Practical v Political Realities

Bill O’Reilly made a good analogy the other day. He played a tape of one of his “talking points” back in 2008 where he supported the bailouts and chastised conservatives for opposition. It was hard for them to swallow, he said, but necessary. Liberals are now in the same boat on entitlements. Practical realities tell them that they have to cut. Political realities tell them to continue to play the scare card, with their mendacious “throw granny off the cliff” rhetoric. Let’s see if pragmatism and patriotism trump politics.

Pundits, and many participants on this blog, point out that the people want Medicare and they want Social Security and they want social programs. This is true. Who wouldn’t want more stuff? This is how politics can become pernicious. People are trying to use politics to get things that neither they nor practically anybody else can produce. We all want the sweet deal that our parents or grandparents got with regard to Social Security and Medicare.

It sounds so good and democratic. It is the will of the people &, “Vox populi, vox dei “right? It depends.

Most people can make excellent decision when they have significant knowledge and when they have a personal stake that is balanced. The balance of the personal stake is key. This is NOT true in the entitlement debate.

Entitlements are virtually a textbook case that demonstrates all the elements for making poor decisions. The most obvious problem is the separation of who pays from who gets benefits, coupled with a profound misunderstanding about how the system works exacerbated by a misstating of the problem by pundits and politicians for more than sixty-five years.

I have been paying into Social Security for more than 30 years. The way the system was explained to me was that my money buying was a kind of insurance/saving policy. Someplace there was or should be a kind of a lockbox where my money was growing, so that it would be there when I needed it. This is not true and never was true. All the money I contributed was used to pay off current recipients and/or used by the government for other purposes, which allowed them to tax me at a lower rate in other ways. In other words, the money I paid in was just a tax, used to support others and/or government operations.

Government, from the time of Franklin Roosevelt until now, maintained the fiction of an insurance/savings system. They did this for a very good political reason. It made people much more willing to pay into SS and created an ever growing legion of old-folks who would defend it at all costs, although mostly at the cost to young people. It is a compelling logic – “I paid in and now it is my turn to get what was promised.”

The whole system worked because there were lots of workers paying in compared to non-working recipients taking out thanks to the post WWII baby boom. This situation no longer applies and has almost gone into reverse.

So, do I want the system my father enjoyed, where I get more than what I paid in? Of course I do. My problem is my father’s generation had lots of families with six or seven kids to support the two parents in their old age. Today an average family includes two or fewer children. Some people don’t have any at all. What is an easy burden spread over five or six people because a crippling one when a single individual has to pay it all. This is essentially what is happening in our country, as the productive part of our population shrinks.

An ever larger number of Americans are jumping on the wagon to ride instead of helping pull it along. We can complain that it is not their fault or that the “rich” should pay a greater share, but it remains a question of simple arithmetic. If you produce more in goods and services than you consume, you are a net contributor. If you produce less, you are a net recipient. Argue if you want about who SHOULD pay, but remember the equation. As more people become net recipients and fewer are net producers something has to change.

As an American and a conservative American, I like things and people that work and do not have much respect for those that do not. It doesn’t matter to me if they are rich or poor. In fact, I have always despised the idle rich. The saving grace of the idle rich was that there were not very many of them. The system cannot support too many people who are not net wealth producers. Our system is expanding to encompass significantly more people who are not net producers of wealth. This is not sustainable.

People might be able to vote an increase in what they get and redistribute income, but sooner or later you come up against the simple fact that wealth needs to be produced before it can be distributed.

Ask yourself a simple question. Do you pay enough in taxes to support the kind of society you are advocating? How much more would YOU be willing to pay? Don’t give us the usual crap that you pay a greater % of your income. It really doesn’t matter. The person who has only one apple doesn’t have much to share and cannot be really generous no matter what percentage he gives to others.

America is on a dangerous path of spending. The deficit is symptom of this. Even if we tax enough to cover spending, it is still too much. We cannot just declare that we have enough. We need to produce that wealth too and politics is not a good way to produce wealth.

The practical reality and the political reality are diverging. This is never a good thing.

Posted by Christine & John at May 30, 2011 1:11 PM
Comment #323683

Well, first, congratulations on reporting that Bill O’Reilly was right for a change, on supporting the Obama Stimulus package, which hasn’t gone far enough.

Second, Democrats are not in the same boat as Republicans were. Republicans wanted stimulus too, only for the wealthiest and corporations. Democrats are reflecting the will and need of the people on a social health care system that insures Americans health care access regardless of what dire financial circumstances may befall them. The question for Democrats is not, whether to, but, how.

The Public has an answer to that question too. The public option as part of the Affordable Care Act, misnamed Obamacare. The only hard part for Democrats, and this is where they have something to share with Republicans, is how many are willing to throw their corporate health insurance donors overboard in favor of enacting the will of the American people on the Public, not for profit health care system option.

In the news this week was a successful restaurant which was designed from the beginning as a not for profit restaurant, and what would have been profits, is channeled into other community programs to help feed the needy. I wouldn’t recommend this model for research and development or aerospace innovation, but, it is the best model for our military, judiciary system, health care, elderly retirement years assistance, and national infrastructure.

To be sure, Medicare and Medicaid require reforms to drive down the skyrocketing costs. But, converting it to a system run by for profits is the Republican answer the American people have not, and will not, tolerate.

Posted by: BritBob at May 30, 2011 5:11 PM
Comment #323688

You’re devotion to fiscal discipline is truly touching. I have a better idea, and given your deep devotion, I’m sure you’ll agree. Rather than go after entitlements, which, whatever their faults, provide actual, real, useful services to most Americans, let’s do this: Let’s assess a $2000 tax for everyone man, woman, and child in the country, payable immediately, to cover the money borrowed for the War in Iraq. We’ll call this ‘The Intelligence Upgrade Fee,’ just to keep the assessment non-political. It’s only a down payment, but hey, at least it’s a start.

Can you explain why you would not be willing to do this?

Posted by: phx8 at May 30, 2011 6:18 PM
Comment #323691


Actually, O’Reilly supported the financial bailout - which was pre-Obama.

Re your charity restaurant - lots of things can work in one place but are not appropriate or not scalable.

re the will of the people - We understand that the majority of the people want more stuff from their government. The question is whether we can afford it.

