Defining Morality in Fayetteville

Fayetteville has become ground zero for conflict with the LGBT movement in Arkansas over ordinance 119.
A
A quick glimpse of the title of my piece would prompt many to jump to conclusions.  The word “morality” is often misunderstood, invoking only visions of “intolerant” bible-thumpers.  But morality isn’t exclusive to people of faith.  “Morality” is the code that any individual, community, or society adopts for itself, whether or not that code is true or false, just or unjust, moral or immoral, and regardless of how anyone may happen to define those terms.  As such, all laws or beliefs are based on someone’s version of morality.
A
Hence, we have one of the many ironies in the debate over the Fayetteville City Council’s new ordinance–the imposition of a new code of morality onto a community in response to the belief that others shouldn’t “impose” their own morality onto a demographic that identifies itself by some aspect of sexuality.  They add the benefit of race and gender, but make no mistake.  This law was adapted from language submitted directly from the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that works specifically to usher the LGBT community into the status of protected class, and, as well, to necessarily expand the definition of what qualifies as a “right”.  As such, the primary subjects of the new morality are all people of faith, even as this is peddled as an non-discrimination law.
A
The title of this “non-discrimination” ordinance, however, along with much of its generalizations, sounds very pretty, of course.  It’s fully-cloaked in beautiful intentions, aspiring to a utopian vision of peace, love and harmony across the globe, or at least Fayetteville.  What’s scary about this ordinance, though, (and why any utopian ideal is impossible to enforce) is what it doesn’t say, and what it really can’t say without a degree of bureaucratic micromanagement as to induce tyranny.  Because it can’t, it instead leaves that sole discretion within the hands of an appointed bureaucrat, which is just as bad.  This is why any such ordinances are ripe with the potential for exactly the kind of abuse that it claims to prevent and for which there is no genuine need–not because it doesn’t happen or that there aren’t justifiable claims, but because we already have a fair system in place to address genuine violations within the civil court system.  I have no doubt that the proponents of such a law genuinely believe they are fighting for liberty–among the highest morals that we all identify so strongly with.  Unfortunately, it’s a sorely twisted version of liberty that only exists where everyone thinks “correctly” about things and everyone can feel validated in the most superficial sense by everyone else.  These same people will often rebuke tyranny of the majority, but don’t seem to realize that tyranny of a minority isn’t any more desirable, or they simply define tyranny and liberty in more personally convenient terms.
A
True liberty, which includes the freedom of conscience, of expression, of association, and all of which are additionally encompassed within our freedom of religion, doesn’t cater to special interests.  This means that it’s sometimes unpopular, and yes, in some instances, downright hateful.  But to be clear, the latter is not what is happening among the overwhelming majority of 119 opponents.  As mentioned earlier, that accusation is wielded most often against Christians, and it is rooted in a deep and fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity…about what makes us Christians and what we are called to do…because you see, we are all sinners and we are all struggling with our own sins as defined by the word of the God that we worship.  That is why we need God’s grace.  That is why we are called to see sin for what it is, regardless of whether it’s rooted in our own heart or is recognized in someone else’s actions.  Shame on us, as Christians, if we have failed to fully communicate that.
A
As an example, I once saw a bumper-sticker meme that proclaimed our hypocrisy in that we protest gay marriage, yet we do not mount large protests against divorce…so this seeming hypocrisy implies that our actions must be targeted specifically at homosexuals, which must mean that we harbor a phobia or a hate for them because of their sexual identity.  What they’re failing to see in this instance is that while divorce has most certainly become a sadly common condition in our culture, even among Christians, divorced people aren’t demanding that we condone it or help them celebrate it.  Likewise, because our culture has become steeped in such a sad state doesn’t mean we should sit idly so it can steep even further by redefining a social and religious institution through government or judicial fiat.  Furthermore, many in the LGBT community adamantly insist that because they are “born this way” (like race or gender), sexual identity warrants the status of a protected class.  While I would honestly debate that point, it’s actually a moot one within the Christian faith, because Christians believe that we are ALL “born that way”…that we are all born slaves to thoughts, feelings and desires that God abhors.  Most of us might still struggle or revisit those even after we are born again, myself certainly included, and in that aspect, I actually sympathize with the homosexual community more than you know, even as I also know that you might hate me for considering it as a sin.  I’m very conscious of my own weaknesses and the fact that I have failed God on many occasions, but I won’t condone or seek approval for my own sins any more than I can offer it or seek it for someone else.  Like most people, I have many gay friends, both for and against this law (believe it not), and I would hope none of the former would suddenly assume that I must hate them or don’t wish well for them because I oppose this law.  But I digress.
A
The ultimate intention of 119, after all, is to achieve a fundamental shift in the cultural paradigm.  This is the HRC’s primary purpose for existing.  Proponents claim, of course, that this bill is not so far reaching, and that they have even added a “general” expemption clause for churches.  The problem here is that word “general”, again, whose scope is left up to the discretion of the appointed Civil Rights Administrator, as it often is in tyrannical laws.  More disturbingly, it suggests that the freedom of conscience can be restricted to one’s living quarters or the confines of a church building.  That’s a very restrictive, conditional freedom, which is not really freedom at all.  There’s no doubt in my mind that this law is intended to lay the groundwork for something much more sweeping.  This has already become clearly evident in cities that have enacted it, where there are numerous examples of religious leaders and people of faith being specifically targeted and penalized both civilly and criminally simply for honoring the dictates of their conscience.  I’m betting the people being targeted, like most of us, have no issue baking a birthday cake, doing a portrait setting or creating a floral arrangement for a member of the LGBT community, either personally or within their businesses.  If we did, that might imply actual hate or fear.  Most objections are specifically to ceremonial unions that violate their beliefs, and which demand that they participate in the celebration of something their faith deems sinful, which is a sin in itself.  They’re being punished for not thinking the right way, for failing to validate someone’s feelings, and apparently for violating someone’s right to a wedding cake baked by Christians.  Although, I guess if you hate us, that’s something you might find amusing.
A
In summary, this law seeks to sidestep the normal legal recourse that genuine civil violations already have at their disposal.  It seeks to make that recourse cheap and easy, despite the fact that in the current system, which is neither cheap nor easy, we already complain that litigation is too easy and reform is needed.  It achieves easily accessible recourse by putting it under the administration of a centralized unaccountable authority that is inherently intended to sympathize with the accuser, and which he/she most certainly will if they are to justify their existence.  Not only does this feed off of the growing victim mentality in our country that leftist policies thrive on, but in doing so, it creates a new protected class and shifts the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused.  I would even submit, without hesitation, that this goes so far as to indirectly create preferential hiring for the LGBT community for employers eager to avoid frivolous claims (for those that stay, anyway), and that the HRC knows full well that it does.  It’s incredibly ironic that the left, who claims to care about the equality of women in the workplace, would embrace a law that essentially encourages hiring a trans-gendered man over a female.  Every aspect of this is a blatant attempt to out-maneuver the most basic constitutional foundations that are considered vital to a free society.
A
Another irony in all this is that 119 is legalism, in the Biblical sense, at its finest, but by whatever manner the opposition seeks to punish us, it won’t divert a faithful Christian from the truth.  Today is the big vote in Fayetteville, the only city in the nation so far who has managed to get a repeal effort on the ballot, and whatever happens, one thing is certain.  It’s not over.  If Fayetteville’s “civil rights” act is defeated, proponents of such legislation are not going to walk away.  Most are in this fight for the long haul.  If the act isn’t defeated, if we lose this battle…it’s also not over.  We’re in it for the long haul, too.  In fact, our scripture warns us that this is coming.  That we will lose more battles than we win; that we will eventually be ostracized and hated; that we’ll be outcasts; that it will only get harder to stand firm.  Because of the nature of our country’s founding, we have gotten by pretty easy in America compared to Christians in most of the world, but we know that someday it will come to us, too.  We also know that we are being trained to stand firm every day that we live in our faith.  Being perceived as an ignorant class by those who are truly intolerant and narrow-minded will only galvanize that faith.
Posted in Uncategorized

Anti-Private Option Rhetoric. Same As It Ever Was.

