Thursday, December 13, 2012

HSA's--One Important Way to Address Healthcare Cost Inflation

Health Savings Accounts are a recently developed tax incentive for saving to pay for your own healthcare.  They are different from Health Reimbursement Accounts that require you to spend all the money each year.  You can rollover the money in the account if you don't spend it.  The website I have linked above is a company that offers health savings accounts.  If your employer offers high deductible medical insurance, you may be qualified to enroll.  The website describes the whole process.  They are simple and easy to use.

The more important question is why this is a good approach.  As you can see, an individual can contribute up to $3200 and a family more than double that each year.  The idea is that you start this plan when you are young and have few medical costs and you keep it until you are old and have lots of medical costs.  In the meantime, you have invested it and your investment income has made it grow to a tidy amount.    You don't pay taxes on the money when you invest it and you don't pay taxes when you use it for medical expenses.

The plan offers a debit card and checks to pay for medical expenses directly.  No claims to file.  No third party decision makers deciding if you "need" the medical care recommended by your physician.

But how, you may ask, does this type of plan address the issue of medical costs?  I will let John Mackey make the first argument.  Mackey makes the legitimate argument that, for the most part, people don't even ask what a medical procedure costs.  They don't shop for the lowest price or the best value.  And the reason, he suggests, is that, when you have conventional medical insuranee, you are not paying for it.  If you are paying for it, even with tax advantaged funds, you will ask.  And you will make choices based, not on some insurance company guidelines, but on the basis of what is important to you.  Only you know if that very high priced latest drug for pain control is worth it to you.

In my case, my physician prescribed a drug that cost more than $200 for pain relief. At the time I didn't have drug coverage in my Medicare plan.  To say the least, I asked a few questions and did a little research and concluded that a) my pain wasn't that bad and b) there were much lower cost alternatives that would provide as much pain relief as this very expensive drug.   No other person really knows how much pain you are in.  No one else should be making that decision, really.  But under regular insurance plans, some faceless nameless insurance company employee looks at a guideline and decides if you need that expensive drug.  With an HSA, you make that decision.  In my case I decided I would rather forego the expensive drug.

HSA's also, simply put, reduce costs.  They are better for individuals, who have much more freedom of choice than with a regular insurance plan where a third party makes the decisions, and they are better for medical care providers, who get paid right away.

Many medical offices employ a full time employee just to process medical claims.  Insurance companies and third party administrators enter into contracts with Medicare to process the claims.  It costs billions of dollars each year just to process all the claims.  Health Savings Accounts would reduce that cost substantially since only very large medical costs would be part of the claims process. If you have an HSA, you pay the equivalent of cash for your office visits and your medications.  It is only when you have very large expenses that you file a claim.  Experience, on a broad scale, shows that HSA's save both employees and employers a lot of money.  The State of Indiana offered HSA's as an option for employees in 2004.  By 2009, 90 percent of Indiana State employees had opted for them.  AS the report shows, those enrolled in HSA's  were more likely to use generics rather than name brand pharmaceuticals, used urgent care centers rather than emergency rooms for non ER problems and used preventative services more often.  The moral of that story is that if you, the consumer, are the person who benefits from using a more cost effective alternative in medical care, you will use it.  If the insurance company is paying for it, no matter what choice you make, why should you save the insurance company money.

So, if HSA's are so great why are there so few advocates for them?  Please note what I said above.  Insurance Companies and Third Party Administrators make billions of dollars from processing claims.  Many of them will go out of business or see a substantial reduction in revenue if HSA's are widely adopted.  They have lobbies.  There are only a few HSA administrators and only a few employers who care enough about their employees to advocate on their behalf.

You might think that Unions would be advocating for something that benefits employees.  You would be wrong.  The reason?  Many unions sponsor health care plans and receive a percentage of the premiums.  Like the AARP, which sponsors Medicare plans and makes billions in the process, they are far from an impartial advocate for the insurance that they sell.

The first step is for people to at least know what HSA's are and to ask their employers to establish an HSA.

The second step is to improve the legislation on HSA's.  The Obamacare legislation took it a step backward by eliminating coverage for non-prescription drugs.  For those of us who are cost conscious this is an abomination. It leads to people choosing expensive prescription drugs when an over the counter drug would do just fine.  It's a stupid policy.  Example:  if you ever have a twisted ankle, a wrenched knee or other musculo skelatal injury that is not major but very painful, the chances are that your physician will prescribe 600 or 800 milligram ibuprofen.  The last time I was offered a prescription like that I asked this question:  Is there any  difference between taking 3 or 4 200 milligram tablets of the type that I can buy at Costco, $14 for 1000 tablets and the 600 milligram tablet that requires a prescription?  Answer: No.  Except that 3 over the counter tablets are cheaper than one 600 milligram tablet.  Many of the drugs that are now sold over the counter were once prescription drugs and are very effective for the purposes for which they are sold.  Why should consumers pay the difference for a prescription?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

How Changing One Government Dietary Recommendation Could Greatly Reduce Healthcare Costs.

Those who know me know I am a little bit of a low-carb fanatic.  Off and on anyway.  I like cupcakes as much as the next person, but, periodically, I go on a low carb diet and, most of the time, I limit the amount of carbs that I eat.  I treat french fries, cupcakes and pasta the same-- they are all occasional treats not dietary staples for me.  I eat a low carb bread (Sara Lee's Delite ful brand that has about 5 carbs per slice) and have bacon and eggs for breakfast, not cereal.

The evidence is accumulating that for a person like me, who most likely has an inherited predisposition toward diabetes (both parents, older sister and cousin are diabetic), a low carb diet is the best way to prevent the onset of diabetes. I worry about diabetes enough that I bought my own glucose testing kit just so I wouldn't have to go to the doctor all the time to find out what my blood glucose is.  They are not necessarily expensive-- Walmart sells its cheapest one for less than twenty dollars.  So far so good for me.  My last Ha1c test was 4.5 which is, to quote my physician, stellar.  Harvard Researchers recommend lowering the glycemic index of your diet to help prevent or postpone diabetes.  Clinicians say, simply, your choice is medicine or lay off the carbs.  If you reduce your blood sugar levels you can prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is also called adult onset diabetes.  It is a different disease from type 1 diabetes.  In type 1 diabetes your body doesn't make enough insulin to handle the carbs that you eat.  In type 2 diabetes your body manufactures plenty of insulin, but your cells, over time, develop a resistance to the insulin and don't use it properly.  The second type of diabetes can be prevented by keeping both your blood sugars and your insulin low.  When your body is functioning properly, it generates large amounts of insulin whenever you eat refined carbs and sweets.  That insulin can, over time, do damage to your organs just as the sugar in your blood can cause damage to your organs.  That accounts for the horrible diabetes related problems: kidney disease, heart disease, blindness and peripheral neuropathy which eventually cuts off circulation to your extremities.

After decades of recommending low fat diets to diabetics based on very questionable science, researchers have begun to perform clinical studies of the effect of diets on blood sugar for people who are pre diabetic or diabetic and not being treated with medication.  The results are stunning.  Even short term low carb diets reduce blood sugar very significantly.  Weight loss is also much greater, even while consuming the same number of calories, for people with metabolic syndrome who follow low carb vs. low fat diets.

Clinical trials where subjects are matched and one group follows one diet and one follows a comparison diet are the gold standard in scientific research for diets.   This study, published in the American Diabetes Association Journal shows that over a fairly short period the blood glucose for subjects following a diet with 20 percent carbohydrate (about 100 grams per day if you are eating a 2000 calorie diet, more if you are eating more), was dramatically lower than the blood glucose of those who followed a low fat diet.  119 vs, 198,  For those of us who follow these things, neither of those readings are terrific but 119 is a lot better than 198.  It is close to normal.

