Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Big Show

"In an April 26 forum at The McCain Institute for International Leadership, Vice President Joe Bidenexpressed his admiration for Sen. Lindsey Graham(R-SC) in his own irreverent fashion. In a conversation with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Biden said that he would do whatever he could to help Graham win his reelection bid next year. The vice president said he would be happy to campaign for him or against him, promising Graham that he would “rip your skin off” if that would cement his reputation as an enemy of the Obama administration among South Carolina’s Republican primary voters."

Can the members of the ruling class spell it out any plainer than that for us peasants?  They intend for the whole Red-Blue thing to be a shtick.    It is all meant to be for show, an act as phony as pro-wrestling.  It is an act designed to keep the rubes back in the heartland entertained while their friends finish looting the country and collapsing the former middle class into abject poverty.  

Only a few "rouge" politicians are threatening to ruin the Big Show.   In the U.S. Senate there are three such men, Ted Cruz from Texas, Tom Lee from Utah, and Rand Paul from Kentucky.  They are actually attempting statesmanship, not performance art, and are therefore making a nuisance of themselves according to the cast members of The Big Show.   Here is a video where Cruz candidly tells us that some of the actors, er, Senators, were yelling at the three at the top of their lungs for filibustering gun control legislation that the establishment was trying to rush through.  The trio's stalling tactics embarrassed the actors who have been playing the role of "Pro-Second Amendment" Senators to actually vote that way, against their will.  

It is no wonder that the insiders of both parties get along with each other better than they do with the outsiders in their own parties.  The outsiders are the troublemakers who are trying to end the scams endemic to big government, the insiders are putting on a stage production to fool the people into thinking they are trying to end the scam.  The show's real purpose is to keep the thing going as long as possible.  It is designed to make the folks back home think that "something is being done" about our nation's dire situation while in fact the fraud rolls on.

While this problem may be worse at the national level, we have seen it here in Arkansas as well.  Recall last year that Democratic Senator Larry Teague had a general election fundraiser that was co-sponsored by every Republican member of the state senate at that time (Sen. Jason Rappert is an exception, saying his name was put on the invitations without his consent), including a former state GOP Chairman.   And of course, after all the election season noise from the Republican state legislators about how they would resist the implementation of Obamacare, they jumped right in and implemented it once they were sure their friends got enough of the taxpayer money.

Friends, the two-party system as it currently exists is a sham.  It is a fraud and a show.   That is a fact.   The outsiders deserve our support, but each honest citizen should ask themselves whether they want to spend 100% of their political time, energy, and effort playing a very minor bit role in the Big Show or whether they might want to prudently diversify their political investments.  That is, spend some of that time, energy, and effort doing the hard but necessary job of building a real political alternative to the grotesque charade Red-Blue politics has become.    

We may not be able to build a national alternative to the Big Show, but we can right here at home.  Then we just have to hope that our fellow citizens in other states do the same.  We can show them the way, but we can't do it for them.  In the days and weeks to come I and others will be visiting with various activist groups to see what we can do to provide a real alternative, at least on races that don't take millions of dollars to win.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Altes Outsmarts Beebe and Carter

Fort Smith Republican Representative Denny Altes has had his ups and downs during his legislative career, but he goes out with a bang, if you will pardon the pun, with Act 746.    It appears that Gov. Mike Beebe and House Speaker Davy Carter did not understand the full significance of the bill that became Act 746 when it was going through.   If they had, they would have stopped it, much like Carter acted to stop a much more timid gun bill (permitted concealed carry holders would not get in trouble even if their gun was showing).

Act 746 defines what constitutes a "journey" under existing gun laws, and specifies that one can carry a hand gun on a journey as long as one does not intend to use it on a person unlawfully.   Prior to the act, even the use of a gun in self-defense in these circumstances could be considered a crime.  

A plain reading of the law is that it is now legal to carry a handgun for self-dense if one is going to "journey" outside of one's home county.   No permit is needed for this by the letter of the law, nor does the law restrict the gun to a vehicle.

Nic Horton has more details on the Arkansas Project.   That includes how the Beebe administration is twisting and claiming the new law does not change much.   They may find a crooked judge willing to rule that way, or they may not.   The law says what it says.  Congratulations to Rep. Altes.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Symptoms vs. Problem on State Republican Obamacare Betrayal

 "The fun irony of AR politics. It was the Republicans who brought Obamacare to AR. " - Liberal blogger Michael Cook.

