Friday, September 30, 2011



An ugly preview of campaign ‘12

By Wesley Pruden
We’re getting a scary preview of the final weeks of the 2012 presidential campaign. It’s going to be all about race and race-baiting.

For anyone who grew up in the South not so long ago the irony is thick, bitter and ugly. Democratic pols of earlier generations reserved their fiery rhetoric—of blaming black folks for faults and misdemeanors large and small—for the last fortnight of the primary campaign. Then they let fly.

Some of the desperate friends of Barack Obama are playing the race card already, as the president’s poll numbers continue to crater in every ethnic and geographic category. The wise men in the White House avert their eyes from the data, trying not to look at the wreck on the highway. There’s the hint of impending doom in poll findings among independents, Jews, Hispanics and even blacks, where the president has long been untouchable. His approval ratings have fallen dramatically as the economy continues to tank and evidence mounts that neither the president nor his wise men have a clue about what to do about it. Doubts grow, not about the president’s race, to which white voters everywhere have shown remarkable indifference, but about the president’s competence.

Even the brief prospect of a black Republican challenger for a black president says something loud and clear.


Mr. Obama was elected three years ago on the wings of hope and the breath of prayer. He has gone a long way as a salesman with a wink, easy banter and a good shoeshine. He had no experience in business and had barely made a mark in either the Illinois legislature or the U.S. Senate, but he had an ingratiating manner and he could preach a sermon like nobody since Billy Sunday, Billy Graham or Adam Clayton Powell. But now a lot of people black and white are frightened—indeed most people are flat out scared—and the only people talking about race are Mr. Obama’s friends.

Morgan Freeman, the actor who has a home in the Mississippi Delta where he has prosperous business partnerships with white folks, thinks America is as sinister as ever, and then some. He told an interviewer for CNN that the election of Mr. Obama has made racism worse, not better, because the Tea Party “is going to do whatever they can to get this black man outta here.” With that, he lapsed into incoherence.

The president’s slide in popularity, after his election raised such high hopes, “just shows the weak, dark, underside of America. We’re supposed to be better than that. We really are. That’s why all those people were in tears when Obama was elected president. ‘Ah, look at what we are. Look at how, this is America.’ You know? And then it just sort of started turning because these people surfaced, like stirring up muddy water.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, who decried Mr. Obama’s compromise on the borrowing limit as “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich” (you should get cheese on that, with a side of fries), urges black voters to keep their complaining in check because “nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate Obama.” He didn’t identify those people but we’re entitled to think they’re of a pale persuasion.

The president knows he must find a way to restore the black enthusiasm of 2008 if he has even a shot at a second term, so he’s determined to reprise the spirit of the civil rights struggle of the 60’s. “Take off your bedroom slippers,” he told the Congressional Black Caucus. “Put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’.” But it’s not clear who they’ll be marching against.

Finding a boogerman among white folks will be difficult this year. Cotton Ed Smith, Bull Connor, Herman Talmadge and the bad guys of yore have been in the graveyard for a long time. Even more improbable than a black man in the White House—everyone is accustomed to that—is a Rasmussen Poll released this week suggesting that in the unlikely event the election were held today Mr. Obama would shade Herman Cain by only five points. This is a week after he won a straw vote in Florida, leading all Republican candidates. Mr. Cain, the son of a janitor and a cleaning lady, is that rare businessman of any color with a fire in his belly for politics. He sings the music of America and he knows all the words.

Herman Cain’s chances to win the White House are easy to discount; the odds say he’s an unlikely star shooting across a troubled sky, soon to disappear below the far horizon. But even the brief prospect of a black Republican challenger for a black president says something loud and clear. What a country.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011



The left has had it with democracy, the New York Times reports:
From South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.
They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.
"Our parents are grateful because they're voting," said Marta Solanas, 27, referring to older Spaniards' decades spent under the Franco dictatorship. "We're the first generation to say that voting is worthless."

The same theme is increasingly heard here in America--not from street protesters but from traditional politicians, especially Democrats, and their supporters in the liberal elite media.

[botwt0928] Associated Press
Gov. Perdue: Voters are the problem.
"I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that," North Carolina's Gov. Beverly Perdue said yesterday. "You want people who don't worry about the next election."

 This was reported by the website of the Charlotte News & Observer under the headline "Perdue Jokes About Suspending Congressional Elections for Two Years," but according to the story, there was no reason to think she was kidding: "It's unclear whether Perdue, a Democrat, is serious--but her tone was level and she asked others to support her on the idea."

Anyway, where is the humor here? Perdue's remark is reminiscent of Bertolt Brecht's poem "Die Lösung" ("The Solution"):
After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers' Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

This is a mordant joke at the expense of East Germany's totalitarian regime, which, with Soviet help, had crushed an uprising in 1953. But America's circumstances in 2011 are in no way analogous to those of the Captive Nations during the Cold War. It's true that what Perdue said cannot really be taken seriously, since there is no prospect of suspending elections. But if it is humor, it is at the expense of voters, not politicians. And it seems to us it would more accurately be described as a wish than a joke.

The wish for less democracy is increasingly heard on the liberal left these days. Peter Orszag, in a much-discussed new essay for The New Republic, explains "why we need less democracy," as the subheadline puts it:

To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic. . . .
Perhaps the most dramatic example of this idea is the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), created as part of the recent health care reform legislation. The IPAB will be an independent panel of medical experts tasked with devising changes to Medicare's payment system. In each year that Medicare's per capita costs exceed a certain threshold, the IPAB is responsible for making proposals to reduce projected cost growth. The proposals take effect automatically unless Congress specifically passes legislation blocking them and the president signs that legislation.

IPAB, colloquially known as "death panels," is the perfect synecdoche for the authoritarian attitude reflected in Gov. Perdue's musings. It was part of a law enacted in the face of overwhelming popular opposition. It gives "experts," selected by politicians but insulated from democratic accountability, the power of life and death. Barack Obama and Peter Orszag know what's good for you, and they'll give it to you if it kills you--literally.

Another fan of government by experts, albeit one who is more silly than sanguinary, is Thomas Friedman, the worst writer in the English language. Friedman, who often expresses admiration for the "enlightened" rulers of Red China, offers this breezy advice:

We know what to do--a Grand Bargain: short-term stimulus to ease us through this deleveraging process, debt restructuring in the housing market and long-term budget-cutting to put our fiscal house in order. . . .
If the president really wants to lead from the front, he should summon the Democratic and Republican leadership, along with all 12 members of the House-Senate deficit "supercommittee," to join him at Camp David and tell the world that they are not coming back without a Grand Bargain--one that offers some short-term jobs stimulus, a credible long-term debt reduction plan with entitlement cuts and tax reform that increases revenues.