I’ve desperately wanted to take the time to sit down and dissect the anti-PO testimony that has gone before the House over the last few days. Most of it still leaves me in awe.  One representative, for example, went on at length about how so-and-so state did this and so-and so state did that, and why didn’t we consider these alternatives.  She conveniently failed to mention that so-and-so state still has Medicaid expansion, as far as I could tell.  I admittedly zoned out quite a bit.  Likewise, it’s not impossible that some of these other suggestions could just as soon be proposed to work concurrently with the PO as with Medicaid Expansion.  (She should remember that when the legislative session comes around again next year.)  I have to presume she’d rather have the latter, Medicaid Expansion, as little sense as it makes.  She also failed to mention that other states are now looking at Arkansas, and asking themselves the same question…why don’t we consider that.

I admit, however, it’s been tough to make the time to really dive into all the individual testimonies, point-by-point, so I was grateful that Rep. Fite was kind enough to put hers in print for me, which brings me to the greater topic of the moment.  Quite frankly, it’s one of the most convoluted, contrived pieces of economic and philosophical logic I’ve seen to date. It’s a great windfall for me, though. So let’s start with key excerpts from Fite’s presentation:

“I’d like to say something about the most vulnerable citizens of our state. The elderly. Children. The disabled. Now, we all know that the private option doesn’t cover these groups. The private option covers able-bodied, working-aged adults. But the problem is that expanding Medicaid to those who can work is that it threatens the care and well-being of those who cannot. The Medicaid safety net—before we ever created the private option—was already a little ragged. Access to care is very limited; health outcomes for Medicaid clients are poor. Our private-option waver application stated that our network of Medicaid providers was already at capacity. This means that we are stretching a safety net under an additional 250,000 Arkansans who are—to repeat—able-bodied, working-aged adults.

In other words, the private option is forcing the most vulnerable members of society to compete with 250,000 new clients to pursue a shrinking pool of health care resources. That’s very abstract. Concretely, that means overstretched health care providers will have less and less time for each patient. The architects of the private option understood this. So they tried to solve this problem by putting expansion clients on exchanges. The exchanges pay providers better than traditional Medicaid does, so private-option clients will get better access to care than they would have if they were on traditional Medicaid. But I don’t think anybody ever thought this plan through. The way this will have to work is that medical providers are now going to have a strong incentive to give private-option clients more access and traditional Medicaid clients less access. That leaves traditional Medicaid clients out in the cold. This means that the private option will create even larger barriers to access for the truly needy. It will be even tougher for the elderly and the disabled to get the health care they need. The effect of the private option is to put able-bodied adults at the head of the line and push the neediest and most defenseless Arkansans to the back of the bus. I cannot support that.”

First, a little economics 101 is in order.  Yes, of course, one of the main goals of the PO is to get healthcare shifted out of the inevitability of a government managed bureaucracy (as designed by Obamacare) and into the private market. As lovers of capitalism, we recognize that healthy economies and markets are built on incentive and that this is what makes the private market efficient.  At least, we certainly should.  It’s the very essence of capitalism…Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is incentive-driven choices. Non-profit government-managed programs have NO INCENTIVE to be efficient or to provide quality service. This is, alternatively, the very essence of a bureaucracy. In fact, they operate in the exact opposite manner…bureaucracies encourage inefficiency. It’s precisely why they always get bigger. We are trying to steal as much of that opportunity away from Obamacare as we can. What’s more, the bigger the bureaucracy’s piece of pie is, the more profound it’s effect will be on the rest of the market, including those of us who don’t have subsidies.

Yet, here’s an example of the “rationality” of those who oppose it, taken from the above quote: “The exchanges PAY PROVIDERS BETTER than traditional Medicaid does, so private-option clients will get BETTER ACCESS to care than they would have if they were on traditional Medicaid.” To paraphrase Rep. Fite, the private option will clearly be more efficient, and apparently, we don’t actually want healthcare to be efficient. Better yet, it seems that if folks on Medicaid must have a more inefficient healthcare system, then everyone must have inefficient healthcare. Essentially, she doesn’t want the private option because she knows it’s better then Medicaid.  Go figure???  You’d think, if anything, she’d be calling for EVERYONE to be shifted to options on the private market, NOT for everyone to be railroaded into the Medicaid bureaucracy. And I can tell you that many of us conservatives who actually believe in what capitalism can accomplish are hoping for the former…that the private option is the seed that will spell the eventual end of Medicaid; that all access to quality care will be through the private market, including healthcare for the elderly.

Oh, it gets better. I thought it was common knowledge among most conservatives that the Medicaid pool of healthcare providers has been shrinking for a long time now, precisely because of its OWN inefficiency, not because of the competing efficiency of the private market. The private market simply fuels the incentive for providers to offer services. It’s not the private market’s fault that Medicaid doesn’t offer that incentive. Whether or not there is a private market at all, Medicaid will lack incentive and will shrink the availability of services to its patients. It’s the inherent nature of Medicaid that’s the problem, not the alternative to Medicaid.

Better still, Fite laments those who obtain coverage through the private option (as discussed above) as if the vast majority of these people aren’t simply going to be added to the Medicaid rolls…but that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Yet, somehow, she believes that piling another 100,000 into an inefficient Medicaid system that already struggles to provide access isn’t going to make the access problem worse??? Are you kidding me? She also laments for the children, yet fails to acknowledge that the children are being shifted to the private option, which she has already admitted is more efficient.

Last, but not least (and to beat the dead horse about access to care) she complains that poor able-bodied people will reduce access. This should really go without saying, but the able-bodied don’t actually need much access. They just need the insurance for when they aren’t able-bodied. Having them in the insurance pool is what drives costs down for everyone, for crying out loud, including the elderly on Medicaid.  This is actually a process that will contribute to expanded access for everyone.

I’m not surprised by any of this. This is, after all, from the same Representative who spoke at one of our townhalls in Springdale last year, and very clearly stated that she chose to vote against the Private Option after talking to a woman about her mammograms:  After talking to this woman, she just knew that the private market couldn’t be trusted to handle our healthcare needs the way Medicaid could (apparently, it was at least clear to her back then that without the PO, everyone was going to get shoved into Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion).  After she said that, inexplicably, a bunch of Tea Party folks and AFP representatives actually clapped and cheered. I guess ignorance really is bliss and wonders will never cease.  To be fair, she has since denied that she ever said that, but her own printed words expose that very sentiment–that Medicaid Expansion is preferable to any growth in the private market.

