Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Conservative Party of Canada on track to deliver budget surplus in 2015

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Conservative Party)

Story from Yahoo News about the results delivered by the Conservative Party of Canada.

Note: To understand the numbers in the article, simply multiple the numbers by 10 to compare with American numbers – Canada’s economy is about 1/10 the size of ours. For example, our GDP is $15.7 trillion and theirs is $1.8 trillion. Our national debt is $17 trillion, while their’s is $1.2 trillion.

Excerpt:

Canada’s Conservative government looks set to comfortably balance its books in 2015 or even sooner, its latest budget showed on Tuesday, with cuts in spending on the public service more than offsetting a series of modest new expenditures.

The low-key spending plan leaves Prime Minister Stephen Harper well-positioned to offer tax breaks and other initiatives in the runup to an election scheduled for October next year.

“Some people will say this budget is boring,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters ahead of the budget speech. “Boring is good.”

The budget shows a deficit of C$2.9 billion ($2.63 billion)in the 2014-15 fiscal year, up from the previous estimate of C$5.5 billion. That balance includes a C$3 billion contingency fund, which in fact reveals an underlying surplus that year.

Flaherty acknowledged the budget would be narrowly balanced this coming year without the contingency fund, but said he preferred to have a “nice clean surplus next year”.

The government estimates a bigger-than-expected C$6.4 billion surplus in 2015-16. In the year ending March 31 of this year, the deficit is pegged at C$16.6 billion.

[...]Flaherty, who is 64 and battling a rare skin disease, has staked his reputation on eliminating Canada’ small deficit, equivalent to about 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and restoring the reputation the country had before the global financial crisis as having the strongest fiscal record in the Group of Seven major economies.

Germany is currently the only G7 country running a surplus, but Canada’s ratio of debt to GDP is substantially less and it is one of a handful of countries with a triple-A rating from rating agencies.

Canada is beating us in debt to GDP:

G7 Debt to GDP as of 2013

G7 % Debt to GDP as of 2012 (lower is better)

Canada is beating us in economic growth:

G7 GDP growth for 2013

G7 % GDP growth from 2007 to 2012 (higher is better)

Source: BBC Business

The next Canadian election is in 2015. I know that the Liberal Party is currently leading in the polls, but I found some good news. The Canadians just redistricted after their census, and there are 30 new electoral districts. If the same turnout occurs in 2015 which occurred in the 2011 election, then the Conservative Party of Canada would get 22 out of 30 of those new seats. However, I am concerned. I want Harper to keep his majority, as he and Tony Abbott (Australia) are two bright conservative stars who show people what conservatives can do. 

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Obama administration betrays Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran

Letitia posted this article by Jay Sekulow from Fox News.

Excerpt:

In its quest for a “deal” with the hostile, jihadist Iranian regime, The Obama administration has thrown an American Christian, Saeed Abedini, under the bus – the latest American victim in the administration’s continual, naïve (at best) quest to bargain with Islamic radicals.

[...]Pastor Saeed Abedini, an Idaho resident, last year received permission to enter Iran to help build an orphanage.

Shortly after his arrival, Iran’s radical Revolutionary Guard arrested him, threw him in one of Iran’s worst prisons, and tried and convicted him on trumped-up “national security” charges – charges that had nothing to do with national security and everything to do with his Christian faith.

Even after President Obama raised Pastor Saeed’s case directly to the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran responded not by releasing Saeed but by transferring him to an even worse prison — a prison full of murderers and rapists, where his life is in danger at every moment.

The Iranian regime rebuked the president of the United States, and we’re now supposed to believe it’s acting in good faith?

President Obama is now trying to spin our stunning act of weakness as a breakthrough for peace.  In fact, we were so weak that (according to the administration) that the State Department did not even raise Pastor Saeed’s during the nuclear negotiations.

[...]Iran’s record of wrongdoing is long and sordid.

Beginning with the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, moving through repeated terrorist attacks – from the deadly Marine Barracks bombing in 1983, to the Kobar Towers bombing in 1996, to the direct intervention of Iran’s Quds force against American forces in Iraq – and including ongoing deadly support for terrorists fighting American forces in Afghanistan, Iran has proven by its deeds and words that it is America’s enemy.

