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Warning: Low Battery

Volt's charge account. Bunion care in New Zealand. Pulling grandma's plug. End of life costs. Not mean enough. Plus more.

8.19.09

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CAN'T FIGURE US OUT
Re: Ben Stein's We've Figured Him Out:

I was a student in the USA some years ago, grew to love your country and have followed the news ever since,

I grieved and raved with you over 9/11.

Now I am puzzled, confused and sometimes downright disgusted at some of the falsehoods that are being published about how health services with government involvement function.

In New Zealand we have public, universal coverage, paid from taxes as well as private insurance. This public service is brilliant at times -- such as when I had cancer and was offered treatment completely free within 24 hours of my diagnosis. I chose to wait a week until I had finished a course I was doing -- that was fine too.

At times it is annoying for minor ailments -- such as if you want a bunion fixed and you have to wait for 6 months,  but it will be done, even if not this week. Nobody ever goes untreated. Some people who can afford it have private health insurance (I do) in addition to the public system, so that minor ailments can be attended to where and when you wish and by your doctor of choice.

So, in effect, we have both public and private functioning side by side and there is virtually no confusion or conflict.

Can you please explain exactly why Americans are so violently and maliciously against providing care for those who can't afford insurance? I have tried hard to understand, but it is completely beyond me.

I have always understood that a mark of a civilised country shows in how we treat the underprivileged.

Thank you.
-- Loretta Austin
Red Beach, New Zealand

FLINSTONE REVIVAL
Re: Eric Peters' Volt Sticker Shock:

Just a bit of additional information to add to Mr. Peters' pertinent comments on the Volt. While the price of the vehicle is a serious impediment to individual car buyers, it's also a serious impediment to making the Volt line profitable. And here I'm taking at face value GM's estimate of 230 MPG. It's likely it won't be half that, and you haven't factored in the increased electric costs of charging a vehicle that GM will reportedly recommend be charged daily--for eight or so hours. Also keep in mind that GM hopes--hopes--that the Volt will have an initial electric range of 40 miles and a generator charged range--at greatly reduced speed--of some 250 miles. After that, it's park it and charge it, no exceptions. This means that the Volt will lack sufficient utility to be used as anyone's sole car. Road trip to Grandma's? Forget that. Take the Volt on vacation? Only if you tow it with a useful vehicle.

But the biggest problem, outstripping even the cost factor, is basic physics. Batteries don't work in cold. Cold drains them quickly, and I mean quickly. What this means is that the Volt will be, in much of the United States and virtually all of Canada, useless for most of the year. Even in warmer climates in the Southern U.S., it will be a very expensive paperweight for part of every year. And for this GM is investing hundreds of millions in development costs? Boy it's a good thing the taxpayers are footing the bill for this. No private company could afford it.

Footing? Say, that might be the answer. Maybe Fred Flintstone had the right idea all along...
-- Mike McDaniel
Joshua, Texas


Mr. Peters offers an effective economic analysis of the cost of ownership of the Volt.

He did, however, overlook the elephant in the room -- the battery. The very best lithium-ion battery under ideal conditions "will irreversibly lose approximately 20% capacity per year."

This gives a useful life of at most 3 years. This increases ownership cost by $2,000 per year.

From the article: "If whatever you are driving now gets an average of 25 mpg (half what the Prius gets) that 4,000 gallons would keep you going for 160,000 miles."

Even if you drive quite a lot more miles per year than average that's about 10 years. That's $20,000 for batteries. Base price of the volt? $60,000.

You will never be able to sell the damned thing. After five years the car on the used market is overpriced by at least $5,000.

You'll never break even.
-- Roy Lofquist
Titusville, Florida

Does no one understand the logic here? GM, like all car companies, is saddled with the CAFE standards. Pelosi et al., being unable (yet) to tell consumers what they're allowed to buy, have aimed for the same effect by forcing car manufacturers to achieve a certain "fleet average" fuel economy. American companies are further constrained to use expensive union labor to build the high mileage cars that are necessary to achieve the average.

