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Policies of Intentions

October 24, 2013
Healthcare website

Healthcare.gov

It has become painfully apparent to everyone that the federal government was far from ready to implement the Healthcare law. What is also becoming painfully apparent is that many officials in the President’s Administration felt appearances were more important than results.

The technological backbone of the Healthcare law is practically useless, rendering people unable to access the exchanges. And the few that have accessed them have little guaranty that their information will be properly processed. And to make things worse, insurance companies are dropping people’s coverage by the hundreds of thousands. Kaiser Health News recently reported:

“Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people – about half of its individual business in the state.  Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.”

Not only is the system not working, it is leaving even more Americans uninsured as insurance companies leave the individual insurance market in a mass exodus.

The often repeated charge is that, “Republicans do not care about people, but Democrats do.” At the root of this statement is a simple formula, Democrats generally support the expansion of government “safety-net” programs such as social security, welfare, unemployment benefits, and now the government-backed promise of healthcare for everyone. And Republicans generally support limiting the government’s involvement in many of these programs.

Admittedly, it makes one feel good to know that there is a law in place requiring that everyone have access to “good healthcare.” But as any family attempting to make ends meet knows, good intentions do not pay bills.

Conservatives in general do not support these programs because they know how inefficient government is at providing these critical services. Conservatives support private healthcare options because they want people to actually have healthcare options and not just the paper promise of having access to healthcare.

Just like most federal programs, the new Healthcare law will likely help some folks who are genuinely in need. Also just like most federal programs, it will subject millions of Americans to a costly and highly inefficient system, depriving them of the benefits the private market could have provided. What slowdowns will the rest of the private market experience as the federal government continues to integrate itself into the price-reducing mechanisms of the free market? And will the government actually live up to its end of the bargain? It’s great to have a law in place. It feels good. But does it do good?

When asked by CNN about delaying the Healthcare law’s implementation, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated that it was not an option. She went on to say, “There are people in this country who have waited for decades for affordable health coverage for themselves and their families.” Left between ensuring actual results and going with the appearance of results, the Administration choose the latter.

Respect…(Just a Little Bit)

October 16, 2013

By the time you read this, there is a strong possibility the shutdown will be over…at least for a set period of time.

A culture of respect should be a non negotiable in Washington.

Inevitably, there will be those who feel disappointed by their Representatives because they either “gave up” too soon or were “too stubborn” to come to the negotiation table. It is only natural to feel that way.

I personally believe that there were good reasons to delay the implementation of the healthcare law. The President himself unilaterally delayed the employer aspect earlier this year (an act of questionable constitutionality in and of itself). There are others who believed the healthcare law needed to be immediately implemented.

While I may disagree with them, I choose not to question their sincerity or motivation. I respect their right to hold an opinion and I respect the political process that allows us to work through our disagreements, even if the process seems drawn out and painful. Throughout this shutdown, I do not believe the Democratic leaders in Washington have been doing the same. This includes the President and the Senate Majority Leader.

The issues that brought about this shutdown are important. The issues that have kept the shutdown in effect are just as consequential. Yet instead of debating the issues themselves, we heard the Democratic leadership use terms and labels like, ‘Hostage-taking,”  “extortion,” “Anarchists,” and “fanatics.” A senior White House advisor even stated that they were not for “negotiating with people who have a bomb strapped to their chest.”

They openly use terms and labels to paint Republicans as behaving in a criminal and lawless way. And they do this because Republicans are utilizing Congress’ constitutional power to choose what to fund and not fund. Not only is this labeling a substitute for substantive responses, it disrespects the the millions of Americans who hold the same views concerning the healthcare law. Furthermore, it shows the Democratic leadership’s lack of respect for our political system which is now inconveniently slowing them down from achieving their objectives. If Republicans held the American people hostage during the shutdown, then it follows that the Constitution acted as their tool to perpetuate that “extortion.” I absolutely refuse to accept this analogy we were being asked to believe.

We are a country built on the ideas of individual freedom and liberty. This sometimes means that we will have differing ideas about what is good and what is not. Also, we are a country built on a representative government of processes and order. Add these two things together and it means we will sometimes find our political system in a temporary stalemate as disagreements are resolved.

