Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rethinking Social Security and Health Care for the elderly in light of the falling home values across the federation

Keywords or Terms: Elderly; Property and home values; Recessionary Economy; Paul Ryan's Plan; New York District of Buffallo;

For the elderly, the announcement that home values have fallen for the eighth straight month in a row, may just be too much. With many of the retired elderly having their purported wealth tied up in their assessed home value, nothing is more daunting than the current news. About two years ago, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington advocacy group, projected the average net worth of the bottom 20 percent household headed by the elderly in the age group, 55 to 64 years, fell from $8,300 in 2004 to between $1,200 and a negative $2,600. Many in this group, who have most of their assessed net worth tied up in their home value, would consider the downward trending assessment of home values, more than bad news.

The majority of Americans in the age group of 55 to 64 years and probably over, who have thought of themselves as somewhat financially secured, may be taking a two at the current missive. Considering assessed value of one's property, and a fixed social security income as net wealth is probably dismissive with the current trend of falling property value; not to talk of energy induced inflation pricing at the retail market. If anything, many Americans in the age group 55 to 64 years are wondering, where do we go from here? In a recessionary economy, the elderly on fixed income have suffered so much that you imagine if the system have not failed them this time around. The 2010 enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act probably ameliorated the pain of health care inflation and probably stabilized government spending on Medicare and Medicaid. And if Republicans fail to clarify their stance on Representative Paul Ryan’s proposal on Medicare pretty soon, the series of compounding problems of declining home values, out of whack fixed income relative to inflation, will continue to exponentially grow the problems for the elderly.

The blog today takes us in a direction unfamiliar to so many, including those approaching the age of 55 and probably retirement: it wants everyone to rethink social security and health care and why both of these are crucial and important factors in the survival of the elderly. Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare to voucher system, is probably an acknowledgement of the failure of deep thinking; and, this is probably why many in the opposite aisle of congress, find it unpopular. Much as some Democrats are willing to subscribe to all or some cost-saving initiatives as recommended in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, all of them question Ryan’s proposal to turn Medicare to a voucher system. The uniqueness of Ryan's proposal makes many wonder, if this is not actually a gimmick to privatize Medicare in the long run. The public policy rationale for his plan is remote from a functional financial efficiency to save solvency of Medicare; and this is why, the proposal is a NO GO!

The resentment for Ryan’s plan in the left is only matched by the wrangling within the Republican Party regarding whether to completely embrace the Ryan’s plan or to jettison parts of it. A few Republicans, who have embraced the Ryan’s plan in totality, are questioning themselves after hearing the result of election in New York District of Buffalo last week. Kathy Hochul, a little known Democrat, won the district after making Republican Representative Paul Ryan’s House-approved plan to convert Medicare Care to a voucher system as an albatross on the neck of her opponent for the congressional office. Going by the result of the election, not only is Paul Ryan’s plan a difficult pill to swallow, it is probably the first step to a downfall of any politician that subscribes to it.

Besides falling house values, fixed social security income and the rising energy costs, many in the age group, 55 to 64, consider Ryan’s plan an affront to their welfare and one of them was candid enough to say so. A GOP Presidential aspirant once indicated that the Ryan’s plan is a radical social engineering. Although Newt Gingrich later retracted this assessment of Ryan’s plan out of political expediency for the right to nomination as flag bearer for the GOP in the coming Presidential election, the candidate's assessment gives the elderly an unprecedented argument over what is true and proper in the way many Americans, not only the elderly, must perceive Ryan’s voucher's proposal for Medicare. Generally, a proposal may be offered to correct for mistakes in a program; however, when the proposal is a misrepresentation of material fact, one cannot but ask the honesty behind the proposal.

The elderly public understands the true meaning of Ryan’s plan for them. They know it is a way to dip into their pockets. They know that, in a situation where their Medicare vouchers cannot meet their medical bills, they will have to deep into their fixed meager income to be able to meet all their medical costs. They know that in an economy, where health care inflation is outpacing general inflation, it is nothing more than cruel to railroad Medicare into a voucher system. They know that Ryan’s proposal is not going to protect the quality of care they now receive under Medicare and as envisaged in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Worse more, the declining property value over the federation, would not only reduce the net worth of the elderly, it is probably a sure bet, that less money would be available to fill in the gap in the voucher system and health needs' cost of the elderly.

There is probably one realistic way to envisage the current problem of declining property and home values, vis-à-vis, the standard of living of the elderly; many of whom have conceived their net wealth and worth in the context of their property and home values, it is absolutely daunting. Many in the age group, 55 to 64, and many in retirement who are above this age group, must now be contemplating that the longer the economy remains in recession, the more the likelihood, they will have to get back to work, if they are going to maintain a reasonable standard of living or survive. For this group of Americans, the falling property and house values threaten their basic access to the essentials of living. And, if Ryan’s Plan succeeds in congress, then the mandatory cost sharing in a Voucher system for the elderly is more likely to cut deeper into the limited income of those who can barely afford to sustain themselves in their golden years.

Digging deeper into the folly of using property values as part of one's net worth is exemplified by the direct impact of the failure of the housing market for one's net worth. It was reported in New York Times that, Standard and Poor Index of property value fell 3.6 percent from March 2010 to March 2011, the largest year-over year decline since November 2009. If the gains in property values continues to erode as speculated, because of weaker demand for the glut of secondary homes in the market, the worse should probably be expected, not only for employment and uncertainty in the house building industry, but also for the elderly, who have often depended on their property value as a measure of their net worth and or wealth. The elderly who are in retirement or contemplating quiting their jobs to take a breather, had better forget that luxury, they will now have to work, if they have to survive the treachery of uncertainty in the housing market, and probably the vouchered Medicare System. With analyst predicting that residential real estate are likely to remain depressed in the near future because of the additional challenge of global recession, and Republicans planning to railroad the elderly to a voucher system Medicare, the elderly had better fasten their belt, because they are in for a long ride!

Politicians, who depend on the elderly votes during national elections, would not only be in for a rude surprise if this scenario plays out, they may actually meet the huge hostilities from this strong block of voters. If a person's net worth is determined by variables he or she has little control over, they are probably going to default to those things they have complete control over, that is, their right to vote their interest. If the elderly have to rely solely on their social security income and assessed property value as measures of their net worth, it is probably essential that politicians seeking their votes, consider how much the change in property value due to slump in the housing market has affected the quality of life of this group of Americans. To canvass for vote on the pretext that a social security fixed income is enough to weather the storm of a slumping housing market, is like playing Russian Roulette with the lives of our senior citizens. The only thing anyone can hope for now, is a turn around in the housing market and property value to help many of the elderly weather the storm of a recessionary economy. Whether this will totally help improve the net worth of the elderly, is still a toss up! And now to the Republicans chasing the ghost with the Ryan's plan, a word of advice: Don't bite the finger that feeds you!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Courting our Vets on Memorial Day!

Keywords or Terms: Memorial Day; Old Glory; Star Spangle Banner; Military Personnel; Democracy; Heroes; Civil War; Foreign Wars; Freedom; Sacrifices; Veterans; National Cemeteries; Arlington Cemetery; and America.

Memorial Day sharpens our awareness that freedom is not free! For those living in the illusion that America is great because of her political system or arrangement, and not because of our strong and dedicated military personnel, maybe its time to think again. No one is lampooning the fact that we practice and maintain the greatest democracy that the earth has ever known; that is indisputable; however, we are only able to do this and many other great things, because many men and women are able to give of themselves, without caring the cost. Today is a day to remember their huge and more than enough sacrifice.

People who count the dead from foreign wars appreciate the sacrifices that our great heroes have made so that you and myself can have a refuge, a home to go to; a refuge to hang unto; where peaches and honey are served in abundance, where children are able to play in a sand box in the backyard; where mothers can do their laundry or shop in twenty-four hour grocery stores without fear of loosing lights and electricity; where husbands can watch twenty-hour football, baseball or golf on television, teenagers go to movie and shop at the corner store looking across beautiful green lawns without bating an eye lid; where farmers can run their horses and cows on areas and acres of land without doubting that a new day will come, when and where harvesting, threshing and milking will be in abundance; and, there are huge markets to trade their wares. A country where huge and behemoth boats and vessels can take many on cruises and allow the free spirited to gamble and dance all night, without care. A country where there is Disney land and world for children and many adults, who have and want to refuse to grow up, but play till kingdom come. An aboard where July fourth is filled with the sounds of sirens, fireworks and air is filled with crackers and dynamites. A country where you are free to practice your religion, a Merry Christmas or Honokaa and Id-el-filtra of joyous homes, with the pleasure of classic movies like Gone with the wind, Sound of music, Chariots of Fire, and the Godfathers; a Hollywood where degenerates have redefined the word: responsibility. A good life from seas to shinning seas!

