Monday, August 31, 2009

On The Socialist Railroad Engineer

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

The battle for sanity has many fronts. President Obama is paying back political favors and buying political capital with $8billion tax payer dollars being funneled into his high speed rail scheme.  Rail has its place, no doubt about it, but in order for HSR to have a remote chance of serving a majority of taxpayers we would spend hundreds of billions . . . or maybe a trillion or so since that's the new "billion." Is that a worthwhile investment?

The scheme claims potential for tens of thousands of job created. Isn't it reasonable to think that the same amount of capital might create as many, or even more, jobs when used in other enterprises?

Should taxpayers be saddled with funding of transportation that the overwhelming majority will never use?

Is "Europe and Japan have HSR and so should we. . ." a good enough reason to spend more money that we don't have?

Is there even a glimmer of hope that subsidized (socialist) travel will ever earn a profit on its investment (buying votes and political favors does not count as a profit).

One of the stated benefits of socialized travel is to push more of our population into major cities. It seems to me that the bigger the city, the more problems it brings so why would we want that?

Ultimately, all we're getting is more social engineering stemming from the "successful" (sic) track record of the "War On Poverty," "The War On Drugs," federal education system and more. Instead of being the engineer on a socialist train, our president should help our country get back on track by getting off the tracks.

Here's a pro rail article found on Huffington Post.

For balance, here's a counterpoint found on the Washington Post.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Simple Health Care Points

The health care debate is simply one battle front of a much greater culture war but we still need to make some sense of it. I don't like the way each side of the debate attempts to compare the best (or worst) of one option with the worst (or best) of the other option. For example, the socialized health care proponents like to compare our infant mortality rate with that of other developed countries to demonstrate that our system is failing to protect infants. The big problem with the data is that the U.S. is the only country which counts all babies as babies. In other countries, premature babies who die aren't counted as infants. They're simply dead fetuses which means the socialized medicine proponents are comparing apples to oranges.  This isn't difficult to understand.

Now all of us, and I do mean EVERYBODY, are pro savings. We all want to cut the costs of health care in our nation and we all agree that there are plenty of places where efficiencies can be gained. For example: Medicolegal (yes, that's a real word) expenses have been estimated to add as much as $178 billion  per year just to cover health care providers backsides. This would include redundant testing, in depth reporting and in many cases, simply having to over engineer the whole health care system. The $178 billion is there in order to protect the health care providers from multimillion dollar awards for costs, pain, suffering, and punitive damages resulting from a mistake. Considering these huge expenses, tort reform should certainly be a key facet of any health care reform.

But you won't find any mention of tort reform in the bills before congress simply because, according to Howard Dean, the congress people are afraid of making the lawyers mad. Stop me if I'm wrong but I thought health care reform was supposed to be for the people, not the special interests.  (Note: in the video clip, I suspect that the questioner intended to say 200 Billion instead of 200 million but I don't know for sure).

One of the big points for pro-socialized health care is that it would "keep the insurance companies honest."  Currently, health insurance companies hide behind government protection because they get to deal with employers rather than the actual consumers of their product. We would make a lot of headway in this arena if we simply allowed the same tax protections enjoyed by employers to be enjoyed by all taxpayers who purchase health insurance. This would help break the monopolistic protection the insurance companies have, exposing them to the sunlight of consumer preference. We might need to tweak some of the rules about pre-existing conditions - perhaps even appropriating some tax payer funds to reduce some of the exposure (if we insist on having government involvement). But nothing in our current debate even refers to this option which would actually improve responsiveness to the health care consumer in both pricing as well as coverage.

So much for stuff that's not in the debate. What about some of the really bad stuff that is in the bill that Pelosi and crew are trying to foist on us. I have read at least some of the bill, probably more than the average congress person. One thing I find disturbing is that this "public option" is joined at the hip with the IRS. The IRS shares your income tax information with the health care bureaucracy in order to calculate "affordability credits." But there's more -- it is the IRS that the health care plan refers to for its pre-existing conditions definitions (I'll bet you thought that our government funded health care plan didn't even have limitations on pre-existing conditions). This may come as a shock to you but figuring out how to comply and/or dodge IRS regulations is a multi-billion dollar industry which is a parasitic tax on business and individual alike. Is it reasonable to think that socialist health care will be any better when it is administered with the IRS bureaucracy?

