Harkin and Herbalife
Every reasonable American with a pulse knows that much of what goes on in the undercurrents of Washington D.C is disturbing. It is not often, however, that one proposed piece of legislation encapsulates nearly everything that is wrong in our Federal Government, unfortunately that is exactly the case with Senate file 481.
The name of this bill is the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders, or the F.R.E.E.D Act. It is sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), co-sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and was introduced in the Senate on March 3, 2011. If you have ever wondered what Tom Harkin and Al Franken have been up to lately you are about to find out not just the what, but more appallingly the why.
Before examining the wide ranging particulars of the bill, let us first take a look at a very suspicious factor in its originâ€” a company called Herbalife International.
Without getting too far into the maze of legislative language (though you are welcome to do just that by following the links), what this bill does is continue the re-write of The Social Security Act of 1935 that The Patient Protection And Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) began in 2010.
Specifically the F.R.E.E.D Act does the following:
â€¢ Redefines what our tax dollars can pay for by amending Sect.1905 of the Social Security Act (SSA) to add coverage forâ€”screening, counseling, and non-prescription drugs used in the treatment of eating disorders.
â€¢ Amends Sect. 1927(d)(2)(A) of the SSA by removing the restriction that specifically excludes payment forâ€”â€œagents when used for anorexia, weight loss, or weight gainâ€.
â€¢ Though it was passed only last year, amends Obamacare to include coverage for eating disorders treatment.
The effective implication of this, among other things, is that it would authorize Medicare and Medicaid pay-outs for over-the-counter drugs used in the â€œtreatmentâ€ of eating disorders. For a private company which sells such products this change in the law would represent nothing less than the Holy Grailâ€”government purchased sales.
In what would be a remarkable coincidence, Tom Harkinâ€™s biggest political contributor over the last 22 years is a company called Herbalife International. Not an agro products company, an insurance provider, or a labor union as you may suspect, Herbalife International is in fact a global nutrition and supplement company that specializes in â€œhealthyâ€ weight loss.
Herbalife International earns the distinction of becomingÂ Harkin’s biggest single donor by having given him a total of $137,916.00 since 1989. Between the years 2005-2010 they gave Harkin $55,606.00, a display of generosity which came after already having donated over $40,000.00 to him in the 2004 campaign cycle alone.
Some investigating shows that not only does Herbalife International have a wide range of products directly or indirectly tied to weight gain, weight loss, and eating disorders, but that the issue is oneÂ of aÂ deeply personal nature for the company. Herbalife was founded in 1980 by a man named Mark Hughes, now deceased, whose inspiration for starting the company was his belief that his mother died of an eating disorder and an â€œunhealthy approach to weight lossâ€.
While there is no way of knowing what they have in the future pipeline, the products they currently offer that directly relate to eating disorders include Zinc and Thiamine B1 supplements. The medical link lies in the fact that a person suffering from an eating disorder, by nature, has deficiencies of these compounds in their system, which supplements can effectively correct.
Illustrating the connection between nutritional supplements and eating disorder treatment is a report released by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London entitled â€œGuidelines for the nutritional management of anorexia nervosaâ€. One of many similar studies, it recommends that in planning the diet for a patient with anorexia, particular attention should be given to â€œthe need for long-term, well balanced vitamin and mineral supplementationâ€. It goes on to say that â€œA significant proportion of patients with anorexia nervosa are deficient in thiamine, and the increase in carbohydrate metabolism that occurs during re-feeding may exhaust inadequate thiamine reserves. The use of prophylactic thiamine supplements in oral form is recommended for in-patients and those undergoing rapid weight gainâ€.
In addition to the already defined role that supplements have in treating eating disorders with Zinc and Thiamine, there are ongoing studies looking at whether the lack of these in the body may actually cause the onset of eating disorders, opening the possibility that in the future such supplements may also be used in preventative care.
By all appearances what we have here is a major global company giving a U.S Senator over $90,000.00 in a seven year period and then being the beneficiary of a sweeping piece of legislation, sponsored by said Senator, which authorizes our government to pay for the companyâ€™s products.
It would be a mistake to conclude this is a simple case of a company giving a legislator money to be their puppet; in fact Tom Harkin has been one of Capital Hillâ€™s loudest advocates for alternative medicine and prevention for 20 years now. In 1992 he was primarily responsible for the Office of Alternative Medicine coming into existence, and in early 2009 said the following:
On several occasions, I have laid down a public marker, saying that if we pass a bill that greatly extends health insurance coverage but does nothing to create a dramatically stronger prevention and public health infrastructure and agenda, then we will have failed the American people.
