France

In Tuesday’s Washington Post, Glenn Kessler looked at Republican claims about Obamacare, such as the claim that it “is a ‘government takeover’ of the health care system.” He said that claim was “not true,” and approvingly cited PolitiFact’s controversial claim that this was the ‘2010 lie of the year.’” (He didn’t mention that PolitiFact’s claim was rebutted by newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, or the president’s own prediction that his health care plan would eventually lead to a government-run “single-payer” health care system.)

PolitiFact based its claim that Obamacare will not lead to a government takeover of health care on the false contention that Obamacare is not like European socialized medicine because the “European approach” is “where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees.” But that was a straw man argument, since the government does not own all the hospitals or employ most of the doctors even in many European nations long run by socialist parties.

France’s universal health care system is a classic example of the “European approach.” But even there, “doctors and other health care professionals are mostly self-employed,” especially general practitioners,” including all the physicians who have ever treated my daughter, a French citizen. Nor does the government own all the hospitals. For example, the private sector there has “half of all surgical beds.” Moreover, 92.2 percent of all French people purchase additional private insurance. When my father-in-law, a socialist trade unionist, recuperated from his quadruple bypass, he did so at a private convalescent home, using his supplemental private health insurance policy. Nonetheless, given its government’s dominant role in funding and supervising the health care system, France is commonly described as having socialized medicine.Moreover, the government’s share of healthcare spending is already higher in America than in various foreign countries. As a health care economist noted a few years ago, “the Swiss government only pays for 24.9% of health care costs (compared with 44.7% in the U.S.).” (PolitiFact itself had admitted that the government’s share of health care spending was already at 46 percent, and other estimates range up to 55 percent, if you add together state and federal spending.) Switzerland, not the United States, is the “country with highest annual out-of-pocket household spending on health.”

Obamacare will greatly increase the government’s share of health care spending by radically expanding state Medicaid programs to cover 16 million more people, resulting in the government paying for the lion’s share of health care spending in America. That is plausibly viewed as a government takeover.

Moreover, our health care system will become “government-run” under Obamacare in important ways. Obamacare imposes onerous government rules on our health care system, creating much more red tape than exists in many European countries, and turning health insurers into tightly-controlled public utilities. It will also spawn a potentially vast wave of lawsuits against state governments and private employee-benefit plans.

As a Wall Street Journal reader argued in criticizing PolitiFact, under Obamacare, government control is pervasive: “Government defines what health insurance is. Government defines what ‘minimum essential coverage’ is. Government forces everyone to buy one of four varieties of overpriced, low-value health insurance. . . .Congress establishes 159 government agencies to run the new health-care system. The government grants new powers to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who will ‘deem,’ ‘create,’ ‘define,’ ‘determine,’ ‘approve,’ ‘disapprove’ and otherwise dictate everything about health care in America. The government takes away the power of individuals to appeal bad decisions by the secretary to the courts. The government penalizes doctors who don’t . . . follow cookbook medicine guidelines while expanding rationing powers of government and the insurance companies that it now effectively controls.”

As another Wall Street Journal reader noted, the fact that Obamacare “requires 15,000 to 18,000 additional IRS agents for implementation” is another sign of expanding government control. (An estimated 16,500 IRS agents will be required to implement the health care’s law requirements – the “biggest expansion of the IRS since World War II”).

The American people see Obamacare as a government takeover of health care, although not all view that as a bad thing. PolitiFact itself admits that “53 percent of respondents in a Bloomberg poll said they agreed that ‘the current proposal to overhaul health care amounts to a government takeover.’”

(While it dramatically increases regulation and red tape, the health care law has done little to control costs; health insurance premiums have risen substantially in many states as a result of its passage, such as a 47 percent increase for some policyholders in Connecticut.)

At best, PolitiFact’s claim that the government takeover of health care is a “lie” is as silly as saying it’s a lie to call a glass that’s half-empty “half-full.”

Recently, I wrote about french protesters shutting down France and destroying Paris. This is all due to the fact that Sarkozy is asking citizens to work two more years to receive their pensions. Apparently, someone needed to be an adult and explain that it is impossible to sustain a system where people receive five weeks vacation, produce very little and earn a pension at age 60. The math just doesn’t work.

Well, I was surprised to see Ana Kasparian of “The Young Turks” enthusiastic about the French protest. In the video below, you’ll notice that she says nothing about the sustainability of the system. Instead, she seems to be thrilled that these people are “fighting for their rights.” Does she ever consider that the money has to come from somewhere, which results in it just being other people’s money?

As with most Leftist ideas, there is no consideration whatsoever about whether the policy works. To Ana, she certainly feels good about it, and with the Left that is all that matters.

