This is the middle post of my three-post “Year in Review - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” The linked words in that title will take you to the other two posts. Here are the things that I considered bad in 2010.
Wikileaks began as a whistleblower website, where people could release information about injustices. In 2010, they made a leap into classified government documents. Purportedly stolen by PFC Bradley Manning, these documents were not only embarrassing for some government agencies, the information contained in those documents identified informants and other non-public allies in the War or Terror. While the creator of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is currently in custody (due to some somewhat-questionable sex crime charges), there is little legal enforceability on a citizen of another country disclosing secrets of another. Several US companies have severed ties with the site, and kudos to them for that; however, I believe that the net result of this will be bad.
What I’ve identified as the most ridiculous quote of 2010 (“We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it”) was spoken in reference to this bill. Going by the formal name of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (colloquially known as “Obamacare”), this bill enacted many reforms to our health care system, most notably in the area of insurance coverage. The bill mandates that all people purchase and retain health care insurance (a provision already rule unconstitutional), stipulates that insurers must cover preexisting conditions and may not drop insured people for certain conditions, and provides for the creation of a public co-op. There may be more, but at 1,300+ pages, who knows?
We are already seeing the unintended consequences of this legislation. Insurance rates are going up, with many companies raising rates 25% or more. This shouldn’t catch anyone by surprise; what is called “insurance” in the bill is more like a membership. Insurance is a bet against bad things happening, which is the entire reason preexisting conditions aren’t covered. Where’s the bet when you know the outcome? Insurance rates are not designed for this type of use. (Conspiracy theorists could speculate that those who passed the law knew this. They really wanted public control, but the people didn’t want it - instead, they passed a bill that will bankrupt the insurance companies. Then, who rides in to save the day? Liberal government!)
Insurance is but one of the problems with this bill; there are many others where the unintended consequences outweigh the intended benefits. Hopefully, the 112th Congress can undo this monstrosity before most of its provisions become effective. Until then, though, this remains on the bad list.
The FCC Implements Net Neutrality
“Net neutrality” is the concept that network service providers (ISPs, cell carriers, etc.) must treat all network traffic equally. This means that they cannot favor certain types of packets (ex. their own video streaming) while slowing down other packets (ex. competitors’ video streaming, voice over IP). While, on the surface, this sound good, it fails to take into account bandwidth considerations, and the consequences of that bandwidth being used up. A TV signal can be broadcast through the air, and whether one TV or a million TVs receive the signal, the signal is the same; however, the same signal received over the Internet must be duplicated once for each end point receiving it - it is a request-response network. It’s not as cut-and-dried of an issue as some of its more ardent supporters would like to paint it.
Congress has failed to implement net neutrality legislation, and courts have ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has no jurisdiction to implement it on its own. That didn’t stop the intrepid FCC, which issued net neutrality guidelines near the end of the year. Hopefully 2011 will find these regulations to be unenforceable; as it stands now, though, these regulations are bad, and have the potential to slow innovation around the network.
Over at House of Eratosthenes, Morgan K. Freeberg puts forth a well-reasoned post called “So Does This Make Me a “Birther”?” In it, he examines the larger issue of the precedent set by this particular issue not being resolved for over two (nay, four) years. After the original post, he updated it with noticing how everything we know about the current President, we know because there is a group of people ready to ridicule us if we say we don’t know it. For example:
He is a Christian and not a Muslim. Now, I really don’t care about this one way or the other. But how do I know He’s a Christian? Because He went to Jeremiah Wright’s church, of course! But of course that would mean He’s also an anti-white bigot. But no. He went to Jeremiah Wright’s church for twenty years to listen to all the Christian-ish sermons…but was snoozing through all the America-bashing sermons. Yes to Christianity, no to America-hating, because Obama was coincidentally tuning out at all the right times. Again, how do I “know” this? Because someone’s ready to ridicule me if I believe anything different. I don’t have any other reason to “know” such a thing. None.
Read the whole thing. Whether you’re a birther, you think the birthers are loony, or you’ve just resigned yourself to the fact that it’s not going to be resolved (myself in that latter category), the points made in his post are important. Shouldn’t the CINC have to show the same proof of eligibility as those he commands?