Putting aside the merits of his simple-minded policy proposal, Friedman's idea is about as realistic as Perdue's. If the president issued such a summons, we suspect all the Republicans and not a few of the Democrats would balk, if not laugh in his face. Even Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker scoffs at Friedman: "For Obama, a Grand Bargain, which is to say a Grand Compromise, is not currently an option."

Yet Hetzberg takes the left's authoritarianism a step further toward totalitarianism. He characterizes the two parties as "a side that is insane and unwilling to compromise" (Republicans) and "a side that is sane and willing to compromise" (Democrats). The Soviets and their puppets in places like East Germany couldn't actually "dissolve the people and elect another," as Brecht put it. But like Hertzberg, they could and did label their opponents insane.

Fortunately, in America this is only speech. Hertzberg can call you insane, but he can't commit you to a mental institution. As he acknowledges, he can't even stop you from voting.

Why are Democrats suddenly so undemocratic? Probably because they fear that this observation, from Nile Gardiner in a blog post for London's Daily Telegraph, will turn out to be accurate:
The United States is undergoing one of the biggest political revolutions in its post-war history, and perhaps the most important since Ronald Reagan, with an emphatic rejection of the idea that government knows best when it comes to handling key domestic issues, especially relating to the economy. . . .
Barack Obama could well end up being the last big government president of the United States, a nation that simply cannot afford the lavish excesses of an imperious presidency that drains the pay-checks of hard-working Americans with impunity and reckless abandon. The historic loss of faith in the federal government under Obama has combined with growing support across America for a return to the limited government ideals of the Founding Fathers.

From your keyboard to God's browser, Mr. Gardiner. But of course what comes after Obama will depend on who comes after Obama. and all of this raises a question about Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney.

The technocratic approach to government Orszag describes--in which panels of experts make decisions insulated from democratic politics--has been central to progressivism in its various iterations for about a century. It has a parallel in the business world in the culture of management consulting. That is the culture that produced Mitt Romney.

But the purpose of a business is to make a profit. Sometimes the best way to do this, especially when the enterprise is faltering and needs to be turned around, is to concentrate power in the hands of experts. The purpose of the government, by contrast, is to preserve freedom.

Thus in the political realm, one should always be suspicious of concentrations of power. Is Romney?




Flying high with the Gaffe Patrol


By Wesley Pruden
These are high times for the Gaffe Patrol. A “target-rich environment,” as the old-timers in Vietnam called it, invites every pilot with “unexpended ordnance” under his wings to shoot down everything he sees moving.

Sometimes the Gaffe Patrol just can’t miss. Rick Perry was such a juicy target after the Republican debate that even his missus could have been tempted to take a shot. The governor, clearly winging it, lapsed into incoherence with a little riff about why conservatives shouldn’t trust Mitt Romney.

Here’s the transcript (follow the bouncing ball closely): “I think Americans just don’t know sometimes which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment? Was it before he was before the social programs from the standpoint of he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against Roe v. Wade? Ah, he was for Race to the Top. He’s for Obamacare, and now he’s against it. I mean, we’ll wait to see which Mitt Romney we’re really talking to tonight.” My, my. If Ronald Reagan were alive today he’d be turning over in his grave.
The Gaffe Patrol practices selective compassion. William Howard Taft was a 300-pounder for another time.

The governor says he was tired and off his game, and that’s not hard to believe. Running for president is a killer. But being president is even more a killer. Fatigue is never an excuse. A better explanation is that the governor, accustomed to speaking to friendly crowds where all he needs is an inventory of cheeky affronts to Barack Obama, showed up in Orlando with a little buck-and-wing and expected to shuffle happily off to Buffalo.

Big, friendly crowds are dangerous for any pol, with wild applause inviting him to wing it, and one zinger leads to another until the Gaffe Patrol shows up. Crash and burn is never any fun. President Obama himself stood before a bridge on the Ohio-Kentucky border last week, trying to make the case that a bridge that doesn’t need repair would benefit from his jobs bill. That was stretch enough, but he must have felt a little oratory stirring in his loins (or wherever it is that oratory stirs), because he was inspired to stretch a little more: “We’re the country that built the intercontinental railroad.” He soared on, riding the high winds of fancy, without telling anyone where they could catch that night train to Paris or London.

He did catch himself at a later outing, when, rousing a friendly crowd to support his new stimulus scheme, he boasted: “If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew, uh, as a janitor, makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that as a badge of honor.” These are innocent slips of the tongue, but it’s just such slips that give the Gaffe Patrol an irresistible opportunity to strike.

The president, who has cited Abraham Lincoln as the founder of the Republican Party, once praised a Navy “corpseman,” and talked of taking his case to “the 57 states,” should be the richest target of all. But the Gaffe Patrol practices selective compassion. The president gets a pass because you can’t expect a Harvard man to know much about American history, having never been taught how or where to find the stars on the flag.

The Gaffe Patrol has no such pass for Mr. Perry or his confederates. When “the media members” elect you as the Dumpee of the Day, you must expect everybody to dump on you. Even some conservatives seem eager to write off the governor and the rest of the field, ever in search of someone new even if the new someone is old.

The flavor of the chewing gum of the day, not likely to survive a night on the bedpost, is Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. He makes a good speech, but he hasn’t had time to accomplish much beyond the large talk. We’ve elected a black president and female and Jewish presidents are no doubt on the way, but a 300-pounder? Not fair, perhaps, but not likely. William Howard Taft was a 300-pounder for another time.

The Republican ticket is likely come from the field as it is, and Rick Perry has time to do his homework before anyone outside the Beltway starts paying attention. If the smart Republican money seems to be going down on Mitt Romney, the Mormon from Massachusetts will need help from a conservative with a sharper edge, an evangelical Christian to dilute suspicion of Mr. Romney’s religious origins. John F. Kennedy, a Massachusetts yankee and a Roman Catholic, went to Texas for a Protestant to help him in the South. The two men despised each other, but whatever works.

BY:  Wesley Pruden, editor emeritus of The WashingtonTimes.  



