George Sarant

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Posts Tagged ‘Republicans

REFLECTIONS ON HEALTH CARE

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What is the proper role of government with regard to the health care of its citizens? How should costs be allocated?  These are questions that are still up in the air in the USA, but how these questions are addressed still applies everywhere.  The Republicans appear to have painted themselves into a corner on this subject, while the Democrat-imposed Obamacare is collapsing from its own defects. This legislation was deeply flawed and fundamentally unjust insofar as it expanded coverage for some uninsured people, largely by expanding Medicaid, while otherwise imposing steep additional costs on other individuals in a haphazard fashion. But the Republicans are the governing party now and are stuck with having to come up with solutions they have not adequately provided. They should know by now that it is virtually impossible to get rid of a benefit once it has been established, and the plan passed by the House is going nowhere in the Senate and fails to provide the fundamental overhaul they promised. 

There is a desperate need to rationalize the American health care system by going back to the drawing board and starting from scratch. Republicans first need to concede that everyone ought to have adequate health care, giving that to the Democrats, who might then be brought on board. But this does not necessarily mean that health care should be provided by the government. Nor should it be provided because it is a “right;” it is rather a benefit. Why then should the state in some fashion underwrite such a benefit? 

The short answer is that a developed society can afford to, and we must increasingly come to grips with the consequences of technological change, which is far more salient than “globalization” in causing economic disruption. Given that inequality is an inevitable consequence of a truly free society, those who lack higher skills and who are left behind by the consequences of automation, AI, and other developments- something that can happen to  anyone, need to provide a basic level of support. If growth and economic dislocation eventually benefit everyone, then those who have disproportionately suffered the consequences ought to be provided with some level of adjustment. This is a different population than the poor, who already get everything for free. It is a population we want to prevent from falling into the ranks of the poor. As society develops and grows richer overall, it is reasonable to provide basics for everyone through some mechanism that does not overly burden everyone else. 

The way to do this is to resolve to get the government completely out of the health care business and let market forces do what they do best- rationalize the distribution of goods and services. The state would instead provide a graduated insurance stipend to those who cannot afford it, who would then be able to purchase whatever health care they want or need. For this to work the government would no longer provide any other services directly or indirectly; no more mandates, no more policies, just a cash benefit and there would no longer are any pre-existing conditions. Since everyone is obligated to pay taxes, insurance and medical costs would be deductible, and medical savings exempt from taxation, but anyone who fails to purchase coverage would be charged with the cost of providing a policy for them, which would at least cover catastrophic circumstances, which otherwise would be passed on to everyone else. This does sound like the Obamacare tax but you cannot have universal health care without universal participation and no one is here being compelled to do anything. 

This is not socialism, which is unworkable. Socialism would be government control of all health care, and hence ownership of the system. This is the opposite of that. Government is completely removed from any operational role and only would  only maintain the principle that everyone be covered, by providing direct cash transfers where needed. This would dismantle the administrative state, save billions, and allow a rational system of costs and services to develop, leading to a reduction in overall expenses. There are many details to be worked out and this is preferred only as a roadmap. There are only two fundamental principles that must be adhered to: that everyone be covered and that the government gets out of the health care business. 

THE RUSSIANS, THE DEMOCRATS AND THE MEDIA

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There was a time when Russia was the enemy, back when the Russian people suffered under the communist yoke. Then opposition to the Soviet Union was the right position, while many on the Left were outright communist sympathizers or treasonous pawns of that evil empire. The Russian people were never the enemy.  The enemy was the odious regime that murdered millions of its own people. But the Soviet Union is long gone and communism belongs in the dustbin of history.

