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PP in Our Schools: It’s Time to Grow Up

by Devin

Recently, my children’s schools notified me via email that Planned Parenthood would be at their schools to give age-appropriate presentations on reproductive health to their students. The email requested permission allowing my children to attend the presentations. The consent form for my 5th grader contained the following:

(Our) students have participated in Social Emotional Learning Curriculum throughout the year and are ready to move into making positive self-care choices. This curriculum will be built upon every year, as they are developmentally ready. In appropriate groups, they will participate in a health class supported by the Planned Parenthood Education Program. Educators from PP will lead our discussions and all sessions will be attended by the school’s Administration.

Students will be instructed in the follow health education topics:

-General Hygiene/Self Car
-Age Appropriate Hormonal Changes/Puberty
-Taking Responsibility for one’s health
-Healthy Relationships

The class will be held (next) Tuesday. Students will be separated by gender and grade level.

So I responded as follows to my 5th grader’s school:

I do not consent.

I think Health Education is a very good thing. I just think it might be a good idea to consider looking for someone else to provide it, as Planned Parenthood’s values do not match up with mine and I suspect, given the controversial nature of the organization vis-à-vis the recent media exposure they have received from the Center for Medical Progress, there may be others who feel similarly, whether they speak up about it or not. Of course, this is Santa Fe, so maybe not.

My negative opinion of PP is centered on my deep and profound respect for women and life and my intense desire for men to know they will be held accountable for their actions. The premise of PP’s existence is acceptance of the idea that women will never be respected and men will never be held accountable and that these facts are immutable, thus they, PP, are there to assist with the consequences. Unfortunately, this simply leads to an even greater surrender to, and acceptance of, this idea throughout our national culture. As a father who intensely loves his daughter, I want the very best for her as she grows up. (When she grows up) I believe any man who would disrespect her by expecting her to engage in sex with him without a lifetime commitment to her through marriage is not worthy of one microsecond of her attention. And if one ever does, he better find a new State to live in.

The following is excerpted from email from my 8th grade son’s school:

Dear 7th and 8th grade parents,

This coming week, we will be conducting age-appropriate workshops about reproductive health for our 7th and 8th graders during science class periods and study halls. These are offered through our partnership with Planned Parenthood of Santa Fe and are offered at all of the public schools in Santa Fe, as well as at the vast majority of our community’s private schools. The topics to be covered are listed below:

7th grade: Healthy Relationships and Exploring Personal Values Around Sexuality
8th grade: STIs (Transmission & Risk Reduction), Pregnancy & Contraception

I responded as follows to my 8th grade son’s school:

I don’t have a problem with my son attending this presentation, but I wish you would find another provider in the future. PP is, in my opinion, an extremely controversial organization that clearly does not respect human life before birth at any stage of development.

My dilemma is that while I would prefer that he get this information either from another provider and from me, I don’t want him to be the only kid (in school) having to be accommodated while all the other kids are attending the presentation. Also, I am not one to over protect him from the world in which we live.

So, if there are going to be a number of other kids whose parents are not giving their permission to attend, then my preference would be that he not attend. If I am the only parent, or one of only two or three parents withholding permission, then I would prefer that he go ahead and attend. 

Either way, I appreciate the request for permission and I will certainly follow up with him on the subject. We have already discussed this subject to some extent and I continue to discuss it with him as he is maturing.

As a side note, this information was not given to children in public schools until the 10th grade when I was in school and frankly, while I know times are different and children are sexually active at even younger ages now than they were then, I still don’t think it is really necessary before high school. Furthermore, the implied message coming from us adults is that we somehow condone and expect children to become sexually active before they are mature enough to handle it responsibly. If you know my son, then I’m sure you know he is not the kid who is likely to be needing this information just yet. I would like to think that he is not the only kid in the 8th grade who doesn’t yet need it! And if you know something about him that I don’t, then please, by all means, let me know!

Before you judge me as some kind of pro-life activist who stands on street corners with anti-abortion signs yelling at traffic driving by, let me make it clear that I am not. Not even close! Furthermore, I only converted from pro-choice to pro-life about five years ago, when I came to the conclusion that the pro-choice position is 99.9 percent about convenience and that there is absolutely no way anyone can say with absolute authority at what point in prenatal development a fertilized egg becomes a human being with a soul.

Of course, atheists will say they never do, but for those of us who are not atheists and believe in the concept of eternal life and the sanctity thereof, this is an important matter. There are many, many justifications for the selection of different points of development as being that point at which a developing human in the womb should be considered a human being that should not be aborted, and many pages or even books could be written on the subject, and probably have. Many of these justifications attempt to be based on science. Never-the-less, the one thing they all have in common is that they are all based on convenient criteria. The only one that is not, is the one that says life begins at conception. Plenty of people disagree with this, but disagreement does not equal proof.

So what do I think we should be teaching our children and expecting of them? Simple. Sexual relationships are sacred and as such, should be reserved for marriage. In a word, abstinence.

I do not buy into the idea that young people are incapable of controlling their sex drive and that it must be assumed that they will be sexually active before they are old enough to be married and when they are old enough to be married that then, suddenly, pre-marital sex is okay and expected. I think this kind of idea has come about because we live in a culture that has a media that has become saturated with sex. You cannot turn on a television set anymore without seeing this. And people in our culture have become so accustomed to seeing it that we hardly even notice it (unless, of course, you are a teenager in the throes of raging hormones. Then you notice it!)

Of course if you grow up in an environment such that everywhere you look, from the checkout line at the grocery store to school, to television, to radio, and the internet, scantily-clad women, and in many cases, young girls, are on display or singing songs about sex and how awesome it is, then naturally a young person is going to be tempted at every turn to do just exactly what seems to be expected of them; to start having sex as soon as possible! Add peer pressure to that and parents who seem to think it is inevitable, and what kind of chance does a young person have?

Does this mean that a parent has to overprotect their children and shield them from what sex is all about and where babies come from as they grow up? Of course not. Only an idiot would think that. What it means is that parents need to reject the idea that saving one’s self for marriage is impossible. Young people need to be taught that the facts show, statistically speaking, that pre-marital sex leads to a much higher divorce rate and a much higher rate of single motherhood. It also leads to young men, and sometimes even mere boys, becoming buried in child-support debt before they are old enough to earn the kind of money it takes to raise a child.

Is pre-marital sex fun? Oh yeah. Who can deny that? But the fun ends when somebody gets pregnant. Then it literally becomes a life and death situation. Not fun. Particularly for the one who’s life is on the line.

And when a young person knows that there is a backup plan, however distasteful it might be, that can save them from the responsibility of having to raise a baby and child before they themselves are grown up, well, let’s just say that when things are hot and heavy in the back seat of the car, the heat of the moment is going to win out more often than not. Take away that safety net and suddenly, at least one of the pair has solid ground to back them up when they decide to say no, go no further.

And if we, as a society, as the adults and leaders of our communities, would stand up and tell our young boys and men, we will not tolerate such behavior and it will have severe consequences, then the number of children and young adults finding themselves about to engage in a very risky behavior will have been given more than enough justification for backing off and saving themselves for marriage.

Think about it. If, as a young man, you know that if you get your girlfriend pregnant, she will have to have the baby and you are going to be ostracized from your community and will be facing the fact of having to grow up really, really fast, guess what? You can look your peers squarely in the eye and tell them they are fools if they ignore such a fact.

You say, “well, what about in cases where the mother will die if the baby isn’t aborted?” Sure. In such a case, someone is going to die. Possibly both. So, of course, there can be exceptions. This kind of case is so rare as to be more of a philosophical question than a real circumstance that must be reckoned with. What about rape? Incest? What then, you say? Let me just ask you, if you had been the product of either of these situations, would you prefer that you had been aborted? These are complicated issues, no doubt, and I am oversimplifying them here for the sake of brevity, because the real point is, the baby is not at fault here, so why should the baby pay the price? In such cases, the perpetrator should pay the price. And let me just say that said price should be so gigantic, so terrible, that only the sickest of the mentally sick would ever contemplate taking the risk.

Former President Bill Clinton once said, “Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.” Imagine that coming from a man who won the Latin American “Man of the Year” Award when his extramarital affairs became front page news. None-the-less, that last part rings true. Unfortunately, as long as abortion is legal, and particularly in states where it is legal right up to the moment when a woman is going into labor, “rare” is not a practical possibility. And it never will be.

Finally, I want to close the loop on PP in our schools. By saturating our grade schools with their mere presence, they succeed in institutionalizing their brand. Kids grow up knowing what Planned Parenthood is and that they have been around forever. Planned Parenthood becomes an accepted fixture in our communities. It is brilliant strategy for an organization whose primary business would be utterly unnecessary if only we parents would instill in our children the self-discipline to reserve sex for marriage and arm them with a keen understanding of the severe consequences awaiting them for not doing so.

