Cometh the hour cometh the man. (Or woman).
Except it’s not always true, is it?
In 1940 we had Winston Churchill. In 1979 we had Margaret Thatcher. But I’m not sure even the most generous apologists for our current Prime Minister would bracket David Cameron in quite the same category.
What did Mrs Thatcher have that Cameron doesn’t?
For me the essential distinction is that between being a statesman and being a politician. Maggie was the former, Dave is evidently the latter – as, I think was Tony Blair. One of the key differences between the two lies in their attitude to personal popularity. To the politician it matters greatly, for the primary aim of the politician is to gain and maintain power at regardless of what cost to his principles. To the statesman, however, the political process is little more than a necessary evil. What matters to the statesman is striving to do what they believe is right rather than what is merely popular or expedient – even if, as in Maggie’s eventually defenestration by the Tory wets led by Heseltine, this results in being kicked out of office.
Time and again there were moments in Margaret Thatcher’s career when political expediency would have demanded that she soften her position: the time when all those economists wrote so expertly to The Times insisting she revert her supposedly disastrous monetary policy; the time when her cabinet were advising her not to go to war in the Falklands; the time when – ultimately fatally – she chose to face up to Europe rather than go native and cave.
She was proved right every time, of course, while all those who counseled otherwise have been proved oh-so-wrong. But is this because Margaret Thatcher was an intellectual genius blessed with magical insight into correct geopolitical strategy? Of course not. She would, I’m sure, have been horrified at the suggestion. Rather, what she believed in was old-fashioned commonsense. Or, what you might more sophisticatedly call “first principles”. So, for example, if thrift and hard work and self-discipline and honest aspiration work well on a household level, then the likelihood is that they’re going to work on a national level – regardless of what your clever civil servents might be telling you.
The Lady was not for turning because the lady had the courage of her convictions.
Convictions. Remember those, anyone?
…In Britain, we still do. Each year, an official estimate is made of the “excess winter mortality” – that is, the number of people dying of cold-related illnesses. Last winter was relatively mild, and still 24,000 perished. The indications are that this winter, which has dragged on so long and with such brutality, will claim 30,000 lives, making it one of the biggest killers in the country. And still, no one seems upset.
Somewhere between the release of the 1984 Band Aid single and Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, political attention shifted away from such problems. The idea of people (especially old people) dying in their homes from conditions with which we are all familiar now seems relatively boring. Much political attention is still focused on global warming, and while schemes to help Britain prepare for the cold are being cut, the overseas aid budget is being vastly expanded. Saving elderly British lives has somehow become the least fashionable cause in politics.
The reaction to the 2003 heatwave was extraordinary. It was blamed for 2,000 deaths, and taken as a warning that Britain was horribly unprepared for the coming era of snowless winters and barbecue summers. The government’s chief scientific officer, Sir David King, later declared that climate change was “more serious even than the threat of terrorism” in terms of the number of lives that could be lost. Such language is never used about the cold, which kills at least 10 times as many people every winter. Before long, every political party had signed up to the green agenda.
Since Sir David’s exhortations, some 250,000 Brits have died from the cold, and 10,000 from the heat. It is horribly clear that we have been focusing on the wrong enemy. Instead of making sure energy was affordable, ministers have been trying to make it more expensive, with carbon price floors and emissions trading schemes. Fuel prices have doubled over seven years, forcing millions to choose between heat and food – and government has found itself a major part of the problem.
This is slowly beginning to dawn on Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. He has tried to point the finger at energy companies, but his own department let the truth slip out in the small print of a report released on Wednesday. The average annual fuel bill is expected to have risen by £76 by 2020, it says. But take out Davey’s hidden taxes (carbon price floor, emissions trading scheme, etc) and we’d be paying an average £123 less. His department has been trying to make homes cheaper to heat, and in a saner world this would be his only remit: to secure not the greenest energy, but the most affordable energy.
By now, the Energy Secretary will also have realised another inconvenient truth – that, for Britain, global warming is likely to save far more lives then it threatens. Delve deep enough into the Government’s forecasts, and they speculate that global warming will lead to 6,000 fewer deaths a year, on average, by the end of the decade. This is the supposed threat facing us: children would be less likely to have snow to play in at Christmas, but more likely to have grandparents to visit over Easter. Not a bad trade-off. The greatest uncertainty is whether global warming, which has stalled since 1998, will arrive quickly enough to make a difference.
Whatever happened to ignorance of the law is no excuse? Whatever happened to England?
A Muslim who raped a 13-year-old girl he groomed on Facebook has been spared a prison sentence after a judge heard he went to an Islamic faith school where he was taught that women are worthless.
Adil Rashid, 18, claimed he was not aware that it was illegal for him to have sex with the girl because his education left him ignorant of British law.
Yesterday Judge Michael Stokes handed Rashid a suspended sentence, saying: ‘Although chronologically 18, it is quite clear from the reports that you are very naive and immature when it comes to sexual matters.’
Earlier Nottingham Crown Court heard that such crimes usually result in a four to seven-year prison sentence.
But the judge said that because Rashid was ‘passive’ and ‘lacking assertiveness’, sending him to jail might cause him ‘more damage than good’.
…subsidize it. From the British Sun:
Danny Creamer, 21, and Gina Allan, 18, spend each day watching their 47in flatscreen TV and smoking 40 cigarettes between them in their comfy two-bedroom flat.
It is all funded by the taxpayer, yet the couple say they deserve sympathy because they are “trapped”.
They even claim they are entitled to their generous handouts because their hard-working parents have been paying tax for years.
The couple, who have a four-month-old daughter Tullulah-Rose, say they can’t go out to work as they could not survive on less than their £1,473-a-month benefits.
The pair left school with no qualifications, and say there is no point looking for jobs because they will never be able to earn as much as they get in handouts.
Gina admits: “We could easily get a job but why would we want to work — we would be worse off.”
Just imagine the working stiffs reading this while riding the tube to work.
The British National Health Service is notorious for long waiting times, dirty hospital wards and bloated costs to the taxpayer. But it is “free.”
The NHS has done some outsourcing to become more efficient. WSJ
Richard Branson built a fortune stamping his irreverent Virgin brand on everything from airplanes to rock ‘n’ roll records. But the billionaire entrepreneur is taking heat for putting the Virgin label on one thing many Britons don’t want branded: their taxpayer-funded health-care system.
The Virgin Care unit of Mr. Branson’s Virgin Group has spent the past 2½ years supplying health-care services like podiatry and dermatology to the National Health Service, which is increasingly turning to private-sector contractors in a bid to save money and improve service.
So: outsourcing saves money and delivers better service. Win-win, right?
Many doctors, patients and members of the public object to the outsourcing trend, saying they don’t like the idea of private-sector companies squeezing a profit out of the already cash-strapped NHS.