The cars and trucks many people really want to buy are large, powerful, or both, but they're not particularly economical. Unlike parallel hybrids, the Volt can run entirely on batteries for a typical consumer's daily driving. Using the CAFE ratings procedures, it achieves very high rated mileage, compensating for the sales of a lot of big, fast, but most importantly, high-margin cars. Further, the Volt is a "boutique" car that will be bought by the environmentally pious instead of being seen as yet another hair-shirt economy car. GM can price it high enough to at least partially compensate for the high union labor costs. Now that GM is Government Motors, an ultra-mileage car might also help keep the mindless Pelosi-Boxer brigade off the company back.

I'm an electrical engineer as well as a rabid car enthusiast. I don't own a car I haven't made faster, so I'm probably not a potential Volt (yes, I know) customer. Nonetheless, a series hybrid is intriguing. A series hybrid provides real-world experience in full-electric drive trains while avoiding the current range and charging infrastructure problems of full-electrics. By isolating the charging engine from direct-drive responsibilities, it can be optimized for efficiency in a very narrow operating range. The development engineering needed for a series hybrid prepares the manufacturer for an easier transition to full-electric when and if battery technology allows it. As much as I admire the Tesla designs and the company's refreshingly honest white-papers, these are much more boutique cars than the Volt. In my view, a parallel hybrid is an inelegant road to nowhere, no matter that it offers marginal improvements in the short term.
--Larry Brantingham

The most recent article by Mr. Eric Peters you've published is most excellent in laying down the economics of the purchase and use of a Volt. I've seen several similar articles over the years addressing the Toyota Pious and other hybrids, but Mr. Peters' article is the clearest I've read.

Still, I believe there is a significant missing argument against the Volt in his article (and the similar ones: May 24, 2009, "The Wishful Thinking of Greenie Dreams," By Peter C. Glover, American Thinker; May 15, 2009 "Liberal Fantasyland," by Randall Hoven, American Thinker; September 18, 2007 "Least Fuel-Efficient Hybrids" by Peter Hoy, Forbes). A rhetorical question is the best introduction to this missing argument. To wit: why is the cost of these hybrids so high?

The engineering and tooling costs can't be much higher than for the introduction of any other "new" model. There are fewer raw materials in one of the hybrids (they are all designed to be lighter). The labor forces are the same as for traditionally powered vehicles. So, what is the cost driver? It must be Energy Cost of Manufacture. The materials in the battery are expensive because of the energy that is required to extract them from the earth. The chassis is expensive because of the energy required to manufacture the carbon fiber then cure the composite. The list no doubt goes on and on.

I'm not in the automotive nor minerals businesses and don't have access to costing information to contribute but I believe it would be a worthwhile endeavor to gather this information and perform a "Life Cycle Energy Cost" analysis on these vehicles. Certainly, they won't look as Green as they are presented. Just as the Volt lies by claiming 230mpg, ignoring the crude that is burned at the power station to charge the batteries, the purveyors of these vehicles lie in presenting the mpg vs. traditional power without rolling in the extra energy it takes up front to build the things.

Perhaps, now that GM is a Government entity, a FOIA request for the manufacturing cost would yield the desired information? I'd love to see a follow up article by Mr. Peters addressing the true cost in energy of one of these vehicles.
-- Bradford Sterling

THE HYPOCRITIC OATH
Re: Jeffrey Lord's The Ultimate Cost Saver:

It is a popular misconception that the phrase, "First, do no harm" is in the Hippocratic oath -- it isn't.