For all these privileges and benefits of living in this great country, many brave men have shed their sweat and blood, many brothers are brotherless, and sisters, sisterless, sons and daughters, fatherless or motherless, and many parents shed tears daily for loss of dear loved ones. Now, for those who think America is great because of its system of government, let them once again, think hard. Somewhere in America today, our Memorial Day, someone is feeling the pain of the huge service and sacrifice. The blog today give credence to the reality that we as Americans are able to do all of the above and more, because great men and women have fallen in the fierce battle of wars, domestic and foreign. Lately, some thousands fell in the tall buildings in the heart of New York, some at the Pentagon; others fell in the fields of Philadelphia, Chattanooga, Petersburg, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Antietam, Shiloh, Manassas, Fort Sumter and more; and sometimes, in lands unmentioned and untold because of security and lack of space.

There were the heroes of the Civil War, World Wars One and two, the nasty Asian Wars, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam; the rugged battles of Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and so many other wars, where the star spangle banner were song on exit of our great heroes and old glory flew in the air with the rendition of rhythms of either Amazing Grace, Going Home or Flowers of the Forrest. An atmosphere so solemn and steely, only the strongest of the strong can hold back tears; and even when they do, they stare into the horizon holding back an endless pain that seems as if their legs are about to give way. I have seen one of those and heard great grown men cry like babies at the sound of those lamentations. I have watched one of those ceremonies at a local National Cemetery with my daughter, when she asked me why we fight wars, and all I can say: “Just to keep you and mummy safe!” Men, it’s tough, real tough; sometimes, I wished we never had to fight wars, but unfortunately, we do, just because there are too many bad human beings who have very little value for life itself.

Valor, not withstanding, great men have passed on this earth and gave their all, so the old glory can still blossom on porches and beautiful children of America can hold their hands and stand shoulder to shoulder to sing that song once popularized by another brave heart: “Free-at-Last, Free-at-Last, Thank God Almighty, We Are Free at Last! When our sons and daughters enlist in our military, they take with them part of all of us. When they head to wars, we are always with them, even when not physically, but in spirit. There is often the same depth of sacrifice from their families. When news of the fallen heroes come home, the raptor knocking at the door of bereaved parents are occasionally gory and defeating. The sounds of mourning and crying unravel the depth of loss from our neighborhoods and among our people. Until the news of sacrifice move like wild fire in the prairie across the neighborhood, hardly do we appreciate the great sacrifices that many of those young heroes have made. If only, we can know, if only we can understand, if only we can be in the shoes of those families who have lost loved ones, maybe we will be more circumspect in sending the bests of us to wars in far flung lands like Afghanistan, which offers us none!

It’s not simply a matter of getting our politics right or our political friends safe; we have often let go of the greatest among us, to ensure the sanctity of our democratic values and maintain a sense of conviction that we are right, and they are wrong. Our government and lawmakers must understand that the sacrifices in some parts of this nation are sometimes overwhelming. There are some rural towns and cities, which have lost many of their most beautiful, handsome and brave, to wars. To those communities, we duff our hats, to their family, we are forever grateful, to their childhood friends, we say stop crying, savor the moments you shared with our heroes before they set to war and the cold hands of death snatched them. We shall meet again at the side of the river. The beautiful, the beautiful river! It is good to know that there are consoling songs like that to fall on. To be patriotic is not left at the steps of going to war, spending tremendous time on a day like this to reflect on those we lost, is also patriotic. To fail to appreciate their sacrifice will be incomprehensible and probably, treasonable.

All our veterans deserve a big thank you! There maybe questions regarding the purpose or reasons for going to war. There maybe doubts regarding what wars are justifiable and which, are not. There even may be apprehensions, whether our veterans are treated rightly or wrongly, after surviving the brutality of wars and sacrificially scaling death. However, one thing that must never be taken away from them, is that they were the few, the brave and the unyielding, who stood up to be counted, when there was or were the call to save this Democracy. For those times and for those veterans, we are forever grateful. Talent and bravely are needed in the military and the tactics of war can only be managed by the brilliant; that is why heroism, is the dazzling and glorious concentration of courage!

J.C. and A.W Hare, in their book, Guesses of Truth, said Heroism is the self-devotion of genius, manifesting itself in action. The devotion of many Americans who have fought repeated wars and still volunteer to return to battle, even after being wounded, are best engraved in self-devotion and commitment to the land of Stars and Stripes. There are men and women, who are on the second and third tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, who today, are far away in those foreign lands, without the comforts of their homes and families. What a great sacrifice they make, what an uncommon American, they are. When the history of this Democracy is written, may their bravery, devotion and commitment be written in gold! Once again, thanks, and thanks for being our Heroes.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

From Free Market to Negotiated Pricing: why pharmaceutical industry is convoluted in the rising health care cost?

Keywords or Terms: Drugs; Vancocin; Dificid; Free Market Pricing; Market Analysts; Patient Pricing; Disparate Pricing and Drug Costs; Pharmaceutical Industry; Health Care Cost

The last national debate on health care reform opened up the intricate nature of lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry of congress. Lawmakers, many of whom will deny that lobbying from the pharmaceutical industry meant anything at their consideration of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, may want to rethink again after reading this blog. In the midst of the heated debate was the controversial giving in of about 80 billion dollars in negotiations by the pharmaceutical industry. Many of us wondered at that time, why the pharmaceutical industry was in the midst of negotiated privileges for their industry. Now we know why, after reading the New York Times treatise: 1) For First Time, UNICEF Reveals Differences in Prices it Pays Drug Companies for Vaccines (May 27, 2011 publication); 2) F.D.A. Approves Drug to Treat Hospital Scourge (May 28, 2011 publication). Both of these publications open up debate over why the free market is not necessarily the on-going arbiter of drug prices paid by consumers, hospitals or international organizations.

In case you miss the argument, price determinant for drugs marketed by the pharmaceutical industry are hardly yielded to the forces of supply and demand. While some drugs are sold at artificial low prices in the market, others are sold and marketed at exorbitant prices, making aggregation of ideal cost of what a regular customer pays or the true cost of getting a drug by a customer, debatable. Drugs that could really make a difference in the lives of Americans, are probably held back from market, when the pricing formula is not right; or sold at differential prices to the average consumer or hospital and or international organizations. One the one hand, the Pharmaceutical Industry is willing and ready to go into negotiated pricing for the drugs when sold to international organizations like UNICEF, as long as they keep the negotiated prices secret. On the other hand, the industry is attempting to frame itself as part of the solution to rising health care costs.

For example, Vancocin was reported as having $259.6 million sales in 2010, a 22 percent increase in prices to previous year, while its prescriptions in doctor’s clinics and hospitals were in a decline. Now, are doctors necessarily colluding with pharmaceutical industry to hold the prices of Vancocin higher or, what radical or artificial factors afforded for about one-fifth increase in price of this drug? This drug is known to stop diarrhea; and also has a substitute: Dificid. Recent clinical trials in 1,100 patients show ample superiority of Dificid to Vanconcin. While the recurrence after treatment period of use of Vanconcin was roughly 25 percent that for Dificid was only about 15 percent. When the Press sought to know the possible pricing structure for the new drug Dificid, Optimer, the manufacturer, declined to disclose the price pending conference call with analysts. This makes one wonder, what actually influences the pricing of some drugs in the market: Is it the price of an existing competitive drug in market or the actual unit cost of production plus margin? There was a speculation that since Vanconcin costs a $1,000 for a regime of treatment, it is unlikely that Deficid will cost less. All these issues must be factored into the cost of health care. If the manufacturers of drugs are using other parameters in pricing, that are hardly related to the unit cost of production and or marketing, then consumers and patients are actually paying more and the federal government who is picking up the tab for Medicare patients, is probably paying more as well. Now, does that tell you anything about the rising cost of health care?

Market Analysts, Hospitals, Pharmacists, and Doctors Clinics are probably partners with the Pharmaceutical industry regarding the ultimate price paid by patients. Much as the patients would like it to be otherwise, much as we all trumpet the benefits of allowing the free market to dictate drug prices, the reality is, it is never so. The earlier we start contemplating this reality and factoring it into why health care costs are going through the roof, the better for all of us, including the lawmakers who are doing the bidding for the pharmaceutical industry. Lawmakers may be attempting to achieve lower cost for health care, lower cost for Medicare services and hospital care; however, if the pharmaceutical industry is not working with congress and or consumers, it will probably take a long time for all of us to reach a compromise, over why our health care costs are rising. The potential that the health care costs will continue to rise can no longer be adduced to hospital stays for familiar and prevalent aging diseases among our seniors; the factors are probably unrelated to these.