If Iran had released Pastor Saeed we would have at least one concrete action to give Americans confidence that this deal was anything other than a disaster.  Instead, we are left with nothing but “commitments” from a regime that has proven itself committed only to killing and imprisoning Americans.

To make matters even worse, we have squandered a position of strength.

Iran was suffering under sanctions that were finally beginning to truly bite — wrecking its economy and causing deep discontent within Iraq. This was our opportunity to drive a hard bargain, to reach a deal that didn’t depend solely on Iranian “commitments.”

But we squandered that opportunity and left an American behind.

The Obama administration has betrayed Pastor Saeed.

One country that’s done a good job on promoting human rights and religious liberty is Canada, because they have a Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Here’s what Canada said about the deal: (H/T Dennis Prager)

The Canadian government was “deeply skeptical” on Sunday of Iran’s agreement to temporarily freeze its nuclear program, saying Ottawa’s sanctions against the regime would remain firmly in place until the new deal’s words turned into actions.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird appeared to take a stronger stance on the newly brokered deal than the United States and other allies, saying Canada would be watching Iran closely over the coming weeks and months.

“We have made-in-Canada foreign policy,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“We think past actions best predict future actions. And Iran has defied the United Nations Security Council, it has defied the International Atomic Energy Agency. Simply put Iran has not earned the right to have the benefit of the doubt.”

It’s striking to me that the American government is now to the left of Canada on foreign policy – making deals with dictators that actually set back the cause of freedom and universal human rights. I would not be surprised to see a full-scale war in the Middle East because of this deal. I guess that the Obama administration is so anxious to appear as if they are doing something that they don’t care if Iran nukes Israel in a few months. Because that’s what’s going to happen unless Israel attacks Iran first. Iran was threatening to nuke Israel as recently as last week. It’s hard to interpret the Democrat treaty with Iran as anything other than their stamp of approval on that plan.

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American health care: does it cause poor life-expectancy and high infant mortality?

Probably one of the best health care policy experts writing today is Avik Roy, who writes for Forbes magazine.

Here is his latest column, which I think is useful for helping us all get better at debating health care policy. (H/T Matt from Well Spent Journey)

Excerpt:

It’s one of the most oft-repeated justifications for socialized medicine: Americans spend more money than other developed countries on health care, but don’t live as long. If we would just hop on the European health-care bandwagon, we’d live longer and healthier lives. The only problem is it’s not true.

[...]If you really want to measure health outcomes, the best way to do it is at the point of medical intervention. If you have a heart attack, how long do you live in the U.S. vs. another country? If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer? In 2008, a group of investigators conducted a worldwide study of cancer survival rates, called CONCORD. They looked at 5-year survival rates for breast cancer, colon and rectal cancer, and prostate cancer. I compiled their data for the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and western Europe. Guess who came out number one?

Here is the raw data:

Health care outcomes

Health care outcomes by country and type of treatment

Click here to see the larger graph.

So, what explains this?

The article continues:

Another point worth making is that people die for other reasons than health. For example, people die because of car accidents and violent crime. A few years back, Robert Ohsfeldt of Texas A&M and John Schneider of the University of Iowa asked the obvious question: what happens if you remove deaths from fatal injuries from the life expectancy tables? Among the 29 members of the OECD, the U.S. vaults from 19th place to…you guessed it…first. Japan, on the same adjustment, drops from first to ninth.

It’s great that the Japanese eat more sushi than we do, and that they settle their arguments more peaceably. But these things don’t have anything to do with socialized medicine.

Finally, U.S. life-expectancy statistics are skewed by the fact that the U.S. doesn’t have one health-care system, but three: Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance. (A fourth, the Obamacare exchanges, is supposed to go into effect in 2014.) As I have noted in the past, health outcomes for those on government-sponsored insurance are worse than for those on private insurance.

To my knowledge, no one has attempted to segregate U.S. life-expectancy figures by insurance status. But based on the data we have, it’s highly likely that those on private insurance have the best life expectancy, with Medicare patients in the middle, and the uninsured and Medicaid at the bottom.

