Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Honduras Situation and Why it is Important

By now you have surely heard at least something about the current situation in Honduras. Do you know the details of what is actually taking place? More importantly, do you know why you should pay attention? First, here's what went down:

Honduras currently has presidential term limits written into their constitution, just like we do in the United States. The Honduran President, Mel Zelaya, is approaching the end of what their constitution currently mandates as his final term in office. President Zelaya decided that he wants to change the constitution. Honduran law allows for the constitution to be altered but only through a constituent assembly. The only way to call a constituent assembly is to get approval for a national referendum via the Honduran Congress. The president does not have the legal authority to change the constitution himself or call for a national referendum or call for a constituent assembly. President Zelaya did it anyway.

Then the Honduran Supreme Court stepped in and ruled that Zelaya's referendum was illegal. The military is the group charged with organizing and executing the referendum vote. After the head of the Honduran military, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, told Zelaya that he would have to comply with the supreme court ruling and not carry out the vote, Zelaya fired him. The Honduran Supreme Court ruled this firing unconstitutional as well, but Zelaya still refused to reinstate Gen. Velásquez. President Zelaya then needed ballots for his illegal referendum. He had Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's Communist dictator, ship some ballots to him, and they were subsequently stored on a Honduran military base. President Zelaya then had a group invade the military base to seize the ballots for his use, and the military arrested him for his illegal actions.

Now, please take a second and decide for yourself who is at fault here, whose actions are illegal and whose actions are justified under the law. Have you decided? Okay, here's my take on it. It's clear that Mel Zelaya was breaking the law. The military was simply enforcing the law by arresting him. The Honduran constitution does not provide for a means of impeachment or removal of a president from office like ours does, even if the president is breaking the law. Does that mean that any president of Honduras can just do whatever he wants? Absolutely not. NO ONE is above the law. The problem here is that most people cannot begin to imagine a president being arrested for anything. We immediately think of our own President of the United States, and we cannot imagine him being arrested (current and/or past Presidents). However, the Honduran President knowingly and intentionally broke the law, and he rightfully needed to be stopped.

The important thing that we need to pay attention to here is President Obama's reaction to the situation in Honduras. President Obama is calling the events in Honduras an illegal coup. Obama is siding with Communist dictator Hugo Chavez, who is determined to overthrow the new Honduran government. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has said that the Honduran military's actions against President Zelaya "should be condemned by all."

What about denouncing President Zelaya's illegal actions? What about speaking out against his blatant violations of the Honduran Constitution, complete defiance of Supreme Court orders and his illegal invasion of a military base? Nope. You'll hear none of it from the current administration. They have decided to side with Hugo Chavez and the criminal, Mel Zelaya. When the protests started in Iran, Obama came out and said the situation was "of concern," and then he largely does nothing. When the Honduran President illegally attempts to change the constitution and gets arrested, Obama immediately condemns the arrest and sides with a communist dictator.

What does this say about our President? Does he really believe in democracy and respect for the law? Does he really believe in a system of checks and balances like we have in the U.S.? When the checks and balances system in Honduras came into play, Obama overlooked it. Similarly in the U.S., when the General Motors bondholders demanded what was legally due to them in a bankruptcy process, Obama overlooked the law and paid the United Auto Workers, who under the law stand behind the bondholders in the payment line. Does anyone see a correlation here? Are you okay with this? Are you okay with our President supporting a man who attempted to circumvent his country's constitution when it was inconvenient? Are you okay with the fact that President Obama consistently ignores the law when it is inconvenient for him to follow it?

I'm not.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Health Care Reform: Part 1

Here we go folks, the first installment in a series of posts that will definitely shed some light on the health care debate. Part one, as promised, will focus on why the current system is not working. First, if you didn't catch my last post that cleared up some of the dynamics and psychology behind the health care debate, read it before you dive into this series. I believe that understanding these dynamics is essential to fostering productive debate and ultimately solutions on the issue.

The current system is failing largely because of a few main factors: lost job = loss of health insurance, excessive government regulation, Medicare and Medicaid, and the public's lack of knowledge of true heath care costs. It is critical to understand that reforming just one of these factors will not fix the system as a whole and that fixing just one or two may very well make the current system worse. Methodical changes need to be made in tandem across the board in order for the system to work more efficiently.

#1 If You Lose Your Job You Also Lose Your Health Insurance
Do most people even know why we get health insurance through our employers? Does it make any sense? Why not auto or mortgage insurance as well? Quick history lesson.... during World War II the government instituted wage controls on businesses. As a result employers could not give people raises nor could they offer attractive salaries to potential employees. In order to be more competitive companies began offering health benefits with the wartime profits they were making in lieu of salary increases, because the government exempted these benefits from the wage controls. The benefits were also tax-exempt. Fast forward 60 years, and you've got the current system where most people get their health insurance through their employers. Why is this a problem? Just ask the millions of people who have lost their jobs over the course of the last year. My gut feeling is that people would not fear unemployment nearly as much if they could keep their health insurance even if they lost their jobs. Additionally, you may be perfectly healthy when you start a new job, but then you get cancer, diabetes or some other chronic illness..... then you lose your job. Under the current system you're in a pretty poor predicament, because you lost your job and your health insurance. Even if you get a new job and insurance you'll have to pay a huge amount for insurance because of your preexisting condition. If you separate employment and health insurance then you're in much better shape, because you can keep your insurance regardless of your employment status.

Another issue with health insurance being tied to employment is that it eliminates the individual patient (you and me) as the true customer. The only reason you have your plan is because your employer chose it. Most people have one choice of an insurance plan through their employers, because that's all that is offered. So what incentive does the insurance company have to serve you? Not much, because they know you can't switch plans or providers. Most employers offer only one and you are trapped. If we start being the real customer rather than our employers then insurance companies will compete for OUR business, not that of our employers. Competition = better service and often times lower prices as well.

This lack of choice poses other problems as well. You take a job, and you take the insurance plan with it..... and all of the coverages that you don't need along with it. My plan covers me for maternity care! I'm the sperm guy, not the child bearer!!! Why am I paying for maternity coverage?!? Because I don't have a choice. My employer crafted my plan for me. Don't get me wrong, it's a great plan, but it could be cheaper. Also, If my insurance company pisses me off I don't have a choice of whether or not to keep it, because I'm only offered a choice of one company through my employer. It is in the best interest of the insurance company to keep my employer happy. It really doesn't matter to them if I'm satisfied as long as my employer essentially forces me (through no fault of their own) to stay with them. However, if I have the choice between all of the insurance companies then I bet many of the insurance company horror stories would go away. Costs would come down as well, because you could pick and choose which coverages you want (personally, I would definitely not be choosing maternity coverage!).

Solution #1: Level the Playing Field of Health Plan Taxes

Currently, if you get your health insurance through your employer you and the company are allowed to exempt the entire cost of the plan from taxes. However, if you try to buy your own plan in the open market then you do have to pay taxes on it. Does that make any sense? Don't you think that there are probably a few uninsured people out there who could probably afford pre-tax health insurance, but instead have to go without it simply because their employer doesn't sponsor it? The easy solution to this would be to end the government's favorable tax benefits on employer-sponsored insurance and allow everyone to deduct the cost of their health insurance from their taxes. This would also take care of the employment-sponsoring problem, because the tax benefits are the only reason companies offer health insurance in the first place. It would level the playing field for everyone. If you're worried about having to pay the full cost of your health care (your portion and the portion that your employer was paying) then rest easy. When your employer hired you they had to budget for much more than just your salary. They also had to budget for your health care plan. Now, they can just add that money to your salary. It's net-zero for them, because they can write it off on their taxes either way. All of these measures will bring costs down, so the company will be able to save money while paying you more to cover your insurance. Everyone wins!

