Thwarting Barack Obama

Michelle Bachmann, she of we-should-investigate-anti-American-members-of-Congress infamy, said today that Republicans must do whatever they can to keep Democrats from consolidating power during Barack Obama’s time in office:

they’re trying to consolidate power, so we need to do everything we can to thwart them at every turn to make sure that they aren’t able to, for all time, secure a power base that for all time can never be defeated.

Unfortunately I’m inclined to agree.  It’s not that I want Barack Obama’s presidency to fail.  I want him to lead this country on a road back to prosperity, balanced budgets, and smaller government.  But he seems disinclined to pursue any of those objectives in any comprehensible fashion.

For the time being at least, anything that hinders Democrats in their efforts to spend my children’s financial resources before they’ve even had a chance to earn them has to be considered a good thing.

Their $700+B spending spree poorly disguised as a stimulus bill is an abomination and a blatant use of fear and confusion on the part of Democrats to reap political gain and economic leverage.  Barack Obama’s plans for a $3.7T federal budget are even more grotesque.  This is a man who pretended to be a moderate during the presidential election?  Yes, but he was lying.  There’s no other way to say it.

Democrats’ spending spree is perhaps the ultimate example of political cynicism.  Like children whose lollipop was snatched away by an adult, Democrats wailed like colicky infants for the short time they were out of power and are now laser-focused on doling out all of the money they were denied the chance to spend during the last 12 years. 

It must be emphasized that a prime motivation for this liberal largesse is, of course, that by giving away other people’s money now Democrats effectively buy votes in future elections.  This is an obscene distortion of the democratic process and one that needs to be opposed, even if it’s by Republicans who are little better themselves.

Mandatory Retirement for Judges

Sarah Palin just appointed 47-year-old Morgan Christen to Alaska’s Supreme Court.  Christen will have the opportunity to serve up to 23 years in her new position because of Alaska’s mandatory retirement age for judges kicks in at 70.

Plainly put, 23 years is more than long enough, though it would be nearly a decade less than the term served by Warren Matthews, the man that Christen is replacing.

Federal judges, including the U.S. Supreme Court, should be subject to a similar mandatory retirement age.  70 might be a little aggressive for a SCOTUS position, perhaps 75 might be more appropriate, but a fixed endpoint is needed for non-elected, effectively unimpeachable officials.

The wisdom in venerable elder statesmen should not be taken lightly.  But service into one’s dotage is no service at all, it is a disservice.  Consider Robert Byrd, for example, as one who should have left office long since and would have, if the nation’s interests were first in his heart.

A Friend in Need…

Comments from Left Field writer Kathy is, as you might assume from the title of the blog, not someone I agree with on a regular basis.  But she’s a reasonable, thoughtful person and – to paraphrase the caustic Ms. Ann Coulter – if you must talk to a liberal, it might as well be Kathy!

More importantly, Kathy needs a helping hand financially, so if you can spare few bucks, please take a moment to contribute to the fund Kyle has set up here

I did and if I’ll unfreeze my cold, conservative heart and open up my wallet for someone, you can too!

Thanks,

Marc

The Case for Universal Healthcare

The U.S. healthcare system is broken.  No one seriously disputes that any longer.  The current national discussion is all about how far to nationalize healthcare.  This presupposes both the existence of a problem and that the free market cannot fix it.  But do we know the latter assumption is true?  How long has it been since the healthcare market was even reasonably free of the twin tyrannies of government regulation and health insurance providers?

There seem to be two groups who are advocates of universal healthcare: those whose liberal ideals make the idea of healthcare as a right feel like a good idea and those whose conception of their moral obligations to others make universal health care take priority over individual rights.

The first group I dismiss out of hand.  Feelings, no matter how well intended, are no reason to get out of one’s chair and walk from here to there, let alone allow the president to spend $1.5 trillion to make universal coverage a reality without offsetting economic justification.  Indeed, taxes will be raised to offset some of the cost; the rest is, like so many of Washington’s grand plans, “unfunded”.

Defending the proposal, Barack Obama says that the massive spending effort will “make families healthier and companies more competitive, but over the long term, it will also help us bring down our deficit”, but the first of his claims is supposition, the second is highly improbably, and the third is a politician’s pipe dream.