It does not matter that many if not most of the Republican legislators are flat out lying about what they have done. The liberals know that what the Republicans helped to pass is Obamacare. The nation knows it. Informed conservative activists know it. The only ones on the scene that don't know it are the "activists" who don't want to know it. They don't want to see what was in the bill and compare it to the claims.

The people who know that the men and women they worked to elect did the opposite of what they said they would do on the central issue of the last election are understandably upset.   Efforts of the betrayers to re-direct attention to all the things they did right amount to little more than asking "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"   Many of them are ready to turn disgust into action.  But what action?

Glenn E. Gallas of Hot Springs is rounding up support for a ballot petition which would send to the ballot a referendum to effectively undo what the Republican legislature just did- implement Obamacare in Arkansas.   I support his effort, though I have my doubts that Democrat Attorney General Dustin McDaniel will play fair as far as approving their ballot titles and getting it on the ballot.  Still, I want it on the ballot.  The people turned over the legislature for the first time in 138 years and the biggest issue was whether or not to implement Obamacare.   Shockingly, though the people made this dramatic course correction, the new bunch did pretty much what the old bunch would have done.

I am afraid that the real problem runs much deeper than this one issue.   What happened here was a symptom of  a grotesque malady that is rotting our body politic.   It was not the problem, it was a symptom of the problem.  Yes, I think we should treat the symptom, that is what the referendum would do, but it is a gigantic mistake to think that treating the symptom is solving the problem.    

Our candidate selection system in America in general, and Arkansas in particular, is broken.   We may keep trying to treat the symptoms this disease produces, but we cannot begin to heal the patient until we treat the real systemic problems.    Our nation was designed so that the Legislature would be the "People's Branch" that made the laws.   They were to check and balance the Executive and Judicial branches.   The state governments were to check and balance the federal government.   None of these intended actions can occur when Executive Branch Officials and Legislators are members of the same political party and when state and federal officials serve in the same parties.   

The party system has ruined the legislative branch for its intended purpose.   Legislators don't need to hear from constituents anymore.   They get their marching orders from the other politicians in their party like the Governor or they hear from their party bosses.   And in DC where this thing is really run, the Red Team and the Blue Team are funded by a lot of the same people.

Oh you might try to run some "outsiders" in a party primary against the incumbent, but if that incumbent has served the party well, there are a dozen ways they can tilt the primaries in their favor.   And if your outsider wins anyway, they can undermine them in the general so they will lose, then blame the grassroots for the loss.  I know.  I helped an outsider win two state-wide Republican primaries.

It is time we neighbors started asking ourselves just exactly why we need to route our candidates for the state legislature through a political party headquartered eight hundred miles away and staffed by people who are more interested in pleasing large corporate donors than blocking the growth of socialism/fascism.    It does not take a million dollars to be competitive in a race to serve in a state legislative seat.   It does not take thousands, or even hundreds, of campaign workers.    Since it ruins the intent of the Founders to have state and federal officials all serving in the same parties, maybe we should consider other options for candidate selection in our races here at home.   As broken as our present candidate selection is, it would be hard to do worse.

The main argument against it might be that "splitting the vote" in some races will result in the election of our least-preferred candidate.   That is not a reason to limit our choices to the same two political gangs that have ruined the country, its a reason to change our election laws from our ridiculous "first past the post" method of determining a winner.   We have run-off elections for city and county races, and those governments seem to work pretty well on much fewer resources.   

If we really want to get their attention, we should change the election laws to permit run-off elections at least in state legislative races.   That would allow people to vote their conscience without fear of "splitting the vote."     These guys know that Arkansas is a one-party state in many state house and senate districts, and they know incumbents who play ball with the party get a lot of help.   Right now, once they are in, they don't need you anymore.  Un-rigging the election laws would change that.

