Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When Rhetoric No Longer Works

It is very simple, politically at least, in the case of President Obama and his tumbling numbers in light of the people’s genuine and legitimate concerns about health care “reform”. Mr. Obama has offered little more than rhetoric in defense of undefined and unqualified “reform”, and voters are beginning to see through it – and him. After all, how much can a man know and define what he wants if he leaves sticky details to another; in this case, the Congress? In defense of “reform” and lacking any hard information, Mr. Obama has offered little more than rhetoric (45 million Americans are without health insurance, for instance. A big number, but lacking definition and qualification). And when the polls and job approval ratings numbers begin to fall as they have, Mr. Obama turns to rhetoric in self-defense.

Intangibles are easy to defend because there is nothing tangible to point to, no hard numbers or sound data. Intangibles are most often emotional and, thus, difficult to refute even as they are so broadly defined. For instance, former VP and former US senator and former tobacco farmer Al Gore seemed fond of sharing with the nation his feelings about tobacco use following his sister’s death from lung cancer even though he continued to benefit financially from tobacco for years after her death. Well, who is going to argue with a man who still grieves the loss of a sibling? Indeed, who can? The one tangible argument in that sea of intangibles, however, is simply this: there is no cure for cancer because its cause is indeterminate. Not everyone is going to battle cancer, and not all smokers will die from lung cancer or even emphysema. Not that tobacco consumption can be a healthy endeavor, but it is hard to ignore 70- and 80-year-olds who have been using tobacco in one form or another since their teenage years.

Because President Obama has nothing tangible to hold onto during this challenging time in his administration, he has returned to the campaign trail in the sense that he is reminding voters that things would not be where and what they are had it not been for the Bush administration. It is as if he is still trying to convince us that President Bush is still running for office, while asking Americans to disregard his own lack of leadership in the health care “reform” debates, his own lack of substantial input. In his rhetoric, Obama is still attempting to demonize rich people in general and Mr. Bush specifically and offering nothing of substance to the debate. Democratic Party strategist Liz Chadderdon said the strategy of blaming the previous team has been effective. "I think Bush-bashing has been alive and well since '07 and, since it keeps working, why not use it?" she said. "Voters have short memories. The administration needs to remind people that things were way worse over the last four years than in the last six months." (Washington Times, July 29, 2009, Joseph Curl)

“Way worse” is relative. Look at a cumulative deficit of $500 billion over the course of 8 years verses 6 months. It is apparently President Bush’s fault that President Obama took a $500 billion deficit and doubled it in the first 6 months of his administration by rhetorically demanding, and getting, a $787 billion “stimulus” package passed by congressional Democrats with a substantial majority that was nothing but rhetoric and has produced nothing but intangibles. It is a very “feel good about progress” measure that has produced virtually nothing since its inception.

It is apparently Mr. Bush’s fault that the US economy continues to shed jobs at a rate of roughly half a million per month, but the Congress – at the insistence of the president – is spending money as if plenty of taxpayers are still on the rolls. Of course we’re still in the throes of residual effects of a harsh recession, but reaching back for rhetoric (intangibles) instead of moving forward toward hard and fast solutions (tangibles) is all this US president apparently has at his disposal. That it is politically effective and used purely for political gain speaks volumes about this president’s call for “change” when it is nothing more than simply more of the same: whatever it takes to get through the next election cycle.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Getting It Right

By most accounts, Democrats do not have the votes necessary to ramrod this much-debated health legislation through the US House. Strangely enough, it is the Democratic “Blue Dogs” who are putting up most of the resistance (I wonder where these “fiscally conservative” Dogs were when the $787 billion stimulus package was rushed through the Congress with few questions or challenges?) who, along with Republicans, are concerned about the long-range financial and economic impact this legislation might have. Rep. Mike Ross, D-AR, maintains that it is more important that the Congress get this “right” rather than “quick”. Better late than never, I suppose, Mr. Ross.

Most would agree the need exists to provide a buffer to those who cannot afford adequate health care, but I cannot agree that permanent government health insurance is the way to go. In fact, the nation pretty much put a stop to such thinking in the early days of the Clinton administration when the Congress and the people saw little more than a brand-new government agency that could (and probably would) quickly grow out of control. And given that Medicare and Medicaid are both facing tremendous challenges just to stay afloat and the VA with a less-than-impressive score card (depending, of course, on who is doing the scoring), these three government entities do not exactly instill voter confidence in the government’s ability to provide such an overreaching service, let alone administer it efficiently or effectively.

Still, the debate has lost its focus. Ultimately, we are talking about access to adequate health care and not affordable health insurance, even if health insurance is the primary vehicle by which many have access to adequate health care. We must not confuse the two, however, because they are two separate issues. That 45 million Americans lack health insurance (a dubious, if unqualified, number) does not mean that our health care system cannot provide reasonable, adequate, and needed care. It may mean that we should approach this issue from another angle, especially in light of the $1 trillion deficit this nation already faces (which means the government cannot pay its bills). And this deficit will only get worse because government spending is increasing at an alarming rate, and jobs in this country are still being eliminated at a rate of roughly 500,000 per month (June was 554,000). These are formerly tax-paying citizens who are losing their jobs; this is revenue the government can never hope to recover. And to add to the current debate and existing problem, a substantial percentage of these 554,000 citizens likely just lost whatever health insurance they may have had through their former employers. COBRA is little help since the former employee is only guaranteed coverage IF he or she can afford to pay the entire premium. The problem continues to multiply as long as the US economy continues to eliminate jobs on such a grand scale.