Do we have a moral or ethical obligation to pay for healthcare for those who can’t afford it for themselves and/or their children?  Many Christians believe so.

I had a discussion this very evening with a friend who fits more-or-less into the second group, those who believe universal healthcare coverage is required of us on a moral basis.

My test case was this:  Assume two neighboring families, one of which has 2 working parents making perhaps $125K/year in total and whose personal/employer medical insurance contributions are around $12K/year.  The second family lives off of welfare and charity and performs no work of any kind.  Should the children of both families be entitled to the same healthcare as a matter of law?

The Bible teaches that we are not to oppress widow and orphans, an instruction that many Christians extend to children with parents as well. 

My friend used this teaching to say, “Yes, to deny the children of the non-working family healthcare is blaming the children for their parents’ non-action.”  And hence, not providing the same level of healthcare to their children is anti-Biblical, anti-Christian, and simply immoral.

The parents, he went on to say, were entitled to nothing unless they were disabled and unable to work, which made sense to me.

My position is that it is the parents’ responsibility to provide all kinds of care for their children, including healthcare.  If they are unwilling to do so, is that society’s problem?  More specifically, is it a Christian’s obligation to provide charitable relief to the children?  And how does that change if the parents are utterly unable to provide for their offspring?

Taking the last two questions first, yes, Christians are obligated to provide charity for those in need.  That’s not optional.  But ultimately it’s up to the individual to decide to whom and to what extent their giving extends.  I don’t believe there’s any Christian obligation to support a government-based solution to what is essentially a local problem.

For instance, if a parent of one of the kids in my bible study class came to me crying and said, “Little Susie needs an operation or she’s going to die!”, I’d almost certainly whip out my checkbook and give.  What, exactly?  Hard to say until you’re faced with it.  Depends on the situation and, in truth, who is involved.  But the obligation is there nonetheless.

Returning the question of whose problem it is, the economic reality is that society will suffer if poor children don’t get the care they need to thrive.

Whether that is better or worse than the result of a welfare state in which disincentives for working and caring for one’s own children are created is highly debatable, however.  The U.S. currently provides hundreds of billions of dollars in government aid to poor families with little in the way of results to show for it beyond a continuing cycle of poverty.  The unyielding nature of a market-based system may seem harsh, but if it produces better results for most citizens, doesn’t it make sense to go that way and let private charity handle the remaining hard-luck cases?

(The fly in the ointment in this free market scenario is those people who underachieve and/or simply do not attempt to provide for their children, then refuse charity out of damn fool pride.  A government program is somehow acceptable to people I know who fit this description.  I suppose because it can be looked upon as a right of citizenship and therefore acceptable.  But it’s difficult to see this sort of edge case as a deciding factor.)

Regarding the free markets issue, here’s a sample case.  My wife recently had her gall bladder taken out.  The procedure took about 90 minutes and our insurer was billed over $10K for the procedure.  Without questioning the expertise of the staff or the quality of the facility involved, this seems exorbitant for what is now a routine procedure with no overnight stay or follow-up care.  Could a free market for medical services really be any less efficient?  And couldn’t we afford to simply pay cash for many medical scenarios if the direct doctor-patient relationship were restored?

Suffice to say that my friend and I had to agree to disagree.  What say you?

Liberals’ Distrust of Local Government

It seems as though whenever there’s a problem at a local or regional level there’s an uncontrollable urge to fix it with a national solution.  That, Matthew Yglesias says, is because “make sense to take action at the level of a small sub-unit of a large economically integrated country”.

It does make sense to have national policies for defense and foreign affairs, to name the specific areas in which the Founding Fathers agreed that the federal government could be most effective.  Matt’s examples of the need for federal authority in ecological and economic matters are less clear-cut.

One thing that is clear is that the federal government’s original purpose was not to define an overarching, homogenous legal structure dictating the terms under which state and local governments must function. 

Rather, the fundamental domestic purpose of the federal government was to resolve disputes between the states.  That is, to resolve individual grievances between states on their merits, not to force national conformity into areas in which it isn’t essential.  Unfortunately, that has happened since as the federal government and courts have, in defiance of the Constitution, effectively annexed the rights of the states for themselves.