It should be known that this blog is a spin-off from a facebook discussion.  Fite quickly responded both publicly and privately.  I’ve been charged as personally attacking her.  Make no mistake, I’m attacking her assumptions only, which were seriously flawed, although I know many will refuse to view it that way.  After all, that’s how a genuinely thoughtful political process is supposed to work, or there’s simply no point to my being here.  Golly, there’d be no point to any of us being here.  I mean no disrespect.  I guess I’m just a cold-hearted analyst.   It’s a lot like debating with a liberal.  Some folks would probably like me to just take my ball and go home.   They sure can dish it out, though, can’t they.

Posted in Uncategorized

Shadowboxing Part 2: Medicaid Myths & Legends

I hate Twitter.

I’ve finally been dragged, kicking and screaming, to this forsaken Twitterverse because of politics.  I love politics.  Therefore, I tweet.  Yet, it’s the very essence of the shallow introspection that plagues our culture…everything boiled down to a slogan or a bumper sticker to suit your particular moment or marketing campaign.  Unfortunately, it’s also representative of political discourse.  Rational open-minded discussion is becoming a thing of the past.  Regardless of party affiliation, many seek only to validate their fears or justify their inherent prejudices, which none of us believes we have, of course.

Cynical?  Perhaps it’s just been a damning week.  Arkansas is embroiled in a healthcare debate.  Obamacare is coming.  What to do?  It seems you can’t simply disagree, anymore, or even be open to discussion.  If you’re on the “wrong side” according to someone’s singular proclamation, you must be a turncoat who has given himself over to the powers that be.  It has been the equivalent of an “Occupy” assault online, but what else do you do when details don’t really match reality, especially when budding non-profits are looking to gain attention on a hot-button issue.  Good conservative legislators have been characterized as “lap kittens of the left”.  Even the former chairman of the Washington County Tea Party has been pegged as an establishment tool.  Anyone pushing to have an honest discussion is generally insulted by self-proclaimed experts, or accused of being lobbied.  This is especially hilarious, because the only big money lobby I’ve seen from a citizen’s standpoint is AFP, who is against the private option, even though rejection will force the state into Obamacare’s single-payer, government-managed expansion of the broken Medicaid system…which is what their video actually claims to oppose.  Go figure.  What of the other lobbies?  I hear the hospital lobby is seeking to be compensated for its services, and the private option makes that happen.  Imagine that.  Once upon a time, people who believed in liberty and capitalism believed that being forced to provide services without being compensated was akin to slavery, but what do I know.

Getting back to Twitter, however, I tweeted something that I’m very confident of:  the private option utilizes free-market principles even more than the current private employer-provided insurance, not to mention Medicaid Expansion.  This is precisely what distinguishes the private option from the latter.  Many among the opposition have trumpeted the “Private Option = Medicaid Expansion” slogan, and in at least one case, the resulting argument against it sounded like a canned Obamacare speech with little exploration of those elements that make it so different.  One of the regular soundbite dispensers only retorted with a “LOL” and then ironically demanded details from me.  As if a complex policy discussion or a foray into economic theory is practical in exchanges of 140 characters or less—then I was blocked on Facebook, the one place where such a discussion might actually be possible, if not inconvenient.  The truth is that finding my statement laughable betrays a fundamental lack of understanding for the problems underlying the healthcare industry, which, as I asserted before, was a debacle even before Obamacare.   It turns out one long-winded blog wasn’t enough, so let’s elaborate.

First, let’s define a free market in simple terms.  I’m sure it seems patronizing to some, but it’s a necessary starting point, and regardless, my intent is to present an argument in terms that even someone unfamiliar with basic economics would still appreciate:

In a free market, people can offer an array of services or products that other people can freely choose from, typically in exchange for money.  In addition, the participants must be mentally capable of making sound decisions, which also necessarily requires complete and honest access to details prior to the exchange.  Also, they must ultimately be free to walk away from the deal without undue loss.  We freedom-loving capitalists believe that economies which operate under such principles produce the best results.

With that in hand, deconstruction can commence…

Myth 1: Private equals Free Market.

It’s amazing that this isn’t more obvious.  There are numerous examples, monopolies and price-fixing to name a couple, but even a thief operates as a private entity.  Employer-provided group insurance plans are less obvious…I guess?  First, they tell you that if you purchase their health-insurance, they will pay a “share” of the expense (wink-wink).  But if you can’t afford it, or you’d rather shop around, they get to keep the “share” they were supposedly so generous with before.  It’s just extortion…and nobody wants to lose that money.  Monopolies are incentivized.  Individual plans purchased on an open market would otherwise be just as financially accessible, but that would be inconvenient for the group plan provider, wouldn’t it?  Then they tell you who your provider will be and how much you will pay.  In Arkansas, it will likely be Blue Cross-Blue Shield, which had a 75% market share in 2009.  It has only grown since then.  They’ll subsequently tell you which doctors you may see and which medications they will cover.  If you leave your job for any reason, you don’t get to take your plan with you.  If you should get very ill or injured before losing your job, you may be facing an even bigger problem.  Granted, in another time, the bulk negotiation power provided some benefit, but they have unionized themselves right out of efficiency.

Ironically, even as people mistakenly equate “private” with “free”, we speak of private exchanges as if it’s a dirty word just because Obama said it.  An exchange is a market, and the products on the market are privately-managed.  They happen to sell individual health plans that will even be available to those who pay their own tab.  If what I described previously is what passes for free market by comparison, we have all been well conditioned.  Employer provided health insurance should rightly suffer and die under the pressures of competition from private exchanges.  Once upon a time, free-market advocates actually believed in competition.

Myth 2: Healthcare is inherently compatible with free market principles.

It’s the rare, if not singular instance of such a case.  This wasn’t an easy concession for me to come around to, either–but it lingers because it’s unavoidable.  Take a moment to imagine yourself in an emergency situation.  There’s no shopping around for a hospital or a doctor, and most of us aren’t even in a position to gauge quality.  The necessary services can’t be anticipated in advance, nor can prices be assessed until after they’re delivered.  None of the criteria is met.  Furthermore, with auto insurance, a reckless driver will pay a great deal more for coverage because the risk is much higher, and therefore the plan is more valuable.  But with group health plans, an overeater or a heavy drinker will pay the same rate as someone who makes healthy choices—there’s no immediate financial incentive to be healthy.  Some try to offer the market success of cosmetic surgery as an example of how efficient and cost-effective standard healthcare could be—lots of choices, lowering prices, and innovation.  (I’ve done it myself, actually.)  On the contrary, it provides a stark contrast in light of the definition we started with.  The parameters of an unnecessary elective procedure just aren’t an appropriate comparison for the demands of an unplanned emergency or illness.

The clear difference between the two is the vastly greater element of risk and uncertainty, which is why insurance doesn’t come into play in cosmetic surgery.  However, free markets have still responded effectively, even to that quagmire, because that’s exactly why insurance companies came about.  Everyone pays into a pool to share the risk.  This actually makes auto insurance a very effective comparison.  With auto-insurance, if you haven’t been paying into the pot, you can’t walk into a provider’s office the day after an accident and expect it to be covered.  This is also why pre-existing conditions aren’t typically covered unless required by the law.  Allowing people to wait until they get sick to obtain coverage defeats the entire point of the insurance industry, an industry which must turn a profit to survive, like any other business.

Myth 3: Private Markets exclude Universal Coverage or Individual Mandates.