If clinical trials comparing like subjects are the gold standard, this study, performed with people in the clinic so that actual consumption of food could be closely monitored, is the platinum standard. It was performed in hospital so that energy expenditure and food consumption could be closely monitored.
It shows that women whose carbohydrate consumption was controlled, but who were allowed to eat as much protein and fat as they wanted, spontaneously ate less.  This is a claim made for low carb diets by both Atkins, and other proponents like Drs, Mary and Dan Eades who offer the Protein Power diet.  Put simply, the study concluded that people who have metabolic syndrome will be less hungry if they eat fewer carbohydrates, will eat less and will lose more weight simply because they are less hungry.

This study, sponsored by Jenny Craig, shows that low carb diets are more effective in achieving weight loss as well as helpful in reducing  insulin resistance (a precursor of diabetes).  I should note for the conspiracy theorists that Jenny Craig sells pre-packaged foods to help attain weight loss.  They have no investment in either low fat or low carb.  Their investment is in selling a combined counseling and weight loss program that actually works.  Doubtless, their research was designed to find out which approach was more likely to be effective so that they could incorporate it in their products.

There are many more studies than I have listed.  The three I have listed are more recent and closer to the gold standard of clinical trials than other studies so I cited them.  To be more specific, they came up on the first page of a google search and were from reputable sources.

If you look on the labels of many packaged foods that you buy, you will discover that the USDA (your government) recommends that 60 percent of your diet should consist of carbohydrates.  These studies show that such a diet, for people predisposed to diabetes or with diabetes, is not good for them.  Their blood sugar and all their other diabetes related measurements are better on a diet which is 20 percent carbohydrates.  Rather than consuming 300 grams of carbs a day, as recommended by USDA, if you are pre-diabetic, or have insulin resistance (which is probably the case if you are overweight) you should be limiting your carbs to 100 grams and making up the rest with proteins and fats.

And what would be the consequence if a significant percentage of the diabetes prone population would change their dietary habits in this fashion?  According to this congressional study, about 32% of Medicare expenditures are related to treatment of diabetes and the consequences of diabetes.  While the figure is a smaller percentage for the overall population it is still very high, about 10 percent of health care dollars for treatment of diabetes and another significant percentage for treatment of diabetes related illnesses.  Getting people to just change their diets could reduce medicare expenditures by  10 or 20 percent.

Can the government change people's behavior?  Yes, if the science supports it.  Tobacco use has dropped dramatically since the government and medical leaders began talking about the harm that smoking does to health.  More and more the science supports the recommendation that people who have diabetes or who are prone to diabetes should limit their carbs.  100 grams of carbs a day is, by the way, not all that low.  Protein Power recommends a maximum of 50 grams a day and Atkins starts you off with 20 grams a day.  100 grams a day would allow you to have 2 glasses of milk (26 grams) a small orange and an apple ( about 40  grams) and a couple of slices of bread or a small baked potato.  The rest of your diet would be fish, meat, eggs, leafy green vegetables, lower carb fruit (strawberries are very low in carbs) and nuts.  (Peanut butter without sugar added is pretty low in carbs).

People who call themselves nutritionists sometimes are adamantly opposed to low carb diets.  The new school lunch guidelines, supposedly designed to reduce obesity and the early onset of type 2 diabetes, advocate a diet that the research I cited above, is likely to CAUSE obesity and high blood sugars.  This is what happens when the self designated experts capture an agency.   Some of these zealots are people who advocate vegetarian eating almost like a religion, in the face of the substantial evident cited above and in other journals. For them, it is not so much that they are pro-carbs as it is that that is what you eat if you eschew animal based food. You can follow a low carb diet if you are a vegan.  It's just very difficult and consists of a lot of tofu and tempi.    Some may simply be in the pay of industrial giants like Kellogg, Archer Daniel Midlands, and General Mills.  The natural result of the widespread adoption of low carb diets by the diabetes prone would be a reduced consumption of grains and starchy vegetables.  Since I doubt that the potato farmers have a huge lobby, I am going to finger Archer Daniel Midlands and the cereal producers as the lobbyists who support the present dietary guidelines.   I don't have a lot of data to back it up, I admit.

If you are among the diabetes prone, you don't have to wait for the government to act.  Following a limited  carb diet will make you feel better fairly quickly and will reduce the chance that you will develop diabetes.  I want to point out for those of you who eat a high carb diet and have normal weight and blood sugars, that I am not advocating a low carb diet for everyone.  The evidence is strong that different people process carbohydrates differently and that diabetes is a genetically linked disease related to the processing of carbohydrates.  It just appears that a lot of us have that condition and should be aware of it and respond appropriately.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Benificent Left and Social Security

The people who are so worried about not making anyone feel bad (unless the people who feel bad are white, old or male) have lately taken to talking about Social Security recipients as if they were welfare recipients.  They also talk about all federal spending as "handouts".  "Handout" is, of course a demeaning term that implies that the recipient of said handout is getting something for nothing, is a social parasite.

Strangely, people who are conservative, and opposed to excessive government spending, hardly ever talk about social security recipients that way.  Some people might argue that the reason conservatives don't talk about social security recipients with such mean contempt is that conservatives get more of their votes.  But that is not always the case.

I think the reason is that people who are conservative, like me, respect work.  People who are receiving social security, by definition worked.  Certainly you can argue that many will receive far more than they would have received from a private investment program.  But the truth is that most of those people are the people who have been collecting social security for a while.  Those of us who just started receiving social security, particularly formerly high income earners, can expect to receive less in benefits than we would have received from a private annuity for the same expenditure.  For those who don't remember the history of Social Security, the cause of this change is that Social Security tax rates were dramatically increased by that conservative warrior, Ronald Reagan, in order to keep the system solvent.  So those of us who are the Younger Oldsters, paid a lot more in Social Security and Medicare taxes than older Oldsters.

The derisive sneers coming from the left in my direction because I rail against big government while receiving Medicare benefits and Social Security are, to me, just further proof that the left really cares nothing about people and everything about power.  If they can be so derisive and contemptuous of people who were forced to participate in a government retirement and medical insurance program (that would be all of us)  then, they really care nothing about people.

By talking about us as if we were welfare recipients the left proves how little good faith there is in any supposedly charitable programs they sponsor.  I, after all, worked and paid FICA taxes and Medicare taxes for  about 50 years and about 45 years respectively.  I wasn't given the option of a private retirement program instead.  I was allowed to have a private retirement program in addition, and I do have it. Yet to the left, we are just like all of the other recipients of federal charity. There is no difference between us and a person who receives welfare benefits.  All of us should shut up and be grateful for what we are given by the benificent government.

 Strangely, I don't hear about my private pension being, somehow, a handout from the insurance company that pays it to me.  That money, I am assured is my right and my entitlement.

  It's true the money I paid in taxes was used to pay for benefits for my parents and grandparents.  In a private annuity, companies invest the money they receive in companies and real estate and government bonds.  They pay the annuities from the money they receive from investments.  Not so from Social Security.  Social Security pays current benefits from current revenues and invests the rest in loans to the federal government, which government uses said funds for current expenditures.

The difference in attitude between government funded retirement benefits and privately funded benefits tells me everything about the left and the big government group.  They expect and require that private companies keep the promises they make.  It's the law.  We have a law called ERISA that imposes standards on private companies requiring that they not reduce benefits already worked for and promised.

Not so for government.  I am assured by those on the left that the promises made by politicians in the 60's, the 70's, the 80's (when Social Security tax rates were doubled) and the 90's are neither morally nor legally binding on the people who run the government today.  I should be grateful to big government that it has kept its promise to me by paying the Social Security I was promised.  It is, the implication is clear, more than I deserve because I have the effrontery to call it a Ponzi scheme.

You might think that the people who are the late entrants to the scheme (meaning the young people of today) would be greatly concerned about it.  It is the late entrants who don't get paid.  Yet they all voted for big government.

