Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Emporer Has No Cabinet

Almost eight months into the Obama Presidency (Ten months since his election), and a substantial portion of his cabinet is empty.  Almost half of the the President’s appointed positions are vacant.

The majority of reports indicate two major issues are preventing Obama from organizing the government.  The first centers around the number of candidates that simply did not want to be in his cabinet (see NYT article).  The second contributing factor is thought to be a tougher confirmation process than in the past.  How is that possible?  Hasn’ the Senate been populated with a filibuster-proof Democratic majority?  That would seem to say that even Democrats find issue with the people Obama feels should be running various agencies in this country.

So what positions still don’t have an Obama appointee?

  • Secretary of the Army
  • Director of the Agency for International Development
  • Assistant Treasury Secretary
  • Inspector General
  • Assistant Secretary of State (Nuclear nonproliferation)
  • Transportation Security Agency
  • Customs and Border Protection
  • Drug Enforcement Agency
  • Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  • Intelligence Chief for the Department of Homeland Security

I believe there is more than meets the eye here.  Certainly several candidates have chosen not to be in Obama’s administration.  I agree that doing anything in Congress is complex and cumbersome, including the confirmation process.  Seriously though, every previous administration had those exact things to deal with.  The real difference: Czars.  The President has chosen to ignore the Constitution, skirt Congressional oversight, and create a cabinet of non-confirmed power-mongers.  This is a serious affront to the checks and balances set forth in the framework that is our Constitution.  Has the President spent too much effort to find leftist Czars instead of working to place respectable and effective leaders at the top of incredibly important segments of of  our Federal Government?

Health Care Reform Analyzed: A Critical View of H.R.3200

Health care reform is badly-needed, but I am certain that what is being proposed won’t create a higher-quality system, just a higher-cost one.  The current administration is using poorly-vetted statistics to convince the American population that the only way we can have health care is if the government gives it to us.  So some things you may have heard:

Administration Statement: The government can control administrative costs better than greedy, capitalistic private insurers
Plain, Hard Truth: Medicare “appears” to have lower administrative costs only if you examine administrative costs as a percentage of dollars spent per person.  Because Medicare is filled with older folks with more expensive medical needs per visit (new hips, back surgery, cancer treatment, etc), which cost much more than someone going in for a busted ankle… the administrative fees appear to be much less.  In reality, check this fact-based evaluation of actual Medicare/Medicaid numbers for how much more expensive Medicare actually is than private insurance.       Medicare costs per individual and Medicare inefficiency and CAHI Report

Administration Statement: “If you like your health plan, you can keep it!”
Plain, Hard Truth: Due to the “grandfather clause” in H.R.3200 (full text), an insurance company can NOT enroll new members into any plan that is not government approved.  If “government approved” didn’t scare you enough, here’s how insurance works.  Over time, people leave certain plans/products.  If there are no new members coming into that plan/product to keep the risk pool viable, the product/plan is no longer supportable and will be discontinued.  If you like your PPO, HSA, or other “not government-approved” plan… it will be discontinued once the new health plan makes it economically infeasible.

Excerpt from H.R. 3200 Section 102(a)
(1) LIMITATION ON NEW ENROLLMENT
(A) IN GENERA
L
Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance
issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day of Y1″

Administration Statement: “You will not be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions”
Plain, Hard Truth: You won’t be denied coverage, but many will face denied reimbursement.  Since the the current public option is based on the Medicare fee schedule, if it’s not in there, you won’t get reimbursed for it.

Excerpt from H.R. 3200 section 223(a)
(A) IN GENERAL
Except as provided in subparagraph (B) and subsection (b)(1),
during Y1, Y2, and Y3, the Secretary shall base the
payment rates under this section for services and providers described in paragraph (1) on the payment rates for similar services and providers under parts A and B of Medicare.

