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Archive for August, 2009

Time Out!

Discipline shouldn’t always be about fixing what went wrong. Discipline can also be about changing the way you do things up front to prevent problems from happening. While you cannot stop your child from ever having a tantrum, there are many things you can do that will substantially reduce the number and the intensity of the tantrums.

[With thanks to the Supernanny]

Let’s face it.  The whole country, especially Congress, has been having a giant temper tantrum.  There is the temptation to place blame, but this goes far beyond the blame game.  This is, as they say, not a problem but an opportunity.  With the August Congressional recess, and with the Obama family on vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, the entire country is now getting a well deserved break from the frenetic action of recent months. And, with these quiet moments, we now see well-considered opposition developing to political plans.  And, we’re not just talking about nationalized health care, or insurance reform, or whatever they want to call it this week.  Nationalized health care got the conversation started, but in these quiet moments, people are beginning to realize that the problems are far more profound, and that the source of the problems are not what they originally thought they were.

Certainly, the health care system is in some form of crisis, but the forces of “change” started early.  Please see Shock & Awe.  And in the intervening months, what appeared to be the end of capitalism, as expressed in some quarters, now seems to be a serious blip, but one that will correct itself.  While there is still  talk about massive changes to the system and massive expenditures (some in Congress say that there is a need for a third stimulus bill), what is emerging is the fact that the capital system is slowly correcting many of the problem issues.  What remains is the continued governmental role which exacerbated the fundamental problems in the first place.

We Can’t Afford It

Well, someone has to say this.  The fact is that we cannot afford to spend the money that we are spending, and that seems to be a foreign phrase to those inside the Beltway.  And, there have been lots of little hints that Congress has not yet gotten the message; out here in the real world, when we don’t have the money, we stop spending.  In Washington, what are called “cuts” are really just reduction in the rates of growth of spending,

And, there are little vignettes that tell us how out of touch our elected leadership has become.  Consider the Congressional executive jet matter.  As with so many other Congressional matters, this program started with one jet, with things finally blossoming into eight jets.  At a time when Congress was excoriating private business executives for coming to Washington for hearings in these same types of jet.  And, Congress knew that it was doing wrong, because the appropriations for these eight jets were well hidden away.  The fact that the key appropriation elements were saved in the Adobe Reader PDF document as images, which could not be easily searched out, tells you that someone knew that these appropriations were wrong.

It’s Different This Time

We are told that nationalized health care is the best approach, and that the government will somehow get it right.  It might be helpful to ask our Native Americans about the public option, who have enjoyed these benefits for decades.

Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken

To be sure, the health care system has its share of problems.  As pointed out by Clark Howard on a health care reform round table broadcast on WSB Radio on August 24, 2009, we are currently spending 16% of our GDP for health care.  And, there are people that do not have health insurance.  But when the polls are taken, the overwhelming majority of people are reasonably happy with their health care.  And, as Howard pointed out, we are spending 170% of tax revenues already, and nationalized health care will just add to that disproportionate spending.

And, there have been outside influences in the operation of our health care system.  Consider that politicians of all sorts have placed coverage mandates, each of which add to the costs of insurance.  Likewise, in all this talk about the need for reform of our health care system, there has not been a peep about……

Tort Reform

One of the most interesting subjects concerning health care costs has been completely avoided.  How much defensive medicine is being practiced out there?  How many doctors look at a patient and decide to do a complete battery of expensive tests just to be able to defend themselves in the eventuality of a lawsuit?  Likewise, the plaintiff’s bar has managed to insinuate itself into many aspects of our society.  Consider this one example.  And that same plaintiff’s bar are the ones that make major contributions to our elected officials.  Is there little wonder as to why changing the legal structure to protect the medical establishment from lawsuits that have no merit is never discussed?