Be that as it may, the reality of why so many seniors voted for Republicans is not that we are all crotchety racists who don't want a black man for president.  We understand that if the government  continues  to borrow so much money from foreign sources and treasury bond investors that the interest payments alone will exceed the money available to repay the loans, there won't be any money to pay the money we were promised.  Many of us hope to live for a decade or more  into the future.  Obamacare transfers money from Medicare to Medicaid, meaning when we need medical care we will get a phony sympathetic hand holding and death counseling while someone young will get actual medical care.  That's what we are afraid of.  We are afraid that the money is going to run out before we die.  It's pretty simple.  And we are afraid for our grandchildren.  That would be young people.  We may not care about anyone else's grandchildren, but we want ours to have a good life.  Many of us try to be a little bit thrifty so we can leave them money when we die.  But it looks like all the money is being spent on crazy investments in companies that pretend to be devoted to new sources of energy but appear, in practice, to be merely shells used as conduits for large amounts of government money to go into the pockets of rich friends of whoever is in power.

I am not going to make a plea for kinder rhetoric.  That would be a waste of electrons.  Increasingly, people on the left look like people whose ability to feel good about themselves is dependent on looking down with contempt on others. This week it is old people.  Next week, it will be the military.   It is a poisonous attitude that can never lead to real harmony because it always needs a scapegoat.  It is a deliberately divisive attitude that separates the smart, with it in crowd from the stupid, dependent others.

A Day to Give Thanks for All the Riches in Our Lives

I count my riches in people more than things, not because I lack things but because people are what life is about.  So I am thankful for my family, my children, especially my grandchildren who give me a real and physical connection with the future.  Having friends in my life who care about me over the years and over the miles is another great benefit.  It is people who make my life feel so full and satisfying.  I thank our Creator for bringing all of these beautiful people into my life.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Twinkies and the Law

 A lot of blather is going around the internet about what caused Hostess to fail.  But there are a few things being said that betray a serious lack of knowledge of bankruptcy law.  Don't feel bad.  Most lawyers know next to nothing about bankruptcy law and most laypeople who haven't filed know even less.

So here's the deal.  When a corporation files for bankruptcy it can file under either Chapter 11 for a reorganization or under Chapter 7 for a liquidation of assets.  Chapter 11 filings are chosen by those businesses whose leaders think they can rescue the company if the company can get some breathing space with its creditors and be relieved of onerous contracts that limit its future operations. An example of the kind of contract that might be voided is a supply contract where the price of the supplies was above market price, or a labor union contract. Debts already incurred would go into a separate pile for consideration.  They might be eventually paid off at less than a 100cents on the dollar.
 A lot of airlines have filed chapter 11 and come out of it still flying.  When a company is in chapter 11, virtually every financial aspect of how the company operates is subject to review and approval of the bankruptcy court, including executive salaries.  Hostess was already in chapter 11.  It's threat to the unions was NOT that it would file for bankruptcy, it was already in chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy.  It's threat was to convert its chapter 11 bankruptcy to a chapter 7, liquidation, meaning it would go out of business.  Also, by virtue of the fact that it was in bankruptcy, executive salaries would have been submitted to the bankruptcy court and approved by it.  Those who claim that the managers were simply trying to loot the company would have more credibility if they had made those claims to a bankruptcy judge who would have had full power to stop any such looting.  In fact, that is one of a bankruptcy judge's jobs-- to prevent looting of corporate assets.  Any corporate assets distributed to individuals in the 90 days before the bankruptcy filing can be recovered almost automatically, and any distributed in the year prior to filing can be recovered if there is evidence that there was not fair compensation paid.  The claim that this company was being looted WHILE in bankruptcy looks mighty suspicious only because it is precisely the job of the bankruptcy judge to keep that from happening.

Another issue is the ability of the unions to look at the books.  Since the company was in bankruptcy already, a perusal of the reorganization plan would have given a lot of information to the unions.  But even more important the National Labor Relations Board, which regulates collective bargaining with private companies requires that companies which plead poverty in collective bargaining negotiations open their books to the unions affected.  So, assuming the unions have some knowledge of the NLRA, the books were opened to them.  The teamsters accepted some pretty deep cuts to keep the company in business, the Bakers did not.  The bakers had a second chance when the judge postponed ruling on the motion to convert the bankruptcy to chapter 7 in order to have the parties go back to mediation.  The bakers again rejected any offer made to them.  The only rational conclusion is that they preferred unemployment to wage cuts.  Since Hostess had already filed in bankruptcy court to shut down the company, they had to know that Hostess was not bluffing.

They can say whatever they want but it is clear that they chose unemployment benefits over working.  They must have known after the court put off its decision on the conversion, that Hostess was serious about shutting down.  And they must have known that the court would approve the shut down if they did not take the contract that was offered to them.  They were given an opportunity to show the court that the company could still be viable if they were given what the union wanted in a contract.  Apparently the court didn't buy it.

While I am sorry that another American icon has bitten the dust, I can't say that I will miss them, really. I have never been a frequent purchaser of hostess products.  Like Polaroid and other iconic brands, they didn't keep up with the market and they have bitten the dust.  That is as it should be.

Friday, November 09, 2012

A Message to Chris Christie

I'm really posting this because I want a record of my prediction.  Dear Chris, you just sold out your party and the guy who gave you a bully platform at the Republican convention,  i. e. Mitt Romney.   And please don't give me all your Barbra Streisand about its what a governor should do.  Bloomberg didn't do it and he actually endorsed Obama.   Some people think you are just politically tone deaf.  I don't think you are.  I think you didn't get to be governor of New Jersey being politically tone deaf.  I think you did it for your political advantage.  You are running for re-election next year.  Or scheduled to.  I hope you made a deal to get a presidential appointment.  Not because I think you would do a good job but because it is a shame to see someone sell out his birthright and not even get a mess of pottage in return.

Here's my prediction if you are planning to run for re-election.  The pundits say that Cory Booker is going to run against you.  My prediction is that there will be a few stray Republicans who endorse Cory Booker because he seems intent on positioning himself as a pro-business moderate.  And I will put up ten dollars that says that our newly re-elected president will come to New Jersey and campaign against you.  And he will use all of the identity themes he used in this election.  And, here's a clue, you are not the right identity.  You are Republican and white.  If you thought, even for one minute, you were buying yourself some protection by helping to tip the election to Obama, well, you are wrong.  You betrayed the people who depended on you.  Don't expect a lot from the Republican bench.  As for the Tea Party, truly, don't expect anything.   I really think we are not that stupid.  Heck, I think Cory Booker had more kind words for Mitt Romney than you did.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Left Needs to Own Their Crazies

Here is an example of how the typical true left thinks:  Posted on Daily Kos   I said in a prior post that the left needs someone to demonize and that would be people who dare to call themselves Republican.  Don't just read the post.  Read the comments.  Threats of violence against conservatives  by the kooks at Daily Kos are a daily phenomenon.  But people who call themselves liberal consistently blame Republicans and the Tea Party for this kind  of hate filled screed.  Please don't ask me not to defend myself.  Yes, I know about Jesus and about Gandhi.

But here is the other side.  We need to fight back, not physically, but ideologically.  This is the part of the core constituency of the new Democrat party.  These are the people who carry signs and show up for demonstrations and walk precincts for nothing.  They literally hate anyone who dares to call himself a Republican.  They do that because they need someone to blame for their miserable hate filled lives.

The people who write this kind of thing rarely get elected to office.  But they are used to get people elected to office.

So here is the problem for Christian conservatives.  Yes we must be charitable to people, meaning in this context, still caring for and seeing even really crazy people as human and objects of God's love even if they don't believe in God.  But we also need to call out the people who benefit by the crazy and hateful energy these people transmit into the body politic.  Much of the divisiveness in our culture is a result of a deliberately cultivated envy and concomitant hatred.  It is a vague and ugly anger that attaches itself first to one and then another object.  It is the energy of mob rule and the antithesis of reason.  Like the family members at an intervention, we need, with love, to tell people when they are wrong.  We need to hold up a mirror to the hatred from the left.  And we need to force them to talk about it.  Because, until we do that, we cannot resolve our differences until we at least come to an agreement as to what they are.

