Thursday, April 28

Book Review: America's Best Kept Secret by Al Ose

Even if you already know and support the FairTax, this book is a must-read.

First it describes how the FairTax came about, a question that comes up often in discussions! This is no fly-by proposal. On the contrary, it is the result of a 10-year study by major economists from universities like Stanford, Harvard, Rice, MIT, and more. The book names names: Who paid for the study and why, what they're doing now and what they plan to do.

Americans for Fair Taxation has a lot of information on their website but this book has even more. Here you'll find a collection of articles, charts (rebate calculations,comparisions of all kinds, estimates, costs, etc.), letters, studies and results.

There's a great chapter on the "Impact of the FairTax on Interest Rates" that will make everyone sit up and take notice,

There are sections on how the FairTax will impact businesses like home builders, financial services, mining, oil and gas, and more -- even timber-related industries!

Most amusing and delightful is "The Twelve Days of a FairTax Christmas" beginning on page 56 and written by a FairTax staff writer.

FairTax, by giving every worker his/her entire paycheck, makes every day Christmas Day.

In short, this book tells the reader who needs the FairTax and why, who are the people behind it, what the experts say about it, gives the impact of the FairTax on the economy and various organizations and businesses and chronicles the history of hearings already held on the subject.

If you think you know all there is to know about the FairTax, this book will prove to you that you don't.

If you don't know anything about FairTax (and if you're a taxpayer you owe it to yourself and your family to find out), this is a reliable, complete source of information.

Wednesday, April 27

Brownback's Attempt To Reverse the Terrible Legacy of Rachel Carson

Sen. Sam Brownback (KS) is to introduce legislation, The Eliminate Neglected Diseases Act, to prevent malaria in Africa. The bill requires for the majority of funding to go to life-saving interventions -- effective medicines, insecticide spraying and distribution of bed nets. Of all the world-wide deaths caused by malaria, 90% who die are children in Africa.

Sen. Brownback says "African children are just as precious as European and American children" and calls for reform in the programs that administer this kind of aid. The Act requires performance so that taxpayers know their money gets results and saves lives.

There's no excuse for anyone today to die of malaria.

DDT (aka 1, 1, 1-trichloro-2,2-bis (p-chlorophenyl)ethane)was the first, best and most remarkable of modern pesticides. It came into use after the second World War and was banned as a result of a book, based on poor research and skewed information published by Rachel Carson in the early 1970s.

Proof of DDT's effectiveness lies in statistics exemplified by the situation in Sri Lanka in mid-twentieth-century. In 1948, before the use of DDT, there were 2.8 million cases of malaria. After its use, by 1963, there were only 17.

Interestingly, in 1970, of two billion people living in malarial areas (the southern US is included in that), 79% were protected and health officials expected that malaria would be eliminated for good. Still, anti-DDT activism, prompted by Carson's book, led to hearings before an EPA administrative law judge during 1971-72. Six years after the US banned DDT, there were 800 million cases of malaria and 8.2 billion deaths per year.

At that hearing in the early 1970s the judge listened to 7 months of testimony and plowed through 9,000 pages of testimony. In his decision he said, "DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man... DDT is not a mutagenic or teratogenic hazard to man... The use of DDT under the regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife."

But we all know the hysteria of the uninformed, so then-EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus banned DDT anyway, giving in to pressure from mislead, misinformed "environmental" groups.

Rachel Carson's prize winning book, The Silent Spring, turned out to be full of intentionally mis-interpreted research and downright, outright lies. As a direct result of that book, millions -- billions -- more have died of malaria. What a legacy!

Can Senator Brownback turn the tide of death and save the lives of millions of African children? Can the people of the USA rescue a generation where the Roll Back Malaria partnership, the WHO and other multilateral organization have failed?

Since the UN declared an initiative to cut malaria rates in half by 2010, those rates have increased.

"The world community conquered smallpox," says Brownback, "We have recently conquered polio and guinea worm. When we acted in concert, we stopped SARS in its tracks a few years ago. . .To those who have been given much, much is expected. We will be held responsible for how we respond to this."

Monday, April 25

The Last Lady Strikes Again

Heinz squeezes blame from pope
By Eric Heyl
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Reprinted with permission

Were it not for the man now known as Pope Benedict XVI, Teresa Heinz might already have installed new drapes and carpeting in the White House.

Or so she seems to believe.

Based on remarks Heinz made recently at a Seattle money-raiser, the Pittsburgh ketchup heiress -- a practicing Catholic -- appears to have little fondness for the new pontiff.

You can almost understand why. He did, if you buy her argument, indirectly help keep her husband, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., from becoming president last year.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported last month that Heinz blamed Kerry's inability to unseat President Bush on anything and everything but Kerry himself.

She implied votes might have been improperly tabulated because most optical scanning devices used to count votes in many parts of the country are owned by two "hard-right" Republicans.

She also suggested the Kerry campaign was brought down in part by Catholic bishops who assailed the candidate's pro-choice view on abortion.

"You cannot have bishops in the pulpit -- long before or the Sunday before the election, as they did in Catholic churches -- saying it was a mortal sin to vote for John Kerry," she said. "The church has a right and obligation to teach values. They don't have a right to restrict freedom of expression, which they did."

I assume the Post-Intelligencer's Joel Connelly did his best to accurately quote her. No reporter wants to have to ask Heinz to clarify her remarks immediately after she finishes speaking.

We've heard it can be dangerous.

Last summer, American bishops received a letter from the Vatican advising that Catholics who condone abortion are committing "a grave sin."

Kerry wasn't named, but the communique stated that communion -- the body of Christ, Catholics believe -- should be denied "in the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion laws."

The letter was written by the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. At the time, that was a fellow named Ratzinger -- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, named Tuesday by the College of Cardinals to succeed the late Pope John Paul II.

Whatever your opinion on abortion, whatever the intent of the letter, the implication that the Vatican helped sway the presidential race is ludicrous.

The presidential race wasn't lost in Rome. It was lost in Boston, Fox Chapel and along the campaign trail.

I recall a far less conspiratorial campaign than does Heinz.

I recall a senator ineptly unable to defeat a president who plunged the nation back into debt and into a war based on assumptions that -- at best -- were completely and utterly erroneous.

Heinz recalls an election that might have been fixed, an election unduly influenced by a Catholic Church she apparently believes betrayed Kerry.

Such thinking is misguided and unfortunate.

The new pontiff is Pope Benedict. It's a pity Heinz considers him to be Pope Benedict Arnold.

Friday, April 22

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Spring is a time of excitement in Tornado Alley.