The people could vote in overwhelming numbers to repeal the law of gravity, but I wouldn’t try to leap off a tall tower in celebration.


I would be willing to pay $2000 more in taxes if spending were brought down. I think most Americans would be willing to pay more in taxes if we trusted politicians not to spend what we gave them and more.

I have written with monotonous regularity that I think we should go back to the level of spending of 1999. We all seem to agree that was the last time things were okay.I would be willing to pay taxes at that level too. Taxes should cover reasonable expenses. Not less, but also not more.

The problem we have with current spending is that it is unsustainable. It doesn’t matter what we WANT to do. Reality - like gravity - is pulling us down to earth.

Posted by: C&J at May 30, 2011 7:03 PM
Comment #323692

I believe it would be interesting to poll those on Watchblog as to whether they believe our constitution is a liberal or conservative document and why they believe they are correct.

I will just make a couple of points that support my view that it is a conservative document.

1) It was written to protect individual rights from government intervention and usurpation. No where in our constitution can be found anything promoting group rights. A conservative view I believe.

2) It clearly outlined the duties and limits of the federal government reserving everything else for the individual states. A conservative view I believe.

3) It made no attempt to address social issues such as same sex marriage, abortion, or taxes to reduce undesirable behavior or to promote desirable behavior. A conservative view I believe.

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 30, 2011 7:27 PM
Comment #323694

“The problem we have with current spending is that it is unsustainable.”


The unsustainable element is health care. In my opinion, it is not really something that we simply would like to do. It is a necessary requirement for our society. It is something that we must do.

BritBog expressed the distinction between the conservative and liberal position on health care quite eloquently as a question between whether to do it or how to do it. I am betting that the liberal position will ultimately prevail.

Posted by: Rich at May 30, 2011 7:54 PM
Comment #323696

Royal Flush,

Stop with the baiting. It is a debate that has existed since the ratification of the Constitution. If the founders couldn’t agree, why do you think that we could agree almost 250 years later?

Posted by: Rich at May 30, 2011 8:11 PM
Comment #323699

Sorry my poll question was so difficult for you Rich. I accept your non-answer.

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 30, 2011 8:21 PM
Comment #323700


Health care is something we should do but it depends on the levels. I experienced Norwegian health care. I liked it, since it took care of basic needs. But it did not include lots of the things we get in the U.S.

We have choices. We spend as much in the last couple of years of life as we do in the previous 60-70 years. This is a waste. In the Dutch system, they do not keep alive badly handicapped babies. There are various choices we need to make. We cannot just write the checks.

We can keep people generally healthy w/o spending more money than anybody else. I wrote before that my father went to the doctor when he was discharged from the Army-Air-Corps in 1945. He didn’t go again until the day he died in 1996. There are probably many treatments that he didn’t get, and didn’t need.

Posted by: C&J at May 30, 2011 8:21 PM
Comment #323701

Contrary to Rich’s belief, the Founders did agree and actually produced the document. I know this is true as I have seen and read it.

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 30, 2011 8:26 PM
Comment #323702

There are probably many treatments that he didn’t get, and didn’t need.

Posted by: C&J at May 30, 2011 08:21 PM

Many people seem to believe that when it comes to health care, they are entitled to whatever is available regardless of the cost and who pays for it.

There are many things in life that are necessary and many that are only available if one is willing to pay the price. Some say that everyone is entitled to the same level of health care that someone with unlimited funds can afford. Why is that? From where did this impractical thinking come?

Everyone seems to understand that if one wishes to drive an expensive car, live in an expensive home, provide ones children with expensive educations, take lavish trips and such, that it must be paid for by the recipient, not government.

Many speak about “rights” and “fairness”, but is that really true when it comes to our health care? Do I really owe my neighbor the latest and most expensive care available simply because it’s “fair” and his “right”? Is that fair and right for me, the one who pays?

If I wish to eat steak and lobster, and am willing to pay for it, does that entitle my neighbor to such meals as well? If I am willing to pay so that my neighbor is fed, isn’t that the end of my obligation as a good citizen? Must I provide my neighbor with the same quality and quantity of everything I enjoy and paid for with my own money?

There are treatments that no private medical plan or Medicare or Medicaid will pay for. Why is that? Are these treatments being with-held out of meanness or discrimination? Or, are they not available because the cost is prohibitive? I believe the latter is true. And, if that is true, then who should decide that one life is worth more than another. Is it governments responsibility? At what point does it become fair to deny a million dollar treatment paid for by government that may extend a life 6 months.

In education, we spend tens of thousands of dollars teaching a child to perhaps one day be capable of tying their own shoes. Is this fair? Does money spent in this fashion reduce what is available for the student capable of learning?

As liberalism and socialism continues it slow creep into every area of our lives, we see more and more of this fractured thinking about what is fair and right.

It must stop. No one has the right to demand ever more government services that must be paid for by robbing those doing the paying of their freedom of choice in the matter.

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 30, 2011 8:52 PM
Comment #323704


I agree. We seem to have fallen for the idea that everyone is entitled to the same high level of care. It is even worse, because this care comes regardless of other factors.

As our abilities to fight infectious and contagious diseases expands and our capacity to understand diseases such as cancer increases, more and more health problems are life-style related.

If we give the state the responsibility to care for us, we also imply that it has power over us too. If the state is paying, doesn’t it have the right to demand the fat guys stay away from the donuts or that promiscuous people limit their activities? Can’t it demand that all the voluntary health care costs be mitigated? The state gives no gifts. Help comes at the price of freedom.

I am not sure our liberal friends are fully aware of this security-freedom trade off. Or maybe some of them are aware but think it is okay.

Posted by: C&J at May 30, 2011 9:23 PM
Comment #323705

“Some say that everyone is entitled to the same level of health care that someone with unlimited funds can afford. Why is that? From where did this impractical thinking come?”

Some may say that, but most say that there is a basic level of health care that should be affordable and accessible to all.

Posted by: Rich at May 30, 2011 9:41 PM
Comment #323706

I agree, if there were some way to roll back the budget to 1999, that would be a good solution. Since that time, the major increases in spending have been in defense, health care, and servicing the debt. The 9% of the budget spent to service debt is non-negotiable, but can decrease and ultimately be retired. Cutting defense spending makes the most sense.. we spend ten times as much as the Chinese… OBL is dead and his organization in disarray… Continued high levels of spending make no sense, especially not when we consider the opportunity cost.

