A New Can Of Worms
10 January 2004
Oberweis Taking On Bush

Driving home from Chicago yesterday I heard a radio ad from Republican US Senate Candidate attacking Bush's immigration proposal. I have a couple of observations:

First, Jim is either fibbing or hasn't read proposal. It's not amnesty. Any illegal alien currently working in the US will have to register, PAY A FINE for BREAKING THE LAW or leave the country. And you can only register IF YOU HAVE A JOB. How is that an amnesty. Jim's attack ad on the President is an ad hominem that places him squarely in the camp with Howard Dean Democrats who dismissed the proposal.

Second, running the ad in Decatur -- a manufacturing town -- to me is troubling. In my opinion the ad appeals to xenophobia regarding immigration with a touch of bigotry. It just gives the libs another opportunity to call Republicans racists.

It's a Lynne Kiesling post. If you can grasp why electricity is heterogenous product then you'll see a lot of economic decisions in a different light.
School Funding in Illinois

Policy Guy John La Plante picked up on the School Superintendent Robert Schiller and Gov. Blagojevich exchange on education funding in the state. Illinois is one of the worst states in country when it comes to getting money to the classroom.

At the end of John's post there is this little gem: "Looks like there ought to be some hard thought going into making the budget go farther by finding ways to spend less money on whatever is not involved in teaching."

Well, don't hold your breath waiting for the hard thinking to occur. I just don't see it happening.
07 January 2004
DC Spending Orgy

It's kind of hard to merely blame the House Appropriators when you have a President who has steadfastly refused to stand up to the free spenders in Congress. The Sun-Times in its own way drives the point home:

"By comparison, President Clinton issued 37 vetoes during his eight years in office. Bush's father had 44 during his single term. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the champion bill slayer, killing 635 either by regular veto or ''pocket'' veto, which means letting a bill lapse without a presidential signature when Congress is not in session.

Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker said there was a time when ''a large number of vetoes was seen as a sign of a vigorous presidency.''

Not now. Bush's veto-free presidency, Baker said, is ''a recognition that at this particular point in history the Republicans are showing an incredible degree of solidarity.''

I support term limiting House Appropriators and I believe they deserve the majority of the blame for our current spending binge, but the President has been a willing accomplice.
06 January 2004
Moveon.org Gets Illinois Leader Treatment

They're crying foul at Moveon.org:

"It sounded like a fun way to expand participation in this year's presidential election, at least for those opposed to re-electing President Bush. The left-leaning Internet group MoveOn.org sponsored a contest, 'Bush in 30 Seconds,' inviting people to submit television advertisements about Mr. Bush, with the best to be determined by a vote of visitors to the site.

But two of more than 1,500 submissions have outraged Republicans and leading Jewish groups for comparing Mr. Bush, in profile and policy, to Hitler."

They could have a point. I've seen and heard of chat room conversations at the Illinois Leader be mistaken for the editorial opinion of the Leader. Eric Zorn has posted some hate filled leader letters to the editor and suggested that this was what one finds at Illinois Leader -- as if he were responsible for their voice of the reader at the Tribune.

Perhaps in the Letters section, the chat rooms and the opinion sections Illinois Leader should run a disclaimer that says the views expressed in these places are those of the writer and not Illinois Leader. Perhaps, for once Moveon.org may be right in that they are being unfairly treated. Who knows, strange things happen in politics.
Idea Peddling???

This Washington Montly piece by Nicholas Confessore brings down one of my favorite sites, TCS, and its founder, Jim Glassman, a notch or two:

"Government decision-makers are subject to a cacophony of opinions--from paid lobbyists, think-tank scholars, academics, newspaper editorials, consumer groups, and letters from ordinary citizens. And in the past decade, corporate lobbying has evolved to influence--and, where possible, control--the arguments emanating from each of these sources. It's why corporations have put so much money into think tanks, issue advertisements, and consulting arrangements with economists and other academics. It's how firms like DCI have flourished by orchestrating pseudo-grassroots movements to simulate or amplify constituent opinion on behalf of corporate clients.

After all, it's only human nature to put more trust in the arguments of seemingly independent observers than those of paid agents of an interested party. And that's why a journalist willing to launder the arguments of corporations and trade groups would be so valuable. A given argument, coming from such a journalist, would have more impact than precisely the same case articulated by a corporate lobbyist.

Glassman certainly has impact. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission considered whether regional Bell companies should continue to fully share their wires with competitors like AT&T--the position Democrats favored. The tiebreaking vote was cast by a conservative Bush appointee, Kevin Martin. Martin sided with his Democratic colleagues, a surprising position, but one made easier, say observers, by the fact that a few prominent conservative pundits, chief among them Glassman, had taken AT&T's side in the argument. 'Glassman's clueless,' opines an economist who specializes in telecom and supports relaxed regulations on both cable and phone systems. 'But he gives good cover.'"

Confessore does point out that many of the people write for TCS happen to agree with theirs positions on issues -- I did when I wrote about bio-pharming last year for the site. Of course in the think tank business you are always going to be accused of being beholden to your donors. Generally, that is not the case, but in Glassman's case it may very well be -- which is sad to say if this story is accurate. I know that my think tank mentor, Frank Gaffney, has bitten the hand that feeds him on more than one occassion. His message was principle over every thing and he believes that policy is people -- an unprincipled person makes for poor policy.

At State Policy Network gatherings we consistently reinforce the notion that you cannot sell out your free market principles for anything if you wish to be taken seriously. I also bend over backwards to put the egg before the chicken. In other words, I developed my policy areas long before I approached any corporate or trade association donors. In a small organization I don't have the luxury of building a wall between analysis and funders, so I do this instead and rely more heavily on foundations and individual contributions.

If you don't take measures to wall of your donors such as I describe above, you'll end up with a piece like this written about you. In which case, you might as well sell out because you're reputation will become toast, anyway.

05 January 2004
Employers Continue to Attack Price Illusion in Health Care

The Sun-Times reports that big companies will continue to pass along the rising portion of health care costs to employees:

"Big employers expect health care costs to increase by as much as 14 percent this year -- and are devising new ways to pass costs on to workers, company surveys have found.

In addition to making workers and retirees pay higher premiums and co-pays, companies are beginning to impose higher fees on employees who want to cover their spouses or use expensive hospitals."

To me it seems, passing along hikes in premiums will not end price illusion nor will higher co-pays. It may just further induce people to spend more on health care. A rational person might decide, since he is paying for it anyway, to use more health care to make up for the higher premiums. Higher co-pays may make people think twice but in the end, you are still masking the real costs of things like prescription drugs.

Two quick points, first spending more on health care is not necessarily a bad thing if that is what individuals want. We spend a lot on health care because we want to be healthy and we have the resources to do so. However, and this the second point, the shared risk of health insurance should only cover what a doctor and patient consider to be necessary. A good measure of that would be the price mechanism -- a way that lets the individual ration their own care in stead of government or the insurance company.

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