Christmas time approaches, the season for giving, the season when people’s inclination toward charitable acts and other good works reaches its apogee. Preparations for the holiday are well under way, and at shopping centers and street corners everywhere, one sees those red kettles, a veritable symbol of the season, almost as ubiquitous as Christmas trees, holly, and colored lights. Christmas engenders a unique spirit in our hearts. As the great American author and essayist Washington Irving said, “Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.”

Americans are renown for their charitable giving. They support a vast network of charitable organizations, having given $290.89 billion in 2010. Additionally, 63.4 million Americans have practiced another form of charity by volunteering 8.1 billion hours of their time to help fellow Americans in need or improve their communities. It is estimated that the dollar value of that volunteer work is $169 billion. Americans are indeed a generous people. Moreover, Americans have been generous to those in need since the first settlers arrived on these shores.

Those English men and women who first arrived in the New World were confronted by difficulties few of them could have imagined when they left the country of their birth. In those early years, harshness of weather, crop failures, and outbreaks of disease often decimated the colonists, huddled in their tiny beachheads on the east coast of the strange new continent. They endured these rigors through extreme hard work and through close fellowship.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, in his New York Times column titled "Free to Die" (9/15/2011), pointed out that back in 1980, his late fellow Nobel laureate Milton Friedman lent his voice to the nation's shift to the political right in his famous 10-part TV series, "Free To Choose." Nowadays, Krugman says, "'free to choose' has become 'free to die.'" He was referring to a GOP presidential debate in which Rep. Ron Paul was asked what should be done if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Paul correctly, but politically incorrectly, replied, "That's what freedom is all about — taking your own risks." CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer pressed his question further, asking whether "society should just let him die." The crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of "Yeah!", which led Krugman to conclude that "American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions." Professor Krugman is absolutely right; our nation is faced with a conflict of moral visions. Let's look at it.

If a person without health insurance finds himself in need of costly medical care, let's investigate just how might that care be provided.

Last month, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker angered his supporters by signing an emergency rule to implement ObamaCare in the state. After the harsh public outcry, however, Walker has now withdrawn the emergency rule.

Originally, the Governor sought to implement ObamaCare in his state by way of Assembly Bill 210, which was sponsored by a Republican and which was easily passed on October 18 by 57-39 in the Republican-controlled Assembly.  Next, Senator Frank Lasee made the dramatic announcement on November 1 that he, as Chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, was killing AB 210 by letting it die in his committee. In response, Walker then approved an emergency rule that bypassed the state legislature, accomplished the same purpose as AB 210, and thereby brought Wisconsin statutes into compliance with ObamaCare law.

Complicating this controversy over Walker's initial approval of an emergency rule is a second controversy over whether the governor should return $49 million in federal "Early Innovator" funds that were given to Wisconsin for the purpose of establishing a state healthcare exchange in accordance with ObamaCare law.

The New American’s Alex Newman observed that Scott Walker was the first Republican Governor in the United States to have “kept the ObamaCare funds.”

In a statement released on November 14, Senator Frank Lasee asserted,

My office reached out to Gov. Walker approximately two weeks ago in a sincere effort to discuss the many reasons for killing AB 210. We also hoped to broach the hazard of the $49 million in federal "Early Innovator Grant" funds that the governor accepted in February of this year. Regrettably, we were rebuffed.

Here’s a story that’ll tickle your McRibs. On December 1 a law seemingly banning McDonald’s Happy Meals went into effect in San Francisco. The “Healthy Meal Incentives Ordinance” prohibits restaurants from giving away toys with meals that do not meet with the city’s approval — namely, meals with too many calories, too much salt or fat, or insufficient fruits and vegetables. Just a few days before the ordinance took effect, SF Weekly reports, McDonald’s announced it had found a simple way around the statute: Charge customers extra for the toys.

Now in order to obtain a Happy Meal toy, parents will first have to buy the meal and then pay an additional 10 cents, which will be considered a donation to Ronald McDonald House charities. With Burger King’s announcement that it will implement a similar policy, the Happy Meal ban has thus effectively been neutralized.

However, for the nanny-state types who thought they were protecting children from dangerous fast food, there is even worse news. Prior to December 1, McDonald’s stores in San Francisco actually allowed patrons to purchase a Happy Meal toy by itself for $2.18 rather than having to buy the meal to obtain the toy. Now that the Golden Arches are going to charge extra for the toys, they are discontinuing the toy-only policy. Henceforth, any parent wishing to purchase a Happy Meal toy for a child will be forced to buy the meal, too. This, the Independent Institute’s Anthony Gregory points out, is “another unintended consequence of a bad law, since now, on the margin, customers will sometimes opt to buy the greasy food targeted by the law just so they can get the toy, when before they would have not bought the food.”

The decision by social workers in Cleveland, Ohio, to take a 200-pound third grader away from his mother and place him in foster care is raising concerns about how much power county and state social service agencies have to interfere in the lives of families.

As reported by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the eight-year-old boy was taken from the home in October after case workers determined that his mother wasn’t doing enough to control his weight. The officials said the boy’s severe obesity placed him at risk for developing such medical conditions as diabetes and hypertension.