There is a reordering of priorities that has become necessary if confidence is to be restored in the Congress and the entire legislative process. Right now the Democrats are acutely aware that mid-terms elections are just around the corner. The waning popularity of the Democratic president could spell trouble for the Democratic majority in the Congress in general, and for Democratic members of Congress from traditionally conservative states and districts. What this means is that moving too quickly on health-related legislation is dangerous for the nation as a whole because politicians from both sides will be too busy worrying about election campaigns than to be bothered with such trivial nonsense as doing what is right for the nation as a whole.

Rather than attempt to revamp the entire health-care industry at this critical moment, perhaps it might be best to begin incrementally with such stop-gap measures as expanded Medicaid coverage for those who have lost jobs. Yes, it will mean spending more money, but it will be a far sight less than the projected $1.6 trillion the proposed legislation is projected to cost, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and will not require another “czar” or level of bureaucracy. And by its very nature, this expansion can be made temporary, with a defined benefit period as with unemployment insurance, rather than to become a permanent fixture of the US government. Such a stop-gap, emergency measure could then help the Congress to focus on THE most important matter at hand: creating an environment with policies that will encourage business expansion and ultimately provide new jobs. More incentives could actually encourage employers to continue offering health insurance coverage, and the government would get back the money it “lost” in corporate income taxes by way of personal income taxes paid by folks making their own way.

There are countless ways the Congress can actually help besides simply thinking up new campaign slogans or overwhelming us with legislation few can even comprehend. Now is not the time for the government to expand its reach lest we wake up one morning and discover who actually answers to whom.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

In the matter and manner of Intrusion

"We are reminded that this decision [Roe v Wade] not only protects women's health and reproductive freedom but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose." President Barack Obama, January 23, 2009

Intrusion, I think, is a matter of perspective especially under such circumstances as those pertaining to abortion. President Obama says the government should not intrude in those “most private family matters” as abortion (flawed logic, that), but this statement was also made the day he reversed the so-called “Mexico City Policy” which had previously banned US taxpayer funds from being used to promote or provide abortion abroad. In his aversion to intrusion, President Obama has pretty much given the US government an overwhelmingly intrusive, rather than a more appropriate neutral, role. The Congress seems willing, if eager, to help.

The US House just passed HR 2410, the “Foreign Affairs Reauthorization Act”, which now goes to the US Senate for its consideration. Within this Act is the creation of a new office within the US State Department called the “Office for Global Women’s Issues”. My own congressman, US Rep. Mike Ross, D-AR, in response to my concerns about what I believe to be the understated issues and back door advances involved in the creation of such an office, said that HR 2410 had nothing to do with abortion or the Mexico City policy. If this much is true, then HR2410 is little more than an appropriations bill for the US State Department. If Mr. Ross was wrong in his assessment – and this remains to be seen in full – then he is either incredibly dishonest or incredibly naïve. In a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is quoted as having said, “We are now an administration that will protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care” and that “reproductive health includes access to abortion.” In the case of Mike Ross and his assessment (he voted in favor of HR2410), my vote is for his naiveté (after all, he is a “good ol’ boy, I reckon).

US Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, offered an amendment that would have prevented funding for such an office of “empowerment”, but his amendment was defeated. Such a move leads me to believe that abortion and the Mexico City Policy have everything to do with the creation of such an office as designed to "coordinate efforts of the United States Government regarding gender integration and women’s empowerment in United States foreign policy." To this end, it sounds to me as though government “intrusion” is exactly what the creation of this office is all about, but the intrusion will reach far beyond the borders of the United States. This new office of “empowerment” also sounds a lot like a conduit through which these previously banned US funds (Mexico City policy) can be channeled. The “good will” of the United States is no longer about the principles of democracy. It is, instead, about the intentional destruction of unwanted children like so many litters of puppies and kittens.

What I find even more disconcerting than a government in debt spending even more on such an abhorrent act is the rather aggressive position this administration is taking on the issue of abortion, as if suggesting that there is not nearly enough death in this crazy world, that the US government needs to export and finance even more – and apparently to countries where there is not enough. It is one thing to remain neutral and acknowledge that each of us has, I suppose, an inherent “right” to destroy our own lives if we so choose; it is quite another thing to actively and aggressively promote as “foreign aid” that “right” by which we destroy the lives of others, presuming that such destruction of life will somehow enhance our own. The world and this administration may consider the willful destruction of innocent life to be “empowerment”, but there will soon be a terrible price to be paid for our cavalier attitude regarding our own children’s very right to exist. Are there really so many cold-blooded members of this Congress and this administration that they actually consider such death and destruction a “right” to be celebrated and protected and even funded, no matter the cost or concern?

This administration, indeed this entire government, has long crossed a line that should never have been crossed, but this administration and this Congress seem to believe we’ve not gone far enough. “Intrusion” will soon be the least of our worries. What this nation cannot see through such despicable policies is that the US government is involved in population control within sovereign territories outside of US control under the pretense of empowering women, which will likely take place within national borders of those nations and cultures in which women are still considered second-class citizens or outright possessions. How will destroying future generations change this attitude or enhance life and the future of these nations?

It is a sad day indeed when our nation, and far too many of this nation’s Christians, have allowed us all to digress to such a point when we consider the destruction of innocent human life to be “progress”. That is the perspective of this administration and this Congress, and we are allowing it to take place. The blood of these millions of children will demand an accounting soon enough and it will be as the 19th century American philosopher, Elbert Hubbard, once said: “We will be punished by our sins, not for them.” Shame on them for bringing this to us; shame on us for allowing it.