In the days and weeks to come, I and some others hope to reach out to activists around the state and begin a dialogue about what we can do to not just treat the latest symptom of our broken candidate selection system, but heal the root cause as well.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Big Lyon Theory

" they (the people) more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying." -Adolph Hitler in "Mine Kaumpf" 
The establishment in Arkansas, which consists of the people who run the Democrat Party, more than half of the Republican legislators, and of course the Democrat-Gazette and establishment media, are telling you the people of Arkansas "the big lie."     They are making claims so outrageously untrue that the normal person will tend to accept it as true simply because they cannot imagine their leaders would say something so breath-takingly false.  They think that their leaders would not have the nerve to lie so brazenly.  The average person thinks there must be some reasonable explanation.  

That's how Big Lies work.  That is, they work if they are repeated enough by people and institutions that citizens regards as "authorities."    Since the alternative is to believe that the majority of authority figures are to some extent complicit in propagating a colossal falsehood, it is easier just to shrug it off than face up to this unpleasant possibility.

I know this because I am one of those (mostly) normal people.  One way I am not normal is that as a hobby I am a "policy wonk".   I like to look into details of proposed legislation and project how it would work (or not).  Weird I know, but that is what makes the world go round, right?  As I looked into the details of HB1143/SB1020 and compared it to the claims of legislators I know and in most cases like, I went through this process.    The language of the bill  did not match up with the claims being made by men like Speaker Davy Carter, Rep. John Burris, and many other Republican legislators.  And when I say "did not match up" I mean that the truth was, if not 180 degrees the opposite of what they were claiming then it was close, maybe 170 degrees out.  

Almost all of the Republicans who voted to fund the act falsely known as the "Private Option", and several of those who voted against it, maintained these claims.  At first I thought, as Hitler wrote, that "there must be some other explanation."   In the internet age, many of these people are reachable and so I interacted with a number of them.   I asked them questions.  I quoted their own words back to them and compared it to the language of the bill.   They each, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, insisted that the "Private Option" in SB1020 was not an expansion of Medicaid, and not giving into Obamcare.     

These claims are outrageously false.  The are Big Lies.  At first they claimed that the Private Option was fighting Obamacare.   Towards the end, they modified their story on the latter question, saying that "Obamacare is here, we have it whether we do anything or not."   That was the opposite of what they said six months ago when they were campaigning .   Back then they insisted that if you elected them they would fight the implementation of Obamacare.    Either they were telling you the Big Lie then, or they are doing so now. 

So if you compare what they said then to what the say now, it is clear that one thing they said at least must be untrue. But even if you choose to kid yourself that they are not lying now, then you must also erase your own memory of what they told you about the same subject six months ago in order to maintain the belief that they have been honest with you.   

Like most authorities that use the Big Lie tactic, they are counting on your reluctance to accept that the authorities would attempt such brazen falsehoods to get you to shrug your shoulders and ignore the issue.   They are counting on you being either too apathetic to care about finding out the truth or too cowardly to face an unpleasant truth.   You don't want to face the idea that those like-able gents who spoke at your meeting last year have foisted on you a colossal lie.

I have heard people who allege that they are activists spouting other non-sense too, all to avoid having to face the obvious conclusion that their champions are flat out lying to them.  I have heard them say "it was too late for us to opt out."  That is wrong, as this article makes clear, there is no time limit on deciding when to opt out of expanding Medicaid.   What is not so clear is whether states can un-expand Medicaid once they decide to expand it, as Arkansas has now voted to expand it- even though the men and women you campaigned for are not being honest enough to tell you that that is what it is.  

Some legislators are saying that we can always get out of it if Washington does not do it they way we want it done.  The prior link about whether states can un-expand Medicaid shows that these confident pronouncements are mostly gas. We don't like the way the feds are doing education either.  When is the last time the state totally dropped a major federal education program because we did not like they way it was being done?  

Republicans claim that the "private option" will not be implemented unless it is done the way the Republicans want it to be implemented. Even assuming that there growth-of-government plan would be a good thing, their claims regarding this are also false.  I linked to the text of the bill.  Look at it yourself.   It only says that the program will not be implemented if the (temporary) waivers are not in place at the start

Once the program is implemented, there is no automatic trigger to stop the program even if all of the waivers the Republicans want are done away with. At any rate, it will be Mike Beebe's people who will determine whether or not the original waivers that the feds grant are sufficient to comply with the provisions of the act and"implement" the program.  What do you suppose they will say?  