Russia has come a long way, and today under Putin is anti-Bolshevik.  Is it democratic in the way of the west? No, but it is an infinite improvement over the communist regime. When the Russians were behind the expansion of communism there was reason to consider them the enemy. But the Left instead was reliably anti-anti-communist, ever promoting “peaceful coexistence” and understanding where none could be had. But today the new theme of the Left, and the Democratic party in the US, is anti-Russian. Perhaps they mourn the old Soviet regime and resent its replacement, no longer of the “left,” but one that has restored Russian tradition, culture, and religion. This is not meant as an apology for the Russian regime, which in many respects is mismanaging the country to the detriment of its long-term interests, and with its low tolerance of opposition, but these are self-inflicted wounds.

Today the Democratic party in the United States has gone totally off the rails in its delusions about Russian involvement in our elections and government. At this point it is pure hysteria, not even so much because of anything the Russians might have done but that it might be used to undermine the Trump administration. This is unadulterated hatred seeking a target aided by a compliant and partisan media.

If you were skeptical of the criticism of the media in the past, the current kerfuffle over Attorney General Sessions supposed contacts with the Russians proves the point. From Democratic operatives the word was passed to the media that Sessions met with the Russians twice and didn’t mention it in his Senate testimony. But what were these meetings? The supposed contact with the Russian ambassador consisted of questioning him with other senators in a hearing, and an otherwise casual and trivial passing conversation at a reception. To any objective observer this is nonsense, and a truly honest media would have passed it over or concluded that there was nothing there. Instead we have a bogus “scandal” without substance that most people can parse out on their own. The only real offense of Sessions is being a southern white man; talk about prejudice and hatred!

Now they are finding, or rather looking for Russians everywhere under the bed without a shred of evidence. A responsible media would stick to the facts, but they have degenerated into a partisan opposition, relying on embittered holdovers from the Obama administration.

This Russomania is going nowhere. It is the last gasp of scoundrels who have nothing left in their arsenal.Their only objective is to undermine the Trump administration. It isn’t just the Democrats, but the Bush-league Republicans who failed miserably when in power. These old cold warriors have now made common cause with the new cold warriors of the Left. In the complete absence of factual evidence and endless innuendo, the net effect of this behavior is to drive more and more people into the Trump camp.

Written by georgesarant

March 3, 2017 at 2:44 PM

STOP THE SHUTDOWN AND DON’T DEFAULT

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It is time to end the federal government impasse. One of the cardinal rules of strategy is to avoid getting involved in a war you can’t win. That is where the Republicans find themselves now. There are principled people who insist that they hold the line, but they are missing a far brighter, bigger picture. I am not suggesting that Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats, as well as the administration are not more at fault, but rather that occasionally a tactical retreat in battle leads to victory in the greater war. Since the Republicans currently do not have the votes to carry the Senate, their focus should be on winning the necessary votes in 2014. Given that the prevailing narrative is stacked against them, contributing to public disapproval, there is no dishonor in a temporary retreat, when a larger gift is waiting in the wings. 

That gift is Obamacare. The rollout has been disastrous, the Affordable Care Act is more unpopular than ever, and public ire is still growing. If it were not for the partial “government shutdown” and threatened default, the leading story in the news would now be the colossal ineptitude of the Obamacare administration. A ridiculously expensive website that doesn’t work, unexpected rising health care costs for individuals, enrollment failure, administrative incompetence, etc. would be dominating the headlines. The only thing preventing that from happening is the continuing drama of the failure of the congress and administration to reach an agreement. Yes the President himself is culpable for refusing to negotiate or discuss anything, where a more skilled politician might at least pretend to consider compromise. Yes the Senate Democrats have moved the goal posts by throwing the sequester into the mix. But being in the right means nothing if the perception of it is not there. Life isn’t fair.

Unfortunately some people are too stupid to recognize when they have a winning hand. The implementation of Obamacare is the gift that will keep on giving through 2014, and perhaps beyond. As one problem after another manifests itself, it may collapse to the point where most people realize it is unworkable. The blame for this will rest squarely on the Democrats, since they forced it through when they had a majority in both houses without any input or a single vote from the other side. That would portend huge losses in the elections next year, because they effectively own Obamacare. Consequently it makes no sense to maintain a scenario where public anger is directed towards congress and the Republicans as long as this stalemate lasts. It is time to put an end to this and get out of the line of fire, and thereby reap the rewards. 