The reforms also claim cost savings due to the scale of the enterprise, implying that government can do things more cheaply than the private sector. A lot of opponents try to use the Postal Service vs. Fed Ex and UPS. For me, that comparison is off limits because delivering a first class letter to a rural route in Homer Alaska costss far more than the first class stamp. You see, our constitution provides for a postal service as well as carrier routes because communication is vital to freedom. But you won't find health care anywhere in the constitution. But let's make a comparrison to another entity that our government takes credit for: Our education system.

Who is pleased with our educational rankings in the world these days? Are you a fan of "No Child Left Behind?" According to my socialist leaning friends, we need to spend more on education in order to "fix" it. Now, based on the track record of government spending, how long do you think it would be before the cry for more health care spending in order to "fix" our socialist health care scheme? This isn't complicated. Just open your eyes and look at history, recent history.

Speaking of money, let's talk about the check book. Our nation is over drawn and living on credit cards. Long before we treat ourselves to taxpayer funded health care we need to get our bank book back in balance. The congressional budget office has already said that there will be no savings to our economy by going the route spelled out in the HC bill. It will cost us money. And that's based upon the rosy estimates being bandied around. How long has it been since a government endeavor came in below budget? What do you think will happen when we flood the health care system with millions more patients while watching the flight of retiring medical professionals who no longer want to play the game.

If we're going to have a health care debate, let's put some real ideas out there instead of just arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I'm not sure whether our congressional representatives (either party) have the desire or the intelligence to sort it out. Which is the biggest reason why we need to step back. The free market, as ugly as it gets at times, has the unique ability to sort out massive and complicated problems if we just get out of the way and let it work. But I doubt it will get its chance because it seems that whenever we elect politicians they feel the need to control rather than enable. This will be our failure.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lancing a Racist Boil

Here are the news stories that prompted this edition:
Louis Gates Arrest Report
President Obama Press Conference
Professor Louis Gates about the incident
Sergeant Crowley about the incident

I'm concerned about with Obama's "leadership" and the way he and his administration are overtly fostering racism. Beginning with his inauguration (final prayer -- "whites do what's right" , then statements by Holder, and now, leveling personal accusations against a cop regarding an altercation he knows little about, Obama is encouraging blacks to carry chips on their shoulders for unsuspecting whites to knock off. This is racism.

I've had to deal with"race baiters" who assume that any criticism leveled at them is racist, even if it's a justifiable criticism. I think this is part of the reason blacks have higher unemployment - I have spoken to employers who have have steered clear of blacks with even a hint of that chip on their shoulder because hiring a race baiter opens the door to conflict and law suits.

President Obama will squandered his opportunity apologize to the officer and the nation. To the officer for leveling an unfounded accusation. To the nation for demeaning the office of the president (Imagine: the most powerful man in the world publicly accusing before an audience of millions, a police sergeant of acting stupidly!).


Louis Gates had the biggest opportunity to usher in healing. He should have publicly apologized to the officer as his actions clearly undermine the cooperation between law enforcement and the community. If Obama and Gates were to acknowledge that they over-reacted then they would be setting the stage for meaningful dialogue. Their admission that it is possible for blacks to foment racism just as much as any white supremacist would go a long ways toward resolving the race problems we have. This boil needs to be lanced.

I expect that some readers will say "you should walk a day in my shoes, I'll show you what discrimination looks like. . ." and I have no doubt that you have experienced blatant racism. But somebody has to admit that racism comes from the black community as well. In some cases it's incredibly overt. In the Gates/Crowley incident, it's obvious that Gates had a chip on his shoulder from the very beginning. Of course, he sees it differently and that's exactly why I think this can't be swept under the rug.

If you're trying to keep a plumbing shop running smoothly, the situation that our president stirred up might be a good conversation starter, especially if you sense that there are some underlying issues that are working against the team work of your crews. I don't recommend pointing accusatory fingers at any particular person/s. Instead, let the Gates/Crowley incident serve as the focal point. Here's the exercise: Read the police report and remove any reference to "black" by any party. What you then have is an incident where a citizen verbally attacks a police officer who is just doing his job. If the disorderly conduct continues, would the officer be justified in cuffing the irate homeowner? In some cases, I would think so, and it probably happens hundreds of time every day across the country where innocent citizens overreact to an officer. So, why does this time have to be about race? 