I made a Facebook status update earlier today where I said I hoped that the mismanaged “Cash for Clunkers” program (C4C hereafter) had caused some people to think about whether they wanted the same people in charge of their health care. Of course, with the limited space for status updates, and my double-dose of verbosity (which is genetic, I thnk), I really didn’t have room to flesh out my thoughts on the matter.
A review would be in order here. C4C is a government program that gives incentives for people to trade in cars deemed older and less fuel-efficient on a new car that is more fuel-efficient. A consumer group has a FAQ. A controversial provision of this bill is that these trade-ins must be completely destroyed - no parts can be salvaged at all, no tires, no body parts, nothing. One of my Facebook friends described the process they used - drain the oil, replace it with water, and run the engine until it seizes up. Anyway, this program was funded at $1 billion to go from July 24th to November 1st of this year. Yet, a short week later, the news begins to break that the program is almost out of money. There is talk of adding another $2 billion - that’s $3 billion of our tax dollars to buy and destroy perfectly functional cars, because they don’t fit someone’s idea of a “good car.”
Regarding the way these cars are being destroyed - this is the classic broken window fallacy, the economic theory that says that vandalism is good for the economy. A boy breaks a window; the shopkeeper must get it replaced. This benefits the window maker, which can benefit others in turn. However, the fallacy is that it does not look at what the money that the shopkeeper had to use to fix the window might have otherwise been used to do. For example, while the window maker advances, the shoe maker and baker, who might have received the money the shopkeeper would have spent, are hurt. (As an aside - wouldn’t it be better to keep the window maker in business by providing windows for new business? Oops - that was the greedy capitalist in me.)
Now, let’s look at the health care issue. Nearly every proposal I’ve heard coming from Washington decries the number of uninsured people in this country, how much we pay for health care, and how bad the insurance companies are. There are many ways to go about this; I’ll look at each of these in turn. As we do, keep in mind what happened to the “bad” cars in C4C.
We hear bad, bad things about the number of uninsured Americans - the latest numbers have it about 47 million. That’s a lot, right? Maybe, but maybe not. One thing that these stats do not take into account is the number of people who choose to be uninsured. Many college students are uninsured by choice (or by lack of giving it a thought - that would have been me right after high school!). The census bureau said that the number of college students was 15.9 million in 2004. How about single people? I certainly didn’t worry about health insurance when I was single. The census bureau said in 2007 that of the 92 million single people, 60% had never been married at all, and 15 million were over 65. Certainly not all of these are without insurance, but a good many may very well choose not to have it. That leaves the ones that can’t afford it - we’ll look at ways to make it more affordable in our third point.
Next up is how much we pay for health care. Yes, just like our military prowess, America is #1 in the world at spending per-capita on health care. We are also #1 in the world at medical advances and technology. These things do not come for free - what is the incentive for a company to develop the newest bang-up drug if they aren’t going to be able to make enough money on it to fund the research it took to develop it? Altruism may be nice, but it doesn’t put food on the table. While the exchange of money for services seems to be distasteful to some people, you’ll look long and hard to find a better motivator. Why do doctors put themselves through years and years of education after most people are already out working? For a few, they may just love their fellow man that much, but for the most part, it’s that American dream of making it, and having the things they want. How does one acquire things? Money.
All this talk about money brings us to those evil, horrible insurance companies. I’ve dealt with them just as many of you have, and it’s frustrating to have things denied because a t wasn’t crossed or an i dotted. However, let’s look at what we expect from insurance. Does homeowner’s insurance cover carpet cleaning, painting inside and out, and re-weatherstripping the windows? Does auto insurance cover oil changes, new tires, detailing, and radio upgrades? Then why must any health insurance cover check-ups? The litany of required services on some insurance providers is astounding - and, the consumer has no choice. I don’t think I could go to a state in the Union and get an insurance plan that didn’t cover maternity; as a male, I really don’t think that’s coverage I need. People view health insurance completely different from any other insurance. Why is it that, if something exists, people think that their health insurance should cover it? Some of these treatments or experimental procedures weren’t even in existence when the policy was written, but people think that they’re entitled to them.
This is where affordability comes in. Let insurance companies customize plans, so that people can buy just what they want (catastrophic coverage, for example) and exclude what they don’t (TMJ). End the ridiculous “discounted rate” on the billing - doctors have artificially raised their rates because they know that, for the most part, their patients’ insurance will only pay a portion of it. The price should be the same for someone paying out-of-pocket as it is for the insurance companies. (Back to auto insurance, does Ford offer Allstate a discount? Yeah right.)