So, think of our conversation with an unwilling, name calling left as an intervention with a family member.  We do have to keep talking and we do have to keep being polite, but we don't have to pull our punches or try to gild the lily.  We need to be honest with them and continue to politely disagree.

The Racism of the Leftist Elites

The racism of the leftist elites was on display again this election cycle.  The party of southern segregation, aka the Democrat party, raised literally tens of millions of dollars to defeat two black Republican congressional candidates:  Mia Love and Allen West.   The money and energy  spent is  ten or twenty times as much as was spent on other races not involving black Republicans. Democrats have targeted these two people for one reason, they are  Black and Republican. It is part of a long history of attempting to destroy Black Republicans. And the reason is simple-- keep black people on the Democrat plantation where the Democrats have done nothing for them in fifty years.

This is an ongoing unspoken policy for the left.    It was in full view when the left attacked Clarence Thomas during the nomination process for Supreme Court.  And the left continues to attack Thomas intermittently to make sure his reputation never comes back.  The left demonizes any outspoken person who they deem to be a person who should belong to them.

This isn't an accident.  The left puts its coalitions together, not based on issues, but on identity politics.  "You need to vote for us because we will protect you from the evil other guys" is their primary message.  It is the reason for the phrase "people of color".  That phrase was invented by the left to unite people of widely disparate cultures, histories and ethnic identies.  It is made necessary by the numbers.  It helps the left reach the electoral numbers it needs.  So its message is "your color is the most important characteristic you have."  They persuade black, Hispanic and other ethnic minorities that they cannot have a fair chance to succeed in this country because of the color of their skin.  And it works even when the most powerful person in the world who was elected with millions of white votes, is black.   The left preaches a deep and primitive tribalism with a contemporary gloss.  So  when someone from a tribe they think they own, like black people, defects they have to punish and destroy that person. Because they have to hold the tribe they have created together.  Any defection, no matter how small,  is a threat to their coalition of the envious and dispossessed with the rich left that exploits them.  When Mia Love appeared at the Republican convention, a metaphorical  target was painted on her back by the left.  Allen West was already targeted.

And who is the rich left?  Jon Corzine, George Soros, and all of Hollywood come to mind.  And, surprisingly, there are a lot bankers in there like the former head of Countrywide. Angelo Mozillo and  former Treasury secretary, Hank Paulsen.  They position themselves as the benevolent godfathers who protect the poor and disenfranchised.  But in reality, they exploit the poor and middle class by using the government to restrict  the opportunity of anyone, including women, minorities and gays, from competing with them.  And they use the government to carry out their exploitative schemes which involve creating programs that supposedly benefit the poor but curiously always involve the purchase of stuff from the rich.  An example is the free cell phone program.  And while they tell you they want to tax the rich, the people they really tax are the middle class.  That free cell phone program?  Have you ever noticed an item on your phone bill called Universal Access fee?  That's used to buy free cell phones for poor people.  Are you rich? Yet you're being taxed.

The racism of the liberal elites is not a deep visceral thing.  It is a practical, political thing.  People who are divided by race, sex, age and background, people who are made to feel that their ladyparts or skin color or sexual orientation are much more important than the fiscal and social issues, are much easier to manage.  The rallies are all about we're the good guys and they're the bad guys and our good guy leaders are going to protect us from those awful bad guys.   The discussion on the left is  rarely about what allows an economy to prosper, or supports our freedom because those are losing issues for the left.  History condemns them on that score.  The leftist ideology tells them they should not even try to win on the issues because all of us proletarians are too stupid to know what's good for us.  So Bread and Circuses for the stupid class who turns most of the fruit of their labors over to their betters in humble gratitude.  That's the leftist game plan.

Conservatives must understand this psychology and fight back.  Many people who are immigrants like Mia Love, have conservative values as she does.  But the election results tell us that most of those people voted for Obama.  The reason is that they don't trust the Republican establishment.  Sarah Palin understood the need to reach out to women and minorities in the most important way, by supporting young, articulate and attractive candidates who are women and ethnic minorities.  That support says, "you are one of us".  "We trust you". "We want you in our party, not just as voters, but as leaders."   And here's something really important that Republicans need to understand, we don't need to win a majority of the "minority" vote.  We just need to win more of it.  Michael Medved recently pointed out that if Romney had won the same percentage of the Black and Hispanic vote that George W. Bush did, he would have won the election.

There are plenty,  perhaps a majority of "minority" voters who are pro-life, who favor hard work, thrift and taking care of your own.  There are many gay conservatives as well.  They need to be included in Republican leadership.  The Tea Party has welcomed all of these candidates and supported many of them.  It's time for the Republican leadership to do the same.

When Bad Elections Happen to Good People

For those of us who believe that Obama is a disastrously bad President, yesterday was very discouraging.  But many of us are also people of faith.  God is in charge.  I keep that in mind.  God has a plan to which we are not privy.

Perhaps something will change and he will not be the president he was the last four years.  But this is a reminder not to put your hopes in people but in God.

We have learned a lot as a result of this campaign.  It has been a more than a year long national discussion which has often been way less than civilized.  It has been a campaign, frankly, that tore away masks and let us see the people beneath.

To echo Kevin Dujan, the people of the U. S. have become much more comfortable with left wing ideology and victims of it than we had thought.  I cannot say the culture is at an all time low, because any impartial review of history demonstrates that we have been at cultural lows before that were pretty bad.  But one thing we have learned, really, is that there is very little good will towards those of us on the right from those on the left.  And I say that with sadness.  To them, compromise is that they let us live and give us the opportunity to see the light and become leftists.  That is just the fact.
Nevertheless if we want to make change we have to convert leftists into conservatives.  And that requires that we try to find common ground.  Many of us, like me, used to be supporters of the left and we are not any more.  So we need to reach out.

We know we will face disdain and contempt for simply being conservative.  We will be relentlessly demonized.  We need to know that the reason for that is that the left always needs people to paint as villains and we are the targets selected.  The reason the left needs targets is that their programs never really work.  So they need to blame someone for their failure.  Right now its us.  In Nazi Germany, and Russia, it was the Jews.   It is no accident that leftist ideologies result in tyrannical regimes.  The left believes that if only it can be in charge and apply its superior intelligence to the problems before us, the problems will all be solved.  But they never are.  So someone must be blamed and the blame is never on the policies.

In looking at what we face in the next four years we must remember that the world has seen much worse days and pray for God's protection against our own foolishness.  

Early Christians and Jews, and many contemporary Christians and Jews have not let the persecution directed against them stop them from speaking up and we must remember that and do the same.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Making of a Republican Part 5:Liberals and Caring

There is a saying in conservative circles that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged.  I guess you can add my experience in support of that statement.  In 1975 I was an attorney in sole practice representing Local 47 of the Musician's Union that still has a building at Waring and Vine Street in Hollywood (aka Los Angeles).  I was also married and the mother of two small children.

One afternoon I was doing some research the old fashioned way with books on the issue of corporate derivative shareholder suits.  It's pretty boring even though important.  So I decided to go out for a walk to clear my head and buy my favorite beverage, a diet Coke.  There was a Safeway (now a Pavilion's) just a block a way on Melrose and Vine so I headed down Vine Street, thinking about my case and research when I walked into an armed robbery in progress.  Three young black men almost ran me over.  I looked up and looked straight at them.  They had dropped something on the ground, stooped to pick it up and then took off.  I turned around and watched them run around the corner.  Then I saw someone come out from in front of the store and point in the direction which they had run.  I suddenly realized what had happened.  Don't ask me why because I can't really answer that question.  I just had a gut outrage that people would be holding up a grocery store in Hollywood in the middle of the day.  Somehow, if it had been late at night I wouldn't have been so angry.  So I, an out of shape mother, took off after them.

