Some reality in what we are facing in health care

June 27, 2010

Back before the recent “health care reform bill” was passed progressives in Boulder were campaigning for a single-payer health care system. Conservatives tried to raise the specter of socialized health care in Canada and in the UK. Progressives knocked both down by saying that the horror stories in the UK were selective cherry picking, that you could find similar stories in our health care system in the U.S., and that the health care system in Canada was fine. Some wrote op-eds in the local paper saying that they had been to Canada, or some country in Europe, had used the clinics for free, or for a very low government regulated fee, and they got prompt and proper treatment. No problems. The conservatives came back with, “Yeah, but that’s for routine care. If you have cancer your chances of survival are not good in countries with socialized medicine.”

Dick Morris wrote a column earlier this month on what’s happening in Canada. They now have a two-tier health care system: One private, for the wealthy, and one public for the poor and middle class. Canadians found a loophole in the law that allows for private clinics so long as those clinics do not charge a fee for a service. Instead they charge for a yearly membership, and during that year patients get whatever care is within the capacity of the clinic to offer, with no fee-for-service. As usual the socialists are blaming the private sector for the problems that the public sector created. It sounds just like the debate over vouchers: “The private clinics are ‘stealing’ doctors that are needed in the public system.” No one’s taking these doctors at gunpoint. They are going to the private clinics of their own free will. It’s what they want. Better yet, it’s what their patients want (well, the service, anyway, not the cost. But they like the service)! It’s that damn free trade again! Doctors like the money. Their patients like the service. Both benefit, but all the socialists can see is the private doctors getting more money, and denying their services to the “needy” (their friends). Those greedy bastards!

You see, socialism doesn’t like self-interested providers of a service or product. Their motivation is supposed to be driven by the dictates of the political powers that be, preferably those who supposedly represent “the people”. That is the way they see the world. The health care system is too big and powerful to be trusted with its own motivations. It creates a negative effect on society, and it exploits patients who are too weak to have a say. Well yeah, in a controlled, restricted system where the government interferes too heavily in the private market, that’s true. Lighten the controls on competition, and they wouldn’t be so big and powerful anymore.

The socialists see every major trend as being directed by some set of big powerful interests that are of like mind and collude with each other to grab all that they can for their own greed. So socialists might as well be doing the directing, since they see themselves as smarter and morally superior to everyone else. They hate it when a bunch of “peons” try to take the initiative for themselves. They’re seen as trying to build their own power base by exploiting their patients, because they demand to set their own pay level. Oh the horror! Oy, how they miss the point! It’s all about power and money to socialists. The free market can’t be trusted to distribute resources, because it creates “injustice” and chaos–it creates inequality. They, the “wise ones”, must be able to control resources so that those who need them the most (their friends and their constituents, that is) can benefit, and of course only they know what will benefit their friends, because those people are too powerless to take care of themselves. It’s the societal equivalent of the dysfunctional co-dependent relationship!

Steven Crowder did another great video on the realities of the Canadian health care system, its quality of care and its wider effects.

Crowder asks that interested viewers “leave comments below”. Well that’s on the YouTube page for this video, which is here. I have no association with Steven Crowder or PJTV. So leave comments here about what I said, and leave comments for Steven at his YouTube page.

It’s good to keep abreast of stuff like this, because conservatives see the recent so-called health care reform as just single-payer in a different form. I think they’re right. Some say that the current set-up will inevitably fail, at which time the progressives will be ready to offer fully government-run health care as the only viable option. We need to recognize what we’re getting into so we can reject it and take a different course.


Speaker Pelosi is a dreamer and a schemer

June 27, 2010

Hi guys and gals. I happened to catch this clip somewhere on cable earlier this month (probably on Fox News), and I did a double-take, “What did she say??” It turns out Speaker Pelosi said this on May 12, but I don’t know that a lot of people heard about it. (Well, not a lot of people read this blog. So the fact that I’m putting it here is not going to help.)

I have to admit what Pelosi said sounds pretty seductive. I have been taking a “leave” from work for a while now, partly because I’ve had a ton of family-related issues to deal with over the last couple years that really have required my undivided attention and energy from time to time, but I have also been pursuing a dream of further developing a talent I have. This time in my life has sometimes been hard, and sometimes been very rewarding. I’m glad that I’ve had this opportunity. I feel very fortunate. I almost wish that more people could have the opportunity I’ve had. The thing is I’ve been financing a significant part of it myself. I am on no welfare programs, and I don’t plan on getting on the dole. My intention is to go back to work at some point.

I have my own dreams for how I’d like American society to change that I’m sure are partly in line with Pelosi’s vision for America, but what I don’t want is for America to turn into another version of Europe in terms of the people’s relationship to government.

I think Simon Rosenberg’s point (in the video clip) about entrepreneurism is valid, because Pelosi has brought up this issue when she’s talked about this in the past, though again, she emphasized the artistic/cultural pursuits that she hopes people embark on (source: a March 12 interview with Rachel Maddow (h/t to Mary Katherine Ham writing for the Washington Examiner)):

Nancy Pelosi: Everybody has so much to gain from this, small businesses, as I said, seniors, young people, women, our economy.  Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance or that people could start a business and be entrepreneurial and take risk, but not job [locked] because of a child with asthma or someone in the family is bipolar. You name it. Any condition is job locking.

[This may have been a hastily done transcript, so I made a couple corrections to the quote — PIBoulder]

(Update 10-29-2011: The following paragraph was written to complement a video clip from a Fox News show I used when I wrote this post, which is no longer available.)

Moreso, I agree with Stephen Hayes’s analysis that it’s not about how “we’re all in this together.” I take offense at this attempt by progressives to market socialism to us. I mean, we have to admit to ourselves that that’s really what this phrase represents. We can be a united country on the large issues we can agree on, but don’t pretend that everyone has the same personal goals as everyone else. It’s about whether everyone is pulling their own weight–at least as that phrase applies to those who can pull their own weight, which is the vast majority of us. I totally agree. America was founded on the idea of individual liberty, individual responsibility, and a healthy respect for the natural and civil rights of others. We are a charitable, giving people. That has been demonstrated over and over again. All we need is to be made aware of a critical need, and we will give of our bounty to help out. The difference is it’s of our own free will! It’s not forced on us. That is the key.

The evil thing to me about how our government has handled health care over the years is that it doesn’t do a thing to solve the real problem, and that’s the rising cost of health care. It seems like no one in power is interested in looking at why health care costs are rising so much faster than the rate of inflation. The free market would keep such costs in line, but it’s clear that it’s not being allowed to do that. The rise in medical costs is indicative of a market where something is awry. There’s a good book on this by Regina Herzlinger called “Who Killed Health Care?” that lays out how it has been over-regulated and restricted. Here’s a hint: The states are a significant part of the problem, though that’s not the only factor affecting cost. As John Stossel has pointed out, the fact that we use health insurance to handle our medical costs so much is a significant contributor to the problem as well. There’s no transparency on health care costs, so doctors and patients have no idea how much medical procedures cost. That information is critical to the functioning of a free market. Another factor is health insurers are often required to cover routine procedures, something for which the concept of insurance is not designed.

Think about this as well: Insurance causes a third party to become the responsible party in medical decisions. This is the reason why people get treated one way when they have insurance, and a different way when they don’t. It has even affected employment.

I heard last year on “60 Minutes” about some employers firing employees who smoked. They were not supposed to smoke on the job, and they were not supposed to smoke on their free time, either! The employer literally encouraged fellow employees to snitch on workers who smoked before or after work hours. This is insane! Why were they doing this? Their group plan, which their employer paid for, would become more expensive if any of their employees smoked, and the business couldn’t afford that. So they felt forced to treat their employees like children.

Each factor: state control of health care, no transparency in costs, and insurance, contribute to the problems that each other factor creates. Medical insurance is practically a necessity in order to gain full access to all of the services that our health care system offers, because the cost of it would bankrupt most people (and it literally bankrupts some people). What we need is a free market solution that takes away what the federal and state governments are contributing to this problem, and allows people to break out of the inflationary cycle that has gotten us to this point.

So what is Pelosi’s agenda when she says to people (I’m paraphrasing), “We want people to feel free to pursue their passions, to be able to quit their jobs and become a photographer, writer, artist, etc.”? Is she really a dreamer who thinks this stuff? Or, is she thinking like a scheming politician? Is she trying to lull people into further weakening the private sector, causing more unemployment, and more businesses to fail for lack of talent? I can see that she is trying to get people to generate new ideas, and rejuvenate culture, which is positive, but not everybody who quits their job is going to know how to do that. In fact I think most people won’t. The end result, though, is more government dependence. According to the new rules, if an employee changes their health insurance plan, they are restricted in what choices they have. If they quit their jobs, and want to return to work later, even if their old or new employer offers the same group insurance, they can’t go back to their old plan. The existing plans are being phased out by attrition, forced by regulation.

Obama said before his plan was passed that you can keep your insurance under the new rules. Well, no you can’t. It was recently revealed that many employers plan on canceling their employee group plans, and just having employees get their own private insurance through the planned government-sanctioned exchanges, or get on Medicaid (which is a whole other issue), because it makes financial sense for them to do that. It looks like it’s also going to impact your ability to choose your doctor, and stay with the one you chose, another thing Obama promised.

From her own mouth Pelosi reveals the ultimate conclusion of ObamaCare: People are going to be lulled into not working, because they are going to feel protected by the social safety net. Just about everybody is ultimately going to be dependent on the government system in one way or another.

Progressives claim that they are trying to make “progress” in our society, but it seems to me in this analysis that they are in fact retrogressive, because what they are really doing is taking us in the direction of a European scheme of socialism that doesn’t work. You really have to understand the history of Western civilization from the 17th to the 19th century to get this.

America represented a split from Europe in more ways than one, but what I mean to emphasize here is that America took to the ideas of the Enlightenment much more than Europe did. The Enlightenment was of course created in Europe in the 17th century, but within 100 years they had started to move away from it. We created our government based on Enlightenment ideas. Europe fell into an unreasoning religious worship of Nature (replacing their worship of God), which created the fertile ground for socialism. All they did was replace the divine right of monarchs with the divinity of humanity, and transition from their traditional form of despotism and serfdom to a more modern version of it that was perhaps less oppressive than what came before (at least until fascism and communism came along), but was nothing like our system, which supported liberty. It may have seemed like progress to Europeans, but it is not progress for America. If anything it represents American decline.

The reason I say this is the Founders did a very good job of designing a government that supported the human spirit. It did not coddle. The point is it did not snuff out the positive attributes of people. It did not create perfection, because they recognized that no government could possibly create that. They instead tried to recognize what drives people, and to use that to create good outcomes. They were not entirely successful in this endeavor, and they recognized that their work was incomplete. That is no reason to throw out what they gave us. We should instead build upon it using the same principles by which they constructed our Constitution, and use that for the framework of all deliberations regarding the structure of our government. This requires learning from past mistakes, not just our own, but those of other civilizations. European style government is not the pinnacle of civilization, just a competing version of it. We can see by the financial troubles they are having now why we should question its validity for us.


The road to serfdom

June 19, 2010

This is one of Glenn Beck’s best shows (from June 8). The conversation he has with Thomas Woods, Jr. of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and Yuri Maltsev of Carthage College is amazing. Listen very carefully to what Woods says. What he reveals is that in the 20th century, over and over and over again, and possibly in recent years as well, we the people have been fooled by a combination of market failures and supposed leaders who come along and confidently tell us that under their plan we will never experience this failure again. All that their plans do is set the stage for the next failure which inevitably occurs. The point is not that their plans cause the next failure (even though they do). The point is, as Beck points out, that this is what market economies DO! They rise and fall. It’s in their nature. Our supposed leaders never solve the problem, yet they assure us each time that “this time” will do the trick. By the time the next market failure happens we either conclude that we were lied to, or we forget that some past leader had put a supposed “solution” in place. The problem is not that their plans fail, it’s that their plans often have an ulterior purpose. They tell you that the plan is a salve for the problem we all want solved (which is a false hope), when all it really does is satisfy the desires of an interest group. The idea that the plan was for you was just marketing. It wasn’t for you. It was for someone else.

Each “plan” along the way compounds the previous problem. As years pass we forget the past “solutions”. We think they’ve always been with us, and just become a part of the “established order”. We feel secure knowing that they’re there, or we’re not even conscious of them anymore.

Each “solution” increases the power of the state, and takes away a little of your freedom. In this context I’m talking about, it’s not necessarily a legal restriction on your freedom. It could be the fact that the federal government has the ability to inflate the currency you use to conduct transactions and save for your retirement. It could be that it allows the government to mismanage its fiscal situation, raising interest rates that impact your ability to do what you need to do, both vices making everything you depend on cost more, sapping your wealth, your future. This has political implications as Friedrich Hayek says in his book, “The Road to Serfdom”, leading to a country that is less and less free, and eventually turns into a dictatorship, where the common people are all serfs of the state. This could happen because we the people are ignorant and do not understand the nature of our own systems. Instead we’re always trying to change it to make it “better”, screwing it up further, and always in a state of denial.

The road to serfdom is not inevitable. We can change course if we learn to recognize what it means to live in liberty: socially, politically, legally, and economically, and understand that this is the best system yet devised–warts and all. Any attempt to improve on it should be taken in small steps with great care, and always, always, always in most cases err on the side of individual liberty, as Woods said. Any attempt to do otherwise will likely lead to disaster.

Edit 6-21-10: The focus of this article is the economic means by which we happen to restrict our freedom. However, I did mention a legal component. To be clear, there’s a caveat I would apply to the above paragraph in the case of state security. I still believe as I have long believed, taking a lesson from 9/11, that if there is a conflict between protecting individual liberty and protecting that state which protects our liberty, I would err on the side of protecting the state over our liberty. Otherwise we could end up in a paradoxical situation that’s analogous to a saying I’ve heard about in the Far East: “One man, one vote, one time.” In other words, by erring on the side of individual liberty, even to the point of risking the security of the state, we could end up losing our freedom that way as well.

Below is a video I found a while back done by Econstories.tv. It’s an entertaining “rap” contest between John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek. It focuses in on their economic theories.

What I like about this video is it shows the intuitive notion that Keynes presents, something that seems to make sense to most people. Hayek presents a non-intuitive point of view, that it’s the boom, caused by artificially low interest rates (created by the Federal Reserve Bank), which you need to be wary of, not the bust, because it’s the boom that potentially leads to a horrendous financial collapse. It all depends on what created the boom.

Keynesian economic theory dominated the 20th century since the 1930s. It got its “big break” during the Great Depression. There was a brief period in the 1980s where it was rejected in favor of Hayek’s and Milton Friedman’s theories. But Keynesian theory has since come back to life in the political world. It’s a sad tale. Some in the political class in the developed world realized that Keynesian economics doesn’t work, at least not anymore, and managed to gain power in the 1980s, but the universities never made that realization. They’ve been teaching Keynesian economics as THE established economic theory ever since the middle of the 20th century. They’ve been blithely unaware of what the political class discovered, for a brief time, 30 years ago. This isn’t surprising. Since Keynes’s theory was so dominant, the only university that would hire Hayek as a professor of economics in the U.S. was the University of Chicago. Hayek eventually went back to Austria to continue his work. This is where he lived out his remaining days.

From what I remember, listening to some von Mises Institute lectures, is Hayek advocated that interest rates need to be allowed to “float” (find their own level in the marketplace). This will coordinate times of investment for future production, and times of consumption when the new production can be put to use by the economy. Allowing for this requires delaying gratification in our society. It means that consumers need to become more thrifty sometimes. What we’ve had for the last 20 years, perhaps longer, is government policy, coordinated with Fed policy, that always tries to drive consumption, spending, and gratification. It interrupts the investment cycle, thereby leaving little room for development of new forms of production.

My own theory from experience is that in this environment the investment is only in optimizing old forms of production, which is cheaper, and is compatible with low capital reserves (low savings rate). This leads to more automation, possibly joblessness and flat wages, because bold new ideas, which tend to be more capital-intensive, labor-intensive, and require creativity, are discouraged in the economy.

A good documentary mini-series on Keynes, Hayek, and Friedman was produced by PBS in 2002 called “Commanding Heights: The battle for the world economy”. When I saw this it was the first time I had heard of Hayek.


Waiting for the next shoe to drop

June 15, 2010

I think the greatest contribution that Glenn Beck has made to this country is helping a wide audience listen to historians who reveal what progressivism really is. What follows is a distillation of some of what I’ve learned from listening to these historians, and Thomas Sowell, and some knowledge I’ve gained from living among progressives for many years.

At some point years ago I remember hearing the term “progressive” in school. It was always kind of ill-defined, as if they were an interest group that wanted food safety, worker safety, a 40-hour work week, a minimum wage, stuff like that. I equated it with “liberal”, and in fact I occasionally heard conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh equate the two, and maybe they had become equivalent by then. Then at some point I heard about the term “classical liberal”, and how this was different from the modern term. But equating “liberal” to “progressive” really does a disservice to informing the public, in my opinion, because it makes it sound like they’re both terms for “Democrat”, and that’s just one of our two parties, though I did hear a bit in school about progressive Republicans. It makes progressivism sound established and normal, just a part of American political life.

Let’s make a clear distinction about progressives (as opposed to the term “Democrat”). Progressives are elite statists. At times in history they have called themselves “liberals”, co-opting the classical term to make themselves look better. When the term “liberal” became a bad word, they adopted back their label of “progressive”. They believe that the state should coordinate the major activities in society, not the economy (the free interaction of individuals and corporations), nor a free body politic. They believe that the state should make every effort to change the behavior of its citizens to something they desire via. institutional change, either through government agencies or regulation of corporations. They believe in a national (and strive for an international) unity of purpose and action, and believe that they have the meritocratic and moral authority to bring this about “for the common good” with or without the consent of the people. In fact the phrase “a new world order” fits quite nicely with this view. They assume they have the moral authority to do this, because to them most people are stupid and they are “the wise ones”. They believe that “the right leaders” should be installed in office, preferably “philosopher kings”, so that they can make sweeping decisions for society and “set things right”, though what they really do is give preferential treatment to other elitists like themselves and their supporters. To varying degrees they see “the people” only as extensions of themselves, not as free-acting individuals who determine their own interests. If the people resist this notion they are met with contempt. In fact, if anything, they believe that the only reasonable policy is for the people, their supplicants, to serve their interests in exchange for government benefits, and the people should be thankful for it. The phrase “some people are more equal than others” comes to mind. They assume that what they desire is the only path to achieving the common good.

There are gradations of what I describe in the progressive movement. Not all progressives want the same things, but they all move in the direction of unrestrained government power. Sometimes they try to move things by inches, and other times they try to make big steps towards it, depending on what they can get away with.

Classical liberals believe in liberty and the rule of law; the ability of an individual to make their own choices, so long as those choices do not directly and unjustly harm another person’s body, property, reputation (though there are exceptions), or natural or civil rights. They believe that people have the right of association and can organize whatever political activities they deem fit. They understand that sometimes society will make mistakes, but they also understand that it must be allowed to make mistakes, with some restraints, or else we’re not really a free people. Without the ability to make mistakes, we cannot learn, and we cannot create a better society. Preventing mistakes altogether just makes society brittle.

I’ve been reading Radical Son”, by David Horowitz, where he documents the fact that his own parents and grandparents were communists. He was as well until he “woke up”. He said they called themselves progressives. They joined the Democratic Party hiding their true agenda. At that time, if they were revealed for who they really were, they would’ve been kicked out of the party, and may have been investigated by the U.S. government.

Today progressives ARE (for the most part) the Democratic Party. This sort of takeover of the Democratic Party has happened a few other times in the 20th century. The first was during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson from 1913-1921. The second was during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt from 1933-1945 (officially he was elected to four terms in office, though in effect he only served three, because he died shortly after winning the 1944 election).

To be fair, the progressives have had success in the Republican Party as well. The first progressive Republican to win office was Theodore Roosevelt. He was the first progressive to be elected president, serving from 1901-1909. Then there was William Taft from 1909-1913. Then there was Herbert Hoover from 1929-1933. I only include the last two because they were self-described progressives, though I think the progressive movement wouldn’t agree that they were with them, particularly Herbert Hoover whose memory is scorned by them today. Taft is forgotten.

I think it’s arguable that presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and his son George W. Bush had progressive tendencies, both in how they conducted themselves in office, and in their philosophy of government. Progressives would bristle at the suggestion that any of these presidents was one of them, because while they all used government power aggressively for advancing domestic and foreign policy, as progressives would, they also attacked some sacred cows of the progressives. It’s arguable that Sen. John McCain has been part of this same mold, and was rejected by the progressive movement for the same reason.

Putting it all together, the first progressive era was from 1901-1945, though there was a “donut hole” in it where classical liberalism was allowed to hold sway from 1921-1929–the “roaring 20’s”. In all it lasted 36 years. And now it starts anew with President Obama, but for how long?

Beck has had historians on talking about how the progressive movement has always been separate from either party, and that for most of its history at its core it has been Marxist in its leanings. Progressives have just used the parties as vehicles for implementing their agendas. To make an analogy, they’re like the Tea Party movement in that sense–leaning a certain way, but separate from any party, though the progressives are not as overt about this separation. My interpretation of their history is that they’re fascists (and I don’t mean this in the pejorative, I mean it literally), though you’d have to listen to Jonah Goldberg to understand that this doesn’t mean that they believe in “ethnic cleansing”, and the other evils of Nazi Germany. As Goldberg has explained, “That was Germany.” Though they used to act racist towards certain ethnicities in the days when eugenics was seen as a legitimate scientific theory of “genetic purity”, they wouldn’t be caught dead doing that now. However there is still a Malthusian strain in progressivism that has been there almost from the beginning, a belief that “the stupid people” should be “liquidated”, or their population should be reduced by forced sterilization. It’s also obvious that even today they find sexism somewhat acceptable.

Fascism in America has historically had a different look and feel. Progressives see some value in private enterprise (or perhaps a more appropriate term is “usefulness”), just so long as the private economy is kept relatively small and powerless. So I don’t see them advocating that we drift into communism, though they’ve certainly been sympathetic to the communist cause historically. Goldberg has said that in reality there’s very little difference between fascism and communism. They’re like Coke and Pepsi, he says.

They’ve tended to not reveal what they are actually thinking, planning, and doing out in the open, though they have been showing their “true face” more lately. Since Obama got elected they’ve been feeling a bit more comfortable about expressing their true selves. They’ve known in the past that to reveal themselves, what they’re really thinking and what they really want, would alarm too many people. Instead they’ve put forward policy and program proposals that sound innocuous, caring, what “good people do”, “standing up for the poor and the working man against the ravages of capitalism”. These are their “steps along the way”, not their end goal.

The main thing to keep in mind is that progressives dislike or even hate the unpredictability, the chaos of a free society. They want strong leaders to control and suppress other powerful people who are not in their camp, and “show society the way”. Make no mistake about it. They want to direct, not merely “reform”.

Something that rarely gets talked about, but which I think needs to be highlighted, is that through their friends in the media and the education establishment they have successfully made a very strong impression on Americans that their spectrum of ideas are the only acceptable ones, and anything else is “crazy”, “extremist”, “stupid”, or “racist”. They’re very effective in using language and emotional signaling to indicate to otherwise ignorant people that one proposal is acceptable and others are not. What I’ve found is that they don’t care about accuracy. They will take a turn of phrase or an event, adapt it to their ideological outlook, and state that as fact.

Any suggestion that the Constitution is a charter of negative rights for government is met with scorn and derision by them. Of course this is what they’d think. They don’t really believe in the Constitution as it was written. To them it’s old and passe, not to mention that it doesn’t fit their goals, though you won’t hear them say that publicly. They’ll say instead that what they support is constitutional because of the Constitution’s preamble where it says that the government should “promote the general welfare”, and the “General Welfare” clause. This is not one of the enumerated powers, by the way. There was debate about this phrase among the framers of the Constitution. Some of that debate agreed with what progressives now promote, but the interpretation of the phrase “the general welfare” that won out at the time it was ratified was that all the states (not just some that might be preferred) were to benefit from what the federal government was allowed to do according to its enumerated powers, the focus of which was creating an environment of tranquility, justice according to the law, and a common defense. That interpretation held until 1937, when the Supreme Court decided felt compelled to change it, during the FDR Administration because of President FDR’s threat to pack the court. We have been living with the legacy of that event ever since. With this single autocratic act we have gotten Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and the most recently passed health care bill, and all of the debt and obligations these programs have, and will, generate.

Progressives are willing to publicly respect the Constitution some, particularly when it’s to their advantage. In general they believe in unrestrained government power when and where their desires dictate.

On June 7 I happened to be watching C-SPAN and I got the opportunity to see a gathering of progressives at an event sponsored by Campaign for America’s Future (there are three other parts to this conference that C-SPAN recorded herehere, and here). I saw it with new eyes. Instead of seeing it as a gathering of populist liberals who wanted “power to the people”, I saw it as a group of people who hated liberty. I could feel in some of the people who got up to speak a seething rage underneath the surface, a singularity of purpose so strong that they considered nothing else, not even the Constitution. I listened carefully to what they said, and what came through to me were five things:

  • Morality above all: The government has been allowing powerful people in the private economy to “rape” (my word) this country and its people, and the government should put a stop to it. There was no discussion of the structure of law and government institutions, how they created this problem and if there were any ideas for correcting them, and how to enhance the good aspects of human nature. The theme that got pounded through again and again is “make people do the right thing”. You could practically hear them say “force them to do the right thing,” and “Whatever is morally right to do, just make it happen,” but they were careful with their words. It was interesting listening to some of the points they made. For example they saw it as a mistake that they only focused on getting “the right people in power”. Well of course. Those who have the unconstrained vision are naive enough to believe that this is all you have to do. They neglected the fact that the Founders set up a system where we can replace those in power. Van Jones spoke a couple days later at the event saying, “We need to change the people [out in society] from the bottom up, and inside out as well.” Well haven’t they been doing that through our culture, our schools? Apparently they haven’t done a good enough job… Glenn Beck recently suggested that this statement by Jones means their “people on the ground” will probably become violent. Sounds plausible. What other choice do they have? They’ve made their agenda pretty obvious by now, and the majority of us don’t like it.
  • Capitalism sucks: Without exception they saw capitalism and capitalists as evil. I swear, what they said on this was practically indistinguishable from Marxist ideologues I used to hear years ago. The only difference was they were open to talking to corporate partners who are willing to help them implement their plans. The old Marxists were purists and wouldn’t dare go near corporations for help.
  • Childishness: This came out in two ways. The first was that they saw themselves as the intercessors between the people who are the “victims” and the powerful who are “oppressing” them. Their sole focus was on “the powerful”, “making them do the right thing”–like making mommy and daddy treat you right if you were children. The second was I saw very few people there who I would say acted like mature adults. They seemed like they were in their twenties at the oldest, in terms of emotional and mental maturity. I’ve seen this in my neck of the woods as well. I live in a progressive town. There are some progressives who are mature, but I also meet quite a few of them who seem like Peter Pan–they never want to grow up. It’s impossible to discuss issues with them intelligently, because they just don’t want to do it. They can think morally with their “bleeding heart” and that’s about it. They’re incapable of seeing the wider implications of what they’re advocating. I mean, really, you can almost hear them sing, “When you wish upon a star…”, though it usually comes out as John Lennon’s “Imagine”. This inability to deal with real issues on the effects of policy has the potential to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of gradual societal destruction, which is then seen as requiring more and more draconian measures to prevent a collapse. It reminded me of a couple things: the book, “The Death of the Grown-up”, by Diana West, and Tammy Bruce‘s description of her former colleagues on the Left as a group of psychologically broken, troubled souls with power, in her book, “The Death of Right and Wrong”. She said recently, “These people don’t belong in public office. They belong in a psychiatrist’s office!” She spoke from experience, and was not exaggerating. West’s book talks more broadly about a growing immaturity in our culture, not just that of the far Left.
  • “Show the people the way”: This was one of the most striking things to me. There was absolutely no recognition of the light of inspiration in people, that people could realize and exercise their own power and create a stable, healthy life for themselves. No, somebody powerful has to do that for you, and it’s the fault of the powerful if you are in poverty. Somebody has to take your hand like a child and show you, “Step 1, do A. Step 2, do B. Step 3, do C, etc. If you do these things you are guaranteed to live a financially stable life where all of your needs will be met.” There was a time in our national life when people could go through a step-by-step process, get a job, stay at one company for 30+ years and then retire. That was a unique time in history when economic conditions in the world allowed this to happen in the U.S. The economic situation of the U.S. relative to the world has changed since then. These changes have meant that it’s no longer realistic to expect to have economic security at one company for your career. In general, life doesn’t work that way. If you look at the economic history of the U.S. you’ll find that this phenomenon of “one job for your career” was an anomaly, not the norm. Probably the only place where this happens now is in government bureaucracy, which is the reason the public employee unions feel so threatened by the budget cuts that their local public officials are having to make in response to their fiscal situation.
  • “Obama is not doing enough”: This blew me away. They said the $787 billion “stimulus” bill that was passed in 2009 WAS NOT LARGE ENOUGH!!! It was another one of those moments where I thought to myself, “Oh. My. God. They really are this crazy.” They said that they wanted the public option for health care, but (I’m paraphrasing), “Our society is not conditioned…ahem…ready for that yet.”

The federal government had to borrow most of the “stimulus” that was approved. Progressives act like the rich have an infinitely large supply of money, and that if we tax them heavily the government will be able to mostly fund what they want to do. Ross Perot said years ago that you could confiscate ALL of the wealth of the top 1%, and that alone would only run the government for 3 months. That’s it. Should I assume that the progressives are dumb enough to believe that money grows on trees for the federal government, and that if it just “spends more of it” it will have no negative effects on the economy? Wishing does not make things true. It doesn’t matter if you close your eyes tight, squint your nose and wish real hard. If we are to assume that they don’t believe money grows on trees, then we have to conclude that what they are really saying is they want the federal debt to get bigger, because that will make the economy recover faster. What’s scary is there are people who believe this will really work. You don’t solve a problem by taking what caused it and doing more of it! An 8-year-old knows that. (But progressives say our recession was caused by Wall Street stealing our money–capitalism. Oh, okay. In their fantasy world I see…).

It’s not that what progressives say they want is not desirable. Of course it is. We want our economy to recover. We want people lifted out of poverty. We want people to live stable, financially secure lives. Who doesn’t want that? But we are not going to accomplish these goals with gargantuan spending packages that force the government to borrow trillions of dollars, and heavy, ever changing regulation that stifles ingenuity and entrepreneurism. All we have to do is look at history and (this is the key) LEARN FROM IT! Henry Morgenthau Jr., FDR’s Treasury Secretary and architect of the New Deal, said of his own policies in 1939 (source: The Foundry):

We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. … I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. … We have never made good on our promises. I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. …  And an enormous debt to boot!

But to progressives history is just a narrative that’s malleable. They find a way to ignore and interpret information so that it fits their ideology. They don’t learn. Their loss, but it doesn’t have to be ours. Another good source for historical information on this period is “The Forgotten Man”, by Amity Shlaes.

Why oh why do we have to repeat history? I think the truth is the progressives are in denial (but perhaps this goes without saying with ideologues), and the history we have been taught in school is full of half-truths.

Speakers kept saying at the June 7 event, “We don’t have a choice.” Sure we do. They said this because they recognize that a majority of people in this country now think that their children will be less well off than they are, and “we don’t have a choice” but to have the government prevent that bleak future from happening. The political right sees the same thing, and sees the looming federal debt that the Obama Administration is creating as the next generation’s death knell. Personally I agree with the conservatives on this point.

The tone of the progressives at their event indicates to me that they feel desperate, but they don’t want to face the truth, because they don’t know what else to do. They’re one-trick ponies, ideologues. Wishful thinking is not a viable governing philosophy. Their policies are not going to work given the fiscal, economic, and demographic situation that exists. The question is are they desperate enough to do something rash, make a “hail mary” pass, and get violent, because they see no other way? I think it’s possible. These people are committed. There is no doubting that, and some of them have a lot of money and power on their side. These are not just idle individuals spouting off without the means to exercise political power in government and out in society.

The following two videos are from the May 3rd episode of Glenn Beck.

I think Beck made a good point last week saying that a natural response in our society, if and when such violence occurs, is for the government to crack down on it with more restrictive policies–creating more of a police state. He said that would be a mistake, because that’s what the progressives want. They want a more aggressive state, because then if they can “get their hand on the tiller” at some later date, it will make it all the easier for them to do what they really want. Republicans should take heed of this.


“Climate change” is about global governance

June 8, 2010

I’ve known for a while now that all the talk about the “science” of global warming was more politics than science, though recently I’ve begun to see that it has more to do with a power grab by politicians, here and abroad, and global corporations, than anything that’s going on in the scientific community, though that’s all most of us see. Glenn Beck laid out a nice summary of the people and organizations who are driving this on his show on May 12.

For more in-depth information on what Beck was talking about, here’s “Global Warming or Global Governance?”, produced by Sovereignty International in 2007. It’s 1 hour 20 minutes.

The first 50 minutes of the video presents the scientific skeptics’ perspective on the issue, and it does a nice job, though the editing was rather choppy. The last half-hour talks about the international political agenda that is under way. The intent is to create an extra-governmental power structure of corporate, government, and non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) interests that will “guide” the U.S. and governments of cooperating nations according to their agenda.

Interestingly, China and India have refused to join in. India has looked at the science and finds it wanting. China and India understand that to join would crimp their economic growth, and so there’s no incentive for them to politicize the issue. Despite what the politicians here say, this doesn’t have to do with economic growth. That’s just to sell it. It’s about power.

I think the video is correct in calling this scheme a form of fascism. It doesn’t have to look like Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler’s Germany. It’s apparent to me that what our government has been doing since the financial collapse of 2008 is forming mutually dependent partnerships between itself and large corporations. The idea being that each will support the other. Jonah Goldberg explained it quite well with his analysis of “liberal fascism.”

What I’ve learned about the basics of fascism over the years is it’s a kind of socialism. There’s a “marriage” between government and corporations. Corporations are allowed an illusion of autonomy. The government doesn’t run them day to day. There are chief executives for that, but the government sets all the rules for different types of corporations in how they may operate. Chief executives exercise no decision-making authority. They’re bureaucrats, in effect. Their job is to implement the government’s plan for their type of business. As an example, this is what just happened to the health insurers in the recent massive “health insurance reform” legislation. The government plan for them is set to go into effect in full in 2014. Next up is the banking reform bill, which will set up the same type of government controls over banks in the consumer loans market. Banks used to be pressured by politicians and “community organizing” thugs into making loans to people who could not afford to pay them back. Now a government agency will force banks to make these loans. Yeah, this is what led to the financial collapse of 2008, but the Democrats are convinced it was the credit-default swaps that acted as insurance against the mortgage-backed securities that were the problem, not the millions of mortgage defaults.

When “Global Warming or Global Governance?” got into the politics of the global warming issue I started to think, “Uh oh, we’re entering conspiracy theory territory.” Fortunately this is just a blip in what’s otherwise a nicely documented argument. It gives a more down-to-earth view of what this idea of global governance really means, giving shape and form to it. I think Glenn Beck hit the nail on the head: If “climate control” legislation goes through, it’ll mean that gradually over time our government is going to grow more and more distant from us. It will be a functionary of international interests, which in some part will be ours, but it will also carry out actions that are not in our interest, but that of other people in other nations. Its appearance will not change. We’ll still elect our president and representatives, but more and more they will not be able to act according to the wishes of their constituents, no matter how often we vote them out of office for ignoring us. The slates of candidates who have the resources to win office will also likely be heavily influenced by this internationalist agenda, because of all the money that will be amassed to fund it through the cap & trade system, since the corporations involved are allowed to donate money to campaigns. One thing’s for sure. What will be promoted will not be free markets, republicanism, or democracy. It will be an elitist agenda designed to carry out the dreams of the people who are running the supranational institutions. There will be some sense of helping out the less fortunate, but let’s not kid ourselves. There will be a heavy dose of graft and exploitation, because when power is amassed it gets abused. That’s just how human nature works.

What’s apparent right now is the federal government is fishing for a way to raise massive amounts of revenue to finance its social spending. I found it interesting that in one of the clips with Al Gore he said that “getting revenue from taxing income is outmoded.” So what’s going to replace it? The idea of a Value-Added Tax (VAT) was floated recently, and the prospect of cap & trade legislation (now called “The American Power Act”) is on the horizon. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is sure going to add fuel to that!

The VAT has been used in Europe to finance their social programs which are much larger than ours, presently. Europe has also implemented a cap & trade system for several years now. It’s resulted in a small number of elites becoming billionaires, essentially on the backs of ordinary people and industry (anyone who uses energy), but that’s all it’s accomplished. Their CO2 output has increased since it was implemented, not least because the program had become so compromised by financial interests that it didn’t translate the revenue into building energy sources that could fully replace power plants that use fossil fuels. The EU nations agreed to the Kyoto Protocol, but most of them never came close to meeting the targets. The combination of the VAT, cap & trade, growing government debt in EU nations, and a highly regulated corporate environment has led to anemic economic growth. They’re now facing economic collapse, because their real estate bubble was larger than ours when it burst, and they cannot grow their way out of the crisis with their current system. They’re facing the ruination of the Euro, and possibly the idea of the EU itself.

Strangely enough our own elites seem intent on following Europe’s lead. One wonders why. Maybe an old saw I used to hear about Democrats by Republicans that I used to not believe would explain it: “They want us all to be equally poor.” Of course, they don’t want poverty for themselves. For you see, they know how to live a lavish lifestyle while being friendly to the Earth. You don’t, obviously. Therefor you must have your wealth taken away from you. Freedom, free markets, the republic, have all been dreadful mistakes, like nuclear weapons. They must be limited or eliminated, according to the dictates of wiser people who must be free to manage large resources (this includes you), and who are only accountable to other “wise ones”. But fear not. The state will take care of you so you won’t need your wealth.

This is all delusional, of course, driven by a desire to return to “the good old days” of the Great Depression, WW II, the 50s and 60s, when government was big and powerful, the top tax bracket took the majority of the the wealthy’s yearly income, and corporations worked in partnership with government to try to maintain a desirable level of employment, rising pay, a rising standard of living, and lessening discrimination in society. All noble goals, but the world, not to mention the government’s fiscal situation, has changed since then. However, some people never learn. If they succeed in going through with their societal “mid-life crisis” it’s not going to be pleasant.


A perspective on immigration

June 3, 2010

I read Tammy Bruce’s post today on the L.A. Unified School District’s decision to express “outrage” to its student body about the AZ immigration law, saying it’s “un-American”. Tammy criticized the fact that 73% of the student population is latino.

Just a note before I get into this, as I recall, we got rid of the House Committee on Un-American Activities because we didn’t like the government calling people “un-American”. What was that I used to hear about McCarthyism? I understand this is about a law, but the school district is implicitly calling anyone who disagrees with them “un-American” as well. They can say they disagree with it and give the reasons why, but calling it un-American is divisive.

Tammy’s article brought to mind an interview I heard recently with a man who’s running for congress in Colorado. I can’t remember the name, but for this discussion it doesn’t matter. He described how immigration at Ellis Island used to work. He said there were many immigrants who did not have immigration papers when they came in. Documentation at the time of entry was created for them. He said this is the reason we hear about immigrants who had one name when they were in their country of their birth, and given a different name when they came here. The immigration officials couldn’t understand their name, and so gave them one that was more American-sounding. He also revealed that the epithet against Italians, “wop”, came from the term “Without Papers”. I guess that was a common thing with Italian immigrants. What I remember from the history of Ellis Island, anyway, is that immigrants were given a path to citizenship. I don’t recall there being a provision where immigration officials said, “You can stay here without becoming a citizen,” which is what the previous “comprehensive immigration reform” would’ve allowed.

It would be good for us to have a good understanding of the history of our immigration policies and their effects. To get some perspective, it would also be good to take a look at the immigration policies of Mexico, since we get pretty self-conscious about how “racist” we are for wanting to impose some rules on immigration. Here’s a hint: Mexico’s immigration policy is stricter than ours.

I’ve liked the idea of a “path to citizenship” for people who are here illegally. I don’t see the U.S. deporting all 12 million of them. I would not be in favor of them being granted blanket amnesty. Perhaps the better way to go is something like Ellis Island, where we don’t try to make it just a one-time thing (which is what was tried in the last attempt at “comprehensive reform”), but make it a policy that acknowledges the reality that there will be people who come here without immigration papers, and who need to be documented. A proviso would be that if they’re going to stay they need to go through the normal procedure to pursue asylum, get a visa (tourist, work, etc.), or pursue U.S. citizenship. If they pursue citizenship, I’m in favor of them having to pay a fine, and “getting in the back of the line”. That’s only fair to the people who come here legally. In other words, they’re going to have to make a choice. If they refuse, then we deport them. This to me sounds like a reasonable policy.

I also like the idea of requiring employers to check into the immigration status of employees, and penalizing employers if they don’t do so. They should only be required to not have illegals on their payroll. I would not support the idea that businesses be required to report the people they refuse to law enforcement or federal authorities, because even if something doesn’t check out, it could be a bureaucratic error. It would be disruptive to our society if people worried about being turned into “instant criminals” if their records have somehow been mismanaged by the government.

The thing is, it seems like it would be difficult to implement this universally. If you’re a building contractor, are you going to have the where with all to check on the immigration status of all the people you hire? Depending on the size of the business, that may or may not be likely. It imposes an extra cost on business, and I can understand the objections to that, especially at this time. It would put a crimp on the ability to subcontract. I think what would be a sensible policy is to impose these sort of rules once a corporation is formed, and to exempt contractors who are not S-corporations or some other form of limited liability. This would still allow some illegals to go under the radar, but it would place a limit on how many could viably get away with it. In fact, we might want to make it a rule that such corporations be required to check into the immigration status of its contractors and subcontractors, if those contractors fall outside of this rule. This shifts the burden onto corporations, but I think it’s a good compromise, because it allows “free form” contracting and subcontracting to exist in our economy, without allowing the employment of undocumented immigrants to grow into a massive problem.

The state-by-state solution for immigration reform might be the best way to go for our society, as opposed to trying to solve the problem entirely at the federal level. There are some localities who don’t regard undocumented immigration as a problem. There are others, particularly along the southern border, that do, and I don’t believe it has much to do with racism. It’s the federal government’s responsibility to manage our borders. The thing is there is such disagreement in our society about what to do with immigrants who enter illegally that a solution more in line with federalism might be the better way to go. Let those states that don’t mind undocumented immigrants accept them, and let those who find a problem with it restrict it, so long as it doesn’t involve racial profiling.

As for AZ, I think they are dealing with the problem in the best way they know how. They have good reasons to address the issue of illegal immigration, and I think they gave due consideration to racial issues, and trying to not worsen the problem they have. They have a severe problem with crime that is largely driven by the activities that stem from illegal immigration. Phoenix has the 2nd highest rate of kidnappings of any city in the world. If you think about that for a moment that’s pretty staggering. Not even Baghdad, Iraq has a higher kidnapping rate. I think the belly-aching over their law is silly, because it’s pretty reasonable when it’s evaluated on what it actually says: No law enforcement officer can look into a person’s immigration status until they’ve gotten involved in investigating a crime or misdemeanor of a different sort, and have “reasonable suspicion” (this is the part I’m sure people are getting hung up on) that the person they are investigating might be here illegally. From what I understand, “reasonable suspicion” is well defined in the law, unlike what many people think. It can’t be that, “Their skin is brown”, or, “They can’t speak English.” The law specifically prohibits racial profiling, which is the issue that civil rights organizations are getting upset about. It’s more like “behavior profiling”. One example might be if the officer gets the person’s driver’s license and it’s found to be fake. Even then, the officer can’t make a snap judgement that the person is here illegally. Something like this would give them the option to check into their immigration status. They could only come to a conclusion after they did that. It’s also come to my attention that the law in AZ is actually more lenient than federal law. The Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that a federal agent can check into anyone’s immigration status for any reason. They don’t even have to be investigating an infraction, and this applies all across the country, not just in AZ.

L.A. officials are deliberately engaging in a political campaign to preserve the status quo within their state. It’s an election year. They want an open borders society, and they are making it very clear to their residents, and the rest of CA where they stand through their political posturing: “Don’t follow the lead of AZ”. I understand that CA is very generous with its public benefits. We can look at them as an example. Do we want a state that is $500 $19 billion in the hole like they are? I personally don’t. They can run their state how they like, but I also leave it to them to deal with the consequences of their decisions. There is nothing forcing them in the situation they’re in except for their own values, and what they think is sensible policy. If they are satisfied with their current situation, I say leave them to it. I believe in federalism. If at some point they find their situation unacceptable, well then they can reconsider their values and change their policies to try to make their situation better. They are still one of the largest economies in the world. They have plenty of resources with which to solve their problems. All it takes on their part is the will to do it. I am not trying to suggest that they do anything about their immigration policies. That’s for them to decide. Since they’re pointing the finger at AZ, I’m just pointing the finger back at them.