To ensure that newly discovered drugs meet the needs of the stakeholders, pharmaceutical companies are going to do all it takes to get better prices for their products, even if their costs of research into discovery and production are marginal. When Upjohn paid for research into the discovery of an antibiotic to cure toxin-producing clostridia, it expects to make a margin. However, when it goes into an intensive marketing spree followed by strategic deliberation of market analysts, who are far remote from the discovery and production of the antibiotic, to set prices at the market gate, then we really have problems and we may not necessarily be able to get a handle over our rising health care costs. The result of extraneous variables consideration in setting drug prices makes it difficult for patients to pay a fair market price for the drugs they really need. If the government fails to use its federal might to negotiate reasonable drugs prices for their subsidized patients on Medicare, then the government would have to fork out more than is wise, to make health care cost reasonable for the program.

Just as Food and Drug Administration is approving drugs to treat Hospital Scourge or any other diseases, it might be necessary for the body to solicit pricing data or refer this information to the federal agency on the issue of price gouging, to help temper the unit cost at the market gate for drugs. If federal agencies are able to talk to each other over terrorism, they must be able to talk to each other, about issues of pricing that is undermining federal health programs as Medicare. If there are no existing legislation to afford for that, then congress has to step up to do its job. It is not just enough complaining about rising health care costs; how about focusing some legislation on bogus pricing that is contributing to the rising costs of health care.

Current feedback from patients, who are benefiting from the implemented parts of the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, has been relatively positive. From the perspective of reducing costs of health care, the focus must shift or add for consideration, issues of price gouging in the pharmaceutical industry, hospitals and health insurance industry. From information available to federal agencies, it is known that issues of pricing complaints arise from extraneous factors unrelated to health care delivery, which has made health care costs unmanageable for patients and government programs as Medicare. In terms of rising drug prices to patients, cohesion among federal agencies regarding approving drugs, determining market gate prices of drugs, National Institute of Health Investment in drug research, Medicare payment for drugs and issues of shady pricing, must all be on the table for us to actually determine what drugs are costing patients and the government, especially on the Medicare program, and how to have a proper handle on the ratio of drug costs as part of health care delivery costs.

During the debates over bills antecedent to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, both chambers of congress had to reconcile and harmonize bills’ provision, before fashioning out the ultimate document that was passed into law. Why haven’t federal agencies adopted this formula in looking at the cost expended by the feds over programs? Why is National Institute of Health not providing Health and Human Services how much investment they have put into the discovery of some drugs through research grants and how the private drug industry is making a program as Medicare pay?

If the United Nation’s Children’s fund have now come into its senses, by listing publicly how much price it pays to drug makers for vaccines, should it not be public knowledge, how much of tax payers money has been going into research grants that led to discovery of the many over priced drugs in the market? Examples of revolutionary drugs, which discovery can be traced to National Institute of Health grants are available; what are absent today, are full disclosures regarding how the pharmaceutical industry has privately commercialized these drugs and turned around to charge federal programs as Medicare, exorbitant prices for the same. Never mind that the Federal Government negotiates the prices it pays doctors for the care of Medicare patients; it is about time to negotiate on behalf of ordinary American, the true cost of the drugs they are buying at the pharmacy; and, how much their initial investment into their discovery, has been.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Clash of Political Preferences for ideal Republican Nominee for 2012 National Presidential Election?

Keyword or Terms: Conservatism; Republicanism; 2012 GOP Candidates; Medicare; Balancing Budget; Herman Cain; Newt Gingrich; Gary Johnson; Fred Karger; Tom Miller; Ron Paul; Tim Pawlenty; Mitt Romney; Rick Santorum; Mitch Daniels; Sarah Palin; Money; Age; Intervention in Libya; Homosexuality; Single Parenthood

Republicans have bigger fish to fry than assaulting the Patient Protection and affordable Care Act of 2010, for now. Far from the chastened hall of congress is the emerging field of Republican candidates for next year elections. The sparing candidates from the Party are making many conservative Republicans wonder, where the wise men or women are. Governor Mitch Daniels, one of their favorite candidates, at least in some Republican quarters, has just turned down the opportunity to run for the coveted White House oval office. The former Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, is all too eager to tell the public that he is ready to tell us the truth in governance, like we’ve never heard the truth somewhere along the line regarding how there is hardly a black or White preference, but a grey area in politics. Sarah Palin, another 'iffy' GOP candidate for 2012, is making a movie to burnish her image preemption of the Iowa caucus; and, putting up money for a mortgage in Arizona, hoping that these and other tactics may make her a GOP candidate of consideration for the 2012 nomination.

Although the tea party faction of the Republican Party ridicule some of the candidates that have announced their candidacy for nomination to carry the party’s flag against Democrats, come November 2012, there is the greater problem of having to sell Representative Paul Ryan budget recommendation to the country; with a proposal to turn the popular Medicare program into a voucher System. The election results in New York tonight tell the whole secret: Mess with Medicare in any shape or form and you might as well forget your career as a lawmaker; or, being the majority in congress after 2012 elections. Barring any missteps or unforeseen issues at this time, there is ample evidence that the front runner for GOP nomination, Governor Mitt Romney, would not have to expend too much money or energy to get the blessings of many mainstream republicans. The blog tonight would exploit the debate of who is really conservative enough to be the republican flag bearer and who is not.

Looking at the array of Republican candidates that have declared with certainty that they are the right person to unseat President Obama, you get this airy feeling that rights and privileges are inevitable domain of the rich and the inevitable realities of being conservative may have much to do with how huge your bank account is, and not necessarily your ability to garner enough support for your candidature. On this ground, except for one or two in the following candidatures, CEO Herman Cain, 65-year old; Speaker Newt Gingrich, 67-year old; Gov. Gary Johnson, 58-year old; First Gay, First Jewish Republican and first to file candidacy with FEC and Political Consultant Fred Karger, 61-year old; Flight Attendant, Single Parent Tom Miller, 46- year old; Dr. (Obstetrician) Ron Paul, 75-year old; Gov. Tim Pawlenty, 51-year old; Gov. Mitt Romney, 64 -year old; Senator Rick Santorum, 53 -year old, all these men are probably upper middle income and the rich in America. If wealth and income are criteria for being conservative enough, all these candidates are probably well qualified.

If a candidate's age is corollary with conservativeness and the likelihood of being the GOP nominated candidate; only five of these men are conservative and old enough to receive the blessings of the Republican's grassroots. Notice I said men, yes men, because none of the filed Republican candidates with Federal Electoral Commission, is a female as of date. Assuming also that the older you get, the more conservative you are likely to be and that a preferable pegging age for being old enough is 60-year old; apart for Candidates Cain, Gingrich, Karger, Paul and Romney, all the rest will be considered less conservative. On the other hand, if youthfulness is a criterion for being conservative enough, Miller, Pawlenty and Santorum will fit the bill and would probably get the necessary following to be the GOP candidate for 2012 election against President Barack Obama.

Republicans who would like to use the Democratic Party leader's apprehension to send ground troops to Libya as a barometer for measuring conservativeness and likelihood for being the nominated flag bearer for the GOP, would love Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorium. For instance, Gingrich lambasted the leader of the Democratic Party as "Spectator in Chief" and Santorum said: "Even the French! had the chance of being the leader in the drive to unseat Qaddafi. The first critic here cannot stomach the fact that the US is tired of the heavy lifting in foreign interventions and is asking NATO and its members to take more responsibility in ensuring world safety and peace. The second critic could not stand the idea that Uncle Sam is standing down to allow NATO members to do the cooking and offering support to ensure that the dinner is tasty enough, before doing the dishes! Abraham Lincoln reminds us that conservatism is not the adherence to the old and tried but the new and untried. The leader of the Democratic Party remembers this true definition of conservatism and has borrowed the same in dealing with the issue of foreign intervention with respect to Libya and the recent Arab spring.

If being a fiscal conservative, neo-con, Libertarian and or, staunch pro-life constitutionalists with a vent for small government, decentralized governance with more power to the state, is the choice of who is conservative enough, Tim Pawlenty and Ron Paul or Gary Johnson, will be debating Barack Obama come next year in the Presidential tug of war for the White House Oval Office. There is this question mark regarding how fiscally conservative any Republican can be, considering their long history of spending on foreign wars and a dishevel antagonism to less foreign voyeurism by Uncle Sam. That means Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, would still have to work hard to convince the base that they are the real thing. Whether you portray yourself as a fiscal conservative, neo-con libertarian as Tim Pawlenty, or staunch pro-life constitutionalists with love for more State powers like Ron Paul; and lately, Gary Johnson, then you’ve got your guys in these three. The message is somewhat uniform from these three men: we have a pervasive vent for an unyielding commitment of a powerless Presidency; or, an eternal spirit of the chainless mind! However, if it is good to have too much state resident’s liberty while committing endless vault of dollars to wars that hardly yield any benefit to the ordinary American, no one will question the ambition of these three for the oval office.