What happens with this is the regular free-market benefits. First, the availability of health care goes up, because the people who opted out of “hypochondriac” coverage will not take up a doctor’s time for every sneeze and sniffle. Second, there is an incentive for providers to get into the business, as the playing field is more level and less laden with red tape. Third, people will be so happy that we’ll never have to hear about this ridiculous socialized health care mess ever again! (Well, okay, maybe that last one is a stretch.)
Now, let’s look at C4C health care. You’ll have politicians and government paper-pushers determining what’s covered and what isn’t, with their decisions holding the force of law. The thresholds will be hard - the qualifying line is drawn in the cement as it hardens. It will cost 10 times what “they” estimate - at least. Wait times will be through the roof, as anyone who qualifies for something will get in line for it, whether they need it or not. Over five or ten years, there will be a shortage of providers, because doctors will decide that law is a much more lucrative field. And, one of the founding principles of our nation will have been sacrificed on the altar of good intentions.
Yes, in 100 days I’ve gone from “skeptically optimistic” to hoping that 3 terms of Republicans can stem the tide from 4 years of our current administration. For all of the left’s making fun of Bush, and VP Biden’s history of gaffes, who knew that the current administration would make them look downright composed? It’s Amateur Hour at the White House, and our kids get to pay billions of dollars for us to watch!
Economics: F (only because F- isn’t technically a grade)
You would think that this would be the current administration’s strong spot, seeing that they won the election last year based on the crappy economy (or so they’d have you believe). Yes, the fiscal irresponsibility of the final year of the Bush v2 administration looks miserly compared with this stimporkulus and budgets we’re being asked to finance. The graph to the right gives an illustration of the impact of the current budget, compared to budgets under Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2. Just as the New Deal lengthened the Great Depression, these artificial attempts to “fix” the economy are actually doing it more harm. Then they label those who are against it as dangerous - but more on that later.
National Security: D-
This one was not an F due to his quick response to the Somali pirates who had captured the captain of a US ship. Regarding the F/A-22 cutbacks, these were being discussed even in the previous administration, and even so, the “cutback” still result in more airplanes being built and delivered to fill the order. I don’t really have a good feeling one way or the other. The F/A-22 has been in work a long time, and had a lot of money already. To throw that away, when we used its predecessor for over 30 years, seems foolish to me. However, with the services merging more and more operations, perhaps it’s smart to have a plane that’s built to specifications from all interested parties. Time will tell. The release of the CIA memos, though, was a bad move, which I discuss in the next subject below.
And, the release of the CIA memos has made us look even worse. We have people hyperventilating on both sides over whether waterboarding is torture. The ones who do us harm know that they don’t have to do anything for a while, because we’re doing it to ourselves. What the administration doesn’t seem to have thought through is that, though in this country, it may be easy to pin all that on the Bush administration, to the rest of the world, it’s still “America” that did it. And, if they know that we don’t have the stomach for it (would it really have been that out-of-line to put a caterpillar in a room with a terrorist?), their job is easier. The CIA agents are demoralized, and the enemy is emboldened. Call it what you will - naive, oblivious, amateur hour - it’s dangerous, and it’s made our country weaker because of it.
And, to those hyperventilating - if you’re ever captured by them, you’d better pray that waterboarding is the worst thing they do to you. Because we’re humane, we’ve come up with ways to make people think that they’re being tortured, when they’re really not. Torture has lifelong implications to your health and mobility; John McCain can’t lift his hand above his shoulder - that didn’t come from waterboarding.
(Even the decision to stick by the Iraqi withdrawal timetable couldn’t raise his grade in this subject.)
I believe I covered Obama’s revocation of the Bush executive orders regarding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. (I’ve bolded the important parts, because I’m sick and tired of the liberal “You’re opposed to science!” mantra. No, we’re not - we’re opposed to the government paying for research that destroys unborn humans, especially when it has shown no signs of finding anything, but other, similar, non-lethal-to-the-donor research has. (And, check out #1 under “Adult Stem Cell Advantages.”) What you fund, you get more of - fund more experiments on dead babies, you get more dead babies. I happen to be against dead babies, born or unborn.) When Obama rescinded that executive order, he also rescinded one that allows funding of ethical experiments. A good analysis of what that means is here.