Nice article in the Wall Street Journal today by Anne Jolis on a trademark brouhaha between France and Australia that highlights some of the absurdities of the French (and other countries’) protection of geographic designations. Usually France is the country protecting its local food, wine and even chickens by ensuring that other countries’ imports can’t use a French geographical or place name description, such as Roquefort cheese or Champagne.

But this time the Australians and New Zealanders have decided that turnabout is fair play.  Acting on a New Zealand complaint, Australia’s trademark office has refused to okay the import of a French wine called “Kiwi Cuvee 2007 Sauvignon Blanc” because using the name could deceive or confuse consumers into thinking it was produced in Kiwi Country, i.e., New Zealand.

France is not alone in its protection of its local and regional products; the UK, Germany, Italy, Poland, and many other countries have their own registries.  The European Union also has its own system of registration and protection of geographic specialties, such as for the Polish Truskawka kaszubska lub Kaszëbskô malëna. Even the World Trade Organization has limited protection for certain geographic designations under the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. The U.S. has a few such geographic protections in place, for instance, for Vidalia onions, Florida orange juice, and Idaho potatoes.

Jolis provides some of the arguments proponents use to defend the practice but also suggests a private standards-setting alternative to bureaucratic procedures and protectionism:

So the justification for what is effectively a trademark is that a product’s origin partly defines the product itself.

Perhaps there is truth to that. But then, nothing stops producers from these prized regions from simply applying for and defending regular trademarks. This would eliminate the temptation for every local producer in the world to seek privileged status for otherwise ordinary place-names. Producers of Parma ham or feta cheese could very easily certify their products as meeting privately developed standards of quality and brand them accordingly, without the global bureaucracy that has grown up around “geographical indications.”

Unemployment is now higher in the U.S. than in Europe,  reports the Washington Post.  “The official U.S. unemployment rate, reported last Friday, now stands at 10.2 percent,” compared to “9.7 percent” in Europe.   This is the highest rate in more than 26 years, and marks a huge change from the recent past, in which unemployment was double the American rate in much of Europe, such as in France.

Unemployment is at 10 percent in France, which refused to adopt a U.S.-style stimulus package, and only 7.6 percent in Germany, which adopted a stimulus package that was smaller relative to its economy than ours was.  (Countries that refused to adopt big stimulus packages have fared better than those that imitated President Obama. And the biggest-spending countries have suffered worst in the recession.)

A “broader measure of U.S. unemployment,” including discouraged workers, puts U.S. unemployment at 17.5 percent, reports the New York Times.

As the Post notes, “For many on the left, the lament for years has been: Why can’t America be more like Europe? Why can’t rustic Americans be more like sophisticated Europeans? The sentiment has resurfaced in recent months as the health-care debate has raged on — why can’t the American health-care system be more like Europe’s?”

Well, America is now more like Europe when it comes to unemployment.  But not when it comes to social benefits and protections.  The American Left knows how to import Europe’s failures, but not its successes.

The massive health-care bill passed by the House on Saturday is a classic example.  It would expand health care coverage somewhat, but not to European levels, and it would vastly increase the costs of our health care system, rather than reducing it to European levels.   It would also increase taxes to “European levels of taxation.”  The health care bill contains politically-correct provisions that Europeans would never put up with, like pork for trial lawyers and racial preferences.  And restrictions on national competition in health insurance, which do not exist in Europe.

In France, doctors don’t need to be paid as much, because competing professions, like lawyers, are paid less.  French law is much more conservative than American law when it comes to lawsuits, including lawsuits against doctors.  There are NO punitive damages, and France discourages lawsuits by making unsuccessful plaintiffs pay the other side’s legal bills.  (Other European countries have specialized health courts, rather than American-style jury trials, to cut lawyers’ bills, speedily compensate the injured, and prevent American-style baseless lawsuits against doctors.)  There are no racial preferences — even my Marxist father-in-law, a French trade unionist who likes Michael Moore’s book Stupid White Men, thinks that racial preferences are evil.  French people do not let political correctness shackle their minds the way American leftists do.

Europe is not as far to the left of America as people think, and America’s business climate is already not much more favorable than Europe’s.  For every three ways in which Europe is more socialistic than America, there are two ways in which it is less socialistic than America.  The Obama administration is getting rid of our advantages, but not our disadvantages.

American tort law and family law are much more burdensome, anti-business, and bent on redistribution of wealth, than Europe’s.

Confronted with the specter of new burdens under the health-care bills and global-warming bills backed by the Obama administration, many businesses with the money to do so are afraid to hire people and create jobs lest they be stuck with a large tab for things like health care benefits for newly-hired, less-skilled employees.

The Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly admitted that Obama’s stimulus package will shrink the economy “in the long run.”  It contained welfare and repealed welfare reform.  Unemployment is higher now than if Congress had voted it down.

Germany is a lot smaller than the U.S., but it has a lot more health insurers to choose from, and cheaper health-care costs. One reason might be more competition: in the U.S., you can’t buy individual health insurance from an out-of-state insurer, since an obsolete federal law lets states block purchases across state lines, taking away interstate-shopping rights that citizens would otherwise enjoy under the the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause. That leaves patients with fewer choices, higher prices, and less competition among insurers, who may control as much as 80 percent of the market in a particular state. In Germany and France, by contrast, you can buy from an insurer anywhere in the country.

The so-called health-care “reform” bills backed by Obama actually worsen this situation, by extending the reach of this anti-consumer restriction on competition beyond individual health-insurance policies to many employer-based health-insurance policies. They do this by gutting the preemption provisions of a federal law known as ERISA.

When John McCain proposed cutting the cost of health insurance by letting Americans shop for cheaper insurance across state lines — the way they can buy almost any other product across state lines — he was bashed by the Obama campaign and Joe Biden.

Washington Post columnists explain how ObamaCare would make the status quo even worse in many other ways as well, while exploding health-care costs. ObamaCare will cost far more than its predicted trillion-dollar price tag. Charles Krauthammer explains how the cost-savings Obama keeps talking about are mythical and non-existent.

Fact checkers say Obama is lying about health care.

One of Obama’s own advisers says the Obama Administration’s health-care plan will harm people with insurance while raising their taxes. Obamacare will take away 5 important freedoms, notes a CNN commentary. It will also destroy many affordable health-care plans while breaking Obama’s campaign promises.

ObamaCare also contains costly racial preferences and affirmative action, subsidies for left-wing community organizers, and preferences for illegal aliens, who are exempt from its taxes and penalties, but could access its benefits due to lack of meaningful eligibility verification safeguards.

Obama is also reenforcing the corrupt political status quo that helped trigger the financial crisis and mortgage meltdown. He wants to create a new bureaucracy to increase the pressure on banks to make risky, low-income loans.

The recession has ended in France, which avoided adopting a massive stimulus package like Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package.

France’s conservative President adopted a much smaller $31 billion stimulus package, which, unlike Obama’s, was focused on productive investment, not welfare or social services. $14.5 billion of France’s stimulus package was earmarked for injection “into private sector enterprises.” Billions more were for investments in infrastructure, construction projects, and railways.

In the U.S., Obama pushed through a much more costly, welfare-filled $800 billion stimulus package through fear-mongering. Obama claimed his stimulus package was needed to prevent “disaster” and “irreversible decline.”

But the Congressional Budget Office admitted that the stimulus package would shrink the economy “in the long run.” The stimulus package has since destroyed thousands of jobs in America’s export sector, and subsidized countless examples of government waste and corruption.

The Obama Administration purged the stimulus package of most of the investments in roads and bridges originally suggested by economists, and filled it instead with welfare and social spending, out of political correctness, after feminist leaders complained that building and repairing roads and bridges would put unemployed blue-collar men to work, rather than women.

As Christina Hoff Sommers points out, “Men are bearing the brunt of the current economic crisis because they predominate in manufacturing and construction, the hardest-hit sectors, which have lost more than 3 million jobs since December 2007. Women, by contrast, are a majority in recession-resistant fields such as education and health care, which gained 588,000 jobs during the same period.”

But when the Administration floated the concept of “an ambitious . . . stimulus program to modernize roads, bridges, schools, electrical grids, public transportation, and dams” as a way of “reinvigorating the hardest-hit sectors of the economy,” “Women’s groups were appalled,” asking “Where are the New Jobs for Women?” and denouncing what they called “The Macho Stimulus Plan.”

The Obama Administration quickly knuckled under to this pressure, replacing its recovery package with an $800 billion stimulus package that instead “skews job creation somewhat towards women” by spending money instead on social services like welfare that are administered mostly by female employees.

“A recent Associated Press story reports: ‘Stimulus Funds Go to Social Programs Over ‘Shovel-ready’ Projects.’ A team of six AP reporters who have been tracking the funds find that the $300 billion sent to the states is being used mainly for health care, education, unemployment benefits, food stamps, and other social services.” Or, as another AP report put it, “Stimulus Aid Favors Welfare, Not Work, Programs.” Less than 6 percent of it ended up going to transportation.

The stimulus package also repealed welfare reform, as Slate’s Mickey Kaus and the Heritage Foundation have noted. Obama ran campaign ads claiming to support welfare reform, even though he had actually fought against meaningful welfare reform as an Illinois legislator. The stimulus package largely repeals the welfare-reform law passed by Congress in 1996.