#2 Excessive Government Regulation
Our current health care system is mired in layers upon layers of regulation. Some of it is necessary, but much of it is not. Every state is allowed to set its own regulations for insurance companies. That's why you have a "Blue Cross Blue Shield of [insert any state here]". Currently we are not allowed to buy health insurance across state lines. What if insurance companies were allowed to sell insurance across state lines and they also didn't have to figure out how to comply with FIFTY different sets of regulations? If insurance companies had only one set of regulations to deal with then they would save hundreds of millions of dollars! Think about it.... (hypothetical numbers here) each company might only have to hire just 50 people to take care of the regulations for all 50 states instead of 50 people PER state (2,500 people!) to deal with individual state regulations. Let's say those 2,500 employees makes an average of $50K per year. That's a total of $125,000,000 that the company pays them in salary alone! Tack on benefits (health insurance!) etc. and it's far higher. Having just 50 employees working on regulations would only cost $2.5 million per year. That's a savings of $122.5 million per year! If the insurance companies save money then guess what..... you do too! Your health insurance premiums would go down. If health insurance costs go down then more people can afford it. See where I'm going here? ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE FOR MORE PEOPLE!

I have seen examples of policies in Iowa costing around $99 with the exact same policy going for almost $400 in New York. It just so happens that New York State has one of the most regulated health insurance industries in the nation. Coincidence? Absolutely not. Yes, cost of living is higher in New York (not 400% higher though), but insurance companies also have to employ more people in order to keep up with the regulations. An insurance company in Iowa might not be able to sell a NYC resident the policy for $99, but they might be able to do it for $199. Don't you think there are probably a few people in New York City that could afford a policy that costs half of what they currently have to pay? Definitely.

Solution #2
Allow insurance companies to sell policies across state lines, and perform a methodical review of all current regulations with the intention of throwing out the ones that are needlessly weighing down the system. This could add millions of people to the ranks of the privately insured.

#3 Medicare and Medicaid
Health care costs money. Period. As much as we would like it to be free, it's not. Someone always pays for it. Just because a doctor's visit costs a Medicaid patient $10 doesn't mean that the visit actually cost $10. The visit may have actually cost $1,000, and now the doctor must pay the $990 that the patient didn't cover. So, the doctor bills Medicaid to recoup these costs. Medicaid currently reimburses providers at a fraction of the real cost in many cases. The doctor might send a bill to Medicaid for $990, but if Medicaid only reimburses that care at a 70% rate, then the doctor only receives about $700. Where does the other $300 come from? The doctor has to have that $300 to pay his nurses, rent and keep the lights on. He or she cannot operate at a loss. The answer is that it comes from you and me.

Doctors are currently forced to recoup these costs from privately insured individuals and charge more to paying customers. This drives up the cost of private insurance and it drives up the overall cost of health care. For some people, private insurance is too expensive, so they go on Medicaid. More people on Medicaid drives up the cost of private insurance even more. You get the picture? If we implement reforms across the board (remember, reform does not equal "government option" as the current powers that be would like you to believe), then insurance costs will go down. Insurance costs go down, and more people are able to afford it.

Medicare is projected to run out of money in 2017. MedPac, the agency responsible for advising Congress on Medicare and Medicaid, in their 2008 report speaks of "poor quality," financial concerns, "inaccurate payment rates" to doctors and hospitals and many other concerns. The main issue, however, is that the system is simply not financially sustainable. When something is "free" people use too much of it. When people use too much of something, rationing begins. Why do you think people in Canada have months long waiting lists for emergency surgeries?

Solution #3
I'm not 100% sure what the best solution to the Medicare and Medicaid problem is. I know one solution that would work better is to give Medicare and Medicaid patients money to buy private health insurance rather than have the government reimburse providers. The bottom line is that there is a solution out there. I just haven't found it yet. When I do I promise you'll hear about it.

All of this contributes to the issue of patients and consumers having zero clue how much their health care actually costs. If people really knew then they would appreciate their current insurance much more. The only time people start caring is when they actually start having to pay for of it, such as when they lose their job or their insurance doesn't cover a certain procedure. When people leave the doctor or the pharmacy they should get a line item print-out of all of the services they received. Included in it should be the cost for each of those individual services. If people had that then they would realize how much they're actually getting, and they would also know that health care costs money, regardless of whether or not they actually paid for it themselves. Ultimately, they would realize that the government cannot magically make health care free. Just because the government provides it does not mean it's free.

That's it for round one folks. There is definitely much more to come. The thing to remember here is that there are many solutions to the health care problem. Government is not it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

FairTax Friday: The FairTax Explained

Alright folks, here's the big moment you've been waiting for. I've already explained how the FairTax will allow you to keep 100% of your paycheck (did you look at your pay stub and see how much the government has taken from you already this year?). I've also explained how the FairTax will eliminate all Federal taxes and allow businesses to lower their prices by an average of about 23%. Finally, in my last FairTax Friday post I gave you an overview of how the FairTax would eliminate the burdensome compliance costs that exist under our current tax code (currently around $400 billion per year). Now you're going to get the meat of the FairTax, the reasons why it's "fair" and the reasons why it's infinitely better than our current system.

It is important to remember that the FairTax does not add additional taxes to our system. It first repeals the 16th Amendment (the one that allows for an income tax) and then eliminates all Federal taxes. This includes income taxes, Social Security withholding, the death tax, capital gains tax etc. etc. etc. We have layers upon layers of taxes and the FairTax eliminates all of them at the Federal level. The FairTax replaces these taxes with a national retail sales tax. "What is a national retail sales tax?" Well, I'm glad you asked.

A national retail sales tax is easy.... every time you buy a new product at the retail level and ONLY when you buy a new product at the retail level, you will pay the tax. It's very similar to the 6, 7, 8% or whatever state sales tax you currently pay at the register. The beauty of it is that you pay taxes ONLY WHEN YOU SPEND MONEY! You choose to pay taxes rather than have your money seized from your paycheck. If you don't want to pay taxes, don't buy anything. That's why it's fair. If a rich guy wants to buy a $23,000,000 yacht, he pays taxes on it. If a middle class individual chooses to save money and not buy a new car, she also saves on taxes.

If this doesn't sound reasonable enough to you already, hear this. The FairTax also includes something called the Prebate. The prebate reimburses every family in the United States for the basic necessities of life. The Federal government sets the poverty level ever year. For purposes of easy math, let's say the level for a family of four is $24,000 per year. Every month, under the FairTax, the family would get a check from the government for $2,000. This $2,000 is given to the family for basic necessities like food, water and shelter. Everyone gets it. Therefore, everyone is put on the same level playing field. If you don't want to pay any taxes at all then don't spend more than your prebate. Just save everything and become a millionare. Oh, and don't forget that under the FairTax you are now receiving 100% of your paycheck! Not only do you only pay taxes when you choose to, you've got more money to spend!

How much is the national retail sales tax called the FairTax? It's 23%. "23%!!! That's SO MUCH MORE than we currently pay!" Actually, it's not. Current income tax rates range from 10-35%. On top of that you also pay the embedded taxes for corporations, capital gains taxes, death taxes, taxes, taxes and more taxes. You think that probably adds up to more than 23% for most people? Probably.