Administration Statement: “If you like your Doctor, you can keep him/her.”
Plain, Hard Truth: Even President Obama and his administration are having trouble continuing to say that.  It has become, “If you like your doctor, it is more-than-likely that you will be able to keep…”    Link

Administration Statement: “The government will not come between you and your doctor”
Plain, Hard Truth: The government said that in 1965 with the first public option (medicare): Original Medicare Promises – Now Broken

Administration Statement: “The plan must be budget-nuetral”

Plain, Hard Truth: It already isn’t and it hasn’t even started: Rising cost of entitlements.  We simply can no-longer afford a free-spending Congress.

Administration Statement: The only way to fix health care is a government-run option
Plain, Hard Truth: There are many alternative ideas in Congress that will improve our health care situation.  Some of these ideas have already been implemented at the state level and are showing promise.

Texas has implemented tort reform and seen an increase in available providers (over 57% increase) and provider competition. With that change alone, hospitals are saving millions of dollars on legal proceedings and using that money for increased services (better access) and charitable services (free access to the under-insured). Results from Texas Tort Reform (many will argue – “But where are the savings?”.  Controlling costs are but one facet of true health care reform.  We must increase access to good health care as well as making it less expensive.

We are hearing that a shortage of doctors is affecting accessibility.  Texas has an increase of almost 15,000 physicians since the 2003 Tort Reform (Proposition 12).  Governor Rick Perry has indicated that tort reform has made previously-unavailable services such as Obstetrics and Gynecology accessible to critically underserved communities in lower-income and rural communities.
One could add in portability by removing the federally-mandated state borders for insurers and doctors as well as making it just as lucrative for people to get health insurance directly instead of through their employers (individual plans exist today, but tax-incentives are only if the health plan is acquired through an employer), and finally… there must be a co-pay… free gets too expensive too quickly (economics 101).

Administration Statement: We have to do everything and we have to do it all now.
Plain, Hard Truth: Senator Lieberman even suggests that perhaps we don’t have to do it all now to see benefits and he certainly says this is not the right time (link).

Summary:
We can and should enact health care reform.  It should be done incrementally so we can learn what works and modify what does not.  Doing everything all at once will irreversibly destroy the health care system we have and put a far more dangerous one in its place.

See Also: Baucus Chairman’s mark (Proposed Senate bill for health care reform)

Health Care Reform Does Not Increase Competition

Right or Entitlement

Recently, the left has sought to change the way we discuss entitlements.  No longer should these benefits provided to certain groups be discussed as entitlements, they are rights.  But, what does the change in semantics actually mean?

From a constitutional perspective, a right is something that is universally applicable to all Americans, does not require the actions of others to enact, and in exercising a right, the rights of others cannot be infringed upon.  These key characteristics of a right should be used to measure what comes out of Congress as a right.

Let’s apply this criteria to some important amendments in the Bill of Rights. The first amendment, freedom of Speech and religion, has the characteristics of a right as it is written.   It simply prevents the passage of laws that would limit the exercise of religion, speech, assembly, and redress of grievances.  Nowhere in first amendment does it permit Congress to force free speech to be “fair” by enacting legislation to balance what is published, spoken, or transmitted nor does it require the actions of anyone to provide us with mechanisms through which we can exercise this right.  It would be unimaginable to believe that the government should pay for a stadium so that a group could freely assemble, wouldn’t it?

The same principals could be applied to the second amendment, the right to keep and bear arms.  Again, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed“.  As a right, Americans may purchase and posses guns.  It does not entitle citizens to a gun.  In other words, the government is not responsible to give a gun to every American or supply them with ammunition or accessories.  This is a fundamental principal when discussing entitlements as rights.  Rights are something that cannot be infringed, but they are not something that is guaranteed to be provided.

Is retirement a right?  Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean that the government should supply it.  We have Social Security (until it goes broke in 2037) which is an entitlement.  Retirement is actually an extension of our right to life and perhaps pursuit of happiness.  That means that we can work to retire any way we choose.  It does not mean that the government is required to plan our retirement for us.  In effect, Social Security is infringing on the rights of those that would prefer to retire without government intervention.  The social security taxation that is law may prevent such persons from using the same money to alternatively fund their preferred retirement vehicle.