He gets a pat on the back for supporting traditional marriage; however, I think that battle is lost. The demise of marriage came not from non-traditionalists, but from people who decided that a promise of forever can be undone by a piece of paper signed by a judge.
Well, he’s got a solid 0.2 GPA headed into day 101 - nowhere to go but up, eh?
Morgan Freeberg over at House of Eratosthenes has put up an allegory as his latest “Memo for File” (82nd, for those of you keeping score at home), and it’s great. I can’t really think of a good way to tease it, but it’s excellent - go read it.
And, I saw this bumper sticker outside a building earlier today, and the more I thought about it, the more I chuckled.
…America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers - regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams.
And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.
And so you will I think see our administration be very clear in distinguishing between organizations like al Qaeda - that espouse violence, espouse terror and act on it - and people who may disagree with my administration and certain actions, or may have a particular viewpoint in terms of how their countries should develop. We can have legitimate disagreements but still be respectful. I cannot respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians and we will hunt them down.
No, it’s not [true that I am an enemy of Islam]. I’ve heard that, and it just shows [sic] to show a couple of things: One, that the radicals have done a good job of propagandizing. In other words, they’ve spread the word that this really isn’t peaceful people versus radical people or terrorists; this is really about the America not liking Islam.
Well, first of all, I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That’s what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace. And I believe people who murder the innocent to achieve political objectives aren’t religious people, whether they be a Christian who does that - we had a person blow up our - blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City who professed to be a Christian, but that’s not a Christian act to kill innocent people.
We are having an Iftar dinner tonight - I say, “we” - it’s my wife and I. This is the seventh one in the seven years I’ve been the President. It gives me a chance to say “Ramadan Mubarak.” The reason I do this is I want people to understand about my country. In other words, I hope this message gets out of America. I want people to understand that one of the great freedoms in America is the right for people to worship any way they see fit. If you’re a Muslim, an agnostic, a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, you’re equally American.
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama reversed a long-standing policy, now allowing Federal funds to go to organizations that provide abortions or abortion counseling. The Sanctity of Life post is still coming, but I wanted to get this out there. How long before Obama’s death toll surpasses that of the last 8 years of our “unjust war” on terrorism? I’m thinking March 2009…
And his logic continues to astound me…
“It is time we end the politicization of this issue,” Obama said.
So, to end politicization, we’ll just declare one side the winner. It truly saddens me that part of my tax money will be used to kill babies in third-world countries.
I know, I still owe you folks the 2008 YIR “The Good”, the MLK/Sanctity of Life column, and Bush Administration epitaph posts. All in good time - this is Pinewood Derby week in our Cub Scout pack!
But, to tide you over, here’s a teaser of the latest Ann Coulter column…
It will not be easy for President B. Hussein Obama. More than half the country voted for him, and yet our newspapers are brimming with snippy remarks at every little aspect of his inauguration.
Here’s a small sampling of the churlishness in just The New York Times:
- The American public is bemused by the tasteless show-biz extravaganza surrounding Barack Obama’s inauguration today.
- There is something to be said for some showiness in an inauguration. But one felt discomfited all the same.
- This is an inauguration, not a coronation.
- Is there a parallel between Mrs. Obama’s jewel-toned outfit and somebody else’s glass slippers? Why limousines and not shank’s mare?
- It is still unclear whether we are supposed to shout “Whoopee!” or “Shame!” about the new elegance the Obamas are bringing to Washington.
Boy, talk about raining on somebody’s parade! These were not, of course, comments about the inauguration of the angel Obama; they are (slightly edited) comments about the inauguration of another historic president, Ronald Reagan, in January 1981.
President Obama will keep the broken promises made by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. He and Vice President Biden will take steps to ensure that the federal government will never again allow such catastrophic failures in emergency planning and response to occur.
That’s just wrong. First off, I and probably over half this nation don’t think any promises were broken in the first place. But, even if they feel this way, they could phrase it in a more neutral way. “President Obama will make good on the promise America made to rebuild New Orleans…” is the way an administrative agenda should read. This looks like campaign retreads.