Clearly he feels Obamacare has â€œfailed the American peopleâ€ and is proposing this bill to make it even more inclusive and expansive, which is certainly his prerogative.
Whether or not he has a genuine conviction on this issue, and frankly I believe he does, is beside the point. What is at issue here is that his largest political donor stands to make gigantic amounts of money should legislation that he proposed be signed into law.
Though we have allowed and accepted the institutional development of these types of relationships and practices, we as the American public have a right to know about them when they occur.
Note: Tom Harkinâ€™s Washington D.C office was contacted for comment and clarification regarding this story.Â So far they have provided neither, as soon as they do this story will be updated.
This is only one of many disturbing elements of this legislation.Â Here isÂ part two entitled: â€œThe Stench of Impropriety: Your Tax Dollars, Your Body Image, and The Government (Part 2 of 2)”, where many other provisions of this bill are examined, including Al Franken’s involvement.
Though the third longest session in Iowa history has been over for two weeks, Governor Branstad still has until the end of July to sign or veto any of the legislation that was passed.
While there were some notable and very positive accomplishments, Senate Democrats also stood in the way of a lot of positive progress.
Here are a few accomplishments followed by some of the missed opportunities.
1) Sustainable Budget
We finally are back on the path to long-term fiscal sustainability with a budget that spends less than we take in and funds Iowaâ€™s priorities. Is there more we can cut? Absolutely. But itâ€™s a good start and a real break from the problems of the last four years.
2) Rule & Regulatory Reform
We have begun to change the direction of the state when it comes to onerous rules and regulations that are stagnating job creation. Our 11 city â€œRe-Open Iowa for Businessâ€ tour has yielded some great suggestions and opened a lot of eyes. Stay tuned in a few weeks more information on this as our comprehensive report will be made public.
3) Reorganization of Economic Development Department
This reorganization of Iowaâ€™s economic development department, one of Governor Branstadâ€™s top priorities, will give the state more flexibility as it pursues and recruits entrepreneurs and job creators to Iowa. This reorganization, coupled with helping our existing businesses, will be key to continuing to grow Iowa.
What were some of our missed opportunities because of Senate Democrat obstruction?
1) Property Taxes
In order to make our state more competitive for jobs, we must have lower property taxes â€“ for all classes of property. Unfortunately, the property taxpayers of Iowa will not get the comprehensive tax reform that they deserve. We will continue to work hard to find a bi-partisan solution and make next session the session of true property tax reform.
2) Clean Abundant Energy
In order to grow the economy of the future, we must have adequate, clean and reliable base-load energy. Nuclear energy is one excellent source that would create a lot of good jobs in Iowa. The Iowa House passed legislation to continue to pursue possibility of adding additional reliable base-load energy. The votes existed to pass it in the Iowa Senate in bi-partisan fashion, but Senator Gronstal obstructed a vote.
3) Income Tax Relief
Both individual and corporate income tax reductions would help grow our economy, create jobs and stimulate positive economic activity. Once again, it did not happen this session because of Senate Democratic obstruction but count on us to continue to push forward next session.
4) Collective Bargaining Reform
The Iowa House, with broad support, voted to inject some common sense reforms into the collective bargaining and arbitration processes in Iowa. For the long term fiscal sustainability of the state, we believe there needs to be more equity and fairness in the process. As it stands today, over 80 percent of state employees pay nothing for health insurance and most get lucrative benefit packages and healthy annual salary increases that are out-of-line with the private sector. It is not just the union bosses that should be at the table â€“ the taxpayers deserve a seat at the table too.
5) Education Reform
We must once again make education about the children and discontinue the notion that simply spending more money will equal better student achievement. We need to set high standards and hold everybody accountable for the success and achievement of our students.
6) Late-Term Abortion & Marriage
Because of inaction by Senate Democrats, Iowa could soon become the Midwest Capital for Late-Term Abortions. We had the votes in the Iowa Senate to slam the door on abortionists like Dr. LeRoy Carhart who wanted to come into Council Bluffs and open up a clinic, but Senate Democrats refused to do what needed to be done. On the issue of marriage, Iowans sent a strong message last fall with the ouster of the three Supreme Court Justices. We need to keep the pressure on to give Iowans the statewide vote they deserve on the issue of marriage.
Though we made some positive steps forward, much of what we set out to accomplish not yet been achieved. Senate Democrats obstructed much of our pro-jobs agenda.
That is why we must work hard day in and day out to talk to our family, friends and neighbors about the important issues facing Iowa and continue to press forward with what we know will bring the brightest future for all present and future Iowans.
As always, I welcome hearing from you and can be reached by phone at 515-281-3560 or by e-mail at [email protected]
A long time ago, somebody figured out that people were afraid of nature. With this realization, our subject set out to carve a statue of a woman with a horned head dress, and declared the idol to be Ninhursag, the goddess of the earth. Our carver then set about convincing people that if they brought their best wheat, their best grapes, and their best lambs and calves to sacrifice to the goddess then they will be blessed with plenty and the grace of the divine goddess will rain down upon them, but if they refused they would be cursed with pestilence.
And thus the people, rending their garments and lamenting of their fear of the weather and their invented devil gods, brought their best produce to their idols, making themselves poorer and their lives more difficult all out of superstition and fear of their world.
It grew into dogma â€“ everybody knew that sacrifices to the idols was a necessary step to ensure survival of the community and the individual alike.
Of course, modern humanity has advanced light-years beyond these petty superstitions. We donâ€™t fear natural phenomena; we fear a chemical element â€“ carbon.
Enter the global climate change movement, who has informed us that driving cars, using electricity and having children (or as Prince Philip called them, Carbon Bombs,) are all causing massive expulsions of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, and that if it continued, the seas would rise, hurricanes and other storms would run rampant, crops would wilt and famine would choke all the lands everywhere.
It has turned into a dogma â€“ everybody knows that carbon dioxide from human activity will destroy all the world with global warming and floods, droughts, heat, cold, etcâ€¦
Therefore we the peasants must be constrained in our â€œcarbon footprints,â€ with higher taxes on gasoline, electricity, natural gas, food, clothing, babies and every other trapping of ordinary life.
So, instead of sacrificing your standard of living to a god, you can sacrifice your standard of living to government.
Of course, if you feel uniquely guilty about your existence, you can sacrifice a larger portion of your income through the purchase of carbon offsets; plenary indulgences guaranteeing your place in green heaven regardless of what you do in your everyday life, and the carvers of the environmentalist gods are standing ready to accept your offering.
They also have no more power over the climate as the carved idols of primitive cultures, but they will take your hard-earned wealth if they can convince you that your sacrifices are for the greater good by means of gratifying the new climate goddess.
The environmentalist cult has even threatened â€œclimate change deniers,â€ going so far as calling for systematic punishment of those who publicly disagree with the climate change agenda. One Australian commentator even called for forcible tattooing of climate change skeptics. Our self-appointed betters arenâ€™t above sending heretics to the dungeons as it turns out.
Under the climate change regime, progress is renamed destruction, poverty assumes the name â€œsustainable development,â€ and naturally there are huge profits to be made by the prophets of the new nature worship; and a horde of people line up to sacrifice wealth and liberty out of fear and without receiving anything in return.
So, go surrender your freedom, your mobility, your red meat and your air conditioning to the new Ninhursag if you wish. Iâ€™ll burn a pile of tires in honor of Kali the Destroyer, and weâ€™ll see what happens.
The Des Moines Registerâ€™s Opinion Section on Sunday, July 3, 2011 featured a â€œProgressives Trifectaâ€ of half-truths and sophistry:
- Richard Doak â€“ What if the founders were around today?
- Donald Kaul â€“ My favorite 4th of July speech
- Dean Baker â€“ Keep Social Security safe from politicians who want to save it
This week I will focus my comments on Richard Doakâ€™s imaginary view of our founding fathers.Â I will cover the other articles in due time.
Richard Doak â€“ He begins with â€œThis Fourth of July finds the country caught up more than usual in the mythology of America.â€.Â This opening argument is a fundamental tactic of the Progressives, i.e. to undermine our most cherished institutions by equating them to something less (mythology).
- He asserts that â€œa factionâ€ of the Supreme Court claims to discern the â€œoriginal intentâ€.Â Every Justice is required to faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent â€¦ under the Constitution.Â How can a Justice fulfill that oath without trying to understand the original intent of the founders?Â Every decision requires a majority, not a faction (minority).
- He says that â€œTodayâ€™s congress and courts are more intent on freeing the rich from taxationâ€¦â€.Â According to The Heritage Foundation, the % of Federal Taxes paid by the top 10% of income earners has increased from just fewer than 50% in 1980 to about 70% at the end of 2008.Â In 2008, 49% of U.S. households paid no Federal Income Tax. The reality is that for decades congress has been intent on freeing everyone but the rich to pay taxes.