However, a much stronger, more specific phrase: "I will neither prescribe nor administer a lethal dose of medicine to any patient even if asked nor council any such thing..." appears in the modern form of the oath.
I guess solemn oaths are no longer worth the breath expended to take them.
-- Gretchen L. Chellson
Alexandria, Virginia

THAT'S RICO
Re: Matthew Vadum's Money For Nothing:

Beautiful disclosure on ACORN. If it is not a candidate for a major RICO investigation, I've never seen one. Where's the FBI?
-- George T. Bedway

RONALD (NOT WILSON) REAGAN
Re: G. Tracy Mehan, III.'s What Would a New Era of Republican Governance Bring?:

"Clearly the Republican party has tilted towards some form of Wilsonian interventionism and an extremely aggressive approach to spreading democracy and nation-building." Wrong. The Republican Party has not tilted towards a Wilsonian policy, but it is holding steady to ideals and principles of Ronald Reagan -- the same Ronald Reagan who deficit spent to build up the military and transcend the Soviet Union.

Speaking to the British House of Commons in 1982, Reagan boldly set forth a vision of the US using democracy to defeat tyranny, "What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term -- the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people." It is this same march of freedom and democracy that offers the best answer to Islamic extremism, Chinese neo-fascism, Barack Obama, and the Democrats.

Even a Lapdog Democrat, Senator Mark Pryor, at the time of Reagan's death understood the significance of his contribution to freedom and democracy in the world. "President Ronald Reagan ... has left a legacy of leadership that will always be remembered. His commitment to freedom was instrumental in the fall of communism and spread of democracy in Eastern Europe. I pay tribute to President Reagan's strength of character and the conviction of his beliefs."

As for the economic downturn, it is in no small part a result of the fallout from the crackup/meltdown of the conservative movement in 2005 that reinvigorated and re-empowered the DemocRAT party. Only after DemocRATS secured majorities in both houses of Congress was the economic boom of the Bush/Republican economy thwarted. Let us not forget it took President Bush and Republicans only 8 months to turn around the Clinton recession (made worse by 9/11), because they practiced Reaganomics by cutting taxes and deficit spending (the weak link in Reagan's armor). As Connie Hair illustrated in one of her columns and the Bureau of Labor quantifies nicely the growth of just jobs prior to DemocRATS ascendancy in 2007 was remarkable.

"Jobs created under President George W. Bush averaged 19,000 per month from January 2001 through January 2009. During the time Republicans held Congress during the Bush years, jobs grew from 132.469 million to 137.180 million. That's an increase in 4.7 million jobs for an average of 65,000 per month for 72 months. That period includes the impact of the 2001 recession inherited from the Clinton administration as well as the 2001 terrorist attacks... Democrats took control of the House in January of 2007. Since that time, the U.S. has lost 5.488 million jobs, in 29 months. That's an average of 189,000 jobs lost per month."

The author is correct that Republicans must tread lightly as they foist the DemocRAT's on their on petard. But he and we should take delight in seeing the arrogant and self-absorbed Obama and his toadies squirm and suffer. There is something rich in seeing the corrupt DemocRATS get their comeuppance.

Hopefully, when Republicans regain power they will be quick to repudiate Obama and the Democrats' several trillion-dollar drunken spending spree, do what Reagan should have done by cutting needless things like PBS, the SBA, legalaid, NASA, foreign aid, the EPA, etc. (funds saved there can be used to reduce the deficits in entitlements) and redo the tax system to unleash capitalism with drastic reductions or elimination of income, corporate and death taxes. Then we can return to the positive element of Bush's economic prosperity (low unemployment and economic growth) with a more prudent eye towards spending and deficits -- thus, avoiding the "sin" of Reagan and Bush.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Jacksonville, North Carolina

FISHING FOR TROUBLE
Re: Jay D. Homnick's Meanness-Tested Program:

I must be cruel only to be kind.
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.

