Monday, June 11, 2007

NHIN updates and related matters

NHIN has released their summary of the prototype architectures.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Our State of the Union

from Ben Stein
New York Times - June 10, 2007
Preparing for the Rainiest of Days

...Let’s run through some of the threats hanging over our economy:

First, there’s that gigantic trade deficit, approximating $800 billion a year and growing. The deficit tab for oil alone is almost $1 billion a day.

The only way we can square it up with our creditors is to sell them chunks of our country. We are like a rich drug addict who sells off the family heirlooms to finance his habit. Our habits are oil and Japanese and German cars and French wine and Bolivian tin and Chilean copper, and, little by little, we are transferring ownership of our nation’s wealth to pay for it.

Some sour day, the world will look at our deficits and at our dollar and say it doesn’t want to hold our greenbacks as reserve currency any more. It will say, “I will take the euro instead,” or a basket of currencies — which is already happening. Then the dollar will fall, maybe drastically, and the trade deficit will soar. After all, we’re addicts who can’t stop buying foreign resources and products. When that happens — if it does — the inflation will be staggering.

And then, of course, we end up as the world’s leading industrial basket case, a ward of China in matters economic, our freedom of maneuver hemmed in drastically because foreigners own so much of us and of our labor to service the debts.

Then there is Medicare, which has an unpaid liability of about $34.2 trillion over the next 75 years, and more like $75 trillion over a longer period. This is perilously close to the value of all of the physical assets of the United States. That has certain implications for whether we can really count on Medicare as we age.

from Representative Jim Cooper
Wall Street Journal - April 13, 2007
The Incumbant Party

Despite their public disputes, both the Democratic and Republican wings of the Incumbent Party adhere to the same fundamental principles:

When pressed, bemoan the fact that every American's share of the national debt is $29,000 and growing. Forget that a more accurate, audited figure is $170,000 each, or $440,000 per household. People don't owe Uncle Sam the equivalent of a car loan; they owe a home mortgage, and that's on top of their current taxes.

Pledge to protect Social Security and Medicare "trust funds" without hinting that those trust funds do not exist. Today's Social Security surpluses are invested in U.S. Treasury bonds, which enable government spending on everything except future Social Security benefits. Future beneficiaries have no real security other than the hope that future workers will pay more payroll taxes.

Promise Social Security and Medicare benefits that the Social Security actuary says are not even promises, much less vested benefits. They are only "scheduled benefits," which can be rescheduled, or eliminated, at any time by any Congress. Rescheduling is even easier to do when Congress refuses to record today's benefit levels on any federal balance sheet.

Ignore the fact that the federal budget deficit would be at least twice as large if you were not using the Social Security "surplus" to hide its true size. The use of this fig leaf is particularly ironic when, if Social Security and Medicare were properly accounted for, the annual federal fiscal gap would be roughly $4 trillion, or 10 times larger than any politician will admit. This annual gap is larger than the entire federal budget of $2.9 trillion.

Shamelessly exempt the federal government from normal Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), making it the only large entity in America -- private or public -- able to flout the rules. Although the Republicans' Contract with America in 1994 pledged that Congress should abide by the laws it passes, federal accounting hypocrisy is stronger than ever. Even state and local governments now have to properly report their retirement and health liabilities.

Subsidize employer-sponsored health insurance by offering the biggest federal income tax breaks to the people who need it least: high-wage employees of large companies. Oppose any redistribution of those tax breaks, even when President Bush called for such reforms in his 2007 State of the Union Address.