Friday, August 28, 2009

Blame It On The Founding Fathers

Those crazy "Founding Fathers". I have often wanted to ask individuals who love to use phrases including, "The Founding Fathers intended" and other such rhetoric, which of the "Fathers" they were referring to and why. "They" were a disparate lot, farmers and lawyers, tradesman and soldiers who were, just barely, united by a common purpose....sort of. We are, I concede, a culture that values the citation as a badge of credibility whether the label fits or not. There are those among us who would pair up a phrase from Revelation with one from Leviticus and use the twain to undermine the collective message of the four Gospels. The citation is the important thing when the people one is trying to impress aren't really listening.

Thus, the "Founding Fathers"; most of them disliked the Royal authority and some of them disliked any authority. The clear motives for rebellion; the quartering of royal troops in colonial homes, warrantless searches of home and business and seizures of property, and government policy enacted by a Parliament of which the colonials were not a part of, all found their way in to the Constitution. Most of these slights are now pointed to by current politicians wanting to make a point (or rather, steal one). The "Teabaggers" (their name, not mine) were supposedly against "Taxation without representation"...."The Founding Fathers fought against it!" Cue the gnashing of teeth and wailing of women and babes. The problem of course, is that we Americans do have representation; being the minority party in a democracy is not the same as living in a colony for which no representative is allowed into the ruling nation's legislative body.

The "Founding Fathers" might have encouraged the "Teabaggers" to get a grip and fight something like; "Taxation that I don't like". Then again, the "Fathers", or at least some of them, would like the taxation. Some of the "Founding Fathers" were (again, cue the sounds of evil and despair)......LIBERALS. Oh the humanity! Oddly enough, the "Founding Father" of capitalism, Adam Smith, was the perhaps the first to suggest the necessity of a progressive income tax. Our very own FF's went through an abortive experiment in government called the "Articles of Confederation". The Articles formed a government with a federal element focused on the borders, foreign relations, and national defense. Everything else was left to the states. The reason our FF's came up with The Constitution is that the weak federal system DID NOT WORK.

I am often reminded of the other special skills the "Founding Fathers" had when I watch cable news. In my last post, I referenced the young lady who confronted Senator Spector in a tearful rage and demanded to know what he would do to return our country to what the "Founders" intended. The parallel theme here is the notion that somehow the Obama Administration has destroyed the nation in 9 months (which is what was fanatically predicted by his opponents in the campaign). The Administration has left most of the tricky items to the status quo, passed a tax cut, and if by some miracle gets health reform passed will have succeeded in just equaling the debt burden of the Reagan years. Not exactly revolutionary stuff. But I digress; we were talking of the young lady in Pennsylvania and the "Founding Fathers' intent".

Might Senator Spector have told her to go home and attend to her duties as the "Founding Fathers" intended? Inflammatory? Yes. My personal view? Absolutely not (if I was such a chauvinist, I would have a wife, mom, sister, sisters-in-law and others to contend with). The view was, however, precisely that of the FF's. Women were not citizens...that they still receive something like 70% of the pay for equal work versus men tells us something of how strong the "Founding Father's " intent really was. Slavery was not only condoned in the Constitution, but practised by the FF's. I shouldn't imagine, after this paragraph, that further evidence of the need for our government to evolve would be necessary.

The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Federalist Papers are fantastic documents that form the backbone of our heritage and the foundation of our laws. They are also as flawed as their very human writers were. There exists a reasonable need to stay within certain strictures in the Constitution for the purposes of consistency, but change is not always a bad thing. A clear and rational look at a challenge facing our democracy can be accompanied by a vigorous, bare-knuckled debate over the right course to follow. The rational middle suggests that the debate be fed by solid facts and logical arguments.

Save the name dropping for socialites!

We look forward to your commentary....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Just a few thoughts on the imminent demise of real action on health care.....

There should have been a real conversation in this country on several topics;

  1. Why should taxpayers who have coverage bear a burden for the uninsured?
  2. How can a government program help to spur the creation of a competitive marketplace in health care?
  3. Why do government run programs in the rest of the world outperform U.S. providers in health care outcomes while costing less of those nation's GDP?
  4. Can we trust government committees with sensitive choices in regards to our family's health care?
  5. Why do we trust big insurance bureaucrats with sensitive choices in regards to our family's health care?
  6. How do the costs of action now relate to costs in the future?

All of these questions could have formed the foundation for a good conversation in living rooms and town halls around the country. The fact that instead we have spent two months trying to get people to realize that "death panels" are a myth is sobering; 30% or more still cling to the notion. Somewhere, Senator Grassley and Representative Boehner are laughing...hard. These two "gentleman" stood with straight faces and told their constituents that they would oppose any plan that included "death panels". Strangely enough, the clause in HR 3200 that forms the basis of the myth (the clause that provides funding for people who choose the public option and want to receive counseling on end of life planning...funerals, DNR's, living wills, etc...) is taken almost word for word from the 2004 Medicare law that George W. Bush and 45 GOP senators along with over 200 GOP members of the House (including Boehner and Grassley) point to as a major legislative accomplishment. That is right sports fans....Grassley and Boehner joined in criticism of a bill do to a clause that they voted on just five years earlier. You just have to love Washington!