Constitutionality

We are a country of states; the United States.  Every power not assumed by the Federal government is handled by the individual States.  Each State is different, and how they approach similar problems is an illustration of this principal.  And, each state currently has its own insurance commissioner, who is responsible for the operation of insurance companies in their state.  An interesting question has arisen about the current health care debate; is what is being proposed by the Obama administration constitutional?  Of course, there are those who feel that any good crisis is an opportunity for change, but is that change legal?

The Outer Limits

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity.

Those words from 1963 might as well be those of today.  Bill would give president emergency control of Internet.

Respect

I’m about to give you all of my money
And all I’m askin’ in return, honey
Is to give me my profits

Thank you Lady Aretha. Would that the Congressional leadership give respect to the American people, but nooooooo…… For expressing my concern about their plans, I am an insurance industry pawn.  Which is not be be confused with being a Democratic party pawn. Or a labor union pawn.  Or a welfare pawn.  In the end, what is missing is a sense of respect toward the people who are going to be forced to endure the changes that the Democrats so greatly seek.   Their passions are so high that they disrespect those who are paying for their follies.  They have no understanding how far out of touch with everyday reality that they have become.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me
R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Take care, TCB

And, to continue, Sock it to me.

The Long Hot Summer

This is the summer of our discontent.  Congressional elections are about 14 months away, and Congress has enough time to save themselves.  It is up to us to remind them of what needs to be done.  One can take the cynical attitude, or not.  One can ignore the problem, or not.

Our government has become adversarial and petty, doing dishonor to the people whom it supposedly represents.  If we do not take control of our political system, it will take control of us.

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johnsonmeeting3

The Young and Formerly Young

When I was younger, it used to drive me nuts when adults would solemnly intone “One day, you will understand.”  Well, unfortunately, they were right, and many of the young people today who are adamantly for health care change can’t see themselves old and gray because that’s the way that youth is.  Some day, you will understand. In fact, older adults are an abstraction to many of the young.  Why shouldn’t the young people not understand the issues of the elderly when they have heard the incessant litany from their teachers that every stranger intends to do them harm?  Not to mention the mere character of youth itself?  They will never get old.  Yet, we do share things in common, dying, getting sick, taxes.  Well, maybe not sharing taxes since the administration seems obsessed with taxing “The Rich”, which is Washington-speak for other people.

What today’s youth does not have is a 40-year history of involuntarily paying taxes to “Social Security” with the promise extended from Washington that the money would be there for us when our earning days have ended.  As said before, if that money had been handled by actuaries, there would be no health care crisis.  But they didn’t, it was handled by politicians, and that is the real core of the problem.

Cost Cutting – Washington Style

In a rare moment of editorial clarity, the Atlanta Journal recently explained that the term “Cuts in Medicare” really meant “cuts in the growth of Medicare.”  It’s another example of the fact that things are different inside the Beltway.  Out here in the real world, when we don’t have enough money, we cut our spending.  We don’t eat out as much, we pass on that new electronic toy, we vacation in our backyards.  In Washington, cutting spending has an entirely different color.

For years, the politicians have used the term “cost cutting” to tell the electorate that they feel our pain and are doing something about the spending problems that they seem to chronically enjoy.  In fact, their subterfuge is that the rate of growth of government is throttled back a bit.  But that door swings both ways, and when the current administration threw out the term “Medicare Spending Cuts”, those who will be using Medicare in their old age heard what they did and reacted accordingly.  Which is to say, negatively.  The politicians can’t have it both ways, but they certainly seem to keep trying.

People Just Want to Be Heard

In the end, much of the town hall debacle can be attributed to the naive belief on the part of the electorate that their opinion actually matters.  The town hall meeting process devolved the way that it did because our elected officials have forgotten that minor detail.  Likewise, the political response was largely the equivalent of “Your call is important to us”, and people recognized it as such.  Much has been made of the mayhem at these meetings, but given the stonewall response from Washington in recent years, something had to be done to get their attention.

The Great Debate

Say what you will about how the process has been handled, one has to give the Obama administration credit for bringing up a topic that needed to be discussed.  Of course, the manner of the “discussion” has been an interesting one since there is more heat than light being generated by this so-called discourse.  I blame the media for that because television loves people yelling at each other, lots of action and the promise of more after this commercial break.