The FairTax is also an embedded tax. This means that it's not added on at the register. It's already factored into the price. So, if you see a camera at Best Buy that you want, and it costs $100, you will pay $100 at the register. $23 of that will go to the Federal Government and the rest goes to the company. Another thing to consider is that prices under the FairTax will fall, on average, 23%. So, in real dollar amounts you will not end up forking over more cash under the FairTax than you would under the current system. Again, you get to keep 100% of your paycheck, so you'll actually have more money. Think about it, if prices fall 23% because the embedded corporate taxes are eliminated and the FairTax replaces it, a $100 item still costs $100.

Millions of dollars have gone into researching this system, folks. It will work, and it will do more for the American economy than you could ever imagine. Business will thrive, individuals with thrive and the government will be able to fund its operations just like it does today. The difference here is that the people would have the power to choose whether or not to be taxed. It wouldn't be some Washington bureaucrat politician deciding for you. It's a great expression of freedom, and it stands firm on the foundation upon which this country was built.

*** Corrections/Clarifications ***

6/26: In an effort to be concise I merged the repeal of the 16th Amendment with the FairTax bill. Please note that the FairTax bill does not repeal the 16th Amendment. The 16th Amendment must be repealed separately, prior to the passage of the FairTax Bill. The two definitely go hand in hand, but their individual passage is accomplished separately. This is a tough task, but it can be done.

Additionally, I explained the Prebate incorrectly. It's been a while since I reviewed the Prebate, and I got the facts wrong. This will not happen again. Here are the facts: The Prebate reimburses families for the taxes that they would have paid on the basic necessities of life. In 2008, the poverty level for a family of four was set at $28,000. The monthly prebate would be $537, and the annual prebate would amount to $6,440. It still sets everyone on a level playing field, because you are only taxed if you choose to be.

I apologize for the mistakes. They will not happen again with the FairTax, because I have all of the information at my fingertips and will double-check it in the future.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Clarifications on Health Care

I’ve been getting quite a bit of response on the health care issue, and I want to clarify a few things. First, many people seem to think that the choice is either the current system as it is or the government option. Even President Obama was touting this popular perception in his press conference today saying, “I think in this debate there’s been some notion that if we just stand pat we’ll be ok, and that’s just not true.” NO ONE is saying “Let’s just leave it the way it is.” Pretty much everyone agrees that the system needs to be reformed. The problem is that most people don't understand that we are not faced with a choice between the “current free-market system” and a government-run system. One very important thing to note is that our current system is not a free market system. Yes, it is more free than a 100% government controlled system, but it’s not a true free market. People make the assumption that it is, but the truth is that it is HIGHLY regulated. Many of these regulations contribute significantly to the rising costs of health care. Some of the regulations need to stay, but many of them need to go. A prime example is the restriction that prevents us from buying health insurance across state lines. You can buy a policy in Iowa for $99, but if you turn around and buy that same policy in New York City it will cost almost $400. Does that make sense? Heck no! Do you think there are a few thousand people in NYC that could afford a $99 policy but cannot afford a $400 one? The bottom line is that we all want the same thing: access to health care.

I am not saying that the government should not play any role in health care and the regulation of the industry. Government does have a place in certain areas. The problem is that the government has imposed so much bureaucracy on the health care system that it’s driving up the cost of health care. The government doesn’t need to get out of health care entirely. Their focus just needs to be adjusted to the right areas, and we need to see a thoughtful deregulation process take place. If, together, we can really dive into the issues, peel back the multiple layers of this complicated issues and put aside the “oh she’s a liberal and thinks ‘X’ way” or “here we go, typical conservative….” thoughts, then I’m willing to bet we could hammer out a system that would please us all. We all agree that the current system needs to be reformed, but “reform” doesn’t mean “let the government run it.” There are PLENTY of viable options out there that are better than the government “option” so let’s explore them a bit.

It’s going to take me a few articles, but in the end you will get the full picture of the following:

1. Why the current system is not working
2. Why government control of health care is not the best solution
3. Why the government’s “option” is not an option at all
4. Why the government’s objective isn’t really health care for everyone
5. Why the government’s system simply won’t work
6. Solutions to the current problems that will help achieve our collective goal of increasing access to health care and health insurance

Folks, we can do this, and we can do it with more than just the health care issue. What it takes is first putting aside our preconceived notions of “the other side” and truly learning about the issues. Were you even aware that we aren’t allowed to buy insurance across state lines? Did you know that your state requires you to purchase certain coverage that you probably don’t need and they make you pay for it? That’s the current system folks. If we change it a bit we can keep all of its benefits and add many more.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pay Attention to Iran

Folks, we're witnessing something pretty amazing in Iran right now. It's obvious this election was rigged. Even if (somehow) it wasn't, there's a lot going on there that is quite disturbing. Just read this article from today's Wall Street Journal for some firsthand accounts from Iranian citizens. We need to help them. America needs to help them, and President Obama needs to speak up. Right now he is staying largely silent, and it's not a good thing. Obama said the following in his recent speech in Cairo:

"I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere."

Read the WSJ article and it's very clear that the government is not being "transparent" and Iranians are not being given the freedom to "speak [their] mind[s]". If our President truly believes in these "human rights" this then he needs to be speaking out about it, because he has been given the perfect opportunity.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Some Healthy Health Care Dialogue

Yesterday I spoke out about this looming public health "option," and I got some great feedback from readers! First, I want to thank all of you for reading and challenging me on the content. This blog is just as much about educating myself on issues as it is my readers. I had a reader yesterday leave me some lengthy comments, as health care is an issue that she is very passionate about, and it is also the field in which she works. This was my vision for this blog, to get people talking, thinking and educating themselves. I have learned things from her and hopefully vice-versa as well. Keep the comments coming! In the meantime, check out the dialogue. First read her comments here (it's the first two comments) and see my response below.

My response:

I knew you were going to respond to this one. This is your arena, and I was very much looking forward to what you would have to say. I actually considered emailing you the text before posting it to see if there was anything factual I needed to change. However, after reading your objections I don't think there's much I would have changed; maybe a few clarifications. Here is your requested explanation of my statement: I know I made a generalization, but I'm looking at the system as a whole. Answer me this (and this is completely anecdotal).... would you rather visit an average doctor in the U.S. or an average doctor in India or the UK? Give me your gut feeling (and don't try to define "average"). I'm willing to bet that if you pooled them all together, the doctors in the U.S. are going to be superior to those in the other countries. That's all I'm saying.

Public health is obviously your area of expertise, so you're going to have plenty of niche stories to tell about failing hospitals and/or demand data to measure "brightest and best." I could too, just look at Grady. Of course, in Grady's case you had poor management and a power-hungry board as one of the main contributing factors to their demise. There are a LOT more factors that go into a failing hospital than the effects of the overall health care system. Charity Hospital in New Orleans was a PUBLIC hospital, just like Grady. Do you see a pattern here with the government-run institutions? Why are you advocating moving the entire system to that? I respect you as a highly intelligent and educated person, and I have always valued your opinions. I especially wanted to hear your opinions on this topic (and I'd like to discuss it further in person). I just can't wrap my head around why someone like yourself could possibly advocate more government intervention in the health sector when it has clearly proven to fail everywhere it has been tried. Government intervention is one of the problems with the current system, not the solution.