More serious is the prospect of default, which is undermining the dollar and causing deep anxiety in the rest of the world. If the US cannot maintain full faith and credit, if it is no longer perceived as being a rock solid oasis of stability, the damage will be immense, and the international reserve currency role of the dollar will be diminished. Serious damage has already occurred, and it will take some effort to repair and re-establish confidence. On this question the President has to give something, if only to avoid going down in history as the official who presided over a disastrous default that could have been avoided. Any reasonable person can see that averting this ought to have top priority over any other considerations. 

Those trying to make the government more accountable are completely right, but brinksmanship tactics are wrong and will only backfire. Far better to let the administration sink under the weight of its own pretensions and take a sober, longer-term view that is far more likely to produce the desired objectives. 

Written by georgesarant

October 16, 2013 at 11:35 AM

THE WRONG FIGHT AT THE WRONG TIME

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There is an excellent chance that the 2014 elections could result in a Republican landslide, given the present unpopularity of the administration and programs like Obamacare in particular, as its phase-in disrupts the entire health care system and the coverage of millions. This is a classic case of unintended consequences, as businesses reduce full-time jobs and replace them with part-time work to avoid various mandates, along with many other negative effects. The question is what is to be done about this? 

There are many who think it is time to defund Obamacare. While this may pass the House, it is dead in the Senate, as well as in the White House, given the presidential veto. Thus there is no possibility that such legislation can succeed, at least in the present congress. The focus should instead be on winning the upcoming elections. The problem is that this action could backfire and and seize defeat from the jaws of victory. First, as stated, it is a waste of time and energy given the current political configuration, second, if there is a government shutdown resulting from an impasse it is congressional Republicans who will be blamed, not the administration. The media has already seen to this by framing the story in terms of a “threatened shutdown” of the government. Third, as more of this health plan goes into effect, more and more people are being alienated, and left to itself, an increasingly angry public will justifiably blame the administration and vote accordingly. 

It is unsurprising that that the “Affordable Care Act” is a disaster for the existing health care of millions as well as for the economy. It is a result of the typical liberal impulse to upend and entire system because a minority is not being accommodated. Over 80% of the population were satisfied with their existing health care, but because a minority was uncovered for various reasons, rather than address that question directly, they decided to redesign the entire system, to benefit this minority. In addition there is no way around the fact that the cost of care for the minority is going to be born by the 80% in higher fees, taxes, benefits, etc. 

The media are laying all of this on Republicans, and it makes no sense to fulfill their narrative. The line is that the Republicans are “divided” between “moderates” and “conservatives” on whether or not to defund the government. This is a losing proposition, even though it is a lie. Both those labeled as “moderate” in this instance as well as “conservative” oppose Obamacare. The differences are purely tactical. Is this really the right time and the right legislative process to deal with this issue?  I think not, for the reasons I cited above.  There is simply no way that the realities of the current congress can be changed, and therefore the focus should be on winning the next congress. The best strategy is to sit on the status quo for the next year, and then reap the windfall when an alienated public takes it out on the governing party. 

 

Written by georgesarant

September 20, 2013 at 4:01 PM

THE REPUBLICAN COASTAL DISEASE

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The national Republican party is increasingly in danger of going the way of the moribund New York party I’ve written about previously here, where yet again the party establishment is lining up behind another gruff, inarticulate candidate whose only virtue is money, and who is certain to wind up an embarrassment if nominated. It doesn’t even matter that such candidates aren’t even Republicans, or are recent converts of convenience, as long as they are willing to part with some cash for the party establishment apparatus. When a party starts looking for candidates who can self-finance you know it is in trouble, as it portends nothing more than a lack of a broad-based support network. The party in California is in the same shape, although there at least the last statewide candidates were good. 