Herman Cain is running for president. He’s not a career politician (in fact he has never held political office). He’s known as a pizza guy, but there’s a lot more to him. He’s also a computer guy, a banker guy, and a rocket scientist guy.Here’s his bio:
  • Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.
  • Master’s degree in Computer Science.
  • Mathematician for the Navy, where he worked on missile ballistics (making him a rocket scientist).
  • Computer systems analyst for Coca-Cola.
  • VP of Corporate Data Systems and Services for Pillsbury (this is the top of the ladder in the computer world, being in charge of information systems for a major corporation).
All achieved before reaching the age of 35. Since he reached the top of the information systems world, he changed careers!
  • Business Manager. Took charge of Pillsbury’s 400 Burger King restaurants in the Philadelphia area, which were the company’s poorest performers in the country. Spent the first nine months learning the business from the ground up, cooking hamburger and yes, cleaning toilets. After three years he had turned them into the company’s best performers.
  • Godfather’s Pizza CEO. Was asked by Pillsbury to take charge of their Godfather’s Pizza chain (which was on the verge of bankruptcy). He made it profitable in 14 months.
  • In 1988 he led a buyout of the Godfather’s Pizza chain from Pillsbury. He was now the owner of a restaurant chain. Again he reached the top of the ladder of another industry.
  • He was also chairman of the National Restaurant Association during this time. This is a group that interacts with government on behalf of the restaurant industry, and it gave him political experience from the non-politician side.
Having reached the top of a second industry, he changed careers again!
  • Adviser to the Federal Reserve System. Herman Cain went to work for the Federal Reserve Banking System advising them on how monetary policy changes would affect American businesses.
  • Chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. He worked his way up to the chairmanship of a regional Federal Reserve bank. This is only one step below the chairmanship of the entire Federal Reserve System (the top banking position in the country). This position allowed him to see how monetary policy is made from the inside, and understand the political forces that impact the monetary system.
After reaching the top of the banking industry, he changed careers for a fourth time!
  • Writer and public speaker. He then started to write and speak on leadership. His books include Speak as a LeaderCEO of SelfLeadership is Common Sense, and They Think You’re Stupid.
  • Radio Host. Around 2007—after a remarkable 40 year career—he started hosting a radio show on WSB in Atlanta (the largest talk radio station in the country).
He did all this starting from rock bottom (his father was a chauffeur and his mother was a maid). When you add up his accomplishments in his life—including reaching the top of three unrelated industries: information systems, business management, and banking—Herman Cain may have the most impressive resume of anyone that has run for the presidency in the last half century.
Joan Bottcher AKA JoNeeB

Sunday, September 25, 2011



Climate skeptics don't 'deny science'

by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
September 25, 2011

BILL CLINTON DECLARED LAST WEEK that Americans "look like a joke" because leading Republican presidential contenders decline to embrace the agenda of the global-warming alarmists. Presumably he had in mind Texas Governor Rick Perry, who says that "global warming has been politicized" and calls claims of a decisive human role in climate change an unproven theory. "You can't win the nomination of a major political party in the US," fumed the former president, "unless you deny science?"
To which Marc Morano, publisher of the irreverently skeptical website Climate Depot, promptly replied: "Bill is correct! No Democratic presidential candidate could get the nomination unless they deny the large role that natural variability plays in climate."
Ivar Giaever, a Nobel laureate in physics, protests the effort to close the debate over whether climate change is manmade.
In truth, global-warming alarmism is not science at all -- not in the way that electromagnetic radiation or the laws of planetary motion or molecular biology is science. Catastrophic climate change is an interpretation of certain scientific data, an interpretation based on theories about the causes and effects of growing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is not "denying science" to have doubts about the correctness of that interpretation any more than it is "denying economics" to have doubts about the efficacy of Kenyesian pump-priming.
You don't have to look far to see that impeccable scientific standards can go hand-in-hand with skepticism about global warming. Ivar Giaever, a 1973 Nobel laureate in physics, resigned this month as a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) to protest the organization's official position that evidence of manmade climate change is "incontrovertible" and cause for alarm.
In an e-mail explaining his resignation, Giaever challenges the view that any scientific assertion is so sacred that it cannot be contested.
"In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves," Giaever writes, incredulous, "but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?"
Nor does Giaever, a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute faculty member, share the society's view that carbon emissions threaten "significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security, and human health." In fact, the very concept of a "global" temperature is one he questions:
"The claim (how can you measure the average temperature of the whole earth for a whole year?) is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degrees Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me … that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this 'warming' period."
By now, only ideologues and political propagandists insist that all reputable scientists agree on the human responsibility for climate change. Even within the American Physical Society, the editor of "Physics and Society" (an APS publication) has acknowledged that "there is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree … that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are … primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution."
Giaever is only one of many distinguished scientists who dissent from the alarmist view on climate change. Among the others are Richard Lindzen of MIT and John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, both noted climatologists; the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study; and S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia. Within the population of weather experts best known to the public -- broadcast meteorologists -- The New York Times reported last year that skepticism of the prevailing anthropogenic global-warming theory "appears to be widespread."
Because there is only one Earth, researchers have no way to reliably distinguish natural climate change from manmade effects. "We cannot put the Earth in a laboratory and carry out experiments on it," says climatologist Roy Spencer.
Such skepticism is not "anti-science." Everything in science is subject to challenge; innumerable facts about the natural world have been discovered only by poking holes in once-prevailing theories. And if that is true generally, how much more so is it true when it comes to something as vast and complex as climate change? Researchers still have no way "to reliably discriminate between manmade warming and natural warming processes," climate scientist Roy Spencer has written. "We cannot put the Earth in a laboratory and carry out experiments on it. There is only one global warming experiment, and we are all participating in it right now."
Someday the workings of climate change may be as well understood as plate tectonics or photosynthesis. Until then, different theories will compete, assumptions will be fought over, and scientific findings will be overstated by people with political or social agendas. We'll know that the science really is settled when the battles have come to an end.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe. His website is
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Saturday, September 24, 2011



Chicago Economics on Trial

Nobel-winning economist Robert Lucas on the high cost of the welfare state, why he voted for Barack Obama, and how Milton Friedman changed his life.


Let's face it, the "Chicago School" of economics—the one with all the Nobel Prizes, the one associated with Milton Friedman, the one known for its trust of markets and skepticism about government—has taken a drubbing in certain quarters since the subprime crisis.

Sure, the critique depends on misinterpreting what the word "efficient" means, as in the "efficient markets hypothesis." Never mind. The Chicago school ought to be roaring back today on another of its great contributions, "rational expectations," which does so much to illuminate why government policy is failing to stimulate the economy back to life.

Robert E. Lucas Jr., 74, didn't invent the idea or coin the term, but he did more than anyone to explore its ramifications for our model of the economy. Rational expectations is the idea that people look ahead and use their smarts to try to anticipate conditions in the future.

Duh, you say? When Mr. Lucas finally won the Nobel Prize in 1995, it was the economics profession that said duh. By then, nobody figured more prominently on the short list for the profession's ultimate honor. As Harvard economist Greg Mankiw later put it in the New York Times, "In academic circles, the most influential macroeconomist of the last quarter of the 20th century was Robert Lucas, of the University of Chicago."

Mr. Lucas is visiting NYU for a few days in early September to teach a mini-course, so I dash over to pick his brain. He obligingly tilts his computer screen toward me. Two things are on his mind and they're connected. One is the failure of the European and Japanese economies, after their brisk growth in the early postwar years, to catch up with the U.S. in per capita gross domestic product. The GDP gap, which once seemed destined to close, mysteriously stopped narrowing after about 1970.