Virgin, as one of the biggest and most recognized names in the business, has become a lightning rod for such criticism.
The company says its contracts require it to save the NHS certain sums of money before taking a profit for itself.
Progressives would rather punch themselves in the face than allow someone to earn a profit, those filthy capitalists.
People don’t work. Instead they live off the government (that is, everyone else).
First, Great Britain. I heard Mark Steyn say that 40% of British children grow up in households where no one works, thus infusing future generations of deadbeats. Polish immigrants are coming to do the work.
…Britain’s employment figures are strong but most of the rise in employment so far under this government is accounted for by foreign-born workers (as was 99pc of the rise in employment under Labour). The recession has not diminished employers’ appetite for immigrant workers and today’s Sunday Times magazine has a long piece asking whether there is a “fundamental difference in our attitudes to work”. It’s still one of the most important questions in Britain today: what’s the use of economic growth if it doesn’t shorten British dole queues? And should we blame these industrious immigrants; aren’t the Brits just lazy?
I’d urge Coffee Housers to read the whole thing, but one passage jumps out at me. A Polish recruitment agent, Iwona Dilinskas, is quoted.
In Poland, she says, child benefit is £10 a month for three children. There is no working tax credit or child tax credit. If she were British, she says “I’d probably not want to work more than 16 hours a week. What for? If I work 16 hours or less, they pay 80pc of my rent [as housing benefit]. And all my council tax. I get working tax credit, child tax credit, child benefit. So, to be honest – why work?”
The quality of the British debate is so poor that we almost never look at this from the point of view of the low-wage worker. Every budget, the IFS will dutifully work out if it has been “fair” – ie, gives the most to the poorest. The LibDems will judge a budget by this metric. That’s a nice, easy, simple graph.
But what about destroying the work incentive? Each budget and each change to tax should be judged on how many people are then ensnared in the welfare trap. I adapted the below (nasty, complex) graphs from an internal government presentation, which still make the case powerfully.
The bottom axis is money earned from employer and the side axis is income retained. The graphs are complex but worth studying, if only to get a feel for the horrific system confronting millions of the lowest-paid in Britain today…
And we’re heading that way in the United States. Daniel Halper in the Weekly Standard:
The amount of money spent on welfare programs equals, when converted to cash payments, about “$168 per day for every household in poverty,” the minority side of the Senate Budget Committee finds. Here’s a chart detailing the committee’s findings:
According to the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee, welfare spending per day per household in poverty is $168, which is higher than the $137 median income per day. When broken down per hour, welfare spending per hour per household in poverty is $30.60, which is higher than the $25.03 median income per hour.
“Based on data from the Congressional Research Service, cumulative spending on means-tested federal welfare programs, if converted into cash, would equal $167.65 per day per household living below the poverty level,” writes the minority side of the Senate Budget Committee. “By comparison, the median household income in 2011 of $50,054 equals $137.13 per day. Additionally, spending on federal welfare benefits, if converted into cash payments, equals enough to provide $30.60 per hour, 40 hours per week, to each household living below poverty. The median household hourly wage is $25.03. After accounting for federal taxes, the median hourly wage drops to between $21.50 and $23.45, depending on a household’s deductions and filing status. State and local taxes further reduce the median household’s hourly earnings. By contrast, welfare benefits are not taxed.”
It may not feel like it, but 2012 has been the greatest year in the history of the world. That sounds like an extravagant claim, but it is borne out by evidence. Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. The West remains in the economic doldrums, but most developing countries are charging ahead, and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is also mercifully low. We are living in a golden age.
To listen to politicians is to be given the opposite impression — of a dangerous, cruel world where things are bad and getting worse. This, in a way, is the politicians’ job: to highlight problems and to try their best to offer solutions. But the great advances of mankind come about not from statesmen, but from ordinary people. Governments across the world appear stuck in what Michael Lind, on page 30,describes as an era of ‘turboparalysis’ — all motion, no progress. But outside government, progress has been nothing short of spectacular.
Take global poverty. In 1990, the UN announced Millennium Development Goals, the first of which was to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015. Itemerged this year that the target was met in 2008. Yet the achievement did not merit an official announcement, presumably because it was not achieved by any government scheme but by the pace of global capitalism. Buying cheap plastic toys made in China really is helping to make poverty history. And global inequality? This, too, is lower now than any point in modern times. Globalisation means the world’s not just getting richer, but fairer too.
The doom-mongers will tell you that we cannot sustain worldwide economic growth without ruining our environment. But while the rich world’s economies grew by 6 per cent over the last seven years, fossil fuel consumption in those countries fell by 4 per cent. This remarkable (and, again, unreported) achievement has nothing to do with green taxes or wind farms. It is down to consumer demand for more efficient cars and factories.
And what about the concerns that the oil would run out? Ministers have spent years thinking of improbable new power sources. As it turns out, engineers in America have found new ways of mining fossil fuel. The amazing breakthroughs in ‘fracking’ technology mean that, in spite of the world’s escalating population — from one billion to seven billion over the last two centuries — we live in an age of energyabundance.
Advances in medicine and technology mean that people across the world are living longer. The average life expectancy in Africa reached 55 this year. Ten years ago, it was 50. The number of people dying from Aids has been in decline for the last eight years. Deaths from malaria have fallen by a fifth in half a decade.
Nature can still wreak havoc. The storms which lashed America’s East Coast in October proved that. But the speed of New York City’s recovery shows a no-less-spectacular resilience. Man cannot control the weather, but as countries grow richer, they can better guard against devastation. The average windstorm kills about 2,000 in Bangladesh but fewer than 20 in America. It’s not that America’s storms are mild; but that it has the money to cope. As developing countries become richer, we can expect the death toll (more…)
It is a far cry from the traditional burger sold at fast-food outlets. All over the country restaurants are putting “gourmet” burgers on the menu, offering them from rare to well done.
Now council officials are cracking down on the freedom to choose how your burger is done, warning restaurants not to offer them rare or even medium-rare.
All face being asked at their next routine inspection how they offer their burgers after the decision by Westminster city council, which regulates food safety in more restaurants than any other local authority.
A number of celebrity chefs are affected by the move, including Gordon Ramsay, whose Maze Grill restaurant sells a burger for £12, Angela Hartnett, whose York and Albany’s bar menu includes burgers, and the Soho House chain, run by Nick Jones, the husband of broadcaster Kirsty Young.
All face being asked at their next routine inspection how they offer their burgers after the decision by Westminster city council, which regulates food safety in more restaurants than any other local authority.
The decision is expected to be followed by other councils, but critics fear it could lead to questions over the safety of rare steaks and raw meat dishes such as steak tartare.
Progressives always know what’s best for you.
The 1st Amendment — that’s enough in itself.