This pattern just confirms the phony depiction of the Republicans as the “party of the rich,” never mind that the super-rich actually favor Democrats. It is in fact a bona fide middle class party, but it doesn’t help when the last candidate for President, as good and decent a man as he was, only confirms this stereotype. People see this and form their perceptions, often concluding that “he doesn’t represent people like me.” The only way the party can gain strength is to do the nitty gritty work on the ground and build from the bottom up, rather than wait until election season and hope the right candidate comes along. Even if such a person does materialize they can’t magically create a functioning party structure where none exists, which is pretty much the case at the moment on both coasts. 

The party establishment often gets the blame from conservative activists, and there is some truth to this, to the extent that they have frequently connived to rent out the party line. No one should be able to buy a nomination for office in either party, but it continues to happen. But that is ultimately where failure commences, when the party ceases to represent the people it is supposed to represent. The usual prescription to correct this is to limit the amount of money in politics. However, it is in fact such restrictions on donations that has handed rich guys the keys to the party since they are willing to spend their own money, making campaign finance rules ludicrous. I’ve argued a number of times here that what we need is electoral reform: first a limit on how long campaigns can go on, and second, that candidates ought to be nominated by the elected officials of the party, who after all, have been chosen for public office by the electorate. However, the prudent way to approach big questions is incrementally, not in a rush to “reform” or correct a situation that often backfires due to unforeseen circumstances. Any change should first be tried out in a few states to see how it works before becoming a national template. 

Republicans aren’t losing on ideas as much as organization, or the lack of it. It is increasingly impossible to win an election if you write off large geographic sections of the electorate. The problem isn’t with “minorities” as we hear all the time, but rather with geography. The division into so-called “red” and “blue” states, or tactics to maximize the party’s “own” turnout may occasionally work, as in the past few presidential elections, but it is a terrible long-term strategy. Both parties are guilty of this. The way to start repairing this is to ask the questions “Why aren’t we getting the vote in these states?” and “What can we do to appeal to them?”  

A decade ago former Governor Zell Miller wrote a book called A National Party No More about the Democrats. The same could now be said about the Republicans. When a huge block of voters on both coasts are basically written off it is that much harder to win an election.The national party should look at states where they are faltering and resuscitate the local parties. It was not so long ago that California or New York could be successfully contested. They should be again, by doing the necessary work of building a party from the ground up instead of from the top down. 

Written by georgesarant

March 23, 2013 at 5:18 PM

LAST WORD ON LAST YEAR

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When the holiday season comes around I try to tune out the unending political rancor, and realize just how caustic it is when the season dissipates and it returns to the forefront. It is true that most people don’t follow these things or give them much attention, but those who do are usually angry for one reason or another, or upset about something, or fearful of what may happen, even though it often never occurs. For me the recent election and its aftermath constituted a distraction from other things I’d rather be focusing on, and never intended to give it as much attention as I have. I’d rather stay disinterested, but before moving on I’d like to reiterate a few ideas.  

It is pointless for those on the losing side to try and assign blame for the results, but some silly “explanations” have been put forward. These usually reflect the tendency to try and fit the election outcomes to reinforce something one believed before the election, or to advance a particular agenda. This is followed by a call to get rid of people they don’t like or disagree with. A lot of this has been directed against people with strong religious views, i.e. evangelical Protestants, Orthodox Jews, conservative Catholics, etc. – generally referred to as the “religious right.” A rather large number of people are then tarred with the antics of a minor fringe, and it is suggested that they should be ignored. They say these people have too much influence on social issues, and have alienated other people, who then vote for the other party, having been “driven away.” The fallacy in this is that these votes would otherwise have gone Republican, but there is no evidence to substantiate this claim. It is alleged that “exclusionary rhetoric” (which is often mentioned but rarely specifically identified) is the problem, and therefore this group should be excluded.  I don’t share much of the worldview of the religious right, but I know that purging people is no way to build a majority. 