Social conservatives in the Republican Party, who consider homosexuality and single parenthood as unacceptable norms in a GOP candidate, would probably be up in arms against Fred Karger and Tom Miller. The former is the first gay republican seeking GOP nomination and the latter, is a single parent. These men are aberration to the conservative Republican values. The conservative Republican's fear and nightmare is that these men are probably going to staff their White House, with men just as them. Despite the probability of the opposite, many conservatives are hardly forgiving and mostly committed to their own definition, of an ideal candidate for the office. Even, if any of these two candidates are likely going to quadruple defense funding or hack down all labor unions or institute legislation that would put Republicans in many State Houses, the conservative would still want a choice far different from them.

In particular, Republican conservatives dislike a candidate who is not Protestant Anglo-Saxon Christian, thus, libertarian as Ron Paul and Gary Johnson and Mormon as Mitt Romney are enigmas to the grass roots. These men, who are well qualified on their own merits as citizens of the United States and probably with executive and legislative experience, would be unacceptable to the grassroots conservatives. However, this does not say CEO Herman Cain, is goody-goody two shoes. That very nagging and difficult subject to discuss in American politics is a strike against his candidature according to conservative Republicans. In the opinion of Chevalier De Penat, Conservatives have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. A man's or woman's religion has very little with how he or she will conduct themselves in the office.

Defining conservatism is very difficult. There are probably so many definitions of conservatism that defaulting on the side of one, as the appropriate measure of grass root Republican's choice, will be a disservice to these astute and intelligent group within the Republican Party. Many outsiders to the core Republican Party membership or the newly fledgling Tea Party group are wont to make the mistake of characterizing conservatism in the Republican choice of candidate to carry the Party's banner against the Democrats come November 2012. Over assessment of the ideal characteristics that grassroots Republicans are seeking in a men or woman to carry the banner will do nothing. Under-assessment, and mistakes will probably destroy the moral among the rank and file conservative Republicans. The middle of the road assessment is probably consistent with the approach that moderates within the Party would like, when talking about who is really conservative enough to be the Republican flag bearer and who is not, in the upcoming Presidential Election of 2012. For now, I will hold my breath as further events unfold! Just Stay tuned!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Down to the wire: When Patented Blockbuster Drugs go generic!

Keywords or Terms: Patented Drugs; Lipitor, Zyprexa, Levaquin, Concerta, Protonix, Plavix; Seroquel; Singulair; Actos; Enbrel; Pfizer; Eli Lily; and, Johnson & Johnson

Despite the fact that some popular patented drugs are about to expire this year, giving room for generic drugs multiplication of famous brands like Lipitor from Pfizer, Zyprexa from Eli Lily, Levaquin from Johnson and Johnson, many of these manufactures would like to hold an edge in the market for these products. A couple of these brands are already household names and command enough users to keep on raking in billions. Many of their manufacturers generally have this inkling or tacit dream of extending their patent over their inventions. There are other famous drugs that have sold billions of dollars in the open market and the thought of these drugs going for cheaper prices, or their manufacturers losing their tight grip on pricing, are just too discomforting for many pioneer drug manufacturers.

Take for example, in the next twelve months, these are the top best-seller drugs about to lose their patent protection rights; the conditions they treat; the pharmaceutical manufacturing company; and, their 2010 U.S Sales. According to IBIS World and www.thestreet.com, the following drugs will have their patent expiring in 2011: 1) Lipitor for treatment of cholesterol, manufactured by Pfizer, with 2010 US Sales of $5,329,000,000; 2) Zyprexa for treatment of anti-psychotic condition, manufactured by Eli Lily, with 2010 US Sales of $2,496,000,000; 3) Levaquin for treatment of antibodies or antibiotics, manufactured by Johnson and Johnson, with 2010 US Sales of $1,312,000,000; 4) Concerta for treatment of ADHD/ADD condition, manufactured by Johnson and Johnson, with 2010 US Sales of $929,000,000; and, 5) Protonix to deal with antacid, manufactured by Pfizer, with 2010 US Sales of $690,000,000.

In the next 24 months, 2012, the following patents would be expiring: 1) Plavix for treatment of anti-patelet, manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squib/Sanofi-Aventis, with 2010 US Sales of $6,154,000,000; 2) Seroquel for treatment of anti-psychotic condition, manufactured by AstraZeneca, with 2010 US Sales of $3,747,000,000; 3) Singulair for treatment of asthma, manufactured by Merck, with 2010 US Sales of $3,224,000,000; 4) Actos for treatment of type 2 diabetes, manufactured by Takeda, with 2010 US Sales of $3,351,000,000; and 5) Enbrel for treatment of arthritis, manufactured by Amgen, with 2010 US Sales of $3,304,000,000.

Some drug manufacturers have argued that there ought to be a lapse time between when the patent on invented drugs losing their patented rights and when other interested companies can produce the generic versions of the drugs. Furthermore, a few drug manufacturers want to be able to pick companies that will have the first crack at making generic versions of some popular drugs, through some converted licensing agreement(s). As a patient and consumer of some of these drugs, my neighbor and a few of the elderly at nursing homes around the nation, argue that such prerogative licensing deals are just ways or means through which inventor- licensing pharmaceutical manufacturers want to continue to bilk the unfortunate life-time drug consumers. Thus, an idea of having generic manufacturer licensing the right to make versions of popular drugs is just out of date or essentially inimical to progress in generic development of some popular drugs. In addition, the licensing arrangement is perhaps a forerunner to other devious means through which patients, mostly the elderly on Medicare and other government subsidized health insurance programs, suffer in the hands of pharmaceutical drug manufacturers.

Despite the ire that a licensing agreement for a generic drug production of a popular drug, after the expiration of patent on some drugs, there are still some deep seated resentment by a few inventor manufacturer, who would like to hold on to coveted privileges for life on some few cash cows drugs. Further, there are emerging crusade in support of preferential licensing deals in such a way that manufacture of a generic to a popular drug cost more for some manufacturers and less for others, through just the licensing agreements. Just as inventor drug manufacturer long to retain the rights and privileges of expiring patents, there are other generic manufacturers who want to cut deals to ensure that their unit cost of production is better-off than other generic manufacturers entering into the market. It is hardly anything new for manufacturers to want to have an edge in making generic versions of popular drugs; however, is this necessarily in the interest of some patients who have a life-time consumer experience with these drug?.

Although many pharmaceutical drug manufacturers, with huge edge on number of drugs patented, condemn some release arrangements where generic drug manufacturers license the production rights to a popular drug with some caviars, there is an inclination that some of these industry leaders are tacit culprits in some of these arrangements. It is not uncommon for a subsidiary of a hugely successful drug with patients and on the market, to begin making generics to the same drug, immediately the patent to the drug expires. These lead edge pharmaceutical drug manufacturers see this alternative arrangement as another means of enjoying the old privilege, if only at a marginally smaller profit. The first choice of these industry leaders is often to acquire and retain patents in perpetuity, not in the range of fifteen years or more. Yes, initial capital for drug invention is huge and in some cases the National Institute of Health have helped financed or defrayed the costs of initial exploratory researches into inventing a drug, the early bird in the invention of some of these drugs, still want to make as much money from the invention as is allowed or as is legally permissible, if not even more.

Due in part to some legalistic arrangements or wordings of agreements by some in-house or retained attorneys by these huge pharmaceutical drug patent holders, the competition in the generics market, is probably not at a level playing field. In as much as many consumers will like to believe that generics are bargains to the usually over-priced and somewhat expensive patented drugs, there are reasons to believe that the patient-user can still do better with the pricing to generics when manufactured by an independent and separate company from the initial patent holder. An examination of defrayed costs of inventing new popular drugs, if only pharmaceutical drug manufacturers are willing to provide full information on the true cost of inventing a drug, or assuming that we can actually find out what contribution research grants from National Institute of Health, Philanthropic organizations or University research grants have on the invention, maybe we will be able to factor the true cost of developing a new drug. Frankly, the marketing of many of these drugs is where the overhead is, and where the pharmaceutical drug companies expend most of their resources. It is also the area where the pharmaceutical drug manufacturers seek to recoup their investments; and, not the actual invention and or manufacturing costs of many of the popular drugs.

At the end of 2010, the pharmaceutical industry saw an increase in their sales over the previous year of about three percent. Of the $860 billion worldwide sales, over a third of the market were accounted for by blockbuster drugs; many of these drugs however, are about to lose their patent protection come 2013. What does this mean? Well in the short run, many generic manufacturers are about to have a field day which in turn will lower the prices paid by consumers. Unfortunately, for some of the reasons earlier discussed, both consumers and generic manufactures may not completely or totally enjoy the opportunity of cashing in on the patents’ expiration. Of the IBIS World reported thirteen blockbuster drugs set to lose their patents in 2012, maybe eight of them would actually turn to a complete wind fall for generic manufacturers; and subsequently to the millions of consumers who are on the drugs or who will be getting on.

