Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Can't Go On Like This

Something’s in the air - a foreboding. People sense it, and when I ask them to describe it they bite their lips, look away and look back to say something like, “I don’t know. It just can’t keep going on like this. Something’s going to break.” Some think another financial meltdown is coming, but a bigger one, much bigger. Others think it will manifest as a breakdown of law and order. No one I’ve talked to thinks their lives or their children’s lives are going to improve in the foreseeable future. They think about just holding on. They see decline all around them and are bracing for more. They expect the slide to accelerate.
Former Senator John Morse

Two things occurring last week seemed reflective of this:

1. A couple of state senators were recalled in Colorado after they voted for gun control. The most surprising thing was that these were two very blue Democrat senate districts that went for Obama by a wide margin. It was a blue-collar revolt organized by a couple of plumbers who were outspent by progressive Democrats six to one!

2. Nationwide, senators and congressmen on both sides of the aisle were bombarded by constituents telling them to stay out of Syria. Here in Maine, left-wing Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said her calls were running 98% against. Those are astounding numbers! President Obama was shocked to realize that if the vote he asked for went ahead, he would have the rug pulled out from under him in front of the whole world.

Chellie Pingree
Are these the same voters who reelected Obama and the Democrats with 52% of the vote just ten months ago? Maybe they’re people who stayed home last November because they didn’t like any of the choices on the ballot, Democrat or Republican. Maybe they’re people only now getting fired up because they know what they don’t want - a government they don’t trust trying to take their guns, and a president they don’t trust trying to act tough.

Something is afoot and political pundits are flabbergasted. These are grass-roots uprisings and they portend a possible sea-change. Ordinary citizens are saying “Stop!” to government. The Colorado plumbers and other ordinary citizens told government not to mess with people’s guns. The rest of America told government not to use military action in Syria if it’s only to save a vain, incompetent commander-in-chief from embarrassment, especially one who has no plan for what to do afterward.

Are people losing faith in government? Unions are worried about losing the forty-hour work week and their subsidized health insurance under Obamacare. Citizens are learning that their doctors will be asking them for details about their sex lives - and it won’t necessarily be the doctors they’ve always gone to either. Obama’s assurances that “you can keep you doctor” under Obamacare are going by the wayside. So are the guarantees that “you can keep your policy,” as colleges, businesses, and other organizations think about dropping health care coverage for employees. Meanwhile, senators and congressmen who gave us Obamacare are exempting themselves from it. They don’t want to go into health-care exchanges into which they’re forcing the rest of America.
The number of working age Americans out of the workforce is approaching 100 million. That’s not reflected in unemployment statistics, which are really far worse that those being reported. There are more people collecting government assistance than there are taxpayers in many places, including my state of Maine. The United States was born in 1776 and came to be the most powerful, most prosperous nation in history by the end of World War II in 1945. Now, in 2013, the United States is the most indebted nation in history. We owe $17 trillion on the books already and that doesn’t count promises government made for Social Security and Medicare which could amount to $100 trillion more unless they’re cut back.
“Rags to rags in three generations.” Ever heard the saying? The context is usually family, but it can apply to a nation. The first generation makes money and goes from rags to riches. The second generation holds it. The third squanders it and goes back to rags. In a country that prizes the “pursuit of happiness” by preserving equal opportunity, rags to riches stories are common. They happen in totalitarian countries too, but the process is usually criminal or violent, or both. Here, people can pull themselves up legitimately by starting businesses which together build an economy that pulls others up with it. We can, that is, unless government regulates business to death or confiscates income through excessive taxation. Government can preserve equal opportunity, but cannot produce equal results.
Half the country seems content to sit back and let government do more and more for them, while the other half realizes, as economist Herb Stein did, that “if something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”


Anonymous said...

