Waving the White Flag of Surrender

On June 14th, my local Santa Clarita newspaper, The Signal, published a column by Steve Lunetta entitled “In search of elusive compromise”, in which he tries to rationalize his support for government-run healthcare by claiming that “compromises” could be made that would make it more palatable to conservatives.

Early in his column Lunetta rattles his electoral saber:

“Even if the Republican AHCA is signed into law, four years later, if the Democrats control Congress (and current trends say they will), the AHCA will be swept aside for yet another program.”

Back in October “current trends” at the time were solidly showing that the Pantsuit Woman was going to be President. Look how that turned out.

There’s an old joke that goes like this: What’s a camel? It’s a horse built by a committee. The point being that “compromise” isn’t always a solution to an issue. In fact, it’s often vastly overrated, especially when you’re talking about core principles.

What if the Founders had tried to find a “compromise” with King George? Look how well Chamberlain’s “compromise” with Hitler turned out. There’s the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which ended with a little dispute called the Civil War.

The plain fact is that some differences are so fundamental that there’s no compromise possible.

Once again Lunetta’s trying to rationalize his support for socialized medicine. This time he’s taken a couple of the proposals that I and others like me have made – medical tort reform and the removal of state barriers to product sales – and proposed that there be some “compromise” to modify them to fit into the mold of socialized medicine, completely ignoring the fact that those proposals are made to provide a stark alternative to having the government involved in health care at all. That wouldn’t be a compromise on the part of free-market advocates; agreeing to such a proposal would amount to waving the white flag of abject surrender. It would render those proposals moot and meaningless.

On top of all of that, we have the historical record which clearly shows that over the past half century at least, any ground the left gains through “compromise” doesn’t end the debate on an issue. It merely becomes the starting point for their next set of demands. It’s slow suicide by conservatives and Republicans.

The final truth is that what he’s trying to do is very akin to trying to be a little bit pregnant. In reality, you either are or you ain’t. Steve supports government-run healthcare, which is socialized medicine, whether or not he wants to admit it. I, and people like me, don’t. It’s that simple and fundamental.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Published on 21 June 2017 on my blog and in The Signal)

Advertisements

“Single-Payer” Healthcare? You Mean Like the VA?

VA

On May 24th The Signal published a column by Steve Lunetta entitled “Health care free market an abject failure” (Link), and I have to take great issue with much of what Steve wrote.

He claims that “All attempts to create a ‘free market’ in health care have failed here in the United States.”

What “attempts”? How can they have “failed” when there haven’t been any to begin with? Oh, there used to be a free market in health care, but it was so long ago that at 68 years of age I can barely remember it. The only thing that’s been “attempted” in the last five decades or so has been to exert ever more government control and regulation of that market segment.

In all the anecdotal “evidence” Steve presents in the column, one glaring element simply leaps out at me: he had an HMO, which he described as a “blessing”, and HE made the decision  to switch to a PPO, from which all his described problems arise.

If his organization is like the ones I worked for, as an employee I had a choice between either a PPO or an HMO. Didn’t he? Even if he didn’t, he certainly wasn’t forced by his employer to participate in their PPO program. So it seems to me that his problems with his health insurance provider are actually due to his own lack of due diligence, and his own decision to participate in a PPO that doesn’t meet his perceived needs.

His lack of due diligence is also illustrated by his example of allowing visits by a doctor without asking first what his own charges would be for that doctor’s services. Why would anyone do that? That’s a question I ALWAYS ask when a medical service or procedure is being contemplated.

The next problem here is that the insurance companies aren’t “making a mountain of money” as he claims. In fact, under the current structure, many are facing serious financial problems, and are withdrawing from many markets. Further in many jurisdictions, this state being one of them, insurance profits are limited by law.

Then the ultimate sin: proposing “single-payer”, which means government-run health care. You want to see how well that will work out? Take a look at the VA system for your answer. Now imagine that being the national norm.

How about we actually try some REAL free-market health care for a change? For years I’ve promoted three steps to reforming the system:

1.  Eliminate the artificial Barriers to interstate competition for health care and insurance products. Let real competition begin.