Competition in price is usually the ultimate source of bargain for long time users; however, if one of the subsidiaries of the major pharmaceutical maker gets on the game, the imminent patent cliff, often touted in the industry, may actually be a soft landing for the inventor of the drug who is losing the patent protection. Despite the fact that loss of patent protection(s) may lead to lower prices for previously patented drugs, manufacturers have found alternative means of ensuring that the chicken that lay the golden egg, continues to do likewise, even if only at a lower margin. The objective is to retain market share for the drug or its generics. What a crafty way to get a subsidiary to manufacturer generics, even if it is done in India or China! Pharmaceutical drug companies could have easily passed on the lower price to the consumer by directly selling the brand at lower price; however, the marketing geniuses in their companies are often out to protect that marketing and advertising cost; both of which are irrelevant to consumers as often, their physicians continue to identify the brand in their prescriptions. One of the retired pharmaceutical sales executives once indicated that occasionally, some of the physicians are paid to actually write the brand name in their prescription, despite the fact that there are generics to the brand.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Saints and Sinners: A Reflection on potential Republican candidates for the 2012 Presidential Election?

Keywords or Terms: Mike Huckabee; Donald Trump; 2012 Elections; Health Care Reform Law;and GOP Nomination

The title of today’s blog draws attention to what would be considered insignificant discussion in certain quarters; however, the first implication to be drawn from recent announcements by Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump, both initially speculated potential Republican candidates for nomination for 2012 general presidential election, is that both saints and sinners aspire for that enviable office. While the 44th Governor of the State of Arkansas musters other obligations than contesting against the 44th President of the United States of America in the coming 2012 election, the Real Estate Property Licensing guru probably shied away from the contest, out of the fear of scrutiny.

Like the good book said: it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Very few rich men would stand up to Internal Revenue Services’ scrutiny; it is therefore no surprise that Donald Trump chose to remain with NBC make-believe drama than serve his country. This is a man who once promised that he will release his tax filing papers once the 44th President of the United States releases his full length or long form birth certificate. Honesty and reliability are qualities expected of anyone occupying the office of the Presidency. Does this new development indicate hypocrisy on the part of Donald Trump? Well, here are two points to answer your question: 1) Trump probably would never submit to the detailed financial filings required of presidential candidates; 2) A man with lengthy records of bankruptcies, litigation and divorces probably hardly measures up to the quality needed in a man or woman seeking to occupy that office.

The reverend brother turned FOX News Host/commentator would probably not want to be found in the company of a wheeler and dealer; maybe that is why he specifically announced that the time is hardly ripe. For the hard to place billionaire, maybe it is the pressure of finding out that his followers left him as quick as a thunder once they found he is not a man of his words; or, he is hardly worthy of consideration, knowing fully well that he had other committed obligations to fantasy television. Based on the announcements made by Huckabee and Trump, it is expected that many, if not most, supporters of either man would move on to make the role of supporters of other candidates, robust. Instead of standing in the way of other candidates, Huckabee probably took the high road while Trump got an accurate understanding of what a disaster his candidacy would have been.

Here verbatim is the response from former governor of the State of Arkansas regarding his choice not to run: “The past few weeks, the external signs and signals and answers too many of the obstacles point strongly toward running. And when I'm with people encouraging neither run, it is easy to feel the strength of their partnership and commitment to help me to the finish line. But only when I was alone in quiet and reflective moments did I have not only clarity but an inexplicable inner peace, a peace that exceeds human understanding. All the factors say go. But my heart says no. And that's the decision that I have made.”(1) Unlike his swearing and epithet-laden speech in Las Vegas which probably turned off respectable voters, here are Donald Trump’s responses for not running: “I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half-heartedly… Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector.”(2) Subjecting both responses to contextual analysis, you probably know that while the first candidate’s response may be very significant for future attempt to run, the second candidate’s hardly stands any chance, simply put; his preference is not to serve his country but to make money. Damn right Mr. Trump; it is the division of labor thing! It is best to allow the politicians to do their thing, since you are not one of them; and, your initial campaign strategy on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ was probably based on an ulterior motive!

If we are to take the words of one of the Republican leading strategists at face value, it is too late to run for those (candidates) who haven’t begun campaigning to mount an effective bid for GOP nomination. Karl Rove believes that the republican field is still wide open and anyone can still blow open the race. That means, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Gary Johnson, can still give Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Mitch Daniels, run for their money. Frankly, it isn’t that the Republican Party is lacking in men and women who want to contest for that office; however, it appears that the drama and mirage of the office make recent developments among potential hopefuls newsworthy as they present a more accurate picture of the quality of Republicans who have the wherewithal to occupy that office. How about men and women with baggage? I’ll let you have your imagination run wild!

There are speculations that an unexpected event may lead the front-runner into seclusion as conservative Republicans begin to ask the question: who is more conservative enough for us? Mitt Romney seems a very probable candidate to win the GOP nomination, barring any questioning of his religious background. However, if the conservatives in the Republican Party, especially the Tea Party group, continue to flex their muscle, the former Governor of the State of Massachusetts might as well kiss the GOP nomination good-bye. Two main reasons: 1) tea party members want to repeal a synonymous health care bill to what was passed by Mitt Romney in the State of Massachusetts; 2) conservative religious right can hardly accommodate a Mormon. As much as the conservative Republicans may want to dispute the latter assertions, the reality on the ground bears them out.

The powerful conservative republican base would like to respond to what they see as an uncomfortable health care reform law passed in 2010. A few of them believe that Mitt Romney’s past affiliation with a similar law will tarnish or damage their cause. A probable choice candidate for the powerful conservative republicans will be a religious right candidate with attributes and qualities better known with the conservative, Anglo-Saxon, protestant religious and pro-business background. Just as the powerful conservative republicans often like to mask or contradict their position on the religious affiliation of their choice candidate, the truth is, their first preference would never be for a Mormon. The current pro-business background of Mitt Romney may work well for him among the republican power brokers; however among the rank and file, he is not just it!

The challenge for the conservative republican power brokers is how to sell the front runner to the rank and file. Concurrently, the challenge for the front runner is how to better communicate his choice of support for a pseudo-state sponsored health care system and how his religion will not interfere in his policy choices. Another candidate but the front runner may manifest himself or herself in the coming months. His message and handling must be pro-choice, pro-business, and Web-savvy or friendly; his or her demeanor must neither be too aggressive or extreme, but just satisfactory enough to better communicate the conservative values that the power brokers are used to say: hefty defense spending; more tax cuts; lip-service fiscal responsibility and pro-life. Embodying these qualities is going to be the huge challenge ahead for that candidate. All these qualities apply to Mitt Romney, but those power brokers are often too apprehensive of anyone who is not totally like them.

Finally, the two candidates opting out this last weekend are hardly obstructive to the chances of the front runner. It is contestable that Mike Huckabee would have been the candidate of choice for the power brokers. He may be a symbolic candidate of choice, but there are other qualities that the power brokers are looking for that was absent last time around; and frankly, maybe those qualities are not in Mitt Romney and that is why their so-called political strategist advances that the field of candidate for GOP nomination is still open. Thus, for republicans: of saints and sinners make thee the candidate of choice!

2) http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/55052.html#ixzz1MfIYWPrI

Friday, May 13, 2011

When Oil Men Go to Capitol Hill: the reluctant neighbor?

Keywords or Terms: Oil Industry; Huge Quarterly Profits; Subsidies; Federal Budget and Deficits; Uncle Sam; Chevron; Shell; British Petroleum; Max Baucus; Mary Landrieu; Mark Begich; Joe Barton; Capitol Hill; and, Gulf Coast

Might oil companies arise to help fill the gap in the Federal Budget? Will the oil industry lend a hand in time of austerity? Most Americans will dismiss this as utterly improbable or nonsense. Oil Companies with their mega million dollar profits are hardly a brother’s keeper when it comes to sharing their largesse. No surprise therefore when the oil companies’ executives were asked to justify the tax breaks to their industry in light of the reported huge profits in the industry and the nation’s pressing need to fill the huge hole in the federal budget and expanding nation’s deficits, they replied: for our industry to sustain viability of its enterprise for many years to come, we need to make investments; and, denying us tax incentives and deductions will be misinformed and tantamount to discrimination.

