Category Archives: Health Care

Whose World Is It Anyway?

This morning I read an interesting article on OZY titled “Don’t Let Old People Vote!” I won’t go into great detail, but it did raise an interesting question for me: Whose world is it anyway?

One of my independent opponents, Rick Tyler, longs for a return to the way the U.S. was in the 1950s and 1960s, when white Christian Conservatives were in control. Tyler is extreme, certainly, but parts of his attitude are reflected in many older Americans. Opposition to gay marriage and equality, environmental protection, improved funding for education are all much greater among older Americans than younger, while older Americans are more likely to vote than younger Americans.

This is due at least in part due to the fact that voter registration isn’t automatic. The seventy-five-year-old who has lived in the same house for forty years hasn’t had to re-register, while the twenty-five-year-old recent college graduate likely had to re-register when moving from home to college, then when switching apartments, then when moving from college to the new job–possibly six or seven moves since turning eighteen. If the twenty-five-year-old is in Tennessee, that requires mailing in a new registration form for each move at least thirty days before an election, since there is no electronic voter registration. Thus, part of the reason for lower voter turnout among young Americans is systemic, rather than simply being voter apathy.

This is problematic, because older Americans are, effectively, voting to force younger Americans to live in the world they want, rather than in the world older Americans would like to return. Unfortunately, the world they want cannot return, because America is unlikely to return to a manufacturing economy, not due to moving jobs out of the country but due to increased automation–and that automation is only going to continue to allow workers to improve productivity, which will continue to decrease the number of workers needed. We need trade laws that protect intellectual property rights (although not to the extreme duration that the Trans-Pacific Partnership mandates), because these are areas where the U.S. still excels. Protecting the environment is also less important to older Americans, because they are unlikely to suffer the consequences. Their college wasn’t free, so why should it be for younger Americans–ignoring the fact that a college student in their day could pay for school, room, and board with a part-time job plus a full-time job in the summer? And, of course, many older Americans don’t think that racism and homophobia was really that bad–because LGBT people stayed closeted and minorities “knew their place.”

As anyone who has read more than one post on this blog knows, I’m not a normal politician. I don’t look forward to tomorrow, next week, or next year: I look ten, twenty, and fifty years into the future. I think we need to be planning an online voting infrastructure now, and it should be trivial for someone to change their address in the system. I think we need to continue to improve our environmental standards–but we need to make sure that while improving standards we don’t also increase the regulatory burden on American businesses. If we add a new reporting requirement, we need to remove an existing one. Civil rights protections need to cover any group subject to discrimination on any basis besides their ability to do a job–with appropriate accommodations, where needed–or to pay for the goods and services provided. I have said before that we need to move toward a single-payer health care system, both to allow U.S. manufacturers to compete on a level playing field internationally and to make part-time employment affordable for Americans and small businesses.


(from Pinterest. Original artist unknown.)

I have argued before that we need to consider raising the age for Social Security, but given current population trends, this may not be the best route. The world population growth rate is currently about half that of the 1960s–1.13% compared to 2.2%–and falling. Depending on the rate of improvement in automation, we may have to tweak the workforce by manipulating the retirement age upward or downward. If we find that we have too many workers, it may be useful to drop the retirement age to free up those slots. We may even get to the point where a universal basic income becomes viable and desirable, in the case of automation greatly reducing the need for labor. It isn’t something that we can afford today, and much more research needs to be done, but it is something that we should consider as an option later.

I don’t fear the future. I don’t think you should either–and you shouldn’t vote for anyone who does. We need to manage the world so that we don’t irreparably damage it while we are getting there, but the world can be an incredible place. We just need politicians who won’t sabotage us on our way there.

The election is in four days. Do your research, then get out and vote. Thanks for reading!


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Filed under Education, Environment, Gay Marriage and Gender Issues, Health Care, Listening, Racism, Social Security, Technology

Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 4 of 6)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

DNC Logo

Ensure the Health and Safety of All Americans

Universal Health Care

What the Democrats say here makes sense, but they miss a big chunk of the big picture. Yes, health care in a society like ours that can afford it should be a basic human right, and, therefore, universal health care should be a priority of government. (If you really want to question the constitutionality, I would argue that universal health care may be the perfect definition of “promote the general welfare” in the preamble.)

The big picture here is twofold. First, Republicans want to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) to return health care in the U.S. to a free market. This is ignorant, for lack of a better term, as about half of U.S. health care was paid for by the government prior to Obamacare: There was already no free market, so repealing Obamacare cannot restore a free market unless they are calling for the simultaneous repeal of Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA.

Second, the U.S. operates at a severe disadvantage globally in manufacturing because of the way trade agreements now work. Governments are not, for the most part, allowed to subsidize exports. Governments are, however, allowed to provide health care for their citizens. The problem for the U.S. is that most manufacturers here have employee health care as one of their main expenses, and this is a cost that cannot be offset by export subsidies. As such, U.S. companies are not operating on a level playing field globally. Give U.S. workers universal health care and U.S. exports should increase rapidly–which would provide additional revenue and taxes to help offset the cost.

Community Health Centers

This is really the $64,000 question: How much of health care do we want to make public? If we make community health centers public, as opposed to the current norm of mostly private walk-in clinics, does that put us on track for public hospitals and a reduction in private research hospitals?

I honestly don’t know if this is good or bad, but I do think it is something that needs to be considered.

Prescription Drug Costs

I was on a drug that cost, without insurance, $120 per month. (For this and other reasons, I stopped taking it.) Had I bought the drug from a Canadian pharmacy, it would have cost me $60, including shipping. For a six month supply.

So I know from personal research and experience how bad this problem is. Because U.S. consumers pay more for prescription drugs than other countries, revenues from us fund most of the innovation in pharmaceutical research–along with, as the platform says, a ton of wasteful spending on advertising.

What the platform misses is that we need to address the problem of the lengthy approval process for new drugs. I propose two solutions:

  1. Tort reform: If an approved drug turns out to be harmful despite preapproval research indicating otherwise, we need to limit the liability of pharmaceutical companies–as long as doing this results in a corresponding reduction in the consumer costs for that company’s prescription drugs.
  2. An international consortium for prescription drug approval. We should be working with the rest of the world to determine the safety and efficacy of new prescription drugs. There’s no reason that Europe, Japan, China, India, and the U.S. should each separately bear the costs of reviewing new drugs, and there’s no reason that the pharmaceutical companies should have to pay for the research and paperwork needed for each country separately.

