A New Can Of Worms
12 December 2003
Med Malpractice Reform is Getting Results

A Wall Street Journal editorial(link requires subscription) informs us that medical malpractice tort reform is bearing fruit. Obstetricians are beginning to move back into the Lone Star State; and:

"The state's largest med-mal insurer will lower rates by 12% beginning January 1 -- a boon to the 42% of Texas doctors insured by the Texas Medical Liability Trust. Another insurer, the Doctors Company, says it won't raise rates for Texas doctors, thanks to the caps. Meanwhile, the state Department of Insurance has told other insurers to reconsider planned rate hikes in light of the new tort environment. And it reports that some of the insurers that left the state are discussing a return.

The Texas experience flies in the face of arguments that caps have nothing to do with med-mal rates. Such arguments have stood in the way of progress in Pennsylvania -- home of the nation's worst doctor shortage -- as well as in the U.S. Senate. But it's hard to make that argument to the two-out-of-five Texas doctors who will get smaller insurance bills next year."

After passing some tort reform measures in Missourri, Madison County doctors have begun fleeing southwestern Illinois. It has gotten so bad that the Madison County Board has passed a resolution calling for med malpractice reform in Illinois. I imagine it will fall on deaf ears both in the General Assembly and the State Supreme Court until it becomes a winning campaign issue.

Votes trump money in politics. If tort reform picks up resonance with voters, the trial lawyers will begin to find that a buck doesn't get you as far as it once did.
Hot Rod Whipsaws General Assembly Once Again

This is classic:

"Gov. Rod Blagojevich threatened to block legislation that raises money to provide medical care for the poor unless he is satisfied none of it will be siphoned away for other purposes.

Blagojevich said Thursday that $70 million to $80 million of the money that would be generated is not earmarked for any specific programs.

'Unless and until I can be assured of where that money specifically will go, I'm not going to sign the bill,' he said during a news conference.

“I would rather go back to the drawing board and continue this effort in a more pristine, pure way.”"

The only way to be sure you are not being set up by the governor is to oppose any and all tax increases.

If he does sign the law I plan to present the HHS Secretary with a letter detailing why the tax shouldn't be approved by the Center for Medicare Services. I'll be sure to include that there are no guarantees the money will be spent on Medicaid.
10 December 2003
Government Rip-offs

John Berthoud describes how cell phone users are getting raped by the government:

"Wireless customers face a staggering array of government levies, including sales taxes (state and, sometimes, county and city), a 3% federal excise tax, annual regulatory fees, municipal franchise taxes and federal universal-service-fund surcharges. These taxes add up to a tax burden of well over 14%, and government regulations add even more costs. Surely, somewhere in this vast amount of revenue, some money can be found to improve 911 service.

The enhanced service hasn't been implemented as speedily as hoped, but not because of a lack of revenue. The problem is poor prioritization by politicians. They've been unwilling to allocate the taxes collected from cell phone users to this effort. Worse, politicians in some states have slapped additional taxes on cell phone users specifically for 911 service, but then diverted these funds to other uses. In New York, where cell phone users pay more than 20% in taxes on their service, 911 fees were hijacked for other purposes. State Comptroller Carl McCall found that $162 million was diverted. In North Carolina, a 911 surcharge was frittered away on other programs."

John La Plante offers even more ancedotal evidence on his blog, today.

On another note, gasonline prices are skyrocketing this week in central Illinois up to a $1.56 in some places. Of course 48 of those cents are state and federal taxes. Take out the cumbersome regulations regarding fuel mixtures and a gallon of would be well below $1 per gallon.

RIP Robert L. Bartley

Robert Bartley at the helm of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page had a huge impact on my intellectual development through high school, college and beyond. The Seven Fat Years: and How to Do It Again has become a personal economic bible of mine.

His wisdom will be sorely missed.

No 10th Casino License

The Sun-Times reports today that a deal that looked promising a few months ago has fallen apart.

That's a new $350 million hole in the budget. Blagojevich now blames the "structural deficit" for the state's fiscal woes. It's a line he has stolen from State Senator Rauschenberger who attacked Hot Rod's one time fixes in the state budget last spring as not addressing the long-term shortcomings in the system.

Hot Rod's budget was never designed to do that. It was a one year budget with one year fixes. By begging that question, the Senate Republicans have handed Hot Rod an execuse for the utter failure of his budget.

Not even the good ideas have paid off on this budget. Selling state assets, 3 big ones out of 8,500, was ill conceived. The 10th casino license is still mired and the tax increases aren't working.

We are now into an election year. Hiking taxes further will be like pulling teeth in the General Assembly. No Republican Senator is going to vote for higher taxes, they'll force the Democrat caucus to carry that load.

In sum, the Governor is in trouble. The 'structural deficit' line is going to take him so far...
09 December 2003
Foxes in charge of Illinois Hen Houses

Anyone catchthis? in today's Tribune about Texas redistricting:

"In the wake of the Texas and Colorado remappings, some Illinois Democratic lawmakers made a push to redraw the state's boundaries to eliminate the Republicans' 10-9 advantage in congressional seats. But the move was quickly rejected by House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago, who chairs the Illinois Democratic Party.

Madigan's spokesman said Democrats would abide by the current map, approved by Illinois lawmakers in 2001 and drawn by the state's Democrat and Republican congressmen under traditional agreement after the decennial census."

Can anyone conceive of system worse than letting Congressmen devise their own congressional districts?
Iraqi soldiers deserting new army

The Chicago Tribune reports on a very embarrassing situation in Iraq, today. How the perils of an all volunteer force could have been lost on the U.S. military is beyond me. Alas, it's State Department people really running the show, isn't it...

We've made some wonderful progress in Iraq, but as we begin to turn things over to Iraqi's I fear they will sabotage our efforts. Not because of occupation or Islam, -- I'm talking mainstream Iraqis, here not the Ba'athists and kooks -- but out of sense that why should we do it when the Americans can?

I fear a huge free riding problem developing....
08 December 2003
The Shoe is on the other Foot

James Taranto on Opinionjournal.com attempts to explain democrat ire.

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