Here in the Great Plains the weather can turn from soft and sweet to a vicious, howling swirl of destruction in the blink of sunshine. If there's one thing mid-Westerners in Kansas, the Dakotas, Missouri and Oklahoma depend on from May through September, it's the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service is a free weather service that has studied weather phenomena since 1877. Affectionately known as NOAA, this is the service that predicts and follows hurricanes along the coasts and snowstorms in the High Plains and Rocky Mountains. We who live in the more exciting weather areas are quite familiar with the NOAA website. And all that information is free from the National Weather Service.

But Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., has introduced a bill (S 786)which would keep the service from competing with commercial companies offering their forecasts through paid services and free ad-supported Web sites. Read the full text of the bill HERE.

The text of that part of the bill says:
COMPETITION WITH PRIVATE SECTOR- The Secretary of Commerce shall not provide, or assist other entities in providing, a product or service (other than a product or service described in subsection (a)(1)) that is or could be provided by the private sector unless--

(1) the Secretary determines that the private sector is unwilling or unable to provide such product or service ; or

(2) the United States Government is obligated to provide such product or service under international aviation agreements to provide meteorological services and exchange meteorological information.


The people who are pushing this don't live in danger areas like Florida or Oklahoma. They obviously have no idea how fast a sublime day can change to terror.

A spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., objects stenuously, saying the bill threatens to send the weather service back to the "pre-Internet era," understandable when you remember the weather devastation Florida suffered last Fall. Sen. Nelson serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has been assigned to consider the bill.

"The weather service proved so instrumental and popular and helpful in the wake of the hurricanes. How can you make an argument that we should pull it off the Net now?" Sen. Nelson's spokesman said in an interview.

A spokesman from one of the commercial services who stand to profit by closing down the service's Internet presence, Barry Myers, AccuWeather's executive vice president, said the bill would make the weather service devote more effort to disastrous weather

"The National Weather Service has not focused on what its core mission should be, which is protecting other people's lives and property," said Myers, whose company is based in State College, Pa. Instead, he said, "It spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year, every day, producing forecasts of 'warm and sunny.'"

The Palm Beach Post says, "AccuWeather has been an especially vocal critic of the weather service and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The company has accused the federal agencies of withholding data on hurricanes and other hazards, and failing to ensure that employees don't feed upcoming forecasts to favored investors in farming and energy markets.

It seems NOAA has brought the storm down on itself. Last year it rejected a 1991 policy that barred the weather agency from offering services in competition with commercial services. At the same time, NOAA began to offer its raw data on a much improved website on the web which allowed entrepreneurs and hobbyists to write simple programs to retrieve the information.

These actions threaten AccuWeather's business. It provides detailed weather reports based on an array of government and private data to 15,000 customers.

NOAA has not taken a public position on the bill but a spokesman did say they are expanding the services on their web site. NOAA has an audience who prefer the ad-free format of the Federal site.

"But some weather fans, such as Bradner, say they prefer the federal site's ad-free format.

Another supporter of the weather service's efforts, Tallahassee database analyst John Simpson, said the plethora of free data becoming available could eventually fuel a new industry of small and emerging companies that would repackage the information for public consumption.

Shutting off the information flow would stifle that innovation and solidify the major weather companies' hold on the market."


The bill also requires the weather service to provide equal access to all, which would keep some weather service employees from favoring a news service over another.

Santorum's bill also would require the weather service to provide "simultaneous and equal access" to its information. That could end the practice of giving one-on-one interviews to individual reporters about storms, droughts or other weather patterns.

The National Weather Service is one government agency that has done a superb job since 1877. Now, as it moves into the 21st Century with better services for the public, Sen. Santorum seeks to strike it down.

With all the problems that truly need attention and support, Sen.Santorum's attack on the service is ill-sdvised and reeks of political hackism. It looks like AccuWeather, like a spoiled child, went running to Papa at the first sign of true marketplace competition. Let's just hope the Senate can see through it!

Tuesday, April 19

We May Have To Daschle Harry Reid

April 18, 2005

The Honorable Harry Reid

S-221, The Capitol

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Harry:

I have reviewed your March 15, 2005 letter to Majority Leader Frist. While I certainly agree with your call to work together on the judicial nominations process, I am greatly concerned about your statement regarding shutting down Senate business and, by extension, the federal government. A government shut down would be rash and unwise, and the American people deserve better from us than such an act, which is surely inconsistent with "working together." I urge you to reconsider taking this action.

We can all agree there is much important work to be done in the Senate. While our economy is strong, gas prices are way too high; people feel these costs every time they fill up at the pump. This Senate needs to enact a long-term energy policy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. In addition, our transportation infrastructure needs improving. Millions of Americans take the roads and rails everyday to get to work and keep this country moving. It is thus critical that the Senate pass a highway bill. We also must reform America’s tax code so that it is fairer for all Americans and leads to a robust economy. We need to continue our efforts to reform Social Security so it is strong and secure for future generations.

Rather than work with us in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation, the Democratic Caucus has indicated it will continue its blockade of circuit court nominees. Democrats’ continued insistence on obstructing judicial nominees threatens our Constitution’s careful separation of powers among the three branches of government. Never before in the history of the country has a minority of senators filibustered—on a systematic, repeated, and partisan basis—well-qualified judicial nominees. But in the last Congress, it occurred on ten different circuit court nominations within only sixteen months.

Majority Leader Frist has repeatedly sought to afford your caucus generous time in which to debate these nominations. But he has been consistently rebuffed, including being told on one occasion that "there is not a number [of hours] in the universe that would be sufficient" to discuss a nominee. Nevertheless, Senator Frist continues his efforts to reach an accommodation. He has invited Democrats to come to the table and work with us to restore the 200-year-old norms and traditions of the Senate. Instead of shutting down the government, I urge you to work with the Majority Leader to repair our broken judicial confirmation process.

Sincerely,

Mitch McConnell

Why Women Shouldn't Go To War

I'm not a supporter of women in the military. I believe that war is dirty work, fit only for robots, but that men are born with and society trains them to have a mentality that is more suitable to war than that of women.

There's something instinctive in most men, I think, that makes them protect women - that instinct isn't trained out of them and it doesn't bode well for a war situation.

Besides, I found living in a society where women were treasured and protected by men far more comfortable and desirable than the present in-your-face, neutered, everybody-fend-for-yourself mode.

And from NewsMax, here's evidence of the fact that I might just be right in opposing women in warfare:
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Committee for Military Readiness, tells NewsMax the troubling story never before revealed to the media:

"Even though I was not sworn to secrecy, I did not publicize it at the time. My source was confidential, but I can tell you that he was a close aide to then Army Secretary Thomas White.