In actuality, what is happening on the national scene is not unlike the James Thurber story about a heavily promoted fight between two jungle animals.  Those staging the fight ramped up the publicity, telling all the other animals that they should pay to attend this great match because the animals that were fighting were so evenly matched that it would be the fight of the century.  The end result of all the hyperbole was that nobody attended, because what the animals really want is to see someone just pummeled into submission.

The Endless War

I’m not much of a fan of the current administration, in part because they seem to be stuck in campaign mode.  The fact is that you run for public office, you win and then you find yourself facing an entirely different set of issues when it comes to actually discharging your duties as a public official.  More than a few Congresspersons remain stuck in campaign mode, constantly raising funds for the next election and leaving actual governance and constituent service to their staff.  Which may partially serve to explain Cynthia McKinney’s actions toward the northern half of her former Congressional district.

It appears that the Obama administration is doing such a thing, and the youthful staff that helped get him elected are now creating public policy, writing teleprompter speeches and generally acting like the kids that they are.  That hotbed of conservative thought, MSNBC proclaims that it was the young that gave Obama the election.  And with all that texting and twittering, the kids are now looking at their parents and realizing that we, as a generation, are on the verge of dying.  And that they will be paying the bills, just as every generation before has done.  Presumably, the Hemlock Society will be enjoying an eloquent increase in membership amongst the young.

Death & Dying

While the children call this process Compassion & Choices, it is beginning to sound a little different to me.  I am beginning to feel that I am being pushed out the door.  Although many give Sarah Palin credit for the term “Death Panels”, I am reasonably certain that someone else came up with the concept.  She just articulated it.  However alarmist and inaccurate the notion might have been, it certainly hit a resonant chord with the American public, especially the ones closer to dying.  We’re all going to die, it is just a question of how much dignity that we have when we do.  And, the premise of having to face a bureaucrat to talk about the end of their life is one that a lot of people took to heart.

Likewise, another term which has gained purchase is “crammed down our throats”, and it, too, has achieved resonance with the American public.  Those advocating massive changes to our health care system have treated the general public as needing a dose of Castor oil.  What they don’t seem to remember is that this strong medicine is a laxative….

In any case, the pace of “reform” has been frenetic, due in no small part to the considerable presence of young policy makers who have limited experience.  And, once the young have solved the health care issue, there will be other public policy issues to be addressed.  The pace of “change” has been so fast and so profound, one has to wonder what the Obama administration has planned for the next 3 1/2 years.

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Hank Johnson Town Hall Meeting, August, 2009

Hank Johnson Town Hall Meeting, August, 2009

It has been said that whatever the State of California is, that will be the state of the United States in five years.  Lucky us; political gridlock, issuing IOU’s to State vendors and awash with people who are not citizens of the United States.  And, with the upcoming census, this promises to become worse.  To wit:

“California could get nine House seats it doesn’t deserve because illegal aliens will be counted in 2010.

And:

According to the latest American Community Survey, California has 5,622,422 noncitizens in itspopulation of 36,264,467.

Further, the Obama administration is talking about controlling the 2010 census rather than the usual agency, the Department of Commerce.  In short, something fast is going on here and one gets the impression that the current debate about health care is designed to be a distraction from what is really going on.  In addition to the census issues, there is also the fact that the economy appears to be on the verge of recovery and only 10% of the “stimulus” funds have been spent.  Likewise, the Cash for Clunkers program was meant to last until November, but blew through its 1 $Billion allocation in under a week.

The “U. S. will be like California in five years” appears to be closer to “two years” at the rate of current spending.  Likewise, the political leadership is from California and from the region.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is from San Francisco, California.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is from Nevada.  The current health care reform in the House of Representatives is being led by my favorite limousine liberal, Henry Waxman, who hails from Beverly Hills, California.  California has given us a lot of things over the last century, from Walt Disney to Charles Manson, movie stars and swimming pools, to state mandated electricity utility restructuring leading to brownouts and so much more.

