingly complacent about the notion of another riot over a case about a Hispanic man shooting a black teenager, presumably in self-defense? It's thanks to a media that continues to maintain the fiction that every case allegedly involving a non-black suspect and a black victim is a test case for American racism. The media pretended that the case against George Zimmerman was unshakeable; it simply wasn't. There wasn't just reasonable doubt about whether Zimmerman engaged in self-defense when he shot Martin, there was virtually zero countervailing credible evidence to the proposition that he shot Martin in self-defense. Furthermore, there was literally zero evidence for the proposition that the shooting was racially motivated, or that the police didn't initially arrest Zimmerman thanks to their institutional racism.
Yet the story has played out in the media as a controversial example of America's continuing love affair with racism. The media's narrative went like this: white man shoots black man after racially profiling him, and racist local officers let him off the hook. That's a lie, but it's become widely accepted in the black community, where 72 percent of blacks polled thought that Zimmerman was definitely or probably guilty (compared with just 32 percent of nonblack Americans), and 73 percent thought he would have been arrested initially if he had shot a white person (compared with 35 percent of nonblack Americans).
Sadly, an incredible number of blacks feel that the system is biased against them: While most white people don't believe that the criminal justice system is racist (49 percent believe it is), a whopping 84 percent of blacks in America believe it is.
And so each case with racial overtones becomes another reminder to blacks that the system is out to get them, particularly when largely white media commentators wrongly paint a case as race-based. This means that anytime the media labels a case race-based, Americans are forced to accept the ugly calculus that acquittal, while proper, may result in riots based on perceived institutional wrongs.
The Truth About SwedenCare
by Klaus Bernpaintner
As a Swede currently living in the United States, with actual experience of Swedencare, I must reply to the delusions propagated by professor Robert H. Frank in his June 15 article in the New York Times, titled “What Sweden Can Teach Us About Obamacare.”
It is surprising to read something so out of line with basic economic theory from an economics professor. But theory aside, it would have sufficed for professor Frank to have taken a field trip down to the nearest public emergency room to have his illusions irreparably shattered. The reality is that Swedish healthcare is the perfect illustration of the tragedy of central planning. It is expensive and — even worse — it kills innocent people.
Free universal healthcare came about in the 50s as part of the Social Democratic project to create the “People’s Home” (Folkhemmet). This grand effort also included free education on all levels, modern housing for the poor, mandatory government pension plans and more. Let us grant benefit of the doubt and assume that some of its proponents had good intentions; as so often, these intentions paved the road to a hellish destination.
It has taken awhile, but it is now becoming obvious even to the man on the street that every aspect of this project has been a disaster. He may not be able to connect the dots, but he can see that the system is definitely not working as advertised, and it is rapidly deteriorating.
Before the utopian project got under way, Sweden had some of the absolute lowest taxes in the civilized world and, not surprisingly, was ranked at the top in terms of standard of living. The project changed Sweden into a country with the second highest tax rate in the world (Denmark is higher), periods of rampant inflation, and a steadily deteriorating economy.
There is nothing economically mysterious about health care — it is just another service. Like any other it can be plentifully provided on a free market at affordable prices and constantly improving quality. But like everything else, it breaks down when the central planners get their hands on it, which they now have. To claim that the problems are due to a “market failure” in health care is like saying that there was a market failure in Soviet bread production.
Let us look at what happened when health care was provided for free by the Swedish government (i.e., taxpayers). Note that the same economic principles and incentives apply to any service that the government decides to take over and provide for free. The same principles will apply to Obamacare, with some slight variations.
First it was understood in Sweden that free healthcare was only for the poor. It would not affect those who were happy with their existing provider. But when government suddenly offers a free alternative, many will leave their private practitioner in favor of the free goods. The public system will have to be expanded, while the private doctors will lose patients. The private doctors are then forced to either take employment within the public system or leave the profession. The result is one single public healthcare monolith. Can one find economies of scale within its operations, as professor Frank claims? Maybe. But if they exist, they will be dwarfed by the costs and inefficiencies of the bureaucracy that inevitably grows to manage the system.
These results are clearly visible in Sweden. There are very few private practices left. Of the few that are left, most are part of the national insurance system. A huge bureaucracy has been erected to take on all the necessary central planning of public and pseudo-private healthcare.
When Swedes go to the polls every four years, they vote on three levels of government: national, landsting, and kommun. A landsting is a regional mid-level type of government and there are 20 of them. The landstings are almost entirely devoted to managing public healthcare. They are always short on funding and regularly make losses.
It was recently revealed in one of the major newspapers that doctors were told to prioritize patients based on their value as future taxpayers. Old people naturally have a low future-taxpayer-value, so they naturally became low priority in the machine and less likely to receive proper treatment. In a private healthcare system you can make your own priorities, you can for example sell your house and spend the proceeds on becoming well. In a socialized system somebody else sets the priorities.
As we know, every planner-induced action gives rise to five equal, opposite, and unintended reactions, each of which will be met with yet more planner-induced actions. Eventually you end up with a broken system such as the Swedish one, where service is “free,” but not accessible.