"I happened to be introduced to this gentleman in December 2001 when I had dinner with friends at the Army/Navy Club in Washington D.C. Just before Christmas, he looked me up through the friend who introduced us, and told me this:

"'A meeting had taken place in December 2001, among top military planners, to consider ways to accelerate the war against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan...'"

Donnelly notes here that such meetings frequently took place at Carlysle Barracks in Penn., especially during the early stages of the war. People invited to attend usually did not discuss what was said. Coalition Forces had few resources on the ground, and intelligence was critical, she adds.

Donnelly continues:

"My source told me that during one of those December strategy meetings, military planners were throwing out lots of ideas for innovations to rout the Taliban - including unmanned recon aircraft that later were armed with missiles.

"The terrain of Afghanistan made it an ideal potential testing ground for the yet-to-be-deployed Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target Acquisition [RSTA] squadrons of what were then called 'Interim' (now Stryker) Brigade Combat Teams [SBCTs]. The squadrons are designed to work with local people, and to fight for information on the ground, if necessary."

Donnelly says the source disclosed that someone came up with the idea of sending some of the RSTA troops over there early - more than a year before scheduled deployment - in order to learn some "real-time" lessons under fire.

And herein the bombshell: "The idea was squelched, however, because someone mentioned that there were female soldiers being trained in the first of these outfits, being formed at Fort Lewis, Washington."
As the history of that early campaign in Afghanistan records, instead of sending the RSTAs early, Special Forces units did the job on horseback. The first RSTA squadron didn't deploy to Iraq with its eyes-and-ears SBCT until October 2003.

Essentially, U.S. ground troops without the reconnaissance component were partially blinded in their efforts to hunt down bin Laden and his gang because p.c. Pentagon officials had placed women into the reconnaissance ranks - a clear violation of Congressional rules.

Donnelly continues:

"I was already aware of the co-ed RSTA training earlier that year because another source, Maj. Gen. Thomas Cole, USA (Ret.), who lives near that base, had given me a tip that the training was going on in the late summer of 2001.

"I knew it was out of line, and brought it to the attention of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who started raising questions about it with the Pentagon in a letter signed by 27 members of Congress."

Early in 2002, several other conservative women's groups joined with Donnelly at a news conference in Washington, drawing attention to the violation of rules on women in combat, and calling for the DoD to abolish the old Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), which was apparently behind it all.

"Nothing was done, however, until I brought the matter to the attention of Deputy Secretary Dr. Paul Wolfowitz during a meeting in his office in April 2002. I told him about what had happened in December, and waited to see what he would say. He asked his aide to check it out, and he did.

"Two days later I was told that my information was accurate, and that the situation would be corrected. On April 26, 2002, Lt. Gen. John M. LeMoyne gave the order to reassign the women being trained in the RSTA squadron at Fort Lewis, restoring the program to compliance with law and policy."

What now confounds Donnelly is the fact that despite all the controversy about the RSTAs in 2001, which was resolved in favor of compliance with law and policy, the Army has now dropped the RSTAs from the list of units that are supposed to be coded all-male.

Donnelly also directs NewsMax's attention to a telling August 2, 2001 memorandum, signed by Gen. B. B. Bell, then-Commander of Armor Command at Fort Knox, KY, which forcefully opposed mixed-gender assignments in the IBCT/RSTA Surveillance Troop. Bell wrote:

"The RSTA squadron operates as part of the Interim Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) which is a full spectrum, early entry combat force designed to conduct operations against conventional or unconventional enemy forces in all types of terrain and climate conditions... [T]he squadron's ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance] assets will operate in direct contact with enemy forces with the imminent likelihood of combat throughout the Squadron battle-space... This mission directly meets the Department of Defense definition of 'direct ground combat.'"

Bell was the man in charge who knew the score.

Donnelly concludes that the recent remarks by Army Chief of Staff Peter Shoomaker tacitly endorsing a new breed of women warriors is more than an object for moral reflection on the weaker sex's role in the fighting and dying, but a tactical mistake that can have the highest costs to the nation's security.

Sunday, April 17

Has Matt Become A Drudge?

Not everyone knows who Matt Drudge is. although to read his press, one would think he ruled the Cyber-world.

He's one of the original bloggers -- the ultimate reporter in pajamas, who does all his research on the Internet and has been called "a part of the legend, a bit of style in the void of cyberspace."

He seems to be a modest fellow. In a recent interview he said, "I'm self-taught, self-educated, self-made. I didn’t go to a fancy journalism school, I had to learn about computers and the net by myself." Like I said, the original blogger in pajamas.

The reason he's so legendary, it seems, is that he "outed" the Clinton/Lewinsky affair in the 1990s. “I was first to break the news about the death of Lady Diana,” he told a reporter. “The CNN team couldn’t get into make-up fast enough.”

He runs the "Drudge Report," which is one of the Big Blogs in cyberspace -- a profitable one. He does his research like any other blogger: "Yesterday I spent 13 hours in my hotel room looking for news. I’ve done seven hours already and will do another seven tonight."

So that's who Matt Drudge is. Not some Yalie or editor of the Harvard Law Review with inside information but just your everyday yokel with a laptop. Which is fine. Except that the worm seems to have turned.

He has, in the past nine or so years gone from "We have entered an era vibrating with the din of small voices. Every citizen can be a reporter, can take on the powers that be" to "There’s a danger of the internet just becoming loud, ugly and boring with a thousand voices screaming for attention." Of bloges he says, "I don't read them. I like to create waves and not surf them. And who are these influential bloggers? You can't name one because they don't exist."

Well, Drudge, they exist but they don't exist to take people in power down (like Clinton/Lewinsky) or to report sensationalism (like the death of Princess Di) and they aren't in it for the money. It's the very fact that they are loud and somewhat cacaphonous that gives them power.

And what is that power, you ask? It's the power to put important issues before Congress and mobilize voters and citizens into action. It's the power to research not only what you report but what columnists and reporters and anchorpeople report to check their facts and find out where the truth actually is.

Our power is not necessarily in the individual voice but in a combination of our voices and it's the true power of a republic/democracy. We can find the truth and "out" it. And for some of us, that's the mission.

Matt Drudge doesn't need us. But on the other hand, we don't need Matt Drudge, either.

Friday, April 15

Trade Deficit At All-Time High

The FairTax is the answer to this problem. The faster we get it passed, the quicker the problem will be solved.

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON - The U.S. trade deficit, exacerbated by surging imports of oil and textiles, soared to an all-time high of $61.04 billion in February.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the February imbalance was up 4.3 percent from a $58.5 billion trade gap in January as a small $50 million rise in U.S. exports of goods and services was swamped by a $2.58 billion increase in imports.

