Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Fork In The Road

Rahm Emanuel once said  "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." He took flak for it, but their is truth in it, no matter how difficult to swallow or accept. Dire circumstances breed extraordinary results. hardship and catastrophe can be a uniting and clarifying experience. Think of the camaraderie, patriotism, and focus after the 9/11 attacks. Think about the determination of the country after Pearl Harbor. These terrible events, these crises, focused our country. Although a crisis allows for extreme action, it does not follow that such action is always good, or in the right step. The stock market crash of 1929 created the New Deal, a perfect example of a serious crisis creating serious change in the wrong direction. Ironically enough, the New Deal would lay the foundation for our current serious crisis, the looming debt facing our country, driven by our entitlement promises such as social security and medicare (social security being a creation of FDR) and the ever increasing size and burden of our government.

The looming debt facing America is the greatest threat to our prosperity, it is our greatest security concern, more so than war, terrorism, or nuclear proliferation. Part of its great threat is its slow but steady rise. It is not sudden and explosive, it is not stunningly yet darkly visual, it does not kill people directly, it sulks, it grows steadily like an undiagnosed cancer, it consumes, and it is pushed to the back of our brain. Ignorance is bliss. Yet such bliss will come at a heavy price. If our country does not begin to move to shrink government spending, if entitlements are not reformed, than the promises of an age past will destroy the country for our children and their children. The debt to GDP ratio is approaching 100% in this country. Our crisis is real, the Congressional Budgetary Office (CBO) even states that we are heading towards an infeasible future which requires drastic change, and the CBO is a neutral optimistic governmental organization.

2 paths lay ahead, and a choice is imminent. The debt cap will force a vote by Congress by August, or the United States will  shut down and likely default. This is, as Rahm likes to say, an opportunity which should not go to waste. This is an opportunity to not push the threat to the back of our minds and push it off as inconsequential. This is not the time to once again blindly and meaninglessly set a new higher debt cap so that it can be raised later. This is the time for that contingent of Congress with the principle and wherewithal to make the difficult but necessary decision, which is already long overdue, to set our country on a path to prosperity instead of forfeiture. The other path would be the same path we have been following since that last great catastrophe of the Great Depression. It would to turn a blind eye and continue spending more and more and promising beyond our means. Money for votes is what it really is.

We need to make the difficult decision to cut spending, and that includes subsidies (to gas companies and ethanol and electric car makers and solar plants and farming and certain research and College), military, welfare programs, pork, special interests, more state autonomy and less federal hierarchy, but most importantly we need to address entitlements. If we do not, then we are no better than Greece. Greece has gluttonously and recklessly spent themselves fat, they have spent and spent, believing it would bring no consequences, and now that the reality of their folly is apparent, they are too drunk on their unpaid-for privileges to let go, to accept they cannot afford what they have. They are rioting in the streets, public transportation and life as normal has come to a screeching halt as protests and revolt and fire spreads throughout Athens. Greece is the poor man who buys a mansion, than resits foreclosure as he barricades the door with a shotgun.

The decision laying before the US will show whether we are a gluttonous Greece, or the America our forefathers foresaw, a country of prosperity though liberty, including the liberty from an overarching, overspending, over promising government by and for the people.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The FDA today allowed a hearing on its approaching decision to ban the sale of Avastin in the US for women with advanced breast cancer. The FDA initially allowed the drug on the market, since it was meant for women with metastatic breast cancer, a deadly cancer leaving women with few options of therapy, but after conducting three trials with no benefit, they are pulling the drug.

You can find the article here

The FDA, its board and its director are making a rational self-preserving decision. The FDA will be held responsible when a drug kills a patient, it will be chastised by the government, and someone will have to take the fall and the blame. When a drug is allowed on the market and saves 1, but accelerates or aggravates the condition of 9 others, despite the desperate need those patients harbor for any means to survive, the FDA will be criticized. A less publicized evil, a less sensational and public death, is the death of the woman with metastatic breast cancer who has no option to turn to, no matter how infinitesimal the chance of recovery that option may provide, it is still an option the FDA has prohibited. That woman's death will go unsung and un-blamed. The FDA will not have to answer to it, and the FDA can hide behind its numbers and studies, telling a woman it is too dangerous for them to have the option to take.

Priscilla Howard, who has survived with advanced breast cancer for 32 months while taking Avastin, rebutted the FDA's studies with the simple truth that "despite the potential side effects from Avastin, metastatic breast cancer has only one — death,” a poor option is better than no option. An arduous recovery better than no recovery, and a risk for life better than a sentence of death.

The FDA serves an important purpose in their testing of drugs. Consumers must be informed when making decisions. Competent understanding of the risks and rewards of different therapies is a fundamental cornerstone of a marketplace which leads to rational risk-managed decisions. The risk averse may avoid Avastin, and others likely would not. The FDA should inform consumers, but should not dictate life and death decisions for them. People should not have to flee the country to save their life. People should not die waiting for a drug to be released which can save their life. The FDA has killed more people waiting for a life saving drug than it has saved from preventing harmful unproven drugs from entering the market. Allow drugs onto the market, and have it clearly stated that they are not FDA approved. If studies are done and they are unsafe, inform consumers they have a FDA warning.

The FDA is not our parent, it is not looking out for our best interest, it is looking out for its own interests, which inadvertently leads it to playing God, which no one should do, especially not the Government.