One of the GOP’s main talking points this election season is repealing Obamacare. The real point of that is to keep Obamacare at the fore since the American public is still unconvinced that it is a good thing. In general, I agree that Obamacare is not a viable, long term solution in its current form. One way or another, I think the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will morph into something else. However, I do not think the GOP will be successful in repealing the ACA and if they are successful I do not think the action would be popular.

I am a life long registered GOP voter. I do not always agree with the party but it most closely represents my political views. If the GOP is serious about repealing ACA they first need to explain what they will replace it with. What does the GOP healthcare reform look like? The DNC did a good job of squelching GOP proposals and even GOP participation in the healthcare debate during the 2008 – 2010 time frame when ACA was developed and finally passed. I think most voters believe that the GOP had no alternatives proposals. This is untrue. The GOP was making proposals, they just weren’t very effective at getting their story out, which is a long standing problem for the GOP.

The proposal I still prefer had three main components; decouple healthcare from employers, allow insurance providers to operate at the national level instead of the state level, implement meaningful tort reform. To this I would add one more important component; an assigned risk pool for those deemed un-insurable.

Insofar as I can determine health insurance as an employment benefit started during World War II when wage caps prevented employers from offering ever higher wages. Health insurance coverage became allowed as a form of compensation to attract workers. Today, health care coverage being attached to one’s employer makes no logical sense. Moreover, the arrangement skews the market in a direction that puts the individual at a disadvantage.

Because health insurance is currently obtained primarily through one’s employer, heath insurance companies spend the bulk of their effort developing products aimed at winning medium and large companies because this is where the biggest profit is made. Health insurance products for individuals and small companies require significantly more effort to sell and offer a significantly smaller profit margin.

Decoupling health insurance from employment is simply a matter of taxing health insurance contributions made by the employer as income to the individual. This will force health insurance providers to focus on developing products for and selling to individuals rather than corporations. The individual consumer gains direct control over their health care options rather than being forced to choose from whatever list of options their current employer decided to provide. The health care provider is motivated to develop better products for the individual and family because this becomes their primary means of delivering their product.

Removing state boundaries allowing health insurance companies to operate nationwide greatly broadens the pool of insured. All but the smallest health insurance companies already operate nation wide. Eliminating the state boundary requirements would simply allow them to do so more efficiently. Some states would benefit from increased competition.

Tort reform would be a real attempt to reduce health care costs. Much of the increasing cost in health care is related to minimizing exposure to malpractice suits, either through higher malpractice coverage or by ordering a myriad of tests primarily for the purpose of protecting the practice against law suits. Tort reform would very probably also be the most difficult piece of the proposal. Tort lawyers are politically well organized, well funded, and very active in lobbying.

The component not on the GOP proposal but which I think is critical is an assigned risk pool. In my mind, this would work similar to auto insurance assigned risk. Individuals who have medical conditions that warrant it are put in the assigned risk pool. In the case of auto insurance assigned risk carries a high cost as a penalty for being a bad driver. Since medical conditions seldom if ever warrant punitive measures, assigned risk health insurance could work exactly the opposite. Anyone in assigned risk would get health care coverage at the same price as a healthy individual with no medical issues. The assigned risk pool would be evenly distributed across all health insurance companies and participation is required. The government could help subsidize this group thereby using tax dollars to help those who need help.

I understand that people do not like ACA but let us get passed the emotional desire to punish anyone and focus on making a better health care system in this country. If the issue is providing top quality health care to as many citizens as possible, let us focus on that. Not on whose plan we are using or who gets the credit or the blame.

The GOP could implement each of these components without the drama and backlash of repealing ACA. Either as a package or as individual items. The GOP could bill it as their contribution to improving ACA which would go to demonstrating their willingness to find common ground and cooperate.

How does the GOP plan to solve the problems that ACA is attempting to solve? I understand that the GOP does not think ACA is a good solution. I even agree that it is not a good solution. However, ACA has made things better for my family. My son, who has a pre-existing condition and cannot get health care coverage on his own, benefits from ACA. The GOP should focus on convincing American voters that it can make health care in America better. Better than it is now, better than what ACA is offering. The GOP tells me they want to repeal ACA but they are silent when I ask what they plan to replace it with.

It is so obvious that if you do not understand this you are clearly uninformed, uneducated, stupid and possibly evil.