This is like a repeat of the decision in 2011 on how to stop the Democrats from building a Health Care exchange.  They thought they had a deal with the Democrats then too.  Read about how that worked out for us (hint, we have a partnership exchange even though there was no legislative authorization for it).  Look at page 9 lines 12-14 of the bill.   Not only did it expand Medicaid, but it also obligated the legislature to set up some kind of exchange, which Beebe had no legislative authorization to do until now.  

In other words, there were two major things states had to do in order to help implement Obamacare.  One was to sign up everybody under 138% of poverty level in some sort of Medicaid program and the other was to set up a state Health Insurance Exchange (which is for people up to 400% of poverty level).  The Republicans in the legislature have caved on both major parts of the plan, unlike many other states who are resisting Obamacare by holding the line on growth of socialized medicine and forcing the feds to own the exchange rather than make the state and its taxpayers responsible for it.

The Democrat Gazette, as usual, is spinning it for the establishment by repeating every untruth at face value.  This report by John Lyon goes right down the list...

"Last week, the state House and Senate gave final passage to a package of bills encompassing Arkansas’ alternative to Medicaid expansion, the so-called “private option.” The plan is expected to save the state $670 million over 10 years and shrink the Medicaid rolls by 35 percent."
First of all, the so-called "Private Option" is not an "alternative to Medicaid expansion."  It's Medicaid Expansion. It is an alternative program under Medicaid which will result in a massive increase in the number of persons enrolled in some sort of Medicaid program.   It will not "shrink the Medicaid rolls by 35 percent."   It will only shrink the rolls of one Medicaid program, by adding another program that is paying for even more people.  

Do you remember when Blue Cross and other health insurers started adding high-deductible HSA plans?  Maybe a third of their customers went to some sort of HSA plan, and the others stayed with their traditional plans.  Would it be honest to claim that "Blue cross had their customer base shrink by 35%" just because some of their customers went to another Blue Cross product?  Of course not, but that is what Lyon is doing here with Medicaid.   

The so-called "Private Option" is a Medicaid Program, run under Medicaid Guidelines, any waivers granted will be Medicaid waivers which are temporary in any case.   The program will be administered by the Arkansas Department of Human Services and funded with taxpayer dollars.  What is "private" about an option like that?   It is corporate welfare for insurance companies and hospitals.  It is cronyism being sold as "free market" by Big Lie proponents.

The claim that the plan is "expected to save the state $670 million over 10 years" is also highly misleading.  It only saves money if their "private" reforms work as expected and only compared to expanding government to the max while making no reforms at all.  De-linking from Obamacare, refusing to expand Medicaid and refusing to participate in a health care exchange (putting all the cost on the federal government) is the option that would have saved the state billions of dollars over the next ten years.  

Here is a chart based on numbers put out by Beebe's own people.  He was trying to make the so-called "private option" work, so he had every incentive to make it look good compared to traditional expansion,  but one glance at the chart shows it is obvious that the plan only "saves" money compared to a plan that spends even more money!  De-linking, which they call "doing nothing" actually saves money.

John Lyon quotes Gov. Beebe as saying, "“If there is a message about this, the message is, ‘Washington: Republicans and Democrats can work together. "

Yes they can.  When they are implementing what the Democrats want done.  Because that is all that happened here, except that the Republicans got the insurance companies and the hospitals a cut of taxpayer money too.

Seeing is not an act of the eyes, but an act of the will. Men do not see according to the facts in front of them, but rather the heart within them.  I urge us all to pray for hearts willing to see truth.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Putting the Session Into Perspective

"Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"

Yes friends, it is possible for one tragic event to cancel out all the hard work of the script writers, actors, producers and stage hands.   It is reasonable to suppose that on the night Lincoln was assassinated that none of them expressed displeasure than no one was talking about the "positives" of their performance.  It is extremely likely they understood that the one Big Bad Thing that happened that night eclipsed whatever good they did in the theater.  It wasn't just, because they had no responsibility for the one Big Bad Thing that happened that night, but still, they understood.