The surging trade deficit is leading to an increase in protectionist pressures as American textile and clothing manufacturers are lobbying the administration to limit imports of Chinese textile and clothing goods to ward off a flood of products now that global quotas have expired.

For February, imports of textiles and clothing from China rose by 9.8 percent even though America's overall trade gap with China actually narrowed to $13.9 billion, down by 9.2 percent from a January deficit of $15.3 billion. The improvement reflected an increase in U.S. exports to China and declines in other import categories outside of
textiles.

For the first two months of this year, the trade deficit is running at an annual rate of $717.2 billion, a full $100 billion above the record imbalance of $617.1 billion set for all of 2004.

Trade deficits of this magnitude have raised worries among economists about America's ability to continue to attract the foreign financing needed to cover the shortfall between exports and imports. If foreigners decided to hold fewer dollar-denominated investments such as stocks and bonds, it could trigger steep declines in U.S. stock prices and a sharp increase in interest rates.

Critics point to the soaring deficits as evidence that President Bush's free trade policies are not working and have instead contributed to the loss of 3 million American manufacturing jobs since 2000.

The Bush administration argues that the deficit primarily reflects the fact that the U.S. economy has been growing at a much faster pace than the economies of its major trading partners, pushing up imports while dampening demand for U.S. exports. Treasury Secretary John Snow was expected to use a Saturday meeting of finance officials from the Group of Seven major industrial countries to once again lobby for Europe and Japan to pursue more growth-oriented policies.

The U.S. dollar has been declining for three years, a fact that should help narrow the trade deficit by making imports more expensive to American consumers while making U.S. exports cheaper. However, economists say the dollar needs to fall further to deal with the widening trade deficit, and they are predicting a further increase in the trade gap this year.

The record February deficit of $61.04 billion surpassed the old record of $59.4 billion set last November.

Imports of goods and services rose by 1.6 percent to an all-time high of $161.5 billion.

Demand for foreign petroleum products shot up 10.3 percent to $18.2 billion, the second highest level on record, surpassed only by $19.6 billion in imports of petroleum last November.

The February increase reflected higher prices as crude oil climbed to $36.85 per barrel, compared to $35.25 in January, offsetting a drop in the volume of oil imports. Analysts said America's foreign oil bill is likely to climb even further in months ahead, reflecting further increases in global oil prices.

Exports were up by $50 million to a record $100.48 billion in February, reflecting increases in shipments of drilling and oilfield equipment, civilian aircraft and pharmaceutical products. These gains offset declines in sales of U.S.-made cars and auto parts and food.

The administration, at the urging of U.S. textile and clothing manufacturers, has begun investigations into whether to re-impose quotas on Chinese imports of various products to protect the domestic industry from market disruptions following the removal of global quotas that had restricted shipments to the United States for more than three decades.

Thursday, April 14

Washington Post's Irresponsible Article on Tax Panel

Where do the big newspapers GET these people? And why?

Look at this piece in the Washington Post by Allen Sloan titled "From Tax 'Reform' Panel, expect a foregone conclusion."

Let's look at some of the holes in this piece: He's complaining that the President's tax reform panel won't be effective because of, he writes, "Bush's Commission to Strengthen Social Security."

"Rather than asking that commission to pick the best possible Social Security system, he continues, "Bush required it to advocate for private accounts and to avoid increasing Social Security taxes. . . The report languished for years -- it came out in December 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks had rocked the country. . . . " Say What?

President Bush was inaugurated for his FIRST term on January 20, 2001. He had been in office 8 months when the Towers went down and only 11 months when the commission issued its report. That is hardly "languishing for years." So we see how careful this commentator is in his reporting.

So let's see how accurate the rest of his piece is. Speaking of the President's directions to the tax panel he writes, "Instead of letting the commission propose the best possible tax system, Bush has hemmed it in. It has been ordered to make investments more attractive -- as if investment income weren't already favored enough. It's supposed to keep homeownership and charitable tax deductions tax-favored. Its proposals are supposed to be revenue-neutral, meaning that any tax cuts must be offset by new revenues."

Actually the President"s instructions to the panel were these:
* “simplify Federal tax laws to reduce the costs and administrative burdens of compliance with such laws;
* share the burdens and benefits of the Federal tax structure in an appropriately progressive manner while recognizing the importance of homeownership and charity in American society; and
* promote long-run economic growth and job creation, and better encourage work effort, saving, and investment, so as to strengthen the competitiveness of the United States in the global marketplace."

"Revenue neutral," by the way, means that the new tax system must fund the government at the same level it's funded now so that programs like social security, medicare, veteran's benefits, etc. will still be operational. I suppose Sloan would rather just cut taxes and then yell because there's no money for established programs.

So not only does Sloan have his facts wrong, it's evident that he hasn't even checked them out.

Contrary to what Sloan would have you believe, there’s great hope that the President's tax panel will, indeed, come up with a program like the FairTax (and maybe even the FairTax itself) that would tax everyone fairly, provide ample funds for the Federal government, encourage upward mobility, savings and investiment, broaden our tax base and bring foreign investments from overseas. The FairTax would do all that in addition to letting everyone keep their entire paycheck and reduce prices significantly.

I suspect Sloan and the Washington Post are playing politics. They don't care about what is best for the country or for the citizens, they just want to oppose anything the President does. That's a sad way to run a newspaper.

Wednesday, April 13

From the President's Panel on Tax Reform

Excerpts from the Statement by the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform:

* The comments and the testimony of witnesses at our public meetings conveyed the dismal condition of our current tax system.

o Our tax laws have been compared to an overbuilt and dilapidated house with conflicting architectural styles and a crumbling foundation, a sick patient who is about to expire, and a factory that has been littered with so much garbage that it can no longer operate productively.

o Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman described our tax system as a blackboard that has been filled up with so much writing that the slate must be wiped clean.

* We have repeatedly heard that our system is needlessly complex.

o This complexity is costing the U.S. economy about $140 billion per year. To put this number in perspective, it amounts to roughly $1,000 for every family in America.

* One particular problem that cannot be ignored is the rapidly growing reach of the AMT.

o The AMT will affect almost 4 million taxpayers this year and 20 million taxpayers next year. By 2015, some studies project as many as 50 million taxpayers, or about 45 percent of all taxpayers who pay income tax, will be affected.

o The AMT violates three principles of good tax policy: it is not simple, it is not efficient, and it is not fair.

* The problems of complexity are not limited to individual taxpayers.


o Our business tax code is littered with special rates, deductions, and credits creating complexity, volumes of new regulations, opportunities for tax shelters, and unfairness.

o It is hard to believe that our current tax system does not hinder American businesses from selling their products or otherwise competing in the global marketplace.