One important piece of legislation that helped established the precedent for federal authority over states and corporations was the Interstate Commerce Act which initially brought privately owned railroads to heel and has more recently been abused by the courts in order to extend federal authority into all sorts of areas in which it does not belong. 

Taken from the liberal perspective, Yglesias is correct in saying that state government does not work to advance government activism.  That’s the entire point of states’ rights as envisioned by the founders of this country – to keep at bay the oppressive power of a strong central government.

When the United States was created, those involved recognized the imperativeness that people be able to govern themselves in ways that seem fitting to them and that absolute agreement and conformity to a single national standard was neither possible nor desirable.  That idea has been lost in large part because of the persistent pressure from the left for the federal government to solve more and more local problems.

How’s that working so far?

Making Sense of Education Spending

Chris Darkins knows something that the rest of us don’t about the public education system.  Or perhaps we recognize that there is a problem but don’t realize in our limited fumbling about in the dark exactly what sort of monster is in the room with our children. 

And it is a hideous beast: a standardized, homogenous, legalistic, one-size-fits-all lump of a thing that devours tax dollars like they were candy and gives us back No Child Left Behind as a slogan while allowing our educational outcomes to fall farther behind the rest of the civilized world every year.  Of course I mean the federal government, but you undoubtedly guessed that long ago.

I’ve written at length about fundamental problems with government interference, mandated amorality, teacher compensation, student apathy, misplaced priorities, politically correct stupidity, and some of the other woes of our education system. 

I strongly believe in these and all of the other observations I’ve made about this tragically flawed system over the years.  But today Chris offered up an interesting idea that I’ve never considered before.  I have to say, I’m a bit chagrined that I didn’t think of it first.  But credit goes where it’s deserved.

One major problem with the education system is that it’s under the thumb of the “experts” in Washington D.C to the tune of $68 billion annually.  This is money that is taken from the states and local school districts and sent to Washington in return for their expert guidance, federal mandates, and an uncertain amount of financial remuneration.

Darkins:

Instead of taxpayers sending $68 billion per year to Washington the Department of Education should be a consulting and advisory organization that is responsible for sharing best practices among the states not taking money from the states tax base and giving it back with strings attached.  Assuming we keep the existing 4200 employees the cost to run the Department of Education should not exceed $407 million per year if they assume the same cost structure as Accenture [ed.  Accenture is a highly successful, high-dollar information technology consulting firm].

The questions we must ask the U.S. Department of Education are as follows: 1. What are you doing with the $34 billion thats is not redistributed via targeted grants? 2. Why does the federal government think they have a better understanding of the educational challenges facing local communities and how to address them?

I submit that Mr. Darkins number is a little low – if the feds in D.C. are in fact the experts they are alleged to be we should pay them more than your average Accenture consultant whose skillset and education is essentially equivalent to that of yours truly.  Neverthless, it’s clear that Darkins is correct.  The DoE’s annual budget could easily be fit under a $1B cap if their enthusiasm was restrained to the areas of advising, teaching the teachers, and evangelizing new techniques.

In itself this isn’t a new thought.  Neither is the idea that the DoE is wasting vast amounts of tax money that could be – and should be – better directed by local administrators.  Here’s what Chris had to say that floored me:

At the state level we should integrate the secondary and post secondary school system.  Each public and private school should be required to subscribe to a University system.  For example, you would have the UT k-12 school system and the U of H k-12 school system.  The curriculum would be managed by the University to provide standardized courses and provide a broad range of elective courses tied into post secondary degree tracts.

Parents would be allowed to choose what school system they want their child to attend based upon the multitude of learning programs and upper level electives offered.  A child with an early aptitude for science would join a junior high school in the Rice network while a child with an interest in literature would join a school in the Houston Baptist University system. Students could change school systems at any time as their payment voucher would be a portable instrument.

These are excellent suggestions that deserve to be taken seriously.  Not only would the education of a state’s children be directed by the best resources in the state – the leaders of its universities – but the education gap between what federally controlled high schools are providing and what major universities require from incoming students would necessarily be eliminated as a result.  Moreover, the idea of focusing a curriculum to children’s specific needs and interests is long overdue and seemingly beyond public schools’ ability to provide.

Great idea.  I just wish I’d thought of it first!