ARCHIVE - FEBRUARY 2014
The Best of The Best
Who is America's
TOUGH QUESTIONS WE WISH WE DIDN'T HAVE TO ANSWER FOR...
2014/02/20 - Last week the news carried two separate stories of life surging forward in spite of terrible tragedies that would conspire to against it.
In Victoria BC, a pregnant woman complained to her husband of a severe headache. He went to the pharmacy to buy some pain relievers and by the time he returned she was on the floor unconscious. She was declared brain dead, having succumbed to severe irreversible brain damage from excessive bleeding. But her healthy, albeit premature, baby boy, Iver Benson, was brought into the world, alleviating somewhat the anguish of the grief-stricken father.
In Brooklyn NY, a pregnant woman was struck and killed by a snow plow as she was placing groceries in the back of her car. Min Lin was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital, yet she gave birth via Caesarean section to a live baby boy, although, as of five days of age, he remains in critical condition. Our hearts go out to this family as well.
A third and final story that made the rounds last week: a man in Cambridge, MA was caught on film “playing” the knockout game, randomly throwing sucker punches at unsuspecting victims as they walked by. This reminded me of a legal observation I had read as a young lad years ago by Zechariah Chafee, Jr. who in 1919 stated in the Harvard Law Review “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man's nose begins.” Ever since, I have wondered just who would randomly swing their arms around anyway? Well, at least that question is finally answered, but the difficult ones remain...
The quote from Mr. Chafee, illustrated so dramatically by the story of the Cambridge man, emphasizes that our right to use our body does not exist without limitations, most obviously, to the extent that it might do harm to others. The philosophical position “it’s my body and I can do what I want with it” is simply wrong. No one has the right to use their body in a way that would do harm to others.
As I read the first two stories - stories that are not that unusual - I felt compelled to accept the conclusion that the baby’s body is a human life, separate and distinct from the mother’s. The baby might be surrounded by, inside of, and attached to, the mother; but not part of the mother. Mothers live while the unborn baby dies; and unborn babies live while the mother dies. It is sad, but it is true. And it seems inescapably true that the mother and baby have separate lives, and separate bodies. For all the difficult choices that come along with it.
in the difficult, pluralistic world in which we live, how do we balance this against the real, expressed needs of those who can speak up for themselves? I don’t know how to conclude that a mother’s right to do what she wants with or to her body extends beyond the point where the baby’s nose begins. Maybe, maybe I'm wrong; and so, uncomfortably, I'm willing to concede an allowance for abortion in special circumstances such as endangerment to the mother's life, or rape, or incest…
I’m not an abortion rights activist. Abortion just isn’t a hot button issue for me. Maybe I’m an ogre because I think more about the national debt that I do about abortion. But every time I do think about abortion, I finish more convinced than I was before that an unborn baby is an individual, distinct, real human being.
DEMOCRAT NEWSPEAK - BAD IS THE NEW GOOD
2014/02/18 - Welcome to 1984 and Minitrue. To the stunned amaze of anyone not politically deaf and blind, last week we were treated to the spectacle of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Steve Israel – pretty well the entire pantheon of the leading lights of the Democratic Party – singing the praises of Obamacare because it will reduce employment in the U.S. Yes, that is correct, not “in spite of”, but “because of”. Praising Obamacare because it will induce job loss. Yes – the once-upon-a-time party of the working man is now celebrating joblessness!
In fact the liberals have swung so far around to the left that they are now attempting to make a special guest appearance on the right. Picking up on comments from Duncan Black in USA Today, Joe Klein from Time Magazine (“Obamacare: Economic Boom?”) asserts that Republicans ought to adopt Obamacare as part of its freedom agenda (“It is, in truth, a conservative argument–a freedom argument”) because it emancipates people from... the shackles of employment (?)... without which no one would have access to healthcare (??)... because before Obamacare there was no such thing as private insurance (???).
Did it not occur to these liberals that there are already tens of millions of Americans who live outside the “joblock” world, who have small businesses, who buy insurance privately and are quite happy with it? Well, there were, anyway, until Obamacare came along and told them they can no longer keep their insurance, nor can they keep their doctor. Obamacare has changed nothing, except for destroying what Black and Klein claim it is creating, namely, access to healthcare outside of an employer/employee relationship!
