Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Saving Her Energy

When Richard Nixon ran for President in 1968 after six years out of public life and living in California, a popular slogan described him as "The New Nixon: Tanned, Rested, and Ready."

State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) announced recently that she was running for Michigan attorney general. I can't comment on her tan or her readiness, but after eight years of doing nothing in the legislature, she should certainly be well-rested.

Using the state's legislature website, I searched records going back to 2001, Whitmer's first year in the House. I examined every bill for which she was the primary sponsor. In the House and Senate to date, Whitmer has sponsored 128 bills. Of these, a grand total of 3 made it to a vote, and 2 were passed. The third was defeated 81-22 in the House. She has not had a single bill make it to a vote since June 29, 2005.

If you're keeping score at home, that's 2 passed bills out of 128 attempts, which is a .015 batting average, enough to make Hank Aguirre blush.

So, there's no substantial accomplishment as a legislator in terms of quantity. But is the quality there? Has her legislation been of such monumental importance that we can forgive its infrequency?

In the words of Ted Kennedy, "Ah, no."

Whitmer's first legislative triumph was in 2004, when she sponsored HB 4703. From the Floor Analysis of the bill:

The bill would amend the Public Health Code to increase construction permit and license fees for campgrounds and public swimming pools. It also would create the "Campground Fund" and the "Swimming Pool Fund". (Punctuation in original).
So, a tax increase. Oh, excuse me -- a fee increase.

The following year, still recovering from the heady success of soaking Michigan's campground and swimming pool operators, Whitmer sponsored HB 4405. From the Floor Analysis of this bill:

The bill would amend the Public Health Code to eliminate the authority of a disciplinary subcommittee to impose sanctions against a pharmacist for employing the mail to sell, distribute, or deliver a drug that requires a prescription when the prescription for the drug is received by mail.
In other words, the bill permitted a pharmacist to mail out prescribed drugs when the prescription was received by mail.

Wow. That bill ranks right up there with the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Charta.

Two bills in four years! Raising taxes, er, fees, and letting pharmacists mail out prescriptions in certain cases -- woo hoo! Such success would certainly motivate a person to continue the trend, right?


Since June of 2005, Whitmer hasn't gotten a single bill to a vote. 70 bills in a row, referred to committee, never to be heard from again. Oh-for-seventy. An average of .000. If the 2008 Detroit Lions were a legislator, they would be Gretchen Whitmer.

And now she wants to be attorney general. Announcing her candidacy, Whitmer said, "Michigan families work hard and play by the rules. We need an attorney general who puts people first."

How about an attorney general who works hard, has a record of leadership and good judgment, and has demonstrated the ability to get things done? How about an attorney general with some experience in law enforcement or the courtroom?

We don't need someone who simply occupies space waiting for the next electoral opportunity -- we need someone who gets things done. By that standard and almost every imaginable standard, Whitmer fails.

As my kids would say, epic fail.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Crystal Ball?

The Michigan Supreme Court experienced an extraordinary change in last year's elections, when Cliff Taylor was replaced by Diane Hathaway. This month, the new court begins its first full year together. Check here for one observer's keen predictions as to how the court will decide its first eight cases. Among other things, the cases involve home invasion, a vehicular homicide, and apples. Enjoy!

Stop the Obscene Profits of the Health Ca --- Whoops. Never Mind.

In the politics of demonization, few industries have suffered as much as health care insurers. Admittedly, they have sometimes brought it on themselves, but, as usual, the hysterical left is just that -- hysterical -- and, as usual, wrong.

One favorite theme of the HL is that the profits of health care insurers are "obscene." Nancy Pelosi called the profits "immoral" and "obscene," while Democratic congressman Chris Van Hollen said that insurance industry profits have "skyrocketed." The worst (as usual) is moveon.org, which said in an ad that "Health insurance companies are willing to let the bodies pile up as long as their profits are safe."

They're all wrong.

Check out the facts here. According to a study by Fortune magazine:

Health insurers posted a 2.2 percent profit margin last year, placing them 35th on the Fortune 500 list of top industries. As is typical, other health sectors did much better - drugs and medical products and services were both in the top 10.

The railroads brought in a 12.6 percent profit margin. Leading the list: network and other communications equipment, at 20.4 percent.

HealthSpring, the best performer in the health insurance industry, posted 5.4 percent. That's a less profitable margin than was achieved by the makers of Tupperware, Clorox bleach and Molson and Coors beers.

Gosh, 2.2 percent. Can't have that, can we?

But, you say, that was last year only -- what about the Bush years, when greed ran rampant?

Sorry, wrong again:
The industry's overall profits grew only 8.8 percent from 2003 to 2008, and its margins year to year, from 2005 forward, never cracked 8 percent.

I wish I could tell you how many times friends of mine, apparently rational, have railed about insurance company profits. To those friends I say this: You know who you are. Please use the comments section of this blog to leave your sincere, heartfelt apologies. In return, I won't gloat.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We're Number 7! We're Number 7!