Health care as a right?  Again, this is more of an extension of the right to life.  The problem with saying that universal health care is a right, is that it infringes upon the rights of those that would not choose to have their health care provided for by the government.  You cannot enact a right that infringes upon or limits the rights of others.  It also should not require action on the part of another.  Universal health care would require all Americans to enroll in the plan or pay penalties (2% of gross annual income).  This is where single-payer, universal coverage, and the public option lose ground.  They are infringing on the rights of over 240 million to provide an entitlement to less than 30 million (a majority of whom may not want it or may not even be citizens).

Liberals, by ideology, favor the empowerment of a central government.  Turning entitlements into rights does more than simply empowering the government.  It also creates a dependency where the entitled now require the actions of the provider of the entitlement to enjoy the rights they already possessed.  This releases the entitled citizen from having to be responsible for their own rights, and gives that responsibility and therefor authority to someone else – the government.

To enjoy rights, Americans should learn that what they are and what responsibilities come with them.  We should understand our rights and take actions to insure our own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  If we were more responsible for our own rights, we would need far less “help” from the government.  Perhaps the inverse is also true – if the government were less involved in the provision of our rights, individuals would have to be far more responsible to insure them.

What Does It Mean to Be Conservative?

What does it mean to be a conservative in America?  The leftist groups in America would label a conservative as a selfish, power-hungry, profit-monger that desires nothing more than their own individual success.  Conservatives have been consistently shamed into inaction with these messages.

Why have these negative labels been successful?  Is it because conservatives are really just out for money, power, and themselves?  Many have met through the ages to help identify what conservatism is and while these discussion have brought about debate on some finer points, a set of fundamentals resulted from a conservative think tank.  In 1964, Frank Meyer, called together a group that included a broad base of political thinkers to help create the tenets of conservatism:

  • They accept “an objective moral order” of “immutable standards by which human conduct should be judged.”
  • Whether they emphasize human rights and freedoms or duties and responsibilities, they unanimously value “the human person” as the center of political and social thought.
  • They oppose liberal attempts to use the State “to enforce ideological patterns on human beings.”
  • They reject the centralized power and direction necessary to the “planning” of society.
  • They join in defense of the Constitution “as originally conceived.”
  • They are devoted to Western civilization and acknowledge the need to defend it against the “messianic” intentions of Communism.

These are the foundations of conservatism.    America was founded on the rights of the individual and limited government.  Conservatives pride themselves on protecting those concepts.  Left-wing radicals use conservative-bashing labels as an attempt to vilify conservatives instead of trying to attack their ideals.  Attacking the true ideals would yield the liberal movement no ground as those principals are a basis for most Americans .

Saul Alinsky understood that attacking the basic conservative tenets would offend some of the liberal base as-well.  In order to achieve a sea-change in the American order, liberals had to use radical tactics to consolidate power by ridicule – not the reasoned debate liberals so often herald.  Saul Alinsky said, “My aim here is to suggest how to organize for power: how to get it and how to use it.” This is not to be done with assistance to the poor, nor even by organizing the poor to demand assistance.”.

Alinsky was an organizational genius.  By shaming the middle-class into believing that their successes were not due to their own hard work but were instead due to being lucky, the whole idea of the classic American dream could be questioned.  These strategies have started to shift power from the American individual to the liberal-ideal of a collective – and more succinctly, an elitist-controlled collectivist empire.  The little bits of power that had been spread among a great majority of Americans could then be high-jacked and given to
a chosen few leaders and advisers in the central government – the true elitists.

Centralizing power into the government violates a basic principal of conservatism and so the battle lines are drawn.  Liberals would argue that by allowing the government to provide for us, greater equality is achieved.  Understanding the elitist end of every collectivist effort so far (i.e. Russia, Cuba, N. Korea, Venezuela, etc), an answer to the liberal argument might be that of Orwell, “All animals are created equal, some more equal than others.”.

The elitist media and leadership are going to shove a load at you over the next 6 months.  Understand that every move is about making you more dependent upon them, more understanding of them, and just more… them.  Being a conservative is simply realizing that fact and not going quietly into that good night.

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