Now comes the national health care debate; yes, things probably need some work, but you have to wonder why such an important issue that affects so many people would have been undertaken under such circumstances.  One would think that the powerful Democratic Party would have first gained consensus and then built legislation around that.  No, instead we get television coverage of people yelling at each other, a reflection of television itself.  We get the President speaking at a “town hall” so stacked that seldom was heard a discouraging word.  The President had to prod for some skeptical questions, but considering that everybody present in that hall that day had been admitted only after it was established that they were loyal to the Democratic Party and/or the President himself, there could not have been a difficult question raised  This event included a grade school child asking a scripted question; as it turns out, this innocent is the daughter of a woman who was “an early Obama supporter and donor in Massachusetts during the presidential election.” Another great moment for our Republic.

That said, the Democrats and the President have little right to become indignant.  It is not realistic to undertake a massive societal change and then be surprised when there is popular pushback.  The people who attend these town hall meetings are our neighbors, our friends and those concerned about the direction that this thing is taking.  Yet, they are portrayed as Nazis, insurance company goons and the deranged.  The Democrats’ notion is that health care reform idea is so good that there should be no opposition, and when there is opposition, they deny its existence by demonizing or marginalizing.  It is arrogance at the highest quarter to believe that way.  And, it does not give honor to the Office of the President, who, no matter what their political orientation, is the President of all of us.  The President says health care critics use ‘scare tactics’.  How could people not be scared given the the strident pace of legislating the “reform” and considering the tone of the rhetoric?

Politicization of Health Care

Not that this is unfamiliar territory.  I reside in the 4th U. S. Congressional District of Georgia, and for many years, our representative was a strident woman who did not like white people.  Of course, when election time came around, she would be photographed with a few white specimens just to garner some votes from the community.  On balance, however, if you were from a certain ZIP code and you contacted her offices for constituent support, you were ignored, not even given the courtesy of a response.

Now, with public skepticism about the health care reform legislation, we hear the questioners being called un-American.  If there is ever a hallmark of being a legitimate American, it is that you have moments of un-Americanism.  It can’t be any other way, you have to periodically question the status-quo just to be able to come up with the original ideas that we do.  I would have it no other way.  What will be next, a House Un-American Activities Committee?  Back in the 1950’s the liberals hated this committee, now they seem to be embracing it.

If this is the way that our government speaks to its citizens, those that support it financially through their taxes, how will our government speak to us when they control our healthcare?  And, this portends our greatest unspoken fear, that healthcare itself will become politicized.  That when it comes to a margin call about some medical procedure and you have to contact your Congressperson, will their response be based upon your political inclinations?

I am Somebody

People want to be heard, and not to hear “Your call is important to us“.  And, when it comes to health care, it doesn’t get much more personal.  We all get sick, and we all die.  Yet, we are being told to shut up and accept what is unacceptable.  Our neighbors are being told to report anything that is “fishy” to the White House.  It’s the 1950’s again, and instead of a Red-under-every-bed, it is now something else, yet equally unattractive.  We are now reduced to ratting on our neighbors.  The White House is the people’s house, not the Democratic Party headquarters.  This is unseemly.

Professional Wrestling

There are those in the media who have compared the current health care discussion to being like the World Wrestling Federation.  And, in point  of fact, that is close to the truth because the media has helped the process along.  As usual, I am reminded of a story, one of a young socialite from Boston who decided that she wanted a career in newspaper reporting.

Through family connections, she got a job at the Boston Globe and presented herself to the city editor for duty.  The editor looked at her and realized that this gentle lady represented nothing but problems for him and decided to give her a first assignment that could well also be her last assignment.  He sent her to cover that night’s professional wrestling match in Boston.

Professional wrestling, so called, was then much as it is today.  That is, it is a battle between Good and Evil, and Good does not always win.  Likewise, after the matches are over and the hall is being swept of debris, Good & Evil often sat down for a few beers and a discussion of the day’s events.  Those who attended these matches were usually working-class, who greatly enjoyed the show.