2.  Streamline the FDA approval process, which will significantly lower the cost of bringing new meds and procedures to market.

3.  Reform the medical tort system, which will lessen the costs involved in, and perceived need for, practicing “defensive medicine”.

Let’s do those three things, see how well they work, and only then see what else might be done to improve things.

Lastly, we as a society have to get away from the idea that there’s some magic bullet that will indemnify us from the vicissitudes of life. Some people are healthy until the day they drop dead; some are chronically ill for decades. That’s just the way things are. It’s no different from anything else. Some people have investments that make them rich; some people go bankrupt. Life isn’t “fair”.

But no one ever said it would be.

 

©Brian Baker 2017

 

(Published 1 June at my blog and in The Signal)

 

 

Repealing Obamacare

(The following was published today by my local newspaper, The Signal, as an opinion piece on 15 March 2017)

 

In the Weekender edition of The Signal published March 10th was an editorial by Jim de Bree entitled “Long road to fixing Obamacare”. Unfortunately, I think his column is very far off the mark.

The first clue: his use of the term “level playing field”. Every time I hear that nonsense, I know I’m about to be hit with some Big Government socialist scheme that usually involves wealth redistribution, and government interference in this arena is a perfect example.

What Jim doesn’t seem to accept is that government isn’t the solution to the problem; government IS the problem.

We need to get the government OUT of the health insurance field altogether. The Constitution guarantees equality of opportunity, not of outcome, so the government has no legitimate role to play in “leveling the playing field” while interfering with free-market solutions to the problem as would be realized by competitive product availability, as well as private philanthropic and charitable activities.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There are three simple steps to addressing the problems in this arena:

  1. Remove the barriers to interstate sales of health insurance products. Free market product competition will, by its very nature, lower prices and increase choice options for consumers.
  2. Streamline the FDA drug approval process. It can currently cost upwards of a billion dollars to bring a new drug to market, or a medical procedure to accepted practice.
  3. Institute major medical tort reform to eliminate the need for the practice of “defensive medicine”. Patients are often subjected to unnecessary testing and other procedures their doctors require simply in an effort to indemnify themselves from potential future lawsuits. Defensive medicine is a significant cost multiplier.

Do those three simple things and we’ll see healthcare and related costs stop their spiraling ascent, and return those costs to an actual basis reflecting real needs and usage as determined by free market principles.

Socialized medicine, under whatever guise, is NOT the answer.

 

Obamacare Strikes Again!

Over 23 times between 2008 and 2010 Obama promised that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your plan”. In September 2010 he said, “If you’re happy with what you’ve got, nobody’s changing it”. (News article)

Then he kept kicking the political can down the road, delaying enactment over and over again in order to try to avoid the electoral consequences. But that could only happen so many times, and as I’ve pointed out several times in various forums, the health insurance open enrollment period occurs every other year just before election time. At SOME point, the piper was going to demand payment.

Well, guess what? THIS is that year.

HMO0001 copyA few days ago I received notification from my health insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, that the Medicare Advantage PPO plan I’d been a member of for many years is no longer going to be offered. Further, as I researched my options on Medicare’s website, it turns out that NO PPOs are authorized anywhere in Los Angeles County. The only options I have are for HMO plans.

In June of 2009 Obama also promised that “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” (Wall Street Journal article). This turns out to be another big, fat lie. In 1998 I had a heart attack, and since then my cardiologist has been my “primary physician”. He was part of my PPO network, which is no longer available to me (as I said), but he’s NOT a member of any HMO group, nor does he intend to join one.

That means that in order to “keep my doctor” I’m now going to have to pay for that myself, without benefit of my health insurance plan. Granted, I can negotiate a “cash price” with his office, which I have in fact done (a saving of 20% of the “normal” billing fee), and fortunately I’m in a position to be able to afford to do that.

But what about people who aren’t so fortunate?