Sure, there are some great hospitals in India and the UK. I never said that the U.S. has the best health care and technology in EVERY case. Can you honestly tell me, though, that their health care systems as a whole are better than our own? We could find one-off examples all day to refute both sides of our arguments. I've never said that there aren't failing hospitals and areas that need to be reformed. I'm just looking at the system as a whole, entirely appropriate for the purposes of my article.

Please re-read the last part of the statement you quoted. I said "insurance infrastructure." I didn't say "industry." The infrastructure is there to support most people. We need to make some changes to the systems that the infrastructure supports. And what is your definition of "most"? Let's say the true number of uninsured is about 30 million. There are 300M people in the U.S. right now. That's 10%. Last time I checked, 90% was "most," so how is that wrong, as you claim? I don't know what you're basing your claim on that we're one of the least healthy industrialized nations (I'm also not refuting it), but we're unhealthy because we choose to be. We're unhealthy because people choose to eat at McDonald's 5x per week. I have lived in and visited foreign countries and the eating habits and life habits of some are much more healthy than ours. I would argue that most of it isn't due to lack of care. A doctor can't make someone thin. That's personal choice.

I know the reason to care about non-US citizens, but first let me say this. I have never said that I was "better than them" because I am a citizen and have health insurance. I'm a citizen, which makes me legal and being a citizen gives me certain rights and privileges, because I pay taxes. Countries have immigration laws for a reason. Sooner or later you run out of other people's money, and the simple fact is that the U.S. cannot financially sustain having to support 20 million illegal immigrants. No, their lives are not any less important, but they are willingly breaking the law. What if an illegal immigrant came to your house every night and stole half of your food? Every night. You worked for it. You paid for it. But they need it because they are illegal and can't get a salaried job. Is that okay with you? Or are you going to let them do it, because you are not "better than them" and they should be able to do whatever they want, regardless of the law? Health care is no different, nor are government services. It's stealing, plain and simple.

I actually had the ER example in the first draft of my post, but I took it out: "The illegals DO have access to health care via emergency rooms, courtesy of the taxpaying citizens of the United States and/or hospital owners. The access that they have to health care is probably better than what they get in their own countries. The fact is that we do have incredible access to health care compared to many parts of the world." That's the part I cut out. However, that's not, like you said, a health care issue. That's an immigration issue. I agree that preventive care would solve a lot. Keeping them out of our country would save even more. They shouldn't be allowed to freeload off of our system. We don't need to give them drivers licenses though!!! We need to get them out of this country. Do you think that the illegal use of our health system is going to get any better under a public option? Where is the accountability or economic incentive? It's going to get worse! You're exactly right when you say that " when emergency room costs go up because patient volume goes up, the hospital has to charge more per visit/procedure." Fixing that is one of my solutions. Fix the problem with illegals and others freeloading off of our system and the cost of health care goes down. When the cost goes down, health premiums go down and more people will be able to afford it. It would be cheaper for me AND the citizen who previously couldn't afford insurance.

It's clear that Obama and Congress want to socialize medicine, and the fears aren't irrational at all. Yes, I will still have to pay for health insurance, but it won't be anywhere close to what I'm paying now. Under Obama's plan I will not only be paying for my own health insurance but that of other people as well. If I'm paying for my own as well as others then that means I am going to receive less in return for my money. That's a cost increase. Less care for the same amount of money will eventually equal inadequate care. Four and a half months to wait for an MRI? That's exactly what will happen, because we'll have to ration health care. I think it's irrational NOT to think that the government wants to socialize health care. I think it's completely irrational to think that it will actually work. Can you really tell me that the UK's and Canadian systems are working? They're not.

I really want to know how you can say that Medicare and Medicaid are working. Medicaid is projected to be bankrupt within the next nine years. How is that possibly "working"? I would also greatly appreciate it if you could lose the condescending tone when you put words in my mouth like "lowly medicaid patients." I never said that, nor did I remotely refer to their clientele anywhere in my post. The answer to your question, however, is yes, the fact that my doctors see Medicare and Medicaid patients DOES affect my care. It affects the cost of my care, and in some cases I could make an argument for it affecting the quality of it as well. The government reimburses doctors at a far lower rate (as in, below the actual cost of the care) for Medicare and Medicaid patients than private insurance or out-of-pocket payers. Same as in the ER, they make up for it by charging other patients more. The money has to come from somewhere. In my case, my health insurance premiums go up. Many of those people who are uninsured likely would be able to afford health insurance if the premiums dropped. If doctors were reimbursed at a true market rate rather than the percentage that they get from Medicaid/Medicare then they could potentially use that money to make more investments in equipment, thus impacting the quality of my care. They could also lower costs in general, possibly making care more affordable to out of pocket payers. Again, this doesn't involve government, but everyone benefits.

Regarding your HMO/PPO limited choice example, you are making the assumption that I'm not proposing any changes to the current system. I am ABSOLUTELY NOT saying that we don't need reform, and I made that very clear in my post (look at the 5th sentence of the first paragraph). I also never said that the current system was a free market. If it was truly free then we'd be able to buy insurance across state lines. I've seen concrete examples of plans in Iowa costing $99 and the same plan costing almost $400 in New York City. It just so happens that New York is one of the three most regulated insurance industries in the country. Do you think there's a correlation there? I'm willing to bet there is.

We both agree that the current system is not working. The solution, though, is not government.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Public Health "Option"

As I write, Congress and President Obama are working to craft legislation that will change the face of health care in the United States forever. The changes that they are proposing are not good ones, and they will not benefit us. When I say they are going to change it, I mean they are going to take it and turn it completely upside down. They are right about one thing; our health care system needs reforming, but you don’t burn down the house just to fix a leak in the roof. Right now all we have is a leak in the roof.

We currently enjoy the greatest and most advanced health care system in the world. We have the world’s brightest and best trained doctors, state-of-the-art medical facilities and an existing insurance infrastructure capable of providing for most everyone. You’ll hear figures thrown around that about 47 million (the number is actually 45.6M) people in the U.S. are uninsured. Do you know what actually goes into that figure? Let’s break it down:
  • 21% or 9.7M are non-citizens
  • 18% or 7.9M are between the ages of 18 and 24
  • 39% or 17.6M make OVER $50,000 per year
  • 20% or 9.1M make OVER $75,000 per year
One in five are non-citizens?!? That means they’re either illegal or they’re just here temporarily (in most cases). Why do we even count them? Regarding the crowd that’s between 18 and 24, they largely choose to go without health insurance. It’s not that they can’t get it. They’re simply healthy young people without families and they choose to pay for it out of pocket. Finally, a full thirty nine percent make more than $50,000 per year! If you make more than $50K per year you can surely afford health insurance. As for the 20% of people making over $75K, don’t even get me started.

Does this “47 million” number that the politicians love to throw around sound nearly as bad now? There are, no doubt, people who don’t have insurance and need it. However, are we going to ruin it for 245 million other people with this terrible fix? There are many other ways in which we can reform the system in order to assist those that need help.

Let’s talk about this public “option” that congress and Obama are currently pushing. At first, and only at first, will this be an “option.” Soon after launching, it will essentially become required, and the government knows this. The “option” that they are touting is simply a slow but sure path to an inevitable system of government run health care. Here’s why…… the private sector cannot compete with a government sponsored system. You see, the government has this little tool called “taxation” that it uses to manipulate us to do what the politicians want. The government also has no concern for profits or efficiency. This means that it can charge less than it actually needs to operate and tax the heck out of any private plans that people choose to keep. This will force people into the government sponsored system and force the private health insurance companies to charge more. As they charge more, an increasing number of people will be forced into the government system. This is the "crowding out" effect that you may have heard about.