Some people now feel under siege and threatened, based upon fears that certain things might happen, usually based upon rhetoric of the other side, rather than the more pragmatic reality any government must deal with. They feel that the country has been lost and America as we have known it is over.  I think this is a bit premature, at the very least until 2014, when the outcome will very likely be different.  A significant number of people have actually signed secession petitions for their state, which is like picking up your marbles and leaving the game because you lost. I shouldn’t have to say this, but it’s not a good idea for a number of reasons. First because even most so-called “blue” states are actually geographically predominantly “red” at the county level. Thus, that means ceding away most of the territory in those states and abandoning the people who live in those counties. Second, over 600,000 died in a war to preserve the union and it is a disgrace to their memories.  Third, assuming these states actually did secede, soon enough there would be divisions within those states, in terms of government and opposition; this is inherent in the political process. 

 

Election outcomes have been far worse. When I was a fifteen years old I poured my heart and soul into Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign.   When he lost I was heartbroken,  at what I thought was the triumph of socialism and the end of our world. I recall being at the NY Conservative party office in (because the Republican party establishment didn’t support Goldwater)  election night. Women were crying and  guys were cursing the television at every smirk that appeared on Walter Cronkite’s face. The results then were a rout; there were losses everywhere, from congress to the state legislatures, and majorities left virtually nowhere. That was a time when communism seemed to be advancing all over the world, and socialism did seem to be the wave of the future, and our opposition seemed hopeless. But history turned out very differently. 

 

For things are seldom as bad as they seem, nor as good as we would like them to be. Much of the despondency  (or triumphalism on the other side) I’m hearing in the aftermath of last year’s election is premature. Many have given this election a portent that is unwarranted, often based upon expectations that are unlikely to be realized. On the surface, a recent Gallup poll showing that “socialism” was now viewed positively by 39% of Americans ought to be worrying, until you look a little deeper. By the same survey apparently 25% of “conservatives” and 23% of Republicans also viewed socialism positively. What this tells me is that when it comes to political terminology most people are clueless. Maybe they think “socialism” means social media like Facebook? This makes one realize that the problem really may be less the other “side,” than a situation of general stupidity. You have to wonder what all the political effort and conflict means in the end when must of the public is at best, vaguely aware. Clearly there is yet much to be learned out there and that is something all sides ought to agree on. 

 

Written by georgesarant

January 13, 2013 at 12:04 AM

A TAXING SITUATION

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The congress and the President are now at an impass over just how to get more taxes out of the “rich.” The President thinks this consists of anyone making over $250,000 a year, but even some in his own party find this hard to swallow. Senator Schumer thinks it should apply only to those making over a million, apparently thinking of his high-income, hypocritical liberal constituents, given what the cost of living is here in New York. The Republicans, on the other hand, are willing to raise revenue by changing the tax code to eliminate or limit various deductions for the wealthy, while lowering rates across the board. 

 This may seem like a trivial difference to some people, especially in the affluent media, given that either way the government is going to get more tax revenue from those who are relatively well off, the Republicans having conceded as much already. But the underlying philosophies of each position stand in clear opposition. It essentially boils down to who should control other people’s money. The President’s position is that the rich should pay “more” on the basis of “fairness” and equality. Given that this kind of logic seems to appeal to a current majority of the public, he seems prepared to demagogue this issue over the “fiscal cliff,” even if alternative policies might actually raise more revenue with lower rates, calculating that with media support, he can successfully blame the consequences on the Republicans. They, in turn, argue, rather cogently I think, that this will only reduce investment and economic growth, particularly by burdening small business owners and confiscating capital from more productive uses. 

 It then ultimately becomes a question of who should spend the money- the people it belongs to or the government. It is as much about power and the direction of things as it is about revenue. The Democrats want it for social purposes, while the Republicans reject that for economic reasons, as well as based upon opposition to expanded government programs and power. The President essentially wants to maintain the current tax code and  simply raise income tax rates, while the Republicans want to maintain or reduce current rates and change the tax code. In this they have a strong argument; unfortunately they are not very good at articulating it. 