The Minimum Wage and Unions in Action: Economics at Home

Like so many parents, we try to teach our children the value of a dollar by giving them opportunities to earn money around the house. Some parents do the weekly allowance thing and then have a set of chores that have to be done each week by their kids in order to earn it. In our house, we pay the kids to do chores on a per job basis. It’s voluntary. Do you want to earn money? The rate for unloading the dishwasher is $1. The rate for building a fire is $2. Grass cutting is priced by the section (we’re on almost 3 acres). Etc.

Our youngest boy said we should pay him more for unloading the dishwasher. He said we should pay him $5. We told him it’s not worth $5 to us; at that rate we’d just as soon do it ourselves. We told him it’s worth $1 to us (which is a rate of $20 per hour!) and no more. In addition, our other two kids often choose to earn $1 to unload the dishwasher, so our youngest boy is not the sole labor force. If the government forced us to pay the kids $5 to unloaded the dishwasher, it would continue to NOT be worth $5 to us, and all 3 children would lose the opportunity to earn $1 unloading the dishwasher, because we, the parents, would simply choose to do it ourselves.

Our youngest boy decided it’s not worth $1 to him to unload the dishwasher. Why? Because when he goes to his dad’s house, he can just ask for money and get it for nothing. Why work?

“Economics at home” says a lot about the minimum wage, incentives, and entitlements. Furthermore, if our youngest boy were to unionize the labor force by convincing his step-siblings to demand $5 to empty the dishwasher as well, the exact same thing would happen. They would all be out of a job.

The Left-Right Scale: What It REALLY Means

by Devin

On one of his daily radio programs in early 2016, Rush Limbaugh was discussing the meaning of the terms “conservative” and “liberal” and their relationship to “The Left-Right Scale” in politics. He had a caller who was asking about how it is that in some countries, the hard-liners are referred to as “conservative” when sometimes those so-called “right-wing” hard-liners are communists or fascists? Rush said this is a subject he has spent considerable time thinking about and he had begun to conclude that the left-right scale isn’t really a straight line, but rather a circle. His theory is that if you go far enough to the right, you eventually begin to come back around to the left.

Here is the problem with that logic. The terms “conservative” and “liberal” are meaningless without context. The Left-Right Scale is not about liberalism or conservatism at all. Period. Full Stop.

Read that again. The Left-Right Scale IS NOT ABOUT LIBERALISM OR CONSERVATISM AT ALL!!! Neither is it about any other particular political philosophy. It is simply a scale upon which political philosophies can be placed in order to identify how they relate to other political philosophies.

My apologies for the virtual shouting, but it has to be absolutely clear that this old paradigm is completely wrong and we all need to erase that concept from our minds. Liberalism and conservatism cannot be on the scale and at the same time define the scale. That makes no sense! These are political philosophies, just like communism, fascism, libertarianism, and all the rest. The only way we can truly see how they relate to these other political philosophies is if they do not also define the scale on which we place said philosophies.

So, before I explain what The Left-Right Scale really does represent, let us first define two important terms.

“Maximum Freedom” is herein defined as the maximum amount of freedom an individual human being can have without infringing on the freedom of another individual human being. If you take it any further than that, then it becomes self-defeating.

“Maximum Slavery” is herein defined as the least amount of freedom an individual human being can have without being incarcerated. Since the entire world cannot possibly be incarcerated, incarceration cannot and need not be part of the definition of maximum slavery. A person does not need to be incarcerated in order to be subjected to total control by another person.

Presently, The Left-Right Scale is defined as Maximum Slavery on the absolute far left end and Maximum Freedom on the absolute far right end.

Think about this. The only context required for this definition is an understanding of what freedom and slavery are. These are two terms that are generally understood by everyone and are generally not confused with each other. And if The Left-Right Scale is defined thus, then it does not need to be a circle, a sphere, or any other shape other than just a straight, two-dimensional line on what mathematicians would call the horizontal or X axis. There doesn’t need to be a vertical or Y axis, nor a third-dimensional, perpendicular, or Z axis. Just one, straight, horizontal line scale. Period. Done.

Suddenly, with this definition, everything becomes clear. When some “journalist” writes a story about some right-wing, hardline communist, fascist, or theocratic government leaders, everyone can see that these forms of governance are not right-wing at all, just because some “journalist” chooses to call them that. Or even if the leaders of such groups and their constituency call it that, we can all know the truth simply by looking at the degree of freedom of the citizenry of such states and placing it where it properly belongs on The Left-Right Scale as it is now defined.

A brief word about anarchy. Anarchy, because it seeks a degree of freedom that can only be attained with no government at all, and thus no laws or law enforcement, lies beyond the righthand end of The Left-Right Scale, as shown in the graphic below.

Left-Right Scale

Conservatism in America today refers to conservation of the goals for individual freedom set by our nation’s founders. The goal of our nation’s founders was simply the far right end of The Left-Right Scale, as defined above. That said, there are probably some who would question this statement because of confusion over just what the term “conservative” means. Let me clarify this issue.

When America’s founders were alive, there was no such thing as a “conservative” in any sense of the word as we use it today. A conservative in their day would have been a Tory, a Loyalist, someone who wanted to conserve the existing form of government under the King of England. In those days, the founders were liberals. And radical liberals to be sure. These men applied classical liberal thinking to the subject of how to establish a nation that provided maximum freedom to its individual citizens and came up with the most radical document ever written in the history of humankind: the original articles of the United States Constitution and the first ten amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights. This Constitution was based on the philosophy described in the Declaration of Independence; the most famous lines of which declare “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In the days of our nation’s founders, moral values were ingrained in our fledgling nation’s culture. To be sure, the question of gay marriage would have never been conceived in their time. That is not to say that there were no gay people back then or that there were no immoral people back then, either. It is just that the evolution of American culture has brought us only recently onto this ground that had never before been tread upon, because no one back in the days of America’s founders questioned the importance of moral values to the success of our national culture, and homosexuality was considered a curse, not something of which a person should be proud. Moral values are a foundational component of American culture and society.*

In this day and age, moral values have been associated with a desire by conservatives to control the behavior of others, and thus limit freedom in a way not intended by our nation’s founders. So, to some extent, libertarianism more closely resembles the goal of our nation’s founders. It’s just that in the days of our nation’s founding, because moral values were, for the most part, an assumed part of our national culture, no one felt compelled to address issues like gay marriage. So, conservatism today also incorporates a desire to re-establish moral values as part of our national culture. Which, naturally, puts it at odds with the goal of our nation’s founders, so long as it seeks to do so through legislation. An entire book could be written on the subject of legislating morality (and the utter failure of such attempts), so I am not going to spend any more time on it here. Let us just move forward with the idea that in terms of degrees of freedom, both libertarianism and conservatism in American politics refer to attempts to maximize individual freedom, the latter simply adds the re-establishment of strong moral values to our national culture through legislation.

The “classical” liberalism of our nation’s founders was a political philosophy that sought maximum freedom for our nation’s citizens. Liberalism (or progressivism, or neoliberalism, or socialism, or communism), in its current form in America today, on the other hand, refers to the opposite of conservatism. Or, more specifically, to maximum control, down to the last tiny detail, of our citizenry. And though it has been over 200 years since our nation’s founding, people are still often confused by the evolution of the meaning of liberalism over this time from the former, classical definition, to the latter, modern definition. Many liberals in America today advocate for laws that force people to do things against their will, such as buying health insurance and paying for and performing services for others which run counter to their deeply held religious beliefs.

Of course, proponents of liberalism never see themselves as the target of their own philosophy. They wish to be the controllers. They do not see themselves as being among the controlled because they desire to live their lives exactly the way they want to force others to live theirs. In their minds, they are not being controlled if such a lifestyle is voluntary.

And what is control of another human being but enslavement of that human being? The very definition of slavery is having no freedom to live one’s life as one chooses. If one chooses to work for himself or herself, he or she is not allowed, by others who control him or her, to do so. A voter who believes he or she is controlling his or her neighbor by voting for more governmental control over ourselves does not believe he or she is also voting for more slavery for him or herself, because they are voluntarily asking for it. I would ask what would happen if they were to change their mind afterwards and choose not to voluntarily submit to the very control they advocate?

Quite obviously, they would discover that they, too, are slaves. For example, it has occurred throughout history that some slaves have enjoyed and even preferred their situation, even being treated like family members in some cases and not desiring to be freed, but this did not change the fact that they were still slaves none-the-less.

We are all subject to varying degrees of control by others. It is impossible to escape, save by death. Hence the definition of maximum freedom, above. Even the hermit living far off in the wilderness, alone, is indirectly controlled by virtue of the fact that he or she is forced to breathe the same air polluted by others far away. He or she may not remain a hermit and live among society. And so forth.