Contrast that to the embarrassing display of self-absorption put on by the Republican legislators who voted to fund Medicaid Expansion in this state, despite their campaign promises six months ago.  I don't say the passing of Medicaid expansion is an equal tragedy to the Lincoln assassination, only that they are both big tragedies.  But in spite of our tragedy, the legislators are not responding with the decorum of the common stage hands a century and a half ago.   These people are complaining that watchful activists are not giving them credit for all the good that they did in this session because we are focused on the one Big Bad Thing that happened- Obamacare is being implemented in this state.

These men and women were elected to positions of public trust, yet they fail to display the sense of humility and proportion possessed by common stage-hands and actors a century and a half ago.  Indeed, the stage hands actions are far more honorable because they had nothing to do with the one Big Bad Thing which impacted them. These legislators on the other hand, were directly responsible for their one Big Bad Thing, which they did in violation of their promises to the voters a mere six months before.   The stage hands had the sense of decorum to understand that that particular dark night was not about pointing out the lesser things they did right.  Not so the truculent legislators whose sense of entitlement to praise has been violated.

Oh, and too many of them are not manning up and admitting what they did was an Expansion of Medicaid and the implementation of Obamacare.   They can live in denial as long as you their constituents will accept their baloney at face value, but the rest of the nation calls it what it is.  And despite their spin that this was the GOP imposing a different plan on the Democrats, Gov. Mike Beebe was looking at some of these special programs, with the Obama administration, back in 2011.  And their future promises about how Arkansas can pull out if the Feds don't do it the way we want may be just as worthless as their past promises that they would oppose Medicaid Expansion- there is no hint that the courts said any state could withdraw from Obamacare after jumping in.  The Roberts ruling only said that states could decide whether they want to participate or not at the beginning.  That is why Forbes describes the plan as a "roach motel."  We can get in, but getting out is another matter. 

But let's turn the spotlight for a minute on these other "accomplishments" that they want us to give them credit for as we step across the dead body of their campaign promises for the defining issue of the previous election.   Twenty feel-good bills don't make up for one multi-billion dollar blunder.  Yes I am glad they passed the pro-life bills, but there is a 99% chance that the most significant bills will never be implemented.  They got points for those who voted for them from the pro-life community, but they have yet to save one innocent life and the odds are they never will.

The other major issue was the tax cuts.   They were talking about tax cuts in the 100 million to 150 million dollar annual range when all this started.   But on closer examination, the tax cuts they want us to give them credit for are not their tax cuts at all.   They are actually trying to take credit for tax cuts that they are obliging future legislators to honor, while they themselves keep spending wildly.

I kid you not.  Their tax cuts for next year are worth a paltry $10 million dollars, or about four dollars per person.   They 'phase in' the tax cuts.  The big money starts in future years, which is ridiculous.  No legislature can bind a future legislature.   It is not their place to tell whoever is elected in 2016 that they have to find places to tighten the belt to pay for tax cuts they passed this year but are to be implemented in future years.  They are trying to take present credit for hatching tomorrow's chickens.

They are claiming the money will be there because of two things, one is that the courts will someday let us out of the Little Rock School District desegregation law suit.  Whenever that happens, it will free up about $70 million dollars annually.  They were hoping that would happen in time for them to cut taxes or spend the money, but the courts did not make the ruling.  So what the legislators did was say "when the courts let us out of this thing, here is how our successors are to spend the freed up money."

It is absurd for them to expect credit for that.   If you want credit for a tax cut, tighten the belt on your watch and give us a tax cut with the freed-up money.   Don't try to take credit for a demand that your successors in the future tighten their belts and give us the money based on some hypothetical occurrence.   It is grand standing that is really hard to respect.

The other thing they are claiming as a source of savings is that they say their plans to reform Medicaid are going to work out so well that future legislatures will have plenty of money for a tax cut.   Therefore they are going to tell those future legislators what to do with the presumed future bonanza of cash that their wisdom will provide.   They want credit today for legislation that says some future group of legislators tomorrow has to give you money that has not yet been saved.

The truth is just the opposite.  By giving into Obamcare they have tied the hands of future legislators just to get a few years of easy money.    Once the feds quit matching 100%  then they are going to be putting future legislatures in a worse position to cut taxes than they are, not a better one.   They just added about 100,000 people to a government welfare healthcare program.  It is going to cost more money than de-linking from Obamacare to the maximum extent possible under the law- a lot more.