Consider this scenario: Let’s say you currently get your health insurance through your employer, which most people do. The government puts out a public “option.” They say that you still have the “choice” of private health insurance and that they are introducing the public option to make the market more “competitive and efficient.” Then the government requires every employer to offer health insurance to its employees, or it starts to tax them on their private health plans (currently employers and employees enjoy a tax exemption on employer-sponsored health care). Under the first, business owners (probably against their will) will start to opt for the public "option" to give employees, because they'll be forced to do so to cut costs. Thus, the employees are left with ONLY the public “option.” Does this sound like much of an “option” to you?

Folks, both Canada and the U.K. have tried this system, and they systems have FAILED! Heck, WE have tried it (Medicare and Medicaid) and they ARE FAILING! If you know something doesn’t work, would you try it again? NO! Then why are we letting our government do it? The man who used to run Canada’s nationalized health care system has gone on record saying that the system has failed, and they now need to rely on the private sector. They have four and a half month waits for MRIs! Lindsay McCreith, the man who was on the wait list for the MRI, decided to go to the U.S. for the scan. They found a malignant brain tumor. He returned to Canada and was told that he would have to wait months for the emergency surgery. WAITING MONTHS FOR EMERGENCY SURGERY!!!! Are you kidding me?!? Read here about a woman who came to the United States to get a tumor removed. She was on a waiting list in Canada, and when the American doctor saw her he said that she was only weeks from dying. How would you like to be on a waiting list while you are dying? Do you want the government to be deciding who lives and who dies? That’s what happens under government run health care.

I like to make my own health care decisions. I also don't mind working for it. Keep reading over the next few weeks for some fixes to the leaks in the roof that we currently have. There are many, but they can be amended, and it will only make our health care system better. The fixes will also allow more people to afford medical insurance. Let’s not burn the house down.

Friday, June 12, 2009

FairTax Friday: Compliance Costs

Our tax code is 67,204 pages long. Don't believe me? Google "67,204 page tax code". Still doubting.......? Now, do you know what the "compliance burden" is? The compliance burden is the cost of dealing with our asinine 67,204 page tax code! It's the time and money people spend on filling out tax forms, hiring accountants and tax lawyers, keeping records for tax purposes, researching tax laws etc. etc. etc. It's the $60 you spent on TurboTax last year PLUS the $30 or so that you paid for the "filing fee." It's the hours that you spent going through your W-2, banking records, investment statements etc. in order to fill out the tax forms when you could have spent that time making money, playing with your kids, reading a book, watching TV or doing any number of other things. It's the thousands of dollars you spent paying an accountant to do this for you. Oh, and those groceries you bought yesterday, a percentage of the money you gave Kroger goes towards their costs of paying tax lawyers and accountants to do the same thing. Am I making myself clear?

The act of figuring out how much we are supposed to pay in taxes literally costs us billions of dollars per year! And THEN we pay taxes on top of that. You see, folks, it's essentially a double tax. The word "tax" doesn't necessarily mean "a charge... imposed by authority." It is also defined as "a heavy demand." Complying with 67,204 pages of tax code sure a heck qualifies as a heavy demand! In 2005 this cost was estimated at $265,100,000,000....... yes, that's $265 billion! It's well over $300 billion now. What if that $300+ billion was invested in other parts of the economy? The IRS also ate up $10,200,000,000..... $10.2 billion of our taxpayer dollars in 2005. What if that was eliminated?

Oh, and speaking of paying people to prepare taxes, everyone knows that whether or not you actually pay income taxes, you still have to file an income tax return, right? There is a group of people out there that qualify for the "Earned Income Tax Credit" (I could go off on this program right now, but I'll restrain myself). In short, the EITC is a government program set up to literally give money to people who don't pay income taxes. Again, this program gives people money from the Treasury when they have put in zero themselves. These people must file a tax return in order to get (steal?) this money. The government pays for many of them to get these returns prepared. In 2001, the government paid these non-taxpayers $1.9 billion JUST TO FILE THEIR RETURNS!!! Talk about a waste of our money!!!

All of this is eliminated with the FairTax! It's soooooo easy! All taxes are paid at the retail level. When you go buy a Coke, mattress, new house, car, pencil, apple, stapler etc. you pay your taxes. The beauty of it is that if you don't spend anything, you don't pay taxes. If you want to invest an extra $10,000 in a home or the stock market, you don't pay taxes on it. That's why it's FAIR!

1. The FairTax eliminates all Federal taxes and allows workers to keep 100% of their paychecks.
2. The FairTax, by eliminating Federal taxes, also eliminates corporate taxes, thus allowing businesses to lower their prices.
3. The FairTax eliminates the cost of complying with taxes. That means NO MORE buying TurboTax or paying accountants and tax services to do your taxes. NO MORE digging through files, papers etc. to file your taxes. NO MORE spending hours and hours working on your tax returns.

Does anyone have any questions so far? Any thoughts? Or are you just excited, like me, at the possibility of this becoming reality?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Difference Between a "Job" and "Work"

There is a difference between a "job" and "work". One lasts and the other does not. There has been quite a bit of chatter lately about President Obama "saving or creating" 150,000 jobs through the "stimulus" bill that he signed in February. The simple fact is that the stimulus bill is not creating jobs. It is creating work, or more specifically, funding for work. Much of the money coming out of this bill will go towards transportation projects. Projects, by nature, are temporary. Once the project is done, the work is finished and people pack up and go home. A job, on the other hand, is something created by an organization in order to manage many projects. The organization sees a need to hire someone, because they foresee a sustainable amount of projects or work over a long period of time. Businesses create jobs because they grow and therefore, need more people to manage and/or do the work.

Is Obama (more specifically, his fiscal and economic policies) creating jobs? No. He is creating work. Building a bridge or laying broadband cable is temporary project work. Temporary. Once the work is finished, everyone who has been hired to do the work will find themselves without it, and therefore, without a paycheck. On the contrary, an entrepreneur may currently see an opportunity in the marketplace to serve the public with something they need. He sees this need lasting years, decades even. He wants to expand his business (aka. hire more people) to start creating this product or service. He could do this if his taxes were lowered, because then he could use that money to pay the new employee(s). He can't, though, because the government is actually going to raise his taxes in order to pay for the "stimulus" bill.

These are essentially the two scenarios that President Obama was, and still is, faced with.

Scenario 1: Laid-off worker (laid-off meaning no income, no health insurance for him or his family etc.) sees an opportunity to work on a road project funded by the "stimulus" bill. It's temporary, pays $15/hr. and has no benefits (i.e. - health insurance), but he needs the money to feed his family and pay the bills, so he takes it. The job lasts 6 months. Then he's out of work again - no paycheck or health insurance. Because he is out of work, he is also not paying taxes. Not only that, he's actually receiving money from the government in the form of unemployment benefits.

Scenario 2: Obama cuts taxes on individuals and corporations. Laid-off worker (again, no income and no health insurance) sees an opportunity to work at NewCo. (the business owned by the aforementioned entrepreneur). It's a full-time, salaried position with health insurance that pays $40,000 per year (about what he was making in his previous job). He takes it. Now he has a steady stream of income and health insurance for his family. He is paying taxes, because he is working and he can afford to take his family to the doctor, because he has insurance.