So our nation’s founders were not attempting the impossible, merely the possible; to achieve maximum freedom for the individual human being as defined above. And since maximum freedom is the precise and exact opposite of maximum slavery, it follows that maximum control equals maximum slavery. Everyone knows that any degree of slavery is wrong and evil and that maximum freedom, as defined above, is right and good.

Which is why conservatism in America, being right, is on the right end of The Left-Right Scale.

 

*Note: While some today might not like to equate homosexuality with immorality (and that is not my intention here), this is only a very recent cultural development. In America at the time of our nation’s founding and until relatively recently, homosexuality was universally condemned as immoral. Many people still believe this, although there is a growing number of people who do not. The purpose of this article is not to attempt to establish whether it is or it isn’t, but to use the subject as an example of how cultural changes over time have affected the meaning of conservatism in America.

Trump v. Cruz: The general election is being held right now

by Devin

I was talking to friend and business associate the other day with whom I had not communicated since last summer. He and I have had some interesting and animated discussions about politics in the past, but always respectful in spite of opposing views. One series of conversations we had was about why the Republican Party lost the last two Presidential elections to the Democrats. Now, for context, my friend is an evangelical Christian Republican who is very much aligned with the Republican Establishment.

When I told him that the reason why both John McCain and Mitt Romney lost was because the conservative base of the Republican Party stayed home, he was, to put it mildly, downright indignant and refused to believe me. Of course, he wanted to know if I voted in those elections and, of course, I did, for both McCain and Romney. That didn’t help my case, but I explained that I firmly believed that both were a huge improvement over Barack Obama, and while I was not happy with them as the nominees, I held my nose and voted for them anyway because I felt that it was more important to defeat the Democrats and their ideology than it was to lose because the Republican candidate did not meet my ideological standards. Well, the Republican candidates, as we all well know, lost anyway.

I eventually convinced him that I was right about why they lost, at least I think I did. In any case, when we were catching up the other day he broached the subject of politics and asked me what I thought of Donald Trump. So here is what I told him.

When Trump announced he was entering the race I was intrigued. At that time I did not know much about his political views. As an aside, I still don’t know much about his political views, but more on that later. My main concern at the time was the media presumption that Jeb Bush would be the eventual nominee. In fact, I wrote an article about that and posted it here on this site. Feel free to check it out here! But back to Jeb! As I said, he was my main concern because I knew he was an all-in Republican Establishment guy in the very same vein as McCain and Romney. I felt very certain that we conservatives were going to get stuck with another loser as our nominee and that conservatives were helpless to do anything about it. Enter The Donald.

Trump wasted no time mincing words and made a big splash right off the bat with his famous announcement speech. This was followed by a refusal to walk back even a single word of what he said.

THIS was refreshing! I thought, what is this? A guy running for political office who isn’t apologizing every time he turns around because he offended someone? Wow! I could get on board with that! It helped that the particular policy with which he was making so much of an impact was about illegal immigration. Conservatives across the land who are fed up with the failure of our government to control our border were excited that someone finally had the balls to say what we have been thinking now for years! Woo hoo!

Then it became obvious that Trump was not liked by the Republican Establishment. Check the second box! This is looking pretty good!

Okay. Let me hit the pause button for a moment and make it clear that prior to Trump jumping into the race, I was already a Cruz supporter from the day he announced. I’ve been following Cruz’s political career ever since he announced he was running for the US Senate. As everyone seems to know, except possibly Trump, Cruz is universally reviled by the Republican Establishment. Box checked from day one. Cruz is the only conservative in Washington, DC, who has worked as hard as is possible to fight unapologetically for conservative values and do exactly what he said he would do while he was on the campaign trail running for the US Senate. Hence his reputation with the Establishment.

Back to Trump. I cheered as Jeb Bush’s numbers began to tank, or, more precisely, cratered, with the entry of Donald Trump. Suddenly, the presumptive nominee was struggling to get any air at all! I credit Trump entirely for the demise of Jeb Bush’s campaign. And for that, I am truly grateful to him. But as Jeb tanked, Trump began move more toward the center with some of the things he was saying and it wasn’t long before my opinion of him began to sour. Since then it has become obvious to all but the most politically unconscious that Trump is no conservative and in fact, has no political ideology or philosophy at all. His lack of familiarity with the US Constitution is appalling.

Let me just say right now, to be absolutely clear, I never abandoned Ted Cruz for Trump. Not even for a moment. My primary interest in Trump was how he was affecting the rest of the Republican field and, so far so good, he was eliminating the chaff right and left. Well, maybe just left! Except, of course, for Kasich, who simply won’t quit even though he was defeated before he ever started.

The straw that finally broke the proverbial camel’s back for me with Trump, for good, was when another friend of mine from the good ol’ homeland in the South declared that Trump had already won before the first super Tuesday primaries and said I should stop dreaming about a Cruz nomination and start thinking about how Trump would destroy Hilary and Make America Great, Again… Well, I knew it didn’t look good for Cruz at that point, but I’ll be damned if I was going to concede so soon so easily. Particularly since I knew Cruz to be a hell of a lot smarter than people realize.

My Southern friend eventually conceded that Cruz still had a chance, however small it might be. Nowadays he is not so sure about a Trump nomination, but that’s a subject for another article some other time. Let’s get back to my original conversation with my friend and associate, the evangelical Christian Establishment guy. This is where it gets interesting, I promise.

It seems that Trump is not riding a conservative wave at all. He is riding a populist anti-establishment wave! THIS is nothing short of amazing! Talk about irony! Trump is the ultimate Establishment anti-Establishment candidate. Huh???! That’s right. You read that right, but go ahead and read it again if you’re not sure! And this is what has everyone scratching their heads. Particularly the media pundits who, as usual, haven’t got a clue! Can I just say, I love it?! Oh yes. I do.

Who on earth EVER would have dreamed that not only were long-time Republican voters of the conservative base disenfranchised by the last two Republican presidential nominees, but so were the centrist types! Who knew???! NOBODY! That’s who!

So, here we are back to the point I was making to my friend about conservatives staying home the last two elections because the Republican candidate did not represent them and they were sick and tired of having moderate, milquetoast, big government, fiscally irresponsible, socially and morally bankrupt nominees forced upon them. And what do I hear? Ardent Trump supporters are going to stay home if Trump is not the nominee! Huh??! I thought to myself, am I hearing this right??? The very people who couldn’t believe conservatives would hang the Republican Party out to dry for lack of representation suddenly are on the other end of the stick and threatening to do the EXACT SAME THING! Insanity rules!!!

And, of course, no surprise, ardent conservatives are once again threatening to boycott Trump if he is the nominee. Wow. Never in my life have I EVER witnessed a crazier political circumstance than what we are witnessing right now at this moment in American history.

So where does this leave us? It would seem that I have built a case practically guaranteeing a Democrat victory this fall, so how do I justify the title of this article? Deep breath in. Here we go!

While Trump has been busily disenfranchising women and conservatives and the Republican Party has been busily disenfranchising everyone, the Democrats have been busy with their own internal battle. Bernie, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist (that’s code speak for communist), Sanders seems to have locked up the youth vote so securely that Hilary no longer even pretends to care about them. But it’s not just the youth vote. It is also the extreme left-wing base of the Democratic Party. I live in a very liberal town: Santa Fe, New Mexico. For every Hilary bumper sticker there are easily two dozen or even more Bernie stickers and yard signs. And while Sanders has managed to wage a strong and, quite frankly, successful campaign so far against Hildebroom, she is still ahead in the delegate count because of the all-important super delegates that she has skillfully won over to her side of the ledger. The excitement by those feeling the Bern is going to turn to anger after the convention is over and Hilary has been forced on them by the same methods that have been used for decades by the Republican Establishment to force their Chosen One losers on its conservative base.

It is just my opinion, but I think the degree of disenfranchisement on the left is going to be giant when Hilary is nominated anyway. This is a group that is used to being united behind their candidate long before this point in the process. This is a group of people whose number one tool for change is the protest. These people do not sit down quietly when they don’t get their way! Rest assured, they will not vote for Hilary. Add to that the incredible damage Hilary has done to herself with the whole email scandal and the utter chaos that followed in Libya in the aftermath of toppling the Gaddafi regime. Then there’s her abysmal record of attacking and attempting to destroy all the women with whom her husband, Bill the Philanderer, had affairs with over his career. Her support from women is weak at best.