They broke the promises they made you yesterday, but they want credit today for their promises about what will happen tomorrow.  In effect, they don't want activists, they want groupies who pretend to be activists.  They want people who will focus on the positive, even if it means looking past the balanced truth.   For the most part, I don't think they will get their wish.

Benton County Senator Bart Hester is one of the best men in the legislature.  He is actually being honest with the voters, and sadly, that is all it takes these days to be among the best.  Here is what he says about the matter:

Senator Bart Hester: The entire session everyone has been sold a bill of goods that if this Medicaid passed, there was going to be at least $100 million if not $150 million in tax cuts. And that’s what Davy was in the paper saying, $150 million, the Senate was saying $100 million, now they get their Medicaid and we come back and it’s $9.8 million in cuts. And they give you the old schoolyard, ‘Well, we didn’t say what year the cuts were gonna be.’ I think it’s dishonest, it’s misleading.

We only have $9.8 million we can share with the entire state, but we have $125 million we can give to one company and then we have $100 million in [General Improvement Funds], pork-barrel, earmark spending for a bunch of us to go home to our friends with. It’s not right. It’s not right that we spend $100 million in pork-barrel spending and we can’t give the taxpayers anything.

I oppose it. It’s going to be the most unpopular statement of the session I’m sure because everyone loves their GIF

Friday, April 12, 2013

Here We Go Again

So I have been in numerous exchanges with Republican legislators over HB1143.   They express supreme confidence that the bill will reform Medicaid the way they want it to, or the bill itself will be made void.   Their confidence is not supported by either the actual content of the bill or recent history on similar events.

The bill only says that the plan will not be "implemented" unless waivers to do a few general things are granted.  But it is silent as to who will decide whether or not these vague requirements are met.   The answer of course, is the Beebe administration.    They determine whether the language of any forth-coming waivers will meet the requirements of the bill.  You already know what they are going to say.   At any rate, there is nothing in the bill about shutting down the program if any of those waivers are cancelled later.   Once the program is implemented, it goes on, even if waivers are amended or killed outright.    The only provisions which end the bill after implementation have to do with the amount of FEDGOV's match- which is a whole 'nother subject.

As to the history, I have been through this before with these guys concerning the other half of Obamacare, setting up the Health Care Exchanges.    I urged them to not even fund the state insurance department until they had it in writing that they would not do anything to set up an exchange.  They did not want to take the heat that would have come with shutting down the Insurance Department until Beebe agreed.  Instead, they decided to bargain.

They were sure they had reached a bargain that would allow them to fund the department and still block the exchange.  At the time, I expressed the view that they had been "taken."    I said once Beebe and Co. had the money, they were going to set up that exchange with or without their approval.  "We will still have legislative oversight" one of them opined.  I replied that they were about to find out just how worthless that was dealing with people like this.

Over the next few months the Beebe administration tried everything they could to lure some Republicans into going along with the idea of going forward with an exchange, but they did not budge.  Every time Beebe spent some money to advance the exchange concept, the legislature asked him what he thought he was doing.   For a while, it looked like I was wrong.   I then did what honest men do when they are wrong.  I fessed up to being wrong and congratulated them for threading the needle between keeping the Insurance Department funded and still blocking the Health Care Exchange.

Well, it turns out that I was wrong about being wrong.  And the Republican legislators who thought they could manage this thing?  They were just wrong.   Beebe kept working with the feds and started using regulation and policy to implement the Exchange, even without the benefit of a law authorizing it.    The legislature could not stop him from setting up a "partnership" exchange once he had the money.

They are close to making the same mistake again.   They are highly confident they have a bill that has the Democrats penned in.  Just like they thought last time.  They are highly confident that if the new Medicaid plan (the private option) does not have all the features they say it will then the bill will never be implemented.   About like they thought last time.   They think they have a deal with the Democrats, just like last time.  I am here to tell you something- they are wrong. Just like last time.

Here is the video where Kathleen Sebulius is asked by Cong. Tim Griffith about whether she has approved Arkansas' so-called "Private Option."   She says that she has not read the bill, did not commit to it, and when they pass a bill then they will read it.   I have to hand it to her, she is not willing to lie.  She will only negotiate with "the state" - i.e. the Beebe Administration.  She is spinning me less than the Republican legislators who are telling us that the bill is not an expansion of Medicaid.