Medical Research

The platform wants to spend more on medical research. I agree. But, as for pharmaceuticals above, we need to streamline the approval process for new treatments and equipment by working with the rest of the world.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction

The platform advocates for “expanding access to treatment, supporting recovery, helping community organizations, and promoting better practices by prescribers.” The opioid problem is increasing, and we need to encourage prescribers to use opioids as a last resort for pain management instead of often the first course of treatment.

Mental Health

Destigmatizing mental health issues is critical, and the platform calls for treating mental health and physical health similarly, which is an important step. The platform calls for a national initiative for suicide prevention–Zero Suicide–which doesn’t quite sit right with me. I don’t know if you need to treat suicide differently than the other results of mental health issues: I think that if you provide better access to mental health care and train all health care workers to spot mental health issues, reducing the number of suicides will follow. I don’t know if bringing attention to suicide will increase the number of people seeking help or the number of people looking at it as an appropriate outcome.

Once again, I am more ignorant on this issue than I would like, and I need to do more research.

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

The Democrats get this one about 98% correct, but I am concerned about the universality of legal unrestricted abortion. (See here.)

Violence Against Women and Sexual Assault

Yes, we absolutely need to continue to improve how police and school officials treat violence against women and sexual assault, and the platform gets that right. The culture of rape and the sexualization of women is a serious problem, and we need to educate people that this is not proper behavior.

What the platform misses is that there is another problem even more poorly handled by the legal system: men who are raped and abused by their partners (of both sexes). In many states rape is defined as being by a man against a woman, so prosecution may not even be possible. If a man goes into a police station to report a rape–especially by a woman–the probability is that he will be ridiculed or asked why he is complaining. Surveys indicate that men are sexually assaulted as often as women. And woe to the man who fights back….

We shouldn’t treat it as a one-way street. Women shouldn’t accept abuse, and men shouldn’t ever feel that it is acceptable to abuse–but the reverse is also true. No one has the right to abuse someone else, and no one should ever feel that being abused is acceptable.

Gun Violence Prevention

Yeah, nice words, but your actions have spoken differently. Of the four amendments that came up last month, the one the party fought hard for the one that sucked (using the no-fly list without due process) and opposed two Republican amendments that were reasonable, if imperfect–they were still better than nothing, and they were good starting points for negotiation.

The party is more concerned in using the issue for marketing than in actually getting something done. (See A Fistful of Dollars for a more complete review.)

Principled Leadership

Almost a page of content, over a page of an anti-Trump tirade–not that ranting against Donald Trump is unnecessary or unwarranted.

Essentially, it boils down to globalism vs. isolationism, caution vs. recklessness, cooperation vs. coercion. I find it darkly amusing that the Democrats adopt these ideals internationally but not domestically. The platform does give President Obama a bit more credit than is warranted, but that’s understandable and expected for the Democratic platform.

Support Our Troops and Keep Faith with Our Veterans

Most of the rest of this section consists of reforming the Department of Defense and the VA, and I don’t have much argument with anything they say here.

Nine parts down, four to go. I’m guessing that means this will be a six-part series overall, unless one of the next sections is particularly complex. Off to see Chattanooga FC play Memphis City FC for the NPSL Southeast Conference Championship. Enjoy your weekend!


Filed under Democrats, Health Care

I’m Complex. Is That OK? (Part 2 of 2)

See here for Part 1.


When the government limits by law what can be charged for health care, it limits what people are allowed to pay for health care. While everyone would prefer to pay less–or nothing–for health care (as for everything else), government price controls in fact prevent access to life-saving medical treatment that costs more to supply than the price set by the government. The same is true when price controls are imposed on what people are personally permitted to pay for health insurance.

(25) Would you oppose legislation that would impose price controls on health care?


(26) Would you oppose legislation that would impose price controls on health insurance premiums?


Maybe to both of these, depending on the specific legislation. Even before ObamaCare, over half of all health care in the U.S. was paid for by the government. As a result, we do not have a free market, so the law of supply and demand doesn’t work properly. For various reasons, there is little likelihood of the U.S. moving toward a freer market for health care, so the only real way to manage costs is with some market controls. Price controls are one method among several, and I am not willing to discard it.

A majority of Americans receive their health insurance through an employer-sponsored plan. Under current law, apart from the Excess Benefits Tax discussed above, what employers spend to obtain health insurance is not treated as taxable employee income. However, some have proposed to impose federal taxes on some or all of these insurance premiums, making it significantly harder to obtain adequate health insurance and, in effect, imposing a new tax on working Americans.

(27) Would you oppose legislation that would raise federal taxes on health insurance premiums?


(28) Regardless of your answer to the preceding question, would you oppose and veto legislation raising taxes on health insurance premiums above a limit if that limit was not indexed to medical inflation?

(italics in original)


Members of Congress do not have veto power, so I do not know why the question is phrased in that manner. My preference, instead of dealing with issues of price controls and tax rates, would be to move toward a single-payer government-provided health care system, or a hybrid system where the government provides basic services to everyone and premium services are available through an open market.


Effective beginning in 2016, the Obama Administration has directed that Medicare funds pay health care professionals to provide “advance care planning” to senior citizens in which they are asked if they want to execute advance directives that limit or reject the life-preserving health care they will be provided. As documented in National Right to Life’s report, “The Bias Against Life-Preserving Treatment in Advance Care Planning,” available at, in practice advance care planning typically uses unbalanced, distorted and often inaccurate information in an acknowledged effort to “nudge” those subjected to it to reduce health care spending on them by getting them to forego life-preserving treatment and assisted feeding and fluids.

(29) Would you support legislation to require the Department of Health and Human Services to take steps to ensure that advance care planning paid for with federal tax dollars neutrally assists beneficiaries to implement their own values and health choices, rather than using unbalanced information and counseling that pressures them into agreeing to reject life-preserving treatment and assisted living?


I try really hard to not be a hypocrite. If I want complete and unbiased sex education for students, I cannot deny the elderly complete and unbiased advance care planning information.

The Medicare Choices Empowerment and Protection Act (S. 2297 and H.R. 4059 in the 114th Cong.) would help offset the widespread efforts to “nudge” people to agree to forego life-saving treatments. It would give Medicare beneficiaries and others online access to a website with state-specific model advance directives that choose life-saving treatment, food and fluids equally with those that reject them. It would require that certified online providers of advance directives provide access to the website and provide only forms that comply with relevant state laws, and in cases of dispute over treatment, give family members access to the patient’s actual advance directive, allowing them to dispute claims that the patient didn’t want life-saving treatment.

(30) Would you vote for the Medicare Choices Empowerment and Protection Act?