I have no doubt this same scenario is playing out across the country, just in time for the mid-term election in about three short weeks. It’s time for the Dem/socialists who single-handedly foisted this mess on the American people to pay the price for their arrogance. I hope they suffer a solid thumping at the polls in November.

 

©Brian Baker 2014

 

Establishment GOP: The French Army Of American Politics

The Establishment GOP is the French Army of American politics, throwing up their hands in surrender at the first hint of opposition.

We’ve all heard the jokes. Why did the French plant so many trees along the Champs Elysees? So the Germans could march in the shade.

What’s the shortest book in the world? The Compendium of French Military Victories. It’s two covers with one blank page in the middle.

Ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine: “Great deal on French military surplus rifles! Never fired! Only thrown down once!”

Etcetera.

Their Commander-In-Chief is John Boehner, the Neville Chamberlain (to mix metaphors, as Chamberlain th[4] (3)was British) who engineered the “Peace in our time” accommodation of Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland preceding the full breakout of World War 2; just like Boehner is constantly seeking some “compromise” from Harry Reid and Obama that they’ve clearly said they’re not willing to negotiate.

It’s always easier to snipe at your own side who thinks that actual principles are actually worth fighting for – as Boehner et al have done to the conservatives and Tea Party people such as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Michelle Bachman and others – and Chamberlain and his ilk did to Winston Churchill, than to FORCE the other side to actually yield on issues. FORCE might make you actually have to take a stand and DO something. Heaven forbid.

The only difference between the French Army and the Brits was that ultimately the Brits wised up, dumped Chamberlain and made Churchill their wartime leader, while the French just continued to… lose.

Kind of like what the GOP is doing now, in this current conflict between the GOP and the Democrats over Obamacare.

I’m sure you’ve heard about it. It’s been in the news lately.

The Dem/socialists have been calling us conservative/Tea Party types “terrorists… holding the country hostage… ready to ‘blow up’ the economy… subversive… economic bomb-throwers…” and etcetera, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

Of course, the Establishment GOP rushed to our defense.

th[7] (4)Oh, wait! They didn’t! According to them, we’re “whacko-birds… the fringe… rightist extremists… nuts… extremists…” and other assorted and sundry “loons”.

And THESE are the guys we’re supposed to vote for to advance and defend the principles in which we believe? Further, after all of that kind of “support”, they wonder why we’re not just RUNNING down to the polls to vote for them?

The Establishment GOP isn’t just stuck on stupid. They’re super-glued in place.

Every time Harry Reid or Obama make a threatening noise – “We’re not going to negotiate because the GOP is holding the country hostage”, or some such lunacy – the Establishment GOP hacks quake in their boots and look for the nearest exit, worried like hell about what the New York Times or some other leftist rag is going to write about them. Why is that? No matter what they do, those fishwraps aren’t going to give them good press. So why even worry? If you’re going to be condemned, how about being condemned for actually standing up for the principles you profess to represent?

Damn! What a concept!

But it sure as hell worked for Ronald Reagan. (And, incidentally, NOT for any of the subsequent GOP nominees who all tried to falsely claim the mantle of Reagan. They couldn’t even talk the talk, let alone walk the walk)

If the American Revolutionaries were made up of people like these gutless wonders, we’d all be pledging allegiance to the Queen of England and paying a tea tax.

thCADPO7G6It’s time for some MAJOR changes in that sorry excuse for an opposition party. As far as I’m concerned, their symbol should no longer be an elephant, a noble and grand animal. It should be some wimp hiding behind a bush waving a white flag.

Pathetic and disgusting.

© Brian Baker 2013

Update 1 October 2013:  Credit where credit is due, the House GOP stood firm today, allowing the government to go into shutdown mode. Good for them.

The question now becomes:  will they have the nerve to stand firm? Or will they once again break out the white flag once the heat gets turned up? Even MORE importantly, will they have the brains to turn the heat to where it belongs, at Obama and Reid?

Only time will tell. Stay tuned.

Update 16 October 2013:  As usual and as expected, the GOP folded like a cheap suit, surrendering in ignominy to the Democrats.

What a shock, I’m sure.