-- Hamlet Act 3, scene 4

Which is less cruel: giving a man a fish for dinner or teaching him how to fish? The answer depends heavily on one's basic beliefs. Conservatives answer that teaching the man to fish is the ethical answer. The Left hears this answer and demagogues Conservatives: the "haves" are about to let the "have nots" starve to death. What the Left cannot conceive is that while the man learns to fish, the church, synagogue, temple, mosque will voluntarily provide temporary food and housing, not because they are compelled to do so by the government but because it is the right thing to do. In the end, the man has learned to be an independent and contributing member of society. The fish he consumed is minimal compared to the fish he will contribute later. Contra wise, the Left's history demonstrates it truly believes that giving a man a fish is the only way to be kind (or more cynically stated, stay in power). It ignores the natural entailments that other people must produce the fish, and then someone (usually a bureaucrat) has to decide what kind of fish and of what size is to be consumed. In the end, the man has eaten a meal, but he is still dependent on the government. When the man goes for wanting, the mass of people again feel sorry for the man and demand someone (usually the government) provide for this poor man. While the people's hearts may be deeply engaged, their minds are not. Conservatism is the naturally more compassionate and efficient than Socialism. Conservatives cannot be afraid to state this loudly and clearly if they wish to defeat the growing threat of tyranny coming from the current administration and Congress.

President Ronald Reagan cut government waste and inefficiency, freeing up capital, that when returned to the people, was used to improve the quality of life of millions upon millions of Americans. He never felt a need to call his conservative values "compassionate." He understood that Conservatism is innately compassionate.

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." -- Groucho Marx
-- I.M. Kessel

"Mean-spirited hypocrites” is much too polite, though sufficiently succinct.

Perhaps, though, "pusillanimous, narrow-minded, imperious, malicious, mendacious, mean-spirited hypocrites" has its place?
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

AN ANGRY MOB OF ONE
I am an angry mob, and I took some Tea last week.
I stood by an Obamacare supporter.  We began to speak.

He is a middle aged engineer, and he is without a job.
He didn’t seem to fit in with the Acorn egged-on mob.

He has no health care coverage. He’s worried and he’s scared.
He voted for our president, thinking Obama really cared.

We chatted in a friendly way. On most things we agreed.
We found we are both average folk with no elitist greed.

He hadn’t  seen his freedom lost, hadn’t come to that conclusion.
He began to open his eyes and ears and spotted the Grand Illusion.

We realized our American hopes and dreams really did align.
As I waved good-bye, he waved back and put down his Obama sign.
-- Mimi Evans Winship

GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME RATIONING
Re: Letters from Gary Hankin and Bob Blazek in Reader Mail's The Common Sense Panel:

Those of us who work within health insurance know a few things which may make you uncomfortable.

Within any given plan, a handful of severely ill people can take up 40% to 75% of all the benefits an insurance company will pay out. Of course, that is the whole theory behind insurance: healthy people contribute to a common pool of funds from which they can draw in case illness or injuries befall them. For this to work, by definition, it takes a large number healthy people who do not (or, at least, minimally) draw on the fund to feed the money pool so that a smaller number of ill and injured may be supported when facing large medical care costs.

Studies have shown that, taking one's "medical life" as a whole, the lion's share of one's medical expenses occurs during the last six months of life. Even barring significant and "heroic" measures to prolong life, efforts to relieve pain (palliative care) can be quite expensive.

Thus when seeking to gain some control of potentially limitless costs, the most obvious means would be 1.) Interventions which limit the benefits those who "over-utilize" medical resources can receive. 2.) Intervene in the medical treatments for the elderly and dying.

Traditional insurance structures benefits in order to preserve the sufficient ratio of the large pool of premium payers to the smaller pool of benefit recipients. The specific assortment of benefits is negotiated between the insurance company and your employer. (For instance, one's employer may seek less mental health coverage for greater dental benefits)

In a government one payer system, the effort to cover all things for all people will at first seek to reduce costs by eliminating "unnecessary tests and imaging" and telling all healthcare providers how much they will be paid. Eventually, these measures yield only shrinking returns.