…The British left is screaming for parliamentary regulation of the press. Prime Minister Cameron says this would “cross the Rubicon”: let the politicians start regulating the press and the Ministry of Truth is not far away. He is basically right; while the Leveson report doesn’t call for censorship of content, it introduces the idea that an outside regulator (theoretically independent of government) should regulate the conduct of reporters. Such bodies accrete power over time; once the camel gets its nose in the tent, the takeover process begins.
Britain is particularly susceptible to the disease of controlling unpleasant speech. Mixed with its long and proud tradition as an upholder of liberty, Britain has always had a weakness for letting the Great and the Good dictate to the rest of society. It has an Established Church, and for centuries people who didn’t belong to it were banned from holding office or attending universities. Britain was traditionally much more puritanical than, say, France when it came to censoring books, plays and later films.
That tradition has shifted, but it has never gone away. In the old days the Brits censored anything to do with sex; these days anything goes where sex is concerned, but “hurtful” speech is something else. All over Britain, the speech nannies are stirring, eager to ensure that only worthy thoughts can be spoken in public places. Give them an independent body that is able to regulate and punish the press, and they will seek to expand its powers and extend its jurisdiction to “harmful” content as well as harmful methods.
The trend against free speech can also be seen on our side of the Atlantic, especially on college campuses, and these moves must be fought. The right of people to say nasty, unkind and untrue things, their right to insult your religion, your dearest moral values, the ethnic and racial groups from which you spring, your eating habits and social customs, your ideals—that is the essence of freedom. Sad but true.
The “good” people, the “helping” people, the “nurturing” people and the idealists are usually the ones eager to punish people who say hurtful things. The left recognizes this when Andrew Sullivan’s dreaded “Christianists” try to stop the teaching of evolution on the grounds that it is false and destructive. But when the left’s most cherished ideas are rudely and nastily challenged, the hammer comes down.
“Nice” people who want to limit your freedom of speech so that only “nice” ideas will be expressed are some of the most horribly misguided and dangerous people around. They must be relentlessly mocked and resisted so that human freedom can survive.
In a complicated, pluralistic society like ours, when life depends on the coordination of large institutions and complex social systems, and there are many groups and individuals whose feelings are easily hurt by the thoughtless or hostile comments by others, the temptation is huge to use the law and the powers of the administrative state to keep disturbing speech out of the system.
But that temptation must be fought…
Foreign Office diplomats withdrew from the Libyan city in June following an assassination attempt on the British ambassador but reached an agreement with the US to leave weapons and vehicles at the American compound.
The lightly-guarded US site was overrun by Islamist militants in an attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans last month.
The Foreign Office has confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that the equipment is still unaccounted for a month after the Benghazi assault.
Dozens of attackers tore through the American compound during the September 11 attack and since then Libyans have often roamed freely through its remains, raising the possibility that the British weapons have already been looted.
Details of the agreement between the British and American diplomatic security teams emerged during a Congressional hearing into the Benghazi attack on Wednesday.
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, the leader of a US special forces team in Libya, said a deal had been made where the British would “leave their weapons and vehicles on our compound in Benghazi”.
“They would come back and at times withdraw their weapons and vehicles and then return them and leave,” he said.
Britain’s decision to remove diplomats from the eastern Libyan city was repeatedly raised during the hearing, as Republicans demanded to know why the US had stayed even when its close ally had decided the situation was no longer safe.
Lt Col Wood said that the withdrawal of British diplomats and Red Cross workers should have been a warning to US diplomats. “I almost expected the attack to come. We were the last flag flying, it was a matter of time,” he said.
I read this when first published. It’s still stands out.
‘There’s No Place Like Home’
What I learned from my wife’s month in the British medical system.
BY DAVID ASMAN
Wednesday, June 8, 2005 12:00 a.m.
“Mr. Asman, could you come down to the gym? Your wife appears to be having a small problem.” In typical British understatement, this was the first word I received of my wife’s stroke.
We had arrived in London the night before for a two-week vacation. We spent the day sightseeing and were planning to go to the theater. I decided to take a nap, but my wife wanted to get in a workout in the hotel’s gym before theater. Little did either of us know that a tiny blood clot had developed in her leg on the flight to London and was quietly working its way up to her heart. Her workout on the Stairmaster pumped the clot right through a too-porous wall in the heart on a direct path to the right side of her brain.
Hurrying down to the gym, I suspected that whatever the “small” problem was, we might still have time to make the play. Instead, our lives were about to change fundamentally, and we were both about to experience firsthand the inner workings of British health care.
We spent almost a full month in a British public hospital. We also arranged for a complex medical procedure to be done in one of the few remaining private hospitals in Britain. My wife then spent about three weeks recuperating in a New York City hospital as an inpatient and has since used another city hospital for physical therapy as an outpatient. We thus have had a chance to sample the health diet available under two very different systems of health care. Neither system is without its faults and advantages. To paraphrase Thomas Sowell, there are no solutions to modern health care problems, only trade-offs. What follows is a sampling of those tradeoffs as we viewed them firsthand.
As I saw my wife collapsed on the hotel’s gym floor, my concern about making the curtain was replaced by a bone-chilling recognition that she was in mortal danger. Despite her protestations that everything was fine, her left side was paralyzed and her eyes were rolling around unfocused. She was making sense, but her words were slurred. Right away I suspected a stroke, even though she is a young, healthy nonsmoker. Over her continuing protests, I knew we had to get her to a hospital right away.
The emergency workers who came within five minutes were wonderful. The two young East Enders looked and sounded for all the world like a couple of skinhead soccer fans, cockney accents and all. But their professionalism in immediately stabilizing my wife and taking her vitals was matched with exceptional kindness. I was moved to tears to see how comforting they were both to my wife and to me. As I was to discover time and again in the British health system, despite the often deplorable conditions of a bankrupt infrastructure, British caregivers–whether nurses, doctors, or ambulance drivers–are extraordinarily kind and hardworking. Since there’s no real money to be made in the system, those who get into public medicine do so as a pure vocation. And they show it. In the case of these EMTs, I kick myself for not having noticed their names to later thank them, for almost as soon as they dropped us off at the emergency room of the University College of London Hospital, they disappeared.
Suddenly we were in the hands of British Health Service, and after a battery of tests we were being pressured into officially admitting my wife to UCL. As we discovered later, emergency care is free for everyone in Britain; it’s only when one is officially admitted to a hospital that a foreigner begins to pay. I didn’t know that. But I did know that I was not about to admit my wife to a hospital that could not diagnose an obviously life-threatening affliction. And even after having given her an MRI, the doctors could not tell if she had a stroke.