- He asserts that â€œThe Constitution, written in 1787, created a strong central government and a unified national economy.â€.Â He then creates the straw man that â€œpolitics are occasionally roiled by calls for a return to a weak central government and stateâ€™s ability to veto federal actionsâ€ as existed under the Articles of Confederation.Â I have attended every major Tea Party event in Iowa over the past 3 years.Â I canâ€™t recall anyone calling for a return to the Articles of Confederation.Â Â Most Tea Party supporters simply want the country to operate under the Constitution as properly amended.
- He offers several rights, including guaranteed health care, implying the founders would have included them had they thought about them.Â At the time the Constitution was written, there was substantial discontent over the welfare of the common man, both in the United States and Europe.Â The French Revolution occurred in 1789.Â The Articles of Confederation were introduced by James Madison that same year and ratified at the end of 1791. It is disingenuous to imply that the founders had no opportunity to think about social justice entitlements.Â It is more likely that they considered such matters to be the province of individual states.
- Finally, he offers up the U.S. Post Office as a shining example that the founders were pragmatic and had no favoritism of private sector solutions vs. government solutions.Â Â They just wanted to do â€œwhat works bestâ€.Â Â I canâ€™t think of a better argument for limited government and the need to repeal Obamacare.
Much attention has been focused on the size of the national debt as a whole; roughly $14.4 trillion. That number is astonishing, but the sheer size of the debt actually hides the true horror which is in store for the economy and future generations.
The debt has many component categories, the largest of which is called Marketable Debt. That means the portion of the debt that was issued in treasury securities that can be sold in the secondary bond market, and it is around $9.2 trillion. The rest is Non-marketable, and held mainly by the Social Security Administration through bonds that cannot be sold.
The Marketable Debt also has its own sub-components, based on the type of security that was sold to incur the debt in the first place. Treasury Bills mature in 1 year or less and accrue interest; Treasury Notes mature in 2, 3, 5, 7 or 10 years, and Bonds mature in 30 years – and the Notes and Bonds pay coupon interest every six months. Each bond is sold at the prevailing interest rate at the time of the sale.
Here is the part that is frightening: Starting under President Clinton, expanding under Bush, and exploding under Obama, the federal government has shifted its borrowing from traditional 30-year Bonds to the shorter term securities.
According to the US Department of the Treasuryâ€™s Monthly Statement of Public Debt dated May 31, 2011, of the $9.2 trillion dollars of Marketable Debt, only about $965 billion are 30-year Bonds. More than $6 trillion are on Notes, with maturities ranging from 2 to 10 years, and a whopping $1.5 trillion are on 1-year Bills.
We are running record deficits, so we arenâ€™t paying any of these off when they mature – we just roll them over onto new securities. Weâ€™re also adding another $1.6 trillion on to the pile.
Right now the Federal Reserve is fixing interest rates at levels so low that they cannot be maintained forever. When the Fed raised interest rates to more than 20% back in the 1979-82 recession, the Treasury actually sold some bonds at interest rates of 20% or higher. Imagine if interest rates went up to just 10% today, and stayed there for a couple of years. All of those Bills and Notes that mature and are rolled over will roll over to higher interest rates.
The interest payments alone will easily top $700 billion dollars a year, and since the debt is likely to grow further as interest rates go up, the country is likely to pay well over $1 trillion per year in coupon interest alone -which will be financed by the issuance of new Treasury Notes.
Imagine a world where the Army is disbanded, Medicare covers only critical care needs, the Social Security age is retroactively raised to 75, and the all retired government officials lose their pensions because the United States needs to dedicate so much of its budget to paying the interest on the debt. These are politically impossible measures.
The only other way to avoid direct default is to print money – destroying the nationâ€™s economy with hyperinflation but technically making the interest payments, albeit with dollars devalued to near worthlessness. Thatâ€™s how the Federal Reserve managed to keep interest rates so low up to this point – by buying Treasuries at artificially low interest rates with printed money. That is why Bill Gross of PIMCO dumped every piece of US Treasury paper his hedge fund owned – the returns on these bonds would have been eaten up by inflation.
There it is – either we ruin the dollar or we default. Default is by far the better option; we can restructure our debts to something more manageable. This will ruin our credit rating forever, so future politicians will not be able to run deficits for vote-buying projects and illegal â€œKinetic Military Actions,â€ whatever those are. There are silver linings everywhere.