The next step is to limit accessibility. One such means is to institute a system of co-pays in which the benefit recipient pays a fee to the healthcare provider along with the payment by the government. Another step is to arbitrarily limit the number of places any service may be provided. Another possible step would be to establish quotas in which a healthcare provider can perform a particular procedure only so many times a year.

Of course, there is always the temptation and inborn desire for those in favor of government run healthcare to "rationalize" medical care. For example, they may mandate the use of topical or oral medicines for children with chronic ear inflections instead of ear tubes. Or, Eliminate ultra-sounds for newly pregnant women. Or bar tonsillectomies except for the worst cases. Or allow only a certain number of medical students to go into the various specialties with the majority going into family practices. Or what if we get some flakes in authority who believe most sicknesses can be cured with herbal teas?

With such efforts to make nationwide health care "sensible" one can almost hear it already: "Just think of how many childhood immunizations one hip replacement or organ transplant could pay for!"

Somehow, I don't think our forefathers fought in the Revolution risking their lives, fortunes, and reputations so a panel of experts could tell them what their doctor and hospital can do for them.

Makes "Give me liberty or give me death" more than a rhetorical flourish, doesn't it?
--Mike Dooley

Sorry Bob, I would much prefer the government to spend MY tax money on healthcare for every LEGAL citizen/resident of this great country than to spend it some of these other left wing programs being forced through the Congress.

Just take the money that the politicians spend on bogus travel, pork, set asides, and earmarks (e.g., airplanes) and the problem would almost solve itself. Add the total cost for the messiah to travel the country and the world since his inauguration and we would probably have a surplus.

Return what is left in the stimulus giveaway to the treasury, cancel cap and trade [tax] and the rest of the messiah's "get us to socialism" programs. These measures would save the trillions in debt for which he is committing us.

My wife and I have paid into Social Security our entire working lives; something the politicians and government employees do not have to do. In addition, we have paid into Medicare and Medicaid our entire working lives and, since retirement, we have paid additional premiums for Medicare -- something the politicians (I'm not sure about government employees) do not have to do.

How much do you think it cost to get the illustrious Ted Kennedy his brain surgery? Under the messiah's healthcare proposal, Mr. Kennedy would not be eligible for such a procedure -- oh I forgot, under the messiah's healthcare proposal he would not have to participate -- nor be subject to the decisions of the "death panel." No member of congress -- current or past, will have to worry about the contents of their thousand plus page healthcare reform legislation -- legislation which most of them have not read, nor understand, nor care about, other than to rename it "Insurance Reform," since we have already been told they will be exempted.

One quick fix to the cost of health care would be to immediately pass and enact a strict (no loopholes) Tort Reform Act. But, since the Congress has such a large percentage of lawyers in its membership, this is a silly notion. Another fix would be to ban lobbyists (as the messiah said he would). Another -- force the politicians to write their own legislation PERSONALLY, with the assistance of a greatly reduced staff (maximum 5 pages) and input from their constituents. Force them stop spending our tax dollars to get themselves re-elected.

Finally, pass a law to force the Congress TO VOTE for their pay increases instead of the current, obscene law whereby the increase is automatic UNLESS the congress VOTES NOT TO TAKE THE INCREASE! Included in this law should be term limits -- no one stays in government for more than a TOTAL of 12 years. And, this is blue sky of course, take away at least 75% of their perks and retirement benefits. Let them serve their country as they were elected to do, instead of serving themselves.

I reckon this screed will most certainly get me reported to the White House "fishy" communications forum by someone!
-- C.D. Lueders
Melbourne, Florida

I do not want to "bankrupt this great country." I do want to be left alone. I have spent my entire life building up a nest egg for my wife and I. This is my money, not yours, the Government's, or my children's. If I decide in the last 90 days of my or my wife's life to spend it all to get another 90 days for us, then that is my business, not yours, the Government's, or my children's. That is what this is all about.

Leave us alone sir, just leave us alone.
-- Mark Andreasen

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