This is the basic argument of all things political in America today. We see it all over social media. The blatant insinuation that if you do not “understand” X, you are stupid. If you don’t understand that Obamacare is bad for America, you are stupid. If you do not understand that the Koch brothers are buying/have bought the American political system, you are stupid. If you do not know that Obama is a Muslim, you are stupid. And on it goes. The naked arrogance in both tone and content makes any civil discourse about the given issue all but impossible. The deep partisan divide is as much a grassroots movement as it is a problem inside the Beltway, in fact what happens inside the Beltway may well be a reflection of this grassroots phenomenon.

There is actually a lot going on in formulation of these arguments. First, a complicated and convoluted issue is reduced to a single component. That single component is then encapsulated in an emotionally loaded statement that is heavily biased. The statement is delivered with righteous indignation, calling into question your intelligence if you do not immediately and unequivocally agree. The ploy is that emotion, ego, and bewilderment will take you down the primrose path before you have a chance to question the original premise. Before long, it feels so good to support such a worthy cause that honestly and openly evaluating the cause in earnest seems almost evil.

One thing I have learned in life is that I am never the smartest guy in the room. Regardless of the topic, no matter how many years I have been doing it, there is a better than even chance that someone in the room knows more about it, has more experience doing it than I do. And if I am not the smartest man in the room, I am definitely not the wisest man in the room. Ever. My greatest moments of wisdom are when I have the presence of mind to shut up. So, I am not really comfortable with idea that I have figured out the answer to any given thing and anyone who does not agree with me is wrong. I have some pretty strong political opinions. I have a preference for how I would like to see government work. I also recognize that very smart, wise people who have studied forms of government and government process most of their lives have arrived at opinions and preferences that are very different from mine. It would be the height of arrogance to assume that they are not as smart is I am. It would be only slightly less arrogant to presume that I am smart enough and wise enough to discern which of two opposing groups of smart people is correct to the extent that I am willing to call everyone who does not agree with my choice stupid.

Life demands that we all make decisions. An old adage says that wisdom comes from making bad choices. I think that is only partially true. We do seem capable of repeatedly making bad choices while never getting any wiser. At least I am so capable. As we go through life we come to conclusions about how life works, why things happen. I think that our choices, conclusions and opinions would benefit from taking the time to fully understand the person who has arrived at a completely different choice, conclusion or opinion. Even after we fully understand how she arrived there we may not agree. I might even think he is not very smart. If I was a wise man, I would also consider the possibility that I am the one who is wrong. Maybe even on both counts.

“I’m the village idiot, I don’t have anything to do with this pathetic little opera, I just felt like passing through!”

A quote from Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice,
an opera in one unnatural act
by PDQ Bach.

I sent the following email to Senator Feinstein via Senator Feinstein’s web site response to her statements in this video clip:

Senator Feinstein: Veterans may have PTSD and should not be exempt from assault weapons ban.

Senator Feinstein,

I am a service member in the United States Army Reserves. I have served in the United States military for 15 years. I have done two tours in Iraq. Wearing the uniform of this great nation is one of my greatest privileges.

I want to let you know that I take your categorization of all US military veterans as a risk who should have their second amendment rights abridged as a direct and personal insult. I find it utterly shocking that you actually believe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something unique to recent conflicts. It has gotten a new name and we understand it better but it is the same disorder that has affected combat veterans for as long as there have been wars. This nation has veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, as well as OIF and OEF who suffer from the affects of PTSD. You should take the time to understand us and make an effort to fight for the services that my brothers and sisters ought to get from the nation they have sacrificed so much for instead trying to take away the rights we fight to defend.

You do the military veterans of the State of California a grave injustice in your failure to represent our interest.

— Mark G. Smith, SSG United States Army Reserve

Proposition 30: Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

This is essentially a bail out to compensate for a California State legislature that is incapable of doing its job. The State of California operates at a $13 billion deficit because the state legislature spends money it does not have. This is a symptomatic fix to a systemic problem. In 2010 the California state legislature enjoyed a 9% approval rating, yet California voters turned out not a single incumbent. Not one.

The state legislature needs to understand that you can only buy goods and services that you have the money to pay for. They need to understand that given limited fiscal resources, you have to prioritize spending. Voting for temporary tax increases while the state legislature continues to spend with complete abandon is to facilitate behavior that is counter to the best interests of Californians.