 The current tax code is full of deductions, exemptions, and benefits skewed towards particular interests (talk about fairness), that reduce the taxes they pay and raise everyone else’s. This results in crony capitalism, rewarding those favored by the government at the expense of others. The advocates of such policies mean well, to the extent that these favors are designed to get people to do things they otherwise would not do, or that make no economic sense on their own. This favorable treatment is designed to provide “incentives” to achieve various political goals, such as green energy through Solyndra-type outfits. Thus, the government then effectively controls how money is spend both indirectly, as well as directly, by taxing all those who are not favored more. It means more power over decision-making, based upon the assumption that somehow politicians and government bureaucrats know better how a business should invest, than its owners. 

 I’m not going to get into all the reasons these schemes frequently fail, or the distortion of investment decisions, but will address them on the liberals’ own terms: it’s just not fair. What would be fair is a system where the same rates apply to everyone without exception, even if they are progressive, and where no one could curry favors from the state. If all these exemptions and favors were eliminated, not only would there be less economic distortion, but then the rates for everyone could be lowered across the board. The Republicans have a strong argument here, provided they stick to it and don’t dole out favors themselves. Under the present system, to paraphrase Pericles, you may not be interested in government but government is interested in you. As long as exceptions and favors are done by the state, supposedly in the public interest, it forces organizations to be involved politically. This inevitably invites corruption.

 As bad as all this is on individual taxes, it is even worse when it comes to corporate taxes. Today the US has the highest corporate income taxes in the world, nominally, but exclusion and deductions effectively lower them for some who are favored. Eliminating the goodies for crony capitalists would allow rates to be significantly lowered across the board, thus encouraging more investment in this country. Again, by simply being fair, everyone would benefit. 

 But there are other interests at play besides the private sector, such as state and local government, and nonprofit organizations. Reducing, or eliminating deductions for state and local taxes usually leads to howls of protest from representatives of high tax states like New York. These concerns are, however, misplaced. New York sends far more taxes to Washington than it gets back. Thus logically every time a representative from here votes for more federal programs and taxes they are effectively voting against the interests of New York taxpayers. That is a strong argument that the Republicans in this state are unfortunately too inept to make, and thus keep losing elections. Reducing deductions for “charitable” contributions also results in protests from nonprofit organizations, who fear they might lose revenue. Never mind that wealthy donors often “contribute” via dinners and social events, they also get “naming” rights. In my view when a billionaire gets to plaster his name all over the place on something, usually in proportion to his ego, he should not get a tax benefit for it as well. Real charity is giving without expecting anything in return. People would still be charitable, it would just be on less of an industrial scale. 

 I’m not advocating eliminating any of these deductions or particular policies, but would insist than any increase in revenue be exclusively devoted to debt reduction. Beyond that, I would point out that any real reform also has to include state and local taxes, given how onerous, i.e. property taxes are for many people. I would suggest that we eliminate or drastically reduce taxes on all the necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. There could be limitations and caps to avoid rewarding ostentatiousness. Instead let everything beyond these elements be taxed, most of which is elective and not essential to life. Thus, for example, we ought to instead have an entertainment tax, (take that Hollywood) which would be relatively painless, given that it would be based upon optional expenditures. No one can seriously argue that entertainment is an essential expense at present.  Furthermore, if society continued to prosper (and this should delight liberals) the list of nontaxables might even eventually be expanded to include some “social” goods, at least as long as it does not increase debt or raise taxes. It is far preferable that these things be provided and decided by individuals themselves rather than the government. That means individual choice instead of state direction. This is only a preliminary proposal, but accompanied by a rational tax system that treats everyone equally, we could reduce overall taxation, increase growth, and pay down the debt. After all, its only fair. 

 

 

Written by georgesarant

December 6, 2012 at 4:46 PM