October 03, 2015

A Thought on the Ninth Amendment

The Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Source: The Bill of Rights as Ratified, "Resources" at The Patriot Post.


"United States v. Carolene Products Co. was almost as far-reaching in its expansion of federal power as Helvering. It had three effects, overlapping but distinct. First, it effectively did what the Ninth Amendment had been intended to prevent -- it limited the rights of the American people to those that were explicitly named in the text of the Constitution and its amendments. Second, it effectively wiped out protections of economic rights. Third, it gave the Court latitude to decide which rights were fundamental and which were not -- and thereby cut the legs from under the Court's protection even of rights that are not spelled out in the Constitution." (italics in the original)

~ Charles Murray

Source: page 21, "By the People: Rebuilding Librerty Without Permission," by Charles Murray, available at Barnes and Noble. To see book's cover, see previous Growls.

October 02, 2015

A Thought on Politicians, Bureaucrats and the Rich

"The power which a multiple millionaire, who may be my neighbour(sic) and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest functionaire(sic) possesses who wields the coercive power of the state, and on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am to be allowed to live or to work."

~ Friedrich von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

Source: page ix, "By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission,: Charles Murray, available at Barnes and Noble.

October 01, 2015

Electronic Health Records a $30 Billion Boondoggle?

At the CNS News website today, Barbara Hollingsworth references a new GAO report and writes, "The federal government’s six-year-old, $30 billion Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs – which were designed to cut medical costs by allowing doctors and hospitals serving Medicare and Medicaid recipients to share test results and clinical data – are having the opposite effect."

Hollingsworth continued her reporting:

"Representatives from 10 of 18 non-federal, non-profit participating organizations interviewed by GAO between April and September said that program requirements “divert resources and attention from other efforts to enable interoperability.”

"As a result, the costs of trying to combine incompatible patient records is forcing medical costs up instead of down.

“Sixteen of the 18 initiatives are working to address the challenge of the reported high costs associated with interoperability,” GAO reported.

The EHR incentive program was funded under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act as part of the 2009 stimulus legislation.

"But Stage 2 of the program is so complex that only about 11 percent of the 491,000 eligible physicians and 42 percent of the nearly 4,500 eligible hospitals have been able to comply with it, according to Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), one of five Senate committee chairman who requested the GAO study.

"Representatives from five of the groups interviewed “suggested pausing or stopping the programs” altogether because differing technical standards and variations in state privacy rules are making the goal of interoperability difficult to reach, the GAO reported."

She concluded by noting the views of two critics, saying:

"But critics point out that achieving EHR interoperability poses a threat to patient privacy.

“Given the absence of patient consent requirement for data sharing, the lack of interoperability is all that protects Americans from a nationally imposed breach of their medical privacy,” said Twila Brase, president of the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom.

“If a personal, computerized medical record is considered so essential, why not simply scan anything pertinent onto a thumb drive for the patient, so he alone has control of it and can decide who will have access?” asked Lawrence Pivnik, MD JD, a contributing fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA)."

The U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO report (No. GAO-15-816, September 2015) is entitled, "Nonfederal Efforts to Help Achieve Health Information Interoperability." A one-page summary is here.

GAO identified their reasoning for performing the audit this way:

"EHR interoperability is viewed by many health care stakeholders as a necessary step toward improving health care. However, interoperability has remained limited. Although the federal government plays a key role in guiding movement toward interoperability, many of the actions are to be completed by nonfederal stakeholders.

"GAO was asked to review the status of efforts by entities other than the federal government to develop infrastructure that could lead to nationwide interoperability of health information. This report describes the (1) characteristics of selected nonfederal initiatives intended to facilitate EHR interoperability, and (2) key challenges related to EHR interoperability and the extent to which selected nonfederal initiatives are addressing these challenges. GAO interviewed representatives from 18 selected nonfederal initiatives that were frequently mentioned by stakeholders GAO interviewed, and reflected a range of approaches. GAO reviewed documents from these initiatives as well as other published research."