How do I break this next part?  Brace yourselves, because we already have universal coverage and individual mandates.  First you must realize that an individual mandate is a form of universal coverage.  It’s actually the private market form, but it’s not the only form.  (The other form of universal coverage is single-payer.)  For example, all individuals who drive are required by law to purchase liability insurance.  Despite that, all the providers are still private.  Many decades later, there’s still no single-payer, government-managed auto insurance office.  “Oh, that’s completely different”, you say?  Well, you’d be wrong.  You’re not required to buy that insurance for your own benefit, although you certainly benefit if you should need to use it.  They’re already required to service you.  You’re required to buy it for the sake of those you might become indebted to as a result of your own misfortune or negligence–for the privilege of cruising around in a lethal weapon.  If you don’t, you could be subject to fines or jail time.  You could insist that this is an infringement upon your liberty in an un-free market, but the person who wants to be compensated for their losses or injuries could rightfully make the same claim.  As we always say, your liberty ends where mine begins.

Health insurance is no different.  You also benefit if you should happen to need it, but it’s there to make sure that healthcare providers are compensated for the time, skills, labor and equipment which they are legally bound to provide for you.  Unless, of course, you think they should be enslaved on a moment’s notice, but what a silly thought for a conservative to have.  Many have equated this as a tax for living.  No–It’s a tax for having access to medical professionals who are ordered by government mandate to treat you.  It would be more accurate to call it a tax for the opportunity to keep living.

Of course, you don’t have to drive.  You could walk, take a bus, or hitch a ride, and then you wouldn’t need liability insurance.  Since we all can’t, however, become invincible (at least not in this life), the only other option at hand for those who either choose not to purchase insurance or who simply can’t afford it is to deny treatment.  This is the only way to rationally honor the principles of freedom and the free market for 10% of the U.S. population that works in the healthcare industry.  Otherwise, you must concede to let people bear the worst consequences of a bad gamble.  To let them die in ER’s.  To let them become disfigured.  To let them suffer long-painful illnesses until their bodies relinquish.  Reality is a fixed thing.  It’s not bendable to suit your narratives. Healthcare is not like a box of Cheerios or a new pair of Nikes.  We can’t address it as such and then act surprised when liberals call us heartless.

When you’ve figured out some miraculously simple answer to the problematic ultimatums that I just posed, I’ll be eager to hear about it.  In the meantime, there’s no opportunity to debate whether such financial arrangements for the poor should be made via the fed, the state, or even returned to charity.  It’s already coming down the pipeline.  It’s being deducted from everyone’s checks, rich and poor alike, as we speak–and regardless of how or who skims the money, it all spends the same.  We piddled around on reform, and Obamacare was the result.  There is an individual mandate, and for those who can’t afford it, the financing will come from the taxpayer.  But, as if I can’t say this enough times in such a multitude of ways, we’ve been paying it since at least 1986–we were just oblivious.  How is that?  Well, we believe in free markets, and we know that in free markets the payers will always cover the non-payers–i.e., when service providers incur any type of expense, like uncompensated services, they will pass that expense on in the form of higher prices…which we’ve been complaining about in healthcare for quite some time now.  Those darn theories just keep popping up.

Fortunately, we have a solid opportunity to use those same theories to make the entire healthcare market run with the same kind of freedom and efficiency that is only possible under decentralization, regardless of how the bill gets paid.

Obamacare’s original intent was a centralized single-payer, government managed-system in which everyone in healthcare essentially works for the fed, all payments come from the fed, and all healthcare decisions originate with the Fed.  Such a system wouldn’t even need an individual mandate.  But even his own people wouldn’t dare push that through, so the groundwork was laid for Medicaid expansion, with the private exchanges thrown in.  Under this plan, the poorest (0-17% FPL) are covered by centralized Medicaid and the less poor (100-138% FPL) are covered by the decentralized private exchanges.  You might have noticed a big doughnut hole in the middle (18-99% FPL) where there is no assistance.  That wasn’t likely an accident.  (Correction:  the doughnut hole was created by the SCOTUS decision.  The fact that AR was willing to resolve this is largely why the Fed and Ark Dems were open to the private option.)   These people are rightfully going to become angry about the fact that people making more than they do have access to services they don’t—that’s what happens when there’s an unequal application of the law.  It will only exacerbate the brokenness that bureaucracies use to seize power, and in this case, they will surely grasp more firmly at single-payer.

Or…we could steal an opportunity to accomplish exactly the opposite by actually contracting Medicaid back down to the people it was always intended for, while sealing up the doughnut hole.  We can make sure insurance plans come from a multitude of private for-profit providers who compete against each other for the business of every Arkansan (including the payers), and who are naturally inclined to be more efficient and fight fraud.  We can make sure that people have choices.  We can make sure they aren’t stripped of coverage simply for changing jobs.  We can make sure there is cost-sharing to discourage overuse.  We can provide for greater use of healthcare spending accounts.  We can make sure they pay a portion of their own benefits on a sliding-scale that will encourage them to improve their lot and get off of assistance, gradually shrinking the number of people utilizing it right along with the taxpayer demand.  We can put proper market incentives in place.  Of course, all this would mean that we must also push hard to liberate the rest of the market from leftist policies, but that also will never happen if we keep putting all our eggs into the healthcare basket.

All of this is the basis of the private option, and it will effectively sidestep Obamacare right now, as well as any plans to shore up single payer in the future…IF you believe in free market principles.  Equating the two options for the sake of brevity is the kind of pure rubbish that makes even a self-educated hillbilly like me cock my head.

And it doesn’t matter if Sebelius hasn’t read the bill.  If she approves our requests, exactly as we submit them, great.  If she doesn’t, the bill is void and we revert to the status quo.  If she does, and it doesn’t happen to go well, then again, we revert to the status quo.  If we do it for 3 years and prove that it’s fruitful, then we should certainly have another go with the fed and hope other states follow suit, which would dramatically change the face of healthcare in the US. If your logic is that we shouldn’t aim high because we can’t guarantee the results, I have to wonder how you get anything done.  Free markets are successful because people behave courageously and are willing to take calculated risks, not because they’d rather cling to the security of a guaranteed government failure.  Oh.  The.  Irony.

There’s been a lot of debate over whose numbers are correct or whose expert is wiser.  But at the end of the day, when you consider the theories, this bill is a bold, brave move based on the theories that conservatives hold dear.  Indeed, the crafters of the bill believe the private option can be pursued with barely an increase compared to the cost of doing nothing, precisely because of the market principles at work, positively or negatively, in both options.  This is why it has the potential to be groundbreaking.  I think it’s better than nullification, and if I were to assert my state’s rights, I would assert it in favor of this bill.  It’s infinitely better than Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion.  I happen to think it may even prove better than anything we’ve had in the last 25 years.

Yet, some prominent conservatives are against it.  I can only speculate why.  I do know that our legislators’ ingenuity severely interferes with the establishment GOP narrative on the national level, but only because they’re horrible salesmen.  Just ask Mitt Romney.  They are so inept at their own ability to communicate the truth of this is bill, some are proposing that it will usher Democrat Mark Pryor into another term, and indeed I suspect they’ve been working hard to poison the well.

I’ve even heard of a few who actually believe the private option is the better choice, but they also believe the country is just too far gone, and that we need to send it right over the cliff–as if anarchy has ever led to anything but tyranny.  So why are you wasting your time as conservative activists when you could just start voting like liberals.  It’s a whole lot easier.