When I reached the corner of Waring and Vine, I poked my head around the corner and, looking into the sunny western sky, saw three men outlined in a car.  Then I saw an arm come out from the driver's side of the car and, it seemed to me, slowly come around and point at me.  I have to interject at this point that my perception of time greatly slowed down.  It was as if everything was happening in slow motion though I am sure it was much faster than it seemed.  I realized that the object in the arm's hand was a gun.  I then realized it was pointed at me.  My focus then changed to protecting myself.  I backed away from the corner and dropped to the ground, an action that probably saved my life.

For some reason I adopted a kind of fetal position while lying on my back with my knees pulled up.  I heard gunshots and realized they had pulled to the corner and were trying to kill me.  I was hit with a bullet in my leg.  It felt like someone had taken a baseball bat and hit me as hard as he could on the bottom of my feet.  It's one of the reasons I can never watch that awful movie in which Kathy Bates does something similar to Jack Nicholson.  It is just too painful.

They kept shooting after I was hit.  So the thought occurred to me that they were trying to kill me.  If they thought they were successful, they might stop shooting and leave.  I then thought, but I don't know what it looks like to die.  But neither do they.  So if I do what someone who dies on television does, they will think they have killed me and leave.  So I suddenly let go of my fetal position and went limp in imitation of people who die on television.  They left.

It later turned out that people were in the President of Local 47's office when the shooting started and saw the whole thing from the second floor.  Multiple people called the police.

I could go on at great length about the investigation and the trial. And all of those things contributed to my current views of our criminal justice system. But I'll save that for a later post.  The phenomenon that most contributed to my conversion to conservatism was the reaction of my self described liberal "friends" to my plight.  More than one told me that I needed to understand the shooter's position in all of this.  He, after all, just wanted to avoid going to prison, so it makes perfect sense that he would shoot me.  He was, they told me, a victim of oppression himself.  I shouldn't, they told me, take it personally.  I finally developed a retort to that statement.  It is difficult, I responded to them, to take a bullet in the leg any other way.  They seemed totally oblivious and unsympathetic to the fact that, but for poor aim, I would have been killed.  The more important principal to them seemed to be that poor black criminals are oppressed and people who are killed by them are just, sort of, so much collateral damage.

Now just to make this perfectly clear, because in this insane age it is so often necessary, I really don't care what the race of someone who shoots me is.  They should all, of any race, go to jail for so long as they retain the muscle strength to pick up a gun.  It happens that the person who shot me is black.  If the person who shot me were white I would be no less outraged. It is, after all, difficult to take a bullet in the leg any way but personally.  It's my leg and my life.

I have, thank God, recovered pretty much completely.  Still have scar tissue where the bullet went through my leg.  Two little scars, one on each side of my thigh-- the entry and exit wounds-- and of course scar tissue in between.  But I never recovered from the fact that my so-called friends had more sympathy for someone they had never met who tried to kill me than they had for me.  This and other experiences made me aware that the so-called sympathy of the left for the poor and downtrodden is really just a pose.

It confirmed some prior experiences.  At the time I attended a Methodist church near the University of Southern California.  Some of the other parishioners wanted to have a "Christmas" project of writing letters to the President in support of various welfare programs.  It was sponsored by an organization called "Bread for the World".  I suggested that, in addition to writing these letters, we could make up Christmas baskets for one or more welfare recipients.  I came up with this idea because I was a welfare worker for 6 years.  I had been part of taking requests from recipients for such baskets and knew that for many recipients, the basket was a substantial portion of their Christmas.  They were all grateful for receiving them.  I was told by the self described liberals at my church that giving Christmas baskets to welfare recipients was demeaning.  I pointed out to them that the baskets would go only to those people who had requested them, not to anyone who would be embarrassed by it. They refused.  I told them that as a former social worker I knew many recipients who would be very grateful for such a basket because they would not otherwise be able to give their children a good Christmas.  They refused, absolutely, to do anything more than write a letter to the President.

There were other experiences that lead me to the reluctant conclusion that the word "generous" was no longer a synonym for "liberal".  These so-called liberals  who had more sympathy for the shooter than me, who were not willing to dig into their own pockets to make a poor family's Christmas better, were merely leftists who congratulated themselves on their political correctness but were never willing to take money out of their own pockets for poor people.  Their ideas were more important to them than any person was.  They congratulated themselves on how caring they were while simultaneously caring very little for any actual person.  I have some friends who still call themselves liberal, and most of them really are.  My differences with them are that they think the Democratic party and its policies are meant to help people.  I see it very differently.  The Democratic party has been taken over by the Left.  It isn't Harry Truman's or Hubert Humphries' Democratic party any more.

All of these memories came back to me recently looking at what happened in Bengazi.  How could you get these calls for help and do nothing?  How could you order would be rescuers to stand down?  How could you cold bloodedly sit in the White House situation room and not care about the people on the ground who were being ambushed and killed when there were resources nearby to help them?  It chills me to the bone the same way I was chilled when my so called liberal friends justified an anonymous would be killer.  They really are so inhuman and unfeeling that the ideas that they push are more important to them than people.  Leftists like to say you have to break an egg to make an omelet.  We, people, human beings, are just so many broken eggs to them.  We are not real. And they don't care about us.  They care about their ideas.  And if people have to die to make their ideas real, well, so be it. Collateral damage.  Broken eggs.  That is how they justify the millions killed in the name of promoting the Communist dream.  It's okay.  You have to break an egg to make an omelet.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Richard Mourdock and Theodicy

Theodicy is a word first used by Liebnez in the 18th Century.   It is the attempt of human beings to reconcile the idea of an all powerful God who is also infinitely good with the reality of evil in the universe.    The attempt to do that long predates Liebniz, of course.  It is famously addressed, and most satisfactorily in my opinion, in the Book of Job.  Of course, there is no real conclusion there.  For those whose recollection of Bible stories is misty.  Job was a good man and a servant of God.  The provocateur challenges God suggesting that Job is good  and a believer only because  he is wealthy not only in material things but in family.  So God allows the provacateur to strip Job of everything, even his health, but Job still believes and still loves God.  When Job seeks an explanation, God shows him the universe.  And Job's heart is satisfied.  And, P. S., God gives him back a lot of material things so its not so bad after all.

My point in referring to the Job story is to let you know that the effort to reconcile the idea of a God who is all powerful and all loving with the evil in the world has been going on for a long time.

Some part of the answer has to do with the idea of free will.  God did not want a bunch of automatoms that he would completely control.  He wanted independent beings  who freely choose him.  Augustine and Aquinas discuss the interplay of free will and evil at length.  They regard evil not as a separate force but as a rebellion against God.

So what does this have to do with Richard Mourdock.  Well, it has a lot to do with his statement about abortion.  To say that  God intended life does not mean God intended rape.  God allows but does not cause evil.  The rapist is violating God's law.  But something beautiful can, nevertheless, result.  That is what Mourdock was trying to say.

It is like the story of Joseph.  Joseph, you may remember, was the favorite son of Jacob, one of the great patriarchs of the Bible.  His brothers became so jealous of him that they conspired to kill him and then decided to relent and sell him into slavery.  So he is taken to Egypt where he becomes very successful and the right hand man to the pharaoh.  He is so wise that when famine comes, Egypt has plenty of food.  Not knowing that he is still alive, his brothers are dispatched by their father to Egypt to buy grain so that Israel can survive.  After they buy the grain they are made aware that this guy selling them the grain is the brother they sold into slavery and fearing they might get from him what they deserve they are trembling.  But Joseph tells them not to be afraid.  He says to them, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.  The moral of the story is not that God caused the evil but that he redeemed it.  He made something bad turn into something good.

Just so, something that was evil, a rape, may be turned into something good when a beautiful baby is born.  The baby is an innocent life.  The fact is that many women who have been raped and become pregnant not only choose to carry to term, but raise their babies.  Here is a thoughtful discussion by a child born of rape.  I hope you will read it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Recommendations on California's Propositions

These are my recommendations on California Propositions:  You can go get all the basic information on them at 

Proposition 30.My recommendation: No  (more taxes to Sacramento).  