Death panels and an impressive lineup of truly concerned citizens whipped to a frenzy by lies and sent off to drown out conversation at the town halls have formed the conversation...certainly not what the rational middle considers productive participatory democracy. The concerned and diligent young women who confronted Arlen Spector was, I believe, emblematic of the problem we face in this country. She cares about the country, is concerned about our future, and yet has no real idea of what she is concerned about. She doesn't understand our history and relies on information that is designed specifically into scaring her into opposition....politics now on both sides has degenerated into the exploitation of our poor education. I am a big fan of the founding fathers; but they were, after all, slave owners who did not acknowledge that women were citizens. There are good reasons for the evolution of our government over the last 200 years. A women standing up to advocate in tearful rage that we should go back to the way the founding fathers intended is someone who has not in fact read the Constitution. The problem doesn't end with poor education, but rather confusion. Senior citizens in town hall meetings who are attacking Democrats for (supposedly) trying to destroy Medicare and for (supposedly) trying to implement socialized health care are confused. Medicare IS socialized medicine...and so is the VA.

Any realistic attempt to get single payer or socialized medicine in this nation died last spring when the President said he would not support it. There are, perhaps, 3 senators to go along with the 85 House cosponsors who would vote for a single payer bill (incidentally the bill is HR 676). Nancy Pelosi could not bring it to a vote in the House, let alone see Harry Reid have a Senate version passed. The myth of mandated government health care has served to muddy the waters around the real legislation, and that suits the insurance lobby just fine.

HR 3200 (follow this link... and S391 ( are both designed to push the market away from the monopolistic model that is now operating towards a competitive marketplace. They use public plans in conjunction with the current operators in "exchanges" to create competition...competition of course being the factor that drives service level and cost savings. Neither of the plans mandate the use of the public options, although the insurance industry is pushing for the inclusion of a mandate that all buy insurance. Funny how they want no public option to compete with, and a law creating 40 million new customers...I guess they want some big government after all.

I think about the "evil" public option often....the farmer who does not have to take a job in town to get coverage...the husband and wife who can afford to take the risk and pursue the American Dream with the opening of their own business without the prohibitive cost of private insurance....the worker who loses his or her job and does not have to buy COBRA to cover the gap until they find new work....the couple who both work "full time" in retail and have seen their hours cut to 31 per week; just under their firm's limit for insurance coverage. Sounds terrible doesn't it? Of course the CBO projects that it will fix health care inflation at 8% over the next decade....say friends, what was your increase from last year to this and repeated over the last decade? I'll bet it was more than 8%.

If you fall into the 20% of Americans who have decided over the last 2 months that Health Reform is difficult, dangerous, or too expensive; I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt as to your reasons.

The rational middle wants you to remember those reasons for the next ten years or so if real Health Reform is not passed this time around. Remember them and be sure to look at your books as well....

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Glenbeck Syndrome

Glenn Beck went on the morning show on Fox News last week and got off a shot against the President. It really wasn't newsworthy, as much of his commentary is not newsworthy. Mr. Beck will admit to as much when pressed; he is, in his words, an entertainer and not a newsman. He feels no responsibility to check his facts before he makes an attack. Last summer Mr. Beck famously attacked Democrats for their lack of support for clean coal technology, then went on the offensive in February against the stimulus bill for its inclusion of billions for...clean coal technology.

I feel comfortable bringing this up because I understand Glenn Beck's problem. He suffers from a previously undiagnosed problem that afflicts millions of Americans...including me. Mr. Beck suffers from Glennbeck Syndrome; the uncontrollable urge to overreact to anything seen in the news or an email combined with overpowering "knowitallness" and a strong dose of bad attitude. Those who suffer from this disease take information from emails and news programs as gospel, and recirculate the information before checking the facts. Unfortunately, I have looked for years for a twelve-step program; but to no avail.

The current health care situation is a prime example of the problem; operatives from both sides have sent origin emails to people, who have then resent them to friends and relatives; who have resent them to friends and relatives; etc. Every time the messages are sent, they gain credibility, because they are sent by people that are trusted by the recipients. The reports of what is included in the "health care bill" move from the ridiculous to the outrageous. They are gaining steam, not because they are supported by the facts, but because they have been accepted by normal folks AS the facts.

There is precious little debate on costs and benefits, goals and strategies, and best or worst case scenarios; everyone is engaged in arguments about "the granny killer clause" and other nonsense.

The rational middle would hope that citizens will seek out the three bills currently in circulation; S 391, HR 3200, and HR 676; and read them for their merits. Please see the "Thomas" site at the Library of Congress for complete versions of the bills in multiple formats. Please compare the language of the bills with the assertions in the emails in circulation.

Please trust the news that you have confirmed for yourself.....we wait for your valued commentary.