While the healthcare law and the debt ceiling are serious issues, I am just as concerned about the culture our elected leaders are developing in Washington. The moment we lose respect for different viewpoints and the political system we use to resolve those differences is the same the moment we lose one of Liberty’s most important cornerstones.

This shutdown demonstrates to us a startling lack of respect many have in Washington for those who hold opposing viewpoints. It also shows a concerning lack of respect for our political system.

Headline: Old Faithful Geyser Ceases to Erupt Until the HOUSE GOP Restores Federal Funding…

October 9, 2013

As you might have imagined upon reading the title, the heading is imaginary considering that naturally occurring phenomena are not subject to receiving federal funding. Of course given the Administration’s recent actions to inform the public of the American people’s complete dependence on federal funds for everything (for example, prohibiting access to over 1,100 square miles of Florida Bay’s prime fishing waters), I would not have blamed someone for believing otherwise.

Capital

United States Capitol Building

In the first few days of the shutdown (it could more accurately now be called a slimdown), the message from the media and many in Washington was clear: “Republicans are holding the government hostage.” “Republicans have no right to do this.” “They are undermining the system.”

Since then the President’s administration has clouded that message because of the absurd lengths it has gone to make the shutdown as visible as possible (including putting traffic cones up at a roadside pull-off in South Dakota for a period of time so that people could not slow down to view Mount Rushmore).

I also believe the original message has become clouded as more people realize that the House has a legitimate interest in not providing funding for the Healthcare law. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton himself, in the Federalist Papers, explained that one of Congress’ powers was the ability to control federal funds. It should be noted that the House has already approved funding everything in the federal government but the Healthcare law.

In the final analysis, people will come to their own conclusions as to whether or not the Republicans’ current stand in Washington was the correct move. Regardless, the current standoff also brings into consideration whether Americans should have a federal government so pervasive and essential that having meaningful discussions on federal spending are impossible. Former President Gerald Ford in a Joint Address to Congress once stated “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” (This quote is also often attributed to Senator Barry Goldwater). The President and Senate Democratic leaders’ version of this for the American people (whether they intend it or not) seems clear: Unless we get federal dollars for everything we want, the American people should have little else.

To reference the media’s horrendous but often-used metaphor, I wonder whether it is the House GOP Members who are holding the federal government hostage, or if it is the federal government holding the American people hostage?

Debt Ceiling Stick-up?

January 15, 2013

With him being a former professor who taught constitutional law, I am constantly astonished when our President uses imagery that makes constitutional actions by Congress look more like back-alley thievery. As many teachers and professors understand, vivid imagery makes topics come to life, and can grow larger in the student’s mind than the actual text of the topic being studied. And the art of a great teacher, is to connect the imagery that best represents the topic in order to ensure the student’s proper understanding of the topic. Image

Today the President stated that the Republicans in Congress, “will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.” He further stated that, “The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip.” (Some news agencies even reported that the President stated that he would not, “negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people.“) Yet as I read the Constitution, I find in Article 1, Section 8, that, “The Congress shall have Power…to pay the Debts…” Furthermore, the very Founding Fathers who helped write, and then sell the U.S. Constitution to the states, also wrote in Federalist Paper no. 78, “The legislature not only commands the purse (i.e. the power to control the money), but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated” (emphasis added).

In all likelihood, the President was not in any way contesting the legitimate power of Congress to raise the debt ceiling, but rather saying that it should not use the debt ceiling raising as a tool to accomplish other goals. But if this is so, it makes the President’s imagery all the worse. While understanding that Congress has a legitimate role in determining the conditions upon which Debts will be paid, he uses imagery of criminality and thuggery to characterize their use of that legitimate role. And unfortunately, this also means that he is summarily discounting the desires and wishes of the voters who elected a majority of GOP members to Congress.

Rather than painting the GOP as unreasonable thugs who want to kill our economy with a “self-inflicted wound,” it might serve him well to instead logically explain to the America people why he believes spending on credit is necessary for the nation’s well-being. At least that way, his arguments would be based on the issue, and not the mischaracterization of his opposition.

P.S. The full faith and credit clause of the Constitution has nothing to do with currency or debts. While it is typically discouraged in school to use wikipedia as a source of reference, it might be worth a peek every now and again for our professor-turned-President...even wikipedia would have given that answer an “F.” 