Tom, Again thank you.When "the music stops" and the EBT card does not produce $$$,there will be trouble.We are being set up by the elite who feel that they will not be affected by the dependency on federal gov't that they are promoting..history repeats itself, only this time it is here in America.Our founding fathers knew this could happen. The Constitution has been perverted.Ever read None Dare Call It Conspiracy?Available online pdf version.Written in 1971 and says it ALL!Next crash...due to Frank/Dodd..yea..we let the fox in the henhouse! Laurie from Bartlett

Anonymous said...

Unless you start organizing and engaging in civil disobedience writing your little colum is the same as doing nothing. Useless.

Until you acknowledge that the left vs right paradigm is a joke then nothing will ever change. Do you actually think anything would be different under a 'republican'? If so then you also think a president actually calls the shots and makes decisions.I don't believe that at all and a number of Americans are waking up to the fact that its a ruse.

Civil disobedience is all we have left. I doubt any real Americans have the guts left to stand up. It's much easier to talk about it...

Anonymous said...

Great article, Tom. I'm an immigrant who came to this country in 1964. The cornerstone of my education was NYC public schools, when they really knew how to teach. To give back to this great country what it has given me, I ran for Statae Commiteeman in my state of NY. I gathered 102 signatures and went back to all of them to thank them and to remind them to vote in the primaries. But only 48 showed up. I'm perplexed by it. Also some told me they needed to talik to a party rep. (Republican) before they signed anything. I don't know what it is but here in NY state, it's business as usual. No one is aware of the demise of our great Democracy. Do they even care? Many times I wnder if we deserve this freedom given to us from great men of the past? Jose Garcia from NY State.

Anonymous said...

In parts of NY, you can use that EBT card to pay speeding tickets. Yup, you can swipe that card right in the courthouse.

robin dilks said...

As usual you put it out there and hit it right on the head. It is true that there are a growing number of Americans that seem to be waking up. It's one of the reasons why I think prepper groups seem to be on the rise.
Our country was based on an ideal, which was polluted and corrupted first by FDR who was hailed as one of the greatest presidents. He changed the rules which got this destructive ball rolling.
I have to admit I am a little afraid as it is like waiting and watching for an accident that you know is coming.
In some ways I think it is far to late to correct our political parties as both have a long history of corruption. There is too much money controlling politics now and that is where the little guy loses because he can't buy his way in.
Great post.

Steve said...

Here is a link that defuses the claim of congressionl exemption to Obamacare. The article concludes with language written by Chuck Grassley and Tom Coburn added to the ACA, which requires members of congress and their staff get insurance only from the exchanges.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Yes, Steve, but insurance for members of Congress and their staffs will be subsidized by us taxpayers even though they don't meet the income requirements everyone else must meet.

That's the exemption they got from President Obama a few weeks ago, after your Factcheck link was written.

As more and more Americans lose their employer-subsidized health insurance and are force into the exchanges, they won't get the subsidies Congress and staff get.

The whole idea of Obamacare is to ultimately force everyone onto government, single-payer insurance. Again, Democrats have exempted their leaders from the sting the rest of us have to feel, and, as usual, they did it on the sly.

See here:

Steve said...

The National Review article contains this point:
“Democratic and Republican staffers alike were furious, warning that Congress faced a ‘brain drain’ if the provision stuck. Under behind-the-scenes pressure from members of Congress in both parties, President Obama used the quiet of the August recess to personally order the Office of Personnel Management, which supervises federal employment issues, to interpret the law so as to retain the generous congressional benefits.”
It sounds like Dems. and Reps. fought to keep the Congressional subsidies in place and not the Dems alone. The factcheck article informs us that the Congressional subsidies would not exceed the subsidies that have always been in place. Either way, I think we have to accept, at some point between 1776 and now, Congress has become a political aristocracy eerily similar to the one we left to settle this country.

Steve said...