The other issue on his mind is our own stumbling recovery from the 2008 recession.
For the best explanation of what happened in Europe and Japan, he points to research by fellow Nobelist Ed Prescott. In Europe, governments typically commandeer 50% of GDP. The burden to pay for all this largess falls on workers in the form of high marginal tax rates, and in particular on married women who might otherwise think of going to work as second earners in their households. "The welfare state is so expensive, it just breaks the link between work effort and what you get out of it, your living standard," says Mr. Lucas. "And it's really hurting them."
Turning to the U.S., he says, "A healthy economy that falls into recession has higher than average growth for a while and gets back to the old trend line. We haven't done that. I have plenty of suspicions but little evidence. I think people are concerned about high tax rates, about trying to stick business corporations with the failure of ObamaCare, which is going to emerge, the fact that it's not going to add up. But none of this has happened yet. You can't look at evidence. The taxes haven't really been raised yet."

By now, the Krugmanites are having aneurysms. Our stunted recovery, they insist, is due to government's failure to borrow and spend enough to soak up idle capacity as households and businesses "deleverage." In a Keynesian world, when government gooses demand with a burst of deficit spending, the stick figures are supposed to get busy. Businesses are supposed to hire more and invest more. Consumers are supposed to consume more.

But what if the stick figures don't respond as the model prescribes? What if businesses react to what they see as a temporary and artificial burst in demand by working their existing workers and equipment harder—or by raising prices? What if businesses and consumers respond to a public-sector borrowing binge by becoming fearful about the financial stability of government itself? What if they run out and join the tea party—the tea party being a real-world manifestation of consumers and employers not behaving in the presence of stimulus the way the Keynesian model says they should?

Mr. Lucas and colleagues in the early 1960s were not trying to undermine the conventional prescriptions when they began to think about how the public might respond—possibly in inconvenient ways—to signals about government intentions. As he recalls it, they were just trying to make the models work. "You have somebody making a decision between the present and the future. You get a college degree and it's going to pay off in higher earnings later. You make an investment and it's going to pay off later. Ok, you can't do that without this guy taking a position on what kind of future he's going to be living in."

'If you're going to write down a mathematical model, you have to address that issue. Where are you supposed to get these expectations? If you just make them up, then you can get any result you want."
The solution, which seems obvious, is to assume that people use the information at hand to judge how tomorrow might be similar or different from today. But let's be precise, not falling into the gap between "word processor people" and "spreadsheet people," as Mr. Lucas puts it. Nothing is assumed: Data are interrogated to see how changes in tax rates and other variables actually influence decisions to work, save and invest.

Mr. Lucas is quick to credit the late John Muth, who would later become a colleague for a while at Carnegie Mellon, with inventing "rational expectations." He also cites Milton Friedman, with whom Mr. Lucas took a first-year graduate course.

"He was just an incredibly inspiring teacher. He really was a life-changing experience." Friedman, he recalls, was a skeptic of the Phillips curve—the Keynesian idea that when businesses see prices rising, they assume demand for their products is rising and hire more workers—even if the real reason for higher prices is inflation.
"Milton brought this [Phillips curve] up in class and said it's gotta be wrong. But he wasn't clear on why he thought it was wrong." In his paper for Friedman's class, Mr. Lucas remembers reaching for a very rudimentary notion of expectations to try to explain why the curve could not operate as predicted.

Growing up in the Seattle area, Mr. Lucas recalls a road trip he took as a youngster that terminated in Chicago, a city with two baseball teams! Chicago, in his mind, became "the big city," a gateway to a wider world. That, and a scholarship, is how he would end up spending most of his career at the University of Chicago.

We are sitting in an inauspicious guest office at NYU. A late summer sprinkle dampens the city. Mr. Lucas describes his parents as intelligent, reading people, neither of whom finished college—he suspects the Great Depression had something to do with it. "They got into left-wing politics in the '30s, not really to do anything about it, but to talk about. That was our background—me and my siblings—relative to our neighbors and relatives, who were all Republicans." In a community not noted for its diversity, his parents were especially committed to civil rights, his mother giving talks on the subject.

I ask about a report that he voted for Barack Obama in 2008, supposedly only the second time he had voted for a Democrat for president. "Yeah, I did. My parents are dead for a long time, but my sister says, 'You have to vote for Obama, for what it would have meant for Mom and Dad.' I felt that too. It's a huge thing. This [history of racism] has been the worst blot on this country. All of a sudden this charming, intelligent guy just blows it away. It was great."

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Steve Moore and Mary O'Grady discuss the week's economic news.

A complementary consideration was John McCain's inability to say anything cogent about the financial crisis then engulfing the nation. "He didn't have a clue about the economy. I just assumed the guy [Obama] could do it. I thought he was going to be more Clinton-like in his economics and politics. I was caught by surprise by how far left the guy is and how much he's hung onto it and, I would say, at considerable cost to his own standing."

Refreshing, even bracing, is Mr. Lucas's skepticism about the "deleveraging" story as the sum of all our economic woes. "If people start building a lot of high-rises in Chicago or any place and nobody is buying the units, obviously you're going to shut down the construction industry for a while. If you've overbuilt something, that's not the problem, that's the solution in a way. It's too bad but it's not a make-or-break issue, the housing bubble."

Instead, the shock came because complex mortgage-related securities minted by Wall Street and "certified as safe" by rating agencies had become "part of the effective liquidity supply of the system," he says. "All of a sudden, a whole bunch of this stuff turns out to be crap. It is the financial aspect that was instrumental in the meltdown of '08. I don't think housing alone, if it weren't for these tranches and the role they played in the liquidity system," would have been a debilitating blow to the economy.

Mr. Lucas believes Ben Bernanke acted properly to prop up the system. He doesn't even find fault with Mr. Obama's first stimulus plan. "If you think Bernanke did a great job tossing out a trillion dollars, why is it a bad idea for the executive to toss out a trillion dollars? It's not an inappropriate thing in a recession to push money out there and trying to keep spending from falling too much, and we did that."

But that was then. In the U.S. at least, the liquidity problems that manifested themselves in 2008 have long since been addressed. To repeat the exercise now with temporary tax and spending gimmicks is to produce the opposite of the desired effect in consumers and business owners, who by now are back to taking a longer view. Says Mr. Lucas:

"The president keeps focusing on transitory things. He grudgingly says, 'OK, we'll keep the Bush tax cuts on for a couple years.' That's just the wrong thing to say. What I care about is what's the tax rate going to be when my project begins to bear fruit?"

Mr. Lucas pulls up a bit when I ask him what specific advice he'd give President Obama (this is before Mr. Obama's two back-to-back speeches, one promising temporary tax cuts and the other permanent tax hikes, which mysteriously fail to levitate the economy). Unlike many of his colleagues, Mr. Lucas has not spent stints in Washington advising politicians, or on Wall Street cashing in on his Nobel laureate reputation. "No, that doesn't interest me at all," he says. "Now I've taken a salary cut. I don't go to faculty meetings. I don't teach undergraduates. I just write papers. It's great. I feel lucky about this."

Still, an answer comes. Mr. Lucas launches into a brisk dissertation on the work of colleagues—Martin Feldstein, Michael Boskin, others—whom he credits with disabusing him and fellow economists of a youthful assumption that taxes have little effect on the overall amount of capital in society. A lesson for Mr. Obama might be: If you want to stimulate growth in investment, productivity and income, cut taxes on capital.

Alas, don't look for this idea to feature in the next Obama speech on the economy, due any minute now.

Mr. Jenkins writes the Journal's Business World column.



Perry Is Right: There Is a Texas Model for Fixing Social Security

Public employees in three Texas counties have benefited from an 'Alternate Plan' for 30 years.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, 24 September 2011


To highlight the problems facing Social Security, Texas Gov. and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry is pointing to three Texas counties that decades ago opted out of Social Security by creating personal retirement accounts. Now, 30 years on, county workers in those three jurisdictions retire with more money and have better death and disability supplemental benefits. And those three counties—unlike almost all others in the United States—face no long-term unfunded pension liabilities.

Since 1981 and 1982, workers in Galveston, Matagorda and Brazoria Counties have seen their retirement savings grow every year, even during the Great Recession. The so-called Alternate Plan of these three counties doesn't follow the traditional defined-benefit or defined-contribution model. Employee and employer contributions are actively managed by a financial planner—in this case, First Financial Benefits, Inc., of Houston, which originated the plan in 1980 and has managed it since its adoption. I call it a "banking model."

As with Social Security, employees contribute 6.2% of their income, with the county matching the contribution (or, as in Galveston, providing a slightly larger share). Once the county makes its contribution, its financial obligation is done—that's why there are no long-term unfunded liabilities.
Presidential candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney spar Thursday night.   (Associated Press)                                           

The contributions are pooled, like bank deposits, and top-rated financial institutions bid on the money. Those institutions guarantee an interest rate that won't go below a base level and goes higher when the market does well. Over the last decade, the accounts have earned between 3.75% and 5.75% every year, with the average around 5%. The 1990s often saw even higher interest rates, of 6.5%-7%. When the market goes up, employees make more—and when the market goes down, employees still make something.

But not all money goes into employees' retirement accounts. When financial planner Rick Gornto devised the Alternate Plan in 1980, he wanted it to be a complete substitute for Social Security. And Social Security isn't just a retirement fund: It's also social insurance that provides a death benefit ($255), survivors' insurance, and a disability benefit.

Part of the employer contribution in the Alternate Plan goes toward a term life insurance policy that pays four times the employee's salary tax-free, up to a maximum of $215,000. That's nearly 850 times Social Security's death benefit.

If a worker participating in Social Security dies before retirement, he loses his contribution (though part of that money might go to surviving children or a spouse who didn't work). But a worker in the Alternate Plan owns his account, so the entire account belongs to his estate. There is also a disability benefit that pays immediately upon injury, rather than waiting six months plus other restrictions, as under Social Security.

Those who retire under the Texas counties' Alternate Plan do much better than those on Social Security. According to First Financial's calculations, based on 40 years of contributions:

• A lower-middle income worker making about $26,000 at retirement would get about $1,007 a month under Social Security, but $1,826 under the Alternate Plan.

• A middle-income worker making $51,200 would get about $1,540 monthly from Social Security, but $3,600 from the banking model.

• And a high-income worker who maxed out on his Social Security contribution every year would receive about $2,500 a month from Social Security versus $5,000 to $6,000 a month from the Alternate Plan.

The Alternate Plan has demonstrated over 30 years that personal retirement accounts work, with many retirees making more than twice what they would under Social Security. As Galveston County Judge Mark Henry says, "The plan works great. Anyone who spends a few minutes understanding the plan becomes a huge proponent." Judge Henry says that out of 1,350 county employees, only five have chosen not to participate.

The Alternate Plan could be adopted today by the six million public employees in the U.S.—roughly 25% of the total—who are part of state and local government retirement plans that are outside of Social Security (and are facing serious unfunded liability problems). Unfortunately this option is available only to those six million public employees, since in 1983 Congress barred all others from leaving Social Security.

If Congress overrides this provision, however, the Alternate Plan could be a model for reforming Social Security nationally. After all, it provides all the social-insurance benefits of Social Security while avoiding the unfunded liabilities that are crippling the program and the economy.

If the presidential candidates, including President Obama, stop bickering about who wants to "save" or "destroy" Social Security and begin debating reform constructively, examining the Alternate Plan would be a good place to start.

Mr. Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas.

Friday, September 23, 2011



Repubican candidates Romney, Bachman and members of the Tea Party movement have roasted Texas and Governor Perry for the practice in Texas of allowing the children of illegal immigrants who have attended three years of high school in Texas and who commit to becoming US citizens to enjoy the same tuition rates (not subsidies) at Texas public institutions of higher learning that legal Texas residents pay.  But the facts are that the practice is paying off in big dividends for Texas and the United States.  Here is an article from the San Antonio paper explaining:


A Texas DREAM Act success story
By Patricia Kilday Hart/
Updated 12:02 a.m., Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rosendo Ticas grabbed only a half-hour's sleep Wednesday morning after a late shift working as an airline mechanic. He was too excited to sleep anyway, knowing he was finally taking the oath of U.S. citizenship, a privilege he's been seeking since he arrived in Houston from war-torn El Salvador at age 14.

Ticas first requested political asylum in 1986, but possessed enough determination to survive bureaucratic limbo for a quarter-century. Speaking by telephone Thursday, his voice was triumphant. He has a terrific job with Continental Airlines. He owns his own home and a rent house. He registered to vote after the ceremony.

“I feel great,” he said.

His journey has been long and bumpy, but there have been transcendent turning points. Take, for example, the day Ticas sought the help of then-state Rep. Rick Noriega when he couldn't afford the tuition charged international students at Houston Community College.

That meeting, in 2000, set into motion a landmark public policy that Gov. Rick Perry defended in Monday night's Republican presidential debate. The so-called Texas DREAM Act, which Perry signed in 2001, gives in-state college tuition to undocumented students if they have spent at least three years in a Texas high school and intend to pursue citizenship.

Perry stalwartly defended the law, which he framed as a states' rights issue: “If you've been in the state of Texas for three years, and are working toward citizenship, you pay in-state tuition. It doesn't matter what the sound of your last name is. That's the American way.”

As boos welled up from the uber-conservative tea party audience, Perry stood firm. The policy was working well in Texas by encouraging children brought to the U.S. by their parents to become “contributing members of our society, rather than be on the dole.”

He's right, and Ticas is Exhibit A.