Bubble Arguments: Avoiding the Cartooning of the Discussion on Guns

January 9, 2013

As of this week, the Vice President will meet with representatives from the NRA to discuss ideas on how the nation can re-evaluate its current laws on “gun control.” Given the tremendously awful school and public venue shootings that have taken place, it is only natural for folks of all political viewpoints to again ask the question, “How do we properly address these events?”

What may come harder is the ability to listen to arguments contrary to our own. Especially when we see the outcomes being decisions of life and death. We also tend to short-change and even demonize the moral motivation of others. Unfortunately, I believe we only hurt ourselves when we do it.

cartoons

For example, I have already seen this very thing a few times in a fairly popular cartoon. Rather than trying to defeat the opposition by pointing out its logical flaws, it discredits the opposing argument by subtly demonizing the moral motivation of others. In this particular cartoon, there is a newspaper with the headlines of the most recent shootings. On one side of the cartoon, a fearful mother embraces her young child. On the other side of the cartoon, there is a fearful man embracing his rifle.

While cartoons are not sound sources of political discourse, the public speeches from many of our elected officials reflect this argument almost to a tee. Without question, is is an easier argument to make. Yet when we have future lives hanging in the balance, we do not need short-cuts to political victories that not only short changes opposing viewpoints, but may short change the very lives we seek to protect.The implication is simple: the fear of losing the right to possess a gun is inconsequential and even morally repulsive in comparison to protecting the life of an innocent young child.

A Georgia mom recently found herself and her 9 year old twins in danger as an an ex-convict proceeded to used a crowbar to break into her home. The mom hid herself and her children. The ex-convict then found her and was only stopped when she protected herself with a gun. We don’t know what that ex-convict would have done if she had not owned a gun, but thankfully we did not have to read about them becoming victims in the morning newspaper.

Do you think that Georgia mom was hugging her gun the morning of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings? Do you think she was hugging that gun even after using it to protect her twins? I can almost guarantee you after both those instances, the only things she was thinking about were those two precious children. I would hate to be the person who told that mother that her motives for owning a gun were misplaced.

July the 4th, A Day of Remembrance and Thankfulness

July 4, 2012

Let every American today reflect on the sacrifices of our founding fathers in bringing about this nation. And furthermore, let us contemplate with gratefulness the fundamental ideas inscribed into the birth certificate of our nation…”that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I am so grateful for this nation and for the men and women who continue to lay down their lives in protection of her. May we always seek to be worthy of God’s blessing and guidance.

The Buffett Exception: The Equality of Inequality?

September 20, 2011

Yesterday President Obama introduced the “Buffett Rule.” He defined it by stating that “Middle-class families shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires.” I think there is little disagreement with this proposition. But what if this is already the case? An USA Today article, citing the Congressional Budget Office, stated that, “The 10% of households with the highest incomes pay more than half of all federal taxes. They pay more than 70% of federal income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.” The article fairly stated that some millionaires have found ways to pay no federal income tax, but that these constituted “less than 1% of the nearly 237,000 returns with incomes above $1 million.”

So is the President creating a general rule based on a small exception? If the issue is an exception, surely it would be more reasonable from his perspective to cut out the exceptions rather than change a working general rule? Do you add more taxes onto the 99% of a tax class in order to make 1% pay more? Again, if a small percentage is the issue, then lets address that. And this is exactly what Rep. Paul Ryan proposed in his newest video embedded below.

However, I am not sure this is the issue for the President. Maybe for the President, he believes that the upper percentage of income earners as a whole are not paying enough in taxes. If this is the real issue, then his definition of the “Buffett Rule” seems inaccurate. And if his version of fairness is something something other than the Buffett rule as he describes it, then it begs the question, “Mr. President, if the top 10% of households already pay more than 70% of federal income taxes, what is your idea of fair?”

Sources:

USA Today Money – Fact Check: The wealthy already pay more taxes

http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/story/2011-09-20/buffett-tax-millionaires/50480226/1

Path to Prosperity (Episode 3): 3 Steps to Pro-Growth Tax Reform — VISUALIZED

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Aewj_IndN4&feature=player_embedded

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