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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

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Three stories on one of our favorite themes. Each one, in its own way, illustrates the ongoing pattern of government regulations spawning unforeseen consequences. As Friedrich Hayek might have observed: these guys really don't know as much as they think they do, do they?

The first is about the government's favorite light bulbs.

Every time you turn on the lights, you may be putting yourself at risk, according to a disturbing new study.

Energy efficient bulbs are eco-friendly and can save you big bucks, but experts say that some could also have a dark side.

“When there is something in your house, you don’t perceive any danger, you wouldn’t get that close to an x-ray in a doctor’s office,” explained Miriam Rafailovich, Professor of Materials Science at Stony Brook University in New York.

Money saving, compact fluorescent light bulbs emit high levels of ultra violet radiation, according to a new study. Research at Long Island’s Stony Brook found that the bulbs emit rays so strong that they can actually burn skin and skin cells.

“The results were that you could actually initiate cell death,” said Marcia Simon, a Professor of Dermatology.

Our second story also deals with environmental impacts.

Back in 2009, the “Cash for Clunkers” federal program was supposed to be a boon for the environment and the economy. During a limited time, consumers could trade in an old gas-guzzling used car for up to $4,500 cash back towards the purchase of a fuel-efficient new car. It seemed like a win for everyone: the environment, the gasping auto industry and cash-strapped consumers.

Though almost a million people poured into car dealerships eager to exchange their old jalopies for something shiny and new, recent reports indicate the entire program may have actually hurt the environment far more than it helped.

According to E Magazine, the “Clunkers” program, which is officially known as the Car Allowance Rebates System (CARS), produced tons of unnecessary waste while doing little to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The program's first mistake seems to have been its focus on car shredding, instead of car recycling. With 690,000 vehicles traded in, that's a pretty big mistake.

And finally, this story, in which the media discovers again to its shock and dismay that there really is no free lunch and that Obamacare is not Christmas morning.

Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.

Particularly vulnerable to the high rates are small businesses and people who do not have employer-provided insurance and must buy it on their own.

In California, Aetna is proposing rate increases of as much as 22 percent, Anthem Blue Cross 26 percent and Blue Shield of California 20 percent for some of those policy holders, according to the insurers’ filings with the state for 2013. These rate requests are all the more striking after a 39 percent rise sought by Anthem Blue Cross in 2010 helped give impetus to the law, known as the Affordable Care Act, which was passed the same year and will not be fully in effect until 2014. 

A tip-off that the great minds at The New York Times still don't grasp what is going on here is their suggestion that these increases are occurring "despite" the passage of Obamacare... rather than as a direct result of its mandates, rules, regulations, taxes, and freebies.  

Expect this to be the first of many, many stories about the unexpected consequences of the new law.

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