Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama's Policies Based on Science?

On global warming: I think not. New indications, in a refereed journal, that recent temperature changes are linked to ocean currents, and are not likely to have been affected by man-made factors.

On marijuana: there could be a number of reasons to support the continued treatment of marijuana as a criminal matter, despite expectations that Obama would favour some degree of liberalization; but Obama's Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, has said something definitely false:

"Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit," Kerlikowske said in downtown Fresno while discussing Operation SOS—Save Our Sierra—a multiagency effort to eradicate marijuana in eastern Fresno County.

On health care: Obama seems to have a naive view that there are massive savings to be had by switching to generic drugs from brand name, and cutting back on surgeries such as tonsillectomies when they are not needed. This no doubt goes with the faith in prevention, anti-obesity programs, and funding fun activities for kids as a way of achieving significant savings in health care costs.

From Kaus:

From AP yesterday:
"We have to do what businesses and families do. We've got to cut out the things we don't need to pay for the things we do," Obama said at a town-hall style meeting Thursday in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. The meeting followed a prime-time news conference the night before in which Obama sought to rally public support for his health plan. [E.A.]
From Boston Globe, earlier this month:
WASHINGTON - Sweeping healthcare legislation working its way through Congress is more than an effort to provide insurance to millions of Americans without coverage. Tucked within is a provision that could provide billions of dollars for walking paths, streetlights, jungle gyms, and even farmers' markets. ... "These are not public works grants; they are community transformation grants,'' said Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Kennedy, chairman of the Senate health committee whose healthcare bill includes the projects.

This fits rather neatly with Sandy Szwarc's recent post about the UK: the same National Health System that is cutting back on neonatology care, and no doubt causing the death of infants who would otherwise live, is spending a fortune on sports, camping trips and exercise and other activities for children as part of an anti-obesity campaign.

The Edinburgh Evening News reported another government program is spending “apparently £23 billion [$37.99 billion U.S. dollars]” to offer free holidays, called an “outdoor education,” to Scotland’s children to get them moving and build character. It plans “to send every 11-year-old on a five-day adventure break, kayaking, climbing and abseiling among other things… [and] free swimming for all children, at least two hours of PE a week and more outdoor activities, most of which are meant to tackle childhood obesity levels.”

The Scotsman reports that the money NHS Lothian spends each year on weight loss and anti-obesity interventions grows. “In Scotland there has been a massive rise in the number of free medicines being requested to fight obesity – 25 times higher than a decade ago and up six percent alone in 2007.”

Calling it a “record government investment,” the government has also invested £56million [about $92.5 million U.S. dollars] over the next three years to encourage children to eat “healthily,” the news said.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to fear that an expanded government health care plan would be tempted to re-allocate resources this way--not based on science, but a kind of vulgarized science, chasing fads: obesity always unhealthy (not true) so it's especially bad for kids (questionable), and there is an obesity epidemic, including among kids (questionable); dealing with this epidemic is legitimate health-care spending, even if the dollars are effectively taken from people actually needing expensive hospital care. Health care as delivered by social workers, fear-mongering in their own way.

The West, led to a certain extent by the United States, has developed health therapies that actually work, but the cost of them keeps going up. (MRIs and CT scans have never replaced x-rays, so even if the price comes down a bit, there is still more costly testing available than there used to be). Americans are by no means guaranteed access to the best care, but if they have insurance, this certainly increases their chances, and quite a few of them live within a few hundred miles of one of the top teaching medical centres in the world. They fear losing insurance, and losing access to care, but they also fear losing the apparent magic of new technologies, expensive though they may be. Is it better to spend on cutting-edge care for the few than "basic" care for the many? Does Obama want to weaken Medicare, for the elderly, and extend Medicaid, for the poor, to more people? Is the Obama administration more or less openly thinking about cutting back on expensive health care for boomers, now that they are getting old? [July 26: updated with link to Dick Morris, ht Kaus].

Kaus also links to Peggy Noonan: maybe the attempt to introduce government funding for abortions will turn off even moderate pro-lifers; and maybe the obvious desire to use the government to push around smokers, the overweight, and those who don't exercise, will turn off liberals who want universal health care. Maybe it's worse than that.

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