 

The Cato Institute has discovered a proposal by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to institute one of the most intrusive regulations yet in the food processing industry. This proposal, which was published for comments in the Federal Register on September 15, is laying the groundwork for setting federal targets for the reduction of salt levels in various foods.

The Federal Register notice observes that “taste for sodium is acquired and can be modified.” The regulation, if implemented, would affect directly the salt level in products that Americans buy at grocery stores or in restaurants. (The public comment period ended November 29.)

The original purpose of the Food and Drug Administration at the time of its creation 105 years ago was to prevent the sale of adulterated or misbranded drugs. The problem that led to this law was false or misleading information about what was in the drugs sold to the public. These days, almost every product sold in a grocery store has on its label extensive information about the calories, carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and other data about the food. And these labels can be helpful. Americans who inform themselves about medical research or receive instructions from private physicians actively seek this information. But this doesn't mean that more strict regulations are beneficial. (Even the labeling laws would not be necessary if laws were strictly enforced against fraud.)

It seems the only way to find out what a politician really thinks is to wait until he leaves office. No longer concerned with obtaining either votes or campaign contributions, he is then free to reveal his true beliefs — and often does.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), for example, announced on Monday that he would be retiring at the end of his term. The next day, reports the Daily Caller, he signed on as a cosponsor of Rep. Phil Roe’s (R-Tenn.) bill to repeal ObamaCare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a bureaucracy Roe called “the real death panel” in the healthcare law in an interview with the conservative news site in March. Frank thus became the 12th — and by far the most prominent — Democrat, and the 212th congressman overall, to cosponsor Roe’s bill.

IPAB is a 15-member panel appointed by the President to keep Medicare costs under control, thereby keeping the deficit in check. “The board would cap the total amount of money Medicare recipients could receive for care,” the Daily Caller explains. Should a beneficiary require care whose cost exceeds the amount set by IPAB, he would simply be out of luck.

“Basically, there’s a certain amount of money that’s allocated for Medicare spending each year,” Roe told the Daily Caller. “Once you hit that amount that’s been appropriated, this board, this bureaucratically appointed board, can then decide, not based on quality or need, but based on strictly cost.”

Dr. Donald M. Berwick, the controversial administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) appointed by President Barack Obama during a congressional recess, announced that he will be resigning from his post on December 2, about a month before his appointment would have expired.

Obama originally nominated Berwick to the position in April 2010. Despite being controlled by Democrats, the Senate failed to schedule a confirmation hearing for Berwick. Obama then performed an end run around that chamber and appointed Berwick during a July congressional recess, leaving him with a term that would expire at the end of 2011 unless the Senate later confirmed him. Obama nominated him again in January 2011; but after meeting with fierce resistance from Republicans, 42 of whom wrote him a letter requesting that he withdraw the nomination, he did little to advance Berwick’s cause. “Once it became clear that the President wasn’t willing to stick his neck out, Berwick left,” commented Forbes’ David Whelan. “You can’t blame him.”

Obama undoubtedly calculated that if he did indeed stick his neck out, he was likely to meet the same fate, politically speaking, as the famed specter of Sleepy Hollow. Berwick had, after all, been quite open about his fondness for socialized medicine — which, as Whelan points out, is “not surprising, given that he was the President’s nominee.” For instance, wrote William P. Hoar in The New American:

They call it Dearbornistan, Michigan, for more than one reason. Yet another surfaced last week week when The Detroit News and the Associated Press reported that a male nurse, fired for treating women Muslim patients at a taxpayer-subsidized health clinic, has filed a lawsuit against Dearborn.

That’s right. According to the lawsuit, John Benitez, Jr. was terminated for doing his job because “conservative” Muslims complained about him treating women wearing the hijab, although he did so under the orders of a doctor.

Some 30 percent of Dearborn residents are Arabs, although it is unclear what percentage of those are Muslims. One indication is that Dearborn boasts the largest mosque in North America. Another is the mounting evidence of bias against Christians in such places as Fordson High School, where the student body is 80 percent Arab.

No Male Nurses for Women Muslims

A nursing as well as Army veteran, Benitez, 63, began working at the clinic in September 2010, AP reported, citing the complaint filed by his lawyer, Deborah L. Gordon.

The Supreme Court approved petitions last week to hear arguments in two cases challenging the constitutionality of ObamaCare. One of the issues that will be argued before the justices of the high court is the legality of the currently operating Medicaid scheme.

Admittedly, the question is a very “narrow” one, but it will have far-reaching impact on the future of federalism and on the power of Congress to raise and spend revenue.
 
In one of the cases filed against President Obama’s pet project, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta rejected a similar claim against provisions of Medicaid. In that suit, filed by the Attorneys General of the states of Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Nebraska, the court held that the expansion of the program made under provisions of ObamaCare was constitutional.
 
The essence of the states’ argument is that the use of the existing Medicaid arrangement to provide expanded healthcare coverage to citizens of the states is unduly burdensome on the governments of those states. ObamaCare mandates that the states cover 100 percent of the administrative expenses associated with implementing the new Medicaid policies set out in ObamaCare.

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