Ignore all the flim flam.  Whenever we give Sacramento more money they use it to come up with new expensive projects like the so-called High Speed passenger rail between Madera and Bakersfield which is projected to cost 4 Billion dollars.

Proposition 31: My recommendation: NO

This proposition is an attempt to return power to the local level by returning money to the local level. Under certain circumstaces, money collected by the state must be sent to local governments to allow them to administer state programs.  Generally, I am in favor of the idea, but the devil is in the details.  As I read it is complicated and will result in lots of lawsuits and litigation over whether the details have been followed.  While I like the idea, I am generally opposed to complicated schemes and when in doubt I vote No.  So here it’s too complicated and seems to be an excuse for lawsuits.  So, I will vote no.

Proposition 32:  My recommendation : Yes

This proposition prohibits direct political spending by both Corporations and Unions.  It also limits the ability of public employees unions to collect dues from public employees without their consent and it requires them to obtain the consent of employees to the deduction annually.   Under present law, if the majority of employees voted for a union 30 years ago, all have to pay dues of as much $700 or $800 a year.  Public employee unions in California are the are one of the  biggest interest groups contributing to poltiical campaigns in California elections.  I am frankly uncomforatable with any prohibition on political spending but I am more distressed that public employee unions have, through the use of mandatory dues checkoff, become the single most powerful political group in California.  They elect their bosses and then negotiate sweetheart deals that leave other taxpayers  on the hook for pensions and health benefits that far exceed what is available in the private sector.  

I was a charter member of SEIU local 535, at the time a Social Worker’s Union.    At the time I believed that Unions were necessary for public employees.  But over time, the unions  have become professionalized institutions in which the union reps are paid far more than the rank and file and where contracts are negotiated that public entities cannot afford by threatening action at the ballot box.  California is nearly broke.  We can’t afford a system that pays police officers in some cities more than a hundred thousand a year when the average worker in California makes around $45,000 a year.  

Contrary to what the ads on TV say, there are no exemptions in the Act.  It applies only to state elections but it applies to all corporations and all unions.  If we are going to balance the state’s budget, we need to break the stranglehold the unions have on too many state elected officials.  

Proposition 33  My Recommmendation: yes

What you have to understand about this proposition is that insurance rates and the way in which they are set is highly regulated in California, as it is in most states.  One of the great concerns of any state in doing this is to make sure that insurance companies remain sufficiently solvent that they can pay claims.

This proposition allows auto insurance companies to offer you a discount if you had auto insurance with a different insurance company. Insurance companies are currently allowed to give you a long term discount if you have been with them for a long time.This proposition would allow them to offer you a discount for having had insurance with another carrier. I plan to vote for it because it increases competition in a responsible way allowing other auto insurers to compete for your premium dollars in a responsible way.

Proposition 34:  My recommendation: no

This proposition would do away with the death penalty.  I don’t think society will fall apart if the death penalty is eliminated but, on balance, I think it needs to be on the table as an option especially in dealing with career criminals who have already been sentenced to life in prison.  There needs to be something further for them to lose to allow some measure of control over them.  I don’t have strong feelings, but the balance is tipped toward No.

Proposition 35:  My recommendation: No

The intent of this law is to give law enforcement more tools to combat human sexual trafficking.  I am all in favor of preventing human sexual trafficking but the text of the law makes me really uncomfortable.  It reads too much like I can’t define human sexual trafficking but I can tell it when I can see it law.  As a lawyer that makes me uncomfortable.  When someone’s liberty is at stake, i. E. The person accused of trafficking,  I tend to like statutes that are well defined so that even minimally intelligent people know when they are violating the law.  This one leaves me too uncomfortable in that respect, so, a no.

Proposition 36:  My recommendation:  yes

This act amends the Three strikes law.  When I voted for the three strikes law, I was troubled that the “strikes”, i. E. Criminal convictions did not have to be violent or serious felonies.  But on balance, the tendency of too many courts to allow repeat felons out on the streets to prey on society was so great that I voted for what I thought was an imperfect law.   This act fixes that problem. The final strike ( i.e. The third conviction) has to be a serious or violent crime.  No law is ever perfect, but I think, on balance, the reason for a three strikes law is to keep people who present a threat to the physical safety and possessions of others.  There is a listing of serious crimes and I think it is sufficient to assure that most repeat felons who pose a danger to others will be behind bars.  At the same time, those who have poor impulse control but have no tendency to really harm others will not.  I am sure there will be some people who will get out that I won’t be happy about and others who are not dangerous in my opinion will be kept behind bars.  It is a human system and perfection eludes us.  But I think this makes the law more focussed. So I will vote yes.

Proposition 37: My recommendation: NO

This is the proposition that would require the labeling of genetically modified food.  Whatever that means.  This is a boondoggle which will primarily benefit a small group of litigation attorneys who    specialize in filing consumer lawsuits often raising issues that don’t affect anyone or cause any harms.  It will cost businesses billions of dollars in compliance and lawsuit defense costs and not provide any real benefit.  It’s a boondoggle for the benefit of litigation attorneys.  I’m voting No.

Proposition 38: My recommendation : No.

This is another tax increase proposition that has lots of potential for driving more businesses and rich people out of California and will have no long lasting benefit for California.  We don’t need more tax revenue in this state.  We need fewer legislators willing to vote 4 billion dollars for a railroad to nowhere.  We need to cut out fat subsidies for the friends of Jerry Brown and the state legislators  Then we can balance our budget.

Proposition 39: My recommendation : No

This proposition attempts to increase corporate income taxes by eliminating one of the options they now have for calculating what percentage of their profits comes from California.  AT present they have two options and can choose the one that benefits them.  This proposition takes away one of the options.  It promises to fund “green energy” projects with the increased money.  Woohoo.  More Solyndras.  NO. NO NO.
We need to pay off our debts and balance our budget.  This is another boondoggle that spends money we don’t have while we drive more businesses out of the state.

Proposition 40:  My recommendation: a reluctant Yes

I have looked at the proposition. What it will do is clear.  It has to do with redistricting.  I do not buy for one minute that the Citizen’s Commission is apolitical.  I applied to be on it and discovered that the vast majority of ordinary people where held not to be qualified.  Hey dude, I have been practicing law for more than 30 years and I am not qualified to sit on a commission that draws redistricting lines?  No, this was a cover to appoint their hand picked ringers who are still political hacks.  Having said that, I think this requires a different political solution like getting rid of the Citizen’s commission altogether.  If a bunch of political hacks is going to decide our districts we might as well have them operating in the open and be labeled as such.  On the other hand, it saves a million dollars to vote yes.  I’m in favor of saving money, but I am not fooled.

Newsflash Dems: Equal Pay Has Been the Law for Almost 50 years.

The Prez is now going around suggesting that Romney is opposed to Equal Pay for Equal Work for Women.  He says Romney wouldn't sign an act requiring that.  So, I, as a woman will now say, unequivocally, neither would I if I were president.  For the very simple reason that there is and has been such a law on the books since 1963.  That will be 50 years come next year.  And, in fact, we also have Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which also prohibits, inter alia,  discrimination in pay not only for women but also based on race, religion, or  national origin . (Other laws address disability and age).  So when you have not only one but two laws on the books, why would you sign another one.

If you have been hearing about the Lily Ledbetter act and thinking that that act prohibited, for the first time, pay discrimination, let me give you a link and an education.   I have given you a very left wing link so that you cannot suspect that the link understates the importance of the act.  Some would argue that the act was unecessary because the Supreme Court specifically stated, in footnote 10 of its opinion that they were not addressing a situation in which the plaintiff did not discover the discrimination until after the statute for filing a claim would otherwise have passed, BECAUSE THE PLAINTIFF ( I. E. LEDBETTER) NEVER RAISED THAT ISSUE IN HER ARGUMENT.   In other words, Ms. Ledbetter never told the U. S. Supreme Court what she told the Democratic Convention, which is that she didn't know about the discrimination until a long time after it happened.  Those same people would argue that the reason she didn't raise the issue is that she testified at her deposition that she did know about it.