Yes, but I’m not happy with section (8) of the bill:


“(A) SPECIAL ACCESS.—The Secretary shall establish a process whereby, with respect to a beneficiary with a certified advance directive, a person described in subparagraph (B) may obtain access to the beneficiary’s advance directive for the purposes of viewing and sharing such advance directive when—

“(i) the provisions of the advance directive have come into force under the applicable State’s law because the beneficiary has become incapable of making health care decisions or under other circumstances provided under State law; and

“(ii) at least one person described in subparagraph (B) is questioning or disputing the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of medical treatment, food, or fluids with respect to the beneficiary.

“(B) INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS.—A person described in this subparagraph, with respect to a beneficiary, is—

“(i) any individual who is a member of any class of persons who, under the applicable State’s law, would potentially be eligible to serve as a health care decision maker for the beneficiary if an advance directive had not been executed regardless of whether higher priority for such eligibility would be accorded to another individual or individuals; and

“(ii) if the applicable State’s law does not designate persons or classes of persons described in clause (i), any person related within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity to the beneficiary.

I have seen too many cases where people do not trust their family members–justifiably–to make decisions about their financial or medical care. A proper living will designates a person or persons to make decisions in part to keep others from interfering. Section (8) opens the door to interference, and I cannot support that. The rest of the legislation is excellent.


President Obama, and some members of Congress, have pushed for enactment of legislation (such as the so-called “DISCLOSE Act”) that attempts to discourage donations to organizations (such as NRLC) that comment on the actions of elected federal officials, by requiring the publication of the identities of donors to such organizations. Such restrictions would harm organizations engaged in advocacy on contentious issues, because many businessmen and others would be deterred from supporting advocacy organizations for fear of harassment, abuse, or boycotts by people who do not share their political opinions.

(31) Would you oppose enactment of any legislation that would curb the right of private citizens to support advocacy organizations without being “outed” by the government?


“Any.” See my explanation after the next question.

In its January 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protects the right of corporations (which includes nonprofit corporations, such as NRLC) to spend money to express viewpoints regarding those who hold or seek political office. Subsequently, President Obama, and some members of Congress, have advocated adoption of new restrictions to discourage corporations from exercising this right–for example, by telling corporations that if they engage in constitutionally protected speech on political matters, they will lose other rights.

(32) Would you oppose any legislation that would penalize corporations, including nonprofit corporations such as NRLC, for engaging in the types of free speech that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled are protected by the First Amendment?


“Any.” Citizens United is an abomination that has allowed money to flow unrestricted into political campaigns. I hesitate to restrict free speech, but there are severe structural issues when millions of anonymous dollars are spent to influence political campaigns. I have not studied the issue in depth enough to have ideas on potential solutions, but the status quo is unacceptable.

The federal Lobbying Disclosure Act is a law that already requires organizations that lobby Congress to report, on a quarterly basis, all of the legislative matters on which they contacted members of Congress or Executive Branch agencies, but the law does not require the reporting of specific lawmakers or officials with whom they communicated. In January 2010, President Obama urged Congress to adopt legislation under which every contact between lobbying organizations and lawmakers would be reported into a publicly accessible database. NRLC believes that such “contact reporting” is an infringement on the First Amendment right to petition government officials, is exceedingly burdensome, and serves no legitimate public policy purpose.

(33) Would you oppose any legislation that would require members of Congress or Executive Branch officials to report, into a public database, contacts they receive from an advocacy organization such as NRLC, or that would require an advocacy organization such as NRLC to report its contacts with individual elected officials?


“Any.” I will record any contacts I receive from advocacy organizations, corporations, lobbyists, and individuals who are not residents of my Congressional district in a searchable database. I do not believe organizations should have to report contacts themselves. If other members of Congress have something to hide, that is between them and their constituents.

Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold), the Federal Election Commission promulgated new rules on defining what constitutes illegal “coordination” between candidates (including incumbent members of Congress and incumbent presidents) and citizen groups. The rules specifically do not require that there be “formal agreement or collaboration” with a member of Congress or other candidate in order for an expenditure by a citizen group or political action committee to be a “coordinated expenditure” and thus a campaign “contribution.”

Under the loose new definition of “coordination,” citizen groups and PACs that communicate with Congress on legislative matters and also conduct independent expenditures are at risk of being unintentionally “coordinated,” thereby making their independent expenditures illegal campaign “contributions.”

(34) Would you support regulatory reforms and/or new legislation to reestablish that “coordination” means only a formal agreement or collaboration on a specific project between a candidate and a citizen group or PAC?


Maybe. I think requiring a formal agreement takes things too far, as a handshake deal can accomplish the same thing. I don’t want unintentional coordination to be punished, if it is truly unintentional, so some refinement is likely needed.

Questions (35) on the Supreme Court and (36) on the CEDAW treaty are for Senate candidates only. I am not in favor of picking Supreme Court justices based on their opinions on any one issue. CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) is an obvious sore spot for NRLC because of its requirements for access to family planning services. I would have to review CEDAW in detail to see if I would support it.

There you have it. If there are any additional questions you have on my positions on abortion or health care, feel free to leave me a comment. If any other organizations want to know my positions, please contact me.


Filed under Abortion, Health Care

I’m Complex. Is That OK? (Part 1 of 2)

I received a packet from the National Right To Life Committee asking for my views on various aspects of the abortion and health care debates. The phrasing of the questionnaire is interesting, to say the least, but I will answer all of their questions as best I can. Their questions will be in block quotes, with my answers following. Note that I will use “pro-life” to describe groups opposed to abortion and “pro-choice” to describe groups supporting reproductive rights, because those are the terms they call themselves.

Fun with questionnaires!

Fun with questionnaires!

Note: Due to the length of the questionnaire I have split this into two posts. For the TL;DR version of today’s portion, please scroll to the bottom.


The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) believes that unborn children should be protected by law, and that abortion should be permitted only when necessary to prevent the death of the mother. Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe that abortion should be legal?

(a) Only to prevent the death of the mother (the NRLC position),

(b) To prevent the death of the mother, or in cases of rape reported to a law enforcement agency, or incest against a minor reported to a child abuse agency.

(c) Other (please explain):

(c) It’s complex. In a perfect world, I could see coming close to supporting (b), but we are nowhere near a perfect world. I would prefer that abortion not be used for contraception, but I also don’t believe that we should necessarily force rape victims to report crimes to a law enforcement agency. Obviously, society would be better off if all sexual assaults were reported, but that’s not always realistic.