* Simplifying and reforming the tax code should lighten the burden on taxpayers, eliminating numerous tax headaches, and allowing Americans to spend less time doing their taxes. For American businesses, a better tax code will allow them to devote more resources to developing new products and services, expanding their operations, and hiring more workers.

* Reform of our tax code should alleviate the wasteful use of our economic resources and boost economic growth.

During our examination of the existing system, several themes emerged from the public comments and testimony. These themes will guide our efforts as we consider options for reform:

* We have lost sight of the fact that the fundamental purpose of our tax system is to raise revenues to fund government.

* Tax provisions favoring one activity over another or providing targeted tax benefits to a limited number of taxpayers create complexity and instability, impose large compliance costs and can lead to an inefficient use of resources. A rational system would favor a broad tax base, providing special treatment only where it can be persuasively demonstrated that the effect of a deduction, exclusion, or credit justifies higher taxes paid by all taxpayers.

* The complex and unpredictable influences of the current tax system on how families and businesses arrange their affairs distorts economic decisions, leads to an inefficient allocation of resources and hinders economic growth.

* The complexity of our tax code breeds a perception of unfairness and creates opportunities for manipulation of the rules to reduce tax. The profound lack of transparency means that individuals and businesses cannot easily understand their own tax obligations or be confident that their neighbors or competitors are paying their fair share.

* The tax system is both unstable and unpredictable. Frequent changes in the tax code, which often add to or undo previous policies, as well as the enactment of temporary provisions, result in uncertainty for businesses and households. This volatility is harmful to economic development and creates additional compliance costs.

* The objectives of simplicity, fairness, and economic growth are interrelated and, at times, may be at odds with each other. Policymakers routinely make choices among these competing objectives, and, in the end, simplification is almost always sacrificed. Although these objectives at times are in tension, meaningful reform can deliver a system that is simpler, fairer, and more growth oriented than our existing tax code.

Tuesday, April 12

Tis the Season to Be Angry

by Doug Patton

"Congress shall create a Tax Code weighing more than the combined poundage of the largest member of the House and the largest member of the Senate, plus a standard musk ox." - Article I, Section VI of the Constitution of the United States (according to “Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway”)

It's that time of year again. Dig out the receipts showing every possible legal deduction. Find all those canceled checks proving that you paid all those doctor bills last year. Add up the mileage for all those business-related trips you took. Put it all into a shoebox, take it down to a $300-per-hour CPA firm and hope they get it right this year.

Under no circumstances should you contact actual employees of the IRS about anything, since one out of every three questions they answer will be wrong.

Do you remember when Ronald Reagan held up those reams of paper during his State of the Union address? Well, that was nearly twenty years ago, and it is even more convoluted and unintelligible now than even the Gipper could have imagined.

In 1913, when the tax on productivity, fondly known as the "income tax," was conceived, someone in Congress suggested that the 16th Amendment should include a clause prohibiting the new tax rate from rising above two percent. Other members derisively scoffed, "Two percent? Don’t be ridiculous! It will never rise that high!"

Fast forward to the 21st century. Federal spending is out of control on a scale those congressional representatives of yesteryear could not have imagined in their wildest dreams. Every form of productivity known to exist is taxed until there is little incentive to produce anything – all to pay for pork barrel spending, unconstitutional social programs and fiscal ponzi schemes designed for the sole purpose of redistributing hard-earned wealth.

We have taxes on our earned income, capitol gains taxes on our investments, and taxes on virtually everything we use for work or play. And finally, when life is done, we have the death tax, which, though it is being phased out to temporary repeal in 2010, will be back with a vengeance in 2011. Surprise! And just when you thought it was safe to die.

Meanwhile, an underground cash economy of drugs, prostitution, pornography and other vices thrives in America, with its purveyors contributing little or nothing to the overall operation of the country. Foreign tourists travel to the United State every year, leaving behind nothing for the federal coffers, which are left to us – we, the people – to fill with the first fruits of our labor. And all the while, corporate income taxes are passed along to us, the consumers, in the form of higher taxes. Because, you see, corporations don’t pay taxes; people pay taxes.

Yes, it is that time of year again. The roses are beginning to bloom and spring is in the air; but no one notices because we are all so frustrated and angry at having to subject ourselves to a tax system we can't begin to understand.

It is the season when every American taxpayer should be demanding a brand new tax code, because the one we have is broken. I don’t mean it is in need of reform. I mean that it is broken: irretrievably, irreconcilably, unequivocally unworkable and broken – beyond repair. Ninety years of tinkering is enough. Scrap it. Destroy it. Replace it with a national consumption tax.

There are only a couple of really hard-charging point people in Congress on this issue. So, unless you live in the 7th Congressional District of Georgia, where U.S. Rep. John Linder is your congressman, or the 5th Congressional District of Iowa, where the ever-outspoken Steve King is your representative, you need to write to your congressperson and demand that he/she give us the Fair Tax (see www.FairTax.org).

Let's turn the season to be angry into the season to stop and smell the roses.

Sunday, April 10

I would have voted against the Kansas marriage amendment before I voted for it.

The only reason I voted for the amendment (which affirmed that "marriage" is defined as a covenant between a man and a woman) is that a vote against it affirmed "gay" marriage. Which I don't.

Confusing? It's really not.

You see, I believe (and judging from the arguments for and con, I'm the only one in the world) that marriage is a sacrament and a covenant in the most faith-full meaning of those terms. And it's not just between a man and a woman -- it's between a man, a woman, and God.

You see, I'm such an extremist that I don't believe a man and a woman have a "marriage" unless God is included. That's a union, if it's just you two.

Oh, I know all those arguments about marriage and family being the base of the structure of society and I believe that too -- I just don't think that's as important as the sacrament of marriage.

As a Christian I believe homosexuality is wrong. I also believe it's my responsibility as a Christian to tell a homosexual that s/he is living what the Bible calls an abomination. Beyond that, it's none of my business.

If you want to join in a union with someone of your own sex, that's your problem. I have no objection to you doing so and to you having all the health benefits, legal benefits and whatever other benefits and legalities the state can impose on you.

Just don't call it "marriage." Because it isn't. And if you call your union a "marriage" you are defiling the sacrament that my marriage is simply because you're assuming that what I have is like what you have.

It isn't.

What I have is a committment to my husband and to God to love, honor, obey (yes, obey -- we both promise to obey GOD and respect each other).

You see, I have what has turned out to be a unique vision of marriage because not even my church defines it that way. But I believe that's how God defines it and that's what my marriage means to me. It is something sacred and lovely -- something that is defiled when someone assumes it is like a homosexual union.