The way to turn this story into a positive experience is to use it to highlight the importance of personal respect to one another. Respect is color blind. When your crew builds respect for each other, there's no room for racism. You won't have to eradicate racism because it won't exist. I have listened to statements made by both Gates and Crowley. It's clear to me that Gates assumed that Crowley was going to be an oppressor. Gates also assumed that his helpful neighbor called the cops because he was black, and presumably wouldn't have called had he been white. This is where respect began to break down. Gates, being accustomed to treatment according to his lofty status as a professor and pal to the president, didn't appreciate being treated like everybody else. Then, the issue becomes a battle of wills. Crowley expected Gates to respect the badge so it became ego against authority and it ended badly. Note: I'm not saying that we should assume that a badge means someone is not a bad guy, I'm just saying that our preconceived notions go a long ways toward fanning flames unnecessarily.

Besides respect, we all need to learn not to take ourselves too seriously. When I make a mistake, I should own up to it. I don't always do that so it's an area that I have to work on. When race is injected into the situation, fessing up becomes even more important. If your pigment happens to be darker than that of some of your peers you can do a lot for the relationship and respect by admitting a blunder. Believe me, depending upon the area, some whites feel that they have to walk on eggshells around their peers of color because they're afraid of how a criticism can be misconstrued. (As I'm writing all this, the whole idea of specifying "color" is becoming absurd to me. . .why do we have to do that????) The same is true if you're so called white (pink, tan, whatever. . .). Be quick to own mistakes then they don't become fodder for misunderstandings later. This is especially true in situations where one person has some authority over another, color or no color. The boss should be extra quick to assume responsibility for errors. This earns and builds respect.


And one final, color blind note: A soft answer turns away wrath. Take the time to diffuse the heat before responding to an insult on your pride.

Life is an inalienable right!

A few things to consider before indenturing ourselves to the government managed health care:

Economics: I think we all agree that the "system" we now have would benefit from some tweaking. What system doesn't? But the concept that expensive health care makes our nation uncompetitive on the world markets is just plain wrong. The process of the free market generates wealth -- those health care dollars we pay fund myriad enterprises and as Adam Smith, economist, explains, every transaction has an impact on wealth generation. But governments can only do two things: Government can protect commerce (but not very well actually) or confiscate wealth. A government cannot create wealth. When a government funds something, such as health care, it can only fund it by using either a) wealth that has been confiscated from wealth producers (which is parasitic to the economy) or b) by printing currency (which devalues existing currency which is parasitic to the economy).

Freedom: The Declaration lists ". . . life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" among the inalienable rights of mankind. Governments are established in order to protect those rights. When a government body or committee gets to determine whether or not you get life saving treatment that government entity has usurped the right of mankind to make that decision. It make make economic sense to kill an old or unproductive person so that resources can be spent on more productive people but economics is not the whole value of life. Nobody said that freedom comes without cost so if we spend resources on keeping a "useless eater" alive that is just one of the costs of liberty. Make no mistake: Economics does play a huge role in life or death decisions. If a person desires a life saving treatment but can't afford it then economics helps to make the decision (just as it is not government's job to decide who lives or dies, it is not government's job to confiscate wealth from one person in order to give it to another). If a person chooses to sell the family farm in order to live another 6 months then it is their freedom to do so. But the bottom line is this: Life or death decisions will be made. It is not the job of government to make those decisions. Period.

The countable vs. the uncountable: It is relatively easy to count "uninsured" people. But how do you count the economic impact of confiscating wealth a nickel, dime or dollar at a time from the wealth producers of our nation? The cost adds up to missed opportunities, job opportunities that never materialize, wealth that didn't get created. That sort of thing is impossible to count so it loses the propaganda war. Make no mistake: When government takes from one class or group of people in order to give it to another class or group then it is usurping rights it does not have. And economically, it is as beneficial as scooping up water from the deep end of a swimming pool and dumping it on the shallow end. Don't buy the argument that "cheaper" health care will help our economy.

There are many more arguments as to why government managed health care is not only an economically unsound idea, not to mention being unconstitutional. Watch this space for more to come.