In my case, I had a friend who became pregnant as a result of a date rape. She feared repercussions, correctly, in my opinion, if she reported it (Fortunately, attitudes have dramatically improved since the 1990s). I helped her obtain an abortion, and I believe it was the correct decision. Because she did not want to get law enforcement involved, the only way she would be able to obtain an abortion is if abortion was legal. I do believe that abortion should be restricted, but not to the extent of (a) or (b). My answers to the questions that follow should clarify that position.

PLEASE NOTE: In every question below, a “yes” response indicates agreement with the position of NRLC.


In its 1973 rulings in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the U.S. Supreme Court created a “right to abortion” for any reason until “viability” (into the sixth month), and for any “health” reasons–including “emotional” health–even during the final three months of pregnancy. This ruling invalidated the abortion laws that were in effect in all 50 states at that time. In the 1992 ruling of Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the “core holdings” of Roe v. Wade, and said that any law placing and “undue burden” on access to abortion would be struck down.

(1) Do you advocate changing the Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and Casey v. Planned Parenthood decisions, so that elected legislative bodies (the state legislatures and Congress) may once again protect unborn children by limiting and/or prohibiting abortion?

For this and every question following, the NRLC wants a simple YES or NO. I will comply, but explain my answers.


First, I think the definition of “viability” has changed significantly since 1973. The Supreme Court considered that to be 28 weeks. The current record for survival is 21 weeks, 5 days. At 25 weeks there is a 50-80% chance of survival. I would argue that viability has moved from during the sixth month to the beginning of the fifth month.

Second, the term “unborn children” is leading, in my opinion. The idea of life beginning at conception is a fairly recent development legally, really only arising in the mid-1800s. The legal standard was either formation of the fetus or the “quickening,” when the mother first feels the fetus move. There are many, many places to draw the line, with one extreme wanting to prohibit contraception and the other extreme, like Hillary Clinton, wanting abortion legal for the entire pregnancy.

I think the quickening milestone was a reasonable one, as it corresponds with the point at which higher brain function begins at between 22 and 24 weeks. As such, I could support strong restrictions on abortion, with exceptions only for the health of the mother and in cases of severely deformed fetuses, after the 20th to 24th week.


In 2004, Congress enacted the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (Public Law 108-212), which recognizes a “child in utero” as a legal victim if he or she is injured during the commission of any of 68 federal crimes of violence. The law defines “child in utero” as “a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”

(2) Would you vote against any attempt to repeal or weaken the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA), and will you support additional legislation consistent with the underlying principle that unborn humans should be recognized and protected as members of the human family?


You had me, then you lost me. I would vote against any attempt to repeal or weaken the UVVA. The second part of that question is far too open-ended for me to support. There may be very good legislation to protect pregnant mothers, but it’s also possible to draft legislation ostensibly to protect “unborn humans” that goes too far.


(3) Would you vote against any legislation that would weaken any pro-life law or policy that is in effect on the day you are elected?


I would expect this Oklahoma bill to be enacted. I would vote for legislation that would counteract the ability of a state to revoke a medical license of a doctor who performed an abortion.

(4) Would you vote against any federal legislation that would place new limits on the ability of states to regulate abortion–for example, the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act” (S. 217, H.R. 448 in the 114th Congress), sometimes referred to by critics as the “Abortion Without Limits Until Birth Act,” which is successor to the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act”?


I might vote against it. I might not. “Any” is very broad. Calling the “Women’s Health Protection Act” the “Abortion Without Limits Until Birth Act” is almost comical, since the act quite clearly has limits, most notably that it allows states to place restrictions on most abortions after the point of fetal viability.


There is now compelling scientific evidence that at least by 20 weeks the unborn child is capable of experiencing pain when subjected to abortion. On this basis, in 2010, Nebraska enacted the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to prohibit abortions after that point (with narrow exceptions), and a number of other states subsequently passed bills based on the same model. On May 13, 2015, similar national legislation (H.R. 36) was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, but was blocked by a filibuster in the Senate on September 22, 2015. (A companion bill also was introduced in the U.S. Senate, S. 1553.)

(5) Would you vote for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, to strictly limit abortion from the point in development that evidence suggests an unborn child has the capacity to feel pain?


The twenty-week mark isn’t unreasonable to me. I would prefer an amendment to the text of the Nebraska legislation to allow for a later abortion in the case of a severely deformed fetus, but this isn’t necessarily a show-stopper. I would prefer that the word “evidence” was preceded by “conclusive scientific” as well.


The Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act (H.R. 3515) has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.). This bill is based on a model state bill proposed by National Right to Life, which was enacted during 2015 in Kansas and Oklahoma. The bill defines “dismemberment abortion” as “knowingly dismembering a living unborn child and extracting such unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus through the use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body in order to cut or rip it off…” This definition largely overlaps with what those in the abortion trade currently refer to as “dilation and evacuation” or “dilation and extraction” (D&E) abortions. This brutal method is commonly used starting at about 14 weeks of pregnancy and extending into the third trimester.

(6) Would you vote for the Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act, to place a national ban on the use of dismemberment abortion?


D&E is generally used after sixteen weeks. I am fine with firm restrictions on abortion starting after about twenty weeks, but since D&E is the recommended method after sixteen, I cannot support this. From what I have read, in most cases of D&E the fetus is anesthetized. The graphic description in the bill is fear mongering, which I oppose in any form on any issue.


On January 22, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7). This bill would establish a permanent policy against funding abortions and health plans that cover abortions, consistent with the principles of the Hyde Amendment, to all federal programs, including those created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Pub. L. No. 111-148) (“ObamaCare”).

(7) Would you vote for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act?


I believe the Hyde Amendment is too restrictive, for one, but I also believe that health plan providers should have some freedoms to cover and not cover some procedures. Much of the debate about this bill was over a perceived attempt to change the legal definition of rape. (Congressman Fleischmann was a co-sponsor of this legislation.)

Congress votes from time to time on the “Hyde Amendment,” a law that prohibits federal Medicaid money from being used to pay for abortions or for health plans that include abortion, except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest. Other similar provisions of law restrict federal subsidies for abortion in certain other federal health programs, including those covering the military and federal employees (but, regrettably, not major components of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“ObamaCare”).

(8) Would you oppose any legislation that would weaken the Hyde Amendment or other current laws that restrict federal subsidies for abortion, and would you support measures to ensure the fullest possible enforcement of such laws and application wherever appropriate of their underlying principles?


Again with the “any.”