Royal Flush,
You already know what I think about the Constitution. It was heavily influenced by the ideals of the French Revolution. Today, we are trained to ignore the nature of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and view the times through the British monarchial perspective. Most people do not even stop to notice the predominance of words like “We” and “the people” in the document, or the absence of direct references to individuals and individual rights. Many of our modern concepts about rights and modern concerns about certain types of infringements simply did not even exist at that time.

Posted by: phx8 at May 30, 2011 9:48 PM
Comment #323707


The problem is in the details. What is “basic”?

In America, we already de-facto provide basic.

Our other problem, as I mention above, is lifestyle choices. I read that problems associated with obesity, which is a lifestyle choice condition, may add as much as 20% to our health care costs. What about smoking, a 100% choice factor? Should “basic” include medication for lifestyle related diabetes, heart disease or cancers.

If you are paying my bills, don’t you have some right to tell me not to eat like a pig, drink like a fish, smoke like a chimney or screw like a rabbit? If people refrain from immoderate behavior in these four areas plus illicit drugs, our health care costs would probably be cut in half.

Posted by: C&J at May 30, 2011 9:52 PM
Comment #323708

“I am not sure our liberal friends are fully aware of this security-freedom trade off.”

Well, we don’t have to guess at that question. Every other democratic, capitalistic, industrialized nation in the world has some form of socialized national health care or insurance system. I am unaware of any studies demonstrating that personal freedoms in those countries have been diminished as a consequence of national health care. In fact, most studies show that citizens in those countries are highly satisfied with their systems particularly when contrasted to our system.

Posted by: Rich at May 30, 2011 9:53 PM
Comment #323709


The French got it wrong. Besides, our Constitution was written in 1787; their revolution was 1789. They were influenced by us and by many of the same philosphers, but didn’t understand moderation.

Both our Founding Fathers and the French revolutionaries were influenced by many of the same ideas. It shows how good ideas and bad ideas can have similar sources and that the challenge is in the implementation.

Our revolution was a success; the French revolution failed in most of its goals. Within a few years they had the terror; soon after that they got back despotism and within a short lifetime they even had a Bourbon king back.

Moderation is important. If the French had stopped before things fell apart, they might have enjoyed a more peaceful transition and the world might have been better today.

Posted by: C&J at May 30, 2011 9:59 PM
Comment #323710


I am one of the few people who writes on this blog to have experienced the medicine in Europe. I know that if I get seriously sick there, I want to get home quick as I can. You find Europeans that come here for top quality care. I don’t know of many going in the other direction.

I would say, BTW, that I have nothing much against most Euro care. It is much simpler and less comprehensive than we demand. It is also very difficult to sue in Europe and they practice de-facto euthanasia.

What Obama-care is creating is a chimera with the worst of both system. We are having the expense of the U.S. system, the protection of U.S. lawyers to sue doctors and the last ditch expensive efforts, now coupled with European care standards.

Posted by: C&J at May 30, 2011 10:04 PM
Comment #323715

This argument that the people don’t have a personal stake in their own health care should adversity to the nation, the economy, their community, or their job and income, is simply out of touch with the American public, which is what Republicans are, in general.

It is in everyone’s interest to insure there exists a safety net for their health needs. Even the richest, have been forced to give them up, as was the case with Wall St. types in 1929, and many, many others, who have bankrupted along the way to today, through fault and no fault, of their own.

Republicans today argue the government’s debt and relationship with the corporations and big business are a higher priority than the needs of Medicare and Medicaid recipients, present and future. That is the kind of theory that gets regimes overthrown, and leaders ousted, and breeds domestic violence and rebellion when the needs of the many go unanswered by the few in leadership roles. Bankrupting citizens, the Republican plan, Paul Ryan’s plan, over for profit health care costs, is a prescription for failure. Fortunately, for Americans, the failure is in the GOP, not the people.

Any attempt by Democrats and Obama to reform Medicare and Medicaid to a financially sustainable basis going forward, would be a wasted effort at this time. The Republicans have made the filibuster in the Senate their first and foremost tool of choice in preventing anything positive to happen for the American people or this nation’s future under the governance of a Democrat in the White House.

Seems pretty clear, however, that a great many Democrats are actutely aware of the need for Medicare and Medicaid reforms, and if they should, as it now appears more likely, take back the House, and win a large enough Senate majority, they will then devise real Medicare/Medicaid reforms. Whether such reforms can pass the lobbyist influence of corporations remains to be seen.

America’s political system is so broken, that all solutions like TARP and Stimulus are of the same kind, reactionary to emergency and grave threat. America used to lead. Now, it appears always behind the needs of the times, and out of touch with the future entirely.

America was flat footed on the S&L crisis, flat footed on the Tech Bubble, flat footed on the 911 attacks, flat footed on Iraq intelligence, flat footed on Afghanistan objectives and efficiency, and of course, the Real Estate investment bank/deriviatives bubble. And yet again, flat footed on addressing the needs of the nation’s health care financial infrastructure going forward.

Whatever happened to America government leadership, forward thinking and reaching, and setting the standards which other nation’s sought to emulate? Perhaps, the American political system has become so corrupt, as to be unremediable, without starting over. That of course, would be extremely painful for the world’s economy and billions of its people, but, seems to be the course America is on. And that is truly a depressing state of affairs for modern humanity.

China and India will control 60% of the world’s economy in a few years, and America is not even able to address that seismic economic and cultural shift underway, because, it is too busy being ineffective in addressing its own internal difficulties and challenges. America has the potential of remaining a viable competitor to China and India, but, only if it can and will resolve its deficit and debt challenges in a way that both preserves faith with its people and consumers while enacting reform measures that will effectively address deficits and debt over time.

It’s a tall order, but, America has faced equal tall orders in the past. The one major difference between the past and present, however, is America seems to have forgotten how to elect Statesman to political office, substituting the election of politicians instead in ever greater numbers where the Congress is concerned. Congress was not designed to be the Roman Colliseum of two political parties. It was designed to lead the nation through a compromise of States, public, and individual interests, insuring the best for the most all these interests in both the present and future. Congress has ceased to function as designed in a great many ways, but, most fundamentally, due the supplanting of competing ideas with competing pocketbooks.