After attending high school in Houston, Ticas started a lawn-mowing business, but quickly decided he wanted more. Houston Community College offered a path to an aviation mechanic's license, but he couldn't afford international tuition rates. So Ticas called Noriega, who conducted a survey in his Houston district and discovered “there were hundreds of Rosendo Ticases out there” — smart kids, brought illegally into the U.S., who wanted an education that had been priced out of reach.

“It was a no-brainer,” Noriega now says of HB 1403, which he introduced in the Legislature in 2001.

“We pulled together as a state and spoke with a loud voice for a public policy that has reaped incredible benefits to our state.” With the backing of powerful business groups, the proposal passed “with about two dissenting votes.”

State officials say that in 2010, 16,476 students took advantage of HB 1403, about 12,000 at the community college level. The law has withstood court challenges, and academic studies tracking students in its early years have demonstrated the tuition break encourages college enrollment — and graduation.

Rice University professor Steve Murdock, who has served as both Texas state demographer and head of the U.S. Census Bureau, has a message for those concerned about the cost of providing education and other services to undocumented workers: “Education pays. You see that very clearly in any data. If they are better educated they will make more money. If people have more money, they spend more money. They generate more sales tax. They generate more expenditures for the private sector.”
Ticas proudly mentioned he took his oath Sept. 14 — the anniversary of the day Francis Scott Key penned “The Star-Spangled Banner” after witnessing the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1812.

“A coincidence!” he marveled. “It's a dream come true.”

Read more:

Thursday, September 22, 2011



Obituary printed in the London Times - Interesting and sadly rather true. 

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: 
- Knowing when to come in out of the rain; 
- Why the early bird gets the worm; 
- Life isn't always fair; 
- and maybe it was my fault. 

Common Sense 
lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition. 

Common Sense 
lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense 
lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense 
took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault. 

Common Sense 
finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. 

Common Sense 
was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason. 

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; 
I Know My Rights 
I Want It Now 
Someone Else Is To Blame 
I'm A Victim 

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.


This Blog had some critical comments to make about Governor Perry's Executive Order mandating the innoculation Texas school girls with the Gardasil vaccine at the time he issued his EO.  Now that a fully detailed explanation of that EO and the controversy surrounding it has be made available, I am happy to post it here:


The Whole Pesky Truth about Rick Perry and Gardasil/HPV

garnet92 | September 22, 2011 at 12:18 PM | Categories: Political | URL:
Rick Perry’s detractors are doing their best to keep this issue alive, even though most of the related accusations have been proven false.

While it is certainly appropriate that some will downgrade Perry because of his Executive Order (EO) mandating that the HPV vaccine be administered to Texas school girls, Perry’s EO was overridden by the Texas legislature and never went into effect. Although he has admitted his lapse of judgment, he did it, it was wrong, and now, as a presidential candidate, he’s taking the heat for it.

But, some media portrayals of the particulars surrounding Perry’s actions have been either completely false or misleading. That is the reason for this document. Voters need to know the truth about the influence by his former chief of staff (later a lobbyist for Merck), about Perry getting a $30,000 contribution from Merck (to “buy” his endorsement), and the dangers of the vaccine itself.
Please read on and when you feel the need, click on any of the numerous links to access supporting sources.

1. About Gardasil

The Gardasil vaccine is produced by Merck & Co., Inc. It is called a quadrivalent vaccine because it protects against four HPV types: 6, 11, 16, and 18, and is thought to prevent cervical cancer caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Gardasil is given through a series of three intra-muscular (IM) injections over a 6-month period.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Gardasil for use in females for the prevention of cervical cancer, and some vulvar and vaginal cancers caused by HPV types 16 and 18. Gardasil is also approved for the prevention of genital warts caused by HPV types 6 and 11. Merck announced FDA approval of the drug on June 6, 2006.

There is a second HPV vaccine, Cervarix, produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) which competes with Gardasil when considering options in the prevention of cervical cancer. To be fully informed, you must be aware that Merck had a competitor (in GlaxoSmithKline) fighting for a similar stake; inoculating school girls against cervical cancer.

The Cervarix vaccine is called a bivalent vaccine because it targets two HPV types: 16 and 18. This vaccine is also given in three doses over a 6-month period. The FDA has approved Cervarix for use in females ages 10 to 25 for the prevention of cervical cancer caused by HPV types 16 and 18. Cervarix is not approved for the HPV types 6 and 11 that are covered by Gardasil.

It is important to note that the technology was not developed by Merck or GSK, both Gardasil and Cervarix are based on technology developed by National Cancer Institute (NCI) scientists. NCI licensed the technology to the two pharmaceutical companies (Merck and GSK) to develop HPV vaccines for widespread distribution.

Back to Gardasil.

Gardasil went under evaluation in four placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized clinical studies. The studies reviewed and documented the results from 20,464 women ages 16 to 26 exposed to the drug. Study information source: from the ACIP meeting minutes. A link is provided later in this document.

Study participants were then followed for up to five years. In one extensive clinical study performed prior to FDA licensing, the vaccine was 100 percent effective, a virtually unprecedented result. Another study appearing in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 found that Gardasil was again nearly 100 percent effective in preventing precancerous cervical lesions caused by the strain that Gardasil protects against.

Gardasil’s effectiveness increased when given to girls and young women before they become sexually active. Gardasil was found to be extremely effective in preventing several of the strains of HPV known to cause cervical cancer (types 16 and 18) and genital warts (types 6 and 11). Cervical cancer is the second leading cancer killer of women worldwide.  In the United States, nearly 10,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and 3,700 women die. 

Gardasil is administered in three 0.5 milliliter intra-muscular injections over six months. The second injection is two months after the first, and the third injection is four months after the second shot. Each injection costs $120, bringing the total cost for immunization to $360 per person.

In June 2006, The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended administering the vaccine to girls between 11 and 12 years of age. 

Who/what is ACIP? The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) consists of 15 experts in fields associated with immunization. These experts have been selected by the Secretary of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide advice and guidance to the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary for Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the control of vaccine-preventable diseases. 

2. Perry’s Executive Order

As a result of the ACIP recommendation on HPV vaccination, numerous state legislatures began introducing legislation focusing on this emerging public health issue. On November 14, 2006 Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) filed HB 215 in the Texas House mandating the HPV vaccine be administered to girls “at an appropriate age” as a requirement to enroll in school. Bill HB 215 was first read on January 30, 2007 and sent to the Public Health Committee that same day.

Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) who sat on the Senate Committees on Education, State Affairs, and Business and Commerce also filed identical companion legislation, SB 110, the same day in the Senate.

But the legislation ran into trouble in the House. After working for months to build support for the bill, Representative Farrar and Governor Perry were informed that the bill would not be read in committee. That meant that it was not likely to pass the Texas House.