Here it is broken down in a different way:

#1 - Guy gets a paycheck for six months, but still has to cut back on spending, because it's less than he was making before. No vacations, no eating out at restaurants, no new toys for the kids. He also can't take his family to the doctor, because he has no health insurance and cannot pay for it out of pocket. The government gets only 6 months worth of tax revenue from him, because his project ends. Afterwards, the government starts paying him again via unemployment insurance.

#2 - Guy gets a full time job that he ends up keeping for 3-5 years. It's steady pay, so he can take vacations, take his family to restaurants and buy toys for the kids. The vacation destination benefits from his visit, the restaurant benefits from his business and the toy store benefits from his business. He has health insurance so he can take his family to the doctor. The doctors/hospitals benefit, because they get more business. The government also gets a steady stream of tax revenue from him, and the government benefits and can therefore fund more projects. The government also doesn't have to pay him unemployment insurance.

Which scenario do you think has more benefit?

You Can't Measure "Saved or Created"

Can anyone tell me how the heck you measure the number of jobs "saved or created" in the economy? The Bureau of Labor Statistics measures the number of jobs gained or lost each month. They do not track jobs "saved or created," (emphasis mine) nor do they have any way of quantifying this made up statistic. In the past few days, President Obama has been proclaiming that the "stimulus" package has "saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs." Obama knows that this is largely an arbitrary number, but he's going to use it anyway, because it's political genius. Today's Wall Street Journal agrees and notes that by using this spin on rhetoric the Obama Administration cannot be wrong. The article states the following:

"During a March hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Max Baucus challenged Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the formula.

'You created a situation where you cannot be wrong,' said the Montana Democrat. 'If the economy loses two million jobs over the next few years, you can say yes, but it would've lost 5.5 million jobs. If we create a million jobs, you can say, well, it would have lost 2.5 million jobs. You've given yourself complete leverage where you cannot be wrong, because you can take any scenario and make yourself look correct.'"

How can you prove someone wrong if there is no numerical method of actually measuring the person's claim? Therein lies the political genius of Obama's statement. He knows this, and he also knows that the press isn't going to challenge him on it. I mean, after all, they believe he is God, as I noted yesterday, and no one is going to challenge God, right?

In a rare moment of honesty the AP notes that "the White House job claims are difficult to verify because they are based on estimates of how bad the economy might have been without the stimulus rather than actual employment data. The country has lost 1.3 million jobs since February, a figure the Obama administration says would have been far higher if not for the recovery effort." Ummmmmmmmm, WRONG! If we're going by Obama's estimates then the economy wouldn't have lost ANY of those 1.3 million jobs. Keywords here are that the claims are "based on estimates" that the Obama administration made on the economy. See this report from Obama's economic advisers that was released in January. It is entitled "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" (aka. the $800 billion "stimulus" package). Look at Page 5. It clearly states that Obama's economic advisers estimated that with the passing of the stimulus bill, unemployment would NEVER rise above 8% during the current recession. However, you can clearly see here that in May of this year the unemployment rate was 9.4%! So, if Obama's "saved or created" claims are based off of estimates that were incorrect to begin with then how does that lend validity to the numbers that he is currently pitching? According to his original claim, based on the unemployment rates his team predicted, the economy would have to have "saved" 3,265,000 jobs by now for the unemployment rate to be at 8%. Now he's claiming that he's "saved" just 150,000 jobs.

Obama's numbers are made up. Even if they were true, that would mean that each job would have cost the taxpayer $314,800. How, you might ask? Well, as of May, only about 6 percent of the "stimulus" money had been paid out. That's about $47,220,000,000. Divide that by Obama's 150,000 jobs and you have $314,800! Does that mean that each person whose job was "created or saved" is making $300,000+?!? Where do we get those jobs, 'cause I want one! And if Obama's team predicted that unemployment wouldn't rise above 8% with his "stimulus" package and the unemployment rate is now at 9.4%, doesn't that show that the stimulus package isn't working as Obama said it would?

Looks like "God" is wrong. Not only is he wrong, but he's lying to you. Are you going to continue to believe him?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Taxes Lowered to 10%!!!

Media bias was taken to a whole new level last Friday by Newsweek editor, Evan Thomas. If there was any question previously about bias, it's sure cleared up now. In an interview on MSNBC, Thomas says President Obama is "sort of God," and that he is going "to bring all different sides together." There you go, folks. It's official. Obama is now "God" (as if it wasn't apparent enough before that some think he is).

There is no question that some people worship this man. I mean, when was the last time you had people fainting over and over again at Presidential campaign rallies? When was the last time a President was this much of a celebrity? It's easy to see why. Barack Obama is a charismatic, well-spoken (with a teleprompter), likeable and good-looking guy. These are surely characteristics that we want to see in a President. The scary thing is that presently, that's all it takes to become President of the United States. Forget ideals, forget policy and forget fiscal and individual responsibility. Who cares as long as the President is likeable, right?

This is America today, folks. Rather than distrusting government (which is what our country was founded upon), Americans today are putting ALL of their trust in government. The government must save us from everything, regardless of whether or not we as individuals made a bad choice. People who bought homes that couldn't afford them..... government must save them. Unionized auto workers who enjoy 3x as much pay as others in their field and subsequently ran their companies into bankruptcy.... government must save them. Banks who knowingly made increasingly risky investments that went bad.... government must save them. The list goes on and on and on.

Freedom encompasses two essential characteristics: The freedom to succeed AND the freedom to fail. Providing a safety net for the latter discourages and penalizes the former. Disparities exist in a free society. The should and they always will. Anyone not willing to live with this should pack up and move to Cuba or North Korea. They are Communist nations and, by definition, fit the bill for what you are seeking if you want everyone to have an equal amount of stuff.

One last thing..... Since Obama is now God, can we now only pay him 10% of our income as we have traditionally done with the church? I guess having a diety as our President does come with some advantages.

Friday, June 5, 2009

FairTax Friday: Corporate Income Taxes..... YOU Pay Them!

So, did you take a look at your pay stub last Friday and see how much you've paid so far this year in Federal taxes? Did it upset you a bit? At the very least, under the current system don't you think we should be able to keep that money and earn interest on it before we have to hand it over at the end of the year? The FairTax fixes all of this. All that money that's being taken out of your paycheck, you get to keep it! $4,000....... $5,000..........$8,000...... $10,000......... whatever it is, you would have it IN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT RIGHT NOW!!! Ask yourself again, "What would I do with an extra $5,000 right now?"

Did you also know that businesses and corporations do not pay income taxes? "What?!? Yes they do! Corporations pay income taxes every year!" I can hear it now 'cause that's what some of you are probably saying. The reality of corporate income taxes is that YOU pay them. When you hand over $4 for a latte at Starbucks or $20,000 for a new car, a percentage of that money you give them goes towards paying their corporate income taxes. So yes, you do pay them.

Consider this scenario: What if corporations did not have to pay income taxes? Translation - what if a percentage of your $4 for your latte didn't have to go towards paying corporate income taxes? Prices would fall! In fact, research shows that prices across the board for all goods would fall about 22-23%. So now your $4 latte costs $3.08 and your $20,000 car costs $15,400! That's almost $5,000 you're saving on your new car!!! You're probably asking yourself how this happens. It's simple. If corporations (you) don't have to pay income taxes then they are undoubtedly going to do one of two things: 1. Lower their prices or 2. Invest it in making better products. Either way, prices fall.