If America wants to remain a world leader, it must first get its own house back to a semblance of balance and order. America’s political system is out of balance and out of control. And the nation’s future will follow in the same vain.

Posted by: BritBob at May 31, 2011 1:08 AM
Comment #323717

“Congress has ceased to function as designed in a great many ways, but, most fundamentally, due the supplanting of competing ideas with competing pocketbooks.”

BritBob, good summary of the underlying problem. Neither party seems capable of bringing forth innovative thinking. They are locked into the status quo by powerful interests vested in the current system. Effective solutions to our problems will require change. Unfortunately, change is not what those benefiting from the current arrangement desire.

The health care issue is a perfect illustration of that problem. Only an idiot cannot see the freight train of health inflation barreling down the track at us. But, what do we get from our politicians? Nothing but juvenile, timid, sophomoric ideas that either ignore the problem or surrender to it as though it were inevitable. The Democrats pass a bill called a reform that simply enhances and extends the current dysfunctional system with a few additional bells and whistles. The Republicans respond with phony “death panel” charges and then propose to solve the problem with draconian cuts to the very program they accused the Democrats of gutting. Along the way, no responsible, thoughtful liberal or conservative idea gets to see the light of day.

Posted by: Rich at May 31, 2011 9:00 AM
Comment #323719

“Congress has ceased to function as designed in a great many ways, but, most fundamentally, due the supplanting of competing ideas with competing pocketbooks.”

Seems helpful to recognize the specific source of our political distress. That is, Corporte Personhood. This law is the direct reason for ‘supplanting of competing ideas with competing pocketbooks.’ Until we can abolish corporate personhood law we should not expect any significant change through our representatives.

The world is a basketcase now because of 30 years of corporate rule. The best thing we could do for ourselves and the world is to establish a new 3rd party, abolish corporate personhood and implement real campaign finance reform, IMO.

Otherwise - -

Posted by: Roy Ellis at May 31, 2011 10:23 AM
Comment #323724

Most people do not even stop to notice the predominance of words like “We” and “the people” in the document, or the absence of direct references to individuals and individual rights.

Posted by: phx8 at May 30, 2011 09:48 PM

IV Amendment) Obviously refers to individual homes, papers and effects. Individual search and seizure and warrants. Hardly a group reference.

V Amendment) “No person…” hardly a group reference.

VI Amendment) “the accused…” hardly a group reference.

VII Amendment) “the right of trial by jury…” hardly a group reference.

VIII Amendment) “Excessive bail, fines, unusual punishment…” hardly a group reference.

Sadly, some folks don’t or will not recognize the meaning of the words “We” and “People”, found in the constitution.

Our rights are granted to We, the People as individuals, not as groups.

I understand why some would prefer group rights as opposed to the reality of individual rights as expressed by our founders. Reduced to its most basic reason, group rights would permit the taking of property, freedom, and liberty from individuals for the perceived good of the group.

Such notions of group rights are always found in socialist and communist run governments. Liberalism in the US is slithering its way towards such systems by incrementally removing individual rights and replacing those with group rights. Consequently, whenever such notions appear they must be rooted out and destroyed.

The lure of group rights comes in the notion that government can take from one and give to another. Boiled down to its basic human emotion, it is called envy and the desire to covet what someone else possesses.

This country has thrived upon the notion that all men have certain rights, derived from God and not man. That government must provide the stable platform upon which each of us may build their future. That government must protect and defend what we as individuals achieve. That we as individuals are free to achieve or fail in our individual endeavors with no roadblocks, bias, favoritism or impediments beyond that which is applied to all.

Group rights are a fantasy of liberalism.

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 31, 2011 2:06 PM
Comment #323726

I think your argument’s full of crap. We were taking subsidies and crappy taxpayer deals, and lowering the actual costs of Medicare without affecting, much less severely affecting the benefits of Medicare recipients.

The Ryan Plan, however, is a total reorganization of Medicare. It takes money that has been very efficiently used by the government, and instead gives it to a multitude of private insurers, who have proven themselves inadequate to the task of keeping down costs.

The basic facts of the case argue that Seniors do have something to fear from the Ryan plan, something real: that they will be covered up to a point, and then not covered at all. This will especially be true if the Republicans succeed in overturning the Affordable Care Act.

The simple act of telling somebody something that makes them afraid is not fearmongering.

Real fearmongering is calling the Democrat’s targeting of subsidies that do not contribute to actual patient care, which instead translate to pure profits for the corporation, an attempt to cut senior’s benefits.

If the basic facts about how the Republicans plan to change Medicare are true, then any honest presentation of what the program does, with an honest explanation of the implications, will inspire fear in most Seniors, and most Americans, and rightly so.

Royal Flush-
Funny, your side’s benefiting from a campaign finance decision that says that a group of people in a legal corporation have the same free speech right as any individual.

My impression about our rights under the Constitution is that they applied whether we were talking about the New York Times, or my individual blog, First Amendment Remedies. My impression is that whether you’re a big corporation or an individual in your home, you’ve got a right to ask the police for a warrant if they come to search your property. Some rights can only logically apply to individuals, but others are completely comfortable being applied either way.

It’s not a fantasy, it’s reality. Otherwise, how would you, say, serve a search warrant on a bank that’s laundering money? How could a corporation claim due process on the confiscating of its property?

You just need everything to fit into this Ayn Rand individualist perspective, where society is reducible to its smallest parts. The reality is, group enterprises and the emergent nature of interactions make it extremely difficult to apply such principles in reality. People are social animals, and many legal entities in our society are collective ones.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 31, 2011 4:03 PM
Comment #323729

SD wrote one of the poorest defenses of group rights that I have ever read. Either he is simply confused, or purposely defending something he doesn’t believe himself.

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 31, 2011 4:33 PM
Comment #323730

SD wrote; “The reality is, group enterprises and the emergent nature of interactions make it extremely difficult to apply such principles in reality.”

I see…the individual rights guaranteed in our constitution are simply out of date. They no longer serve the people. They are too “difficult to apply”.

