Thursday, March 25, 2010

Okay, one health care bit.....

There are so many flaws in this legislation that it seems almost pointless to pick on just one of them, but I think this is a great example of how government minds think. This is a little complicated, so I'll explain it as best I can.

My daughter Erin got married last year, and her father-in-law works for Verizon. (I'll keep his name out of this, just to protect him.) Tuesday, just hours after the health care bill was signed, he posted on his Facebook page that Verizon employees got a communication from the company telling them that their insurance costs were likely to go up because of the new law.

I was intrigued by this, and yesterday I learned more when one of National Review's contributors got a copy of the Verizon memo and posted it. I'm going to focus on one part of it.

One of the nice things Verizon does is provide prescription drug coverage for its retirees. It's not really just a nice gift from Verizon to its retirees, because the federal government rewards Verizon (and other companies that do the same thing) with a subsidy. When the government added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare (called Medicare Part D) a few years ago, they were afraid too many retirees would sign up for the benefit, and so they created an incentive for businesses to give their retirees a prescription benefit.

The Medicare drug benefit costs, on average, $1,209 per person. So the government offered companies a subsidy of about $665 per person if the company would continue to offer a drug benefit. The government thinking was that it's cheaper to pay the subsidy than to have retirees enrolling in Medicare Part D. Verizon was one of the companies that chose to take the subsidy and continue offering the benefit.

But now, as they assembled the health care "reform" package, the Obamaniacs had to find some revenue so that they could claim the bill wouldn't increase the deficit. So they decided to put a 35% tax on the presecription drug subsidy for retirees. By doing this, they got the Congressional Budget Office to estimate that the government would receive $5.4 billion in new revenue.

As Verizon wrote in the memo, the new tax makes the subsidy "less valuable to employers, like Verizon, and as a result, may have significant implications for both retirees and employers."

In other words, Verizon and most other companies are likely to decide that its easier to stop offering retiree drug benefits than pay a 35% tax. It won't matter to the retirees if Verizon drops the benefit, since they can simply enroll in the Medicare Part D to get the same benefit. So now the government - instead of paying $665 per retiree in subsidy - will now pay $1,209 per retiree through Medicare.

And that $5.4 billion in new revenue? Gone.

Bottom line: This part of the bill, which Obama, Pelosi and Reid said would reduce the deficit, will instead add billions to the cost of Medicare while adding no new government revenue. Nice work, eh?

Tough month....

I'm sorry there hasn't been more blogging action lately, but March is a crazy, crazy month. So far I've worked 19 hockey games at the X this month, some of which have run late into the night, and I have five games left over the next eight days. Throw in some other business, and I'm just a little short of time at the keyboard.

Several regulars have written to ask about my reaction to the health care bill, so here it is in a nutshell: Forget about it. The courts are going to throw out huge chunks of it, and the next Congress is going to roll back some other parts, and in the end, a few years from now, we'll have some reasonable reforms that include serious tort reform, and this bill and the dishonest, cynical, back-door dealing that created it will be a distant memory.

I'm looking forward to reading the names of 40-60 defeated Democrat congressmen in November.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Better things...

On a day when Congress inflicted a grievous wound on the country, I'm choosing instead to remember a wonderful afternoon at the X as Corrie, Sam and the grandkids watched the Wild beat Calgary 4-3. Annie spent a moment with the Herb Brooks statue after the game.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Toyotas out of control? Not likely.

Sometime last year I wrote about the alleged "swine flu" epidemic that was supposed to be on its way, wiping out millions of us, and mentioned that it was really nothing new. We went through a swine flu scare back in the 70s, and it also amounted to nothing.

Now come reports of Toyotas zooming around out of control, the vehicles accelerating on their own. Again, it's nothing new.

Way back in 1986, 60 Minutes aired a story about a great little car called the Audi 5000. CBS claimed the Audi was haunted by "unintended acceleration," causing people to lose control of their Audis. Similar tales were told about Jeep Grand Cherokees.

Turns out it was all bogus. People were stepping the gas instead of the brake. Yes, if you happen to step on the gas pedal, your car will accelerate. It turned out that CBS has rigged their "demonstration," much like Dateline NBC did a few years later in an attempt to "prove" that Chevy trucks would blow up on impact.

Now comes similar accusations about Toyotas. We even had a hoaxster named James Sikes who claimed his Toyota Prius couldn't be stopped on a California freeway. As you can read here, Sikes is a veteran of phony insurance claims and a bit of a publicity hound. There's nothing about his story that holds up.

Gas pedals and brake pedals are, by necessity, close together. And it turns out that, as people get a little older and a little less nimble, they become more likely to confuse the two. That's why cars accelerate: People - mostly older people - stop on the gas pedal when they mean to step on the brake. (Read more about the excessive involvement of the elderly here.)

Of course, the media love to demonize large companies, and Toyota happens to be the current target. But when it's all said and done, we will find - just as we did in the case of the Audi 5000 - this was all driver error.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Best weekend of the year

What might be the best weekend of the entire year starts Thursday morning, when the Class AA portion of the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament gets underway in St. Paul. I've been attending the tournament since I was in high school myself (100 million years ago...before there was fire) and have seen every Class AA game of the tourney in person since it moved to the X in 2001.