Starbucks competes against quite a few companies, Caribou Coffee, Seattle's Best etc. If they no longer have to pay income taxes then they're going to say "Hey, we don't need to charge as much for our coffee. And if we have good quality coffee at a cheaper price than Caribou then more people will buy our coffee." Voila! Your daily coffee is cheaper. I know many of you buy Starbucks 5 days a week. If you save a dollar every day then you'll be saving $260 per year. And that's just on coffee! Imagine what you would save on everything else in addition to that!

I know I'm giving this information to you in pieces, but if I didn't then you'd have a post that's way longer than you want to read. In the end, it'll all be painfully simple. We've just got to lay some groundwork first. Here's what we've got so far:

1. The FairTax eliminates all Federal taxes and allows workers to keep 100% of their paychecks.
2. The FairTax, by eliminating Federal taxes, also eliminates corporate taxes, thus allowing businesses to lower their prices.

Is this sounding good to you? Check back next Friday for more info.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Striking Similarities

What does it say about America when you've got a communist dictator worried that he will end up on our President's political right? Yes, you read that correctly - Hugo Chavez stated this past Tuesday that he and Fidel Castro need to be "careful or we are going to end up to [Obama's] right." Chavez made these comments during a television broadcast after noting Obama's recent nationalization of General Motors and referring to him as "comerade." A communist dictator is saying that he is worried that he will be more conservative than The President of the United States of America!

Does this happen to scare the heck out of anyone else?!?

America is supposed to be the land of the free...... the country that has worked to liberate the world from communism and advance human rights. Now we have a communist dictator cheering on our President! Regardless of whether or not Chavez was joking, the fact that Obama's actions have given him enough of a solid basis on which to make that comment is unthinkable. Actually, as recently as 5-10 years ago it may have been unthinkable. Now it's reality.

If you're reading this thinking "Yeah, we've nationalized a few things, but it'll get reversed eventually," then think again. I have a friend whose parents and in-laws lived in Cuba before Castro (Chavez's friend, remember!) took over. They lived through the revolution and ultimately fled to America, where they now reside. I am currently working on a series of posts that detail their experiences. More importantly, I will share with you the alarming sense of similarity they currently see between Obama's early days in power and those of Castro...... seemingly small and temporary measures that led to modern day Cuba, yes, the Communist one in which not a single one of us would like to live. Folks, it's time to wake up and see that what's happening in our country is not easily dismissable as "temporary," or "necessary in the short term" like so many people think. I'm not saying that America is going to turn Communist. However, even if we turn 25% of the way there in my lifetime, that's WAY further than I'm willing to go. I love freedom. So do my friend's parents and in-laws. I'm willing to bet that you do too. Stay tuned....

Radical Environmentalism: Part 2

Yesterday you were introduced to some of the tactics that a particular environmental group, the Sea Shepherds, employs in order to prevent Japanese whaling ships from harpooning whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherds, also co-founded Greenpeace but was subsequently voted out of the organization, because he wanted to employ more aggressive tactics in the fight against destroying the environment. To this day the two organizations maintain no slight amount of contempt for each other (at least that's the impression I got from watching Whale Wars). Watson spends a good amount of time speaking ill of Greenpeace and refers to them as "the other whaling industry." Greenpeace takes a non-violent approach to combating the whaling industry. Watson thinks this is too passive, and puts his money where his mouth is with the Sea Shepherds.

What we have here is two organizations with similar goals who refuse to work together, share information and unite under the umbrella of their common goal. Every minute they spend trashing each other on camera is a minute that could have been spent coming up with innovative ideas to reach their goal, whether it be collectively or individually. This sounds a lot like our government. If the Democrats come out and say something then the Republicans must respond, regardless of whether or not they have anything meaningful to say and vice versa. If they are silent then the public will think that they're not doing anything. In the end, it's all lip service and nothing gets done. How about we, the American public, put up with a little silence on some things while giving people a chance to come up with some actual solutions. Then let's base our subsequent votes and opinions on what person took meaningful and effective action rather than giving credit to the person who immediately came out and said something useless.

First, two comments based solely on the general perception of each party's approach to the environment: It's hard for me to believe that the Republicans want to destroy the environment. It's equally hard for me to believe that the Democrats' goal is truly to preserve the environment. For both parties, it's more about power and their incessant PR quest of "Hey, I'M the one that saved it! Even if that guy had an idea that would have worked better, we can't let the public think that the [insert party name here]s did it."

I'm repeating myself when I say that members of our government are more set on appearing powerful and making the opposing party look bad vs. actually solving our nation's problems. Much like Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherds, the goal is to save the environment. What if the two sides actually got together, shared some information and started moving forward on some things? Wouldn't this be much more productive? Of course, it's going to require them to put aside their thirst for power and the spotlight. It's also going to require the public to let politicians off the hook when they reverse previous stances. I'm not saying that we should always do this, but in some cases it's warranted. We currently live in a society where our elected representatives aren't allowed to deviate even the slightest bit from a stance once they take one. Sometimes, however, these representatives take these stances for the sake of opposing the other party, not because it's the best solution. If someone decides to abandon their worthless initial position on an issue in favor of an effective solution then we trash them, saying "You're not towing the party line!"

Folks, it's not about political parties. It's about goals and forming effective solutions to meet those goals. I'm convinced we can accomplish most of what each party seeks if we put aside the party affiliations and actually look at the issues. Who cares who gets the credit?!? The idea is to serve your country, not yourself. Let's get over it and start coming up with some solutions.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Radical Environmentalism: Part 1

I recently saw a commercial for a show called Whale Wars that caught my eye because it showed a group called the Sea Shepherds in an intense battle with Japanese whaling boats in an attempt to prevent them from harpooning and killing whales in the Antarctic Ocean. These people are literally willing to die for whales. A noble cause, sure, but some of their tactics are absurd, illegal, deceptive and very typical of radical environmentalists willing to bend and break laws in the name of conservation. The bigger story here is that I can't imagine anyone, liberal, Republican, Democrat or otherwise, wanting to destroy the environment. It's the means of conserving it that people disagree on and this disagreement more often than not leads to further environmental damage.

First, a short background on the show: The Sea Shepherds, a group founded by Paul Watson (who also co-founded Greenpeace), set out in the Antarctic Ocean every year, track down Japanese whaling ships and try to harass them as much as possible so as to prevent them from killing whales. They claim the actions of the Japanese are illegal, citing an international moratorium on commercial whaling, but the Japanese claim they are doing "research" on the whales. I'm no scientist, but I can't imagine that hundreds of whales need to be killed each year to do "research," so on that point I side with the Sea Shepherds. I've never seen a Discovery Channel show full of animal killings from which we subsequently learn a lot from the deceased.

However, I completely disagree with the Sea Shepherds' tactics to stop this whaling operation. These tactics include running alongside the Japanese ships and hurling small packages of butyric acid (a really smelly concoction) onto their decks as well as driving small boats in front of the whaling ships and dropping thick rope into the water in an attempt to get it tangled in the ship's propeller, disabling it. The first tactic I would equate with someone egging or rolling a house, very annoying, also illegal, but it's not really going to seriously hurt anything or anyone. The second tactic, however, is akin to booting someone's tires while the car is moving! This could cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to the Japanese ship and severely endanger its crew by preventing it from avoiding dangerous storms and icebergs in the area. It's just plain vandalism, but it takes it further by putting lives in danger. But those are just the first two tactics that I've seen.......