 

 

A Manifesto To Save America

 

“A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy”

                                                                       Alexander Tytler   1747 – 1843 (Pop. Attrib.)

When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. Sell not liberty to purchase power”

                                                Benjamin Franklin  1706 – 1790

People familiar with my writings, both in my blogs and in various Letters To The Editors and Guest Columns published in newspapers, know I’ve long maintained that this country is far down along the path to self-destruction. Back in February 2008, at my Townhall blog, I wrote an essay entitled “Bread and Circuses” (Read it here) in which I drew parallels between our country today and the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

The Roberts Court

Most recently, we have the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) discovering and endowing the government with vast new powers to use taxation to force people to behave in certain ways, and enter into contracts to purchase goods and services. For the first time in our history, a tax can be imposed on people for not doing something. It’s as if King George imposed a tea tax on the colonists for not drinking tea.

To achieve this repugnant decision, as I’ve described previously, Chief Judas Roberts ignored all bounds of reason, logic and constitutionality in order to side with the liberal “ignore the Constitution” faction of the Court. Whatever his motives – and speculation on that runs rampant – neither Roberts nor any other Justice will ever suffer any consequences for their actions or decisions because the Constitution guarantees them lifetime tenure.

Then we have the problem with the inequitable nature of our current tax system which has led to debts and deficits that will inevitably bankrupt this country if not resolved somehow. Almost 50% of the populace pays little to no federal income taxes at all, and the top 5% of earners – those earning anything over a mere $154,643 (statistics) – pay almost 59% of all the income tax money collected. Yet they’re still castigated for “not paying their fair share”.

Meanwhile, that bottom 50% pays almost nothing at all but still has an equal say, through their power to vote, in how tax burdens are allocated and the funds spent. Naturally, as they really have no skin in the game as far as fiscal prudence is concerned, they’re going to be inclined to vote for their own economic self-interest, meaning that they’re all for robbing Peter to pay Paul, since someone else is always going to be the Peter that pays their Paul. Paul really doesn’t care if Peter goes broke.

Further, what’s going to happen when the tax non-payers outnumber the taxpayers? Then we’ll have a situation akin to three foxes and a chicken voting on what’s for dinner. It won’t be pretty, and at that point this country will be completely doomed.

I believe this country’s only hope of salvation lies in a major restructuring of how we do things, and that can only be properly enacted by amending the Constitution. Therefore I’d like to propose the following four constitutional amendments.

“Judicial Accountability Amendment:  After 12 years of serving on the federal bench, each judge including Supreme Court Justices shall be replaced, unless reconfirmed by the US Senate.”

Hopefully, that would force the judiciary to be more responsive to the actual Constitution, but no matter what it would impose accountability on the Mandarins In Black Robes.

“Flat Tax Amendment:  Every person who receives income, from whatever source and without exception, shall have that income taxed at the same rate of X%. The tax rate may be changed by Congress by votes of 2/3 in each House.”

The “X” rate of taxation would be determined during the amendment process, but this would certainly eliminate the inequality of tax rates and burdens. Further, it would eliminate the motivation of those with no tax exposure to burden those who actually do pay taxes with ridiculous obligations that simply can’t be met.

Everyone would then have at least some skin in the game.

Further, the super-majority requirement to change the tax rate would force some fiscal sanity on Congress, and force them to start to cut spending. Raising the tax rate would become a VERY politically risky move… as it should be.

“Voter Eligibility Amendment:  No person who is exempt, for whatever reason, from paying income taxes shall be eligible to vote.”

A companion piece to the prior Amendment, this would assure that anyone who might still escape any tax obligation would also lose their ability to influence the outcome of legislation that forces everyone else to pay up.

“Tax Legitimacy Amendment: Taxes shall be imposed solely to raise revenue for the legitimate function of government as defined in the US Constitution. Any tax or spending bill must cite the appropriate and legitimate constitutional authority for that program or expenditure. No tax shall be imposed whose purpose is to influence the behavior of citizens, either individually or as a group; nor shall taxes be imposed as a penalty.”

