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IN FOCUS: HEALTH CARE LAW'S POSSIBLE EFFECTS ON MEDICAL INNOVATION
STUART VARNEY: House Republicans setting up a vote to repeal the health care law next week. Is it a vote to save our lives? Literally? Some at Forbes say repeal it or we won't see any more major medical breakthroughs like the revolutionary blood test to fight cancer we heard about this week. So is your life really on the line? Steve, to you first. To keep innovation we must repeal health care?
STEVE FORBES: Oh absolutely. You need a private sector in health care. It's no coincidence over the years that you've got more and more nationalized medicine in Europe, they fell behind in terms of medical innovations. Today in the world, the U.S. has two-thirds of medical patents, of the compounds that are being tested now - 2,700 in the U.S., only 1,700 in the rest of the world. The more the governments control health care, the more they try to control costs, which means squeezing research and development that hurts us all; ultimately, that means a shorter life.
QUENTIN HARDY: If your goal is to have medical breakthroughs and a lot of patents and a lot of very expensive treatments - yay our "Cadillac" system. If your goal is to keep people alive, we're not doing so good. The fact is we're just not delivering health care to many people under this system. The companies make big profits, they invest in research and development, and have these so-called breakthroughs that help a few people, but most people aren't getting the basic needs, which is what health care is really about.
ELIZABETH MACDONALD: The Democrats wanted health reform, no matter what it looked like, no matter what the cost. And the issue is, will we still have innovations? That's a serious policy issue that needs to be addressed. At the same time, we have the FDA rejecting uses for things like Avastin for aggressive breast cancer. What the health reform won't do, the FDA will take of in knocking down innovative treatments.
NEIL WEINBERG: The idea that this is a boogeyman of the loopy right... that what we're going to do is kick out the private sector and have rationing and all these sort of crazy things... If you want to talk rationing, talk to the 50 million people who don't have access to health care right now. Right now, we have about half of our health care system so-called socialized because it's Medicare/Medicaid. I don't see that the private sector has been kicked out, I don't think the private sector is going to be kicked out, and they're not going to stop making money and making a profit by stopping innovations.
RICH KARLGAARD: One of the things that's happened since Obamacare passed is that you're seeing all kinds of a rash of acquisitions and mergers in doctor groups, clinics, and hospitals... so you have fewer buyers and an economic concentration of new medical products and services that works against innovation. What you want to have is to empower tens of millions of Americans to go out and shop with their own dollars. That's what spurs innovation. That's why we have smart phones, tablet computers, all kinds of innovations in sectors outside of health care.
IS A PRO-BUSINESS SHIFT GOOD OR BAD FOR THE JOB MARKET?
STUART VARNEY: Forget the power shift in that House. To the increasing pro-business shift we're seeing in this House. President Obama just picking a business executive to run his White House staff and a more business-friendly Democrat to lead his economic team. The president and other Democrats also backing plans to cut corporate taxes. And Democratic governors are getting it, too. New York's Andrew Cuomo bashing taxes on the rich for hurting businesses. Dennis - you say this is a major shift that's great for creating jobs?
DENNIS KNEALE: I really think it is. For one thing, let's remember job creation comes in part because of how people feel. If we buy more stuff because we feel better, the people selling it to us have to hire more people. That environment is crimped when Washington spends all of its time beating up on banks, beating up on millionaires and a tax cut for billionaires. And now, oh my gosh, after 2 years of relentless beating up on business, we've had this huge change. My one fear: Is it sincere? Can we really trust it? It's too good to be true, I worry.
STEVE FORBES: Dennis is right to be worried, this is about optics. The president knows he took a shellacking in November, he knows he's going to suffer a defeat in 2012 unless he changes, at least on the tax front. But where he can get away with the "socialist agenda," he's moving ahead Stuart. You see it in terms of stealth regulations, cap and trade, in terms of his fierce defending of the worst aspects of Obamacare. So where he can get away with the leftist agenda, he's going ahead with it... where he's got to retreat, make tactical changes he's doing that as we see on the tax front.