I am pleased that SD has made it clear why we must phase out individual rights and phase in group rights. Those group enterprises he speaks of are nothing more than interest group liberalism, fueled with taxpayer money, at the expense of individual liberty and freedom.

It would be a wonderful day if only leading dems/libs would publicly state what SD has written. If SD has the o’bama ear I would ask that he urge Dear Leader to place this communist garbage in his stump speech.

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 31, 2011 4:46 PM
Comment #323732


We are currently borrowing 40 cents of every dollar spent. I believe you agree that this is unsustainable in the long term.

The only way to bring health care costs down is to use less. C&J have remarked that this could be modeled on the European model (i.e., single payer, which I presume you would prefer). Since the consumer has not much motivation to consume less of something that is “free”, we will need the government to ration the care.

Another model that can be used for rationing is the “Ryan model”, or some equivalent. It results in rationing, but it is the consumer that makes the more of the choice. It has its pros and cons, but would at lease allow our citizens some input into what their preference for care is.

A third model would be to dramatically increase the number of young folks paying into the system - i.e., increase immigration. It has its own set of issues, not the least of which is that it just really kicks the can down the road.

Fortunately, there is more medical care available now than when I was a kid, when polio vaccines and antibiotics were the high tech. I’m glad of that, but I also know that we can’t afford to spend massive amounts of money on the last year of life for a terminally ill person just because it is possible to do so. So, we need to have an honest conversation nationally on how we can ration heath care. Obama’s health care panels will not be “death panels” and Paul Ryan is not suggesting we push granny off a cliff.

IMHO, having the individual ration his own care is better. Minimum care can still be provided to the indigent. You may disagree. Let’s see the D’s and R’s step up to the plate with an honest discussion.

Posted by: Mike in Tampa at May 31, 2011 5:00 PM
Comment #323733

My god R.F. All my freedoms have been stolen from me how could I be so blind it’s it’s madness. Please stop with the hyperbole nobody has lost there freedoms.

Posted by: Jeff at May 31, 2011 5:05 PM
Comment #323734

Royal Flush-
How come every response of yours basically reads like a conclusion, but we don’t get to see the grounds of that conclusion?

Well, I guess if your argument’s going to be that lazily constructed, I should respond in even greater detail to show people how it’s done.

The question is how we test that assertion of yours. If we’re talking court cases, it’s a very simple question: are their legal entities out there which exist where the rights and obligations spread out beyond mere individuals?

The simple existence of corporations refutes it. The CEO of a company doesn’t sue you as an individual, the company does. Well, what’s that company? It’s an organization of people, a collective entity.

Ah, you say, but it’s an organization of individuals. Well, duh, it’s not a slime mold, although in some cases, it might be hard to tell the difference. But if we’re talking about group rights, what about all the things you can do as a corporation because of your status? Churches can make themselves tax-exempt in a way, say, a preacher by him or herself might be able to do. There is a whole slew of tax laws, of corporate laws that only concern people when they get together in these groups.

So, your argument is wrong on the merits.

Me? I’ve never insisted that these rules had to be exclusively collective, group rights. I’ve essentially said they work either way.

You often question my belief in the Constitution, among other things. Well, I think it’s a great document, but it’s not conservative. It destroyed the old government, made it obsolete. It reorganized the government from top to bottom. A more careful, incremental approach wouldn’t have delivered such a document. It granted the Federal government more powers than it had before, and with a lot less ambiguity.

Anybody can just claim that the Constitution was written to favor their politics, but the truth was is that it was written primarily as a compromise between the many interests of our emerging nation. It was also written in such a way as to deliberately pit factions against each other until they could agree what was in the general interest.

It wasn’t written so you or I could win the discussion every time. It was written so you and I would have this discussion every time, rather than see the country torn apart as one group tried to assert power over the other to rule the nation in the name of their beliefs.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 31, 2011 5:14 PM
Comment #323738

Is saddens me when SD compares corporate law to the individual rights enshrined in our constitution. Obviously, he can’t tell the difference. And yet, he writes; “You often question my belief in the Constitution, among other things.” Well, why wouldn’t I question beliefs that are not consistent with the document itself. Many have questioned him on his interpretation of the bible as well. And, once again, he whirls and twirls and spins to find his meaning in a document that is clear to most.

I cited 4 amendments above which clearly reference individual rights. He can’t deal with that, so instead, changes the subject.

He writes…”the truth was is that it (the constitution) was written primarily as a compromise between the many interests of our emerging nation.”

Wrong. It was written to ensure individual rights, freedom, and liberty. He can not give one example of “group rights” that our founders wrote into this precious document that he, by his comments, wishes to pervert into group rights and liberalism.

SD writes; “It granted the Federal government more powers than it had before, and with a lot less ambiguity.”

Before what? There was no federal government under English control. If you would bother to read the document you would know that our constitution granted only specific and very limited power to the federal government and great powers to the individual and states.

But then, why would I expect SD to understand. He is intent upon promoting the rights of groups over the rights of individuals. His interest group liberals hope to empower the federal government to give them things at the expense of those who earn and work.

How often do we hear liberals speak of “fairness” and “rights” that simply are not found in our constitution. They invent new meanings and twist language to suit their foul purposes.

I believe the nation has awakened to this new peril of liberalism and socialism and will stamp it out everywhere it rears its ugly head.

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 31, 2011 6:02 PM
Comment #323739

Mike in Tampa-
The thing about Medicare is that it’s portable practically anywhere. It takes care of what people need it to take care of, and it doesn’t have a cap that leaves people hanging. Ryan’s plan just isn’t realistic. Folks at that age are going to have chronic and severe health problems.

Under his health plan, my father and grandfather would be dead by now. Their hospital stays certainly cost more than the value of those vouchers.

As for Single Payer, or other options? I’m mainly concerned with what works, and works best for the money. If somebody can pull it off, have a test case in this country that works, then I wouldn’t have objections. But I’m willing to entertain a far broader range of options than just that.

We do need to get healthcare costs down, but I feel there’s a lot of room to find there in terms of things that aren’t going to hurt the consumer or diminish their care.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 31, 2011 6:10 PM
Comment #323740

It would be interesting to ask SD when was the last time he saw a corporation vote, sit on a jury, or serve in public office. What corporation holds a driver’s license or passport? What corporation pays into social security or Medicare or collects benefits from them. How many corporations serve in our military? What corporation has been wounded or died for their country? Where would I look to find the corporate birth or death certificate? Do corporations attend our schools and universities? How many corporations are in prison?