Now, the smartest thing I did before we left the hotel was to delay the ambulance driver long enough to run back to my room and grab my wife’s cell phone. With that phone I began making about a thousand dollars worth of trans-Atlantic calls, the first of which was to the world-renowned cardiologist Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, who I’m lucky enough to have as my GP. As it turned out, not only did Izzy diagnose the problem correctly, he even suggested a cause for the stroke, which later turned out to be correct. “There’s no reason for her to have a stroke except if it’s a PFO.” I didn’t know what Izzy meant, but I wrote down the initials and later found out that a PFO (a patent foramen ovale) is a flap-like opening in the heart through which we get our oxygen in utero. For most of us, the opening closes shortly after birth. But in as many as 30 percent of us, the flap doesn’t seal tight, and that can allow a blood clot to travel through the heart up to the brain. Izzy agreed that I should not admit my wife to UCL but hold out for a hospital that specialized in neurology.
As it happened, the best such hospital in England, Queen’s Square Hospital for Neurology, was a short distance away, but it had no beds available. That’s when I started dialing furiously again, tracking down contacts and calling in chits with any influential contact around the world for whom I’d ever done a favor. I also got my employer, News Corp., involved, and a team of extremely helpful folks I’d never met worked overtime helping me out.
Suddenly, a bed was found in Queen’s Square, and by 2 a.m. my wife was officially admitted to a British public hospital. The neurologist on call that night looked at the same MRI where the emergency doctors had seen nothing and immediately saw that my wife had suffered a severe stroke. It was awful news, but I realized we were finally in the right place.
That first night (or what was left of it) my wife was sent off to intensive care, and the nurses convinced me that I should get a few hours sleep. We found a supply closet, in which there was a small examination table, and the nurses helped me fashion fake pillows and blankets from old supplies. The loving attention of these nurses was touching. But the conditions of the hospital were rather shockingly apparent even then.
The acute brain injury ward to which my wife was assigned the next day consisted of four sections, each having six beds. Whether it was dumb luck or some unseen connection, we ended up with a bed next to a window, through which we could catch a glimpse of the sky. Better yet, the window actually opened, which was also a blessing since the smells wafting through the ward were often overwhelming.
When I covered Latin America for The Wall Street Journal, I’d visit hospitals, prisons and schools as barometers of public services in the country. Based on my Latin American scale, Queen’s Square would rate somewhere in the middle. It certainly wasn’t as bad as public hospitals in El Salvador, where patients often share beds. But it wasn’t as nice as some of the hospitals I’ve seen in Buenos Aires or southern Brazil. And compared with virtually any hospital ward in the U.S., Queen’s Square would fall short by a mile.
The equipment wasn’t ancient, but it was often quite old. On occasion my wife and I would giggle at heart and blood-pressure monitors that were literally taped together and would come apart as they were being moved into place. The nurses and hospital technicians had become expert at jerry-rigging temporary fixes for a lot of the damaged equipment. I pitched in as best as I could with simple things, like fixing the wiring for the one TV in the ward. And I’d make frequent trips to the local pharmacies to buy extra tissues and cleaning wipes, which were always in short supply.
In fact, cleaning was my main occupation for the month we were at Queen’s Square. Infections in hospitals are, of course, a problem everywhere. But in Britain, hospital-borne infections are getting out of control. At least 100,000 British patients a year are hit by hospital-acquired infections, including the penicillin-resistant “superbug” MRSA. A new study carried out by the British Health Protection Agency says that MRSA plays a part in the deaths of up to 32,000 patients every year. But even at lower numbers, Britain has the worst MRSA infection rates in Europe. It’s not hard to see why.
As far as we could tell in our month at Queen’s Square, the only method of keeping the floors clean was an industrious worker from the Philippines named Marcello, equipped with a mop and pail. Marcello did the best that he could. But there’s only so much a single worker can do with a mop and pail against a ward full of germ-laden filth. Only a constant cleaning by me kept our little corner of the ward relatively germ-free. When my wife and I walked into Cornell University Hospital in New York after a month in England, the first thing we noticed was the floors. They were not only clean. They were shining! We were giddy with the prospect of not constantly engaging in germ warfare.
As for the caliber of medicine practiced at Queen’s Square, we were quite impressed at the collegiality of the doctors and the tendency to make medical judgments based on group consultations. There is much better teamwork among doctors, nurses and physical therapists in Britain. In fact, once a week at Queen’s Square, all the hospital’s health workers–from high to low–would assemble for an open forum on each patient in the ward. That way each level knows what the other level is up to, something glaringly absent from U.S. hospital management. Also, British nurses have far more direct managerial control over how the hospital wards are run. This may somewhat compensate for their meager wages–which averaged about £20,000 ($36,000) a year (in a city where almost everything costs twice as much as it does in Manhattan!).
There is also much less of a tendency in British medicine to make decisions on the basis of whether one will be sued for that decision. This can lead to a much healthier period of recuperation. For example, as soon as my wife was ambulatory, I was determined to get her out of the hospital as much as possible. Since a stroke is all about the brain, I wanted to clear her head of as much sickness as I could. We’d take off in a wheelchair for two-hour lunches in the lovely little park outside, and three-hour dinners at a nice Japanese restaurant located at a hotel down the street. I swear those long, leisurely dinners, after which we’d sit in the lobby where I’d smoke a cigar and we’d talk for another hour or so, actually helped in my wife’s recovery. It made both of us feel, well, normal. It also helped restore a bit of fun in our relationship, which too often slips away when you just see your loved one in a hospital setting.
Now try leaving a hospital as an inpatient in the U.S. In fact, we did try and were frustrated at every step. You’d have better luck breaking out of prison. Forms, permission slips and guards at the gate all conspire to keep you in bounds. It was clear that what prevented us from getting out was the pressing fear on everyone’s part of getting sued. Anything happens on the outside and folks naturally sue the hospital for not doing their job as the patient’s nanny.
Why are the Brits so less concerned about being sued? I can only guess that Britain’s practice of forcing losers in civil cases to pay for court costs has lessened the number of lawsuits, and thus the paranoia about lawsuits from which American medical services suffer.
British doctors, nurses and physical therapists also seem to put much more stock in the spiritual side of healing. Not to say that they bring religion into the ward. (In fact, they passed right over my wife’s insistence that prayer played a part in what they had to admit was a miraculously quick return of movement to her left side.) Put simply, they invest a lot of effort at keeping one’s spirits up. Sometimes it’s a bit over the top, such as when the physical or occupational therapists compliment any tiny achievement with a “Brilliant!” or “Fantastic!” But better that than taking a chance of planting a negative suggestion that can grow quickly and dampen spirits for a long time.
Since we returned, we’ve actually had two American physical therapists who did just that–one who told my wife that she’d never use her hand again and another who said she’d never bend her ankle again. Both of these therapists were wrong, but they succeeded in depressing my wife’s spirits and delaying her recovery for a considerable period. For the life of me, I can’t understand how they could have been so insensitive, unless this again was an attempt to forestall a lawsuit: I never claimed you would walk again.