So actually I would have voted against the Kansas marriage amendment to give "gay" couples all the legal rights and privileges they want if doing so had not indicated that I approve of and support those kinds of relationships.

Friday, April 8

We Can Save Darfur

While we're figuring out who we are we still have a moral obligation to find a way to help people who are starving and who are being tortured and murdered.

Although the UN has a world food program, recent scandals should make us look carefully at that organization and possibly re-think our role with it.

It would seem that the quickest and most effective thing to do (short of invading Darfur and taking over the government) is an arms embargo and/or sanctions. The effectiveness of those measures is historically questionable and with Russia, China, Pakistan and Arabian governments supporting the Arab regime, it seems as though sanctions and embargos would simply be empty gestures.

There are two measures that Sen. Brownback and Sen. Corzine suggest to begin: urge Secretary of State Rice to travel to Darfur and to support the Darfur Accountability Act:

Approximately one year ago, many of us in the United States began to learn of the atrocities being committed in the Darfur region of Sudan. In June of 2004, the U.S. Congress labeled these acts genocide, international observers began investigating, and aid agencies began received more funds for their relief efforts. Many thought that would be the end of the crisis.

Sadly this was not the case. In January of this year the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur completed their mandate. In their report to the Secretary General, they found that ". . .the impact of the attacks on civilians shows that the use of military force was manifestly disproportionate to any threat posed by the rebels," and were "particularly alarmed that attacks on villages, killing of civilians, rape, pillaging and forced displacement have continued during the course of the Commission’s mandate." While they have yet to find sufficient evidence to use the legal term "genocide" in describing the violence, they concluded "international offences such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide."

How many times have we heard "never again" — in reference to the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge, Rwanda? Well over 300,000 people are believed to have died as a result of the warfare. Millions have been displaced from their homes, and now face disease, lack of basic necessities, and often the pain and stigma of sexual abuse. And yet even in this late day we are not powerless to act, to help a desperate people avoid further atrocities and the suffering of refugee life.

On March 2nd, Senator John Corzine of New Jersey introduced the Darfur Accountability Act of 2005 to the Senate. This bill would reinforce the American position that genocide is being committed; further, it would seek passage in the United Nations Security Council of measures that would, among other provisions:

Place targeted sanctions on the Government of Sudan and key individuals;
Create a "no-fly zone" over Darfur;
Try suspected perpetrators of crimes against humanity through an international tribunal;
Expand the African Union peacekeeping forces.

We, individual members of the United Religions Initiative (URI), ask that you contact your Senators today and ask them to support swift passage of the Darfur Accountability Act and to support holding trials for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. We also suggest that your interfaith organizations and faith groups sign on to the Darfur Unity Statement (www.savedarfur.org), as we have asked the URI Global Council to consider at the next opportunity. Finally, we ask that you support the work of the many aid groups working throughout Sudan, and that you pass this letter on to your organizations’ membership, your friends, and colleagues.

On behalf of the Darfur Action Group,

Stephen A. Fuqua
Editor, InterfaithNews.Net


PS. Further background information and letter-writing suggestions are available at this site online.

Thursday, April 7

Who ARE We, Anyway?

So now we have determined -- or more accurately the Florida courts have decided -- that not everyone who is alive has the right to life guaranteed by the US Constitution.

When you think of it, that's pretty consistent with the rest of the world. We like to think that we in America are special, that we value life and liberty. Lately we've taken pride in freeing the oppressed and giving them what we now call God's gift of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We congratulate ourselves on freeing the Iraqi people; we point to Bosnia, Croatia and Hertzogovinia with a certain pride while we ignore genocide in Africa. We remember Somalia.

The situation in Darfur is intolerable to people who value life and claim to defend the innocent and the helpless. In a nutshell it's fairly simple: The Muslim government and militia are systematically torturing and killing the African population.

The early history of the area is a story of sultans, wars and rulers and the Kingdom of Darfar. Islam came into the region in the 1300s. Egypt ruled it for a while until the British came in 1879 and re-established the original ruling family. In 1916 the rulers of the area joined the Ottoman Empire to take up arms against the British -- and lost. The sultan was killed and Darfur became part of British-ruled Sudan. In 1956, it became independent with the rest of the Sudan.

In 2003, two rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement took up arms against the Arab government. In response, the government mounted a campaign of aerial bombardment supporting ground attacks by an Arab militia, the Janjaweed.

The government-supported Janjaweed raped, looted and killed residents of the non-Arab population of Darfur. They burn down whole villages and drive the survivors into refugee camps. Then they surround the camps. By last summer 80,000 people had died and a million were refugees. The UN and NATO have declared the area in a major humanitarian crisis.

US assistance so far this year is $344,944,264.00. Obviously money isn't solving the problem since we've spent $603,389,944.00 since 2003. Human rights agencies have set up medical facilities and are offering help as fast as they can and the genocide continues.

Obviously the only way to solve the problem is to get rid of the government and the militia. The people of Darfur don't want them; they tried unsuccessfully to throw them out and initiated the problem.

So is it time for the US to go into Darfur? There's plenty of precedent and this morning, two American senators, Sen. Brownback (R-KS) and Sen. Corzine (D-NJ), appeared on C-Span and called for Americans to wake up. You can see their segment HERE.

If we are to be consistent in stopping genocide it would seem that sending troops to Darfur would be the thing to do. Senators Brownback and Corzine say they just need about 20,000 troops to protect the villagers. But how would that work? How would we know which villages would be attacked and when? And what good does it do to put troops in harm's way without the goal of fixing the problem for once and all?

There are complicating factors. Allies of the Arab Darfur government include the Chinese, the Russians and Pakistan. Finding ourselves in a position to irritate Pakistan is particularly awkward now, when they are helping (such as it is) with our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is hardly the time to put that already somewhat shaky alliance in jeopardy.

So what do we do? Turn our backs on genocide? We did that in WWII and wound up fighting a World War that led us to atomic weapons. We did that in the Sudan just a few years ago, regretted it and vowed never again.

When we have stopped genocide, we have seen good results. When we have ignored it, the problems escalated and more people suffered and died.

So who has a right to life? Do any of us? It's nice of the Constitution to offer it, but is it realistic? It should be. But is it? Is the only life we truly value our own, with maybe those we love included if things don't get too difficult? What is our responsibility to the world? Or do we have any? What about the UN and NATO?

By ignoring the plight of Darfur are we international Michael Schiavos and Attorney Feroses? We're doing exactly the same thing to millions of people that we did to Terri Schiavo.