Oh boy, the figures are rolling in on The One's stimulus package and that unbelievable recovery we're in! And the Enchanted Mitten is number 7 in the latest rankings!

All 50 states have been studied, comparing The One's projection of jobs created through December 2010 with the actual change in jobs through September 2009, using state payroll figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Do you remember the euphoria when The One said we would create 3.5 million jobs? The actual number, when you add up the state-by-state projections, was 3,460,000. Well, the figures are in so far, and it turns out the nation has actually seen jobs decline -- there are now 2,708,600 fewer people working, or a net loss of 6,168,600 jobs, compared to the projection.

Okay, I know the projection is for December 2010 and we still have a year to go, so it could still happen, couldn't it? After all, we're off to a flying start!

Here in the Enchanted Mitten, we were projected to gain 109,000 jobs. We've actually lost 137,300, for a net loss over the projection of 246,300 jobs. Still, this fine performance (guess we're just not making enough movies, or green products, or green movies, or whatever) only puts us at 7th worst among job losers. Here are the six ahead of us:

1. California, -732,400
2. Texas, -494,300
3. Florida, -371,100
4. New York, -326,800
5. Georgia, -291,900
6. Illinois, -256,900

Yes, we're only 10,600 lost jobs behind Illinois, a gap I think Gov. Tinkerbell and the rest of the Lansing think tank can easily close, but we'd better watch out -- Pennsylvania is only 100 lost jobs behind us, and Ohio is lurking in 9th with a net of 230,500 lost jobs.

I know what you're thinking, and you're probably right. It's not fair to compare Michigan's dismal performance against the failed stimulus, because the Mitten got out in front and started shedding jobs almost as soon as Tink could say, "You're gonna be blown away." But hey, rules are rules, and we have to take the rankings as we find them.

And so it goes. We're number 7! We're number 7!

Battling the Internet Czars

The One and his minions continue to pursue their radical agenda, wrapped in pleasant-sounding, benign terminology. To combat the fact that conservatives dominate the free market of ideas on talk radio, they want to bring back the so-called "Fairness Doctrine," which will force otherwise rational media outlets to air rejected liberal opinions because it's "fair" to do so. Think about Air America being rammed down your throat -- that's the Fairness Doctrine. Isn't it enough that we have to contend with the WNBA?

The latest threat to freedom and the free market is the equally benign-sounding "Net Neutrality" being pushed by the Democrats over at the FCC. Anyone who uses, reads, writes, or depends on the internet should be frightened by this concept. Here's how it works: right now, internet service providers are free to charge behemoth websites (think Google, Amazon, Twitter) to access their bandwith, while they are free to charge less to other, smaller users, or even to make access free. This freedom -- to price their services as they see fit -- has generated tremendous growth in the internet and the increasingly related area of mobile communications. As Bret Swanson put it in the October 4 Wall Street Journal:
Since 2004, bandwidth per capita in the U.S. grew to three megabits per second from just 262 kilobits per second, and monthly Internet traffic increased to two billion gigabytes from 170 million gigabytes—both tenfold leaps. * * * Wireless carriers invested $100 billion in just the past three years, and the U.S. vaulted past Europe in fast 3G mobile networks. Americans enjoy mobile voice prices 60% cheaper than foreign peers. And the once closed mobile ecosystem is more open, modular and dynamic than ever. All this occurred without net neutrality regulation.

Moreover, the hypocrisy of so-called “net neutrality” is truly astounding. Google, for example, operates Google Voice, but does not extend the service everywhere because in certain, rural areas and conferencing services Google has higher interconnection fees. So, Google wants to cherry-pick the most profitable networks but refuses neutral service when it’s costlier. This, of course, is perfectly rational, but sheer hypocrisy when Google complains about ISPs that want to charge it more because of the tremendous costs Google and other mega-sites like Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter impose on an ISP to be able to offer these services at a high enough speed to satisfy consumers.

“Net neutrality” would require ISPs to treat every site exactly the same, turning the internet from a growing, vital resource into nothing more than a “dumb” pipeline, discouraging growth and stifling innovation. When will these morons learn that if firms cannot price their offerings to reflect market realities, there will either be no market or the prices will be so astronomically high that the market will be inaccessible for the majority of consumers?

There is an opportunity to be heard on this. Go to the FCC blog set up here to receive comments and tell them that there is nothing neutral about "net neutrality." You can find out more about this issue at the Technology Liberation Front site here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Biggest. Understatement. Ever.

A recent story on WPTZ.com recounted the events leading up to a stabbing. Apparently, a man named Nazeih Hammouri stabbed his son after an argument over a clogged toilet.

Even better than the story was this, the Biggest Understatement Ever:

"Police said Hammouri was drinking."

No kidding!