At this point, you may be thinking, okay, that all may be true, buy why am I so sure Hilary is going to win the Democratic nomination? To that, all I can say is, you just watch and see. But, just for a moment, let’s go to Mr. Roger’s Land of Make Believe and pretend that Bernie succeeds and wins the nomination. Only those people who still think the Berninator has a real chance of winning the nomination are going to vote for him. Anyone still clinging to Broom Hilda is not going to get fired up about Bernie. Come on. If the Bernster hasn’t already fired you up, he never will. Which means you are consciously aware of the fact that you are a Democrat, not a Socialist, and Socialism is not where you thought your party was heading (URGENT MESSAGE to you if you are in this group: WAKE UP! YOUR PARTY LEFT YOU A LONG TIME AGO!!!).

Add to this the fact that if there are Democrats who, at the end of the day, won’t be able to vote for Bernie because he is just TOO far to the left, how many independents do you think he’ll get? This alone should be enough to convince you that the Democratic Party will NEVER allow him to be the nominee. Now, if he had been clever enough to hide his extreme radical left-wing ideology in the same way that Barack Obama was able to do it, he might have had a chance. Only, then no one would have noticed him and he surely would not have garnered the kind of dedicated, downright religious, following that he has.

Finally, to put the last nail in the coffin, have you noticed how many people are turning out for the Democratic primaries and caucuses compared to the number showing up to vote in the Republican primaries and caucuses? It is something like half! There is no energy on the left this time around. I cannot say with certainty why this is, but I suspect it is because President Obama simply wore them down. Kind of in the same way George “Dubbiyer” Bush wore his voters down. It may also be because Hilary is being shoved down their collective throats and the only alternative is someone any mature adult would see as a radical lunatic.

All of these things tell me that so long as the idiotic Republican Establishment doesn’t just usurp the nomination process and install Paul Ryan, John Kasich, or Jeb Bush as their nominee, or some other numb nuts who didn’t even run, the general election is already taking place, right now, in the Republican Primary. You don’t have to agree, but if you don’t, sign up and post your comments! We would love to hear them!

Culture vs. Race: Why so much confusion?

by Devin

In the Beginning

When I entered first grade in Greenville, South Carolina, it was the first year of the newly mandated school integration. My class at Sara Collins Elementary School suddenly went from around 30 students to 40. I was six years old.

My new class now had a proportionate component of black children and because the class size was so big, we also had an extra teacher, who was black.

I was a wide-eyed little boy who had no concept of racism in spite of my short life having been spent entirely in the South. My mother had always had a maid who came once or twice a week to help out with the laundry and a few other house chores. She was black. Her name was Mamie. My siblings and I felt like she was practically a member of our family. Mamie retired before I finished elementary school and her sister, Violet, came to work for us until she retired, sometime after I had graduated from high school. We loved Violet. She always had a cheerful attitude and worked diligently all day long when she was at our house. Whenever we would walk in from school in the afternoon, she would say, “How you be doin’ by this hour?!” and we would reply that we were doing fine and ask her how she was doing? She would always reply by saying, “Oh, pretty good for an old cripple woman!”

I don’t honestly know why she said that. Other than being overweight, she never seemed to be physically handicapped in any way to me. But I think it was just her way of humbly saying that no obstacle was too difficult for her to overcome. Violet was a strong and faithful Christian with a strong sense of Christian values. She was a gem. Violet passed way many years ago having lived a long and joyful life. I have no doubt that she is in heaven with God and having a glorious eternal life in paradise. For that, I am truly grateful.

My parents taught me from a very early age that there is no difference between black or white, or yellow or red for that matter. That all people are “created equal.” As a young child, that made perfect sense to me. Children have a pretty good bullshit detector and if things don’t add up, they can tell. My parents were, of course, absolutely right.

As I got older and progressed through elementary school I got to know some of the black kids in my classes. I never once had a negative opinion of even one of them. When I got to middle school, I began to discover that some black kids had a sensitivity to their skin color. This was new to me. I did not understand it. By the time I reached high school, I began to notice that outside of athletics, few black kids were socially integrated with the white kids. A few of them definitely were. I remember occasionally seeing some of them at parties and, of course, they came to school functions like the prom and homecoming, etc., just like everyone else. Quite a few of my former black classmates regularly attend our class reunions. But most of them drifted away from the white social circles.

I can only surmise that as they grew older they were being influenced by external sources and those influences made them feel less comfortable around white people. I don’t know. All I know with certainty is that I never saw even once during my grade school years a white student treat a black student any differently than another white student. Never.

When I reached college I began to hear people talking about the prevalence of racism in the South and I was surprised. I really had no idea that racism still existed. I certainly knew that it had in previous generations. There were no secrets about this, but I genuinely thought it was a thing of the past. I thought to myself, what are people talking about?

Fast forward to the present.

Now days it seems, if you believe the media, if you believe black leaders, racism is rampant in the United States. Why is that?

Well, I firmly believe that history has demonstrated beyond any doubt that where there is an advantage to be gained by anyone through the promotion of discord between any two or more groups of people, then someone will surely step in to exploit it. This is a universal truth that exists external to any human ethnicity; from the Ku Klux Klan (started and dominated by Democrats in the South) to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton; from the Nazis in Germany and their persecution of Jews to the Japanese and their hatred of the Chinese in the first half of the 20th Century. It happens all over the world and this has been so since the dawn of human history.

Stop.

Let’s take a look at the facts for just a moment. We now know that there are some incredibly bright people among every skin color on the planet. We now know that there are some incredibly stupid people among every skin color on the planet. We know that evil presents itself in people of every skin color on the planet. No race has a monopoly on either perfection or failure in terms of personal character.

With these facts, these premises, we can conclude that the statement “all men were created equal” (translated as equals in that no king, no dictator, no president, no rich person, no poor person has superior value as a human being to any other human being) is factually true. It is undisputable. The Founders of the United States of America knew this and enshrined it in the Preamble to the United States Constitution. That said, all of us are fallible. All of us. Every single human being on this planet is fallible (yes, even the Pope) and not long after learning to think and communicate we begin to make mistakes.

Why does racism exist?

Let’s examine a phenomenon that has been widely observed in the United States. When integration of public schools was implemented back in the late 1960s, that was a period of time in US history when blacks and whites were the most proportionately represented in public schools. It was true then, as now, that there were all white neighborhoods and all black neighborhoods, but students were bussed, if necessary, to schools outside of their district in order to ensure all schools had a black to white student ratio that matched their representation in the community at large. In the South, this was somewhere in the ballpark of around 20/80.

So what do we see now in terms of black to white student ratios in public schools in the South? We see that over time, schools have slowly, but surely, resegregated. Why is this?

Culture vs. Race

Let’s take a moment to step away from the discussion of skin color and talk about culture. What exactly is “culture?” A brief search online for the word will return an abundance of definitions, but one that seems particularly well suited to this discussion is as follows:

A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

If you’ve read this far you probably already had a pretty good understanding of what a culture is. You probably also know that you have a culture of your own. It is the culture in which you were raised, or possibly adopted as a young adult. Culture is something that becomes ingrained in humans and becomes a part of who they are. Few people change their culture late in life, but some do and it is entirely possible. You simply have to make up your mind to do it.

Now ask yourself, why has there been such a strong effort over the last few decades to celebrate cultural diversity? If living among multiple cultures was an easy thing to do, then it follows that there would be no need for such a campaign. Another, more direct question: why is it that cultural groups tend to remain groups, rather than simply dissolving into each other until there are no cultural groups? I think the answer is obvious. People feel more comfortable around other people who accept the same “behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols” as they themselves. This is an undeniable fact. I have observed many times people who come from one culture who have moved to a new city or state leaving their own culture behind. Almost as often, I have seen those same people adopt the local culture in order to fit in.

Now let’s focus again on the last part of our culture definition above. Culture is “passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.” Your culture comes from how you are raised from birth, or shortly thereafter. If you are white and raised in a white home, and your parents and grandparents have a culture they inherited from their ancestors, then you will also have that same culture, which becomes part of your basic nature. If you are black and are raised in a black home, and your parents and grandparents have a culture they inherited from their ancestors, then you will also have that same culture, and it will become a part of your basic nature. Obviously, cultures change over time, with each generation leaving its own mark. No one would argue that American culture today is the same as it was in 1776!

If you are old enough to be interested in reading this article, then you surely have witnessed situations where people of one race have completely integrated culturally with people of a different race. I have witnessed black people chastising other black people for being “white” or even just being “too white.” Of course, what they mean is that the black person on the receiving end of their criticism has adopted some form of white culture. As you can see and probably already know, culture and race are so closely associated by people that rarely does anyone make a distinction. And certainly the race baiters never do.

And this, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road. When you observe someone who is discriminating against another person of a different race, it is far, far more likely not because of their race, but because of their culture. Let me say this again in a different way. People are far more inclined to associate with those who share a similar culture, and conversely, they are far more inclined to not associate with those of a different culture. People self-segregate based on culture, not race, but because culture is not nearly as visible as skin color and because culture is so often tied to skin color, people naturally assume such self-segregation is based on race, not culture. And it is a fact that no race is immune to this tendency.