The third one is shown here (fast forward about halfway through to save time):

THEY BOARD THE JAPANESE SHIP!!! They do it peacefully, but their intentions are what makes it completely wrong. Ben Potts and Giles Lane board the ship with the hope that the Japanese will detain them (as they should! they're trespassing on private property!). Once the Japanese do this the Shepherds inform the Australian government and media that the men have been taken "hostage" by the Japanese! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!! The Sea Shepherds voluntarily boarded a ship that was not theirs, and then claim to be hostages? That's like me breaking into your home and then calling the police claiming you have taken me hostage. Then about thirty seconds into this video you can see the Japanese trying to throw one of the men overboard:

If an uninvited stranger walks into your home wouldn't you try to force them out? That's all the Japanese are doing here, only their "front yard" is the Antarctic Ocean. Potts and Lane are lucky that the Japanese elected to keep them on the ship rather than throwing them into waters that carry a deadly average temperature of 28-50 degrees Fahrenheit. The Japanese then tie the men up and eventually take them inside the ship.

If an intruder breaks into your home but doesn't immediately threaten you, would you say "Hi! I'm glad you're here! Sit down and stay a while."? Hell no! You're probably doing everything you can to either get that person out of your house or disable that person so that you can call the cops and have them pick him up. If it's me then I'm grabbing my shotgun! The police are definitely picking someone up; whether or not he has a heartbeat is up to me deciding what level of threat the guy poses. That person, like the Sea Shepherds, is trespassing on my property, and I have a right to defend it. The Japanese were doing the same thing, and they never threatened to harm Potts and Lane. They simply wanted to ensure the men didn't harm them, and they had every right to do it. The claim that they were being held hostage is ridiculous, and the Sea Shepherds should be required to pay back every penny of British (Lane), Australian (Potts), and Japanese tax dollars that were used once the governments got involved.

Check back tomorrow where I tie this all together with Republicans and Democrats bickering over the environment, even though no one has the goal of destroying it.

What would you have done if you were the Japanese?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Obama Does Want to Run GM

Obama's claim from yesterday that "we are reluctant shareholders," is a lie. If the government was not interested in being a shareholder of GM and Chrysler then its members would have let GM and Chrysler go into bankruptcy back in December. Former President Bush started it, because he didn't want one of his last acts in office to be that of letting a major American institution fall into bankruptcy. He knew he could give the companies a few billion and pass the problem on to President Obama. Now Obama has inherited the problem and made it worse by pandering to the United Auto Workers, whose deep pockets he needs, while forcing GM to make the green cars that the Democrats are so fond of, even though no one wants to buy them.

I understand that we all find ourselves at some point or another in situations that are less than desirable. However, if I don't want to own stock in a company then I simply don't buy any. No one forced the government to bail out GM. A majority of Americans actually opposed it. The government and its internal factions forced itself to bail them out. So if Americans opposed it (which the politicians surely knew) then the only explanation could be political (and not political for the American people - political for the purpose of serving only the interests of the politicians - read: power).

Obama also mentioned that "what we are not doing -- what I have no interest in doing -- is running GM." Again, false! Today's Wall Street Journal points out that Obama has been in contact with the mayor of Detroit, assuring him that GM's headquarters is going to stay in Detroit rather than move to Warren, MI. So, if Obama has "no interest" in running GM then why is he the one telling Detroit's mayor that the company will stay in Detroit? It's usually the decision maker that people want to speak with, right? Usually CEOs are the ones that make the final decision on whether or not to relocate a company. So why isn't the mayor on the phone with Fritz Henderson, GM's current CEO? Or, as WSJ puts it: "The location of a company's headquarters is one of those decisions typically not made by people who are busy not running the company." Obama is the decision maker, folks. He is the one running the company, and he most certainly has an interest in running GM.

In this case as in many others, Obama is misleading the American people. Quit listening to the rhetoric folks, and start paying attention (if you're reading this then you're probably already paying attention so get your friends to pay attention!)! Obama and the Democrats are most certainly interested in running GM, because GM is essentially run by the UAW. And Obama loves the UAW! Don't blame it all on the Democrats either. The worthless Republicans are standing on the sidelines and watching, so if you're a Republican you should be just as pissed. Billions of dollars will be wasted in the name of "saving the company," so that the taxpayers will get repaid. In order for the taxpayers to be repaid, the company would have to come out of bankruptcy and eventually be worth around $80 billion. GM's recent peak was around $50 billion back in 2000. Do you really think we're going to be repaid?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Let the President and First Lady Enjoy Themselves!

The President of the United States of America is the least free person in the United States of America. That's right. The person who holds the office charged with defending freedom throughout the nation enjoys less freedom than the people he or she (someday) represents. Do you even think twice about going to Five Guys to grab a hamburger? How about getting a Blackberry or an iPhone? Do you appreciate simple freedoms like that? Barack and Michelle Obama do too, but these are freedoms they don't necessarily have; at least not in the same way you and I enjoy them. President Obama can't walk outside the White House without first checking with the Secret Service to make sure the surrounding area is secure. He had to get special permission to carry a Blackberry, but it's still restricted in some ways. Do you ever go on a walk or a jog and just head wherever you feel like going? Obama can't do this. He would first have to submit the exact route that he wants to take so that the Secret Service can secure the entire route before he is allowed to start. When was the last time you weren't "allowed" to start a walk?

Many of you may have heard that President Obama recently took First Lady Michelle on a date to New York City. Some of you might be a little upset that their date cost the taxpayers upwards of $24,000, according to some estimates. People take their wives, boyfriends etc. on special trips all the time, and the Obama's trip last weekend was no exception. The President wanted to do something special for his lady, and he has every right to do it. The difference here is that any time President Obama wants to do anything the taxpayers incur a cost, because it involves specialized transportation, dozens of people, the Secret Service, security checks etc. etc. etc. A trip to Five Guys costs you and me anywhere from $6-10, depending on how far you have to drive. Obama's trip to Five Guys last week probably cost thousands of dollars because of all of the security measures that must be adhered to. So if it costs the taxpayer money then should Obama be restricted from going to Five Guys? Absolutely not.

Barack and Michelle Obama are people just like you and me (political views aside). They like going out to eat, seeing plays, going to concerts and doing hundreds of other things that you and I enjoy doing every day, only we do it freely. They do not. Regardless of your opinion of Obama, he is still the President of the United States, and he and his family should be able to enjoy the same leisure activities that you and I take for granted every day. President Obama paid for the dinner and play tickets for he and his wife on his own. He is required to fly on a military jet for security reasons, which was the biggest cost of their trip, and the taxpayers footed the $25K bill. If I want to take my girlfriend on a special date to NYC for dinner and a play, all I have to do is go to Delta's website and purchase the tickets. Obama isn't allowed to do this! It's not his choice! Because of this requirement, should we not permit our President and his wife to go on a big date and enjoy themselves like you and I can do any time we want? They are millionaires and can surely afford to do these types of things, and they should not be barred from doing them just because the President requires more protection than anyone else in the world.

The only exception I have with the trip is this: While Obama rightly paid for the meal and entertainment, he should also have to reimburse the taxpayer for the equivalent of two commercial airline tickets to and from NYC as well as cab fare to and from the airports. This is what he would have paid if he were not the President. I'm fine footing the bill for the rest. He should not be penalized for holding the most important office in the world. It's not his fault that he and his family are required to fly military jets and have dozens of people tag along. Let the President and the First Lady enjoy themselves. They deserve it.


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