There are a lot of people passing judgment on this bill over emotional attachments to rhetoric and platitudes.  I might shed a tear myself, but only because I know the Healthcare Independence Act transcends all that.  Likewise, healthy suspicion is a good thing, but knee-jerk paranoia is just destructive to any political process.  And if the private option can be construed as a compromise on any intellectual level, then at the very least, it is a compromise in our direction.

It’s entirely possible that speaking out so favorably for the private option has ruined my conservative “street cred”, at least among some, considering the unwarranted speculative bashings many are taking for it.  So be it.  I’d rather be on the right side and lose.  Maybe I’ll finally get some sleep.

…and I’ll take great pleasure in deactivating my Twitter account.

Posted in politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Shadowboxing with Obamacare.

Time for Conservatives to turn on the lights.

2014 is fast approaching.  Time keeps ticking away as we are all faced with the conundrum of addressing Obamacare on the state level, and at each passing day the inflammatory rhetoric seems to reach new heights.   In my little corner of the country, the discussion has hinged on a common and rather unfortunate conservative narrative that rails against some vague perception of “expansion”.  Frankly, it’s a false narrative, and it’s surprising to realize how deeply attached my counterparts are to it.  Worse yet, it paralyzes genuine progress from a conservative standpoint.  It’s a narrative that is damned determined to neglect the fact that this country had huge healthcare issues long before the Patient Protection Act was instituted.  So here’s the skinny…American healthcare was a socialist-inspired, anti-market industry, centrally-managed, regulated and funded, BEFORE Obamacare.

Gasp?  Indeed.  After you catch your breath, have a gander at the data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (cms.gov), which only begins to elaborate the point I hope to make.  It’s somewhat deceptive until reviewing the second pie, which shows the breakdown of public and private insurance plans within the bigger pie.  When the assorted public wedges are all added together, roughly 50% of all national healthcare expenses are funneled through government agencies that are funded by taxpayer dollars.

The other 50% is not a pretty picture, either.  About 20% of privately-funded services provided by hospitals, specifically, go uncompensated.  This is largely a result of a federal regulation called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) of 1986.  Under this act, the vast majority of ER’s can’t refuse emergency services based on ability to pay for anyone whatsoever.  When you consider the ramifications of potential malpractice lawsuits in light of this law, or the risk of much greater uncompensated expenses if the patient can be treated relatively cheaply before an illness becomes an emergency, the scope of the law necessarily broadens.  The bureaucratic waters are further muddied by expansions of the law since 1986, not to mention the expenses that would be incurred in attempting to determine an uninsured patient’s ability to pay, even in a clear non-emergency situation, considering that charges can’t be assessed until after services have been rendered.  The ultimate result is that ER’s have become over-burdened.  The poor and uninsured often use these hospitals as their primary care providers for all sorts of ailments and injuries.  Many of these hospitals now hire full-time staff to network their waiting rooms for potential Medicare/Medicaid recipients in hopes of recovering a greater portion of treatment expenses.  Of course, this exploration hasn’t yet touched the moral consideration of refusing emergency treatment to those in need.  We’ll get to that in a moment.

What remains is the “payers”, and the payers are corralled into a private insurance market that’s not only skewed by federal and state regulations, but nearly divorced from the forces that drive an efficient free market, among them competition, individual choice, consumer incentive, and price.  Fueled primarily by employer group plans, the market has catered to a few large insurance providers.  In turn, employer-provided plans have generally tended to cater to people that make bad health choices, charging them the same premiums as people who don’t.  All the while, providers and employers deny all employees the opportunity to accept compensation in lieu of insurance that could be applied toward individual plans, lest competition gain a stronghold.  There are 3 entities involved in group plan contracts–the supply (insurance providers), the middleman (employers), and the demand (employees), yet the current structure doesn’t even permit the employees, those who are actually paying for the services, at the negotiation table.  (Not unlike public sector union negotiations.)  Prices are driven by the fog of this disconnect in combination with what amounts to government price-fixing under Medicare/Medicaid.

I must take a moment to reiterate here that employers DO NOT “share” your healthcare expenses.  Milton Friedman argued the same point regarding social security taxes which employers and employees supposedly share.  Any expense that an employer incurs as a result of hiring someone is a direct reduction of what that employee could have otherwise been paid in wages.  Employer insurance is an expense that’s bundled in your compensation package, and employers go to great pains to portray it as such.  Yet if employees can’t afford to buy into an insurance group plan for their part, or simply choose not to, they’re not compensated for that portion their company would have paid out.  The narrative suddenly flips, and employers are perceived as offering a service strictly out of generosity and concern for their employees’ health.  As such, if you should have to decline it, they certainly should keep their “share”.  It’s a racket that benefits the employer and the insurance provider to the detriment of the healthcare market.  Don’t forget, too, as part of your compensation package, there is less incentive for an employer to compete for your labor in a high unemployment market, and hence, to broker a good healthcare package for you.  God forbid you might be diagnosed with some long-term illness.  In an instant, your “preexisting condition” may leave one feeling very limited in their employment options.  Where’s the freedom in that?

Of course, all of these disconnected and centralized planning efforts have created problems.  The central planners themselves sought to capitalize on it, pushing for even greater centralization via Obamacare.  But don’t kid yourselves.  Expansion has been long established.  Socialization was already in place.  So the bigger point is this…simply rejecting Obamacare is not the grand victory you’re clinging to.  Furthermore, if this is the route you lobby for, you may be missing a far greater opportunity.

Thanks to Supreme Court Justice Roberts, the states can breathe fresh life into the healthcare debate.  That’s right…thanks to Judge Roberts.  This is the part where I confess that I was among those very few conservatives who, after the initial shock, decided his decision was pure brilliance…inspired, actually, even as it placed me at odds with favorite commentators and close friends.  Then again, I was also concerned, before its passage, when conservatives were howling at Obamacare, especially the mandate, as being both a “tax” that was “unconstitutional”.  In my head, I thought “Shhhhh…congress has the power to tax.”  Then the same conservatives who would rightfully dismiss flawed precedents, like Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade, were desperately clinging to it regarding taxation when the Obamacare decision was delivered.

Unfortunately, narratives are not always accurate and reality is certainly less convenient.  Congress has the power to tax, and the check on this power is the American electorate.  The framers knew this and lamented the day when our citizenry might not be so wise, turning to pursue that dangling carrot as so many civilizations before them have.  To say that we have taxation without representation is almost laughable.  The truth is much harder to swallow…as a nation, a voting majority did not honor our American values and failed our country at the voting booth.  It is still up to us to fix it, and Judge Roberts delivered a wild card.  He reigned in the commerce clause and handed the states a huge bargaining chip in the process:  We can’t be financially penalized for declining this administration’s modus operandi, Medicaid expansion.  We have leverage.  So what are we going to do with it?

As noted earlier, many argue that we should simply nullify Obamacare.  It’s also not uncommon that these tend to be the same people that balk at the GOP rally cry to “Repeal and Replace”, operating on the false grounds that the healthcare market functions fine and free as is.  On the contrary, merely rejecting it not only fails to resolve the pre-existing condition (pardon the pun), it actually tends to put responsibility for the entire predicament right back in the feds lap, again.  It kicks the can down the road.  The states have a grand opportunity right now to grab the helm of the healthcare Titanic and do more than just dodge the immediate iceberg.  They can begin the arduous task of steering us out of this choppy water, and I would hate to see any of them squander it over shortsighted political rhetoric.