Let me take this a step further. Every single human being on the planet who has any friends at all has used some form of discrimination to determine who they will accept into their inner circle of friends and who they will exclude. This includes people of identical color and culture! Human nature is imminently pre-disposed to discerning which personality characteristics in other humans are attractive to them and which ones are not. This is a fact. If it were not, then all it would take to be in someone’s inner circle of friends is to be from the same culture! That means that you and I might have thousands, if not millions of friends in our inner circle! That is obviously not the case.

Each and every human being practices discrimination in the process of deciding with whom they will associate. We generally prioritize our relationships starting with our best friend, then our close friends, then our not-so-close friends, then members of our socioeconomic class, then those who share our political views, then other members of our culture, then acquaintances, then maybe our neighbors, our community, our region, our country, and finally, the world. Everyone does this. Everyone. We have to. We cannot be close friends with everyone in the world! And some people within our own culture, oftentimes within our own family, are not only not close friends, but sometimes even downright repulsive to us. None of this is racism.

Cultural Relativism

With the rise of anthropology as a scientific discipline in modern times, has come the concept of cultural relativism. Cultural relativism is the belief that no culture is superior or inferior to any other culture. This is an important concept and a very useful tool if you are an anthropologist because it helps you as an observer not to make judgments about any particular culture you may be studying. The removal of judgment helps the anthropologist to minimize bias when observing cultures other than his or her own.

Relativism vs. Absolutism

There are those who argue that there are no absolutes. Everything is relative. “It depends on how you look at it” is a common refrain. But this idea can very easily be put to rest by this simple logic: If someone says, “there are no absolutes,” then they have just disproven themselves by stating an absolute.

Cultural relativism is a very recent and modern theoretical construct. Throughout history, humans have always been cultural absolutists. And for good reason. Some cultures truly are inferior to others! So while all humans are created (as) equal(s), all cultures most definitely are not.

That’s right! It’s true. Now before you go and start hyperventilating about what I’ve just said, let me just say that every culture is flawed. They are all flawed because they are devised by humans, who by their very nature are flawed. Anyone who would believe his own culture is perfect is only fooling himself. And if you believe that some other culture than your own is superior to your own, then you are free to adopt that culture which you believe is superior.

How do we know some cultures are superior to others?

To start this discussion, let me point out (and I hope you agree) that there must first be some generally agreed upon criteria that define what a superior culture looks like. Now, if you merely agree with this, then you have also just acknowledged that it is possible to rank cultures by degrees of superiority and inferiority. If you don’t agree with this, then read no further. You are either too young or too unreasonable to understand what I am saying.

If, more likely, you take issue with exactly what those criteria are and then say that no one has the authority to decide them, then I would ask you, do you believe that a culture that has being nice to others as one of its values (think Canada) is superior to a culture where being cruel to others is one of its values (think Islamic State)? If you say yes to this, then you are a normal, rational human being and you would be correct. If you say no, and I am certain there are those among us who would (if for no other reason than to be contrarian), then you fall into a very tiny minority of people who are willing to try and twist themselves into a pretzel to find a way to avoid what most of us instinctively know to be the truth. If this is you, then ask yourself, would you prefer to live in Canada or in the Islamic State? No need to tell me your answer.

This is a critical point. The fact cannot be overstated that while you have no control over what color your skin is or into which culture you are born, you and you alone ultimately have total control over choosing whether to remain within it or leave it behind and change to another. Sure, if you happen to live in a jungle in South America where you have never observed any other culture but your own, then maybe adopting a new culture is not available to you, but in such a case, it wouldn’t be necessary and quite likely would be fatal if you did.

Why is this a critical point? Because if you find yourself on the receiving end of what you believe to be racism, it is almost a sure thing that if you were to adopt the culture of the person or people you believe is or are engaging in this racism, then you will, practically always, find yourself no longer on the receiving end of it. I say “practically always” because I recognize that true racism, unfortunately, does exist in the world. Fortunately, it only exists among a very small percentage of the cultures in developed countries. In undeveloped countries, it may be more prevalent, but those countries are not at issue and they are usually home to an extremely poor and uneducated populace (think India). And even in those countries, you are likely to find many people who are not racist.

As a born and raised Southern white male, I observed first hand black people who adopted Southern white culture and were completely accepted into Southern white social circles. Think Herman Cain. If Southern white culture were truly racist at its core, then such a thing would not be possible. And let me further state that in a nation where black people make up a very small overall minority, we citizens of America still elected a black man as our President, twice. How was this possible? I will tell you. Because in the words of the esteemed former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he is an African-American “with no negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” In other words, as a black man, he has adopted enough of white American culture to be accepted by enough white people to get elected. If you are still not convinced, then how far do you think a white man who had adopted black inner-city street culture would get in a bid for the White House? Case closed.

Culture vs. Racism: Conclusion

I probably don’t need to say anymore about this, but just to be sure and to provide a clear statement regarding the whole point of this article, here goes. Racism, although it does exist on this planet as it always has and always will, is by far the exception rather than the rule. Culturalism (meaning discrimination on the basis of one’s culture) is by far the most common explanation for what many believe to be examples of racism. Racism is despicable and evil at its core because people are unable to choose the color of their skin. Culturalism is an absolutely necessary part of civilization. Without it, all cultures would resolve to the lowest common denominator. And finally, every single human being on this planet practices discrimination simply by choosing with whom they will accept into their inner circle of friends. Even you.

So the next time you see someone playing the race card, be suspicious. Most likely, it’s not.

And if you still have doubts, watch this video: https://youtu.be/cIQ0fs9Gp6Q

This post was updated on June 22, 2016 to add the YouTube video link.

Healthcare Solved in Seven Easy Steps!

by Devin

Everyone wants to solve the healthcare problem in America… Or do they? Politicians have been debating this issue for decades and all we have to show for it is one of the most dysfunctional healthcare systems in the world. We Americans used to have a healthcare system that was the envy of the world. Now we have a giant mess that any and every doctor who can afford to retire from is getting out of as fast as he or she can.

Thankfully, we still have enough young people still entering medical schools (without a clue of what they are getting themselves into) that the total number of physicians nationwide is expected to continue to grow; however, the American Association of Medical Colleges is predicting a shortfall by 2025 of somewhere between 40,000 and 90,000 doctors, depending upon the scenario that plays out between now and then. The Affordable Care Act, otherwise affectionately known as “Obamacare,” is only expected to increase demand for medical services by 2 percent over that time period.

As I previously described in my post titled, “Healthcare – the dirty little secret,” I explained how in the past the skyrocketing cost of medical care and the problem of uninsured patients didn’t exist. In this post, I’m going to hand you, free of charge, the solutions to fix them. Everything I describe in this blogpost assumes that Obamacare has been repealed in its entirety. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Problem 1: The uninsured

For the most part, I’ve already addressed this one extensively in my prior post as mentioned above. Let’s just say that if we were to put a little more trust and faith in the honesty of the majority of doctors and other healthcare providers, plus a requirement for full backup documentation in the form of medical records and accounting books, we could change the tax code back to its pre-LBJ form allowing doctors and other healthcare providers to write off uncollected patient debts on their taxes. (Note: This is already allowed for medical businesses that use the accrual method of accounting; however, you must have already paid taxes on the uncollected debts, so that when taking the deduction, you are really only going back to the pre-tax situation. You aren’t actually getting a deduction against collected revenues. Thus, there is no way to provide enough indigent care that no taxes are owed, or even reduced.)

Problem 2: medical malpractice

This one has been heavily debated and fought over by trial lawyers and liberals who hope to one day cash-in on the big medical malpractice suit and retire to the Bahamas where their money is safe from the American tax system. There have been many proposed schemes, some of them actually implemented, to avoid the problem of baseless malpractice lawsuits that have no merit; however, these schemes are nothing more than cleverly designed ways to allow lawyers and poor people to continue to pursue the big payoff. The State of New Mexico has one that I have witnessed in action firsthand.

The way it works (or is supposed to work) is that all medical malpractice suits must first be heard by a specially appointed panel that determines whether or not each case has sufficient merit to warrant being taken to court. After hearing both sides of each case, the panel makes its recommendation. Unfortunately, that is all that it is; a recommendation. The case can still be brought before a court even if the panel determines it has no merit. And I’ve seen it happen. Although I have not heard the full explanation as to why the panel can only make a recommendation, my gut tells me that the trial lawyer lobby successfully argued before their friends (and themselves) in the State Legislature that the only way for the merits of a case to be truly verified is through a full trial. In any case, as you can see, it’s a non-system.