These liberals decry the tragedy that people are currently “locked” into a jobs because they provide quality affordable healthcare. And apparently these liberals think that is bad. That it’s bad that people have jobs, and doubly bad that the healthcare is so good they don’t want to quit. Woe is us - jobs and healthcare? Misery! (Please, liberals, save us from the twin scourge of employment, and quality healthcare!)
And apparently these liberals think healthcare is the only reason why Americans work. Apparently shelter, food, clothing and all sorts of other spurious luxuries that Americans have become unnecessarily obsessed with have nothing to do with it. Or the desire to save money? Certainly not! If the liberals ruin our healthcare then we can quit our jobs because we don’t need these other beads and mirrors.
If all this doesn’t sound sufficiently twisted and tortured, don’t worry, they’re not finished being wrong.
Black and Klein claim that with more time on their hands, this newly unemployed class – 2.5 million Americans, according to the CBO – is going to unleash a profound creative energy. Like the next Wright Brothers, or the next Fedex. Except that Fedex and the Flyer did not come about because their creators were sitting around smoking pot. The Wright Brothers had a bicycle business that gave them the platform for building airplanes. Fred Smith developed his ideas for Fedex from logistics lessons learned while serving as an officer in the Marine Corps. They came up with their ideas and were able to realize them as a direct result of being constructively engaged.
If being idle and having lots of spare time is the source of creative genius, then why hasn’t the Medicaid class, or the food stamp class, or the disability class, already unleashed a profound creative energy many times over? Simple: because we pay them to do nothing, so nothing is what they do.
I didn’t come up with Fedex and the Wright brothers, they are Klein’s examples! And they prove the exact opposite of what he thinks: thank goodness that Fred Smith, and Orville and Wilbur Wright, didn’t wait until they were fired by Obamacare before putting their ideas to the test!
JOHN BOEHNER'S BIG GAMBLE
2014/02/13 - Others are calling for Speaker Boehner’s head on a platter over the unconditional debt ceiling increase, but I’m not there quite yet. I know it seems like a total sell-out, but let’s play the devil’s advocate. Let’s just say John Boehner really is a conservative, and he really wants to advance a conservative agenda. Farfetched, I know, but let’s just see where this train of thought takes us.
In the past Boehner has said that he is constrained in what he can do, given that Republicans in the House only control one half of one third of the levers of government. Suppose he really does look forward to the day when he has an ally on the Senate side, and Congress really can send better legislation to the President.
Boehner has spent more time mired in a tractor pull with Harry Reid than he would have liked or should have expected. Yes, conservatives are itching for a fight, and therein lies the problem. Too often the Establishment has retreated when they should have fought; and now the Tea Party does not trust the Establishment to make a strategically valid tactical retreat, because all they ever do is retreat. It's never "two steps forward, one step back", its always "one step back, one step back, one step back". Conservatives are fed up with the constant state of retreat directed by the Establishment.
It doesn’t matter what the issue is, the Socialist Creep has been with us since Woodrow Wilson, certainly since FDR. Deficits. Abortion. Healthcare. Hand outs. Gun rights. Taxes. It always seems like the right is playing defense, and worse, never seems to be making a stand. Consider immigration. The agreement with the Democrats in the ‘80’s turned out to be a touchdown for the left – they got everything they wanted and surrendered nothing.
But it didn’t stop there. When the Republican Establishment took over the immigration football in the ‘00’s, they fumbled it away and gave possession back to the Democrats with good field position, and now the Democrats are moving the ball down the field again. And the Republican Establishment defensive line? They leave gaping holes when the left tries to run the ball, and apply no pressure when the left tries to throw the ball. No wonder the Tea Party in the secondary wants to blitz on every play!
So against such a backdrop what is our hypothetical conservative John Boehner to do? Here is what I hope the Speaker’s plan is:
If this is the strategy, then Boehner is asking conservatives to make yet another concession on fiscal issues, after we’ve already retreated 17 trillion times. As painful as it is, this might actually be a good time not to charge the hill; this might actually be a good time for a tactical retreat.
If we really have a strategy this time, and this is it, then it’s not a bad strategy as GOP strategies (oxymoron alert!) go. If it fails, Boehner will be finished. If it succeeds, the hypothetical conservative John Boehner better show up for real, button up his chin strap, line up head to head against the left and get ready to play some smash-mouth football. Otherwise there really will be a Republican civil war.
If Republicans do recapture the Senate, and Boehner and McConnell actually show themselves to be real conservatives who step up for the American taxpaying middle-class, it could be the start of something good.
That's a lot of "if"'s...
