Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Catastrophic Tone

Sometimes the conversation turns a little away from the subject at hand and lands on the tone of that conversation. It’s an issue all to itself: the tone of civil discourse, and of course the lack of it. In truth, I wonder if effective civil discourse can actually have a civil tone. If everyone is calm, where is the real desire to get anything done or to keep anything from happening?

This year started out with the President and his democrat controlled Congress rolling out an 800 plus Billion dollar stimulus package that seemed to come out of nowhere. We were told that they wanted it, but not specifically what was in it, and that if it didn’t pass the results to the economy would be catastrophic. We saw the government take control of General Motors and then give a 37% interest to the labor unions (who arguably were more than a little responsible for its problems in the first place). Again we were told that the alternative would be catastrophic.

Then there’s HR 2454: The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. Cap and Trade. The energy bill which the President freely admits will cause energy costs to skyrocket, but explains won’t cost consumers a dime because of taxes and fees that will be levied on energy suppliers and given back to the poor to pay their light bills. Again, failure to pass this legislation will be catastrophic to the world in general and then to the U.S...

Failure to do anything that this administration proposes is predicted to have catastrophic results. That brings me to HR 3200 (The American’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009). This bill was written by special interests groups and rolled out for an easy pre-recess passage, but somehow by the grace of God the discourse finally became uncivil. People started asking what the heck was in that 1000 page monstrosity, and no one could answer except to say that failure to pass it would result in (you guessed it) catastrophe. Legislators went home on recess and set about explaining why they were going to pass it even though they didn’t know what was in it and their constituents let them know in no uncertain terms that if they did they’d be looking for new jobs after their next election cycles. Make no mistake. Those lawmakers didn’t go to the town meetings looking for input, or for discussion. They went to lecture and inform as to what they planned to do. And people reciprocated and informed their representatives what THEY planned to do in return.

It seems that a lot of people (center and right) have begun to recognize that when the President tells them that it isn’t the details of the legislation that matter, but the spirit, what he really means is that the results are going to be catastrophic.

But that’s just what an Average guy thinks.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tax Weasels

And so there she was, a nice looking middle aged woman sitting in what looked to be a lawyers office. You know, with floor to ceiling book shelves. And she’s saying “so and so and so and so reduced my tax bill from $43,000 down to $400 and they can do the same thing for you”. And I’m thinking WHAT? Essentially these lawyers helped this woman cheat the IRS out of $42,600 that she owed them. Damned IRS anyway.

But let’s break this down a little shall we? IRS is short (you gotta love it short) for the Internal Revenue Service (as if you didn’t know that) and it’s the part of the government responsible for collecting federal income taxes. And like it or not, we have to have some agency or mechanism for the collection of taxes. So. This woman got some lawyers to help her cheat (lets call it what it is) the IRS out of $42,600. So she got out of paying the federal government that money…… but the federal government had already spent that money (years ago as it turns out), and now the federal government has to collect that money AGAIN, only this time from someone else. And who do you suppose that might be hmmmmmm? I’ll tell you who! It’s YOU and ME. What the HELL is going on here? What it is is that lawyers are advertising how they can help you STEAL from your neighbors, because that’s what it is.

So the next time you see a law firm offering to help the citizenry weasel out of paying what they owe to the IRS just remember that what they are really doing is offering to help your neighbors pick YOUR pocket.

And that’s what an average guy thinks.

On Presidential Failure

“How can you hope that the President fails?” we are asked. “If you want for the President to fail you want the nation to fail”. The answer to the question is simple: I simply don’t agree with him, and just because he’s been elected President in no way obligates me to accept his idea of what national policy should be. In fact, one could argue that because I disagree with him I am duty bound to oppose his efforts with my own. It is up to his supporters to try and make him successful. As for the nation failing if the President fails: That just isn’t true. The President isn’t the nation.

The President is the chief executive officer of the United States of America. The Congress makes the laws, the Supreme Court rules on their constitutionality and the President executes them. Of course the President is also the head of his or her political party and uses that influence to shape what sorts of laws get passed through the congress. In this way the President sets domestic policy and tries to steer the nation in one direction or another. But, since the President and I disagree on what sort of changes are necessary in our country I hope that he fails in his efforts. And not only that, because I disagree with him I have promised myself (in an effort at making myself feel less like a helpless onlooker) to oppose him whenever and with whatever means I have at my disposal. To openly and unashamedly try to bring about the failure of the President in his efforts to change our society in ways I think are unacceptable.

In addition to his role as chief executive officer of the country, the President is also the formulator of foreign policy, his job being to look out for and promote the interest of the United States in the world community. In this role, he is more or less on his own except for the Senate having confirmation rights as to who serves as Secretary of State and the responsibility to ratify or not to ratify any treaties that the President would like to enter into. One wants to believe that the President has the best interests of the citizenry in his heart, but as citizens we have much less input into foreign relations than we do domestic issues. This is as it should be. The President’s foreign policy successes and failures will be written by historians in glowing terms of peace and prosperity or in the blood of those who’s suffering and death were brought about by his inexperience and naiveté. And so, in his efforts to look out for the best interests of the United States, I hope the President succeeds, but I fear he will not. This is something about which the citizenry has little to say, and must simply wait for the next election.

And that’s what an average guy thinks.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fundamental Right to Health Care

Do we as citizens of the United States of America have a fundamental right to health care services? That is a large part of the discussion currently at hand. I would hold that we do not. Health care is (as implied) a service which can be purchased, or not. I have a right to purchase as much or as little as I can afford, or choose.

I also have the right to educate myself and to provide health care services to others. For providing these services, I have a right to expect compensation commensurate with my skills and the demand for those skills.

I also have the right to open a business to provide health care insurance. The simple explanation for this is that to my large pool of customers I agree to pay for certain health care services should they be needed. These would normally include needs resulting from accidents or the onset of disease. Out of my pool of customers, some will always be healthy, and never require these insured services and it is from monies paid by them that I will pay the agreed on expenses of my customers who are less fortunate. However, I must be careful not to charge too little for my promise to pay, and not to promise to pay too much in relation to what I charge. If either of these conditions exists, then I will not make a profit and my efforts and capital will be better and more productively spent in some other area of business.

As a consumer I have a right to expect that the health care services that I buy meet certain standards, and the government has licensing boards set up for that very purpose. I also have a right to expect that the companies that I buy my insurance from are treating me fairly, but this is not an industry that needs to be tightly regulated by the government. All the government need do in this case is to insure competition. To insure that I have the option to buy my insurance from whoever will sell me the services I want at the lowest price. That’s all. Competition (market forces) will then depress prices to the fair market value.

I also have the right as a citizen and consumer to expect that the civil justice system will protect me from the malpractice of incompetent healthcare providers. But I also have the right NOT to have my health care and insurance costs increased because of the practice of extremely defensive medicine, frivolous lawsuits and outrageous jury awards for pain and suffering fostered by trial lawyers who have nothing to lose by filing suit, and juries who believe insurance companies are bottomless wells of money. The government can be constructive here by setting reasonable standards for medical tests, limits on compensatory and punitive damages, and some disincentive to discourage the malpractice “lottery” industry.

The United States is a country that was built on self reliance and free market principles. If government run health care were as good as an idea in practice as it is on paper, people would be traveling to Canada, Great Britain and Cuba for services. We are also a nation with great compassion for our fellows and a desire to assist those less fortunate than ourselves. We need to make the relatively small regulatory changes to the health care and insurance systems we have in order to make them more consumer, and market friendly and then provide for the under served with any necessary tax credits and subsidies to make sure that no one goes without.

And that’s what an average guy thinks.