The reason this is an issue at all is because many doctors (depending upon their speciality) are currently paying exorbitant rates for malpractice insurance. Since the money to pay these high rates must come from somewhere, the doctors have to charge enough for their services to cover it, plus enough to pay their staff and other operating expenses, and, at the end of the day, actually be able to make an income for themselves. Enough income to make it worth staying in business as a doctor rather than finding some other means of making a living. And in case you aren’t aware of how much doctors are paying for this insurance, feel free to take a look here. Check out the rates being paid by OB/GYNs in Nevada! Insane! For a much more detailed look at this issue, here is an exhaustive resource.

So here we are, back to square one. And the well-known, tried and true solution is to cap non-economic medical malpractice jury awards at something reasonable and bar attorneys from sharing in any percentage of the award. Attorneys should only be paid for the hours they worked. No bonus for winning. You work, you get paid for your time, end of story. Patients with legitimate cases and thus have a high probability of success will attract good attorneys because even if the plaintiffs are poor, they will be able to pay the bill from their award and good attorneys will win when the case is legitimate. In other words, eliminate the current multimillion dollar lottery for trial lawyers called the medical malpractice industrial complex in this country. (Note: If awards are capped, attorneys could alternatively be limited to a percentage of the award, but disallowed from also charging for time and expenses on top of the award percentage. As it currently stands where medical malpractice tort reform has not been enacted, attorneys are generally allowed to charge for their time and expenses plus take a percentage, typically one-third, of the award. This sometimes results in the plaintiff receiving little or nothing, and in some cases, finding themselves in debt after the award!)

And finally, lest you be concerned that bad doctors would never be driven out of practice under such a solution, we could pass a three strikes law that automatically suspends a doctor’s medical license if he or she is successfully sued for malpractice three times within a 10 year period.

Problem 3: delayed payment by health insurance companies

This problem is really only known about by healthcare professionals and hospitals. You may have noticed that you typically receive an explanation of benefits from your insurance company several months after having received the medical care described in the EOB. This is because there isn’t a health insurance company out there that pays in anything like a reasonable amount of time. Most people would agree that 30 days is a reasonable period of time to expect payment. In the health insurance industry, you’re lucky if the bill is paid within 90 days. Furthermore, some insurance companies are expert at giving doctors the runaround, claiming they never saw the claim, there was an error in the claim, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. In fact, a friend of mine briefly worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield as a claims processor and she told me that they employ an army of people whose sole job is to reject claims for as long as possible! This results in doctors having to pay someone, often several someones depending upon the size of the practice, full-time, to pursue payment for insurance claims. The cost of the additional staff gets passed on to the patients, as it must be because money does not grow on trees.

The solution here is to require, by law, health insurance companies to settle claims within 24 hours of receipt. This would vastly reduce the number of people employed by doctors whose sole job is to get the insurance companies to pay and employed by the insurance companies whose sole job is to find ways to avoid or delay payment. Elimination of these costs would substantially reduce the cost of health care in the U.S. The money saved could and would be better spent on products and services that would re-employ these people elsewhere.

Problem 4: Limited competition in the health insurance market

It is a well-known and discussed fact that health insurance companies are not allowed to sell health insurance across state lines. Ever wonder why? While I haven’t spent even one minute researching the answer to this question, I think it is pretty obvious that the insurance lobby was very successful in protecting its interests by getting this gem of a law passed. I imagine that it was argued that if they had to face much competition, they would be unable stay in business, or some such BS. I mean, who wouldn’t want to limit competition in their own market???

The solution here is, like for Problem 3, obvious: allow health insurance companies to sell insurance across state lines and allow individuals to buy insurance from any health insurance company in the world. This would create real competition among health insurance companies by forcing them to increase coverage and drive down costs and premiums to win business. A simple market solution easily implemented. If necessary, state governments could create health insurance company oversight panels to give patients a place to go to file complaints and seek recourse against their insurance company if their insurance company fails to meet its obligations. The government could also set up a website that compares heath insurance policies and costs as well as allows individuals to rate and provide reviews of their insurers. This last idea could easily and probably far more successfully be set up by a private company (no need for Healthcare.gov or government run healthcare exchanges), which could conceivably even be a non-profit.

Another thing that could be done here is to require health insurance companies to write their policies in such a way as to keep them greatly simplified and following a rigid organizational format that makes it very easy for consumers to compare competing policies line by line.

The most important thing is to modify existing laws, or eliminate laws and regulations, that inhibit free market competition. Competition equals lower costs and better service.

Problem 5: Lack of tax incentives to buy health insurance / medical expenses not fully tax deductible

Allow everyone to deduct their health insurance premiums and health care expenses from their federal taxes. There could be a cap on the deductible amount for premiums if necessary to prevent abuse (so called Cadillac plans only affordable by the wealthy). Allow anyone to deduct the cost of health insurance for anyone else, so long as they pay for it. For example, if I were wealthy and needed a tax deduction, I could pay for someone else’s health insurance and deduct the full amount from my adjusted gross income on my federal taxes. This would create an incentive for parents to insure their kids even if their kids elect not to insure themselves, thus increasing the number of young, healthy people with insurance that are helping to pay for the older, less healthy people who need insurance more. At the age of 21, or as soon as a child is no longer being claimed as a dependent by a parent or guardian (whichever comes first), children may no longer be insured through their parents’ insurance policy.

If the federal government is so bent on making young people get insurance, make parents liable for their children’s medical expenses should their children not be able to pay their medical bills up until they turn 21. Change bankruptcy regulations so that people cannot declare bankruptcy just because they chose to spend their money on something besides health insurance.

problem 6: the federal government middleman

I know that this is going to sound absolutely crazy to some, because Medicare and Medicaid are considered by so many as absolutely and critically indispensable, but hear me out on this one. They are NOT a necessity and there is a better way.

The goal is to eliminate Medicare and Medicaid and replace them with a refundable tax credit that could be used to pay for private health insurance. To receive the credit, you have to be able to present proof that you bought health insurance. Your plan does not have to be “qualified” by the government. You read the policy, you buy it, you live with it. If you don’t understand it, find another one you can understand, or go to the aforementioned website or panel for information that can help you find the plan that is right for you. The government should cover the additional cost of pre-existing conditions. Forcing insurance companies to insure people with pre-existing conditions will simply encourage people to wait until they have a medical condition before buying insurance, which defeats the whole purpose of insurance.

There really is no need for these government programs. None. Everything they do can be done better by the private sector if it is allowed to freely compete. I’m convinced that the insurance lobby was responsible for the creation and expansion of these two programs. Obviously, the health insurance industry wants to insure young, healthy people and does not want to insure old, not-so-healthy people. Just had another idea. Suppose each elderly person who buys a private policy is (see solution for Problem 5 above) encouraged to also buy a policy for a young person. They get to deduct the expense of the young person’s insurance premiums and get a refundable tax credit for their own policy. Perfect. Now the young person’s premiums help defray the cost of the elderly person’s healthcare.

problem 7: too big to fail

This is a very important piece of the puzzle. Companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, and a few others have gotten so large that they dominate the market and make it impossible for smaller competitors to start up and offer better policies at better prices. There’s too much potential for collusion between the insurance companies when there are so few. Eliminate the exemption from anti-trust law that the health insurance companies now enjoy. (I bet you didn’t know they had that, did you?) There is absolutely no logical reason for this exemption. Break up the largest health insurance companies if they hold monopolies in any given markets.

Also, outlaw lobbying by the health insurance industry. Period. I’m not generally against lobbying, per se, but this is one lobby that has proven itself to be utterly untrustworthy. It should be banned.

summary

If these seven problems were addressed as I have suggested in this blogpost, wholesale, with very little modification, so that the purpose of each one is achieved, there can be no doubt that the United States of America’s best days in health care would be ahead of us. We would once again rise to the top in high quality, low cost health care where everyone has the opportunity to be covered by insurance at reasonable prices. Doctors could thrive in private practices. Patients who are victims of REAL medical malpractice could be appropriately compensated and frivolous lawsuits would disappear. Bad doctors would be forced to find some other way to make a living. The government would stay completely out of the treatment decisions made between doctors and their patients.

I should add one more thing to this post because it bears being brought to everyone’s attention. There is a situation in the way most health insurance policies work in that there is a disconnect between the user and the payer. The user spends the payer’s money and thus pays little or no consequences for seeing doctors for even the most mundane issues. Most current policies address this with co-pays and deductibles, but there is already a vastly better way to fix this problem.

We now have in this country available to us now, although many employers do not yet offer it as an option, high deductible plans coupled with a Health Savings Account (HSA). The way these work is your employer pays a very low premium for each employee’s health insurance and puts a healthy chunk of the cost savings into an HSA for each employee each year, something like 1,000 to 2,000 dollars. An HSA is specially designed to allow the owner of the account (the employee) to roll over unused portions into subsequent years, thus the account has the ability to accrue a balance if the money is not entirely spent in any given year. The deductible is usually something like 8,000 dollars; however, if you are young and healthy, you can save up that much in your HSA in just a few years. Furthermore, when you reach retirement age, you can spend this money on non-medical things. AND, as your balance grows, you can manage it like a retirement account, even putting it into mutual funds if you so choose.

You have an incentive to not go to the doctor every time you get a cold. You have an incentive to maintain your health. You have an incentive to save that money. But if you ever really need to see a doctor, you will most likely, unless you have a catastrophic illness or accident, be able to pay for it in full with money from the HSA, thus spending no money out of your own pocket.

Obviously, there is some up front risk involved with these plans and odds are there will be some people who lose the bet and wind up paying a few thousand dollars out of their own pocket; however, they are still covered for the rest of the expenses and nobody loses their house and/or retirement savings over it.

If everyone had a plan like this, that might just be all it takes to solve the entire health care problem in America.

Individual rights are more important than the common good of the population at large… Say what????

by Devin

I was having a conversation with a Canadian friend of mine recently that went like so many others I’ve had with my American friends, that I finally decided I needed to write about it. The topic of the conversation is one that should have been discussed in every school in America at some point or another, but apparently is not. I can excuse my Canadian friend, because he’s Canadian, but all Americans should know this from grade school on. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: A totally free market (obviously with some necessary regulation to minimize corruption) for health care services and insurance is a necessary element of reducing health care costs in America.

Canadian Friend (CF): Okay, but shouldn’t the purchase of health insurance still be mandatory, so that everyone is covered?

Me: No. That’s draconian, and frankly, un-American!

CF: But what happens when someone has a major medical problem and they don’t have insurance?

Me: They should have had it. They took a risk and lost.

CF: Well, that’s fine for people who can afford health insurance or are wealthy enough to pay the bill, but what about the poor?

Me: In a free market, with minimal regulation mostly aimed at preventing corruption, costs would be far lower than they are now, so we’re only talking about a very small percentage of the overall population. There are charities out there to help them. And even if there weren’t, each and every American has a responsibility to take care of themselves.

CF: So, when someone who is uninsured and too poor to buy insurance, let alone pay the medical bill, has a major medical problem, the public at large gets stuck with the bill?

Me: And how is that different from what happens everywhere, regardless of how healthcare costs are managed, regulated, or controlled? Besides, many of the illnesses experienced by the poor are of their own making. Smoking or drug abuse, for instance.

CF: Exactly. Why should the public have to pick up the tab for someone else’s lack of personal responsibility? Why shouldn’t we pass laws that tax or outlaw certain types of behavior that are detrimental to our health?

End Conversation.

Alright. Let me just address this head-on. First and foremost, this country was founded on the radical concept of individual freedom. America’s Founders placed a higher priority on individual freedom, than they did on protecting the benefits of the public at large. This means, at its core, that we, as a nation, value our individual rights and the freedoms that come with those rights MORE than the rights of “the people.” When I say, “the people,” I am referring to the public at large, the collective, the masses, etc., as they are most often referred to by those in favor of social justice and socialists in general.

I know this is a difficult concept for many people to get their head around. It is counterintuitive. What I am saying is nothing less than that we, as a nation, are willing to sacrifice benefits to the majority in order to protect the rights of even just one person (don’t forget that “the majority” is made up of individuals). If many have to suffer so that one may enjoy the freedom that comes from protecting his or her individual, unalienable rights, then so be it.

This is a radical idea. It’s so radical, that it had never before been established in any other nation prior to the founding of the United States of America. Never in the history of mankind. And it is the number one reason behind why America has enjoyed success on an historically epic and unprecedented scale. That, and a profound respect for, and observance of, the rule of law.

It’s also so radical and counterintuitive, that if it isn’t taught in the schools and by parents to their children, it is virtually unknown.

Here’s the catch, though. With these rights and the freedoms that come with them, also comes great responsibility. If a person has the right to own a gun, he or she also has a responsibility to not use that gun for evil.

Take the gun issue as an example. We are faced with two possible choices in this country, just as other nations are. We can either opt for allowing individuals to own guns and then enact laws to punish those who use them for evil, or we can opt to not allow individuals to own guns and thus try to prevent them from having the freedom to choose between using the gun for evil or not.

The entire basis of this nation is that when faced with this choice, we nearly always opt for the former and NOT the latter. This is the very heart and soul of our nation’s founding and for what it stands. We, as a nation, are willing to allow for the potential suffering that may come from an act of violence with a gun, in order to protect to the maximum extent possible, individual freedom.

Ben Franklin said it best, “Those who are willing to trade freedom for security, deserve neither.” This means, in America at least, that we are willing to subject ourselves to the dangers posed by those few who choose to use their rights and freedoms for evil, in order that the rest of us may retain those rights and freedoms to enjoy life and pursue happiness.

The person who acts irresponsibly and chooses not to have health insurance, particularly in a market where it is affordable or accessible to all but the poorest unemployed, is subject to the consequences of his or her choice when illness strikes. Fortunately for them, we are, in addition to being the most prosperous nation on the planet, the most generous and giving people on same said planet (proof of this is so abundant on the internet, I’ll leave it to you to do your own homework). We have charities and many of them are designed specifically to handle hard cases like these. And because they are locally run and by people who are passionate about it, they are the very best suited to do it.

And at the end of the day, if someone falls through the cracks and is unable to get charitable assistance, and they default on their medical bills, the public at large is ultimately going to pay for it, one way or another, whether they like it or not. And I ask again, how is that different from a universal health care system, where the public pays for everyone’s health care? Only in one way, the individual experiences a bad credit rating. That’s it. And let’s face it, for those who choose to be utterly responsible, or irresponsible for that matter, credit is unnecessary. Just ask Dave Ramsey!

I have no doubt that there are a nearly unlimited number of special circumstances that someone who vociferously disagrees with me and what this country was founded upon can come up with to challenge what I am saying in this post. And I am certain that there is an answer for ALL of them. The answers probably all look very much alike. And some will also probably seem harsh to the gentle soul. But the truth isn’t always what we want to hear. And I would suggest that if you don’t like the principles that this country was founded upon, rather than trying to “fundamentally change” it, do the rest of us a favor and either accept it, or, if you cannot accept it, feel free to find a country that is more to your liking and emigrate. My respect and admiration goes out to those who do!

Healthcare – the dirty little secret…

by Devin

Probably one of the biggest political topics of our time has to be healthcare. It’s the giant problem that everyone seems to want to solve. No doubt, it is a giant problem, but why is that so? Has it always been that way? If not, then what happened that caused it to be such a problem? In this essay, I’m going to try to illuminate two major factors that no one, anywhere, that I know of, is talking about, which just might answer these questions. But first, I want to emphatically state, right up front, that it has NOT always been such a huge problem. In fact, if you go far back enough, historically, in the United States, it wasn’t really much of a problem at all!

Factor number one: LBJ. Huh? LBJ? What’s LBJ got to do with anything??? Answer: The Great Society. Let’s go back to the late 1950s and early 1960s, the pre-LBJ era, and take a look at how healthcare was administered before it became such a huge mess. In those days, just like in these days, and all the centuries that came before, there were people who needed medical care that were not sufficiently wealthy to pay for the kind of medical care they needed. Nothing new there; however, those people still received the same quality medical care as those who were insured and those who were wealthy enough to not need insurance. How did that happen, you ask?

Well, back in those days, doctors and other medical professionals, including hospitals, were allowed to deduct losses from unpaid accounts from their gross income or revenue for tax purposes, just like any other ordinary business expense. The key to doing this was keeping a good set of books for your practice or business that showed which accounts went unpaid each year. Such accounts were backed up by the evidence of medical records for each patient and each patient was a verifiable real person with a real, verified medical condition. Of course, no doubt there were a few fraudsters out there. When has there ever not been? But by and large, indigent patients who could not pay their bill received the same medical care as everyone else and got a pass. Smart doctors understood that if they took enough indigent patients each year, they could actually end up paying no taxes at all!

Of course, from where the federal government stood, that was an utterly unacceptable situation! What’s this? Doctors are getting rich and paying no taxes!!! That could not stand! Nevermind that these doctors, and don’t forget hospitals and other healthcare professionals, were in fact paying their taxes in a big way in the form of unpaid medical services rendered to the poor of our society. Thus, along came LBJ’s Great Society solution: create a government program to pay for healthcare for the needy and then prohibit medical professionals and hospitals from deducting losses from unpaid accounts. (Eventually tax law was written such that no service-providing businesses could deduct uncollected debts.) From this point forward, medical professionals and hospitals were required to pay tax on all of their income/revenue (minus normal business expenses such as equipment, insurance, staff costs, etc.) and file a claim for payment for services rendered to those qualified and enrolled in the government program.

One of the arguments in favor of this new system was that now, instead of medical professionals and hospitals having to absorb losses from unpaid accounts, they would be in the superior position of being able to collect that revenue, which would otherwise be lost. From a tax accounting standpoint, it is always better to collect payment than to take a deduction, so it sounded good… well, at least, at first. Ask any doctor nowadays how much these government programs, officially known as Medicare and Medicaid, pay compared to their standard rates or even what private insurance companies pay. It’s pennies on the dollar. They would be far better off deducting the losses.

So this is how, pre-LBJ, poor people in America got the medical care they needed. And this is how the federal government stepped in and began the process of destroying what was once a very efficient and simple solution to the problem of getting healthcare to the poor. Ask any doctor over the age of 75 if there was a golden age of medicine and they will all (except those who live in la la land) tell you that indeed there was, once upon a time. They will also tell you that it is long past and they are so thankful to be out of the profession and retired (due to the destruction of the industry by the federal government.)

Of course, once the government puts its fingers in the pie and starts the process of screwing it up, it is never capable of backtracking to the last known good situation. Oh no. It just figures that it needs more tweaking to get it right; thus they (our wonderful politicians) never admit a mistake and repeal anything. Instead, they pass even more legislation trying to fix the problems they created with the first mistake. These “fixes” ultimately lead to even more unexpected consequences, which in turn lead to even more faulty legislation, ad nauseum, ad absurdum. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Affordable Care Act, otherwise affectionately known as Obamacare, a roughly 2,700 page behemoth of a law passed in the wee hours of the night on a weekend over the holidays which no one had read and no one really understood. This law was supposed to lower everyone’s annual healthcare costs by an average of $2,500, so stated by its strongest proponents and President Obama himself.

It was also not supposed to affect anyone who had an insurance policy they liked or had a doctor they liked… I guess we all now know the truth on that one. Furthermore, instead of lowering the average annual healthcare costs, it actually increased them by as much as four to eight times. Go ask anyone who pays for their own health insurance if they got to keep the policy they had and what has happened to their premiums and deductible. Virtually no one experienced a lowering of any kind in the cost of their annual health care expenses.

But lest I go on for too long about Factor number one, let me get on to Factor number two. This one is a little trickier than Factor number one because it involves a moral question and a cultural factor. Factor number two is the result of the technology revolution.

Just 50 years ago we were barely on the cusp of the technology revolution. The standard method of diagnosing medical conditions was clinical. No fancy computer tomography or magnetic resonance imaging machines yet existed to provide highly detailed pictures of soft tissues inside the human body. The best that existed was a simple x-ray machine.

Back in those days, doctors (and that’s what people called them, NOT “health care providers”) had to rely on their training and experience to recognize what was causing an illness based on direct observations and patients’ responses to a series of questions. As is the nature of being human, some doctors were better than others at arriving at the correct diagnosis, but all doctors had to be able to make clinical diagnoses or they would be out of business in pretty short order.

Then along came technology.

New advances in technology gave doctors, for the first time in history, the ability to see inside the human body in great detail. Furthermore, developments in biochemistry resulted in tests that could provide all kinds of information to doctors which had never before been available. And to top it off, pharmaceutical companies began to sink giant amounts of money into developing medicines that could treat, cure, or prevent illnesses in ways that had never previously been imagined. But all these new advances came with a cost. And not a small one.

The rapid introduction of high technology equipment, tests, and medicines into the field of healthcare changed forever the way doctors go about diagnosing illnesses. As these new technologies became more and more available, doctors coming out of medical school and residencies began to rely more and more heavily on tests and equipment to figure out the causes of their patients’ illnesses. Old school doctors who already had clinical diagnostics down found the new technologies to be exciting new tools to add to their abilities, but were primarily useful for confirming what they already knew. Newly minted doctors, who did not yet have the years of experience at making clinical diagnoses began to use the new technologies to help them make a diagnosis. Finally, as the older doctors began to retire, clinical diagnosis was relegated to use only for the most basic and simply identifiable illnesses. The “no brainers.”

There was something else going on in American culture at the same time as the technology revolution that further pushed doctors to rely on tests and equipment to, at a minimum, confirm their own diagnoses, and more often, to make the diagnoses: medical malpractice. As soon as the question, “did you confirm your diagnosis with such-and-such test or machine?” came up in a malpractice trial, that was the end of the doctor’s discretion to decide whether or not a particular test or scan was needed. From that point forward, fear of lawsuits began driving doctors to order every test and scan they could think of that might provide some supporting evidence to confirm or make a diagnosis.

As I mentioned before, these new technologies came with a cost, literally. New tests, machines, and medicines cost millions of dollars to develop and manufacture. Many millions. Without the ability of those companies who develop the technologies to recover their costs, and without the motivation to make a profit, none of these technologies would ever be developed. Period. End of story.

As proof, I offer an examination of countries that do not have free market economies and where profits are taxed out of existence. How many such countries have contributed in any significant way to current medical technology? The answer, if you don’t already know it, is practically, if not entirely, none. And if you travel to any of those countries and are able to receive medical care that involves the use of any modern technologies, guess what? They most likely got them from the United States of America. They didn’t invent them. They bought them.

But I digress. The point of this discussion is to make clear the fact that these new technologies are not cheap. But if you look back through modern history, you will find unlimited examples of new technologies that started out so expensive that only the super-rich could afford them. The first cars and airplanes, for example. Over time, as the companies who develop new technologies begin to recoup their investments, their patents expire,  competitors begin making alternatives, and the benefits of economies of scale begin to kick in, the costs of the technologies come down, making them more and more available to more and more people; the not-so-rich.

And herein lies the moral dilemma. People can live without cars and planes (although some people probably think they can’t.) But without some of the new medical technologies now available, some people will die.

That’s right. Some people will die. And, in fact, it happens every day. Not only in the USA, but all over the world. Particularly in third-world countries. This is actually nothing new. For as long as some countries have been more medically advanced than others, people in those lesser advanced countries have simply died. Or, in less extreme circumstances, suffered for the rest of their lives from something curable in a more advanced nation. The advent of high medical technology has, in this area, served primarily to highlight the difference.

But what about people right here in America who are not wealthy enough to take advantage of all these new technologies and thus suffer and/or die as a result? Doesn’t everyone have a right to these new technologies, regardless of their wealth? That is the $64 billion dollar question. It is the very moral question at the heart of today’s medical controversy. As an aside, I find it interesting that many of those arguing that it is our moral duty as a nation to make all these new technologies available to everyone are also people who do not have any moral values of their own! But again, I digress.

So, I have established that throughout history some people have always had access to better medical care than others. It’s undeniable. I have also established that the main difference between now and then is the cost and capability of the old medical technologies versus the new medical technologies. The moral question has not changed. It is simply more directly in the spotlight.

I propose that we ignore the fact that the new technologies cost radically more to develop and manufacture than the old technologies. If we do this, then the answer to the moral dilemma remains unchanged. Those who have the money will pay for the new technologies and over time, the prices of those technologies will eventually come down to the point where all but the poorest can afford them. If we accept this situation, then we can also expect that there will always be newer and more advanced medical technologies on the horizon. If we refuse to accept this situation, then we cannot expect that there will always be newer and more advanced medical technologies under development.

To make it, possibly, maybe, just a little bit easier to accept this situation, one has to understand that if we had never accepted this situation in the past, we’d still be treating fevers with leeches.

So, what about “the poorest?” When do they get to take advantage of the new technologies? The answer to this question is found in our culture. The United States of America is the most charitable nation on planet Earth. Bar none. When natural disasters strike in foreign countries, who comes to the rescue with millions in donations and billions in equipment? The United States of America. That’s who. Do any other countries do the same? Well, a few help out, but none have the capacity or the desire to help to anywhere near the extent of our great nation. So the answer to the question, “what about the poorest?” comes from within. It comes from charity. It does not come from the government. Private charities have the ability to provide financial support at the individual level like no other entity in the world. And they do. As a nation, we should be doing everything possible to promote and facilitate charitable giving. It is the total solution.

Will some people still fall through the cracks? Absolutely. No system is perfect. But as a free democratic nation, where we value both individual rights and rule of the majority, no one can do better.

So is all we have to do to solve the healthcare problems in this country is simply allow medical professionals and hospitals to deduct unpaid accounts from their taxes and its “Problem Solved?” No. I wish it were. But there are many other things we most certainly can do to fix our broken healthcare system. And, naturally, I know what they are! But they will be the subject of another blog on this site, when I have time write it.

Until then, here is to your good health!