So, I have already gotten too deep into the weeds here.  Because my real point is that the Democratic party has been running on the equal pay for equal work plank for all of my adult life and all of my adult life (I turned 21 in 1964) it has been illegal to discriminate against women in pay.  This is like running on a promise to ban drunk driving.  Dude.  It's already against the law.

Which leads to the really important question that no one ever asks Mr. Obama.  Given that discrimination is already illegal, what have you done to enforce the law?  Um, based on the statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the answer is less than his predecessor in office.  Yep. More litigation was filed by the EEOC when George Bush was Prez than under Obama.  I am not making this up.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the entity that has responsibility for enforcing the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1965.  It is the place to look to find out if the government is actually serious about enforcing this law.

In the first three years of the Bush administration, 1220 lawsuits were filed by the EEOC.  In the first three years of the Obama administration, 885 discrimination lawsuits were filed.  I used the first three years because that is the time period for which statistics are available for the Obama administration.  These are lawsuits filed on any statute which the EEOC enforces so they include lawsuits alleging only race or national origin discrimination as well sex discrimination lawsuits.  Go ahead and look at the statistics.  The summary of the statistics is this-- he talks a good game but he doesn't deliver.  He promised you everything and you didn't even get Arpege.  (You have to be over 40 to recognize that joke)

Here is the most interesting statistic if we are talking about the Lily Ledbetter Act.  Only 6 of the lawsuits filed by the Obama administration were filed under the Equal Pay Act.  6.  That's not 6 a year.  That's 6 in three years.  And, the lack of litigation does NOT reflect an improvement in the discrimination situation, not, at least, if you consider the number of charges filed to be an indicator of how much discrimination is going on.  There were more charges ( i. e. claims of discrimination) filed in the first three years of the Obama administration than in the first three years of the Bush administration. In the first three years of the Obama administration 2905 Equal Pay Act charges were filed.  Yet only 6 lawsuits were filed.

Yeah, Ms. Ledbetter, Obama really cares about the issue of equal pay for equal work.  That awful Bush guy filed   38 Equal Pay Act lawsuits  in the first three years of his Administration. That's more than six times as many.  If you measure who cares by how much they do to actually change the situation, Republicans care more about women's rights, by far, than Democrats do.

And for those who have read some of my other posts, I first learned that when I worked at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The Democrats thought it was a place to collect a government paycheck.  When the Republicans were elected, they thought all those EEOC employees should be spending their days enforcing the law.  And they demanded production of ummm lawsuits that actually benefited people who were discriminated against.

So the point is Mr. Obama, that  you talk loudly, but you carry a very little stick.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Capitalism and the Self Made Man

So, we are now getting back to all the attacks on the self made man idea.  The attacks are just a softer version of "you didn't build that".  And, really, the discussion is maddeningly stupid.  Why?  Because the statements are all so vague and lacking in definition of terms that people are constantly talking past each other.  Let me explain what I mean.

Each one of us came into this world naked and helpless.  There is no other way to come into this world.  Each one of us was taken care of by someone, usually but not always our parents or other relatives until we could talk, walk, eat on our own.  No one who is a conservative contends that life is any different than that.

Each one of us was supported as a child by a network of adults and other kids.  We are social animals.  We were not raised by wolves in the forest.  And even wolves in the forest are social animals.  No one denies this.

And this is why the current political discussion has become so stupid.  Because the dispute between the right and the left is not about whether there is a social network and whether that social network is necessary for human development.  The dispute is about the appropriate and effective role of government in fostering, changing and affecting the social network.

Government is, of course, part of our social network.  What distinguishes it from many other parts of our network is that the majority of us have agreed to give what we call the government the right to coerce otheres, including ourselves through use of force, through imprisonment and through less physically forceful means like taxation and penalties and other physical restrictions which are, ultimately, backed up by the right we have given the government to literally put a gun to our head if we don't comply with its demands.

The near monopoly of the government on the right to use physical force to achieve its ends makes it different from every other part of our present social network here in the United States.  There are parts of the world still in which the ability of a tribe to simply shun one member is a force majeur because the environment is so hostile that the help of the tribe is needed to simply survive.  That is much less true here in the United States.  Here we have lots of loose tribes and families such that we can reach out and create our own circles of support through friendships and all the ways that people have traditionally been able to create functioning supportive groups.

We have churches and rotary clubs and hiking clubs and small businesses and large businesses and all of these are voluntary associations.  Heck, once you are an adult, your family is a voluntary association.

The question is what role should the government play in the social network.

So let's get back to the self made man.  I am not a fan of Ayn Rand and have never read more than a few snippets of her works and seen a few scenes from her movies.  So I can't really describe what she means by self made man, but I suspect, given the context of her writing, that she is talking about a man who created his own social networks to help him accomplish his goals without the help of a patron or sponsor or family wealth and connections or special government favors.

So, for example, it would be a person who wanted to build a building and went out and borrowed money from people in exchange for promises to repay and hired people who worked for him in exchange for his promises to pay them and purchased materials from others and so on.  Of course we need a social network to build a building.  No conservative would argue otherwise.  And most conservatives, pace Ayn Rand, think that the government should have some role in approving the plans to make sure that the building won't collapse on innocent people who enter it.

But conservatives think that role of government should be fairly limited.  Yeah, we need a building and safety department but its role should be limited to assuring that the building is structurally sound, it shouldn't be deciding if we need a building or what color it should be painted.  And it certainly shouldn't be taking taxpayer dollars to invest in a building intended for private use just because government bureacrats like the design.

I could go into a lot of detail about government's proper role, but suffice it to say at this point that there are certain enterprises like building airplanes and building buildings where the safety issues are sufficiently serious and where it is not cost effective for ordinary consumers to explore those safety issues on their own ( note that I did NOT say that they are not smart enough to do it, its just that they don't have the time and money to check out the safety of every building they enter or every plane they fly on.)  such that the most practical way to assure the safety of everyone is for the government to do it. Having said that I would point out that Consumer Reports and Underwriter's Laboratory are just two of the venerable institutions in our society  upon whom people rely to make recommendations about safety issues and that both are private enterprises.  The libertarians argue that if we did not have a government department of building and safety or an FAA some private organization would spring up to do the job and they may be correct.

So one liners like "you didn't build that" and descriptions like "self made man" simply don't capture what the real debate is.  If we want a debate that produces agreement and policy and is productive of positive change, then we need to talk about the real issue which is the appropriate role of government.  Conservatives believe that government should have a very small role in our social networks and that we should be free to make our own choices to a great extent.

Government certainly has a role in enforcing the rules.  One of the great strengths of our social structure is that we have a government that enforces the business like promises that people make to each other, or  as lawyers call it, the law of contracts.   We have laws that make people pay when they are negligent and cause physical harm to others and conservatives are somewhat in favor of that.  They think that the definition of negligence has slipped way too far and that businesses are being made to pay for harm that they did not really cause, but they do not want to do away with the tort system altogether.

Conservatives believe we need traffic laws and criminal laws and that people need to be able to feel physically safe and protected from other people who would physically attack them or steal their property.

And the devil, as people like to say, is in the details.  Generalizations deteriorate into meaningless slogans.  Conservatives are not opposed to the idea of taxes, for example, but they are opposed to taxes that are so high that they rob people of any incentive to work.  So it is silly to keep speaking in generalities.  Arthur Laffer, for example, believes that a tax rate over 30% tends to dissuade people from working and investing.  It is much more reasonable to look at the evidence of whether he is correct than to talk in generalities about tax rates.

Talking in generalities is like arguing about whether medicine as an idea is good. It's a silly discussion.  It makes a good deal more sense to talk about whether Cipro is the right medicine for a kidney infection.  That is a discussion worth having with someone.  People can actually learn from that discussion.