Sorry SD, your attempt to give corporations the rights and responsibilities of individuals just doesn’t wash any more than granting your liberal interest groups individual rights.

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 31, 2011 6:17 PM
Comment #323741

Royal Flush-

Is saddens me when SD compares corporate law to the individual rights enshrined in our constitution.

Can I lend you a box of Kleenex? There, there.

What you CLAIM are purely individual rights. But what is the right to assembly? Can you enforce that right purely on a person by person basis? Do you have to get search warrants for each and ever person in a corporation, or do we treat the corporate body, the body of a group, as if it has itself a fourth amendment right?

I mean, if the law wasn’t interpreted that way, it would be a simple matter to get a warrant on one guy in the company, and seach his computer or effects.

Instead, the law gets applied to the corporation as a whole, for the materials concerned.

You’re trying to pull this philosophical bedsheet over the Constitution, and it’s slipping at the corners everytime.

More on this later, I have to go somewhere.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 31, 2011 6:18 PM
Comment #323744

So sad…SD just won’t or can’t get it. Actually, I believe he is a pretty smart guy. Unfortunately, being smart isn’t enough. There were plenty of smart folks who fell for the Nazi and communist line. Recall all the smart politicians and world leaders who failed to see the danger in the rise of German and Japanese militarism in the last century. If I could grant SD just one gift, it would be the gift of common sense. A common sense that recognizes that our nation is founded upon recognition and protection of our individual rights. A common sense that recognizes that all can not ride in the wagon…some must pull or it ceases moving.

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 31, 2011 6:44 PM
Comment #323748

“Republicans today argue the government’s debt and relationship with the corporations and big business are a higher priority than the needs of Medicare and Medicaid recipients, present and future.”

This is simply wrong. Medicare & Medicaid are unsustainable in their current form. If they are NOT reformed, granny certainly will be off the cliff. Those who are against reforming these things are the ones risking future health.

The radicals on the left talk about cutting off seniors; the radicals on the right talk about death panels. Both are against reform.

Our liberal colleagues seem to think that if government doesn’t do it, it doesn’t get done. They like to claim conservatives are somehow selfish or stingy and they get insulted when studies indicate conservatives are personally more generous.

There is a simple truth. You cannot be generous with somebody elses money. If you advocate a government solution, you are merely making a public policy claim that government bureaucracy is the most appropriate way to address the problem you have identified. It doesn’t say anything about how much you love your fellow man or your generosity. In my experience, many liberals are personally stingy. In place of giving of their own money and time, they demand government do it.

Posted by: C&J at May 31, 2011 8:12 PM
Comment #323753

“This is simply wrong. Medicare & Medicaid are unsustainable in their current form.”

C&J, what are you talking about? Is Medicare poorly run? Is Medicare or Medicaid’s beneficiary cost out of line from market costs? The answer is no. In fact, their beneficiary costs are relatively quite competitive. There is no problem with Medicare or Medicaid from a performance standpoint. What is a problem is the market that they are operating in. That is the private health care delivery market. Its costs have accelerated at double digit figures for decades. In the last nine years, costs at the consumer level for insurance and out of pocket costs, reflecting health delivery cost inflation, have more than doubled, far exceeding general inflation.

It is not an exclusively Medicare or Medicaid problem. It is a national problem shared by all insurance providers and consumers of health care, private or public. There can be no reform of Medicare or Medicaid unless it is incorporated into a national program of health care reform incorporating all providers. Otherwise, all you are doing is truly throwing grandmother under the bus.

The problem is affordable and equitable national health care. Neither the public nor the private sector will be able to afford the insurance costs in the future. Conservatives need to rethink their approach on this issue.

Posted by: Rich at May 31, 2011 10:01 PM
Comment #323770

Royal Flush-
Here, have another tissue. Are you okay now?

Actually, I believe he is a pretty smart guy. Unfortunately, being smart isn’t enough. There were plenty of smart folks who fell for the Nazi and communist line.

Yeah, and you just picked those last couple of examples at random, right? ;-)

As I remember, the Republicans were a bastion of isolationism, who by definition pointedly ignored the Axis powers so as to not get involved.

My common sense is that you don’t send the weakest to pull where you need the strongest. Republicans have a policy that’s basically built on trying to squeeze the deficit savings out of the lower classes, who as it is, have little money to spare.

You’ve pointedly ignored what I’ve said many times, which is that we need everybody back pulling to get our economy back on track. I’m not looking for people to have free rides, because the free rides always cost somebody else something. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

There is a such thing, though, as a an investment meant to bring greater returns than it costs to make. In fact, that is the definition of capitalism, at its root. But modern day Capitalists have tried to create a system where they don’t have to actually create value or any real kind of economic activity to make money, and unfortunately, to do that, they have to distort the market mechanisms in such a way that they tend to snap back in some pretty nasty backlashes when the bubble breaks.

Unfortunately, your party helped create a consensus where we’re essentially structuring the government to let them do that. I mean, really, it’s human instinct, to minimize work for greatest gain. But that’s only supposed to be a poll in tension with the recognition that things cost something, and others have to see their interests satisfy for them to be willing to pay and invest and do all those other things. Nobody can simply be allowed to horde wealth without creating a benefit to others economically that approaches or is equal to the value of that wealth. There must be exchanges that approach fairness, or the economic systems going to break down, and people are simply going to cheat the system to get ahead.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 1, 2011 8:29 AM
Comment #323772

SD: I’m curious about your quote below. Can you illustrate this with a concrete example of what you mean? (In other words, an example of this problem and what policy/action you would implement to solve the problem.)

“Nobody can simply be allowed to horde wealth without creating a benefit to others economically that approaches or is equal to the value of that wealth.”

Posted by: Mike in Tampa at June 1, 2011 9:32 AM
Comment #323777

Mike in Tampa-
First, Wall Street Reform. End churning speculation. Get them back to the business of financing real-world business with real world gains coming out of it.

Second, improve regulations. Don’t let people make hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars selling drugs or other products which endanger health.