Like the Miracle on Ice story (see Feb. 22 blog post below), this event is uniquely special to those who grew up playing hockey in Minnesota. When Herb Brooks said it was the biggest thrill of his life, he meant it.

But instead of trying to do justice to it myself, I'm just going to link to the best story about the tournament that I've ever read. Just click here, and you'll be taken to the 1983 story written for Sports Illustrated by the great E.M. Swift. He came out here for the event, and wrote a magnificant profile that still holds up 27 years later. Enjoy the story, and enjoy the tournament.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A modest proposal...

There are so many things about political correctness that bug me, but perhaps the thing that most bothers me is the emphasis on race. For the past few decades, scumbags like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have done their best to divide America along racial lines. Everyone of a certain skin color is a victim, they will tell you, which is exactly the opposite of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of a time when men were judged "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

We've become obsessed with race. Business feel forced by the government to meet quotas for both employees and customers. (One of the biggest reasons for our present economic situation was the burst of the real estate bubble, a bubble that was largely caused by banks feeling pressured to issue loans to unqualified borrowers, lest they be called "racist" by ACORN and the federal government.)

Schools reject more qualified applicants because they need to fill racial quotas. (Do you want to be treated by a doctor that had low MCAT scores and poor grades, but was accepted into medical school because of his ethnicity?)

It irks me every time I have to fill out a form and there are those little boxes asking for "race" or "ethnicity." I've always wondered if I could get preferential treatment by checking that "Native American" box, in honor of my maternal great-grandmother, who was a full-blooded Sioux.

But there's a bigger principal at work here than any individual possible advantage. The fact is that virtually all of us are descended from someone who left a different country in order to become an American. They left because they didn't want to be Italians or Swedes or Brazilians or - in my great-great grandfather's case - Dutchmen. They wanted to be Americans.

Now comes a little method for fighting the madness. In the next few weeks, most of us will get a census form in the mail. You can see what it looks like here, and if you scroll down to question 9, you'll see that you're going to be asked about the ethnicity of everyone in your household.

The explanation even tells you why you should be hesitant to answer. It says, "State government uses the data to determine congressional, state and local voting districts. Race data are also used to assess fairness of employment practices, to monitor racial disparities in characteristics such as health and education and to plan and obtain funds for public services."

Is that really what you want your government doing?

Now, providing false information on the census is a crime, and I would never urge anyone to break the law. However, what has been suggested by some - and what I plan to do - is this:

On question 9, there is a box for "some other race," and space to write the name of that other race. My intention is to check the box, and in the space provided for my race, write in "American."

Granted, it's a small gesture, but sometimes a small gesture is all it takes. And maybe if enough people do this we can make some bureaucrat somewhere begin to re-think this whole racial nonsense, and maybe our children and grandchildren can someday actually live in a color-blind society, free from the racial poison that Jackson, Sharpton and other have left us.

When a hockey season dies....

There's a scene in the movie A Few Good Men when the attorney, played by Tom Cruise, is trying to get one of his clients to accept a plea bargain that will result in the client spending six months in jail. "Come on, it's six months," he says to the client. "It's a hockey season."

Which, chronologically speaking, is true. Mid-October to mid-April is six months, but when you're up to your neck in a hockey season, it seems much longer. As most of you know, I do some work for the Minnesota Wild, and am at almost every home game. I've managed to make a few road trips with them as well, and it's pretty rare that I don't see a road game on TV.

Six months. That's 82 games, preceded by about three weeks of training camp and exhibition games. And the goal of it all is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's the reward for six months of attending, watching, reading and talking about your hockey team: To be one of the 16 teams that gets to play for the Stanley Cup.

Playoff hockey is amazing. It's intense, it's exciting and there's nothing like it in sports. Every best-of-seven series becomes like a novel, with protagonists, antagonists, plot twists and ultimately a memorable resolution.

And so we spend those six months watching the standings. We see winning streaks, losing streaks and those frustrating overtime and shootout losses. Injuries, hot goalies and bad calls all make up the tapestry of a hockey season, and it's all worthwhile for the chance to be in the building when it's playoff time.

Today the Wild lost 5-2 to Calgary, and the playoffs now look all but impossible. That makes two straight years without the playoffs, and it has now been seven years since we won a playoff series.

There were lowered expectations this year with a new coach, new GM and our first post-Gaborik season, but this team showed some signs. After a rough 3-9 start they played pretty good hockey, bolstered by the November acquisition of Guillaume Latendresse, who appears to be a star in the making, and strong seasons from Mikko Koivu and Martin Havlat. Even four days ago they appeared ready to make a big push for the playoffs.

But an inexplicable shootout loss Friday in Edmonton, and today's flop against Calgary, make it a really steep hill. The Wild have 18 games left, and would need something like a 14-4 record to have a shot, which isn't going to happen.

Which I should be able to handle better, except that next October seems such a long ways away, and the past five months now start to feel like a waste of time. It wasn't, and I'll get over it, but tonight it hurts.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My bad....

Apparently in my computer ineptitude I managed to accidentally turn off the comment portion of the blog. My apologies to all of you who made comments, and the situation has been fixed. Thanks for the comments, which are always appreciated.

The Democrats' idea of an improved economy

We've had fun at Harry Reid's expense before, and I'd like to stop, but it's just soooo easy. Here is a clip of him taking to the Senate floor to explain how much better things are getting in the American economy. Pure genius.