The only other route that many conservatives may immediately call for is even more purist and idealistic.  I, too, personally advocate for a system with minimal government intervention, management, or funding.  I believe it would provide the most modern, most efficient and affordable services to the greatest number of people, more so than socialized care.  But to demand it in some sweeping short-term move is also absurdly unrealistic.  For one, if you believe in the inherent success of free market principles, it’s just insanely naive to expect that we can start with the kinds of healthcare reforms that would actually deny services to people who can’t afford it while the rest of the economy is still ailing under the burden of leftist policies.  We contributed to this problem in that while economic freedom across the board was being eroded over decades, we have somehow managed to draw our line in the sand at a point where real people and their families are dealing with matters of life or death, even if that’s also precisely why we take it so seriously.  It’s just a sad consequence of our complacence as a nation in failing to steward freedom in the rest of the economy.  Healthcare has become our albatross.

Yet, conservatives generally fail to even notice the weight of that dead bird hanging around their neck.  A little perspective is long overdue.  The Heritage foundation recently released their “Index of Economic Freedom” for 2013.  It’s surely disappointing, but the U.S. does not fall into the coveted category labeled “Free”.  We rank #10 in the world, falling into the “Mostly Free” category along with most of our “Eurotrash” socialist friends across the pond.  If even Canada, with their blatant socialist single-payer system, ranks higher than us in overall economic freedom, how can we continue to cling to the notion that our healthcare at least, must be vastly superior to theirs.  Hong Kong is actually #1, and as such, individual liberty is also correspondingly high.  What conservatives might find shocking is that in spite of this ranking, Hong Kong has a fully-nationalized healthcare system.  Singapore (#2) and Switzerland (#5) are also considered “free”, yet both have universal coverage that provides healthcare subsidies for the poor regardless of age, and  both include an individual mandate.  Their healthcare systems also happen to be the most market-oriented, and as a result, are considered to be among the best in the world, not just as far as cost is concerned, but in services as well.  I’m not necessarily suggesting that we jump to model ourselves after these countries.  But I am saying, without a doubt, that these countries prove that universal coverage is not, in itself, the singular death knell to quality, affordable healthcare or individual liberty that many conservatives have declared it to be.

And to repeat myself, yet, again…if attempting to pursue a more market-based option can honestly be equated as “de facto Medicaid expansion” based solely on the presence of universal coverage, as many conservatives critics have claimed regardless of the means or methods, then WE ALREADY HAVE de facto Medicaid expansion.  It also happens to be among the most expensive in the world, 2nd only to the Netherlands.  Conservatives need to quit speaking in such shallow platitudes.  Not to mention, some liberal bullhorns eat it up, partly because they’re snots, but mostly because they’ll jump at any opportunity to steal this feather for their hat, especially if some form of this private option plan passes and proves successful.  That’s what masterful manipulators do.  Our failure to speak in terms of reality only hands it to them on a silver platter.

We should certainly do everything feasible to inject market forces back into healthcare, but we must make it an a much bigger priority to shift the rest of the economy toward free market ingenuity if we truly hope to address individual financial access and nurture genuine healthcare freedom…especially if we are going to ponder a policy that would actually require that people be turned away from the services they need when they can’t pay, even in light of the successes of other nations who have declined such an approach.  Furthermore, I would contend that any conservative who isn’t personally prepared to stand in an ER or doctor’s office and decline treatment to anyone in need is much softer on this specific issue than their speech would convey.  We are not cruel.  We simply object to necessities, such as our health and our liberty, being corrupted by bureaucracies.  Too many conservatives want to address that concern with a chainsaw, when a scalpel would be far more effective.

Here in Arkansas, we are blessed to have a handful of conservative legislators who have taken up the burden of the scalpel.  I don’t envy them.  The intricacies of the law, the number-crunching, the forecasting, and the theories behind it all are an incredible undertaking.  When I began writing this, I intended on a much briefer piece, but the information, the commentary, and the uncertainty are utterly overwhelming, and it shifts like sand beneath your feet on a daily basis.  One moment, they’re being criticized by one conservative Arkansas blogger for not acting right away, and two months later they’re accused of rushing.  Conservatives have railed against Medicaid expansion, which is cheaper because of reduced quality and government price-fixing, only to turn around and reject the private option because it’s forecast to be more expensive, at least initially.  (FYI,  there are 2 estimates.  Arkansas’ DHS released more encouraging numbers than the CBO.)  You can’t have it both ways, for cryin’ out loud.  Do you want to clear the hurdles for a market-driven system, or not?  If none of the above is an acceptable resolution in the right direction, what magic rabbit are you prepared to pull out of your hat in its stead?  Or what suggestions and concerns can be offered for the plan that’s on the table without resorting to demagoguery or conspiracies?

The hallmark of successful conservative economics, as described by one of our favorites, Henry Hazlitt, is the act of consciously choosing long-term gain over the short-term.   Yet, the reaction for such thoughtful deliberate consideration in this instance is often angry constituents and undeserved labels.  Thankfully, these legislators’ motivations seem to be rooted much higher, as it should be for any representative who seeks simply to do the right thing, irrelevant of the multitude of pressures that might prompt others to hold a wet finger in the wind.  I don’t have a simple answer and I’m certainly no expert, although others may allow you to presume either, or both.  Indeed, I’m only confident that there is no simple answer…                                                                                                                            …and that conservatives should quit dancing in the dark.

Posted in politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ron Paul: Aligned with The Founders on Foreign Affairs?

Article 1, Section 8 states, Congress shall have power…“To declare war”.  Yes, it really is that simple.  It doesn’t detail a specific format or an official form of legislation required in order for Congress to authorize military action against another nation.  It only states, rather simply, that Congress must approve it.  Nowhere does it say that large scrolls with the words “DECLARATION OF WAR” emboldened across the front must be nailed to all the trees in Nottingham.  Attempts to inject this requirement into this brief phrase’s meaning were denied by the US Court of Appeals in Doe vs. Bush.  Ron Paul fabricates the expectation out of thin air.  He waves his magic wand and….*poof*.  “Unconstitutional.”

In fact, James Madison confirms this in his own accounts, though rather inadvertently, when he reports that in the Federal Convention of 1787, the phrase “make war” was changed to “declare war”, but specifically to reserve the word ‘make’ for a lesser war power granted to the president in order that he may repel sudden attacks, yet not have the power to launch a full-scale, long-term conflict without congressional approval…NOT to require that Congress is specifically restricted to using the word ‘declare’ in approving such conflicts.  (I have to admit, I’m finding it humorous that I actually have to expound on that.)

Nonetheless, Congress and the President have viewed it as fitting to adopt the political posturing of a “formal” declaration on 5 occasions in our entire history:  War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

There have been 12 instances in which Congress and the President did not see the need to institute formal political posturing, and simply authorized military engagement.  Ron Paul seems to assume that none of them could’ve possibly been undertaken by our Founders.  (Or better yet, that none of them took place until after the Federal Reserve was instituted.)  I need share only the first 4:

Quasi-War against France, 1798….John Adams (founder?)

First Barbary War against Tripoli, 1802…Thomas Jefferson (yet another?)

Second Barbary War against Algiers, 1815…James Madison (my favorite founder!)

“Act in addition to the acts prohibiting the Slave Trade” against slave traders in African waters, 1819…James Monroe (misguided slave interventionist?)