Three days later, on February 2nd, Governor Perry issued an Executive Order (EO) mandating the vaccine. The EO came as a surprise to the legislators and the public alike.

And that’s where the plot thickens.

Governor Perry’s Executive Order (RP#65, February 2, 2007) followed the wording of the original House bill and mandated that all Texas girls be vaccinated prior to their admission to the sixth grade. Here’s the press release issued by the governor’s office announcing his action. With his EO, Texas became the first state to mandate the vaccination.

The decision was not well received by the Governor’s conservative base as it dealt with the issue of sexual health. Since the vaccination protects against sexually transmitted infection (STI), religious conservatives argued that mandating it could promote pre-marital sexual relations among young girls. Parents’ groups were concerned that the decision interfered with parental discretion.

This is one of the three major concerns that critics have relating to Perry’s Gardasil issue: mandating the vaccination by EO, bypassing the legislature. Even though parents were allowed to opt out of the mandate by filling out an affidavit, both the legislature and conservatives were up in arms.

Two days after signing the executive order, and in response to the wave of opposition, Governor Perry issued this statement, “Providing the HPV vaccine doesn’t promote sexual promiscuity anymore than providing the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use. If the medical community developed a vaccine for lung cancer, would the same critics oppose it claiming it would encourage smoking?”

Perry was rebuked by both houses of the Texas legislature (for example: House Bill 1098, summary here) which nullified his EO by removing the requirement for a student to be vaccinated for HPV in order to enroll.

Sensing the wave of torches and pitchforks to come, Perry did not sign the law nor did he veto the overriding legislation. He subsequently rescinded RP#65 with another EO (RP#74)and the mandate issue is now dead in Texas.

Perry maintains that the justification for his executive order making the shot mandatory was twofold: 1.) that the vaccine offered a chance to save lives that might have otherwise been taken away by cervical cancer and, 2.) that insurance companies wouldn’t cover the $360 cost of the vaccine ($120 for each of a 3-shot regimen) when it was simply an optional recommended vaccine. That put it out of the reach for most low-income Texans. Both justifications are, taken alone, valid reasons for Texas to promote Gardasil vaccinations for young women.

When Perry mandated Gardasil, it was expected to become part of a school-related vaccine package which would be covered by insurance for simply the cost of a co-pay.

Perry has since confessed that his EO was an error in judgment and has admitted his mistake. During a speech in August 2011, when a voter in New Hampshire confronted Perry on the Gardasil issue, here’s what he said: “I signed an executive order that allowed for an opt-out, but the fact of the matter is I didn’t do my research well enough to understand that we needed to have a substantial conversation with our citizenry,” he said. “I hate cancer. Let me tell you, as a son who has a mother and father who are both cancer survivors.”

Perry said he’d invested government resources in cancer cures, adding, “I hate cancer. And this HPV, we were seeing young ladies die at the early age. What we should have done was a program that frankly should have allowed them to opt in or some type of program like that, but here’s what I learned — when you get too far out in front of the parade, they will let you know. And that’s exactly what our legislature did.”

While some may disagree with Perry’s methods, many in the medical field still support a mandate and believe that with education on the issue, more people will see the three-shot vaccine's benefits.

In effect, Perry was reprimanded by the overriding legislation and by the reaction of the public. He says that he recognizes his mistake and has learned from it. You be the judge.

 3. Merck’s lobbyist (Perry’s former top aide)

Another of the concerns that critics raise is related to Perry’s former chief of staff, Mike Toomey, being a lobbyist for Merck at the time of the EO.

For three decades, Toomey was an Austin, Texas fixture, having been a three-term state representative, he was also chief of staff to Governor Bill Clements (1989-1990) and later to Perry (Nov 2002 – Sept 2004); he was a deeply connected Republican lobbyist. He continued to have a personal relationship with Governor Perry after resigning as chief of staff.

When Perry signed the Gardasil executive order, Toomey was a lobbyist for Merck, the vaccine’s manufacturer, and he was suspected of having undue influence on Perry on behalf of Merck’s drug. Opponents cried foul; in response, the governor’s office maintained that Toomey’s input played no part in the decision. 

Did Toomey lobby the governor on the Gardasil issue? No doubt, that’s what a lobbyist does. Would he have had the governor’s ear? Again, no doubt. They had a close working relationship for several years. Would Perry simply do a “favor” for his friend? That is doubtful unless Perry was already convinced that the vaccine was the right thing to do.

Regardless of Toomey’s level of persuasion, it is more likely that another person did influence his decision (and carried a lot more clout), Perry’s own in-house consultant, his wife Anita.

The First Lady was very aware of the Gardasil issue and we can assume that Perry would have relied on her education (Masters of Science in Nursing from the University of Texas), and her experience, having worked in the nursing profession for more than 17 years. She worked in surgery, pediatrics, intensive care, administration, teaching and as a consultant.

That Anita was intimately involved in the issue is evidenced by the fact that she was the keynote speaker at a Women in Government (WIG) conference on cervical cancer prevention and elimination. Here are her conference remarkswhich clearly reflect her activism relating to cervical cancer and HPV. WIG is a bi-partisan, non-profit, educational association founded in 1988 for elected women in state government.

Following are some excerpts from her presentation: “More than 1,100 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer last year in Texas.  Today, I am confident that through our efforts like we’ve seen in Texas and the work at this conference, we will see that number decrease.” “Governor Perry has continued to focus attention on women’s health and has made building a healthy Texas a priority.

She continued, “A bill, championed by Rep. Delisi, requires Texas’ Department of State Health Services in collaboration with the Texas Cancer Council and others to develop a strategic plan (.pdf) for eliminating cervical cancer mortality by the year 2015.”

“Another bill addresses pap tests and similar diagnostic testing for HPV making sure that these screenings are covered under health insurance plans.”
Governor Perry took a political risk when he issued the Executive Order mandating Gardasil, but one can see how Anita’s influence may have played a major part in his decision. It’s likely that she influenced the governor far more than Toomey did.

4. Merck’s campaign contributions

This is the third of the accusations made by Perry’s critics relating to the Gardasil/HPV issue. During the September presidential debate in Tampa, Rick Perry acknowledged receiving $5,000 from Merck & Co. (Gardasil’s manufacturer) in 2006. That was shortly before his executive order which was issued in February, 2007. We can see the $5,000 contribution in this propublica list of the donations made to Rick Perry, along with another $1,000 as well (that’s seldom mentioned). Regardless of whether the total for 2006 is $5,000 or $6,000, it is still a relatively small contribution.

To put the Merck contribution into context, it amounted to .025 percent (a quarter of one percent) of the $24,000,000 campaign funds that Perry collected in 2006 – hardly a significant enough reason to influence the governor to take a major political risk.