For non-emergency cases in Sweden, you must go to the public “Healthcare Central.” This is always the starting point for anything from the common flu to brain tumors. You must go to your assigned Central, according to your healthcare district. Admission is by appointment only. Usually they have a 30-minute window every morning, when you call to claim one of the budgeted slots. Make sure to call early or they run out. Rarely will you get an appointment for the same day. You will be assigned a general practitioner, probably one you have never met before; likely one who does not speak fluent Swedish; and very likely one who hates his job. If you have a serious condition, you will be started on a path of referrals to experts. This process can take months. Contrary to what professor Frank believes this is not a “feature” of the system, to ensure maximum capacity-utilization. This is an unavoidable characteristic of central planning, analogous to Soviet bread lines, which nobody refers to as a “feature.”
This healthcare “bread line” is where people die. It happens regularly that by the time a patient gets to see an expert, his condition has progressed beyond remedy. It also happens frequently that referrals get lost. Bureaucracies create listless employees, who don’t care, who refuse to go the extra mile, and who are never responsible for failures.
If you have an emergency you will go to the emergency room at one of the huge Soviet-size hospitals. Professor Frank praises these monstrous facilities for providing “economies of scale.” Stockholm had two huge hospitals. In 2004 they were merged into one by a big-name consulting firm. Of course the “merger” was a failure, so for many years there have been discussions about splitting them up again.
The emergency room is a different experience altogether. Unless you are suffocating or are hemorrhaging profusely, you should expect to wait 5-7 hours to see a doctor. You can only hope for this “high” level of service if you arrive on a workday and during office hours. After hours, or on weekends, it is worse. Doctors are mostly busy filling out forms for the central health care authorities, scribbling codes in little boxes to report services rendered, instead of seeing patients. There have been cases reported where patients have seen a doctor immediately, but such cases are rare.
It is important to plan any major health problems you intend to have outside of June, July, and August, because during the summer months, hospitals are virtually shut down for vacation.
Due to a lack of profit motive, free services not only become bad but also very expensive. One of the major banks (Swedbank) recently came out with a report stating that the average earner pays about 70 percent tax of his income to the government, including the invisible big chunk withheld from his paycheck. Because free systems become more expensive with time and it is impossible to compensate by constantly raising taxes, every year more conditions are classified as non-life-threatening, and are therefore no longer covered.
In the final stage of a central planning failure, the planners simply give up. They want to wash their hands of the whole thing, and decide to “privatize” the services. In practice, this means that they unload hospitals at fire sale prices to well-connected “entrepreneurs.” The planners turn themselves into overseers and guarantors of quality. This creates a highly protected “market” wherein the “entrepreneurs” are only required to deliver government-quality services at prices determined by what it would cost government to do the same. Obviously this creates permanent margins so huge you could drive an ambulance through them, and there is no competition to stop it.
The market for private healthcare in Sweden is small. Few people can afford it since they already pay 70 percent tax for all of their “free” stuff. The politicians have private health care, though, naturally paid for by taxpayers. Apparently they are such special people that the healthcare systems they have designed for others are not good enough for them.
When I moved to the U.S., our family health insurance took three months to kick in. One of my family members broke a leg in this period. We found a “five-minute clinic” half an hour away, had the leg X-rayed, straightened and casted, with no waiting time — all for $200 cash. That kind of service is non-existent in Sweden. It is an example of how a market, not yet totally destroyed by the state, can create affordable and high quality services.
The reason American insurance-based healthcare is so expensive is that it is heavily regulated and legally connected to the equally-regulated insurance industry. Both are well protected from competition by regulation. Obamacare will make them even more expensive, bureaucratic, and inaccessible. The way to fix U.S. healthcare is by excising the central planners and regulators from it, not by implanting droves more of them.
I have seen (and lived in) the future of American health care, and it does not work.
Democrats threaten to end filibusters in US Senate: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, frustrated by a dysfunctional and unpopular Congress that has been unable to perform basic tasks such as agreeing on a federal budget, may soon seek an unprecedented rules change in the Senate. The Nevada Democrat's aim would be to strip Republicans of their ability to stop President Barack Obama's judicial and executive branch nominees with procedural roadblocks known as filibusters, which also have been used to halt much of the president's legislative agenda. Republicans charge that such a move would effectively turn the 100-member Senate into the House of Representatives, where the rules already allow the chamber's majority to virtually ignore the minority." [Where's the Gang of 14?]
IMF reduces global growth outlook as US expansion weakens: "World economic growth will struggle to accelerate this year as a U.S. expansion weakens, China’s economy levels off and Europe’s recession deepens, the International Monetary Fund said. Global growth will be 3.1 percent this year, unchanged from the 2012 rate, and less than the 3.3 percent forecast in April, the Washington-based fund said today, trimming its prediction for this year a fifth consecutive time."
PA: ACLU challenges homosexual marriage ban: "The American Civil Liberties Union said it filed the first known legal challenge Tuesday seeking to overturn a state law effectively banning same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, the only northeastern state that doesn't allow it or civil unions. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Harrisburg, also will ask a federal judge to prevent state officials from stopping gay couples from getting married."
What do we have to celebrate?: "Last Thursday, we all celebrated Independence Day because in America we are and will always be free, right? Yet when one looks at the laws and policies in place now, it almost appears that only unadulterated freedom we possess is the freedom to keep the government safe from the will of the people. This freedom means we have the right to not have any form of privacy, the right to be conscripted into perpetual war, the right to be told what we can and cannot buy, sell, and consume, and the right to be told where, when, and for how long we can exercise our right to petition for a redress of grievances, among many more new-found 'rights.' Control is the name of this 'freedom' that the government has graciously bestowed upon us and we all celebrate it every year."
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Posted by JR at 12:36 AM