AND the last 2:

Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 2001…George W Bush

Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn in Iraq, 2003…George W Bush, Barack Obama

It should also be noted that these were not simple issues for our Founders, as Ron Paul boldly proclaims.  Even during our first Presidency, Washington was confronted with a rather awkward diplomatic situation when France and Great Britain embarked on an extended war in 1793.  To make matters worse, American Federalists and Anti-Federalists (Yep, Founders.) hotly contested which side to support.  But Washington saw the wisdom of remaining neutral in this particular situation and craftily navigated both sides for the sake of peace abroad and at home—and it’s his words in relation to this specific instance that Paul regularly plucks out of historical context and attempts to apply sweepingly across all of our country’s foreign affairs.

Let’s debate justification; debate short-term and long-term goals; debate moral responsibilities; debate war deficits versus current investments.  Please, de-cape the crusader Ron Paul.  And pretty please, with sugar on top, quit running into crowded theaters yelling “Unconstitutional!”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Congress & Taxes & Debt, Oh my. A fresh perspective on an old injustice…

Most Americans don’t have a proper perspective on taxes.  I’ll start with the basics, so bear with me for a moment.

Taxes are a fee leveraged by the government on any financial transaction or exchange of their choosing to the extent of their choosing.  I would wager that it’s now on every imaginable transaction in America.  Moreover, any tax is essentially an act of punishment upon the party participating in a financial transaction (and it’s usually both), since each party must also consider the involuntary loss it will take.  It’s a form of negative reinforcement that has the effect of restricting the freedom of these exchanges.  The only ones who escape it are those participating in undocumented transactions.  Neighbors shopping each other’s yard sales are one example–unless you happen to live in a town like mine, which wants to make sure it retrieves its perceived reward for every instance it allows you to partake in a financial negotiation, now requiring the purchase of a license in order to have a simple yard sale.  *sigh*  Undocumented workers are another example, often having an advantage not equally afforded to the documented citizens of the same country, but I digress.

Now, many readily jump on the bandwagon which proclaims that the rich should bear the greatest burden of taxes.  I’ve heard many justifications for this, all shortsighted, shallow, and typically relying on the politics of envy–they all fail to recognize the bigger picture.  The only way a “rich” man can address his money in a manner that doesn’t enrich the economy as a whole is by hoarding it under his mattress.  If he puts it into savings, it’s money to loan to others to start businesses or buy homes.  If he spends lavishly, many are employed in providing the things he purchases.  If he invests it, in his own business or someone else’s, he advances the stability, security, and growth of a company that employs others.  Most of his transactions ultimately move toward smaller private negotiations between people who aren’t classified as rich, and we all partake in these negotiations with the incentive to be as efficient as possible, a factor sorely lacking when the same funds are instead utilized by government agents.  These private transactions are how the middle class expands and the standard of living skyrockets for everyone.  (Not to mention, how the overall tax base grows.) 

To elaborate this point, Progressives regularly squawk the catch phrases of class warfare, raging about the gap between the rich and the middle class or poor, but they refuse to acknowledge four key things when tossing about this singular statistic.  To start, even within the existence of this gap, the middle class or poor actually maintain a higher standard of living than when the gap is smaller, because the economy is strong overall.  This means progressives would rather maintain an illusion of something closer to “equality”, at least by their one isolated tangible measure, by reducing a gap–even if it means the “non-rich” will suffer greatest for it.  In other words, the kind of economy that makes people uber-rich, makes the rest of us more successful and comfortable—the rich aren’t raised up on our backs; we are raised up together.  They also won’t admit that people constantly bounce back and forth between these classes, but with a steady long-term trend upward for most individuals–IF they are allowed to operate within a robust free enterprise system.  As redistributive taxation plays a greater role, the poorer tend to become entrenched in poverty, and economic classes tend to become more fixed.  They are getting paid to be poor, after all, not to work.  Then there are those of the “rich” who are represented by moderately wealthy businessmen, whose assets are not necessarily liquid, but tied up in businesses that employ others—do we really want them to liquidize those assets to turn them over to the fed?  Finally, they fail to recognize that when the rich are taxed, whether individuals or entities, those fees are unavoidably passed on to everyone else, too.  Easy as it is to let us presume otherwise, whatever the rich suffer at the hands of taxation cannot be isolated from the rest of us.

More pointedly, when most think about taxes, they think about it within the context of one exchange.  In reality, however, every individual dollar is heavily and repeatedly taxed and re-taxed within an endless cycle of taxation.  If one picks payroll as an imaginary starting point for a dollar, then the initial tax is in the form of income.  It’s then taxed again as we use it to purchase goods or services.  Then it’s taxed, yet again, as profit to the business that sold the goods, and the whole cycle starts over again.  We also can’t forget “property” taxes, in which the same dollar used to purchase property is taxed over and over again without it ever exchanging hands–quite frankly, a justification to continue taxing large quantities of the same dollars, even when there is no transaction, even beyond the point where the home has been paid in full.  Then there’s the “death” tax (yes, a penalty for dying) in which the government arbitrarily lays claim to half of everything one manages to accumulate despite everything it’s already confiscated up to that point.

So, what we have here is a dollar, for which the value isn’t diminished just once, as tangibly visible on our paystubs, sales receipts, or earnings reports, but multiple times over.  This is but one side of the inflation coin.  Inflation takes place because, as our dollars accumulatively lose their value over time, it takes more of them to purchase something and goods become more expensive.  And it’s not just because our purchasing power is steadily reduced through the mere absence of that money, but because the reduction takes place at the hands of a government which additionally squanders it’s value within a bureaucracy that has no incentive to be efficient.  The only way to offset the effects this has on our standard of living is through a complimentary increase in our Gross Domestic Product, which is generally and traditionally quite robust–that is the nature of free enterprise.  But this is gradually and rather justifiably shifting overseas as manufacturers seek to reap the benefits of avoiding, among other things, the very taxes which we speak of.  Alternatively, we could also obtain more goods more cheaply from overseas, but I repeat myself.  If this downward spiral is to remain the solution, it must be conceded that we will eventually run out of manufacturing jobs to send them.

Lest we forget the other side of the inflation coin, and the crossroads our legislators now find themselves in.  This is when, despite all the taxation, regardless of where and how it’s levied, it’s still not enough to account for all that our government spends, resulting in a shortfall that must be resolved by more extensive means.  But let’s be abundantly clear here.  There are only three means, and borrowing is not one of them.  Borrowing is only another form of spending, not a resolution to the spending.  Borrowing is the purchase of credit, with interest–we’re buying cash for more than the cash is worth, with cash we don’t have yet.  Think about how the government credit card currently works: they can spend it however they want, they don’t have to pay it back with their own money, and they can raise their own limit as often as they like.  Yet, many wave off this reality, along with calls to stop raising that limit (yet again) and enact a balanced budget amendment, like they’re little more than annoying flies.

Getting back to real resolutions, one of the obvious possibilities, of course, is to follow through on precisely what we’ve discussed here–an increase in tax revenue, along with its negative repercussions.  This will undoubtedly be targeted at the rich, but not for the pragmatic reasons they cling to.  The rich are targeted because they are a minority, and minorities, even rich ones, are less likely to successfully boot elected officials out of office as opposed to a majority of disgruntled taxpayers.  And should we let them do this, we’ll then hope that government spenders will simply, finally realize that they must stop spending more than they take in.  *eyes rolling* 

Tax debates and debt ceilings aside, the far less obvious course has already been put into action.  Printing money seems harmless enough, but in reality, it’s not only more disastrous, but it has precisely the same effect of taxing the majority–every single American–without their explicit knowledge.  Most people don’t grasp that paper money is not real wealth–it’s only a representation of wealth.  When paper money is expanded in an economy in which genuine wealth or production have remained the same (or worse yet, have been reduced), every dollar is essentially reduced in value by that difference; as more cash chases after the same amount of goods, prices are bid up, all goods become more expensive, and our money will not go as far as it used to.