VICTORIA BARRET: I think it's a shift in tone, I agree with Dennis there. But what bugs me about it, I'm sure Steve has a lot of historical knowledge on this, is that we seem to appoint these pro-business leaders who have spent most of their careers and lives in Washington. You look at William Daley's track record and he's worked for at least one administration, not to mention countless of advisory positions for politicians, and this guy's last private sector job included being a government liaison. This isn't someone who is really rolling up his sleeves and creating jobs. But in terms of tone, yes, it's a positive shift that will be good for jobs.
NEIL WEINBERG: I don't think the problem is that this is an inside-the-Beltway guy. I think the problem is that it's cosmetic. What we have here is not Vladimir Putin putting a puppet in front of him in the Soviet Union, this isn't Mikhail Gorbachev opening things up to the West, and as Steve said, is Obama backing off on health care, is he backing off on all of these cap and trade regulations, is he backing off on any of his other policies? Not really. So what we're seeing is he's talking the talk, but he's not walking the walk yet.
MIKE OZANIAN: Well, we haven't replaced the greatest destroyer in Washington of our wealth, which is Ben Bernanke. He's the culprit. The Fed is what caused the problems we got into, and the Fed is what needs to fix us today. Look, we had Larry Summers in there, we had Paul Volcker, and they were part of Obama's administration. They were supposed to be big business people, they understood the advantages of supply side economics and low tax rates. They did nothing because you're only as good as your boss, and we've got to get rid of Ben Bernanke if we want to have true prosperity in this country.
QUENTIN HARDY: Does it create jobs? Well, it creates jobs on Wall Street. And Dennis talks about the beating up the banks. I'm okay with it, you know they gave us the subprime, they caused the biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression, and they keep hiring Washington guys to help them come in and grease the wheels. It's lobbyist by other means, and that's what Bill Daley is, that's what Rahm Emanuel is; they go the private sector, Wall Street, and get rich for a while - then go back and get some more influence, which is what Daley is doing. He'll go back to Wall Street, get some more influence. This is pernicious, this isn't pro-business, and these guys don't create things and make payrolls.
ILLINOIS TO LINK TENURE TO TEST SCORES
STUART VARNEY: Forget "Hot for Teacher." More cash-strapped states getting tough with teachers. Now it's Illinois pushing to tie tenure to performance tests. Union leaders say it's unfair. But Victoria - you say we need tenure reform to save taxpayers' money. How so?
VICTORIA BARRET: We do, and I think it goes beyond tracking it to teacher performance. I think we need to get rid of tenure entirely. There are plenty of studies that show how damaging tenure is. I mean, you basically get tenure in most states after less than three years on the job. And what it means is that you can't be fired. Taxpayer dollars are going to pay tenure, lifetime employment for underperforming teachers. It cripples principals and it cripples performance in schools.
RICH KARLGAARD: I think there's a place for tenure, but tenure should be a reward for half a career really well done. So give tenure to maybe the top quartile of teachers after 10 or 15 years. Don't base it strictly on tests, it should be a balanced scorecard. How have your students done in the real world? What do parents say about your job? Let's keep good teachers.
DENNIS KNEALE: I like Victoria's idea. Understand folks, for 35 years my mother was a teacher and she was a proud member of the union, but I'll bet you today that even my mother, today in retirement and worried about her tax dollars and Social Security check, would be in favor of changing that tenure. Why does anyone in any job deserve a lifetime guarantee? Doesn't only the U.S. Supreme Court get that now?
MIKE OZANIAN: We need less power in Washington, we need to give parents more power in how their schools are run, we need more competition from charter schools, and we need what Governor Christie did in New Jersey, we need a cap on property taxes. That will solve the problem.
STEVE FORBES: What we truly need is true choice and charter schools. If you go to a bad car dealer you can change, and for something as fundamental as a kid's education parents should be able to choose the schools they think best and not what a union or bureaucrat tells them they have to go to. True free choice, it's the American way.
INFORMER: STOCKS FOR THE 112TH CONGRESS
DAVID ASMAN: New Congress, new stock winners. Our Informers say the 112th Congress is helping you find the names to buy now.
NEIL WEINBERG: MURPHY OIL (MUR)
ELIZABETH MACDONALD: MARKET VECTOR'S RARE EARTH/STRATEGIC METALS ETF (REMX)
DENNIS KNEALE: HECKMANN CORP (HEK)