YOU CAN'T JUDGE A BOOD BY ITS COVER
2014/02/11 - Can you judge a book by its cover? This weekend I read a confusing and ill-premised piece by Binyamin Appelbaum in the New York Times Sunday Review. The title “Will Saving on Health Care Hurt the Economy?” was an exercise in false advertising as the question was left unanswered. Sometimes I wonder how NY Times readers turned into what they have become - at least his article helped me understand that much.
The short answer to the question, as posed, is “No”, though it depends upon the nature of the savings. The fact is that if healthcare savings are being driven by increased efficiency, then such efficiency gains always lead to economic improvement. Even if “Healthcare” as an economic component on a superficial statistical level appears to be holding back economic growth, increased efficiency always has net positive benefits that reverberate throughout the economy.
And if higher co-pays are reducing the number of spurious doctor visits, or tort reform is encouraging physicians to reduce the amount of unnecessary testing, healthcare spending would go down but we would be more properous. There can be no doubt that if we spend less money on healthcare because we are healthier, it leads to economic gain – if a nation’s workers are productive for more of their adult lives with fewer days lost to illness or injury, then the nation’s output and prosperity will certainly be enhanced, even if less of its total output goes to healthcare. Who actually prefers to spend money on healthcare, rather than recreation, anyway? Would you rather take an afternoon off to go to the doctor, or take that afternoon to play golf / ride your bike / go to the beach?
On the other hand, there are healthcare “savings” that can be extremely detrimental to the economy and the nation’s wellbeing. If we spend less on healthcare because joblessness removes people from employment-based plans that satisfactorily reimburse healthcare providers, and places those unemployed people on government programs with low reimbursement rates, that is to our long term detriment.
Worse, if the swelling ranks of the jobless impose strains on Medicaid and Medicare, and governments react by cutting reimbursements even further, this puts the entire system at risk of a downward spiral. Medicare and Medicaid rates are dropping below the threshold where becoming a physician is a viable profession. Also at risk are future research and development of new medicines and devices. The Obamacare device tax doesn't help either.
The author Appelbaum parrots the Administration’s claim that “the Affordable Care Act ‘is contributing to the recent slow growth in health care prices and spending’”, but fails to question whether they are damaging the system longer-term. A business can cut costs in the short term by spending less on maintenance, but that harms their long term competitive position; similarly, Obama & Sebelius can do a victory lap for their momentous contributions to American healthcare, but repeatedly cutting payments to doctors is a losing strategy if you want to attract the best and brightest to the medical profession.
So getting back to Appelbaum's question, if he leaves unanswered the question of “why” healthcare spending is decelerating, then it is not possible to determine if the economic impact if beneficial or detrimental. For example, suppose a person loses weight. If the loss is due to a better diet, or increased exercise, that is probably a good thing. However, if the weight loss is due to declining muscle mass, dehydration, or the amputation of a limb, it is probably a bad thing. Similarly, without answering why costs are going down, Appelbaum has no reason for writing this article.
Let’s look at some of his individual points that don’t make sense:
Appelbaum never gets into the "why" of healthcare cost deceleration other than one sentence from a White House advisor. The article ends up a random collection of incorrect sentences.
REPUBLICAN PARTY SAVED FROM ITSELF
2014/02/05 - The mid-term elections of 2010 were very good to the Republican Party as they made big gains in the Senate and recaptured the House. Indeed, they “shellacked” the Democrats, as one noteworthy commentator put it, in his understated way. And it was the enactment of Obamacare that catalyzed the base, energized the turnout, and ran up the score.
During the four years since, Democrats have attempted to mollify the electorate by claiming that the Republicans are just scare mongers. That once we found out what was in the bill, we’d actually like it. But now the rollout of Obamacare has demonstrated that the law is fact even worse than its detractors had predicted. And again the public is antagonized, and President Obama’s approval ratings have plummeted. And the GOP is on the ascendancy.
So you would think that Republican leadership would gladly accept this winning hand they have been dealt, this gift that keeps on giving, this goose that lays golden eggs. You would expect them to keep talking about Obamacare. An Obamacare stew with a tablespoon of Benghazi here, a pinch of IRS there, and stir the pot with some NSA as well. But the main ingredient? Obamacare. Simmer until October then bring to a full boil. Obamacare stew – mmm, delicious!
