Robert Samuelson on what’s happening with health care

December 7, 2009

This is a good article by Robert J. Sameulson, called “Health-care nation”, on the current situation with health care, and what’s being proposed for it. I think he is half right about the solution, lowering health care spending. I think the more important part of the solution is lowering costs. There are a variety of things that could be done to help with that, and so far I haven’t seen any of them proposed. One of them is tort reform.

The striking thing is that the federal government has not exercised its constitutional interstate commerce regulatory powers in this issue. Instead it has allowed states to set up “fiefdoms” of health care, both in insurance and in medical facilities, which naturally drive up costs. So far as I know the federal government has not allowed these kinds of anti-competitive practices for any other product or service. It should break down the barriers the states have erected, which it has the legal authority to do.

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Obama makes a decision on Afghanistan

December 4, 2009

Well I’m glad this day has come. Obama announced on Wednesday that he’s sending 30,000 soldiers to back up the forces we have in Afghanistan. I learned yesterday on the O’Reilly Factor that in addition we’re sending in 20,000 Marines, making the total deployment 50,000. And from what I heard in Obama’s speech it sounds like he understands the reasons for this decision, which is gratifying. Stanley McChrystal expressed confidence that he has been given the forces he needs to do the job. So I’m happy to hear that. I’ve heard a little about McChrystal’s resume, and he sounds like someone who is capable of handling this situation. He has studied, and is experienced in counter-insurgency strategy. The only caution I’d give to Obama is to avoid the temptation to micromanage the war. Keep your eyes on the big picture, and “don’t sweat the small stuff”. If he can do that then there’s a good chance we can achieve our goals.

I am cautiously optimistic that we will succeed in Afghanistan, if only because we’ve been tying our hands behind our backs on some things. We’ve revealed our methods of interrogation. The rules of engagement have been changed so that if there are civilians in the vicinity of the enemy we will not attack, and we’re not allowed to enter a town until we have notified the town that we are coming (which will also alert the enemy of our movements). This worries me. This is the one aspect that, I hate to say, sounds like Vietnam. In that conflict the UN had to be notified of any troop movements. The communist North Vietnamese had moles in the UN who would relay this information to them, and they’d know just what we were going to do. I heard the story of one officer who decided to break the rules and make a sneak attack. He won the battle, but was dishonorably discharged for failing to make the proper notification before making his move. It’s stuff like that that’s going to lower morale, and possibly make the war unwinnable. You can’t win a war if you’re disabling yourself to the point that you give the enemy crucial advantages.

I wanted to address a couple things in the speech. The first thing that jumped out at me was Obama claimed that there had been numerous requests for additional forces in Afghanistan, which were denied. This was surprising, since I don’t recall even the media ferreting out such requests. I would think with all of the rancor of opposing forces against the Bush Administration that somebody would’ve leaked that back when it happened. I didn’t hear a peep about this. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld came out with a statement yesterday saying that he never received such a request during his years in that post (he was replaced in 2006). I believe the Obama Administration corrected the President’s statement yesterday, saying that there was one request made a year ago for additional forces, just at the end of Bush’s term, which had not yet been fulfilled.

Obama came back to the subject of closing Guantanamo Bay. I’ve written previously about my opposition to that idea. He brought up the issue of “torture” as well. I’m not going to go into another harangue about that, because I’ve already talked about why this is a false charge.

Overall I’m satisfied with Obama’s decision, and I support the fact that he’s not going to run away from this fight, at least for now. I am still skeptical about his commitment. He has a lot of opposition within his party. I understand, but I still wonder if he’s willing to stand alone on this, or at least team up with the Republicans to keep it going until the battle is won. I’ve been nothing but critical of Obama in most of my posts, but I give him praise for this. Thank you for hanging in there, Mr. President.