The District of Columbia is an exclusively federal jurisdiction. Article I of the Constitution provides that Congress must exercise “exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District. In December 2009, at the urging of President Obama, Congress effectively repealed a longstanding ban on government funding of abortions in the District. However, in April 2011, at the insistence of congressional Republican leaders, a prohibition was restored to prohibit any use of government funds for abortion in the District, whether designated as “federal” funds or so-called “local” funds (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest). This issue will continue to arise during future congressional appropriations cycles.

(9) Would you vote to preserve the prohibition on public funding of abortion in the District of Columbia, applicable to all government funds however they are labeled?


I am in favor of statehood for Washington, DC, or, alternatively, of returning most of the District to Maryland. The people of the District deserve to rule themselves, and every poll I can find suggests that the people of the District are overwhelmingly pro-choice.

The federal government annually provides many millions of dollars to organizations that operate abortion clinics. For example, affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) provide over one-third of all the abortions performed in the U.S., yet PPFA also receives over a half-billion dollars annually from government sources, mostly federal (including Medicaid and the Title X “family planning” program).

(10) Would you vote for legislation that would make organizations that perform abortions (other than bona fide hospitals), including Planned Parenthood, ineligible to receive federal funding, including federal Medicaid funds?


The recurring passive-aggressive quotes are amusing. If you want to limit abortions, then cutting funding for family planning programs is going in the exact wrong direction. This is a case, in my opinion, where many of the anti-contraception views influence the pro-life positions of NRLC.


The U.S. spends about $600 million annually for birth control programs overseas. Under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, executive orders collectively referred to as the “Mexico City Policy” established that in order to be eligible for U.S. population control funds, a private overseas organization must agree not to perform abortions (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest) or to “actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” However, in January 2009, President Obama overturned this pro-life policy by executive order. In congressional testimony on April 22, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the Administration’s international policy is to “protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care,” and that “reproductive health includes access to abortion.”

(11) Would you vote for legislation to codify (enact into permanent law) the principles of the “Mexico City Policy,” that U.S. funds should not go to overseas organizations that perform or promote abortion?


Current events drive my thinking on this one. The Zika virus is causing an epidemic of microcephaly in affected countries. I think it is reasonable for women to have abortion as an option if they wish to avoid having a severely developmentally disabled child. If, however, we were to also provide corresponding funding to help affected countries and parents provide adequate lifetime care for people with debilitating birth defects, I could see supporting this.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) participates in China’s population control program, which relies heavily on coerced abortion. The UNFPA also promotes expanded access to abortion in developing nations, and has promoted the abortion pill, RU 486. The administrations of Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush cut off U.S. funding to the UNFPA because of its role in China, but the Obama Administration restored U.S. funding to the UNFPA.

(12) Would you vote for legislation to prevent U.S. funding of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and to prevent any other disregard for, or weakening or repeal of, the 1985 Kemp-Kasten anti-coercion law, which prohibits U.S. funding of any agency that supports a program of coercive abortion?


This is where being a single-issue organization hurts NRLC. The UNFPA is essentially an international mirror of Planned Parenthood. I agree that coercive abortions are reprehensible, and we should not fund such programs. However, in this case, I think we would be better off negotiating with China and the UNFPA on the issue instead of cutting funding completely. I think the best approach here might be to cut UNFPA funds in an amount equal to what the organization spends on abortions in China.


Laws are already in effect in about half the states that require notification or consent of at least one parent (or authorization by a judge) before an abortion can be performed on a minor. However, these laws are often circumvented by minors who cross state lines in order to evade parental notification requirements (often with the aid of older boyfriends, abortion clinic staff, or other adults lacking parental authority).

The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA), (S. 404, H.R. 803 in the 114th Congress) would require any abortionist, encountering a minor client from another state, to notify one parent before performing an abortion, unless presented with authorization from a court, or in cases of life endangerment, or in cases of sexual or physical abuse or neglect by a parent, in which case the appropriate state agency must be notified instead of a parent. The bill would also make it an offense to transport a minor across state lines to evade a parental involvement requirement.

(13) Would you oppose weakening amendments to the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA), and vote for the bill?


We have a massive problem in this country called abstinence education. If lawmakers want to keep information about sex from students, then I am perfectly fine keeping information about teenagers wanting abortions from the parents who elect these people.

Teen pregnancies are highest in states with abstinence education. Abstinence education isn’t education at all. It’s teaching a certain flavor of morality to kids, while excluding teaching them information that they actually need…like how not to get pregnant. Most of the states with abstinence education laws are also the states with parental notification laws. Pregnant girls are traveling from states that actively keep information from them to states that provide the information and services they need. Unfortunately, they end up seeking this information when it is too late to prevent pregnancies. Get rid of abstinence education laws and start actually teaching kids and we will not only see a drop in teenage pregnancies and abortions, but I will be more open to discussions on parental notification.


For many years, pro-abortion officials and advocacy groups have sought to use the compulsory powers of government to compel health care providers to participate in abortion. The Obama Administration has broadened the assault on conscience rights by issuing “ObamaCare” regulations that require employers (including religious schools and hospitals) to provide health coverage that will provide drugs and procedures to which the employers have religious or moral objections. In response, pro-life members of Congress have proposed the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1919 and H.R. 940 in the 114th Congress), which would greatly strengthen the rights of private individuals and employers to refuse to participate in abortion or other procedures that violate their deeply held beliefs. Among other things, the bill would prohibit any government agency–federal, state, or local–from penalizing health care providers for refusing to participate in providing abortions, and which would allow health care providers to sue when subjected to such attacks from government entities.

(14) Would you vote for legislation, such as the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, to protect the conscience rights of pro-life health care providers and others, and advocate for vigorous enforcement of existing laws to protect conscience rights?


The “and others” seems to me to be covered by the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. ruling, which gets my “NO” answer. As far as the rest of it, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell will likely cover that. Additional legislation seems redundant at this time.


Some federal and state courts have construed laws that ban discrimination “on account of sex” or “on the basis of sex” as inconsistent with limitations on abortion or government funding of abortion. In addition, some U.N. agencies and other international bodies have adopted the position that limits on abortion are a form of gender-based discrimination.

(15) Would you oppose any legislation or regulatory actions that are based on claims that laws protecting unborn children are a form of gender-based discrimination, and would you insist on the addition of “abortion-neutral” language to any proposed federal statutes, regulations, or constitutional amendments that would mandate “gender equality” or that restrict distinctions on the basis of sex, to ensure that such laws or executive actions cannot be misused to advance pro-abortion policies?


“Any” strikes again.