Finally, what remains is the most difficult course of the three, but the only one that will lead to solvency and a healthy economy–if this is what we want for our nation, compromise truly is not an option.  Spending must be cut, and it must be done in isolation from the other options, or they cancel each other out.  Hard choices must be made.  Politicians must be willing to risk their political careers to do the right thing.  Americans must be willing to feel the pinch as the money that was once funneled into the economy through government fingers, often into our own pockets, begins to disappear.  It is time to pay the fiddler…or he’ll be playing while Rome burns.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Whiter Shade of Muslim. Breaking the Memetic Spell.

The pen is truly mightier than the sword. Words are powerful weapons, and those skilled in the science of memetics know how to wield them to their advantage. Bill O’Reilly and Juan Williams, from opposing sides of the political spectrum, were both drawn into the latest memetic battle from progressives, who wish to instill public guilt over any use of the word “Muslim” they deem “inappropriate.” Leftists were probably somewhat dismayed when even fellow leftist Bill Maher was willing to admit some apprehension of Islam, but I’m sure their spirits soar as apple pie Americans graciously cast their 4th amendment right aside, submitting to gropes and body scans so Muslims don‘t have to feel insecure, and the TSA doesn‘t have to hire real agents. Liberals like Whoopi use the white Oklahoma City bomber to validate their argument. It’s actually quite fitting, but only because it successfully highlights the absurdity of what law-abiding Americans are being subjected to in exchange for a false sense of security. Bad guys are resourceful, and Timothy McVeigh used a car bomb, after all–how devalued has liberty become if we’re willing to sacrifice it for foolish reassurances that it can prevent an incident similar to that one? Is it really so different?  If any reasonable guideline is to be labeled as “profiling”, the P.C. police would rather abandon reason and treat wheelchaired grandmothers or whaling toddlers to an enhanced pat-down. Ben Franklin famously said that those who might sacrifice their liberty for security deserve neither, and regardless, neither is what they’re getting.

So speaking of resourceful bad guys, how do you get the public to justify sacrificing their liberty?  The weapon of memetic engineering can’t be overestimated.  The role language plays in culture is a fascinating field of study, and an artful craft, prone to abuse like any other. In this case, the media and culture spinners utilize it to assign altered meanings to words in a manner that avoids debate, establishing widespread preconceptions (or misconceptions) in the public psyche. Like Orwellian “double speak”, it manipulates words to sidestep reality. To understand how, simply think of the name of a significant person in your life. You don’t recall a mere word. You draw a well-rounded and immediate recognition of that person: their appearance, their mannerisms, the sound of their voice, and even positive or negative sentiments are invoked. Leftists similarly attempt to manipulate our reactions to everyday words. It’s an effective tool if you need to win someone over without proving your argument, and it’s especially convenient when people already struggle to find the time, much less the inclination, to scratch below the surface in forming their own opinions.

Earlier this year, NPR offered up another glaringly obvious example of leftist memetics when they announced the new labels required for opposing sides in the abortion debate. Their correspondents would no longer be allowed to use the terms “pro-choice” or “pro-life“, despite the accuracy they reflect for each sides’ primary points. These opposing viewpoints are now referenced as either advocates or opposers of abortion rights under the absurd pretense that it depicts a neutral standpoint from the perspective of NPR reporting. What it actually does, however, is attempt to establish the presumption that abortion is a settled, un-debatable right, and maneuver around discussion to the contrary.

In a similar fashion, the liberal culture manipulators would like you to adopt the unwavering precept that Islam is a religion of peace whose people simply wish to coexist with the rest of world–that this is “mainstream” Islam. They don’t want you to question that Muslims who actually abide by the teachings of the Koran–those working to inflict harm to infidels or undermine Western culture and law–represent a fringe movement of “extremists.” They want you to accept that the majority are “soft” Muslims who don’t adhere to what we would perceive as the less pleasant aspects of Islam, for example conversion by the sword, caste systems, or female circumcision. They want you to brush off honor killings, hangings of homosexuals, and stoning of rape victims or adulterers. Please dismiss footage of the large enthusiastic crowds that filled the streets of Mid-East cities on 9/11. And don‘t you know, “Jihad” is a word of many meanings, as Obama struggled to explain to Indian citizens on his recent world tour. I don’t doubt that psuedo-Muslims exist, especially those who are truly “westernized”, but these people are Muslims in the same sense as Christians who believe eternal life can be achieved without accepting Christ as your savior. You might call yourself a Christian, but you’re really missing the point. Labels can be misleading.

Many find it puzzling that the left would consciously support or spin public perception of a religion steeped in intolerance, tyranny, and violence, but it’s not really out of character. Muslims represent one more special interest group, like all others the Left uses, to divide and conquer in classic Alinsky style, however vehemently they might protest otherwise. Like other special interests, it also represents another avenue to support policy that marginalizes and weakens individual liberty, but this one is extra special–Sharia law is in direct conflict with our constitutional republic. Yes, that’s republic, not democracy, as Jefferson and Franklin explained, and as it should be. Strict democracies aren’t desirable. Perceptions to the contrary illustrate yet another highly successful memetic spin.

Quite frankly, Leftist ideals aren’t so incompatible with Islam, either. “Tolerance” is a word they’ve toyed mercilessly with. It no longer encompasses the old ‘live and let live’ credo in which we can disagree or dislike one another as long as we don‘t deprive each other of Constitutional liberty. It now implies that people just shouldn’t even disagree or ever have to be offended. But this would require us all to think the same way and believe the same things, or just keep our mouths shut…which is actually, in fact, the very essence of intolerance. Logic has been turned on it’s head when tolerance of intolerance is being advocated. And I mean genuine intolerance–the kind were people are beheaded or starved because they are inconvenient, not the kind where your feelings get hurt. “Judge”, too, has become a memetically bastardized word. I was recently told that no one has a right to judge, yet how can any opinion be formed without judging? You might as well tell me none of us has a right to an opinion, or freedom of conscience actually, unless it‘s the “correct” opinion, of course–but how else could they justify replacing our individual reasoning with centralized and generalized state micromanagement? In reality, we have an individual responsibility to judge. What none of us actually has is a right to act on our judgment to physically and unfairly deprive one another of liberty, even if a particular religion demands it.

At least folks on the Right are catching on, forming their own front in the battle of word manipulation. Some, however, have done so in a rather disappointing manner, as Republicans now seek to redefine “earmarks” after swearing to abolish them for the sake of our compounding national debt. Despite the recent election, they still think bringing our own money back to our state for pet projects is more likely to get them re-elected than not taking it from us to begin with. *Sigh* One simply can’t take words for granted. So reconsider all those pesky labels: “liberal,” “progressive,” “moderate.” Even “conservative”, and especially “compromise.” Folks can disagree without being “racist” or “extremist.” The pen may be mighty, but all it really takes to break a spell is to know that it exists.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment