Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Britain’s Health Care Began With Propaganda

As America debates the merits and follies of nationalized health care, many people hold up “the rest of the world” as an example of a system that should be emulated.

After all, the argument goes, America is the only industrialized country on the planet that does not provide “free” (or at least, heavily subsidized) health care for its citizens.

It’s true. We’re the last hold-out. For a very good reason. Our health care system mirrors the principles that our founding fathers laid, which in turn created the greatest civilization on earth. There’s no reason to mess up a good thing.

The rest of the world believes that government exists for the benefit of the people. Taken to an extreme, they believe that the role of government is to “take care” of the people. That’s what Annie Leonard declares in “The Story Of Stuff”. She pooh-poohs the government’s true role of national defense, the foundations of capitalism, and the free market. Then she declares that the government should intervene to make sure that we, the consumers, don’t consume too much.

This notion that the government should have an active role in defining our quality of life has deep roots in European culture. We’re reminded of this by watching a charming piece of British propaganda: “Charlie’s March Of Time”. Created by the British government to introduce socialized health care to the Brits, the film traces British government back hundreds of years. In feudal times, the king took care of the people. In more modern times, the House of Commons took care of the common people.

The theme is consistent. People are not able to deal with the standard trials of life — unemployment, hunger, illness, retirement — without the government’s interference.

In a classic case of socialistic incrementalism, the film chronicles one act of Parliament after another, each removing one more area of personal responsibility from the citizenry while claiming to cure all social ills. The culmination of all this effort was 1946’s Health Service Act. The film reminds us that the utopian state costs only a few pounds and tuppence each week.

That’s fine for “the rest of the world”. But there is a very good reason why it won’t work in America. That’s because our country was founded on the principle of freedom FROM government. Americans believe the responsibility for care of the population rests in the population itself, not in the government. The constitution is concerned with what the government CANNOT do, rather than what it MUST do.

America is a collection of individuals. We were founded by a group of men who believed that the rights of the individual superseded the responsibility of the government to care for their needs. Most of our wars have been fought for the purpose of freeing citizens from a repressive government.

That’s what makes America unique from the rest of the world. We realize that rugged individualism and free-market capitalism always succeeds in the long run. And we have seen that socialism always eventually collapse under its own weight.

Let the rest of the world keep their nationalized health care. If it suits them well, so be it. But America has produced the greatest society in the history of the world by believing in the individual’s responsibility to take care of himself. There’s no reason to abandon a system that works.

Friday, June 19, 2009

This Is Why I Need to Go to Washington

Oh, I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have been a Senator in that room.

Actually, I wish I could have been the Junior Senator from the Great State of Missouri in that hearing room, scheduled to ask the next question after the Junior Senator from California completed her round of questions.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was questioning Brigadier General Michael Walsh about something — it doesn’t matter what — during a hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Senator Boxer received her seventeen seconds of fame on the Internet with a terse and extremely irreverent tirade against the General.

If you missed the video, here it is.

The exchange went like this:


Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA): Well, why has it been delayed?

Brigadier General Michael Walsh: Uh, Ma’am, at the uh, LACPR is a …

Senator Boxer: I don’t… You know, do me a favor. Could you say “Senator” instead of “Ma’am”?

General Walsh: Yes…

Senator Boxer: It’s just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title. So I’d appreciate it. Yes, thank you.

General Walsh: Yes, Senator.


(If you listen closely, you can actually hear a little giggle from somebody in the background right after Senator Boxer’s declaration of working “so hard to get that title”.)

In my wildest of dreams, I am the Senator from Missouri. Immediately after Senator Boxer, it is my turn – according to the rules of the Senate Committee – to ask my questions of the General.

The exchange would go something like this.


Senator Joe DeShon (R-MO): (To Senator Boxer) Thank you, Senator, for yielding your time. (Turning to the General) General Walsh, before I start my questioning, I want to inform you that you are welcome to call me “Sir”, or “Senator”, or “Mr. DeShon” – maybe even “Joe” – as you see fit. You have certainly earned that right in return for your service to our country, for which I am eternally grateful.

General Walsh: Thank you, sir.


And, with that formal exchange, the questioning would continue.

Senator Boxer has forgotten that being a Brigadier General is a service to the country. General Walsh certainly has a right to show his pride by wearing his uniform and displaying his stars in public.

A Senator, on the other hand, is a job for which someone is hired by the voters of their respective state. They are to serve on behalf of those citizens by making laws as mandated by the Constitution of the United States.

The Senator further needs to realize that the first thing that members of the military are taught is to show respect for authority. That respect is usually demonstrated in public by referring to everybody as “Sir” or “Ma’am”. At worst, the general was demonstrating that he is a creature of habit. At best, he is showing respect to the Senator by calling her “Ma’am”, much more respect for her than she showed for him.

If somebody feels that they had to “work hard” for the title of Senator, that person should be shamed into retirement. That is especially true if that person is so insecure in her title that she feels the need to proclaim such a fact on the public record by humiliating a member of the Armed Forces of the greatest country on Earth.

I’m sure after my little display of arrogance in the hearing room that I would be chastised in the hallways of the Senate — perhaps in public — by Senator Boxer or her representatives for the disrespect that I displayed to my colleague. That’s okay; I have tough skin. I can take it.

I am also sure that I would be privately taken to the woodshed by the Republican leadership of the Senate for failing to respect the esteemed opposition and the majority party. I would probably be relieved of any leadership in the Senate. That’s okay; they didn’t hire me for the job.

I am also sure that my mailbox would be full of congratulatory words of encouragement from my constituents at home and that my chances for re-election by those voters would go up by several percentage points for standing my ground on principle.

It would be worth it.

Yep, I definitely need to get serious about this run for Congress…

Monday, March 30, 2009

On Losing My Job and Starting a New Career

Today I begin my new career as an “independent consultant”.

That’s just a fancy term meaning that the employer with whom I had spent the last twenty years of my life has informed me that my services are no longer needed.

They still need the services of people who had been there half as long as me. As well as people who make half as much money as I made. They even still need the services of people that made twice the money I made. They just don’t need my services any more.

I know. They told me.

I’m in good company. I join the ranks of the unemployed along with 6,000 other people in the largest restructuring and downsizing in the company’s history. I wasn’t singled out — I was just caught up in the cleansing.

I’m not bitter. I’m going to use the opportunity to control my destiny outside the confines of corporate America for the first time in my life.

I have always considered myself as something of an “intrepreneur”. An “intrepreneur” is somebody who has a lot of good ideas, but who implements them within the confines of a corporate setting. That’s how I always saw myself. I was the guy who would get things done inside the company — even if I was just a little bit outside the normal operating process.

That’s how I did things until they didn’t need my services any more.

Recently, I did some research comparing “intrepreneur” and “entrepreneur”. I discovered that the difference is who accepts the risk. Along with that is who reaps the reward.

When I was an “intrepreneur”, I accepted virtually no risk. If I failed a task, I still had my job; I still had my salary. The corporation risked my salary and my resources and was willing to absorb the loss if I was unproductive.

On the other hand, if I was successful with a project, the corporation reaped potentially huge rewards. I usually received an acknowledgement from boss at the next staff meeting. No risk; and not much reward.

Now my role will change from “intrepreneur” to “entrepreneur”. It’s not the course that I chose for myself — I fully intended to retire from my former employer. But it’s a course that I’ll gladly accept with open arms.

The risks will be totally mine from now on. And they will be great risks. I risk losing everything I’ve worked the last 30 years for. I risk losing my life savings, my house, my car — indeed, all my accumulated wealth, such as it is.

But I don’t risk losing the things that are most important to me. I won’t lose my life, my family, my friends. I won’t lose my faith — not in myself nor in my God. No, the things that are the most important to me are at the least risk. And only the things that are least important to me are at the greatest risk.

On the other hand, the potential rewards are great. I can finally be in control of my own time. I can work when and if I want to (subject only to the pressing need to put food on the table). I can set my own rules, establish my own procedures, and choose the guidelines that I want to follow.

Most important, I can treat my customers the way that I want to treat them. I can establish a new standard for customer service. I can set my own prices. I can control my own expenses.

And every post-tax dollar that I earn will be mine to keep — to dispose of or to enjoy or to share in whatever fashion I choose.

It’s a liberating thought. And, frankly, a bit scary. For the first time in my life, I will be in total control of all my risks and rewards.

I can hardly wait to get started.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

America’s Best Poet

We get a new President only every four years or so. Even when the President isn’t the Messiah Obama, a presidential inauguration is the closest thing we have in America to a royal coronation.

Usually at such a solemn event, it is incumbent upon us to enlist the very best. Of course, we would have the best military band to provide the pomp. And the best soldiers to provide the best honor guard.

We would also have the very best Queen of Soul to sing “My Country ’Tis of Thee”. The best evangelical preacher to give the invocation. The best classical musicians to perform a specially-commission piece, written by the best classical composer of our day.

And, in this case, the best ... poet. Perhaps she can call upon the poetry gods ... to inspire her to give a recitation ... of the best ... poetry ... that this great nation ... has to offer.

In case you missed it, Dr. Elizabeth Alexander was the best, uh, poet, that Barack Obama could find.

In deference to copyright laws, I won’t publish her work here. You can read it here.

I think I can call upon the “fair use” clause to give you this sample, the first few lines of “Praise Song for the Day”:

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

It goes downhill rapidly from there.

I don’t doubt Dr. Alexander’s credentials. After all, she has three college degrees (just like me). A work of hers was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize (okay, she has one up on me in that category).

She is a former journalist for the Washington Post and currently is a professor of English literature, African-American literature, and gender studies at Yale University. Impressive credentials.

Her brother, Mark, was an adviser to the Obama presidential campaign and a member of his transition team.

Well, that explains a lot.

In an interview with the New York Times, she downplayed the role that her inner-circle connections with the Obamanistas played in her selection for this honor. “[E]very choice he’s made is ... based on what he perceives as excellence,” she says.

Here’s another example of what Dr. Alexander believes that Obama “perceives as excellence” as she tries to paint a verbal picture of a slice of life in America:

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.


Writing the things that need to be written. Saying the things that need to be said. Driving to the places that need to be driven to. Doing the things that need to be done.

Not a plethora of substance here.

In 1961, John Kennedy called upon Robert Frost to speak at his inauguration. Frost responded by writing “Dedication”. But in the glare of the white snow on a sunny day, the 86-year-old poet could not read his own commissioned work. Instead, he recited “The Gift Outright” from memory.

Frost later presented his handwritten version of “Dedication” to the President, who had it framed and hung on the Oval Office wall. That copy is now in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston.

The poem Frost wrote for the occasion was a stirring tribute to the history of a great nation, including the following verse:

Now came on a new order of the ages
That in the Latin of our founding sages
(Is it not written on the dollar bill
We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
God nodded his approval of as good.
So much those heroes knew and understood.

Frost’s go-to poem when he couldn’t read his manuscript was no less majestic, a reminder of our colonial roots and our Manifest Destiny:

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, Still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

Forty-eight years later, Barack Obama asked a friend of his to write her best poetry as a gift to the nation. Dr. Alexander came up with this:

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

The President has four years to search for our country’s second best poet. Let’s hope he doesn’t get a chance to reveal his choice to the nation.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Inauguration: So Much Material

The Inauguration of Barack Obama yesterday as our 44th President provided so much material for comment. Where to begin?

Today, let’s stick to the speech itself. Here are some key phrases from the rambling speech that caught my attention, along with my coherent commentary:

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

Actually, since Grover Cleveland had non-consecutive terms, he was both the 22nd and the 24th presidents. So there have only been 43 men who have taken the oath. And you barely stumbled through yours. Yeah, I know, on further review, the replay shows the fault for the flub goes to the Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts. I'll cut you both some slack, but it’s a shaky start.

At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

That’s a direct contradiction of your speech a couple of weeks ago where you proclaimed that our problems are so big that “only government” could fix them. Which is it, Mr. President? Are we successful because of “We the People”? Or are we successful because the government is always here to bail us out? I would like to believe the former. I think — regardless of what you say in your inaugural address — that you believe the latter.

Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

What hard choices have we failed to make? How have we failed to prepare the nation for a new age? It seems that’s a direct attack on the former president sitting just a few feet behind you. But I believe that the economy has been weakened mostly by the intervention of government in the free market, not by its failure to intervene.

Homes have been lost.

No, sir. Homes have not “been lost”. Some people who could not afford to buy a home — but who had been told by the government that they could buy a home anyway — now realize that the government has failed them and has duped them. President Obama believes that people who can afford homes are supposed to buy homes for those who cannot afford them, because the government has already lied to them and told them that they could afford them.

Jobs [have been] shed. Businesses [have been] shuttered.

Employees are assets. Employers are not charities. When the cost of an asset exceeds its value, it must be shed. Interference by Big Government and Big Labor has resulted in the cost of an employee to be two or three times his salary. If the government were suddenly miraculously found to be irrelevant, most of those people would be back at work.

Our health care is too costly.

Our health care is costly, but saying it’s “too” costly is a value judgment that you are not qualified to make. If it’s the best health care in the world — which it is — then it’s not “too” costly. If you think health care is expensive now, just wait to see how much it will cost when it’s “free”.

Our schools fail too many.

The success of our school is a local concern, not a federal one. The failure of our schools is a federal concern, not a local one.

Each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

The solution is to invest in nuclear energy (a proven technology with virtually no environmental impact) and clean coal energy (we have more coal reserves than the Arabs have in oil reserves). We have already built all the hydroelectric dams that are economically feasible. Good luck if you think you can power your Presidential Limousine with solar cells and a windmill.

We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

My safety comes first. Your “ideals” — which will only bankrupt me — are of no concern of mine.

Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine...

Not to take anything away from the perils that the Continental Army encountered, the worse peril they faced was a bullet between their eyes. King George’s army was not capable of flying a plane into the tallest building in Philadelphia.

... drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man...