Who ARE we, anyway?

Wednesday, April 6

The Naysayers' Objections

Critics say the national sales tax proposal is doomed.

Retailers oppose the idea because they don't want to become the nation's tax collectors.
What those retailers don't want to understand is that the tax collection process is already in place. Instead of paying employee taxes, social security taxes and other business taxes, they just collect and pay a sales tax on new items only. It's much easier to figure than what they're doing now.


Democrats don't like it because they say it hurts lower-income workers. SOME Democrats SAY they don't like it. They don't like it because they perceive that it's a Republican policy (it isn't -- it's bipartisan). Those Democrats haven't listened long enough to comprehend that the impoverished will get a monthly income check so that they don't pay any tax at all. But hey, the poor might be able to get ahead that way -- Democrats would rather keep them down so they'll have someone to "rescue."

Low-wage earners spend most, if not all, of their income on basic necessities and a few nonessential items and so most, if not all, of their income would effectively be taxed under a sales tax-only scheme. EXCEPT for the rebate -- $178 per month per person for everyone with a valid social security number.

The rich, on the hand, arguably buy more and so would pay more taxes in absolute dollars, but not as a percentage of their overall income. The rich buy more expensive things than the average person, from cars and homes to clothes and entertainment. So they'll pay more tax -- but they have more money, so they can afford it. Besides, in a sense they'll be subsidizing the poor, who can't afford to pay as much. But the rich, too, get the $178 per person per month rebate.

President Bush has said he wants a revamped income tax system that preserves charitable giving and home ownership incentives, both of which are now embedded in the current code. Being able to spend one's entire paycheck however one chooses is the best incentive imaginable for buying a home. People buy homes for a huge variety of reasons from the freedom to paint and garden to saving money by building equity -- those things would happen with the FairTax.

As for charitable giving, it would get the government out of that. Charities would much prefer money with no strings attached and churches have learned that the more money people have to spend, the more generous they are in their giving.

Despite the heavy opposition, even skeptics are loathe to underestimate the "Fair Tax" -- or some variation of it.

After all, notes Chris Edwards, the director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank: "Social Security reform started off 20 years ago as a radical, loony idea."

GOD is in the details, not the devil

This quote always makes me angry. "As Mark Luscombe, the principal federal tax analyst for CCH Incorporated, points out: 'The devil is always in the details.'" This is a quote our "intellectual" liberals use constantly without knowing what the quote actually is and where it began.

A very famous architect named Eero Saarinen, who designed the St. Louis arch among other things, said "God is in the details," speaking of architectural design. I deeply, deeply resent that God has been dropped from the original quote in favor of the devil. That is, however, consistent with what Liberals prefer to do with anything religious or theological.

Poll-takers: No rush on Social Security

This isn't a huge poll, but it's as valid as those run by the media.

President Bush's plans for overhauling Social Security aren't faring too well among respondents to an online poll that U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, began taking earlier this month. As of Friday morning, well over 100 people had answered at least part of the survey, which can be found on Bonner's congressional Web site: www.house.gov/bonner.

Some 69 percent "strongly oppose" Bush's proposal to let younger workers divert part of their payroll taxes into private accounts. They are also not in any rush to address the program's financial difficulties, despite a new report by Social Security's trustees saying the system will begin paying out more in benefits than it receives in taxes by 2017, a year earlier than previously forecast. In reply to another question, more than four-fifths agreed that "Social Security isn't in a crisis, this can wait until later."

Respondents showed more enthusiasm for overhauling the federal tax code, another presidential priority. Despite several rounds of tax cuts since Bush took office, more than three-fifths said they are paying more in federal taxes now than four years ago. Seventy-two percent support major changes or a complete overhaul of the tax code. Of that group, more than half favor a national sales tax that would replace the federal income tax and, incidentally, eliminate the need for the Internal Revenue Service."


That sounds like what I'm hearing in talking to voters. The income tax problem needs to be fixed now, they say, and take care of social security later.

Of course installing the FairTax would solve the problem -- it would make social security stable so that the older generation doesn't have to depend on the younger!

Monday, April 4

Tax Cheats and the Commish

In a recent column titled "Tax cheaters seem to be prospering" in the Orlando Sentinel, Susan Strother Clark has a lot of fun at the expense of Mark Everson, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. Seems the good Commissioner, who used an online tax service to prepare his income tax last year, turned over his tax information to a professional tax preparer this year.

"I felt like I'd just learned my dentist didn't floss or that the guy behind the Publix meat counter was a vegetarian," she writes, "And I never got to the bottom of why Everson took a pass this year, or whether even the IRS commissioner -- a former CPA -- finds the tax system too tough to navigate."

The reason she never got any further with this little discussion is that she and the good Commissioner got onto a discussion on tax evaders.

And, whaddyaknow, they're pretty darned prevalent. A new IRS report, coming less than three weeks before the tax-filing deadline, shows that more than $250 billion in taxes was uncollected by the government in 2001, the most recent year studied.

Massive as it is, the number would have been well over $300 billion were it not for a chunk of change that the IRS recovered.

Still, the stuff left on the table -- or more accurately, under it -- is enough to power the economies of Ireland and New Zealand, with plenty of juice left over for Costa Rica, too.


Tax evasion is a serious problem and guess who gets to pay more because our friends and neighbors refuse to pay their fair share.

Ms. Clarke continues,
Certainly, some of the shortfall cited by the IRS is from honest mistakes and confusion over the tax code. But the bulk of it? My money's behind purposeful misreporting corporations, which shorted the government of $30 billion, according to the report.

But the largest category is with regular people, those of big wealth and modest means, who fail to report what they earn.

'The individual income tax is the single largest source of uncollected money,' Everson said.

And, yep, some of them are the sorts that are, shall we say, a little generous with the deductions, claiming that 1975 Pinto was worth $10,000.

But a far larger problem exists with self-employed people who underreport income.

The commish stopped short of saying the IRS was going after small-business owners. A statement like that would fly in the face of the administration's professed love of entrepreneurs.

Still, there's no denying the stats: Business income among unincorporated outfits was the largest segment of underreported taxes, accounting for as much as $83 billion.


See why we need the FairTax? It is fair -- everyone from the intentional tax cheat to the person who simply makes mistakes on his/her return to the drug dealer to the illegal immigrant to 60 million foreign tourists annually will all pay into the tax system. When everyone pays their fair share, everyone pays less!

I don't understand why everyone in this country isn't writing and calling their congress reps and senators begging them to sponsor HR 25 and S 25. This is the first thing that has come along in my political lifetime (that spans almost 50 years) that works for everyone, and to everyone's benefit -- even the entire US government.