John R. Graham, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) and a financial, economic, and policy analyst in the health sector for Forbes magazine posted a health alert yesterday urging the cancellation of any meaning use of Stage 3 electronic health records at NCPA's Health Policy Blog, saying in part:

"Over one quarter of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives – 116 of them – just signed a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services urging delay of the next step in the federal government’s struggling effort to impose uniform federal requirements for health information technology.

"The rule in question is Meaningful Use Stage 3 (MU3), imposed by the federal government via the HITECH Act of 2009. The so-called “stimulus” act committed almost $30 billion to induce physicians and health facilities to install Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and move patient records beyond clipboards and manila file folders. These are worthy goals. Unfortunately, the $30 billion has pretty much all been spent, and there is precious little to show for it."

There are several related posts available there, too.

Have a few minutes to write your Congress Critter? Tell them you're tired of the continued waste, fraud and abuse in federal government programs. They need to hear you growl, in addition to knowing your positions on federal government spending. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County, can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you. And kudos to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) for continuing to publish meaningful and understandable analyses of public policy.


September 30, 2015

CAGW announces their September Porker of the Month

Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has announced their latest Porker of the Month, and their selection is Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland). She was selected "for her leading role in the effort to bust the very spending caps she voted for and President Obama agreed to in 2011." (emphasis in the original)

CAGW justified their selection of Sen. Mikulski this way:

"The Budget Control Act (BCA) became law on August 2, 2011 and required that spending be reduced over the following decade by a greater amount than the increase in the federal debt limit.  If Congress failed to agree to sufficient cuts to meet the spending caps, automatic cuts would occur through sequestration.  Since 2011, the BCA has significantly reduced the growth of annual deficits, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s updated 2015 budget projections.

"Despite having been one of 74 senators who voted in favor of the BCA in 2011, Senator Mikulski has pushed for lifting the caps and vast increases in spending.  On February 5, 2015, she introduced a bill to lift caps on research grants at the National Institutes of Health.  On September 15, Sen. Mikulski laid out her preferred timeline for funding the government:  “I’d like to get everything done by Thanksgiving, but that would mean a CR where we lift the caps in October and then appropriations doing work in November.”  She repeated her willingness to bust the caps on September 18, stating, “I like November, so that we could lift the caps and so on.”

"While Senator Mikulski is not the only Democrat in favor of busting the caps, she is her party’s most senior member on the Senate Appropriations Committee.  That position comes with a prodigious responsibility to advocate for fiscal discipline.  However, she has repeatedly failed to exercise her influence in a constructive manner.

"CAGW President Tom Schatz said, “Busting the caps is unacceptable.  The fact that so many in Congress are contemplating ending them is an ominous sign for anyone who favors fiscal restraint and commonsense spending policies.  Following her flip-flop on the BCA, Senator Mikulski has played a leading role in her party’s quest to wipe out the caps.  Her actions have been a disservice to the principles of fiscal responsibility.”

CAGW's justification is fully documented with links provided in CAGW's announcement.

If you have a few minutes, use  one or all of the following links to communicate  with your Congress Critter(s). They may not listen to your point of view, but they do track incoming communications. They need to hear you growl, in addition to knowing your positions on federal government spending. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County, can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you. And kudos to Citizens Against Government Waaste (CAGW) for their continued efforts to fight government waste.

September 29, 2015

A Thought on National Security

“As the nation has learned time and again, it is American military preparedness and superiority, in combination with a proactive and prudent foreign policy, that  are likely to serve as a deterrent to military conflict and prevent large-scale, long lasting wars. Should war occur —- and at times war is unavoidable — the United States must ensure that its young service personnel are the best trained and equipped on the face of the earth. Yet at precisely the time in American history when younger people need to be most vigilant and vocal, given the multiple and rising dangers facing the nation and, sadly, the failure of public officials to adequately prepare for these threats, Pew (Research Center) reports that more than 65 percent of younger people born between 1981 and 2005 support reducing military spending in order to preserve spending on social programs.”

~ Mark Levin

Source: pages 156-157 of Mark R. Levin's “Plunder and Deceit: Big Government’s Exploitation of Young People and the Future.," available at Barnes & Noble. Also available at Amazon.