They drafted a charter to limit size and scope of the federal government. The rule of law and the rights of man are directly correlated to the behavior of the population and the extent to which the government stays away from governing that behavior.

...a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

It wasn’t “expanded” by the blood of generations. It was “defended” by them. Was this a Freudian slip, caused by his belief that it needs even more “expanding”?

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

According to the ideals of President Obama, extracting information from captured terrorists is currently being done because it’s “expedient”, not because it’s actually saving lives.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

Begin again? Remaking America? I don’t think we ever stopped making America great in the first place. What happened? Did we “forget” how to make America and now we need you to remind us how to do it? America was made great because the government allowed its citizens to be great, not because the Commander-in-Chief told us that we’re supposed to.

America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity and ... we are ready to lead once more.

Actually, we never stopped leading. The failure of other countries to follow is not a result of our failure to lead. If we hadn’t led in the war against terror, who would have? The French? The Spaniards?

There you have it. A blow-by-blow, paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal of virtually every salient point of the President’s inaugural address. I’m tired. It’s going to be a long four years. But I’m up to the task.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don’t Get Comfortable, President Obama

This is the day that I knew would eventually come. Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. By winning 53% of the popular vote, it can hardly be said that he had an unconditional mandate of the electorate. Nevertheless, today’s festivities are more of a coronation than an inauguration. One thing can be said of his supporters: they turn out and they make themselves heard. What they lack in numbers, they make up for in spirit, and they are to be commended for that.

He wasn’t my candidate, but now he’s my president. I wish him well, but I don’t wish him success. If success were to be measured by the revitalization of our nation’s economy, that would be a good thing. But if success means the successful implementation of his Pollyannic socialistic ideals, that would be disastrous for our country.

Even before taking office, he has shown a dangerous tendency to deliver the best news to a crowd of people at the best of times, while directly contradicting himself by his very actions. And his followers are blissfully unaware of his true intentions as the rapturously absorb his platitudes.

While campaigning for the office, a common theme was “Change doesn’t come from Washington, change comes to Washington.” Shades of Ronald Reagan! The Great Communicator won the hearts of the nation when he proclaimed that “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” and “We are a nation that has a government — not the other way around.”

The difference is that Reagan meant it and governed by that principle. For Obama, it was a handy sound byte, designed to win adoration and votes. It got him both, and he immediately abandoned it.

In his Linconesque train ride from Philadelphia to Washington, he proclaimed that we need “a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry — an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.” What he has forgotten in that his very election proves that we have already declared ourselves independent of prejudice and bigotry. But if he would celebrate the civil rights victory for what it is, he wouldn’t be able to operate in perpetual campaign-mode. A common flaw with liberals is that they believe that declaring victory over a cause would put them out of business — and that’s a situation they can’t afford to be in.

In his pre-presidential speech outlining our nation’s economic woes, he felt a need to remind us of our misery, and to remind us of our impending dependency on Big Government. He claimed that our problems are so big that “only Washington” can fix them. So much for bringing change to Washington! Washington has always believed it was the only solution to our problems — that’s what has created so many of our problems. It’s just that politicians are usually smart enough not to tip their own hand. Apparently, Obama has believed that the “dumbing of America” has worked to the extent that he doesn’t need to sidestep the issue any more.

Will the change that he promised be realized on his first day in office? Nope. Obama’s inauguration will cost four times as much as the next most expensive inauguration. Hardly representative of an austere government in difficult economic times. And will it be for the common people? Nope. It has primarily been financed by the same corporate giants and liberal millionaires that got him elected in the first place.

But that didn’t stop him from literally raffling off a ticket to the event on his web site. Yep. Thousands of people donated money to his cause, hoping to be the lucky one to win a coveted seat at the proceedings. He graciously accepted the working people’s money, even though it was a pittance compared to the corporate sponsorship and had virtually no effect or influence on the outcome. But it made people believe they were contributing something useful and it gave them “hope” for “change”. That’s about the only hope they’re going to get.

Obama’s claim that there is only one President didn’t keep him from demanding hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus relief from Congress — fully expecting the bill to be on his desk awaiting his signature Wednesday morning.

He doesn’t realize that the only stimulus package we really need has already arrived... it was the housing bubble and the collapse of the stock market and some of our leading financial organizations. That wasn’t a symptom of the problem, that was an indication that the free market was correcting itself. I can’t help it if you don’t like the medicine. It’s the best thing that could have happened.

Instead, he wants to repeat the same mistakes of FDR, actions which lengthened the depression by ten years.

So, enjoy your parties your parades and your balls today, President Obama. Settle into the White House tonight. Enjoy your first day in the Oval Office tomorrow morning. But don’t get comfortable. The honeymoon is already over. The loyal opposition is already in place. And we’re ready for you.