Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cars, the U.N., Sri Lanka, Government Waste and Tax Cheats

Some short takes on the WSJ opinion pages today.

Editorial number one. President Obama is forcing bankrupt auto companies to produce 39 mpg cars. The WSJ asks if we are nuts. Answer. We elected Obama.
Editorial number two. The U.S. is now a member of the U.N.'s "Human Rights" Council whose members include Cuba, China, Cameroon, Russia and Saudi Arabia (thus reversing President Bush's boycott). Our ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice while noting that the Council's human rights records are sub-par said, "we have not been perfect ourselves". Can you hear someone, somewhere shouting "God Damn America!"?
Editorial number three. Sri Lanka's military has effectively destroyed the Tamil Tigers' terrorist insurgency in its country. After more than two decades of pursuing a "peace process" and allowing roughly 70,000 deaths, the government decided to give war a chance. Now there's a chance for real peace.

A very good op-ed by John Steele Gordon explains why the free market does a much better job than the government in running businesses.

On Medicare he writes :

Last year the Government Accountability Office estimated that no less than one-third of all Medicare disbursements for durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and hospital beds, were improper or fraudulent. Medicare was so lax in its oversight that it was approving orthopedic shoes for amputees.

My own Medicare anecdote.
I know of a Medicare patient, who because of a broken hip needed a special mattress. Medicare was billed $1000 per month by her nursing home for its use. One day, this woman, who had some mental health issues, took a knife to the mattress and destroyed it. The cost to Medicare? $100.

Holman Jenkins on the CAFE standards Obama is forcing on the car industry.

Mr. Obama was supposed to be smart. His administration was supposed to be a smart administration. But the policy coming out has not been smart. It has been a brute shifting of power to the president's political allies, justified by the shibboleths of copybook liberalism (though Mr. Obama is clever enough to know that nothing he's done will have a meaningful effect on atmospheric carbon or climate change or the country's need for oil imports).

Consider this scenario. The car companies are on the cusp of developing technology that could significantly improve auto safety and reduce our annual 40,000+ traffic deaths by half. They can direct research money toward achieving this or,
They can invest their limited resources in trying to reach an almost impossible goal of more than 50% higher fuel efficiency in seven years. Even if such a goal is attained, it will have a negligible effect in reducing global carbon emissions, have no effect on "climate change", and will certainly lead to a higher traffic fatality rate.
Which path does the federal government mandate the companies follow?

This L.A. Times report appeared on tax day this year.

The Treasury secretary, who oversees the Internal Revenue Service, didn’t pay all his taxes. Neither did a few other top nominees for President Barack Obama’s administration. Now, as tonight’s tax deadline looms, some Americans are rhetorically asking: What would happen to me if I did the same thing?
The resentful reaction to such disclosures resonates not just among the anti-tax people organizing protests around the United States on Thursday but in low- and high-income neighborhoods — and is even discussed in the hallways of the IRS…
“Our members are upset and angry,” said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, referring to concern bubbling up inside the IRS over strict rules that can cost IRS agents their jobs if they make a mistake, while Geithner and others are treated with relative leniency. In addition, the Geithner case is making the work of IRS compliance agents a bit harder, she said.

Low level employees of the IRS can lose their jobs by underreporting income by as little as $500. Tim Geithner fails to report tens of thousands in income and becomes their boss.

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