Senate Democrats are giddy about eliminating the subsidies to the oil industry; however, the oil executives are not ready for that and they do have friends in high places, in both chambers of Congress. How about Democratic Senators Mary Landrieu (D-Alaska), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Representative Joe Barton (R- Texas)? There are other lawmakers on Capitol Hill from both aisle of congress, who are not so extroverted regarding their avowed support for the oil industry; but will most likely vote against the idea of eliminating subsidies to the industry. From statements in support of the continued exploitation of the nation’s carbon-based resource to the possibility of expansion of off-shore and on-shore drilling on federal leases, some of the oil industry’s better friends on Capitol Hill, are not yet ready to support any proposal to cut the subsidies to the industry. Now the blog tonight wants to contemplate whether oil companies are willing to share in the nation’s burden of austerity, just as they have shared in its wealth in the past decades.

Democratic Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) was probably attempting to get into the hearts of the oil executives or was romanticizing the possibility of a change of heart from oil executives regarding subsidies’ withdrawal from the industry when he uttered the comment, "Just seems frankly like you're making a lot of money. That's fine. That's the American way. But, it also seems maybe the subsidies are not really that necessary anymore." The response he got from the oil executives after all, told him clearly that the oil companies are not ready to part with their booty or loot; one that continues to grow every quarter, or allow them to quadruple profits. Frankly, they are hardly obligated to do so; however, considering the fact that schools are being closed, lunch programs in elementary schools being scaled down and health programs for infants, women and the elderly being sidetracked, can these companies continue to be perceived as good neighbors? Can the oil industry continue to ignore the reality of troubling times for American homes and government?

Yet some in Congress are hoping for more, they are asking questions that the average American would like to ask executives in the industry: Can you share your lunch with us, since it seems Uncle Sam is growing broke as he continues to gift some to your industry! I have once argued against the continuance of any subsidy to the oil industry and asked in blunt language, why is the nation giving away its money to a wealthy industry that hardly needs it. Forget about Chevron’s Chairman Watson’s response that the cost of crude oil is the prime ingredient in the price of gasoline and raising oil industry taxes will not reduce price of gasoline at the pump. The reality is the unnecessary increases in the cost of a barrel of crude oil are partly due to speculation, greed and wanting more, an act that oil industry futures’ traders are convoluted in. The oil executives understand that the withdrawal of federal subsidies will only reduce a fraction of their huge profit; it will not do them in. Unfortunately, they will not publicly agree to that!

To their credit, Oil industry invests huge sums of money in exploration and adoption of modern technologies to facilitate extraction of oil in remote regions and desperate depth off-shore. Oil Companies’ investments in research are hardly contingent on federal tax credit write-offs; however, they help and give the oil companies the edge or the time to recuperate huge upfront investments in exploration. Once again, when an oil reserve is found and extraction begins over the life of a well, the oil companies stand to gain billions and some of those again, are always withheld through accounting gimmickry that makes it impossible to ascertain the net returns from initial investments and associated government subsidies. In the absence of a spirit of sharing or forbearance, a wide gap will remain between the expectations of Democrats who want to pull the federal subsidies to the industry and what the oil companies are willing to forgo or defer.

The question is whether oil companies are willing to forgo some of the subsidies that are currently given to the industry. Senate Democrats will like to go after $21 billion in tax incentives and deductions over the next ten years. However, this looks like a tall order, with the President of Shell Oil Company, a corporation that that made $8.8 billion profit last quarter, holding brief on its behalf and for the beleaguered British Petroleum with the following comment: "last year in the Gulf of Mexico, government policies caused Shell to defer some $700 million in capital expenditures and take more than $180 million in special charges. We expect to lose an estimated 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2011 alone. Thinking about the impact-to-date, that represents lost gasoline production - just to Shell - that could have powered, on average, 633,000 cars and light trucks every day since January 1."

The first obstacle to oil companies playing ball or acknowledging that they can actually do away with the subsidies to the industry is grounded in the fear of the unknown. True, exploration for oil and gas is an expensive, difficult and potentially dangerous venture. In early 1990’s the Gulf Coast was considered a “Dead Sea” after fifty years of tapped exploitation; then came advancements in Deep-water drilling Technology, which has helped increase production by more than 50%. It was estimated that before the Deep-water Horizon disaster, 52% of the oil and 20% of the gas extracted in the Gulf Coast came from wells drilled in depths of 1,000ft and over. This was a significant development; however, with the BP disaster, obviously, there is going to be a pull back and somewhat of a trepidation regarding how much understanding the industry has of deep-water off-shore drilling. The uncertainty of exploration investments is one that oil and gas companies are too afraid to absolve upfront. However, if lucky in their explorations, the reward could be very handsome.

The second obstacle is facing federal regulatory requirements, including safety guidelines, refinery operations and other regulatory agencies’ requirements on exploring for oil and gas. The challenge and risk of accidental spill often beleaguer the oil industry. The lackadaisical operations on oil platforms and unconscious safety management practices get oil companies into problems just as we had over the past year. British Petroleum could rightly argue that other oil companies in the industry could have suffered their faith at the Macondo well; and, only the fact that there are available government subsidies that encouraged the company to venture into the depths that led to the accidental explosion. However, this argument will hardly hold ground, if the Federal Government pulls subsidies that allowed oil companies to take extra-ordinary risks that lead to explosions and deaths in the process of searching for oil. The continued Federal subsidy to the oil industry conflicts with its goal of maintaining safety in the process of exploration. If oil companies are not being responsible enough with the issue of safety management and if oil companies want to hang the risk-taking choices on the fact that they are being subsidize to take huge risk, perhaps, it is time to let go the subsidies or yank the subsidies in order to save lives.

The best hope is to grapple with the fact that some of the subsidies would have to go away. However, the problem is, would the leadership in both chambers of congress live up to the expectation of the nation, in terms of bringing down the deficit; and, or making up for the shortfall in federal budget, by suspending the subsidies to the oil industry. Fortunately, one does not have to look far to see how this could be accomplished or play out. However, the question is, and has always been: will our lawmakers do their job, or will they continue to catty-up to the oil industry that lines the pockets of some of them or their campaign chests? The huge quarterly profits and mixed records of oil companies, with respect to safety management in exploration and marketing oil, make it imperative that our lawmakers take away some of the industry subsidies, if not for the sake of making up for the huge hole in our budget, but also to encourage some discipline in the way safety issues are managed in the oil industry.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Escalating Laws on Abortion in State capitols: the invisible hand of the Republican Strategy on Women Health

Keywords or Terms: Republican Party; State Capitols; Planned Parenthood; Anti-Abortion Groups; Pro-Choice Groups; Religious Undertone; Sexual Bigotry or Sexism

The current effort by the Republican Party to fight any fund going into Planned Parenthood is obviously related to their avowed attempt to chip away on the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The nature of the bills passed so far in States Assemblies of Oklahoma, Arizona, Indiana, Texas and Kansas, among others, point finger at a cautious effort to disrupt reproductive services rendered by Planned Parenthood to low income women.

Last month, Oklahoma Republican Governor Mary Falling signed a pair of laws, intended to restrict abortion. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act bans abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy. The second bill prohibits health insurance plans in Oklahoma, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, from offering elective abortions. In March, Arizona Republican Governor, Jan Brewer, signed into law a bill requiring that women publicly offer the reason for terminating a pregnancy, a provision that threads on women’s right to privacy in decisions made between them, their physician, partner and family. This week, Republican Governor Mitch Daniels of the State of Indiana, signed into law a bill denying state funding to Planned Parenthood; and, enshrined the same 20 week threshold on fetus limitation for abortion, like in the State Of Oklahoma.

For women, these new aggressions from state houses with over 70% male representatives are indications of attempts to violate women's right of access to reproductive services. Women have historically taken up the challenge of fighting oppressive sentiments from the opposite sex; especially where it concerns their body. However, the current Republican shenanigan is a difficult one to comprehend. Notwithstanding though, women groups are standing together to fight against the ugly face of male domination and oppression in the area of reproductive health. As a starter, the Planned Parenthood in the state of Indiana has gone to court to get an injunction preventing the newly signed law from taking effect until the court case is settled. Even as women prove themselves capable of making decisions regarding their bodies, Conservative Republicans are choosing to strengthen their resolve to stop abortion, by denying state funds or contract to Planned Parenthood. According to anti-abortion groups, the Republican sponsored legislation against institutions providing reproductive services in states, especially on abortion, are long overdue. A comment that is met by progressive women groups in support of women’s right to reproductive choices with: Not so fast, Jose!