I know that my readers who like to dig deep into economics and policy will love the links at the bottom of the article:

For further reading on the topic of life expectancy, here are some recommendations. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw discusses some of the confounding factors with life expectancy statistics, citing this NBER study by June and Dave O’Neill comparing the U.S. and Canada. (Mankiw calls the misuse of U.S. life expectancy stats “schlocky.”) Chicago economist Gary Becker makes note of the CONCORD study in this blog post. In 2009, Sam Preston and Jessica Ho of the University of Pennsylvania published a lengthy analysis of life expectancy statistics, concluding that “the low longevity ranking of the United States is not likely to be a result of a poorly functioning health care system.”

The funniest thing I have found when talking to people from countries with socialized health care systems, like Canada and the UK, is that they are woefully uninformed about American health care. They literally do not know about free emergency room care, which is free for anyone regardless of insurance – including illegal aliens. They do not know about our expensive Medicaid program, which helps people who cannot afford health insurance. And our very very expensive Medicare program, which provides health care to the elderly – including prescription drugs. I get the feeling that foreign critics of American health care are getting their views from amateur documentaries produced by uneducated Hollywood propagandists, or maybe from TV shows on the Comedy Channel. They certainly are not getting their information from peer-reviewed studies by credentialed scholars from top universities, like the ones cited above.

I have literally spoken to Canadians who think that people in the USA without insurance do not get treatment and just die in the streets from stab wounds. They don’t know about the emergency room rule, or about charity care, or about Medicaid and Medicare. There is a lot of ignorance up there – wilful ignorance, in some cases. And keep in mind that the average Canadian household is paying over $11,000 a year for this substandard health care! They are paying more for less, and that’s not surprising since a large chunk of the taxes that are collected for health care go to overpaid unionized bureaucrats. Naturally, when their left-wing politicians need treatment, the first place they go is to the United States, where they pay out of pocket for the better health care. But that doesn’t stop them from denouncing American health care when they are talking to voters.

Higher infant mortality rates?

One of the other common arguments you hear from uninformed people outside the USA is the higher infant mortality rates argument.

Here’s an article by Stanford University professor Scott Atlas to explain why the argument fails.

Excerpt:

Virtually every national and international agency involved in statistical assessments of health status, health care, and economic development uses the infant-mortality rate — the number of infants per 1,000 live births who die before reaching the age of one — as a fundamental indicator. America’s high infant-mortality rate has been repeatedly put forth as evidence “proving” the substandard performance of the U.S. health-care system.

[...]n a 2008 study, Joy Lawn estimated that a full three-fourths of the world’s neonatal deaths are counted only through highly unreliable five-yearly retrospective household surveys, instead of being reported at the time by hospitals and health-care professionals, as in the United States. Moreover, the most premature babies — those with the highest likelihood of dying — are the least likely to be recorded in infant and neonatal mortality statistics in other countries. Compounding that difficulty, in other countries the underreporting is greatest for deaths that occur very soon after birth.

[...]The United States strictly adheres to the WHO definition of live birth (any infant “irrespective of the duration of the pregnancy, which . . . breathes or shows any other evidence of life . . . whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached”) and uses a strictly implemented linked birth and infant-death data set. On the contrary, many other nations, including highly developed countries in Western Europe, use far less strict definitions, all of which underreport the live births of more fragile infants who soon die. As a consequence, they falsely report more favorable neonatal- and infant-mortality rates.

[...]Neonatal deaths are mainly associated with prematurity and low birth weight. Therefore the fact that the percentage of preterm births in the U.S. is far higher than that in all other OECD countries — 65 percent higher than in Britain, and more than double the rate in Ireland, Finland, and Greece — further undermines the validity of neonatal-mortality comparisons.

You can listen to a podcast with Dr. Atlas here, from the Library of Economics web site.

If you want to read more about how American health care compares with health care in socialized systems, read this article by Stanford University professor of medicine Dr. Scott Atlas. And you can get his book “In Excellent Health: Setting the Record Straight on America’s Health Care” from Amazon.

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Quebec citizens dissatisfied with expensive government-run daycare

IMFC researcher Andrea Mrozek writes about a new survey in the Montreal Gazette.

Excerpt:

For 16 years, the Quebec government has been providing highly subsidized daycare. Canada-wide and indeed internationally, this $7-a-day system is praised as a leading example and the path to follow.