The right to life of human beings must be respected at every stage of their biological development. Human individuals who are at the embryonic stage of development should not be used for harmful or lethal medical experimentation. This applies equally to human beings whether their lives were begun by in vitro fertilization, by somatic cell nuclear transfer (human cloning), or by any other laboratory techniques.

NRLC opposes harvesting “stem cells” from living human embryos, since this kills the embryos. This includes any human embryos who might be created by somatic cell nuclear transfer (human cloning) or other laboratory manipulations. Note: NRLC is NOT opposed to other research on “stem cells” that are obtained without killing embryos–for example, stem cells harvested from umbilical cord blood and from adult tissue.

In 2001, President George W. Bush issued an executive order to prevent the federal government from funding research that would encourage the destruction of human embryos, and vetoed bills that would have overturned that policy–but in 2009, President Obama issued a new executive order that nullified the previous pro-life policy, which has allowed federal funding of stem cell research that requires the destruction of human embryos.

(16) Would you vote for legislation to prevent federal support of research or treatments that harm or destroy human embryos, or that use cells or tissues that are obtained by harming or killing human embryos (including any human embryos created by human cloning or other laboratory manipulations)?


I don’t believe embryos are people. Embryos do not have brains or higher brain activity, and a large percentage of embryos naturally will not be born, either through a failure to implant or through miscarriage. As such, I do not believe embryos deserve legal protection, other than as the personal property of their parents.


On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010” (“ObamaCare”) (Pub. L. No. 111-148), which passed Congress over the objections of NRLC. When the government rations health care in a way that makes it illegal or impossible for Americans to choose life-saving medical treatment, food, and fluids, it imposes a type of involuntary euthanasia.

Through objectionable features separately described in questions 17-20 below, this legislation is resulting in unacceptable denial of life-saving medical treatment through rationing. It also provides subsidies for private health plans that cover elective abortion, and contains provisions that are likely to result in further expansions of abortion through administrative actions by various federal agencies.

(17) Would you actively support repeal and replacement of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010” (“ObamaCare”)?


Six years in and I can’t find any solid evidence of the government rationing health care. (If I am wrong, please show me.) ObamaCare provides subsidies for all health plans. If health plan providers decide that it makes sense for them to cover abortions, then the free market will decide that. The last phrase (“and contains provisions that are likely to result in further expansions of abortion through administrative actions by various federal agencies”) is a clear slippery slope fallacy. Provide better family planning care and you get fewer abortions.

There are things I don’t like about ObamaCare, but I believe the law should be amended, not repealed and replaced.

Regardless of your answer to question 17, please answer the following additional questions about the PPACA as well.


The PPACA (“ObamaCare”) established a new program to assist tens of millions of Americans to purchase private health insurance, including plans that cover elective abortions. The law also created a program under which a federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), will administer private plans that will be offered across the nation, but failed to prohibit the agency from including in the program health plans that cover elective abortion.

(18) Would you support legislation to revise the law to permanently prohibit federal premium subsidies from being spent on plans that cover elective abortions, prohibit federal agencies from administering plans that cover elective abortions, and prohibit federal mandates requiring private health plans to cover or provide access to abortions?


The last part of that question I could support, as I don’t believe private plans should be required to cover abortions, but if the market has a demand for plans with abortion coverage, PPACA plans should be able to include it.

(19) Would you oppose any new health care legislation intended to comprehensively revise or replace the PPACA unless it contains explicit language, covering all provisions of the legislation, prohibiting federal subsidies for elective abortion and for insurance plans that cover abortion, and preventing federal pro-abortion regulatory mandates, on a permanent basis?




ObamaCare has made Americans increasingly concerned about denial of life-saving medical treatment for themselves or their family members resulting from its implementation.

(20) As a general principle, do you agree with this statement?: “Federal law ought not to limit what private citizens can choose, out of their own funds, to spend on medical treatment to save the lives of their own family.” See generally


Obviously. I strongly disagree with the premise. Americans are not “increasingly” concerned about rationing. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most Americans aren’t concerned about rationing at all. This is fear mongering.

EXCESS BENEFITS TAX: The law (“ObamaCare”) imposes a 40% excise tax (named the Excess Benefits Tax) on premiums for employer-paid health insurance exceeding an ObamaCare-set limit (26USC§4980l). As explained in a September 30, 2013 Politico article, the level at which the tax kicks in will be linked to the increase in the consumer price index, but medical inflation generally rises faster than that. Think of the…tax as the slow-moving car in the right land, chugging along at 45 miles per hour. It may be pretty far in the distance, but if you’re…moving along at a reasonable clip in the same lane–say, 60 miles an hour–and you don’t slow down, you’re going to run smack into it.” When, in the not-too-distant future, the “collision point” is reached, health insurance benefits for employees will effectively be prevented from keeping up with medical inflation, forcing compounding cutbacks in the health care they are permitted to receive.

DOCUMENTATION for this and the subsequent 3 questions:

(21) Would you vote for legislation to eliminate ObamaCare’s Excess Benefits Tax?


Maybe. This is an attempt to control the rate of medical inflation. It hasn’t kicked in yet, so determining the effects of the Excess Benefits Tax is impossible. I don’t know if it will work or not, but I think we should let it ride for a few years to see the effects.

IPAB: The law (“ObamaCare”) establishes an “Independent Payment Advisory Board” (IPAB) which is directed to make recommendations to prevent private health care spending from keeping up with the rate of medical inflation. If the Board fails to complete this task, the law directs the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to do so in its stead. In either case, HHS is empowered to implement these recommendations through the imposition of “quality and efficiency” measures on health care providers. For example, no insurance plan offered through any of the state or federal insurance exchanges may contract with a health care provider who fails to abide by the federally imposed “quality and efficiency” measures.

Because the objective is to limit not just health care paid for by government funded programs, but also that paid for by private citizens and their private health insurance, treatment through a doctor and patient deem needed or advisable to save the patient’s life or health but which runs afoul of the imposed standards would be denied, even if the patient is willing and able to pay for it.


(22) Would you vote for legislation to eliminate the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) and the authority of HHS to use “quality and efficiency measures” to limit treatment paid for with non-government funds?


Actually yes and no. I had this argument a while ago on Facebook. The main focus of the IPAB is to bring the administration costs of insurers under control. Administrative costs in the U.S. are approximately 25%, which is about twice as high as Canadian and European costs. I would be in favor of legislation to limit the authority of HHS to limit treatment paid for with non-government funds.

While cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from federal payments in Medicare, the law empowers HHS to limit senior citizens in spending their own money to make up the difference. Under the law as it existed before, older Americans were permitted to add their own money, if they chose, on top of the governmental payment, in order to get insurance plans less likely to ration care (known as Medicare Advantage private-fee-for-service plans). The new law gives HHS the standardless discretion to reject any such plan and thus to limit or even eliminate senior citizens’ legal ability to add their own money to obtain health insurance less likely to ration their health care.

(23) Would you vote for legislation that would restore the previous law so that HHS could not limit the right of senior citizens to choose to add their own money on top of the government Medicare payment to obtain private-fee-for-service plans less likely to ration health care?


Taking a quick look, I don’t see any shortage of Medicare Advantage plans available. If HHS determines that a company is failing to keep administrative costs under control or is making excessive profits, it should be able to reject that company’s plans. I am not doing a huge amount of research on this right now, but if anyone knows of the HHS abusing this authority, I would love to hear about it.

Health insurers will be excluded from the new state-based insurance exchanges whenever government officials think plans offered by the insurers inside or outside the exchange allow private citizens to choose to spend whatever the government officials, in their standardless discretion, think is an “excessive or unjustified” amount on their own health insurance.

(24) Would you vote for legislation that would remove the authority of state-based insurance exchange officials to exclude health insurers from competing within the exchange on the basis of how much the insurers permit private citizens to choose to spend on health insurance?


I am answering “no” here mostly because I don’t know enough about the issue. My gut feeling, however, is that private citizens who want “Cadillac” health insurance should not have any trouble acquiring such coverage outside the exchanges. As such, keeping these plans off the exchanges should not be an undue burden on the public.

A brief summary of what I said above:

  • I would allow abortion on demand until the twentieth week of pregnancy.
  • After the twentieth week, I would allow abortion to save the life of the mother or to abort a severely deformed fetus.
  • I am opposed to abstinence-only education.
  • I believe ObamaCare should be amended, not repealed, as it does far more good than harm.
  • I think the NRLC is a black-and-white organization. I think most real world issues are shades of gray; only rarely is something black or white.
  • I think the NRLC is relying on scare tactics to gain support among the elderly.

Hopefully I will get to the rest of the questionnaire (Questions 25-36) tomorrow.



Filed under Abortion, Health Care

Trump’s Health Plan

Today, Donald Trump released a Healthcare Reform plan on his website. To be completely fair, it isn’t complete garbage, but it is heavily-perfumed garbage. The TL;DR version: Obama is the Worst. President. Ever. and we need to undo what he did.

The opening paragraph is purely pandering vitriol. Trump refers to Obama as “the most divisive and partisan President in American history.” I’m pretty sure, by definition, Abraham Lincoln was the most divisive President in American history, and Obama didn’t have his minions break into RNC Headquarters like Nixon did. Mostly, the paragraph describes either things that happened when Obamacare first came into effect, like website issues, or things that Republicans wish happened but didn’t, like rationing–which was happening long before the Affordable Care Act.

Trump’s plan has seven points:

  1. Completely repeal Obamacare. Stupid pandering. The ACA did many necessary things besides require everyone to have health insurance, such as prohibit insurers from denying coverage based on existing conditions. (I refuse to use the word “pre-existing.” How can something exist before it exists?)
  2. Modify existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines. This one could be very good or very bad. If there are safeguards put into place to prevent excessive consolidation, greater competition should help control price increases. I don’t see Trump being too concerned about preventing consolidation, given his pro-business background, so this could backfire–badly.
  3. Allow individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments from their tax returns under the current tax system. Yeah, this makes sense.
  4. Allow individuals to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Again, this makes sense, but there’s the one line that bothers me: “These accounts would become part of the estate of the individual and could be passed on to heirs without fear of any death penalty.” This looks like it could become a tax dodge for the wealthy: It needs limits.
  5. Require price transparency from all healthcare providers, especially doctors and healthcare organizations like clinics and hospitals. Agreed. People can’t comparison shop if they can’t easily access price data.
  6. Block-grant Medicaid to the states. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this either, provided that there is sufficient oversight to prevent gross abuses.
  7. Remove barriers to entry into free markets for drug providers that offer safe, reliable and cheaper products. U.S. consumers pay more for prescription drugs than anyone. Allowing competition from foreign sources could help drive down costs.

Here’s the interesting thing about all of these: None of the last six require the repeal of Obamacare to work. Congress could likely have passed bills on any of them at any time, and President Obama likely would have signed them into law.

The rest of the statement is less about healthcare and more about Trump’s general positions: Anti-immigration, pro-business, Make America Great Again. I will give him some credit for knowing that the issues are all connected, but he really misses the boat on a big one…

America Needs Single-Payer Healthcare To Compete Internationally In Manufacturing

Almost all of the developed world has single-payer healthcare, and international trade laws reflect this. One of the largest expenses for American automakers is employee healthcare. German, Japanese, and Korean automakers don’t have this expense, making their employee healthcare a legal trade subsidy. If the government were to subsidize this expense, it would be a violation of trade law, resulting in punitive tariffs. So, what we have is an unfair playing field, and it’s only due to extremely efficient manufacturing that U.S. automakers are able to export at all.

If we implemented a single-payer healthcare system, manufacturing jobs would immediately start to return to the U.S. What I would like to see is the replacement of Obamacare with a single-payer system that covers the basics: Preventative and wellness care, like annual check-ups and vaccines, along with basic healthcare that is equivalent to a bare bones HMO. No doctor or facility choice, no bells and whistles. From there, we create a hyper-competitive market to sell supplemental insurance, like the plans currently available for Medicare recipients. This is where Trump’s suggestion to remove the state line sales restrictions could really help keep costs down, where HSAs could be a good alternative to supplemental insurance, and where being open about pricing could help consumers shop around.

Trump’s #2 through #7 aren’t bad, but there’s nothing stopping them from being implemented now–besides a Republican Congress too pig-headed to give up on the idea of repealing Obamacare while Obama is still in office. Unfortunately, if Trump gets elected he won’t be able to get a bipartisan coalition needed to both repeal Obamacare and pass the rest of the plan, and he’s (probably) too stubborn to split it into its component parts, because what he needs to do to be able to point to a success is to repeal Obamacare. That’s the core of his plan, and it stinks.

Thanks for reading.



Filed under Health Care, Republicans

Now, where was I?

So, four years ago I ended my campaign when my personal life fell apart. It was the right decision at the time, and I’ve used the time to get my head back on straight. Unfortunately, in that four years the trend of acrimony in government has only worsened.