Wake-Up Call

The recent surge in anti-abortion bills in State capitols, a little over one hundred and eighteen all over the nation, is playing on the expectation that supporters of women's rights to reproductive choices, including Planned Parenthood and other social services organizations, would have to bring litigation to the current Supreme Court; and hopefully, the court will default on their side. The composition of Justices in the current Supreme Court may just do that; however, no one truly knows until a case of this nature is brought before the Justices of the Supreme Court. If we go by the number and rapidity of the mushrooming laws all over the states’ capitols, one may be tempted to believe that it is a Republican Party grand design to undermine reproductive health services to women. Many supporters of women reproductive services understand that they are being taunted by the Republican Party and are not necessarily interested in getting into a legal fight over the issue of denying funding to Planned Parenthood; however, if pull comes to shove, they may have to stand up for their rights. Already there are litigation going on with respect to the instituted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and settlement in those cases may help define the protection of women rights to reproductive services.

Abortion is a controversial subject and the issue of premeditated abortion has taken a beating by most conservative groups. The progressives have not been far behind, except in cases of incest, rape and or, where the life of the woman is in jeopardy due to the pregnancy. The debate over the subject of abortion, often takes on ideological and religious undertone; an exercise that spirals into shouting matches or wars between two opposing groups, who neither are listening to each other. The current interjection of politics into the debate and the creepy legislation(s) denying funding to Planned Parenthood is about to take a new life of its own. As more Republican-led state capitols are proposing bills designed to escalate the pandemonium, many Republican governor are so ready to sign these bills into State Laws and many more state legislatures are daring challenges to the law; as they gravitate towards a battle with Democrats, who empathize with women's right to reproductive health services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Incidentally, the United States Supreme Court has agreed that the issue of abortion may have a state prerogative but not at the expense of federal laws. As legal guidelines stand, states may choose to make laws in line with their state residents' preferences. Turning over the right to make laws on regulation of abortion to states, is probably going to ante up the debate or make matters worse. The past Supreme Court rulings may have made sense in individual cases, or where politics have not exacerbated pressures to undermine a law or fight a cause, but with the current escalation of bills and state laws specifically banning state's funds to a particular organization, the issue of discrimination may be litigated. The Supreme Court must stop shifting responsibility or allowing states to get into preferential law making regarding situations, where the balance of power on an issue is lopsided against a section of our society. This time around, the mushrooming laws are set heavily against women's right to reproductive choices.

While protecting the unborn infant seems to be a laudable choice, a caveat for the new Republican onslaught, the discrimination against a particular organization for rendering a particular service is rather questionable. If the attack on that particular organization is taking the form of pre-conceive agreements among states led by republican governors to undermine the rights of women residents, then it is probably appropriate to delve into the reasons for the new developments. If the escalation seen in Republican led state houses is leading to the disenfranchisement of Planned Parenthood, and by default women, there may be reasons to believe that vigilante justice is going on in those state capitols; and, it may be necessary for US Office of Civil Rights to step in and provide us with some answers.

The Fear

While States may be free to make their laws and bills that are binding on state's residents, those laws and bills once again, may not take precedence over federal laws on any issue, except for those exempted under the United States Constitution. It behooves state lawmakers to consider the question of equity and equality as they ram bills into laws within their various legislatures in order to achieve an ulterior objective. The general trend in state capitols with republican majority, regarding cutting funds to Planned Parenthood, has the potential of increasing the vulnerability of low income women and teenagers, who depend on reproductive services rendered by Planned Parenthood and similar social welfare organizations.

The potential consequence of the new trend are two folds. The first is that residents of states where Planned Parenthood is handicapped due to denial of grants and funds from state coffers, will suffer hardy, as needed reproductive services and advice may be cut back by the organization. The convergence of funds' denials in Republican led state capitols amplifies the possibility of denials of reproductive services from Planned Parenthood in multiple states, putting millions of women in those states at a disadvantage. The second, is the possibility of heightened illegal abortions or substandard reproductive services in states that have banned money going to Planned Parenthood. In addition, the malicious nature of the current pandemonium in Republican led capitols, has the potential of impacting quality of complementary health services to reproductive services for the worse around the nation, as Planned Parenthood begins cut back on its services.

The Republican Strategy on Women Health

The Republican strategy to prevent any state funds from going to Planned Parenthood is class-based and women may choose to argue that under title VII, if they feel discriminated against through the action regarding an issue that is expected to be private for many women, their partners, family and physicians. Using a mix of constitutional provisions and amendments to usher in a hostile charade against women, hardly speaks well for the Republican Party and may boomerang against it come 2012 election cycle.

The underlying dynamics of the current strategy of the Republican led state capitol is well grounded in the party’s anti-abortion strategy or stance. Republicans are geared toward scoring points on the objective of chipping away on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and have chosen the war against Planned Parenthood as one of their strategy. The Republican Party probably estimates that cutting off state funds from Planned Parenthood is a low risk option and that the stakes are not especially so high to cause an avalanche of vote loss from women in the coming cycle of election; however, they may be surprised. The fact is, launching against programs that serve women, especially the most vulnerable among them, may lead to a huge trouble that the whole Republican Party may not be able to curtail. Considering that the strategy is to chip away from the gains of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new experience may make women more supportive of the law than ever. Incidentally, this new strategy in State capitols is not about delivering governance; but, devious politics with a grander plan to undermine overall women health.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Raging Mississippi River: transforming the lives of the living and consoling the bereaved?

Keywords or Terms: Mississippi Floods; Life and Living; Deaths and Bereavement; Starting Over; Vacations; Passion for Life; John Mansfield; Henri Bergson

One of my children once asked me why people die young. I replied: the good ones among them never die; they just move to another stage where the audience is more appreciative and the melodious music they are playing, more appealing. Grief and losses come in different forms and often, set the stage for other challenges and triumphs. Watching people loose all they have in life from the floods in Tennessee and Mississippi, make you appreciate some little pleasures of life; and, imagine what a sad time those who are in the midst of the current floods are going through.

Watching family members tell you, they not only lost their homes to the floods, they also lost one of their children, brothers, sisters, aunts or uncles, make you somewhat loss for words; occasionally disoriented, confused and a little dumb founded, to an extent that you find yourself imagining where to begin in consoling them. These are trying times for the bereaved and difficult one for those who have lost everything they have in life to the floods; and probably a sad moment for anyone receiving the news. The news are sometimes so heart rendering, that you want to go to bed and imagine it was a dream and it will all come to pass. However, these are real stories, real life experiences that are hardly forgotten by the affected.

The comfortless news from the flood plains of Mississippi combined with personal stories of the havoc which the turbulent and raging Mississippi River had wroth on the lives of people, are making me blog tonight about transforming lives and consoling the bereaved. Families often find it difficult to determine where to begin after a disaster; however, there is that inner strength that most do not know exists within them, from which they can draw energy and courage to begin all over again. There was the story of a seventy year old woman who lost her husband last year and lost her house to the floods in the Mississippi tributary. As the daughter told the story to NPR, she wondered where her mother is going to begin from. Without flood insurance and probably, with only a Social Security check to depend on, her daughter probably felt all is by now over for her mother. While the story sound pitiful as the lady replied to NPR that her mother hasn’t flood insurance, I took a deep breath, called on the wisdom from my grandma’s apron: when life gives you lemon, make lemonade out of it. When the door shuts somewhere, another widow of opportunity is opened to you elsewhere; you just need to find it. If you are bereaved tonight, or if you have lost properties to the Mississippi river floods, never give up, because this is an opportunity to make the best out of a bad situation.

In the confusion of losses is the providence of redemption. Fragmented lives get rebuilt with vengeance when the bereaved can summon courage, to chart a new beginning without fear or self-pity. Imagine that you just moved to a new planet and you are beginning to establish yourself in the new environment. Imagine what it was like when you just moved away from your parent’s home, without anything but a college or high school diploma to your name. The only difference now is that you have done it before, you have better experience with starting over, but age is probably not on your side. Like the old lady once said, age is but a number. Now, go show the world you are not a push over. Show them that you are made of the best of characters and you can remake and rebuild your life over and over again, if need be. That is the stuff real men and women are made of. The will to fight on against all odds; the drive to keep on giving when it seems there is none; and the boldness to confront the challenges of living and triumph, set you apart from the flock. Like my buddies once said: what don’t kill you just makes you stronger! Whoo! Whoo!!, Go Get them!!!

The great sage Menander, Dis Exapaton said: Whom the gods love dies young. The unexpected deaths of friends, families and that which slays even more, make all weep. It isn’t the fact that our loved ones died that hurts so bad, it is the fact that death took them when they still had the strength, senses and their wits. Death often takes the loveliest of the lovely among us and sometimes challenges the heart to despair. How I wish life could go on for ever, but frankly, the great designer never meant it that way; and, maybe why my rhetoric that the good people never die, they just move to another stage, with bigger audience, better appreciations and more melodious music, is indeed adequate at this time to those who have been bereaved from the Mississippi floods.

