Saturday, August 22, 2009

Almighty Obama, May I Live?

My grandma had a stroke the summer of 2006. The only thing that could save her was brain surgery, but she had no money, and her health care plan was Medicaid. The government did everything in their power to convince my dad to just let her die since the cost of the brain surgery would be high. My dad kept deferring to my grandma's living will which said my grandma wanted to be kept alive at all costs and no matter what quality of life any medical intervention would lead to. They did the brain surgery. If there had been any wiggle room in my grandma's will such as not wanting to live as a vegetable, the surgery would not have been done. It almost wasn't done as it was. The surgery saved my grandma and restored her to her previous health and brain function. She went on to live for 2.5 more years before she passed away. Was this expensive brain surgery worth the extra 2.5 years of life for my grandma? It certainly was for her and for her loved ones. But it wasn't worth it for Medicaid.

An expansion of Medicare and Medicaid into universal health care coverage promises to lead to these end of life decisions for everyone. The "death panels" you have heard about are simply what happened to my grandma being promised on everyone. If you are old and have severe medical problems, you would have to meet with government bureaucracy to discuss whether or not the price is worth the extra year or two of life the medical intervention will buy you. And the deeper our nation gets into debt, the more likely the answer will be that the medical intervention is not worth the cost to the government. And then this determination that your life is not worth the cost may begin to extend to the disabled, the chronically ill, and who knows who is next?

Obama has said that he is "God's partner(s) in matters of life and death". Do we really wish this of our government? Do we want to pay as a nation for abortion? To promote euthanasia and to pay for it? Do we want the government to tell us that they will not pay for another pregnancy and child because we have had enough? The real solution lies in my earlier post entitled "4 Health Care Solutions". Less government regulation of the current health insurance system would lead to more flexible and inexpensive health insurance options for all. For me, I would like to leave these matters up to God and the individual and keep the government out of it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Liberal Compassion Rains Down on College Students - Watch For Flooding

Trina Thompson is suing Monroe College for the $70,000 she paid in tuition. She is suing the college because once she graduated, she was not able to find employment. Trina felt the college did not do enough to help her attain employment upon graduation. This lawsuit brings up so many problems inherent in the current higher education system.

Obama has a new goal that "By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” His plan is to get us there through even more government funding of higher education including making it easier for people to qualify for Pell grants. The problem with Obama's desire to increase government paid tuition is that increasing government payments of tuition simply increases tuition in general. What happens is that every time the government offers more money in Pell grants or makes it easier to get student loans, colleges increase their tuition to help them capture more of the increased federal aid. Colleges are able to do this because any time people are allowed to do something for free, they do not compare costs. So now you have students who do not price comparison shop their education because the government is paying for it anyway. And now tuition goes up for every student.

Make no mistake, this increased availability of federal funding will increase the number of students in the doors of each college institution, but these students will not necessarily graduate. As it is, most institutions have less than a 60% graduation rate for their students. If you increase the number of students in attendance by adding students that would not have attended college without government interference, in general, you just mostly increase the number of students that enroll in and begin to attend college only to later drop out, having spent mostly other people's money. Each time government aid increases, the pocketbooks of universities and professors increase at the expense of the taxpayer and others who would like to attend college on their own dime. The beneficiaries end up being these college institutions that are mostly liberal, and thus, friends of Obama.

Even as Obama is touting the necessity of a college education, I am intrigued by Trina Thompson's lawsuit for helping to point out that actually attaining a college degree does not necessarily facilitate good employment. And that colleges are in business for the money and not so much to meaningfully educate and help students achieve the employment these students are interested in. Colleges have done a good job of creating enormous expectations without trying very hard to help students achieve these expected results for the less than 40% of them that eventually graduate.

John Stossel even goes so far as to call college a scam and spoke with Dr. Marty Nemko for his 20/20 special about it. "If you're in the bottom 40 percent of your high school class," Nemko says, "you have a very small chance of graduating, even if you are given eight and a half years." Stossel continues, "colleges still actively recruit those kids, and eight years later, many of those students find themselves with no degree and lots of debt. They think of themselves as failures."

Now I do have a bachelor's degree, and I do believe that higher education is very beneficial for many. There is also a difference between an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree, and the quality of the resulting employment from a college education will vary greatly depending on which major is chosen. Great thought should be put into attending college, and it should not be the immediate next step from high school for everybody. Most of all I believe that the government should stay out of it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Medicare: You Can Thank Ponzi

A Ponzi scheme (similar to a pyramid scheme) is a scheme in which new investors are used to pay back previous investors. There is no actual investment. This was named after Charles Ponzi, the first person to orchestrate such a scheme back in 1919. Many people can make lots of money in these undertakings; but, in the end, they always unravel. They are unsustainable. And so it is with Medicare. Many of the elderly today paid into Medicare for decades. And now they benefit greatly from free health care. Many elderly feel entitled to their free health care, and as much of it as they can get. They did pay for it after all, right? But the fact is that the average Medicare recipient uses 2 to 3 times more money in health care than they ever paid into the system.

When Medicare began in 1965, six workers were paying into the system for every Medicare recipient. This number is now down to four and is decreasing. This is why the system is unsustainable. The money paid into Medicare was never put into a trust fund; it was immediately spent. This is why there is currently a $34-trillion unfunded liability in Medicare. Ponzi schemes rely on an ever increasing supply of investors. With Medicare, the investors are continually decreasing. This is why today's younger workers will never see Medicare benefits. The system will collapse as do all Ponzi schemes. This deficit can be covered with increased taxes on workers and reduced benefits on recipients - but only temporarily and with an unfairness to all involved.

Ponzi schemes always ultimately end up taking money from some investors that can never be paid back. This is why they are illegal. This is why Bernie Madoff is in trouble. Only in government will you find a bigger Ponzi scheme than the one Madoff ran that is legal. You find this in Medicare. (I haven't even mentioned social security yet!) The last thing we need is our Medicare Ponzi scheme extended into universal health care coverage under Obama's plan. (John Stossel)

As a side note about Medicare that most likely applies to all government entitlement programs, Medicare spending on fraudulent claims is estimated to be anywhere from 3% to 10% of Medicare spending. This amounts to $60 to $72 billion on the low estimate. It has become a big target for organized crime. To compare this to the private sector, credit card companies (not controlled by the government) see 0.03% of their spending in fraud. (Dennis Jay)