There is no record as to whether this young lady continued in journalism, but she left us with a paragraph that could easily describe the health care “debate”.

However fake the wrestling might be, the crowd is for real.

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From time to time, the United States goes on a legislative bender, passing a law or group of laws that attempt massive change to our society.  Such a thing is happening now with “Health Care Reform”.  Considering the pressure for rapid action, one is left with a sneaking suspicion that the Congress is trying to pull a fast one.  And, health care reform is not as much about national health care as much as it is about private-sector versus public-sector management of our society.  Please see here.

There have been attempts at massive change in the past.  Consider Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.  Or Mao’s Great Leap Forward.  But one that is really worthy of our attention is Prohibition, where the United States (among a half dozen other countries) prohibited the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol.  Based on the best of intentions, Prohibition in the United States would give organized crime an unprecedented opportunity.  Likewise, it stimulated popular violation of the law by the general populace.   To quote:

Under substantial pressure from the temperance movement, the United States Senate proposed the Eighteenth Amendment on December 18, 1917. Having been approved by 36 states, the 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and effected on January 16, 1920.

Once again, “community activists” worked their way upon the general population.  The historically astute will note that this process began in 1918, when a substantial portion of the male population of the United States was overseas in Europe, fighting World War I.  The doughboys returned from wine drinking France to a very dry United States.

As we have said in past postings, the United States has a remarkable capability to adapt to unfair laws.  We are an ingenious people.  Public response to the prohibition of alcohol was almost immediate, and a lot of people that were rum runners in that time later became legitimate figures; consider Joseph P. Kennedy, an alleged bootlegger, for example.

Eventually, the Prohibition was repealed, after a period of time when enforcement of the law became more challenging.  We’re talking Eliot Ness here.

National Health Care

Now we have the specter of nationalized health care on the horizon, and whenever government seeks to maintain absolute control over any facet of our society, there are going to be leaks, outbreaks and resistance.  It seems reasonable to assume this proposed National Health Care will not be different.  So, a few thoughts.

Egalitarianism

There is a streak of egalitarianism in the United States.  And, the prospect of the wealthy going overseas for medical treatment while the rest remain here with limited resources will be fodder for the media and for the politicians.  Nothing like having an enemy to demonize.

Medical Tourism

Even with our current largely free-market health care system, people are still traveling to different countries for medical care.  In part, this is driven by cost management, but it would seem likely that an absence of availability would lead people to going overseas for medical treatment which is not easily available here.

Currently, health care costs overseas are based upon actual costs plus the presence of our domestic market capacity.  If that domestic market capacity goes down because of governmental regulation, then the overseas medical costs will likely go up.  This will drive the cost conscious medical consumer out of that market, making medical tourism the province of the evil rich.

I can just see the image now of some fat cat businessman being photographed at poolside while he has a hip replacement.  In the background are palm trees and a beach; our fat cat is drinking champagne out of a nurse’s shoe.

Congress always feels the necessity of making the fat cats pay for everybody else on the egalitarian premise that the rich can afford it.  Probably so, but what constitutes being “rich” has an interesting way of creeping downward.  Right now, the proposed tax levy is on people making over $250,000.00 (or whatever), but that tax levy could just as easily be levied on rich people making $100,000.00 per year.  Once the tax is in place, it will be tweaked constantly.

Likewise, people that make a lot of money can afford to hire professionals to help them legally avoid paying an unpleasant tax.  You figure that there are thousands of pages of health care reform legislation; there are bound to be some loopholes in there someplace.

At the same time, the wealthy are more likely to have a free-market approach and respond accordingly.  Just ask the $20.00 / hour boatyard worker who was laid off when Congress passed a tax on the purchase of yachts.  And, when the idle rich did buy a new yacht, it was likely to have been manufactured overseas.