It should be easy to get this passed and it would be, if only the people we elected to Congress actually cared about the people who elected them.

Check it out for yourself at www.fairtax. org. You'll be amazed -- and then go contact your Congresspeople and help us get this passed.

American Media Just CAN'T Report the Truth

Zogby Poll: Americans Not in Favor of Starving Terri Schiavo

In spite of what all the American media reported, including Fox News, they got it wrong again with their skewed polls and slanted reporting.

Polls leading up to the death of Terri Schiavo made it appear Americans had formed a consensus in favor of ending her life. However, a new Zogby poll with fairer questions shows the nation clearly supporting Terri and her parents and wanting to protect the lives of other disabled patients.

The Zogby poll found that, if a person becomes incapacitated and has not expressed their preference for medical treatment, as in Terri's case, 43 percent say "the law presume that the person wants to live, even if the person is receiving food and water through a tube" while just 30 percent disagree.

Another Zogby question his directly on Terri's circumstances.

"If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water," the poll asked.

A whopping 79 percent said the patient should not have food and water taken away while just 9 percent said yes.

"From the very start of this debate, Americans have sat on one of two sides," Concerned Women for America's Lanier Swann said in response to the poll. One side "believes Terri's life has worth and purpose, and the side who saw Michael Schiavo's actions as merciful, and appropriate."

More than three-fourths of Americans agreed, Swann said, "because a person is disabled, that patient should never be denied food and water."

The poll also lent support to members of Congress to who passed legislation seeking to prevent Terri's starvation death and help her parents take their lawsuit to federal courts.

"When there is conflicting evidence on whether or not a patient would want to be on a feeding tube, should elected officials order that a feeding tube be removed or should they order that it remain in place," respondents were asked.

Some 18 percent said the feeding tube should be removed and 42 percent said it should remain in place.

Swann said her group would encourage Congress to adopt legislation that would federal courts to review cases when the medical treatment desire of individuals is not known and the patient's family has a dispute over the care.

"According to these poll results, many Americans do in fact agree with what we're trying to accomplish," she said.

The poll found that 49 percent of Americans believe there should be exceptions to the right of a spouse to act as a guardian for an incapacitated spouse. Only 39 percent disagreed.

When asked directly about Terri's case and told the her estranged husband Michael "has had a girlfriend for 10 years and has two children with her" 56 percent of Americans believed guardianship should have been turned over to Terri's parents while 37 percent disagreed.


I would be ashamed to be a reporter for a major news outlet today.

Saturday, April 2

Doctors Profit from "Chemotherapy Concession"

Imagine sitting down with your doctor to receive the shocking news that you
have bone cancer and only a couple of years to live. Even worse, he tells you that your life expectancy will be considerably shorter unless you immediately begin an intensive round of chemotherapy.

Then imagine saying, "No thanks; no chemo for me," and going on to live for
well over a decade.

Against the odds, that's what happened to Michael Gearin-Tosh, a don of English literature at Oxford University. Mr. Gearin-Tosh's remarkable book, "Living Proof: A Medical Mutiny," in which he describes the rigorous nutritional regimen he used to control his cancer.

"Living Proof" is not an attack on chemotherapy use, but it offers a reminder that the need for chemotherapy should always be questioned because this harsh treatment is sometimes prescribed for cancers that simply don't respond to chemo. Why? The answer to that question uncovers a disturbing business aspect of chemotherapy that few patients ever get a glimpse of.

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Offsetting costs
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Cancer patients often receive chemotherapy drugs in the offices of their oncologists. This procedure, now fairly standard, was established in the early 90's to avoid the high costs of administering the drugs in a hospital. The wrinkle that makes this situation unique is that the oncologists purchase the drugs themselves and bill their patients. And the wrinkle that makes this situation a potential problem is that oncologists typically charge patients far higher amounts than they pay for the drugs. This practice is known as "chemotherapy concession."

The oncologists say they require the additional revenue from selling the drugs to offset the cost of special facilities and staff to administer the drugs. And because chemotherapy has become such a standard treatment, virtually all prescriptions for it are covered by insurance or Medicare, so the markups are generally not paid for by patients.

At face value, this would seem to be reasonable. But I'm sure you won't be surprised to find out there's much more to it than that.

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Everyone pays
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The problem with this "concession" system it that it perpetuates the use of chemotherapy - a problem that can be broken down into three distinct problems.

PROBLEM 1: Taxpayers are footing a large portion of the payout that goes to
oncologists.

According to the New York Times, the amount that the government pays may be more than $1 billion per year. That's $1 billion more than the actual cost of the drugs. This amount doesn't include the additional totals paid to doctors by insurance companies - totals for which there are no current estimates, although the chance is very good that the burden carried by insurance companies is at least equal to the amount carried by Medicare. And as we've often seen, when insurance claims rise, our insurance premiums follow.

The Times quotes Dr. Larry Norton, an oncologist and former president of the American society of Clinical Oncology, as saying that he and other doctors are just trying to "break even." Well, things are tough all over, but don't pass the hat just yet to help your local oncologist squeak by, because according the Medical Group Management Association, over the last ten years oncology has become one of the most lucrative fields of medical practice, largely due to the chemotherapy concession. By some estimates, two-thirds of a typical oncologist's total revenue comes from the concession.

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Research suffers
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PROBLEM 2: Because oncologists have a strong monetary incentive to prescribe
chemotherapy (after all, they're just "breaking even"), they are less likely to refer patients to clinical research exploring possible cancer cures and less abrasive therapies.

Natural Health Line recently interviewed Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D. - a clinical researcher who has treated cancer with nutrition for many years. When Dr. Gonzalez was recruiting patients for a federally funded study of a cancer treatment based on a nutrition regimen, enrollment in the trial was complicated by the fact that many oncologists were reluctant to refer patients and lose the revenue that the chemotherapy concession would bring.

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Hard to justify
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PROBLEM 3: The most important problem is the way chemotherapy concession affects the treatment of patients.

Two years ago, Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D. (an oncologist and bioethicist), presented the results of a study that examined the medical records of almost 8,000 cancer patients. Dr. Emanuel found that in cases where chemotherapy was administered in the final six months of life, ONE-THIRD of the patients suffered from cancers that are known to be unresponsive to chemotherapy!

In Dr. Emanuel's words, "providing chemotherapy to patients with unresponsive cancers is hard to justify."

I'd say that's putting it mildly.

Specific types of cancer that are not responsive to chemotherapy include: pancreatic, melanoma, hepatocellular, renal cell, and gallbladder. If you are diagnosed with one of these cancers and are prescribed chemotherapy, it's time for a second opinion.

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