Howard Steven Friedman

Howard Steven Friedman
New York, New York, USA
June 10
Howard Steven Friedman works as a statistician and health economist for the United Nations. He has been a lead modeler on a number of key United Nations projects including the ICPD @ 15 Costing, High Level Task Force on Innovative Financing, and the Adding It Up reports. He is credited with being the lead developer of the tool used for costing the health-related Millennium Development Goals. He is also an adjunct professor at School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Prior to joining the United Nations, Howard ran Analytic Solutions LLC, which provides consulting services in designing, developing and modeling data. This work also included teaching data mining and modeling techniques for major international corporations and foreign governments. Prior to that, he was a Director at Capital One, where he led teams of statisticians, analysts and programmers in operations and marketing. Howard is the author of over 35 scientific articles and book chapters in areas of applied statistics, health economics with recent publications in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, Current Medical Research & Opinion, Clinical Therapeutics, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy, Clinical Drug Investigation and Value in Health. Howard Friedman received his BS from Binghamton University in Applied Physics and a Masters in Statistics, along with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Please note that all comments on this blog reflect the opinions of the author and not those of the United Nations or Columbia University

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APRIL 6, 2012 12:31PM

Selecting Facts Regarding the Supreme Court

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It is human nature to select the facts that are convenient to our own point of view while ignoring those facts that contradict. We discard them as though they had no merit even though often the set of facts supporting a counterargument may be even more powerful than those supporting. Sometimes we even ignore that there may be a much larger issue under the surface.

Many argue that the federal government has no right to get involved in individual's choice for health care. They point to the Constitution and ask the question, "Where does it say that the federal government has this right?" while ignoring the fact that we live in a society in 2012 where the federal government has far more rights than were enumerated in the Constitution.

In school we were taught about the separation of powers. It was portrayed as though the branches all act independently from one another in order to prevent the abuse of power. Justices ponder the merits of the cases and draw conclusions based solely on law, not on opinions, personal preferences or other interests. We were instructed that a system of checks and balances was established in the Constitution in order to prevent one part of government from growing too powerful.

But is this really so? Of course not. Supreme Court justices are appointed based on their political ideology and ability to pretend to have never heard of, or thought about, the idea of abortion. They routinely vote in blocks that correspond very closely or often perfectly to the party philosophy of the president that had appointed them.

Once the Supreme Court votes, we then have to ask what it means. In the past, presidents, Congress and local governments have ignored or circumvented Supreme Court rulings.

Perhaps the problem with the Supreme Court is that it lacks "truth in advertising." At its core, the Supreme Court does not have the constitutional authority of judiciary review, that is to say, the Constitution does not explicitly state that the Supreme Court has the right to review laws and declare them constitutional or not. In fact, the Supreme Court gave themselves this power in Marbury v. Madison (1803).

That leaves our nation in a very strange position. We are pretending that a third branch of government has powers that it was never granted, in fact, we are pretending this about one of the main powers of this branch of government. What we actually have is a small group of people, selected for their political points of view and ability to obfuscate their opinions, who will be deciding whether a law passed by Congress should remain. That group took that power themselves as it was never granted to them in the Constitution. That group is riddled with conflicts of interest on this issue, from glaringly obvious financial conflicts of interest to professional, personal and political conflicts.

Supporters of the health care bill are busy arguing that the bill fits in the scope of the federal government's mandate while opponents of the bill are arguing it doesn't. Those who support the bill might be thinking "the Supreme Court's judicial review is not in the Constitution so they themselves probably won't mind that neither is the federal government's oversight of health care." Those opposed to the health care law should be noting that the Supreme Court doesn't have the constitutional authority to even review the law but right now that isn't their concern nor is it convenient to even think about. Rather, those opposed to the health care bill are confidently counting on the simple fact that 5 justices appointed by Republican presidents is one more than the 4 justices appointed by Democratic presidents.

Regardless of the outcome in June, isn't it time that we changed those textbooks so children learn more about the real-world of American democracy instead of the utopia we like to pretend we are in?


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I never quite thought of it that way, as if the Supreme Court justices are sometimes like 9 mini-presidents with the power to veto (but after the bill becomes a law...)

Sometimes it seems that the health care debate is argued so much in the abstract, so far removed from the people. I wish all the members of Congress and the Supreme Court could just go spend a couple of weeks in hospitals, clinics, homes, and homeless shelters, and in the streets, and see with their own eyes what happens when people don't get care, or have to wait until a crisis happens to get it.