Then last week the House leadership decided to try and spoil the whole thing by throwing Immigration into the electoral success recipe. The November elections were spooling up very nicely for Republicans, yet by last Friday the triumvirate of Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy (BCM) were coming very close to destroying the virtuous scenario that had been unfolding before their eyes...
Americans don’t very much care about immigration, so there’s nothing to gain there. And the Republican base despises some of the aspects of the reforms that are being bandied about, so there’s everything to lose there. What would cause the leadership to begin an assault on the very forces that had brought them to their positions of leadership? A discombobulation seemed inevitable.
Then, this week suddenly, arriving in a cavalry-like fashion, to the joy of millions, in charged the Congressional Budget Office! To the rescue! Yes, the CBO, those wonderful bureaucrats with their briefcases, containing a critique of Obamacare showing that, among other shocking outcomes, over 2 million jobs will be lost. This is of course an utter disaster, a policy failure of titanic proportions. Now suddenly the conversation is back to where it should be – Obamacare. And yes, the Republican Party is saved. At least for the time being it is saved from itself. Saved from inflicting fatal wounds upon itself.
And thus the main issue of discussion returns to Obamacare. And if it stays there, where it belongs, the Republicans will gain in the House, retake control of the Senate, thwart the leftist statist agenda, and in 2016 recapture the White House. Obamacare will be repealed and we will all live happily ever after. Thanks to the CBO. Thank you, CBO, for saving us from Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy.
TRIUMVIRATE ACHIEVES RETROGRADE TRIFECTA
2014/02/03 - Though we take no joy in doing so, we have to admit that we were correct, House Republicans did indeed make a mess of their messaging by wading into immigration. Boehner, Cantor & McCarthy, LLP have managed to infuriate Democrats by scuttling the Senate bill, antagonize conservatives by offering a path to legality, and distract voters from a winning issue by taking the focus off of Obamacare.
I mostly agree with the principles, but why even talk about it at all? Well, let’s get it done and over with on a Friday so next week we can go back to Obamacare.
The document should have clearly distinguished between transitional realities and permanent foundational concepts, by positioning them under two separate headings and empathizing their nature.
Border security is a permanent, continuous concept, not a one-and-done. President Obama cannot be trusted to enforce laws, as required by the Constitution and his oath of office. Worse, he has eroded trust not just in himself, but in the office of the President, and in the accountability of government. There is a law that the Senate has to pass a budget, but in Harry Reid’s four years when no budget was passed, what were the consequences? What were the consequences of healthcare.gov? What has happened even to the concept of accountability?
The effectiveness of our border security needs to be regularly evaluated by third parties, for example the GAO and a private contractor (Ernst & Young, Accenture) on a rotating basis. Second, there needs to be real performance standards to measure non-compliance, for example, any time more than say one million illegal aliens are estimated to be living in the country, then that should require a finding of inadequate performance. Finally, there must be serious consequences for inadequate performance, for example, the terminations of both the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security. There must be “zero-tolerance” on Day 1, and on Day Every Day.
On the other hand, the pathway to legality must be specifically designated as temporary, as a momentary one-and-done capitulation to an adverse reality that we are committed to not repeating. There should be a brief window for applying to get on the pathway, and after that the window is closed, locked and shuttered.
It’s a hard, difficult concession for conservatives to grant rewards to people who break laws. When someone tries to rob a bank, we don’t offer them fifty grand with impunity, just so long as they put their gun away so no one gets hurt. And it makes no sense to grant citizenship, or even some lower level of legal status, to people who break our immigration laws. Parents live vicariously through their children, thus, granting citizenship or even permanent residence to the children of illegals still represents a reward to the law-breaking parents. As the Principles lay out, such a concession is “harmful to promoting the rule of law”. Maybe resident alien status for parents, permanent residence (green card) for children, and citizenship for grandchildren? I am not even sure if that is tolerable to the Right.
A temporary path to legal status is hard for conservatives to accept, and having already been burned on previous immigration "reform" the trust simply does not exist. It's gone. None. Conservatives simply do not believe that Democrats are bargaining in good faith. And they no longer believe in the integrity of the office of the President – not just this President, any President, any more. It just doesn’t seem likely that Democrats will yield enough on security and enforcement for the conservatives to hold their noses and go along with a path to legal status. Maybe in 2015 during the 114th Congress when Republicans will be in position to enact legislation with real security and enforcement mechanisms.
Now, can we drop this and go back to talking about Obamacare?
|© Copyright 2014 Challenge The Premise. All rights reserved.|