(con't. sorry for the length, everyone)
Since the healthcare debate began, I’ve considered the topic more so than any point in my past. One thing that always seemed incongruous to me is silence from conservatives regarding their acceptance that the private sector bear the responsibility and (some or all of the) cost of the social safety net that is health insurance. With the profit that employers spend on health insurance, surely they could lower the cost of the good or service they provide, modernize their operations, expand the reach of the business and possibly hire more. It will be interesting to see how many businesses stop offering health insurance and put all employees on the exchanges. That will tell us how many boards and business owners would rather not be in the health insurance game.
I don’t know what the answers are concerning health care, and I’m not even sure I’m asking the right questions, but it seems the business of paying for healthcare is due for a revolution. I don’t think we can look at healthcare as just another good or service in the marketplace. If my appendix bursts and poison is coursing through my body as I sink towards death, I’m not going to go from one ER to another trying to find the best deal. I’m going to go to the closest ER and pray I’m not too late. I can’t think of another consumer good or service which carries that degree of urgency and imperative. To make that service a for-profit one feels unseemly to me. How much would you pay for a life preserver? We can all come up with a figure for that. Now, how much would you pay for the same life preserver as a passenger on the Titanic right after it strikes the iceberg? That’s a clunky analogy to the severity of health care. It’s something we will all need at points in our lives, and, eventually, the healthcare needed will be of a critical nature, even life-or-death critical.
The May 8, 2013 issue of Time magazine ran a fascinating and substantial article (I copied/pasted it from their website and dumped it into a Word document. It was 37 pages, front and back, single-spaced) about hospital charges and which patients get billed which amounts. The percentage mark-up that hospitals impose on every conceivable facet of hospital care is breath-taking. A hospital charges 1.50 for a single tablet of generic Tylenol, and we can buy 100 of those tablets on Amazon for 1.49. A second hospital charges $18 per Accu-chek diabetes test strip. Amazon sells a box of 50 for $27 or $.55 a piece. The dollar figures are unimpressive, but the % mark-ups are almost extortionate. The article was peppered with similar examples of outrageous mark-ups on prescriptions, x-rays and other procedures. Couple that with the seven-figure salaries that multiple executives receive at hospitals – many of them non-profits, and it all just feels improper, even depraved.
I think we need to exploit the vanity of ex-presidents. I have to believe that every ex-president would love to redeem himself for certain decisions made in office – hindsight haunts all of us that way. Set up a panel of ex-presidents, and commission them to research as many healthcare insurance options as they can conceive and study how other countries deal with the same issue.
I don’t know if Obamacare, or some future version of it, is the solution, but I also don’t believe our current healthcare landscape is the best we can do.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Thank you for the cogent post.

"Congress has become a political aristocracy eerily similar to the one we left to settle this country."

Agreed. Both parties are at fault in getting us to the mess we're in. I read and skimmed the Time Magazine article you mention and it's sobering. The mess it describes is mind-boggling, and yes, we're in for a revolution in how health care is delivered. I agree with the conservatives like Cruz that Obamacare can't be fixed by amending it. We have to scrap it and start all over.

As Thomas Sowell points out, we have to realize that health care and health insurance are different animals. We should not fetter research into any area of health care by government intervention. Neither should we fetter insurance companies from offering different products.

Ultimately, our health care is an individual responsibility. We must take care of ourselves through diet, exercise, and avoiding lifestyles that hasten our demise. I don't like paying health care costs for fat, smoking, substance-abusing libertines who screw up their bodies and minds regularly. I'd favor a system that tells them: unless they change their habits, the only government-subsidized health care they can expect is the bare minimum to keep them comfortable until they kill themselves, which is what they're doing. If they don't care for themselves, neither should the rest of us

Even if we do take care of ourselves, however, stuff happens. Right now, I pay about $15,000 annually for my wife and me for Anthem cadillac coverage. A $5000 deductible policy to cover catastrophic illness/injury is tempting.

People have to pay something for health care and decide on whether they can afford expensive diagnostic tests. Right now, they don't give enough consideration to those decisions beyond "What will I have to pay extra for?" That has to change. We must keep most transactions between doctor and patient only - without middlemen - be they insurance companies or government agencies.