I am voting no on prop 30

Proposition 31: State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

As I see it, prop 31 implements measures to force fiscal responsibility. I understand the opponent’s arguments that it is not a perfect solution but I also note that most of the opponents have a financially vested interest in the current state budget. A $13 billion deficit is not going to be easy to address. Left to their own initiatives, I do not believe the California State government is capable of it. The proposition does increase the power of the governor’s office but not beyond what, at least to me, seems reasonable. The governor has to power to cut budgets but only during fiscal emergencies. Do not want the governor to get that power, don’t allow fiscal emergencies to develop. Pretty simple, really. Brinksmanship suddenly becomes distasteful.

I am voting yes on prop 31

Proposition 32: Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.

The union’s argument against prop 32 assumes that the current playing field is level. That individuals, corporations, unions all have fair and equal influence on the political system. I do not believe this is true. I think, have long thought that unions have an advantage. I think that unions first represent unions, then the members of those unions. Unions are first about self preservation, members are second. Unions provide a lot more influence than just dollars. Unions hold persuasive power over their members that corporations do not. Unions can deliver votes. Unions also deliver campaign workers. Union influence in the American political system is significant beyond simple cash contributions.

I might feel differently if this were a right to work state and people actually had a choice about joining the union. In many occupations they do not, teachers, public safety, airlines just to cite a few examples. If you do not like the politics that the union is promoting you do not have the option to leave the union without leaving your occupation. Or losing your benefits.

Nothing prevents the unions from forming SuperPACs and participating in the political process the same way corporations do. If the union members agree with the union’s political endeavors, they can sign up to make an automatic payroll contribution to the PAC, much the way some industry employees do now. That would put the political influence of the unions in the hands of its members and allow those members to make their own decisions about how their money is used.

I am voting no on prop 32.

Proposition 33: Auto Insurance Companies. Prices based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.

As I understand this proposition it will create greater competition between auto insurance carriers by allowing them to compete on price for consumers. The current rules provide an advantage to the company that currently has the individual’s business. Increased competition is good for the consumer. The primary argument against this proposition is essentially that individuals who opt to discontinue coverage for more than 90 days will pay a penalty upon re-entry. However, that might also be stated this way. All drivers should be penalized so that those individuals who opt not to have auto insurance are not. I would like to see greater competition among auto insurance companies.

I am voting yes on prop 33.

Proposition 34: Death Penalty. Initiative Statute

This is about money, pure and simple. The death penalty is too expensive and I do not think that the process can be revised to make it economical. While I do believe that there are some crimes for which the perpetrator should die, I can find no argument that reasonably justifies the expense of the death penalty.

Scholarly Articles on the death penalty published in Loyola Law Review.

I am voting yes on prop 34

Proposition 35: Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

Human trafficking and sex slavery are horrible injustices that should be fought at every opportunity. This proposition does not add anything of substance to that fight. It does increase costs to the state budget which is already out of control. Victims’ advocacy groups are critical of the law. Education in human trafficking and sex slavery is already required at the federal. I know this because I have to complete a course on it every year for the Army.

I am voting no on prop 35

Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

Again, it is about budget. I think the Three Strikes Law is a good idea. However, I do believe the state of California can continue to afford incarcerating everyone who gets convicted three times. Thus, it makes sense that we should apply the three strikes rule more vigorously to those who commit serious or violent crimes.

I am voting yes on prop 36.

Proposition 37: Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute.

I am just short of militant about pure food. I adamantly believe that GMOs should be labeled. 37 will not deliver that in any kind of effective measure. Just because companies like Monsanto are against it does not make it a good law. It is important to also look into who is backing it and why.

San Francisco Chronicle Editioral.

I am voting no on prop 37.

Proposition 38: Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute.

The California education system needs a ground up overhaul to improve effectiveness and efficiency. The state legislature needs to step up and do its job of deciding what the state is going to fund and how. Managing the budget for the state’s education system through complicated and competing ballot propositions is damning condemnation on those elected as law makers to the state legislature. They are the ones that should be figuring this out. Continuing to fund a bad system is not a good answer.

I am voting no on prop 38.

Proposition 39: Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.

I was originally intending to vote yes on prop 39. In researching this blog entry. I changed my mind. California desperately needs to increase revenue as well as cut costs. That is the only way it is going to reduce and eliminate its $13 billion budget deficit. While this proposition would close a loop hole in the tax code and increase tax revenue by an estimated $1 billion, it then also dictates that money be spent on green energy and education. Spending on green energy has been a fiasco in my opinion, with Solyndra as its poster child. But more to the point, given California’s current and ongoing budget crisis, I do not think the state can afford this kind of directed spending.

Californians need to demand that its legislators finally show up to work and do their job. They also need to provide the resources in an unfettered manner to get that job done. I believe that the state and the country is ill served by those who use the ballot to promote their favorite issues. Life and its governance is complicated and cannot be reduced to pursuit of single concerns. There are a plethora of issues and problems facing California today. Green energy does not deserve special funding in the face of the current budgetary issues this state faces.

I am voting no on prop 39.

Proposition 40: Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.

It started with proposition 11 in 2008, proposition 20 in 2010 and now, what we should hope will be final approval with prop 40. This process takes control of the political districts out of the hands of the party in power in the state legislature and puts it in the hands of an independent committee. This is not a perfect solution but it is an improvement.

Passage of Proposition 11
Redistricting Committee FAQ

I am voting yes on prop 40.

The unemployment rate among college graduates is 4.1% (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). We might choose to believe that this provides a case for getting a college degree. However, this overlooks some very important truths. Some people are not good at or happy in the types of jobs that a college degree affords. College is not necessarily the best format for preparing people for all occupations. Society needs the services of many occupations that are not well served by college education.

The thought being that if we give everyone a college education, they will rise to the socio-economic advantage that people with a college education normally have. However, what if it is not the college education that is the key to success? Is it not more likely that success comes out of pursuing that which you are good at, that which you find fulfilling? Is the only difference between an auto mechanic and an economist, the college education of the latter? Is it reasonable to suppose that had the auto mechanic instead gone to college, majored in economics, she would be happy working in economics? The most rudimentary survey of high school students shows that this is clearly not the case. Some people are made to more academic pursuits. Some people are wired to be outside. Some people are only happy when their hands are covered in grease and oil and they are up to their waist in a motor.

As a society we have made it second rate to pursue a career that does not involve going to college. Kitchen tables all across America are the battle ground of kids who are being told that they must go to college even though their passion is to build homes, fix cars, or be a cowboy. Where would today’s unemployment rate be if being blue collar were not equated with being second class? If students who sought to pursue vocational careers paths were given equal time and resources as their college bound peers?

Mike Rowe hits the nail on the head his testimony before the Senate.

One of the things that I was looking forward to on this deployment was being in Iraq for at least one and possibly two elections. I was certain that the provincial elections would take place while I was deployed. National elections were also scheduled to take place during my time here but I suspect they will get delayed until after I return home.

However, provincial elections were held the last day of January. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were responsible for ensuring the security of this election, Coalition Forces providing reinforcements as directed by ISF. As a result, I did not get to see the election as up close and personal as I’d hoped. I did have several opportunities to talk with Iraqis prior to the elections. They talked about their dissatisfaction with elected officials and their lack of confidence in the government as a whole. Over the coming weeks, I will have more opportunities to talk with Iraqis about their perception of the election.

Over the past week I’ve been reading news reports and thinking about the election results, trying to figure out how to talk about them here. Today, I came across an article from the BBC which says it much better than I might. I’ve quoted some of the key points that I think are most significant. I highly encourage you to read the article itself. It is without exception the best assessment of the election and its significance that I have seen. Great analysis.

That is not just a security achievement, but a huge step forward in Iraq’s political development and the emergence of a real democratic culture.

They learned, for the first time, that they could hold those they elected to account, and change them if they failed to meet expectations.

On both the Shia and Sunni sides, there was a clear shift away from the Islamic religious parties which dominated Iraqi politics after the 2005 elections.

The emphasis has been on capability, performance, honesty, and national commitment rather than religious credentials.

read more | digg story

The Iraqi people have tasted freedom and democracy. They have tasted the wine of self-rule. I believe that in the creation and development of a democratic society what is most important is ensuring the next election. The most important milestone in measuring Iraq’s progress toward becoming a secure, economically stable, democratic state is the next election. The International community must make it clear to Iraq that they are watching and they will ensure that the next election is held.

Lastly, I wonder if history will be more kind to Mr. Bush than pop culture has been. Cries of ‘worst president ever’ are as ignorant and arrogant as presuming that someone will be a great president before they’ve even been elected. Whatever else you want to say, a portion of the credit for the successful elections in Iraq belong to Mr. Bush.


So, it’s done. On or about January 20th, Barack Obama will become the President of the United States. I am half tempted to lower myself to the level of those who have the bumper sticker that says, “He’s not MY president.” However, I was not raised to be that arrogant or selfish. I will respect the duly elected president. We survived Clinton, I’m sure that this great country will survive Mr. Obama as well. I do think it is unfortunate that we will not have the chance to see Mr McCain serve as president. I believe he would have been one of the great presidents.
At the end of the day, I believe that the McCain campaign was it’s own worst enemy. Many of the video pieces that campaign ran were sophomoric and mean spirited. Much of the message coming out of the McCain campaign focused on belittling Mr. Obama and not nearly enough time providing proof that Mr. McCain was the better candidate. The McCain campaign spent far too much time defining itself in the context of Mr. Obama. What it desperately needed was to define Mr. McCain in the context of his many years in government. That’s a pity.
The McCain campaign failed to exploit new media (web 2.0, social networking, twitter, Digg, Facebook, etc.) effectively. I believe this is actually a fundamental problem that the Republican party as a whole needs to address and quickly. In the months after the primaries when it had been established that Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama were the real contenders, most social networking sites showed a strong Obama presence while McCain supporters were clearly a minority and poorly organized. There are a number of articles in the main stream press that talk about the Obama campaign’s capitalization of new media. Having numerous people on the floor with video cams and then posting video to YouTube within minutes. The McCain campaign had nothing close.
Hopefully, Republicans will learn for this experience and make a greater effort to enlist the younger, more tech savvy members of the party to make better use of this powerful communication venue in the future. To be sure, Democrats have a significant advantage. Social networking is one of the primary tools of activists. New media in the form of documentary style content production using handheld pro-sumer video cameras, iMovie and Final Cut to produce propaganda which is then released on YouTube and similar sites is a core competency of any activist worth his salt. Republicans are definitely playing a serious catch up game.
The real pity of it is that John McCain lends himself so well to these forms of communication. It only required the campaign to actually enlist the services of technically savvy individuals. Had the campaign managed to take control of the message rather than depending on MSM to do it for them and allowing the Obama campaign to capitalize on the less flattering moments, I think he would have done quite well. I believe it was an opportunity lost.
Should be an interesting two years.

Obama, just returning from his trip to the Middle East and Europe, said recently that he was told by Iraqi leaders that nation does not want an open-ended presence of U.S. combat forces and that now is an appropriate time to start planning for a reorganization of troops in Iraq. He also noted that the war costs about $10 billion a month, which could be used to shore up the U.S. economy.

read story

Several interesting points here. Everyone, including Mr. Obama, is assuming an open-ended presence in Iraq in the form of a residual force. How big that force is, where it is based, and what its mission will be are open questions but everyone on the US side is planning to leave a residual force in or near Iraq.

That the Iraqi leaders think now is the “time to start planning a reorganization of troops in Iraq” is a direct result of surge. The 16 month time frame that Mr. Obama talks about today is significantly different that the one he originally proposed, which was intended to put pressure on the Iraqis. In fact, what Mr. Obama does not mention is that Iraqi leadership is actually beginning to put some pressure on the US to plan on leaving completely.

Lastly, given that Mr. Obama wants to shift the military focus to Afghanistan, increasing troop strengths there and possibly expanding military operations to pursue al Qaeda and Taliban into Pakistan, I have to wonder just exactly how much of that $10 billion a month would actually get spent on shoring up the U.S. economy.


[posted with ecto]

Technorati Tags: , ,

“That triggered then a concern that maybe our visit was going to be perceived as political,” Obama said. “The last thing that I want to do is have injured soldiers and the staff at these wonderful institutions having to sort through whether this is political or not or get caught in the crossfire between campaigns. So rather than go forward and potentially get caught up in what might have been a political controversy, of some sort, what we decided was that we would not make a visit.”

read more | digg story

For a man who prides himself on his judgement, it seems to have failed him this time. In the course of planning a world tour in which he would meet with many world leaders and the purpose of which was to enhance his image before voters back home, Mr. Obama did not realize that a visit to Landstuhl military hospital might be misconstrued as having political overtones? Nor did he have the political acumen to realize that abandoning the scheduled visit suddenly would also have political ramifications.

It seems to me the smart move would have been to tell Maj. Gen. Scott Gration that he would need to sit this one out, take only his senatorial staff and visit the troops as the Senator from Illinois. Chalked it up to poor judgement due to lack of experience.

[posted with ecto]

Technorati Tags: , ,