The Original Entitlement

Republican policy makers see “repeal-and-replace” of the affordable care act as a fundamental test of governance. It has nothing to do with health-care policy, or the rights of participants in a free-market economy.

If it did, they would be forced to recognize that the sick should have the right to change insurers when denied treatment. This is possible only if pre-existing conditions are disallowed as an exclusion for coverage – which means that everybody must have coverage, because otherwise the greedy would wait until they got sick to get insurance.

Against this reality, the Republicans raise the fantasy of “entitlement programs.” This was the specter raised by Salma Hayek in the early 1900’s: democratic governments would face popular pressure to allocate resources from the wealthy to the poor. When such programs were established, it would be impossible to get rid of them, because beneficiaries would only elect those that safe-guarded the program.

But let’s get real about this: the wealthy are beneficiaries of the original entitlement known as private property. This is a fiction established by legal writ and armed might that allows greedy people to allocate to themselves what was once held by the people. The oppressive machinery of the private property state was what destroyed native cultures during the colonial era.

To Republicans, would you surrender that protection? Is it fair that contract law allows insurers to bury exemptions from coverage in impenetrable legal and medical terminology? Is it fair that employers should enrich themselves while their workers surrender health to physical, mental and emotional stress? That is what the entitlement of private property allows: the transfer – without recourse – of energy and wealth to the greedy through a slow grinding down of people who are simply trying to take care of those they love.

Argue the merits of health-care policy. The moral purpose of an economy isn’t to make your donors rich. It’s to provide for the well-being of the people.

And put Hayek away. If you’re going to dismantle state programs, on principle you’ll have to accept that inevitably the peasants will march on your estates with torches and pitchforks, and the proper response of “government” will be to sell the popcorn.

The Pope on the Pill

Pope Francis has published an encyclical on the family that clearly states that contraception is a mature and moral practice that ensures that children grow up in a loving environment. We’ll see how this interacts with the Supreme Court’s decision in a recently-heard case brought by Catholic nuns who insist that they shouldn’t be forced to offer contraception as part of their health care insurance. The nuns, who have children only under the most irregular circumstances, had argued that the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom trumped the requirements of the Affordable Health Care Act, which requires in part that health care plans offer contraception.

Conserving Liberty

After my post Friday on Speaker Ryan, at Barnes & Noble that night I found myself disrupted in my technology research by a couple railing on about public sector unions. The particular focus of their wrath were police unions that negotiated full-pay retirement packages starting at fifty. As is well known in the West, some officers exercise that option and then take another assignment elsewhere, effectively double-dipping.

Now I agree that this seems unethical, and you’d think that some legislator would find a way to define “retirement” as excluding “leaving to take work elsewhere.” And the six-figure salaries being quoted ($200K) don’t sound like the compensation expected by a beat cop. Again, you’d think that redefinition of terms would be beneficial. There does come a day when a man can’t chase down an eighteen-year-old any longer, but that doesn’t apply to those pushing figures around on spread-sheets.

What was astonishing to me, though, was the framing of the discussion that brought such outrage to the conversation. During the 2008 down-turn, because of the pension obligations, Pheonix couldn’t afford to hire officers to replace those taking early retirement. This was set against the context of civilians that lost their homes in the mortgage melt-down.

For some reason, the couple ranting against the police union seemed to feel that was the union’s fault. Really? Not the financial wizards on Wall Street that stole another $500 billion from the public purse? What gall, to redirect anger against corporate financial fraud against the unions that seek only to secure the survival of the middle class that lost their homes!

This is what drives me crazy about conservative business owners. They rail about regulation as though it’s a confiscatory plot by the poor. Yes, we have the onerous terms of Sorvanes-Oxley that put a CEO at risk of jail if the corporate annual reports contains false information – but that was motivated by Enron’s manipulation or energy markets in California. Yes, we have the Affordable Care Act that requires all employers of more than fifty to provide health-care benefits, but that’s against the context of insurance company manipulations that denied coverage to many with pre-existing or chronic health conditions. And yes, we have rising taxes on fossil fuels, but that reflects a race against time against temperature rises that threaten to wipe out civilization as we know it, a race that has been road-blocked by oil companies (led by the Koch Brothers) propagating fraudulent science in an attempt to prevent governmental action to stimulate replacement of fossil fuels with renewable sources.

Let me focus the point: did nobody in the business world know about these transgressions, some simply moral, but in the last case rising to the level of crimes against humanity? Where were your voices speaking in outrage? Or were you all among those business leaders celebrating the “success” of practices that allowed executives to build huge estates and buy private jets with the gains from stock options that transferred hundreds of billions of dollars from share-holders funds into personal bank accounts?

Corporate America benefits every day from the investment made by middle-class America in roads, schools, emergency services and governmental process. They provide a steady steam of educated employees. They ensure the free movement of goods and safe working conditions. Access to those benefits is not a right, it is a privilege. Securing great wealth from that system comes therefore with a responsibility: to raise your voice when your peers abuse the public trust. Do so, and you’ll find that a lot of regulation would go away, because the cost of cleaning up from long-running abuse would be modest compared to the benefits that accrue from a freely running economy.

Hang It Up, Rudy

There’s nothing more mortifying than for a presidential hopeful to generate press by attacking the patriotism of a sitting president. Rudy Giuliani’s comments about President Obama “not loving” his country are just terribly pathetic.

The Republican Party, with it’s Neo-conservative economic policies (what Reagan extolled as “trickle-down” economics) has presided over a huge transfer of wealth from the middle class to the ultra-rich (what I decry as “tinkle-down” economics). Now, the only way that I have been able to make sense of “love” is as an investment in creating power in people. Taking their money is exactly the opposite of that.

Contrast this with the centerpiece of Obama’s domestic policy: the Affordable Health Care Act. This is an investment in the people of America. It ensures that individuals can get medical care before their ailments become debilitating, and thus that they can remain active contributors to our economy. It lessens health care costs because it keeps people out of the emergency room, and thus will lower rates for everyone over the long term.

Now that – that is loving.

So why isn’t that perspective shared by Giuliani and his cronies?

There are two kinds of people: those that project themselves upon the world (narcissists) and those that allow the world into themselves (empaths). The Republican Party is beholden to the former: people that believe that whatever works for them is what is right for the country. The Affordable Health Care Act created some losers – very wealthy people that made their money by ensuring that they minimized the number of sick people on their plans. This left a back-log that has to be paid down as coverage is extended without regard for preexisting conditions. This means that, in the short term, rates will go up – particularly for those people that were on preferred coverage plans.

Giuliani represents those people, and all I have to offer is that it is un-Christian to ensure that sick people cannot rely upon society to invest in their healing. When Giuliani has the courage to recognize the inherent selfishness of that attitude, then I might have some confidence that, if elected president, he might actually love the people of this nation. And I don’t mean just the rich cronies that line his campaign coffers. I mean all of the people.