Take, for example, this image from the Washington Post:


In politics there are very few people in the center, because our two-party system punishes those without extreme views. In the real world, very few people hold extremist views. These people don’t have a voice.

The world isn’t black or white, but most of our politicians think it is. The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, isn’t demonic and it isn’t perfect. The Republicans want to scrap the whole thing while the Democrats are afraid to let any of it be touched, and because of this, fixing any problems with it is impossible. Abortion is another issue clouded by extremism. Most people aren’t strictly pro-life or pro-choice. (Note: As a general policy I call people and groups by the names they prefer. So while some may prefer “anti-abortion” instead of “pro-life” or “pro-abortion” instead of “pro-choice,” I believe that this is needless antagonism.) My position is more middle-of-the-road, and, ironically, based on an old Christian belief that the soul enters the body at the quickening (no, geeks, not the Highlander quickening, but when the mother first feels movement). I’d be fine with unrestricted abortion until the quickening, then increasing restrictions up to full-term for extenuating circumstances like rape, incest, the mother’s health, or serious birth defects.

I am not running for Congress because I think Chuck Fleischmann is a bad guy. In many ways he’s represented Chattanooga in Congress well, and the contacts I have had with his office have been pleasant and efficient. But he’s done some things that I consider to be, well, obtuse. For example,

What’s the point of doing any of that? They don’t have enough votes to override a veto, just like the other fifty times they’ve voted to repeal Obamacare. It’s a move designed to please conservative Republican voters, not to actually do anything. It’s these sorts of shenanigans that I will avoid, and, if elected, I’ll call out my peers whenever they pull this sort of thing. The job of Congress, as I see it, is to act according to the preamble to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Wasting Congress’ time and the people’s taxes on quixotic quests is unacceptable. Yeah, there’s a lot wrong with our government, but there are plenty of problems we can solve that aren’t–or shouldn’t be–partisan. I have plenty of ideas on how to make our country and our world better, and many of those are revenue-neutral; that is, they won’t cost us anything more than we’re already spending.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions on my positions, my experience, or anything else about me, fire away.


Note: The posts following this are four years old. My views are probably similar, but may have changed a bit, so read with care.

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Filed under Abortion, Democrats, Health Care, Republicans

The Federal Budget

The U.S. Federal Budget for 2011 had a deficit of over one-and-a-quarter trillion dollars ($1,296,000,000,000). In simpler terms, that’s an overrun of over four thousand dollars for every man, woman, and child. This only tells part of the story, since this overage is only for 2011. The overall U.S. public debt is over fifteen trillion dollars ($15,356,000,000,000), or about $49,000 for every man, woman, and child. It would take the entire gross domestic product for over a year to pay for this.

In the words of astronaut Jack Swigert, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

Now, some naïvely think that an across-the-board cut in the budget will solve the problem. This is wrong on several levels. First, an across-the-board cut can’t happen, because many payments are fixed, such as interest payments (unless you want the government to default), Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, defense spending, and other “mandatory” programs. Discretionary spending only makes up $646 million dollars. In other words, cutting all discretionary spending would only cover half of the budget deficit. If you do put mandatory programs on the table, then you’re cutting someone’s Social Security and Medicare, and you’re cutting the defense budget–which means you’d better have a foreign policy to match. Finally, making these cuts quickly will cause the short-term loss of many government jobs at a time when the private sector can’t absorb them.

What Do We Need To Do To Fix This?

Simply put, we need to bite the bullet and make some difficult choices.

Health Care

We need to get Medicare and Medicaid under control. Medical spending price increases have outpaced inflation for many years. I would argue that a big reason for this is that there isn’t free market competition helping to keep prices down. In an earlier post, I suggested the following:

  1. Laws prohibiting insurers from operating across state lines repealed, leading to higher levels of competition.
  2. People required to purchase minimum health insurance policies in a manner similar to people being required to have car insurance, with government subsidies where necessary.
  3. All insurers being required to provide these minimal policies, with restrictions on how much profit they can make from these. I don’t find prohibiting profit appealing, because the profit motive often drives efficiency, but it does need to be reasonable.
  4. When employers no longer have to provide health care to their workers, they need to pass this savings to them in the form of increased pay. These companies should make more due to improved international competitiveness, not by passing this savings onto their shareholders.

My hope is that by introducing competition into the non-Medicare/Medicaid market, the prices the government has to pay for Medicare procedures will drop as well. If not, we will have to explore more drastic measures…

Social Security

People freak out whenever someone talks about raising the Social Security retirement age or reducing benefits. I’m sorry, but one or the other has to happen if we don’t want to see a tax increase of over $10,000 per household. I don’t like it, and I’m sure you don’t like it, but this isn’t a likable prospect–it’s a necessity.

When the original Social Security legislation was enacted in 1935, about 57% of those who lived to age 21 lived until age 65. Today, that number is closer to 80%. The average number of years collecting Social Security has also increased by about three years. The obvious, if unwelcome, solution, is to gradually increase the Social Security retirement age until the system is rebalanced. The Urban Institute says that the current retirement age would have to be 73 to have the same expected years in retirement as in 1940. I don’t think we can move the finish line that much for people currently approaching retirement, as many have planned for this income at retirement, but for those further away, we need to readjust. It’s either that or raise taxes.

Defense spending

Simply put, as a nation we need to decide whether we want the U.S. to continue to be the world’s de facto policeman, or if we are willing to share this responsibility with other countries. Right now, the U.S. spends more on its military than the next seventeen countries combined. Personally, I think we should share more of this responsibility. Combined Task Force 151 has successfully reduced piracy off the coast of Somalia, and similar efforts could and should be used to patrol the high seas around the world to keep trade routes open and the world economy chugging along. The multinational effort in Libya worked to remove Gadhafi from power. The question really boils down to, “Are we willing to share the power that comes from being the world’s main military power?”

In my opinion, we don’t really have a choice.


Of course, there is some discretionary spending that can and should be cut. I would move much of the Department of Education’s duties back to the states and I’d take a good, long look at agricultural subsidies, just to name two examples.

One thing I wouldn’t do is make a hare-brained proposal to cut the pensions of future Congressmen when simultaneously explaining that I wouldn’t cut the pension of a family member who happened to serve in Congress before me. I promise that I will never propose or vote for decreases in benefits for your family unless those cuts, or related cuts, also affect mine.


Reminder: I will be on Andraé McGary’s Live and Local on WGOW-FM 102.3 tomorrow at 1:00. You can listen to the stream here.

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Filed under Federal Budget, Health Care, Social Security