Having praised the caregivers, I’m forced to return to the inefficiencies of a health system devoid of incentives. One can tell that the edge has disappeared in treatment in Britain. For example, when we returned to the U.S. we discovered that treatment exists for thwarting the effects of blood clots in the brain if administered shortly after a stroke. Such treatment was never mentioned, even after we were admitted to the neurology hospital. Indeed, the only medication my wife was given for a severe stroke was a daily dose of aspirin. Now, treating stroke victims is tricky business. My wife had a low hemoglobin count, so with all the medications in the world, she still might have been better off with just aspirin. But consultations with doctors never brought up the possibilities of alternative drug therapies. (Of course, U.S. doctors tend to be pill pushers, but that’s a different discussion.)
Then there was the condition of Queen’s Square compared with the physical plant of the New York hospitals. As I mentioned, the cleanliness of U.S. hospitals is immediately apparent to all the senses. But Cornell and New York University hospitals (both of which my wife has been using since we returned) have ready access to technical equipment that is either hard to find or nonexistent in Britain. This includes both diagnostic equipment and state-of-the-art equipment used for physical therapy.
We did have one brief encounter with a more comprehensive type of British medical treatment–a day trip to one of the few remaining private hospitals in London.
Before she could travel back home, my wife needed to have the weak wall in her heart fortified with a metal clamp. The procedure is minimally invasive (a catheter is passed up to the heart from a small incision made in the groin), but it requires enormous skill. The cardiologist responsible for the procedure, Seamus Cullen, worked in both the public system and as a private clinician. He informed us that the waiting line to perform the procedure in a public hospital would take days if not weeks, but we could have the procedure done in a private hospital almost immediately. Since we’d already been separated from our 12-year-old daughter for almost a month, we opted to have the procedure done (with enormous assistance from my employer) at a private hospital.
Checking into the private hospital was like going from a rickety Third World hovel into a five-star hotel. There was clean carpeting, more than enough help, a private room (and a private bath!) in which to recover from the procedure, even a choice of wines offered with a wide variety of entrees. As we were feasting on our fancy new digs, Dr. Cullen came by, took my wife’s hand, and quietly told us in detail about the procedure. He actually paused to ask us whether we understood him completely and had any questions. Only one, we both thought to ask: Is this a dream?
It wasn’t long before the dream was over and we were back at Queen’s Square. But on our return, one of the ever-accommodating nurses had found us a single room in the back of the ward where they usually throw rowdy patients. For the last five days, my wife and I prayed for well-behaved patients, and we managed to last out our days at Queen’s Square basking in a private room.
But what of the bottom line? When I received the bill for my wife’s one-month stay at Queen’s Square, I thought there was a mistake. The bill included all doctors’ costs, two MRI scans, more than a dozen physical therapy sessions, numerous blood and pathology tests, and of course room and board in the hospital for a month. And perhaps most important, it included the loving care of the finest nurses we’d encountered anywhere. The total cost: $25,752. That ain’t chump change. But to put this in context, the cost of just 10 physical therapy sessions at New York’s Cornell University Hospital came to $27,000–greater than the entire bill from British Health Service!
There is something seriously out of whack about 10 therapy sessions that cost more than a month’s worth of hospital bills in England. Still, while costs in U.S. hospitals might well have become exorbitant because of too few incentives to keep costs down, the British system has simply lost sight of costs and incentives altogether. (The exception would appear to be the few remaining private clinics in Britain. The heart procedure done in the private clinic in London cost about $20,000.)
“Free health care” is a mantra that one hears all the time from advocates of the British system. But British health care is not “free.” I mentioned the cost of living in London, which is twice as high for almost any good or service as prices in Manhattan. Folks like to blame an overvalued pound (or undervalued dollar). But that only explains about 30 percent of the extra cost. A far larger part of those extra costs come in the hidden value-added taxes–which can add up to 40 percent when you combine costs to consumers and producers. And with salaries tending to be about 20 percent lower in England than they are here, the purchasing power of Brits must be close to what we would define as the poverty level. The enormous costs of socialized medicine explain at least some of this disparity in the standard of living.
As for the quality of British health care, advocates of socialized medicine point out that while the British system may not be as rich as U.S. heath care, no patient is turned away. To which I would respond that my wife’s one roommate at Cornell University Hospital in New York was an uninsured homeless woman, who shared the same spectacular view of the East River and was receiving about the same quality of health care as my wife. Uninsured Americans are not left on the street to die.
Something is clearly wrong with medical pricing over here. Ten therapy sessions aren’t worth $27,000, no matter how shiny the floors are. On the other hand my wife was wheeled into Cornell and managed to partially walk out after a relatively pleasant stay in a relatively clean environment. Can one really put a price on that?
Theodore Dalrymple, a retired British doctor, writes about the Olympic opening ceremony:
..of course it was impressive, as anything staged on a sufficiently large scale and well-organized is impressive. The fear of almost all Britons, amounting virtually to an expectation, that the games would at once descend into chaos was not fulfilled. On the contrary, the choreography was impeccable, and thousands participated without mishap, with the precision of a military parade. There were even moments of genuine wit, which distinguished the ceremony from the North Korean equivalent.
Nevertheless, the inclusion of happily dancing nursing staff from the National Health Service was precisely the kind of stunt that an ideological state would pull. Who would have guessed that only a few days before in the NHS, here presented as among the greatest of all British achievements, some doctors had gone on strike, not to improve conditions for their patients but to preserve their own generous pensions—of the kind that those unfortunate enough to work in the private sector can only dream about? Western Europeans must either have puzzled over or laughed at this: Britain is universally acknowledged in Europe to have the worst health care on the continent—health care that European residents flee except in extremis. And here were people dancing to celebrate it!
Wha? He really had them? But but but…
BAGHDAD (AP) — Britain will help the Iraqi government dispose of what’s left of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons, still stored in two bunkers in north of Baghdad, the British embassy in Baghdad announced Monday.
The British Defense Ministry will start training Iraqi technical and medical workers this year, an embassy statement said. The teams will work to safely destroy remnants of munitions and chemical warfare agents left over from Saddam’s regime. He was overthrown in 2003 following an American-led invasion.
Saddam stored the chemical weapons near population centers so that he could access them quickly, despite the danger to his civilian population.
Most of Iraq’s chemical weapons were destroyed by military forces in 1991 during the first Gulf War or by U.N. inspectors after the fighting. The inspections halted just before the invasion.
Iraq is a party to the U.N. Chemical Weapons Convention and must get rid of the remaining material, according to terms of the pact.
Also, now that Syria has confirmed it has WMDs, this story deserves a recall:
Iraq’s WMD Secreted in Syria, Sada Says
The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein’s air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.
The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, “Saddam’s Secrets,” released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.
“There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands,” Mr. Sada said. “I am confident they were taken over.”