The question is whether Quebecers actually feel that way.

Our recent poll about Canadians’ daycare desires shows some interesting results in Quebec (imfcanada.org/daycaredesires/Quebec). When asked what Quebecers ideally prefer for children under age 6, a competent caregiver or a parent, 70 per cent of Quebecers say a parent.

In short, a clear majority of Quebecers believe that the best place for children under 6 is with a parent — in spite of having a provincially funded system that gives preference to daycare centres.

A second surprising result also emerged. When given options about how governments should help parents with child care, almost half of Quebecers polled (45 per cent) said money should go directly to parents. This option was placed next to other options like subsidies to childcare centres, child-tax deductions or providing funding exclusively for families in need, among others.

Surprisingly, more Quebecers believed that money should go directly to parents; by way of contrast, 25 per cent of Canadians outside Quebec said governments should provide cash payments directly to parents.

These poll results leave us with a lot to think about with regard to how governments enact childcare policy. Seven in 10 Quebecers believe the best place for a child under six is with a parent. Yet the government’s public policy on that point does not remotely reflect this desire.

In fact, when the government introduced its policy of subsidized daycare, other family funding and programs were cut. Scholars have shown how other family benefits were cancelled as Quebec ramped up spending on institutional daycare.

Some may think the Quebec program is very popular simply because so many parents use it. That may not be the case. Anytime a government provides a service at lower-than-market costs, it provides an incentive to use that service. The reality is that child care is actually very expensive, regardless of who provides it. When the government provides it, we are all paying for it through increased taxes.

In our poll, we asked simple and somewhat idealistic questions as to where children under 6 are better off. “What is best for children” is not necessarily the same as asking about what is possible for families. The two ought not be confused, of course. There might be many parents who think their presence would be better for their kids, but they simply cannot afford to stay home. Personal circumstances are just that, personal, and they vary from family to family.

Still, there should still be a place for idealism — for a blue-sky view of how we would like things to go. And public policy should assess opportunity costs and unintended consequences. Where public policy is divorced from citizens’ desires, it does taxpayers a disservice. In effect, it means taxpayers are paying for something they would rather not use.

Quebec is the most liberal province in Canada, and it only survives because it receives massive transfers of wealth from the other business-friendly provinces. But that doesn’t stop them from sneering at their enablers, or from passive expensive socialist programs. But they do serve as a lesson to us – government doesn’t do child care better than moms and dads. And we shouldn’t be paying them massive amounts of money them to do things that they don’t do well. The ideology of feminism isn’t more important than the needs of children.

Related posts

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Crime in Canada reaches lowest level in 40 years due to Conservative party policies

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

From the National Post.

Excerpt:

New figures show Canada’s crime rate dipped to its lowest level in 40 years last year, the very year the federal government enacted some of its harshest tough-on-crime policies.

Just under two million criminal incidents were reported to police in 2012, about 36,000 fewer than the previous year, according to a Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics study on police-reported crime.

The decline is primarily attributed to decreases in non-violent crimes. In fact, 2012 marked the ninth consecutive year that both the volume and severity of crime was down.

According to the study, 543 homicides were reported across the country, 55 fewer than in 2011. Youth crime was also down.

“As a result, the homicide rate fell to its lowest level since 1966,” the report concluded.

Relaxing gun control laws was also likely a factor:

Although crime rates have been falling for years, the federal government passed a controversial omnibus crime bill early last year. It set a number of mandatory minimum penalties for drug trafficking and sex crimes against children and got tough on pot producers, young offenders, Canadians imprisoned abroad seeking a transfer to a Canadian institution and ex-cons seeking a pardon.

The government also scrapped the controversial long gun registry last year.

A gun registry is nothing but a promise that the government will confiscate weapons later. When the registry goes away, people feel safer about buying guns. The more citizens who are legally armed, the worse it is for criminals.

I’m posting this to show that unlike our own government, some governments are actually doing things that work to solve problems. But all of this goes back to qualifications. Stephen Harper has the BA and MA in Economics. He is an economist, so he understands how laws and policies influence human behavior. That’s why when he makes a policy, he gets the results he wants to get. He actually knows what he is doing. He is actually doing work that he knows how to do. It can happen.

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