The most immediate effect of this Amendment would be to void Obamacare and repeal the recent SCOTUS decision, much like the 14th Amendment killed the Dred Scott decision; and it would prevent the kind of laws – as well as judicial decisions – that grant such unbridled power to the government that the people’s ability to make their own decisions is completely pre-empted.

Unless these amendments – or something very much like them – are enacted, this country as we know it is finished. We may still be in existence physically, but we’ll ultimately devolve into a Euro-trash “social democracy” like Greece. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the political will exists in this country to take those necessary steps.

I hope I’m proven wrong, but I am not sanguine…

© Brian Baker 2012

The Obamacare Decision’s In. What’s Next?

Chief Judas John Roberts

Well, as I noted in last week’s essay, the stunning decision of the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) was handed down last week on the Obamacare challenge, and Chief Judas Roberts – traitor to the Constitution and conservative principles – has granted the Federal Government expansive new powers to regulate behavior through the power to impose taxes; not only on what you actually do, but also on what you don’t do.

Another aspect of this new authority is that since exercise of this power is through the taxation process, such laws don’t require the usual 60 votes in the Senate required for most bills. It’s tax law, and as such can be passed by a simple majority in that chamber (as has always been the case with any law in the House). Thus has SCOTUS ruled.

That means that come November, if the GOP retains the House, wins the Presidency, and holds 50 seats in the Senate after the election (Romney’s VP would give the GOP a Senate majority as President of the Senate), they’ll be able to pass any such law they want without any fear of it being blocked by the Democrats (in the exact same manner as Democrats enacted Obamacare in the first place).

This does open up some interesting possibilities.

I’d like to propose a law that requires every eligible adult to own a gun. This would accrue a benefit to the country under the General Welfare Clause, as statistically it’s been shown that the more law-abiding citizens own guns, the lower the crime rate is. Further, gun ownership is actually a right enumerated in the Bill of Rights, as opposed to “healthcare”. Anyone who refuses to own a gun would see a “tax surcharge” penalty on their federal income taxes.

How about an abortion tax? You’d still be able to exercise your “right” to abort your baby; you’d just be dinged a few thousand bucks in a “tax surcharge” if you did it. There’s no doubt this would accrue benefits to the country’s “general welfare” as it will cut into the numbers of unborn babies slaughtered in the womb, not to mention the benefits accrued to the babies themselves. And think of the added revenue!

There are endless possibilities, and the limits have been removed. Get together with your friends. Think up a policy you’d like to see enacted. Turn it into a drinking game!

Then raise a toast to our socialist countrymen who have given us this wonderful opportunity.

©Brian Baker 2012

It’s Official! We Live In A Tyranny!

I have to admit; I called this one completely wrong, and have been doing so for almost three years. When Obamacare was first proposed by the Democrats, herded by Nancy the Red Pelosi and Dingy Harry Reid, I forecast – loud and often – that the mandate that people buy health insurance or face financial penalties imposed by the government would never pass judicial scrutiny. How could it? What in the Constitution empowered the government to force people to buy products or enter into contracts to purchase certain services?

Well, in a terrible decision handed down today by the Supreme Court Jesters, we found out. According to the majority opinion, written by the Chief Justice (John Roberts), it turns out that the government has the power to pretty much regulate any behavior they want, as long as their enforcement mechanism is called a “tax”.

Chief Justice John Marshall

In the Supreme Court case of McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819, Daniel Webster made the argument, with which Chief Justice John Marshall agreed, that “the power to tax is the power to destroy” and overturned Maryland’s tax on banks. In today’s decision, however, Roberts wrote that the “power to tax is not the power to destroy while this Court sits”, in direct contradiction to the man generally considered to be this country’s greatest Chief Justice.

How he comes to such a conclusion is entirely beyond me, and defies all reasoning and common sense.

The tortured rationalizations in Roberts’s controlling majority opinion rely on two absurd contentions:

1.  That a tax penalty isn’t enforced by imprisonment, and

2.  the tax penalty isn’t “onerous”.