A majority of doctors support measures to deny treatment to smokers and the obese, according to a survey that has sparked a row over the NHS‘s growing use of “lifestyle rationing”.
Some 54% of doctors who took part said the NHS should have the right to withhold non-emergency treatment from patients who do not lose weight or stop smoking. Some medics believe unhealthy behaviour can make procedures less likely to work, and that the service is not obliged to devote scarce resources to them.
And that’s the trouble with services and institutions run from the taxpayer’s purse, administered by centralists and bureaucrats. It becomes a carrot or a stick for interventionists to intervene in your life. Its delivery depends on your compliance with the diktats and whims of the democracy, or of bureaucrats. Your standard of living becomes a bargaining chip. Don’t conform? You might be deemed unworthy of hospital treatment.
It seems innocuous to promise all manner of services in exchange for taxes. Citizens may welcome the convenience, the lower overheads, the economies of scale. They may welcome a freebie, and the chance to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labour. They may feel entitled to it.
Many words have been spent on the problems of dependency; that rather than working for an honest living, the poor may be sucked into a vortex of entitlement, to such an extent that they lose the desire to produce…
For a purported smart guy, Obama often sticks his foot in his mouth (and his hand over the face of other world leaders in group photos). Twice he pronounced Marine Corps as “corpse,” suggesting his ample staff didn’t catch the blunder the first time or is afraid to correct their boss.
His latest gaffe is a two-fer, getting both his geography and politics wrong.
Yesterday Barack Obama addressed the Summit of the Americas in Colombia and spoke about the conflict between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Falklands. Obama seemed to tilt toward Argentina by calling the islands the “Malvinas” rather than the Falklands, which Argentina insists is their proper name.
Only Obama didn’t say Malvinas, he said Maldives–an entirely different group of islands located thousands of miles from the Falklands in the Indian Ocean:
So with one word, Obama both offended the British and made himself a laughingstock with the Latin Americans. Here in the U.S., we are used to such embarrassing errors by our president, but the international press hasn’t quite caught up.
My complaint, specifically, is about this account of Obama’s gaffe in the Telegraph, not a particularly left-wing paper by British standards. The Telegraph’s article is headlined “Barack Obama makes Falklands gaffe by calling Malvinas the Maldives.” It begins:
Barack Obama made an uncharacteristic error, more akin to those of his predecessor George W Bush, by referring to the Falkland Islands as the Maldives.
Really? When did Mr. Bush ever display such geographic ignorance? It is Obama, not Bush, who is prone to putting his foot in his mouth in a matter that causes diplomatic embarrassment. Can we finally, after well over three years, leave his predecessor out of it and let Obama own his many gaffes and blunders?
As for the politics, why kiss up to Argentina, which is slowly slipping back into dictatorship? Just today, the Argentine government nationalized the nation’s largest oil company. Last month, they banned foreign books over a contrived concern over lead in ink.
Perhaps Obama forgot that in the 1980s Britain went to war with Argentina — then under a military dictatorship — over the Falkland Islands. Not the Malvinas and certainly not the Maldives.
When Kenneth Warden was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer, his hospital consultant sent him home to die, ruling that at 78 he was too old to treat.
Even the palliative surgery or chemotherapy that could have eased his distressing symptoms were declared off-limits because of his age.
His distraught daughter Michele Halligan accepted the sad prognosis but was determined her father would spend his last months in comfort. So she paid for him to seen privately by a second doctor to discover what could be done to ease his symptoms.
Thanks to her tenacity, Kenneth got the drugs and surgery he needed — and as a result his cancer was actually cured. Four years on, he is a sprightly 82-year-old who works out at the gym, drives a sports car and competes in a rowing team.
‘You could call his recovery amazing,’ says Michele, 51. ‘It is certainly a gift. But the fact is that he was written off because of his age. He was left to suffer so much, and so unnecessarily.’
Sadly, Kenneth’s story is symptomatic of a dreadful truth. According to shocking new research by Macmillan Cancer Support, every year many thousands of older people are routinely denied life-saving NHS treatments because their doctors write them off as too old to treat.
It is often left to close family members to fight for their rights. But although it is now British law that patients must never be discriminated against on the basis of age, such battles often prove futile…
Fans of government health care keep telling us that government can do the job, and they point to countries like the UK as examples where single payer, government run health care systems deliver high quality, compassionate care.
They are either grossly ignorant or they are lying through their teeth.
A recent study by a British healthcare regulator finds that half of all elderly people in Britain’s nursing homes are being denied basic health services.
Some older people were forced to wait months for a doctor or nurse to treat simple health problems. No doubt they were waiting for the Bureau of Bedsore Management to review the proper procedures before issuing a bandage-changing permit.
Over the polite grumbling of many advocacy groups, the British Parliament can be faintly heard tinkering away at some far overdue legislation. No doubt the grannies will get some relief just as soon as the House of Commons passes some new laws, the House of Lords (whoever they have there now that they have chased the actual, you know, Lords out of it) sagaciously tinkers with it, the Queen signs it, the bureaucrats get all the regulations nicely written, and the memos and administrative procedures get delivered to the proper offices.
Of course, the National Health Care service has been around since the 1940s and somehow these lingering little problems haven’t quite been cleared up yet. It’s obviously just a question of getting the right regulations in place and any century now the system will by running like a fine tuned machine and there won’t be any problems at all.
There have been several disturbing revelations of abuse and neglect of patients and other mismanagement in the UK’s national health service. This report, suggesting massive neglect and abuse of the elderly, is, sadly, not alone…
There is no such thing as society.” In the autumn of 1987, in the ninth year of her long premiership, Margaret Thatcher gave an interview to Women’s Own, a magazine that usually featured recipes and knitting patterns. It was an unlikely place to find a statement of political doctrine, but “there is no such thing as society” stands out, nearly a quarter-century later, as one of Thatcher’s most famous assertions—and one of her most misrepresented. Understanding what she meant, and what people thought she meant, is critical to the future of the Right in Britain.
Crudely, Thatcher was taken to mean: you’re on your own, there is nobody but you, and you are all that matters. Of course, she meant nothing of the kind. Immediately after the famous words about society came these words, almost never quoted: “There is a living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us, by our own efforts, is prepared to turn round and help those less fortunate.” Thatcher, then, was suggesting less that society didn’t exist than that there wasn’t an entity that existed separate from our efforts as individuals. We have a duty to look after ourselves and our families first, and then to turn outward and tend to the less fortunate. The implication, too, was that it was wrong to say that your problem was somehow the fault of an amorphous “society” and thus that it was the government’s job to put it right. Thatcher wanted us to rely on one another as a community.
But both Thatcher and her party were widely understood not to care about the common good. The myth became a serious political impediment to the Tories. In polls, policies that had obtained support when advanced without a party label would lose it once they were labeled Conservative. In the years that followed the Women’s Own article, Tory leaders made repeated efforts to correct the popular impression of Thatcher’s words. These efforts proved a total flop.
Enter David Cameron. In the 2005 speech that won—snatched, really—Tory leadership from the favorite, David Davis, Cameron declared that the party had to confront its image problem head-on. It had to convince the British people that Conservatives were not narrow and greedy. Feebly protesting that the party was being misrepresented would solve nothing. And so the new Tory leader produced his own formulation of Thatcher’s statement: “There is such a thing as society; it’s just not the same thing as the state.” Until now, Tories had argued for reducing the size of government. They hadn’t talked much about how a stronger society might emerge from that reduction. Cameron changed this, promoting what he would soon call the “Big Society.”
Cameron’s idea has three broad strands. The first is decentralization—what an American might think of as states’ rights…
Or TATAO, as we used to say.
Queen Elizabeth II will see six consecutive years of frozen pay, as new austerity measures in the U.K. have cut funding for the royal household.
Taxpayer funding for royal travel and royal palaces has also been put on the chopping block, so British taxpayers will no longer foot the bill for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s travels and security. The tab for the duke and duchess of Cambridge’s expenses will now be picked up by Prince Charles. The new measures also will lead to fewer royal parties and events, and no repairs for the royal palaces.
The queen has even approved renting out fancy rooms at St. James’s Palace as party venues during the 2012 London Olympics, according to the Associated Press. Companies that hold royal warrants – those that have longstanding ties to the royal family – will be given the opportunity to rent the spaces.
“You don’t really realize, but the queen is going around Buckingham Palace, turning off the lights, having fewer staff, even turning the heating down. She sometimes even writes letters in her very own fur coat,” Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Royal magazine, told ABC News.
At least it’s not a borrowed fur coat.
The West has incentivized non-productivity on an industrial scale.
…This week I was on the BBC’s current-affairs flagship Newsnight. My moment in the spotlight followed a report on the recent riots in English cities, in the course of which an undercover reporter interviewed various rioters from Manchester who’d had a grand old time setting their city ablaze and then expressed no remorse over it. There then followed a studio discussion, along the usual lines. The host introduced a security guard who’d fought for Queen and country in Afghanistan and Bosnia and asked whether he sympathized with his neighbors. He did. When you live in an “impoverished society,” he said, “people do what they have to do to survive.”
When we right-wing madmen make our twice-a-decade appearance on mainstream TV, we’re invariably struck by how narrow are the bounds of acceptable discourse in polite society. But in this instance I was even more impressed by how liberal pieties triumph even over the supposed advantages of the medium. Television, we’re told, favors strong images — Nixon sweaty and unshaven, Kennedy groomed and glamorous, etc. But, in this instance, the security guard’s analysis, shared by three-quarters of the panel, was entirely at odds with the visual evidence: There was no “impoverished society.” The preceding film had shown a neat subdivision of pleasant red-brick maisonettes set in relatively landscaped grounds. There was grass, and it looked maintained. Granted, it was not as bucolic as my beloved New Hampshire, but, compared to the brutalized concrete bunkers in which the French and the Swedes entomb their seething Muslim populations, it was nothing to riot over. Nonetheless, someone explained that these riotous Mancunian youth were growing up in “deprivation,” and the rioters themselves seemed disposed to agree. Like they say in West Side Story, “I’m depraved on account of I’m deprived.” We’ve so accepted the correlation that we don’t even notice that they’re no longer deprived, but they are significantly more depraved.
In fact, these feral youth live better than 90 percent of the population of the planet. They certainly live better than their fellow youths halfway around the world who go to work each day in factories across China and India to make the cool electronic toys young Westerners expect to enjoy as their birthright. In Britain, as in America and Europe, the young take it for granted that this agreeable division of responsibilities is as permanent a feature of life as the earth and sky: Rajiv and Suresh in Bangalore make the state-of-the-art gizmo, Kevin and Ron in Birmingham get to play with it. That’s just the way it is. And, because that’s the way it is, Kevin and Ron and the welfare state that attends their every need assume ’twill always be so.
To justify their looting, the looters appealed to the conventional desperation-of-deprivation narrative: They’d “do anything to get more money.” Anything, that is, except get up in the morning, put on a clean shirt, and go off to do a day’s work. That concept is all but unknown to the homes in which these guys were raised. Indeed, Newsnight immediately followed the riot discussion with a report on immigration to Britain from Eastern Europe. Any tourist in London quickly accepts that, unless he hails a cab or gets mugged, he will never be served by a native Londoner: Polish baristas, Balkan waitresses, but, until the mob shows up to torch his hotel, not a lot of Cockneys. A genial Member of Parliament argued that the real issue underlying the riots is “education and jobs,” but large numbers of employers seem to have concluded that, if you’ve got a job to offer, the best person to give it to is someone with the least exposure to a British education.
That so many commentators have compared British looters to bankers appalls many people who believe in the rule of law and in free markets. It was a given that Britain’s left wing would make that analogy. But the right-wing Daily Mail similarly editorialized that “the bankers’ refusal to rein in their greed is fueling the politics of envy in Britain,” and Peter Oborne, a columnist at the conservative Daily Telegraph, wrote that “New Labor promoted a divisive and unequal society” via its support for finance. These conservatives, however, are almost on to something. It’s not that looters and bankers are alike in being greedy and lacking empathy. Nor is it that looters are jealous of rich bankers’ wealth. It’s that for two decades, the British government has taken the same approach to its financial industry and to its underclass—treating them as protected groups and shielding them from the forces of discipline—and that both the bankers and the looters responded predictably to that coddling.
Let’s start with the bankers. London, like New York, is a global financial capital. Since the 1980s, London’s big financial firms, like America’s, benefited from Western governments’ willingness to protect them from market forces. As English banking veteran Philip Augar wrote in Reckless: The Rise and Fall of the City, “the perception that the U.S. central bank would bail out markets whenever necessary” helped drive investors’ money (not just in New York but also in London) into finance, rather than into other industries. After all, this hugely profitable business was failsafe. Big-bank investors and executives knew that they weren’t subject to discipline; it’s no shock that they didn’t do a great job of disciplining themselves. In pursuit of fees, banks sent the money that investors had entrusted to them down a black hole of securities made up of loans that borrowers would never repay. And since 2008, government support for finance at all costs has only solidified. The British government still owns two of the nation’s biggest banks, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland. The moral of the story is simple: if you don’t let reckless finance take its lumps, you’ll get more reckless finance.
A similar moral applies to the looters: if you don’t punish bad behavior, you’ll get more bad behavior. Britain has made it clear that it doesn’t believe in lengthy prison sentences for crimes short of murder. Writing in the London Times last Sunday, Harriet Sergeant, author of Wasted: The Betrayal of White Working Class and Black Caribbean Boys, described how one boy told her that “We got away with making drug deals in class. They knew what we were doing but they did nothing.” This week’s British tabloids reported another instance of the government’s refusal to punish criminals: a judge reducing a drug dealer’s prison term because a year-long sentence would mean that immigration authorities could launch deportation proceedings against the man, who had already been expelled from Britain twice…
…The rioters in the news last week had a thwarted sense of entitlement that has been assiduously cultivated by an alliance of intellectuals, governments and bureaucrats. “We’re fed up with being broke,” one rioter was reported as having said, as if having enough money to satisfy one’s desires were a human right rather than something to be earned.
“There are people here with nothing,” this rioter continued: nothing, that is, except an education that has cost $80,000, a roof over their head, clothes on their back and shoes on their feet, food in their stomachs, a cellphone, a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator, an electric stove, heating and lighting, hot and cold running water, a guaranteed income, free medical care, and all of the same for any of the children that they might care to propagate.
Dennis Prager observes that happiness is impossible without gratitude. When you give people a free living, resentment is more likely than gratitude.
Socialism can breed unhappy, useless and dangerous citizens.
A short video from the BBC, interviewing (off camera) two young women who came to cheer on the riots, and perhaps, participate.
The UK provides a free living for millions: free health care, free rent, free income.
And — shock of shocks! — it hasn’t bred gratitude but resentment.
Imagine a small lunch diner with 10 customers. When the waitress presents the $8 tab to one customer he declares that since he’s 65, he isn’t paying — the other 9, younger, patrons will have to cover it.
The cough up the $.88 without much complaint.
Now imagine there are 4 seniors asking 6 younger people to pay their tabs. That works out to $5.33 each. Do you think they might feel exploited?
That’s Medicare in a nutshell. The average senior will use approximately $130,000 more in healthcare services than he contributed in Medicare taxes. So who makes up the difference? Young people.
Medicare is officially an “entitlement program,” which makes it tough to modify, even when facing impending insolvency. That’s bad enough.
Just imagine if ObamaCare establishes free healthcare as an entitlement. Look no further than Great Britain to see what lies ahead.
Britain is now embroiled in a healthcare argument of its own, prompted by a proposed shake-up of the NHS. And the phrase on everyone’s lips is “American-style,” which may not be as catchy as the “death panels” that Palin attributed to socialized medicine but which, over here, inspires pretty much the same kind of terror.
Ask a Briton to describe “American-style” healthcare, and you’ll hear a catalog of horrors that include grossly expensive and unnecessary medical procedures and a privatized system that favors the rich. For a people accustomed to free healthcare for all, regardless of income, the fact that millions of their cousins across the Atlantic have no insurance and can’t afford decent treatment is a farce as well as a tragedy.
Of course, in America not having insurance doesn’t mean not getting care.
Furthermore the Brits do pay for healthcare via heavy taxes. And what they get is crappy compared to US citizens: wards are dirty, waiting lists are long for surgeries and on and on.
And it’s costing the British government a fortune it does not have, leaving it boxed in.
So frightening is the Yankee example that any British politician who values his job has to explicitly disavow it as a possible outcome. Twice.
“We will not be selling off the NHS, we will not be moving towards an insurance scheme, we will not introduce an American-style private system,” Prime Minister David Cameron emphatically told a group of healthcare workers in a nationally televised address last week.
In case they didn’t hear it the first time, Cameron repeated the dreaded “A”-word in a list of five guarantees he offered the British people at the end of his speech.
“If you’re worried that we’re going to sell off the NHS or create some American-style private system, we will not do that,” he said. “In this country we have the most wonderful, precious institution and also precious idea that whenever you’re ill … you can walk into a hospital or a surgery and get treated for free, no questions asked, no cash asked. It is the idea at the heart of the NHS, and it will stay. I will never put that at risk.”
Cameron’s eagerly declared devotion to the NHS illustrates the totemic role it plays in British society, an institution so cherished that some describe it as the closest thing here to a truly national religion. Created in 1948, as the country struggled to rise from the ashes of World War II, the NHS is widely hailed as the welfare state’s biggest triumph.
Since then, it has bloomed into a behemoth that gobbles up nearly $170 billion a year in taxpayer money — an amount set to grow along with Britain’s aging population — and is one of the nation’s largest employers.
Governments of all stripes have taken office pledging to reform the system, to streamline it and make it more efficient, but none has fully succeeded, knowing that they tinker with the NHS at their peril. The current Conservative Party-led coalition, which has embarked on the most radical public spending cuts in a generation, has promised not to take a penny from the health service.
If your health is the government’s business, then what isn’t? What does freedom mean?
British citizens who smoke, drink, or tip the scales because they’ve eaten too many fish and chips could soon be denied medical treatment for lifestyle-related illnesses. It’s a system the United States will be forced to implement under ObamaCare.
Great Britain’s government-run health care system, the National Health Service (NHS), has long considered limiting coverage for people with illnesses deemed to be lifestyle-related. In 2005 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the NHS’s guiding body, advised that smokers and obese people be refused health care. Now NHS North Yorkshire and York is preventing certain operations for the obese or smokers because they say unhealthy lifestyles lower their chance of success.
Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told UK reporters, “These policies are being introduced because of financial constraints,” said Gerada.
More cultural suicide.
A middle-class security guard who converted to Islam to preach hate towards Britain lives in a £1,000 tax-payer-funded luxury flat, it emerged today.
Rich Dart, 28, worked for the BBC before he became a Muslim and changed his name to Salahuddin to brand British troops ‘murderers’ and peddle Muslim extremism.
But he has been branded a ‘hypocrite’ after it emerged that he takes benefits off the same state he claims to despise.
The fanatic was pictured hanging out the washing on the balcony of a £300,000 two-bedroom apartment next to a picturesque canal in Bow, East London…
But it’s free! Kinda, sorta, maybe.
Surgeons say patients in some parts of England have spent months waiting in pain because of delayed operations or new restrictions on who qualifies for treatment.
In several areas routine surgery was put on hold for months, while in many others new thresholds for hip and knee replacements have been introduced.
The moves are part of the NHS drive to find £20bn efficiency savings by 2015.
The government said performance should be measured by outcomes not numbers.
Surgeons have described the delays faced by patients as “devastating and cruel”. Peter Kay, the president of the British Orthopaedic Association (BOA), says they’ve become increasingly frustrated that hip and knee replacements are being targeted as a way of finding savings.
“We’ve started to get reports over the last nine months that access to these services are being restricted.
“GPs were told not so send as many patients to hospital, maybe to delay referrals until the end of the financial year while perhaps introducing thresholds for surgery.”
He says that simply delaying surgery by one means or another does not improve the outcome for patients as their condition can deteriorate.
“The double jeopardy is that patients wait longer in pain, and when they have the operation, the result might not have been as good as it otherwise would have been had they had it early. “