Tag: Barack Obama

The Truth about Medical Bankruptcies

During his speech to Congress last night, President Obama declared that health care costs “causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds.” His numbers are just a little bit off.

If what President Obama said were true, there would be approximately 1.05 million health care related bankruptcies in this country every year. However, in 2007 (the last full year for which there is data available, there were a total of only 815,000 non-business bankruptcies nationwide. Moreover, according to a study by Dr. Ning Zhu at UC-Davis, only 5 percent of bankruptcies are caused by medical bills. That suggests that in 2007 there were about 41,000 health care related bankruptcies. Too many, to be sure, but a far cry for 1.05 million.

Haven’t we learned from those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that facts matter when a president says we absolutely have to do something now?

Cato Scholars Live-Blogging Obama’s Speech

Tune in here on Cato@Liberty tonight, where Cato scholars will provide live commentary on President Obama’s address to Congress.

The president is expected to highlight domestic issues in his speech, including the state of the economy, health care and energy policy. He’ll touch on foreign policy, addressing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the future of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

The speech begins at 9:00 PM EST and is expected to last 50-60 minutes.

You can also follow our live commentary of Obama’s speech on Cato’s Twitter feed.

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This Week at Cato: ‘Obama and Presidential Power: Change or Continuity?’

Will President Obama follow through on his campaign promises about executive power and oversee a more modest presidency that recognizes constitutional limitations? Or will the new administration end up expanding the powers of the presidential office?

Please join us Wednesday, February 25th at 12:00 PM to discuss the prospects and possibilities for the presidency in the Obama era.

The forum will feature Louis Fisher, Specialist on the Constitution, Law Library of Congress; and Jeffrey Rosen, Professor, The George Washington University School of Law. It will be moderated by Gene Healy, Vice President, Cato Institute.

Reserve your seat for this free event today. Lunch will be served after the event. For those who cannot attend, the forum will be simulcast live online.

New Podcast: Obama’s Shock Doctrine

Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, says free-market advocates spend their careers stockpiling free-market ideas waiting for a crisis that could be used as a springboard for implementing those ideas. But, as David Boaz asks, what about Obama’s policy proposals amid recession and financial crisis?

In today’s Cato Daily Podcast, Boaz exposes Obama’s Shock Doctrine:

We know from history that, while there are a few examples of free-market or somehow right-wing programs coming about after a crisis, usually what happens in a crisis is government seizes more money and power. And you can see that in the New Deal; the Great Depression led to the New Deal. You can see it after Kennedy’s assassination led to Lyndon Johnson and his 100 days of legislation. You can see it in practically every communist government that ever came to power, was in the devastation of war….

We had a financial crisis and what happened? Did the incumbent Republican administration say, now’s our chance to implement Milton Friedman’s program and privatize and deregulate? No, they did what governments always do: they expanded their own powers at the expense of civil society, and so in that sense, Obama’s just doing the same thing that Bush did. We could call this the Bush-Obama era.

It was, after all, Rahm Emmanuel who said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.”

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The Biggest Check Ever Signed

The Obama Administration has banked a lot of political capital on the economic “stimulus” package signed into law today, and is hailing the measure as a sound-minded reaction to a dreary economic climate.  In truth, many of the programs in the bill are not only wasteful and inefficient, but have the potential to do some real long-term harm to U.S. policy.

Among them:

The economic stimulus bill is merely a nearsighted return to government spending policies which have been discredited over and over again [PDF].

For more on the package, check out Cato’s Fiscal Reality page.

Obama Truth Check

President Obama may have preempted the first hour of prime time Monday night, but he certainly did not fail to entertain with several pronouncements that require suspension of disbelief.

Here are four Obama statements that deserve closer scrutiny:

1.      “[I]f you delay acting on an economy of this severity, then you potentially create a negative spiral that becomes much more difficult for us to get out of. We saw this happen in Japan in the 1990s, where they did not act boldly and swiftly enough…”

The fact is that numerous presidents, including Obama’s immediate predecessor, have used desperation and fear to sell some of the truly awful policies to come out of the U.S. government in the last 50 years – the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the Iraq War resolution, to name two.

2.      “What it does not contain, however, is a single pet project, not a single earmark, and it has been stripped of the projects members of both parties found most objectionable.”

This one severely strains credulity.  The president is right about one thing: many of the bill’s projects are online for all to see.  But could any reasonable person agree that these projects are stimulative and not aimed at special political interests?

3.      “Most economists, almost unanimously, recognize that…when you have the kind of problem we have right now…that government is an important element of introducing some additional demand into the economy.”

We’ve been over this, Mr. President.  The truth is that a huge and still-growing number of respected economists think that a massive government spending effort in our present circumstances is wasteful and foolhardy.

4.      “What I won’t do is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place…”

OK, so we actually agree with the president on that one.  But then why is he bound and determined to repeat the reckless spending habits of George W. Bush?  We thought the November campaign was all about “change.”

A New Tone toward the Muslim World

After his first major interview with an Arab TV network, it is clear President Obama is striking a decidedly different tone in talking about terrorism. In today’s Cato Daily Podcast, legal policy analyst David H. Rittgers discusses the new direction Obama will take in the fight against terrorism.

“This is a serious departure from some of the message that the Bush Administration put forth,” says Rittgers, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan as an officer in the Army. “Using ‘you are with us or against us’ is appropriate in certain circumstances, but as a blanket approach that is not the message we need to be sending.”

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