Well, refuse to pay the tax and see whether or not you end up in prison. And what may not be “onerous” to Roberts – with his six-figure income and government benefits – may well be “onerous” to a couple of young married kids barely squeaking by while juggling a mortgage and car payments while underemployed – if employed at all – in this terrible economy.

According to Roberts, the government is perfectly within its rights to use tax law to “encourage” certain behaviors, and discourage others. So… what can we anticipate moving forward?

How about “weight penalties”? If your body mass index (BMI) exceeds certain levels, or if your weight falls outside certain arbitrary parameters for your height as set by the government, can you expect a “tax surcharge”? Why not?

How about a “tax surcharge” for smokers? After all, the government, in the interest of cost control for the “public obligation” of controlling healthcare costs, now has a vested interest in your behavior.

How about a “tax surcharge” if you had a traffic ticket that year? Hey… that’s “risky behavior”, and you could incur “healthcare costs” if you get in an accident, right?

What about if you want to buy a foreign car? The government has determined that the American car industry is “too big to fail”, and therefore if you “choose” to buy a foreign car, you’re contributing to the risk that American auto makers will fail. So I guess you should pay a “tax penalty” for not buying American.

Don’t laugh. Way back when the hysteria about second-hand smoke was taking place I predicted that if the penalties being considered against tobacco companies ever passed into law we’d ultimately see similar actions taken against other unpopular behavior, like fast food consumption. People laughed.

Well… look around you. Laws against trans-fats in foods (bye-bye, flavor), Bloomberg’s limits on soft drink sizes in New York, pate banned in Commiefornia, San Francisco’s ban on Happy Meal toys at McDonald’s, on and on and on.

The reality is that the endorsement of the mandate by the Supremes opens the door for government to regulate virtually every aspect of human behavior through the abuse of the power to tax.

Justice Marshall was completely right; in this case, the power to tax has completely destroyed the right of free choice.

© Brian Baker 2012

The Rubber Meets The Road

On  Monday, 26 March 2012, The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) begins hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of Obamacare.

Long-time readers of my blog (my thanks to you) may recall that way back in September of 2009 (Here) I predicted that any “mandate” that people buy health insurance would guarantee a constitutional challenge that would reach the Supreme Court. I was one of the first to make that prediction.

Time has borne me out on the accuracy of that prediction. Even aside from the legal issues involved, Obamacare has proven to be hugely unpopular with the people. The major GOP presidential candidates have vowed to repeal it should they become President. It was one of the big issues that led to the “shellacking” the Democrats took at the mid-term elections in 2010.

But even though there’s an alternate political route to getting rid of Obamacare – repeal – it’s not an acceptable alternative. Here’s why.

The “mandate” in Obamacare requires people to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Whether that penalty is called a “fine” or a “tax surcharge” is irrelevant. A penalty is a penalty. By doing so, Obamacare takes the unprecedented step (in this country) of forcing people to enter into a contract to purchase something from a vendor under the guise of “the greater good”. Once that rationale becomes accepted as valid, there’s no limit to the power the government has to regulate and control what people must do or buy moving forward; government’s power becomes unlimited. A rationale of “greater good” can always be found for whatever the latest “crisis du jour” is. Not enough domestic cars sold? You must buy an American car. “Unhealthy” eating habits? You must buy and eat three carrots per week per person. No matter how silly an example you can dream up, it can become a government “mandate”.

Our Constitution defines a federal government of strictly limited powers. Obamacare’s mandate removes all limits on those powers, all under the guise of “the greater good”, of course. That’s why it’s absolutely essential that Obamacare – or at least the mandate – be found unconstitutional. Otherwise, this country’s liberty is completely doomed.

And that’s why the political alternative of repeal isn’t acceptable. If the mandate is somehow held to be constitutional, a repeal is meaningless, because the power to reinstate it remains for the next change of watch; and future laws imposing draconian mandates are just around the corner. The whole idea has to have a judicial stake driven through its heart.

© Brian Baker 2012

Panic at CNN: