Days of Change

Day 422 – Happy New Year

December 31, 2009

I don’t know if 2010 will be better, but at least I have better expectations than I did for 2009.

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Day 421

December 30, 2009
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Insurance is reverse gambling.

The best example is homeowner’s insurance. Most likely, you won’t pay as much as your home costs in premiums. If your house burns down, however, you get a sum of money equal (sort of) to that house. Lately, that dynamic has changed. Filing claims on house damage allows a homeowner to tap into the restorative aspects of an insurance policy. That’s costly for insurance companies and they respond by raising rates.

Then there’s life insurance. That’s a guaranteed payoff. Then again, people get rid of policies, have a non-qualifying death, or use the policies to get a cash payout early. Plus, it doesn’t benefit you so much as those you leave behind.

One form of involuntary insurance is automotive. Most states have determined that there is an interest in motorists carrying liability insurance and require it for driving. In that case, you buy insurance in case you are at fault. Someone hurt by your car will be compensated by the insurance company and not you. Luckily, the number of bad accidents is relatively small and insurance is not terribly expensive.

Health insurance is a different animal altogether. I heard famous libertarian and professional debunker Penn Gillette describe insurance as “pre-paid” health care. We pay premiums, the insurance companies take 15% and most of us get almost as much health care value out as we pay in.

Not exactly. Where I work, 75% of my health insurance is “paid for” by my employer. That amounts to 10% of my income. My Medicare taxes are about 1.5% of my income. My employer is not doing this for free, either. Besides being taxed for a Medicare program in my state and potentially losing out on 10% more pay, I also get to subsidize my employer’s tax break with my taxes.

Then why shouldn’t I be for national health insurance? My employer would be out of the picture. Those damn millionaires (like the owners of my company) would be on the hook. Everyone would be covered. Rainbows would come out of the sky and unicorns would prance around my backyard.

Health insurance gambles on being sick. A person’s investment in health care is positive until retirement in most cases. Any doctor will tell you the most expensive medicine occurs in the last few years of life. People who live past 80 get more from Social Security than they put in. For now, we accept this.

When Social Security started for people over 65, the life expectancy was 62. It was maybe 70 when Medicare started for those over 65. The median age of an American is 36 now. We have spent decades front-loading payments by the young to insure the old. The bubble in this economy is age.

This is the hard reality. Most countries with socialized medicine have made the tough choices. Those choices mean the old, the dying and the non-life-threateningly injured get the least care and the least often. Many of these countries put the young on the government dole, so as not to burden them like the young in this country.

How do we fix this problem without resorting to socialism? We use the free market and austerity. Disposable income is a fallacy. We should rightfully be keeping all of our money. We also have to be smart. Any investment is risky. Gold can drop by 50% in a few years. Inflation can devalue the money stuffed in your mattress.

As for the free market, we have to learn to medically haggle. Medicare is setting prices so low, doctors are either dropping the patients or leaving the profession. We need to deflate the cost structure in medicine. That would require the elimination of the two-tiered fee system where those with no insurance are charged 10 times as much for tax purposes.

Insurance needs to go back to where it belongs. We could eliminate the horror stories of $1,000,000 medical bills with a cheap, high deductible policy. Pay for your $100 office visits and drugs with your own money, like your car payments and your credit card bills. Keep the insurance as a means to pay the unpayable. Or we can just keep gambling with the future.

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Day 420 – To the Extreme

December 29, 2009
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Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
-Barry Goldwater

This administration is practicing a zombie-like moderation in many areas (except spending) under the idea of getting things done. Most of those things have been less than concrete. Our allies have made few pledges. Our non-allies have made even less concessions. Not only is little being done, the things that had been done up to 2008 have languished.

The first time Jackass pulled out the TelePrompter this week, he prefaced the bomber’s actions “allegedly.” Today, he used the term “extremists” to describe who normal people would call terrorists. Extreme makes me think of those dudes in the Mountain Dew commercials handgliding off a mountain or skateboarding on a half-pipe.

This langauge is no accident. Extremism is one of those flexible concepts that turns a motivation like Islamic militantism and equates it with “crazy” tea partiers or returning Iraq vets that Napolitano was keeping watch on earlier. The administration is willing to make a deal with anyone, but if you get “extreme” and make them look bad, you just got on their watch list. The White House has gone after Health Insurance companies harder than terrorists so far.

Let’s look at the extreme religion angle. The Catholic Church has been inundated for years over scandals, secrets, corruption and generally un-PC behavior. Since Catholics are the Catholic Church, they get a lot of the blowback. So, what about Islam? If we leave aside the honor killings, the misogyny and the general human rights violations of Muslims to other Muslims, there’s the matter of hideous acts against non-Muslims. Still, the administration claims that terrorism is a tiny fraction of Islam. So what? If we don’t feel the moral authority to clean up Islam, Islam certainly has the moral obligation to clean up its own religion.

I never equated dull moderation to intelligence. I’m more of the frantic genius type. I like to develop multiple vectors to approach a problem. Some people prefer the method of careful construction and refining. The problem with the latter method is that it can lead to focus lock. That plan will never be perfect and left, untried, on a shelf forever. In science, even a failure is a step forward. No step forward at all is just a failure.

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Day 419 – I Smell Brownies

December 28, 2009
1 Comment

When Janet Napolitano of DHS said “the system worked” yesterday, it was this administration’s “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” moment. They managed it in less than a year where it took Bush more than four. Despite protestations to the contrary by this White House, al-Qaeda has also claimed responsibility for the attack.

The major impetus for early American Federalism was the need to raise and finance an army. It is the most important job, and arguably the only true responsibility of a government. Every war in United States history had its detractors. That’s why the government with the consent of Congress and by
the decision of the President is needed to declare war. If the Congress cedes the responsibility to the President, it is still their decision.

From a logistical perspective, we can only fight a military war on places and not on concepts like terror. Thus far, we have not declared war on the entire Middle East. Winning the hearts and minds of Muslims is not enough, since the generation following assimilated, moderate Muslims are radicalizing. It is more important to win than to win over.

I’m not big on conspiracies, but I do understand interconnections. George Washington stressed neutrality, and still we went to war in less than a few decades. We won’t buy Iranian oil, but we buy Chinese products made with and from that same Iranian oil. We’ve played sides against the other, making former allies enemies and finding former allies turning on us. Has our military might hampered us in a world with surgical terrorist attacks? Is our true power the economic life-blood we can take away by isolating our industrial base?

Should we listen to George Washington?

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Day 418

December 27, 2009
1 Comment

Jackass has chosen to pretend nothing happened on an aircraft on Christmas Day in Detroit. I wonder how that will settle in the minds of the American public.

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Day 417 – The Federalist

December 26, 2009
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We can get bogged down in the present. We talk about governmental involvement in certain industries and aspects of our lives. Political parties get blamed. Sometimes, new parties are proposed. The truth is that this ideological battle goes back to the founding of the Republic.

The argument is between Federalism and Anti-Federalism. Anti-Federalism has been beaten over the head since the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government could raise an army, but not raise the taxes to fund it. Instead of changing the Articles, the Constitution of the United States was written in secret. Back door deals are nothing new in Federalism.

Madison wrote in “The Federalist” of “the tyranny of factions” controlling the government instead of independent thought. Was he arguing against political parties or the rights of states to have differing opinions from the Federal Government? I have to wonder, knowing that the authors of the Constitution opposed the Bill of Rights that gave unenumerated rights to the states and the people.

Boiled down, Federalism promotes a strong central government and relegates the states to voting members. Our Federal government has the power to tax the states (and thanks to the 16th Amendment, the people) and therefore the ability to redistribute wealth. Federal law impacts our rights, but federal taxes impact our daily lives.

The power and scope of government is of greatest importance in a “political” debate. Our system of government made us the most free for the longest time. Under Federalism, however, the balance is shifted toward the center and the chances of being one Federal government ruled by 51% of opinion is increasing daily.

I plan to continue bringing up historical examples of how 18th and 19th century U.S. history mirrors the troubles we face today. The similarities of constituents, warfare and economics to today are amazing.

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Day 416 – Merry Christmas

December 25, 2009

I’m going to save the terrorism stuff for tomorrow, just like our government is.

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Day 415 – The Nightmare Before Christmas

December 24, 2009

‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the House,
Congress read polling while getting quite soused.
Amendments were added to the “Health” Bill with care,
100 million here and 300 more there.
“We must pass it now,” politicians have said.
“Or in just a few years, we all will be dead.
And just for good measure let’s raise the debt caps.
If we do it right now, people forget they are saps.
When their tax bills arrive, their illusions will shatter,
But we’ll be reelected, opinion won’t matter.”
Their unity in number is part of the game,
But everyone knows all the culprits by name.
It’s Reid and Pelosi, Lieberman and Nelson
Don’t forget Obama, Stupak and Lincoln.
Remember this day as you walk down the halls,
Next year at this time your majority falls.
The movement is growing while you all ride high,
You wouldn’t know if it were writ in the sky.
They ignore your speeches but watch what you do,
And from that perspective, you should see you are through.
Last year, they faltered and gave in to woes,
But now are emboldened as any march shows.
The ballot box draws them like a dog with a whistle,
To polls they will fly like the down of a thistle.
When the corrupt little statists run away in the night,
The people will say, “always do what is right.”

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Day 414 – Drinking Game

December 23, 2009
1 Comment

Likely the Congressional leadership puts themselves above Christ in the universal order, but I’m pretty sure that “Christmas” will be invoked several times tomorrow.

So, if you can’t take the bankrupting of Americans without getting drunk, try taking a swig every time you hear “Christmas present to the American people” tomorrow. Using “gift” instead of “present” is also acceptable.

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Day 413 – Fickle Me Elmo

December 22, 2009
1 Comment

Last year, I wrote about the fad of the Jackass presidential election for Christmas. This year, the big toy is some virtual pet, which could describe Bo the magically disappearing White House Dog or the marginally lifelike president BO.

What happens to a kid who wants a toy that was purchased at great expense when he gets bored with it? Sometimes, the parents make him keep it or even use it well past the enjoyment phase. When that happens, the toy becomes something entirely different.

Young voters, like young children, are extremely fickle. Not only have they fallen out of love with their toy president, his presence is a constant reminder that they have to keep him for another 3 years. That disinterest is turning to hate. They’re not likely to buy the Congressional accessories next November. In fact, they may opt for the competing product, sight unseen.

Chances are that the adults will pick up the practical gifts to counter the flashy, empty artifacts of Christmas past. The kids will cry and whine, but those socks and sweaters will last much longer than their love for the broken doll whose TV commercials they now ignore.

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