So the offensiveness of the "you didn't build that" statement coming from Obama is not that it recognizes that all of us are social creatures and benefit or are hurt by the social milieu in which we live and try to grow but in failing to recognize the importance of individual effort in realizing individual achievement.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Planned Parenthood Does Not Perform Mammograms

One of the repeated claims made by supporters of Planned Parenthood is that it performs Mammograms.  Either this claim is false or it is doing so illegally. All facilities that perform mammograms are required to have a certificate from the Department of Health and Human Services.  In response to a request from the Alliance Defense fund, the Department of Health and Human Services stated that no Planned Parenthood clinic has a certificate to perform mammograms.  None, Zilch nada.  Read it for yourself.  Obama's statement that women are relying on Planned Parenthood for mammograms is either a lie or a negligent statement based on a failure to do even a minimal investigation of a program that receives hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money.

The Foia request was filed because of an undercover investigation in which more than 30 planned parenthood clinics were asked if they performed mammograms and all said no.  Wanting to find the clinics that did provide mammograms, the Alliance Defense Fund sent in a FOIA request.  The answer is, clearly, that Planned Parenthood does not provide mammograms.

The President made a false statement during the debate about this issue.  It is part of the new Obama war on truth.  It is time to call him on his lies.

Paul Ryan's Missing Children

The left has another lunatic  story that is making the rounds.  It started out on a so-called reality check website, and has been picked up by Daily Kos.  The claim is that Paul Ryan and his wife are lying about using contraception because they have only three children.   The story is so crazy that it is worth studying because it is an excellent example of the self created plastic bubble in which the left lives.   Some leftwing idiot starts pondering some aspect of a conservative politician's life and then piles assumption upon inference upon invention to create "proof" of some evil hypocrisy or lie in the conservative's life.  This piling on of unfounded inferences and imaginations is referred to by the left as "logic" and "reason".  In truth, it rather closely resembles the fantasies of schizophrenics.  Remember "A Beautiful Mind" and the room where Nash had posted magazine and newspaper articles connecting disparate events to find conspiracies that didn't exist?  Yeah.  Something like that.

Anyhoo, the new meme, based on faulty science, is that Paul Ryan and his wife would have many more children if they did not use any birth control.  There's a whole long list of supposed facts that are simply not true.   So, claims the left,  there are "missing" children and Paul Ryan is using birth control, and not just a condom, but some of the kinds of birth control that he wants to ban.

As usual, the argument is based on nonsense.  First of all Catholics advocate and are permitted to use natural methods of birth control based on a abstaining from sex during a woman's fertile period. Natural family planning is a method that is also used by people who don't want to take a lot of hormones.  In 2007 a study was performed of couples who use this  particular method based on temperature and cervical secretions to determine fertility.   Guess what?  It turns out that for couples who actually follow the method, this type of natural birth control is as effective as the pill.  OOPS.  So it is entirely possible that Paul Ryan and his wife are in complete compliance (or as complete as any of us sinners can be) with the dictates of their faith regarding birth control.

The article also argues that because some of Mitt Romney's grandchildren were conceived through in vitro fertilization, he has somehow violated his  expressed statements that life starts at conception.  I'm really not seeing this one.  First, Mitt Romney has never opposed in vitro fertilization.  Second, the embryos created by this method are implanted in the uterus.  As happens in nature, such embryos do not always successfully implant.  That doesn't mean they have been "killed".

No wonder fewer and fewer people want to have anything to do with these crazy people, by which I mean the far left.  They sound more and more like borderline schizophrenics.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Reversing Economic Decline:The Biggest Reason to Vote for Romney

Mort Zuckerman, over at U. S. News and World Report, sets forth in detail the depth of the problems in our economy.  He concludes "A job is the most important family program, the most important social program, and the most important economic program in America. The unemployment and income statistics are intolerable for a compassionate and wealthy nation.".  Romney says he will produce 12 million new jobs.    It's fair enough to question how he will do that.  The answer is that he will scale back regulation, keeping what is reasonable, ditching what is unreasonable.  Will he do that job perfectly, probably not, but I am pretty sure he will solicit information from businesses as to what they need and then will figure out where they are right and where they are pushing back too hard. 

The truth is, as I said when I opposed him for the Republican nomination, Romney is a moderate.  He will, most likely stay toward the center.  He will most likely get rid of the most onerous and stupid regulations and leave the rest alone.

He will try to scale back the corporate income tax.  He will try to expedite development and permits.  He will try to recapture the Keystone Pipeline and will expedite other pending permits.  Oil prices will drop in anticipation.  

But perhaps the most important thing he will accomplish will happen when the polls close and Romney wins, if he wins.  That is that business owners and venture capitalists will heave a great sigh of relief, and, believing that NOW they will be dealing with a guy who isn't out to put them out of business, will get back to the creative role of business, creating new services and new products.  They will feel freer to invest and that will mean more jobs.  And the rising tide of jobs and falling energy prices will ease the economic pressures and the economy will begin to grow again.

That's why I'm voting for Mitt Romney.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Medicare's Administrative Costs Are Higher Not Lower Than Private Insurance

The Heritage Foundation has already dissected the long time chestnut that administrative costs are higher in private insurance than Medicare.  The answer you get as to higher or lower depends on how you calculate it.  One way is to look at the per patient cost.  Measured that way, administrative costs for Medicare are far higher than private insurance.  Another way is to measure administrative costs as a percentage of total expenditures.  By that measure Medicare administrative costs are lower.

As the Heritage author notes, when you use the latter measure you are comparing apples and oranges and this is the reason why.

Medicare only insures people who are elderly or have been determined to be long term disabled.  Thus, these are people who are significantly likely to be more sick and have more serious illnesses than the public at large.

So let me give you an example of how this impacts measuring administrative costs.  I used to work for CIGNA, a company that processes a lot of medical claims.  They pay claims reps to process these claims and the claims rep is expected to process X amount of claims per hour.  Here is the thing.  It costs the company exactly the same amount of money to process a claim for $100.00 as to process a claim for $1000.00  Very complex medical claims may take extra time.

There is almost no insurance available for persons over 65 that is not a Medicare supplement.  That is, you have to be a Medicare participant to get the insurance.  Thus it is simply impossible to make an apples to apples comparison of Medicare administrative costs vs. Private insurance.  On a per patient basis Medicare administrative costs are higher than Private Insurance, but that is also not a fair comparison.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Flash News: Academics Discriminate Against Conservatives.

Years ago, I was discussing the three strikes initiative with a co-worker.  After explaining to her in detail why I was voting for it, she protested "but all the smart people are voting against it.".  I asked her if she thought I was smart.  Knowing, as she did, that I graduated in the top 10 percent of my class from USC law school, she said "Yes."  She feebly replied that all the OTHER smart people she knew were voting against it.  The idea that liberals have that they are smarter than conservatives and that their expression of liberal views is proof of their intelligence often causes them to blithely and with great self satisfaction, discriminate against conservatives.  Someone finally did a study that supports this from the mouths of the liberals who discriminate.

What is disturbing about this study is that the liberals who discriminate really regard conservatism as proof that the holder of the views is not as intelligent as they are.  They preen themselves with the proof  of their intelligence manifested in their liberal, sometimes anti-God views.  The atheist society, for example, want to be called the "brights".  By calling themselves that they are literally defining disbelief in God as the definition of intelligence.  Incredible.  If you are one of those who agrees with that point of view.  Here is my question for you Do you think that someone who teaches elemenatary particle physics at Cambridge University in England is probably very, very, intelligent?
If so, I can disprove your hypothesis that atheism means you are smart and belief in God means you are done with just one example:  John Polkinghorne.

Of course, there are so many very erudite people who write and lecture on the conservative side that I don't think it really possible of necessary to list them all.  But let me ask you if you think like some academics that being conservative means you are stupid, do you really think you are smarter than William F. Buckley?  Really?