Recently, Obama fired an inspector general, Gerald Walpin, who uncovered millions of dollars of waste and fraud in the AmeriCorps program, including by a prominent Obama supporter, endangering the Obama supporter’s ability to administer federal stimulus spending in Sacramento.

The stimulus package also imposes on states racial set-aside requirements and prevailing-wage requirements, which increase the cost to taxpayers of government contracts. The prevailing-wage requirements will inflate the cost of state construction and transportation projects by at least $17 billion. Racial set-asides also are very costly to taxpayers.

Racial quotas, set-asides, and affirmative action are also mandated by Obama’s health-care plan, drawing criticism from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Earlier, the Civil Rights Commission criticized the Obama Administration for turning a blind eye to racist voter intimidation by black panthers, including an Obama poll watcher and Democratic official who used a nightstick and racial epithets to drive white voters away from a Philadelphia polling place.

Your hosts Richard Morrison and Cord Blomquist are joined by special guest co-host Jeremy Lott for a very swashbuckling Episode 38 of LibertyWeek. We start with the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates by the U.S. Navy and Special Forces, look into the murky finances of AIG CEO Edward Liddy in Scandal Watch, and figure out what ISPs are up to in Technology News. We also get an update on how West Virginia is about to become even more Wild and Wonderful, and finally we answer the call for wealthy, multilingual volunteers in Olympic News.

Not content with endangering the economy by pushing through $8 trillion in bailouts and welfare, Obama has now insulted the British, our only major ally in fighting the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.

Obama did this by dissing both the late Winston Churchill, who led Europe’s fight against the Nazis, and the current British Prime Minister. Staffers then compounded the offense by deriding Britain as being no more important than any of the world’s 190 other countries. (That’s right. The country that invented parliamentary democracy and whose troops fought and died with ours in Korea and other bloody wars against totalitarian regimes is deemed no more important than a tiny county like Nauru, which has only 14,000 people and survives through money laundering and selling passports to non-citizens).

The only European country that has really helped the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq is Britain. France, Germany, etc., have only sent token contingents to Afghanistan (for non-combat roles) and nothing to Iraq. The less Britain is willing to do for us in the future, the more of our own troops we will have to put into Afghanistan in the future.

By the way, Obama’s election won’t get us anything from the French. The French president effusively praised Obama before his election, but then refused to send any additional troops or personnel to help the U.S. in Afghanistan after the election.

I recently visited my French relatives, who live near Nice. All of them –- ranging from my wife’s avowedly Marxist father, who called me the night of Obama’s election at 2 a.m. in the morning to congratulate me, to her centrist, more distant relatives –- say that Obama’s election doesn’t entitle the U.S. to any additional help or cooperation, whether it’s ending bans on American products, or sending more French troops to Afghanistan.

My wife’s dad takes Obama’s election as America’s confession that we were wrong all these years – a racist, imperialistic, oppressive, hegemonic power that deserves no help.

My wife’s more distant relatives, many of whom like the U.S., nevertheless say that France should look after itself and its own industries, and let the U.S., which is wealthier and more powerful, take on the exclusive role of rooting out the Taliban. And they think now is not the time for France to end its trade restrictions on U.S. products, even those that the WTO has said are invalid, since France needs all the jobs it can get.

Obama campaigned on the theme that he would get our allies to help us more, by replacing George Bush, whom he claimed had singlehandedly antagonized the world. But Obama’s election is getting us nothing from our “allies,” and only serves to embolden hostile countries like Russia, which ridiculed the Obama Administration for a recent gaffe in which the State Department incompetently translated the Russian word “reset,” with embarrassing results.

Oh, Happy Day! And it certainly is for all those who value freedom, responsibility and the true free market in which individuals are free to profit from their risks on the condition that they don’t stick the rest of us with their losses.

It’s not hyperbole to say the Republican and Democratic backbenchers who defied both parties’ leadership to defeat this $700 billion package of Wall Street socialism literally saved America. Whatever their reasons, this defeat (or rather victory for freedom), means that America is much less likely to turn into France, Venezuela, or the old Soviet Union, as this bailout/nationalization package would have set us on the road to becoming.

Several great speeches on the Right and Left were given. Democrats Brad Sherman of California and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon gave powerful speeches against corporate giveaways. And conservative leaders of the Republican Study Committee — such as Jeb Hensarling, Jeff Flake, Mike Pence, and of course Ron Paul — spoke about how government intervention was largely the cause of this predicament, but the bailout would doom arguments for the free market form here on out. The idea of the government making this kind of outlay to high-flying risk takers just didn’t jibe with members, and certainly not with the American people.

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