Third, tax wealth and work equitably, and in line with the economy can handle at the time. Take away incentives to export jobs.

Fourth, create an energy policy that is sustainable. Small companies and poor individuals don’t benefit much from a system that encourages us to hold onto a fuel source whose price increases can be steep

Fifth, enforce environmental regulations, and rein in carbon emissions. We’re really not going to do ourselves any massive favors by inflicting global climate change on ourselves any more than we already have.

Sixth, improve science education and literacy. Today’s economic advantages and economic activity depend on science, technology, and engineering know-how. We need to stop screwing around try to make money without increasing the efficiency and economic value of our infrastructure and our economic system, and just do it. We need to stop dreaming about being the country we once were and become better adapted to our newest opportunities.

Pretty much generic stuff, but the point is, don’t write policies that are aimed at allowing wealth to funnel upwards, because really, the balance of interests doesn’t really get resolved so well if you just

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 1, 2011 12:06 PM
Comment #323778

Pardon me:
(continuing from where I left off)
The balance of interests really doesn’t get resolved if you just cater to the interests of the rich and powerful. People need to stand up for themselves, and demand real evidence that concessions to wealth and power will truly benefit them.

That’s my real notion. I don’t expect the rich to go away, nor do I want to do away with Capitalism in general. I just don’t belive a system that makes people dependent on the good graces and good decisions of the rich alone, when neither may be forthcoming, is the best course of action for us as a nation.

Nor is it any way to preserve capitalism itself. Any given system of government only lasts as long as people’s patience with it. Once people lose patience, it’s only a matter of time before the system collapses.

I’ve always thought that the best way to create a system where you have real freedom to act is to take care of business. Otherwise you have to fight the people who want you to own up to your responsibilities to get what you want done.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 1, 2011 12:14 PM
Comment #323812

SD: Most of your response really did not address your previous comment. One quote did:

“Third, tax wealth and work equitably, and in line with the economy can handle at the time.”

This is still not very specific, so I will set up a couple of examples that I hope you will address -
1. To what degree would you tax investment returns (e.g., dividends, capital gains), relative to the way earned income is taxed? Less, same, more? Consider that money used to invest has typcially already been taxed.
2. To what degree should estates be taxed?

I’m trying to understand what you mean by “hoarding wealth without creating benefit” (presumably for others)

Posted by: Mike in Tampa at June 2, 2011 8:30 AM
Comment #323817

Mike in Tampa-
A person should not pay less taxes for earning money through speculation, than he or she does earning that money as salary

As for taxes on estates? There should be a considerable tax on that. People should not be encouraged to depend on legacies, but to instead be productive themselves. If the rich want to stay rich, or be richer, they’ll have to deliver value to the rest of us.

Our economy has grown ever more fragile and unstable since laws started helping these people cut corners, speculate recklessly, and undermining the interests of the average person. As wealth has headed upwards, and risk and costs have been shifted to the average person, it’s become more difficult to support our consumer economy, to keep it growing.

It was promised to do the opposite, to help us create a more powerful economy, but the result has instead lead to a more strained and fragile economy.

I don’t believe that the rich and powerful are especially evil, compared with anybody else, or undeserving of reward. The danger in reinforcing the interests of the powerful and wealthy, though, is that their own power and wealth already does this for them. They’ll seek out their own best interests, and have an advantage in doing so, thanks to their good fortune.

In whatever economy you can name, even communist ones, people manage to accumulate wealth and power. The system has to be tremendously basic in order to avoid this outcome, hunter-gather level. And even there, once you get past that level, the road to there being a powerful, wealthy elite presents itself inevitably. Somebody gets richer, accrues more power, and power and wealth attract further power and wealth.

Left to themselves, they’ll do what people naturally do, which is see to what they believe are their own interests, and attend to others to the degree they have to.

But they run into a certain problem, and always will: when some accumulate a larger share, people are going to want to know why that is fair, for the simple, symmetric reason that they, too, have an instinct to see to their own interests. Some misguided systems try to even everything out completely, but that’s not going to happen. For an economy to manage itself, some must be given disproportionate control of economic resources. Ultimately, systems like Marxist Socialism and Communism only end up changing who gets rich and powerful in real terms, and why and how they become that way.

So, the way I would put it is that there has to be a balancing of interests, a set of compromises created, so that people can accept some being richer and more powerful than themselves, and so that those who do become rich and powerful don’t, through their actions, provoke a backlash that deprives them of their wealth and power, or run the system that they as well depend upon into the ground.

The rallying cry these last couple years has been against socialism, but the irony is, by preventing moderate changes, by stifling the liberal agenda, they make a more take-charge socialist agenda more attractive to people. If they were to acknowledge that folks who’d leave them alone to see to their interests more if theirs were satisfied, they’d be better off. But instead, they see to their own interests to the detriment of others, and those others lose patience with the system that their wealth and power depends upon.

Socialism becomes more popular when you have obvious and entrenched inequality that cannot be resolved through hard work and education. The more the good life becomes the province of the rich and super rich, while most exist in squalor, the more tempting taking control of the system becomes.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 2, 2011 11:22 AM
Comment #323834

SD: A few points…

“A person should not pay less taxes for earning money through speculation, than he or she does earning that money as salary.” A fair point to argue. The answer I believe is in what the tax rate is. There is a point at which the tax rate negates the risk of investment. That has negative consequences for development of job-producing commercial concerns, and hence is detrimental to the working class.

“People should not be encouraged to depend on legacies, but to instead be productive themselves. If the rich want to stay rich, or be richer, they’ll have to deliver value to the rest of us.” Don’t agree with you at all. I believe you are denying innate human nature of wanting to provide for your own. Your statement implies to me that you would have estate taxes that took most of the estate, eliminating the motivation for that person to accumulate it in the first place. Essentially that would say that the government has “rights” to someone else’s money, because it’s better for their heirs to earn their own. That seems an awfully personal area in which the government to intrude (and arrogant to boot). The Warren Buffets of the world already have the ability to leave thir wealth to charity in order to motivate their children to be productive on their own.