September 28, 2015

A Thought on Prosperity vs. Income Inequality

"So when all is said and done, the inequality warriors want the government to confiscate wealth and control incomes so that wealthy individuals cannot influence politics in directions they don’t like. Koch brothers, no. Public-employee unions, yes. This goal, at least, makes perfect logical sense. And it is truly scary.

"Prosperity should be our goal. And the secrets of prosperity are simple and old-fashioned: property rights, rule of law, economic and political freedom. A limited government providing competent institutions. Confiscatory taxation and extensive government control of incomes are not on the list."

~ John H. Cochrane, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution and Professor of Finance, University of Chicago

Source: "Dishonest Demands," Spring 2015 (2015, No. 2), which originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

September 27, 2015

Your Tax Dollars Paying for "Dozens of Federal Subsidies"

As the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture "Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more federal subsidies for the industry," Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) "released a report detailing the variety of federal subsidies for biofuels like corn ethanol, the same day," according to this September 10, 2015 TCS press release.

The press release continued:

"In May, the USDA announced it was creating a $100 million grants program to subsidize ethanol blender pumps. Today’s announcement is the next step in that program. TCS awarded Sec. Vilsack the Golden Fleece award in July for providing this $100 million in taxpayer subsidies to pay for new gas station pumps that can dispense high-blend ethanol fuels. After an earlier attempt to fund blender pumps through another program, Congress explicitly forbid USDA from spending tax dollars from the program on blender pumps when it passed the 2014 Farm Bill.

“After more than 30 years of federal backing for certain biofuels such as corn ethanol, the federal government should be scaling back – not expanding – its role in subsidizing the long supply chain of biofuels production,” said TCS President Ryan Alexander.

"Today’s report from TCS, titled “Understanding Federal Subsidies for the Biofuel and Biomass Industries,” includes an overview of Federal Biofuels and Biomass Subsidies administered by various federal agencies, including the USDA, Department of Energy, Treasury Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The report catalogues dozens of programs and subsidies, including descriptions and dollars spent. Copies of the report can be found at taxpayer.net/biofuels.

“Biofuels have been sold as a tonic to achieve U.S. energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and spur rural economic development,” continued Alexander. “They have not delivered on these promises, and more government subsidies is not the answer.”

TCS introduced the 21-page report this way:

"Since its creation of the domestic market for corn ethanol after the energy crisis of the 1970s, the federal government has nurtured and maintained the ethanol industry with a steady stream of subsidies. Biofuels and biomass sources were originally sold as a way to help achieve U.S. energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and spur rural economic development. The federal government has propped up the biofuels and biomass industries – primarily the mature corn ethanol industry – through billions in subsidies, special interest tax breaks, taxpayer-backed loan guarantees, and a variety of other supports for blender pumps and other infrastructure. Biofuels enjoy a guaranteed market as their production is mandated by the federal government through the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

"However, the next generation of biofuels and bioenergy has failed to meet its lofty expectations. Unintended consequences of increased corn demand have included higher food and feed costs, greater greenhouse gas emissions, and the conversion of millions of acres of native grasslands, wetlands, and other sensitive land to corn and other commodity crop acres. Biofuel and biomass subsidies have allowed the federal government to pick winners and losers, distorted energy and agriculture markets, and contributed to expansion and overproduction of certain types of bioenergy.

"After more than 30 years of federal backing for certain biofuels such as corn ethanol, the federal government should be scaling back – not expanding – its role in subsidizing the long supply chain of biofuels production. It’s time the biomass and biofuels industries survived without taxpayer support."

The report includes several helpful tables. For example, one table lists, by the program/fund name and corn-based biofuel project, the projects that are funded. Another table identifies the amounts of "woody biomass subsidies" for the years 2009-2013.

The report's introduction is here. TCS's biofuels resource page is here.

More importantly, use the following links to communicate with your members of Congress. They need to hear you growl, and you should know what their positions are on biofuels. And be sure to ask them what oversight they have personally been involved in that ensures biofuels are being used efficiently, economically, and effectively. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County, can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you. And kudos to Taxpayers for Common Sense for their continued efforts to ensure "budgets make sense."

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Items in Growls are written by individual ACTA members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, Inc. Please send comments about Growls to The Growl Meister