If the Mississippi flood teaches us anything, it is the fact that life is very temporal; and it may not be bought with heaps of gold. John Mansfield in the ‘Widow in the Bye Street’ reminds us that life is a long headache in a noisy street. In the midst of the tumultuous disaster from the flood, affected people and their families must take consolation in the fact, we own nothing and those that we lost, were actually on loan to us and we probably forgot, out of having too much of a good time with them! Like in the floods of the Mississippi river, Henri Bergson in his book, Newton, My idea of God, summarizes: “Life appears as a wave which rises, and which is opposed by descending movement of matter. At one point alone, it passes freely, dragging with it obstacles which will weigh on its progress but will not stop. At this point is humanity.” When you watched the floods subsume your homes and cars, you probably felt all was lost, but imagine, you have one up that floods: You are still here!

It is difficult that your loved ones or neighbors did not make it through the floods. It is probably also difficult to imagine that you are sharing a bedroom with a stranger in a shelter and have no home to go to. Now, consider this time as a vacation in Europe, right in the Tirol Alps, Austria, and you are in a bed and breakfast home of two old and loving couples. Now, think about the warmth and love those memories can bring. That is similar to what is going on right now. You’ll soon get to go home after the long vacation and you get to re-energize yourself to begin all over again. Don’t’ forget the old saying: the gypsies are often more appealing to us than the apostles!

Set your expectations high for a new beginning. This time around, you are going to do things a little bit differently. When you enter your new life, you’ll move the sofa close to the fire place and the bed away from the vent. You are going to paint the home or apartment a bright and beautiful color. You’ll acquire less junk and you’ll not need that storage space you pay the monthly rental of sixty dollars to stuff your excess junk! You see the bright side? Yes, that’s what we are talking about, any disappointment opens up another opportunity to be and do your best. That flood from the raging Mississippi has just opened up another way to live your life to the fullest, without acquiring too much junk! Be passionate in the forthcoming arrangement and always look at the bright side of things; or, look the glass of water, half full, not half empty. Do not sweat the small stuff, do not attempt to live up to other people’s expectations, this is your new life and a second coming, enjoy the ride to the fullest. Goodnight and God Bless You.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Unemployment figures: the Yo-yo nature of the monthly reports on employment trend in America?

Keywords or Terms: Employment and Unemployment in America; Recession; Jobs Creation; Congressional Politics; Business Performance; Planned Parenthood; PPACA; Taxation; Revenue Collection; Lawmakers: Republican, Democrats and Independents

The current state of employment in America is patchy. Although a vast majority of companies and businesses are hiring, the threshold of employment has not been impressive enough to make a dent in the nation’s 10 – 16 % unemployment rate. This is probably why many in the unemployment lines cannot see the value of railing that the economy is improving or, not in a deplorable recession; and that, the unstable monthly unemployment reports are not showing the total picture of the performance of the economy.

Current House of Representatives negotiations over Federal budget, 2011 and 2012, shifted gear into consideration of social issues, excluding the dysfunctional America’s unemployment rate. Republican majority in the House of Representatives have concentrated their attention on issue of cutting funding for low income women to pay for abortion in the bid to undermine the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; hardly thinking of the need to invest in the future of companies to expand employment opportunities to the teaming millions out there still seeking work. How can companies and businesses be motivated to increase their labor force? How can entrepreneurs build up businesses and what can congress do to help them take up challenges that can resolve consumer demand problems? How can public policy enhance business performance and management systems so that employment opportunities improve? These are questions that the public wants resolved, not a debate over why a teenager must prevent unwanted pregnancy or why adoption is a better alternative to pregnancy termination.

Mind you, no one is saying debating social policy issues like abortion are inappropriate; however, the job issues are more pressing at this time. There are still too many people without a job and the college kids for 2011 are already swelling the number of the unemployed. Unless congress has taken up as its responsibility, the task of pushing funding of abortion debate to the brink, it should make a bold move to address what is preventing America from moving ahead in the sphere of job creation. Whether congress apportions fund for Planned Parenthood or not, people will still do what has to be done to prevent pregnancies from rape, incest or other complications. It will be good to have funds for early pregnancy prevention, birth control pills, and IUDs; however, if congress chooses to focus on gender-biased politics rather than creating jobs or opportunities to afford the private sector create jobs, the nation would have to contend with more poverty; a situation that never augers well for the rate of abortion or life births. Focusing effort on underfunding or de-funding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not the main goal of many Americans who are struggling to gain employment, hold on to their mortgages or pay their children college fees.

In case you missed the news, unemployment rate inched up again in the last monthly reporting, despite an amazing growth in employment figures in the private sector. There is growth in private sector jobs creation; however, the size of growth was not enough to compensate for the number of people seeking employment or those, who are underemployed for more than twelve months. A good performance of job creation will ensure that those seeking jobs get one, and those who are underemployed find opportunities that suit their qualification(s), with the good chance of both groups growing into reliable and productive employees. With improvement in employment opportunities, more people will be able to pay taxes and government revenue source will grow or swell. Arbitrary de-funding of Planned Parenthood is hardly going to create jobs or add a nickel to the government revenue source. And, in the absence of enough revenue, many state budgets will remain in the dumps, more and more programs to support poor and middle income Americans will continue to go away and those who are concerned that 20% of Americans hold down 80% of the nation’s wealth will have more debates and issues to mull over.

There are groups of lawmakers in Congress who still do not appreciate that the nation is gradually turning to an oasis of the unemployed and wasted human resources. I believe that the Obama’s Administration wants the nation’s citizens to be gainfully employed and would like to be accountable to many who are out of work and companies seeking friendlier environment for businesses to grow and create employment. There are some of us who do not believe that tax cut is the only way to create a business friendly environment or cut down on America’s deficit; thereby leading to more job creation. Further, apart from taxation relief, there are several other existing public policy issues that continue to encourage businesses to hide their wealth in overseas bank accounts and move American jobs overseas. Some of these issues are in finance, labor and resource use interchanges, among others. A few of them are well known in the business arena and others, well documented by the Internal Revenue Services. It is time to look into such laws and effect necessary changes to help American Companies keep jobs within the shores of the country.

We cannot pull America’s economy from the doldrums, if we continue to ship jobs overseas, give businesses big tax brakes and deregulate the banking system so that more of the nation’s wealth may be moved overseas. Lawmakers need to know what is expected of them. Without a clear understanding of the expectation of the electorate, lawmakers may sit and pretend they do not understand how important an aspect of the lives of the people they represent has become with the weak economy. The state of the American economy is not encouraging and the yo-yo data coming from those monitoring the economics statistics are showing that unemployment is very grim. Money is already tight but ideas are flowing freely and we need to harness these to create work for everyone who needs one and rebuild American allover again. Now, it is up to the lawmakers to genuinely do something about our challenge or just quit and pretend all is well.

Some of our lawmakers are doing a good job attending to bills that can actually alleviate the problems of unemployment. But it’s important to call the attention of many more lawmakers in congress, especially the Tea Party group, who could do more than play politics with the lives of the unemployed Americans. Many Americans are too shy to speak to their government regarding where the shoes are hurting on their toes. With many of the safety nets in place to catch those falling through the cracks closing up with more state budget shortfalls, it is about time our lawmakers understand that the people still hold the power and will always. By setting aside the important work of the people to address relatively insignificant and unnecessary issues like de-funding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Republican lawmakers that are spear heading this effort, may want to reconsider their effort by asking themselves, would this effort really create jobs for the unemployed American who are seeking work? Lawmakers are expected to work with themselves, Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike, to facilitate bills that support the quality of life of the people, including creating jobs, setting goals that help Americans remain employed tax paying citizens, both at the federal and State levels. Yes, we’ve heard the story about how new taxes will stifle job creations, but that message is fast fading and getting irrelevant in a 10-16% unemployment environment. Employment impacts and drive taxes, taxation does not drive unemployment as many Republicans always want us to believe.

Republicans may want to revise and retool their strategy towards the 2012 Presidential Election, because using high unemployment as a campaign message, will hardly sit well with Americans as we all are aware of the current events in congress and how politics has overtaken the substance and message of the growing unease with unemployment problems; and how Republican lawmakers have chose to pursue other interest rather than concentrate on addressing the unemployment issues. Because the monthly employment data releases have not been encouraging, it may be better for lawmakers who want to retain their offices to proceed with the following initiative. First, re-focus attention now on bills that will create jobs, enough of that illusion that government does not create job, government has the incentive and instruments to re-energize the private sector to create more jobs. Second, develop a better working relation among the leadership of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and the White House; and ensure persistent conversation on creating better business climate that pushes for economic growth. Third, put in place bills that help correct the cyclical burst and boom cycles in our economic system; so we do not have to continue to deal with the often changing unemployment rate and monthly data collection and reportage. If the wrangling over who pays for abortion is not irritating to the House Republicans by now, it is for the unemployed and their family members!