“Socialism becomes more popular when you have obvious and entrenched inequality that cannot be resolved through hard work and education. The more the good life becomes the province of the rich and super rich, while most exist in squalor, the more tempting taking control of the system becomes.” I have lived in South America, where there is real inequality, primarily as a result of lack of rule of law that prevents the poor from having the opportunity to improve their lives. The system really is “fixed”. There socialism is popular with the poor. We don’t have this structural deficiency as a major problem, as evidenced by the immigrants who come here with nothing and become successful (and even wealthy). It seems from my perspective that your perceived “entrenched inequality” in this country is a result of politically motivated rhetoric of the left. I don’t recall the drumbeat of class envy from my youth. I have been poor in my life (i.e. young) and now I have more money (i.e., I am older). This is how it is for most. Some are born rich/poor and stay that way. So what? Those capable through circumstance and intellegence can better themselves.

The basic fact is that we can’t tax ourselves out of our debt problems on the backs of those who make more than $250k at year, even if we confiscated all their money. The left does everyone a disservice by promoting “tax the rich, life is unfair, they have all the advantages”. It inhibits a real dicussion of the problems.

Posted by: Mike in Tampa at June 2, 2011 3:48 PM
Comment #323913

Mike in Tampa-

There is a point at which the tax rate negates the risk of investment. That has negative consequences for development of job-producing commercial concerns, and hence is detrimental to the working class.

Arguably, yes. But it all depends on the kind of investment. Much of the cost of oil, for example, is due to speculators manipulating that market. That lets them haul in a lot of money, but it also impedes the economy.

That’s why we need Wall Street Reform. See, the thing to keep in mind with any economic policy is that where people can play the market to make money in an unproductive way, or make gains at others’ expense, people often will. We tell kids cheaters never prosper, but the sad reality is that they often do, and if we don’t define cheating as a punishable offense, the incentives to do so will not be overcome.

We can’t just tax ourselves out of problems, but to take it off the table beforehand, to deny it as an option is shortsighted. We have to admit we have a revenue problem, as much, if not more so, than a spending problem.

Don’t agree with you at all. I believe you are denying innate human nature of wanting to provide for your own. Your statement implies to me that you would have estate taxes that took most of the estate, eliminating the motivation for that person to accumulate it in the first place.

First, let me clarify: I’m not for taking the entire legacy. Restoring the old estate tax rates would be satisfactory for me, for the time being.

And let me clarify further: in my sensibility, getting rich, too, comes from our natural instinct to gain, to provide for our own needs, for our friends and family. I’m not saying that’s intrinsically evil, either.

Here’s what I would say: People have a variety of choices to make, and interactions to engage in, when they see to their interests. Starting from that, we can talk about intended and inadvertant goods and evils, stemming from those actions, and it’s not an easy mix always to discern. However, if one small group of people is allowed to indulge their interests to the exceptions of others, the monsters of selfishness and greed can certainly breed in the shadows of the unrequited interests of the many.

It was certainly profitable for many mortgage brokers and many Wall Street hedge fund types to create a system where they could claim inflated prices on assets, and sell them off far above their market price. But in pursuing their interests, they created a bubble that not only worked against their interests, but agaisnt global economic interests in general, our own in particular. We’re still reeling from that damage. But somehow, because of the bias of our policies, these people are reaping greater rewards.

Let me tell you, this is not a financially or psychologically sustainable way of doing things.

As far as estate taxes go? Yeah, leave the kids something. But should the wealth just be passed on wholesale? We should not underestimate the capacity of the folks who start out at this level of economic and political power to accumulate further wealth and power. Rather than allowing them to become a de facto aristocracy, we should put something of a drag on their ability to simply hand wealth on to those who don’t have to earn it. If these folks are capable, if they are as intrinsically elite as they’d like to believe, then they ought to have no problem making up the difference.

As for my perceptions? I’m not saying that we are as bad as those Latin American countries, not by a long shot. But do we have to be before we address the problem? Do we have to let things get to the point where the masses live outside the walls in slums, and the rich live behind walls in fear of them?

Socialism isn’t my ideal outcome. Liberal capitalism is. We get the fairness of a system that impose law and order on the interests of the upper class, pushing them to see to the interests of others where they might not otherwise, but then also the fairness of a system where those capitalists who help make our country productive and prosperous, who create jobs here, get compensated for the value they deliver to their customers, clients, and society in general.

I want a system that moderates and redeems the profit motive, rather than eliminating it.

I don’t think we need to motivate the rich and powerful quite so much to make money, gain more power. I think that motivation’s pretty basic, pretty hard to kill. What we need to motivate them to do is help the rest of us see to our general interests, even when it doesn’t do good for their bottom line. I remember a time when the dominant philosophy was that government acted for the public good, rather than simply to play lackey to those who already had enough money and power to see to their own private interests.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 3, 2011 11:07 AM
Comment #323931


“We have to admit we have a revenue problem, as much, if not more so, than a spending problem.” We are at historical highs of revenue as % of GDP. Let’s get back to ~18%. We don’t need more revenue. It strains credulity to think that the Barney Frank’s of the world won’t just spend the extra revenue.

“Restoring the old estate tax rates would be satisfactory for me, for the time being.” And after how much time will that not be enough? At that time, what would be the “right rate”.

“I’m not saying that we are as bad as those Latin American countries, not by a long shot.” But apparently you did - “The more the good life becomes the province of the rich and super rich, while most exist in squalor”. We have large populations here living in squalor?

“Socialism isn’t my ideal outcome. Liberal capitalism is.” Sorry Stephen, I guess I’m not seeing the difference between the two, other than the definition of what’s “fair” by the person at the time making the decision. You have said, and I agree, that we have a mixed system. That is why I am in favor of as little government as we can reasonably live with, because your opinion, my opinion, Barney Frank’s opinion and Sarah Palen’s opinion all will be different as to what is “fair”. I want to make that decision for myself, as you would for your self.

A good example of business the government should not be in: Big debate in the last two or three days as to what level of Federal support for student loans should be given to private colleges. This issue goes away if the Feds get out of the student loan business entirely. I imagine you would then see the price of university or college education come down for both private and public institutions.

I think we have beat this to death. Back when I voted for George McGovern, I probably would have agreed with your viewpoint. Unfortunately I have come to the realization that government is always corrupted, making it a poor candidate to trust with power you would apparently want to give it. Enjoyed the discussion.

Posted by: Mike in Tampa at June 3, 2011 5:14 PM
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