Black Market

For those too poor to travel, there will be the black market.  One of the long standing campaign cries from the left has been the “Back Alley Abortion”.  Now, the Back Alley MRI will become the norm.  This is not as far fetched as it seems.  Consider that there is a lot of medical machinery out there right now, a lot of it sitting idle already.  And, there are the skilled personnel to operate that advanced machinery.

Unless the government gives dog & pony shows where those expensive gamma knife machines are publicly destroyed with road rollers like so many counterfeit Rolex watches, those machines are still going to be available for use.  And, they probably will not be in a back alley someplace, but in the hospital where they currently reside.  Consider the words of an associate from one of my previous dissolute careers:

It is helpful to remember that every secured facility has inherent weaknesses that allow entry.  For example, on weekends, many of these facilities are left under the watchful eye of someone with a high school education whose family could really use a new refrigerator.

If you can’t afford to go to Malaysia for medical treatment, you probably will be able to find medical personnel who have been laid off in the latest effort to control costs.  Needless to say, there will need to be an Untouchables Squad to monitor hospitals after hours.

Special Interests

The liberal portions of the media are all atwitter about health care reform, so-called.  A recent Time magazine article was titled: “How special interests could block health reform”.  Well suit yourself,  but it is special interests that are pushing for health care reform.  It’s just a matter of which special interest you like.  The rest of America is sitting on the sidelines, grimly watching this spectacle, and wondering if this trip is really necessary.  Consider this article from Karl Rove.  In part:

Mr. Obama’s problem is that nine out of 10 Americans would likely get worse health care if ObamaCare goes through. Of those who do not have insurance—and who therefore might be better off—approximately one-fifth are illegal aliens, nearly three-fifths make $50,000 or more a year and can afford insurance, and just under a third are probably eligible for Medicaid or other government programs already.

For the slice of the uninsured that is left—perhaps about 2% of all American citizens—Team Obama would dismantle the world’s greatest health-care system….

Special interests, indeed.

Abortion and the taxpayer

Abortion is one of those issues for which there is no resolution, no matter what each side thinks.  There are simply no words which can be used to convince people that have made up their mind.  At the same time, this remains a contentious issue, and there’s a reason why there is a continuous political dynamic about this.  Now, buried in the thousands of pages of enabling legislation, it appears that we will soon be paying for abortions through our taxes, no matter what we believe. 

Moving Target

As Congress prepares for its August recess and returns home to face the voters, they have been given a reprieve.  Because there are four or five different versions of the proposed legislation, your elected representative can honestly say that he doesn’t know what’s going to be voted on.  As if they do anyway, but with so many different proposals being rushed through, they know even less.

And, the legislation is largely being prepared by congressional aides, who are on Capitol Hill forever; the politicians may come and go, but the aides are there until they choose to retire.

End of Life Counsel

I can only imagine what it will be like to meet with a public official to talk about the end of my life.  It sounds so cheery and positive, like taxpayer compliance audits by the IRS or getting a building permit from the City of Atlanta.  And, given the circumstances, the meeting will probably be similar to meeting loved ones in prison, with people separated from each other by bullet-proof glass.  If the end-of-life counselor tells you tough luck, you’re not getting the surgery, just what do you have left to lose?

47 Million

Instead of 45 million, the official number of the “uninsured” is now 47 million.  The numbers are creeping upward to help bolster the case for nationalized health care, but these numbers are also fluid because nobody really knows and are the result of estimation.  The only true way to determine the number of uninsured is to establish a national identity card.

The National Identity Card

Which brings us to another interesting point.  For years, advocates have told us that a national identity card is the first step to totalitarianism.  But if everybody in the United States is going to be insured, there needs to be proof of that insurance coverage, thus we back-door our way into the national identity card.

Tort Reform

Have you noticed that there has been no mention of medical tort reform?  That is, government controlled or not, lawyers will still be able to sue doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and anybody standing nearby.  No wonder that medical costs are rising.

The End

This whole process is so bad, so out of line with what America stands for.  How bad can this get?

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