David Kirkpatrick

December 10, 2009

There’s one thing I’d like see during the health care reform debate

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:32 pm

And that thing is an unbiased as possible (I know, I know — that’s probably a pipe dream) breakdown on the business costs for the various plans. Health care reform is a huge and necessarily complicated topic taking into account entire large swaths of the current U.S. economy, and corporate health care benefits are front and center since most Americans currently get health insurance through their employer. So much so that health insurance actually stifles job mobility because some people are afraid to lose their current health benefits and the grandfathered in “preexisting conditions.”

Now the complex topic of heath care reform has become so much more so with the House and Senate muddying the waters through the sausage-making that is legislation. Right now the major national business organizations oppose both the House and the Senate health bills, but how do the bills actually break down and affect businesses of different sizes? I’ve read in many places where small business owners are looking forward to health care reform and see the issue along the lines of, “well, reform couldn’t be any worse than what we have right now.”

With all that in mind in mind, what I’d like to see is a clear auditing of both the House and Senate health care reform bills and how much each costs businesses of different size — size in number of employees and in annual revenue. I have a feeling health care reform would actually be an improvement for businesses that most anyone would consider small, but I don’t know and I’m too lazy (and probably incapable) of doing the policy wonkery number crunching to figure this out. Anyone out there game?

May 15, 2009

The “war on drugs” rebranded

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:39 pm

The Obama administration has rebranded the “war on drugs.” The key being taking the loaded word, “war,” out of the equation. The moniker was stupid to begin with and as has been noted around the blogosphere gave rise to a martial us-versus-them in law enforcement circles.

It’s not much, but it is a baby step so Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske deserves some kudos.

Now let’s take a look at that “czar” thing …

From the Cato Insitute’s weekly dispatch:

White House Official Says Government Will Stop Using Term ‘War on Drugs’

The Wall Street Journal reports that White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske is calling for a new strategy on federal drug policy and is putting a stop to the term “War on Drugs.” “The Obama administration’s new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting ‘a war on drugs,’ a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use…. The Obama administration is likely to deal with drugs as a matter of public health rather than criminal justice alone, with treatment’s role growing relative to incarceration, Mr. Kerlikowske said.”

Will Kerlikowske’s words actually translate to an actual shift in policy? Cato scholar Ted Galen Carpenter calls it a step in the right direction, but remains skeptical about a true change in direction. “A change in terminology won’t mean much if the authorities still routinely throw people in jail for violating drug laws,” he says.

Cato scholar Tim Lynch channels Nike and says when it comes to ending the drug war, “Let’s just do it.”

Cato scholars have long argued that our current drug policies have failed, and that Congress should deal with drug prohibition the way it dealt with alcohol prohibition. With the door seemingly open for change, Cato research shows the best way to proceed.

In a recent Cato study, Glenn Greenwald examined Portugal’s successful implementation of a drug decriminalization program, in which drug users are offered treatment instead of jail time. Drug use has actually dropped since the program began in 2001.

In the 2009 Cato Handbook for Policymakers, David Boaz and Tim Lynch outline a clear plan for ending the drug war once and for all in the United States.

February 7, 2009

SCHIP and tobacco taxes

Filed under: Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:44 am

Master blender of pipe tobacco, G.L. Pease, makes a great point on the increase in tobacco taxes and the recently passed SCHIP. One, it’s absurd on so many levels; and two, major cigarette companies were allowed to basically tax their competition (roll-your-own tobacco) out of existance.

Bad politics, bad policy and it’s based on faulty research. If you’re curious about the last bit there, do some background — the research, I think from the 60s, that all tobacco stats are based on is terminally flawed. When the government didn’t get the desired result, the stats were altered mid-stream to ensure the research was sufficiantly negative. Bad, bad science and bullshit politics. Don’t get me wrong. Tobacco is not a healthy item in large quantities, but it is not the evil it’s somehow been made out to be.

From the link:

This following mercilessly swiped table indicates the new Federal excise tax on tobacco products, along with the current taxes we all know and despise, and the proposed taxes vetoed twice by ex-prez G.W. The new rates go into effect 1st April, 2009. Fortunately, for most of us, pipe tobacco isn’t hit as badly as it could have been, resulting in a price increase of only about 20¢ per ounce. Nor have cigars, taken a serious beating, but it may herald the death of many RYO tobaccos currently on the market. Is it any wonder that Big Tobacco supported this? Nothing like taxing your competition into oblivion in the spirit of free trade.

Tobacco Product Current Tax SCHIP 2007
(Vetoed)
SCHIP 2009
(New Tax)
Tax Increase
(April 2009)
% Increase
(April 2009)
Cigarettes $0.39/pack $1.00/pack $1.01/pack $0.62/pack 158%
RYO Tobacco 1 $1.10/lb $8.89/lb $24.78/lb $23.68/lb 2,159%
Pipe Tobacco $1.10/lb $2.81/lb $2.83/lb $1.73/lb 158%
Large Cigars $0.05 ea (Max) $3.00 ea (Max) $0.40 ea (Max) $0.35 ea (Max) 722%
Small Cigars $0.04/pack $1.00/pack $1.01/pack $0.97 2,653%
Chewing Tobacco $0.195/lb $0.50/lb $0.50/lb $0.31/lb 158%
Snuff $0.59/lb $1.50/lb $1.51/lb %0.93/lb 158%

What truly amazes me about this is that the fools who author this sort of nonsense don’t seem to be able to comprehend that building social programs based on revenues derived from taxing something they’re hoping to extinguish is the worst sort of fiscal folly imaginable.