But here is a troubling issue: In the past week, reports have become rampant that Perry actually received $30,000 from Merck – with no mention of the timeframe, thus giving the impression that Perry got a $30,000 contribution from Merck. An apparent quid pro quo? This is an intentionally misleading statement and one where the obvious intent is to persuade the reader that Perry’s mandate was “bought” for $30,000.

Perry never received a single $30,000 contribution from Merck – period - it never happened.

Here are the facts: Merck contributed 6 times to Rick Perry in the period from 1998 through 2010 for a total of $28,500 (not $30,000). They contributed $5,000 in 2002, $10,000 in 2004, $6,000 in 2006, $2,500 in 2008, and $5,000 in 2010. Merck contributed a total of $28,500 to Perry in 13 years (as far back as the ProPublica records go).

To imply a quid pro quo between a contribution made in 2002 or 2004 (before Gardasil was even available) and Perry’s 2007 EO is more than a stretch, it is ludicrous. And the same can be said for $5,000 contributed by Merck in 2010 (three years after the EO mandate was overturned) is just as ridiculous. Merck made a contribution to Perry (and many others) periodically – in this case, every two years.

Consider what this says about those making that accusation – they are intentionally lying to create an incorrect perception that Perry took a $30,000 payoff in exchange for his 2007 EO.

Was Merck’s contribution to Perry unusual? Not at all. Here’s a news flash: Merck gave $2,460,000 to politicians in 40 states during the seven years from 2000-2006. Any objective analysis of Merck contributions to political figures will confirm that Perry’s contributions were not at all unusual, for example: Merck donated $4,750 to Tom McClintock, candidate for Lt. Governor of California and $5,000 to Mitch Daniels, candidate for Governor of Indiana – it’s not known what the quid pro quo was in those cases … [sarcasm].

Feel free to look up contributions made by any company (your choice) to state legislators and governors. You can use one of these,, or propublicalinks to look for yourself.
There’s also another little known fact that should make one wonder why Perry is supposed to have sold out for $6,000 in 2006.

If Perry was “for sale,” it begs the question: why did he ignore the $10,000 contributed to him in 2006 by GlaxoSmithKline (the producer of Cervarix, a competitor to Gardasil). Yes, GSK gave $10,000 to Perry’s campaign in 2006 - $4,000 more than Merck – they were the “high bidder.”

5. Is Gardasil really dangerous?

Some critics have claimed that Gardasil has a record of “very serious safety issues.” This is an obvious attempt to tarnish Perry’s image by suggesting that Perry not only did the bidding of Merck in ordering the vaccinations, he did so without considering the possible serious side effects on Texas school girls. 

The CDC has been following Gardasil since its licensing and some current facts follow. The following excerpts are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website:

Since licensure, CDC and FDA have been closely monitoring the safety of HPV vaccines. “As of June 22, 2011, approximately 35 million doses of Gardasil® have been distributed in the U.S. and the safety monitoring system (VAERS) received a total of 18,727 reports of adverse events following Gardasil® vaccination. As with all VAERS reports, serious events may or may not have been caused by the vaccine.”

“Of the total  number of VAERS reports following Gardasil®, 92%  were considered to be non-serious, and 8% were considered serious. Out of 35,000,000 doses distributed, there were 1,498 occasions of serious complications; that equates to a .0000428 chance that a dose will cause a serious adverse reaction.” Hardly enough to consider the vaccine “a very serious safety issue” as claimed by some critics. 

As of June, 2011, the CDC says: “Based on all of the information we have today, CDC recommends HPV vaccination for the prevention of most types of cervical cancer. As with all approved vaccines, CDC and FDA will continue to closely monitor the safety of HPV vaccines.”

Check out the CDC’s statements about Gardasil  for yourself. And specifically check out the Summary at the end for the CDC’s conclusion about Gardasil’s effectiveness.

Nevertheless, even in the face of no lesser authority than the CDC, some of Perry’s detractors can’t accept the truth and continue to characterize Gardasil as dangerous.

Here is a link to a .pdf of the minutes for the ACIP June 2006 meeting where efficacy studies and safety surveillance are analyzed and discussed. This is a large file (79 pages), but only the first quarter (about 21 pages) relate to Gardasil and HPV. Check out all of the facts about Gardasil if you’re so inclined. See pages 3 through 9 for the safety discussion.

Michelle Bachmann said on NBC’s “Today” show recently, it "could potentially be a very dangerous drug," and "It can have very dangerous side effects.” All said to expand the negative aura of Gardasil and by implication, Perry. She also said a woman came up to her after the Tampa Republican presidential debate to report that her daughter had suffered from "mental retardation" after receiving the HPV vaccine.

Following is a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics in response to Bachmann’s accusations. See a .pdf of the American Academy of Pediatrics news release here.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics would like to correct false statements made in the Republican presidential campaign that HPV vaccine is dangerous and can cause mental retardation. There is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement. Since the vaccine has been introduced, more than 35 million doses have been administered, and it has an excellent safety record.”

“The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend that girls receive HPV vaccine around age 11 or 12. That’s because this is the age at which the vaccine produces the best immune response in the body, and because it’s important to protect girls well before the onset of sexual activity. In the U.S., about 6 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year, and 4,000 women die from cervical cancer. This is a life-saving vaccine that can protect girls from cervical cancer.”

Mainstream medical organizations, including the academy and the American Cancer Society, recommend routine vaccinations for girls, "particularly those age 9 to 11," said Debbie Saslow, director of breast and gynecologic cancer for the American Cancer Society.

And here’s another reliable source on the “dangers” of (Gardasil) from The Mayo Clinic’s cervical cancer vaccine report:

Does the cervical cancer vaccine carry any health risks or side effects?
Overall, the effects are usually mild. The most common side effects of both HPV vaccines include soreness at the injection site (the upper arm), headaches, low-grade fever or flu-like symptoms. Sometimes dizziness or fainting occurs after the injection, especially in adolescents. Remaining seated for 15 minutes after the injection can reduce the risk of fainting. In addition, Cervarix may also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain.

Serious side effects — including a severe allergic response (anaphylaxis), and neurological conditions, such as paralysis, weakness and brain swelling — have been reported in a small number of women. The FDA continues to monitor all such reports. To date, however, almost all reports of such adverse side effects appear to have occurred by chance around the time of immunization. They don't appear to have been caused by the vaccine itself.

In conclusion, widespread vaccination has the potential to reduce cervical cancer deaths around the world by as much as two-thirds if all women were to get the vaccine and if protection turns out to be long-term. In addition, the vaccines can reduce the need for medical care, biopsies, and invasive procedures associated with follow-up from abnormal Pap tests, thus helping to reduce health care costs and anxieties related to abnormal Pap tests and follow-up procedures.

Any reasonable observer must conclude that the evidence shows that Gardasil is not dangerous and is, in fact, recommended by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Cancer Society. That should put the “dangerous” meme to rest.