Scary Money Figures on Medicaid Expansion

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Deconstructing HB1143

 First of all no matter what they tell you, the so-called "private option" is Medicaid Expansion.  And its not really very "private" either, unless you want to count crony capitalism as "private."   The program is administered by our Department of Human Services, run under Medicaid guidelines, and funded by public tax dollars.  How private can it be?

Here is a link to the bill itself.   At the bottom of page four and the top of page five it directs the Department of Human Services to "Submit Medicaid State Plan Amendments and Apply for any federal waivers" necessary to implement the program.   If it is not Medicaid, then why are they implementing it by amending the State's Medicaid plan?

This is simply another way to do Medicaid.  It may be a better way, or it may be a worse way, but it is misleading beyond belief to claim, as Rep. Jon Burris does in this video, that "nothing could be further from the truth" than to say this is an expansion of Medicaid.

In fact, if you go to minute 32 of the video, Rep. Nate Bell asks Burris why people in the 100%-138% category are being left "under Medicaid guidelines" for their exchange plans instead of being subject to the guidelines for the exchange that people above that income level will use.  Burris answers him, but does not challenge the premise that people in this group, participants in his mis-named "private option", are "under Medicaid guidelines."  That's because it is Medicaid, and under HB1143 more people will be on some sort of Medicaid program than ever before in our state.  That's an expansion of Medicaid by any honest reckoning.

For more information, here is a ten minute video where I explain among other things why, yes it is Medicaid Expansion, even if the rolls of the main Medicaid program are shifted into the new program under Medicaid.

OK, so what this bill does is authorize the Department of Human Services to ask the Obama administration to use Medicaid funding to pay for insurance plans instead of Medicaid paying providers directly.     You may think that having the insurance companies stand in the middle and take a cut will only increase the cost of this program compared to the present Medicaid program.

Well, maybe but maybe not.  In a real private plan insurance companies have things they can do to reduce costs so much that they add enough value to justify their cut.   If a provider has a history of unnecessary treatment to pad the bill, they can threaten to make them "out of network" and increase the co-pay that the patient must pay to use them.

What Jon Burris is trying to do is give the private insurers a chance to impose that discipline on the Medicaid system.   That's not going to happen.  He is engaging in magical thinking, which I guess was preferable to fighting the very hard fight they would have had to fight in order to stop creeping socialism rather than simply try to make it more efficient.  

If you look at the last line of page five and the first few lines of page six you will see that he specifies that co-pays can be implemented similar to private insurance plans.  The catch is one word on page 5, line 36.  It says "allowable."   That is the catch.  The Obama administration has to allow them to do everything they can do.   They are completely dependent on the good will of the Obama administration and their desire to see this Republican plan succeed better than their own model.  What do you think the odds of that are?

Oh yes, the bill says if certain waivers are not granted, then "the bill is not implemented."  But the Administration has not put all that in writing yet, and everything they have put in writing makes reference to a temporary Medicaid waiver until 2016.  And who will be determining if the waivers granted are sufficient to allow the implementation of the bill?  Why, Governor Mike Beebe's Department of Human Services of course.  What do you think they are going to say?

Look what Beebe did with the Health Care Exchanges.  He still hasn't got permission from the legislature to establish a Health Care Exchange.  He is doing all this by rules and regulations, not law.  No matter how much or how little flexibility those waivers wind up giving them, DHS is going to rule that it is enough to "implement" the plan.  And of course, even if they do give us some flexibility, nothing permits them from withdrawing permission for that flexibility later.  In fact, the whole Crony, er Private Option is on a temporary waiver that can go away in 2016 and leave us with the exact same Medicaid programs we would have had to start with.

Yes, there may be two different private plans providing something called "competition", but it won't be real competition anymore than this plan is "real" private.   The Heritage foundation used an example to illustrate this: Say the government authorized two pizza places to "compete", but their menus had to be exactly the same, their recipes had to be exactly the same, and their vendors had to be exactly the same.   They still have the form of competition, but what is removed are the means by which competition can produce value for the customer.  All that will be left is how friendly your agent is as they take their cut of the taxpayer dime.

Later on there is another provision that says that if the federal matching rate ever goes below certain levels, then the program will be terminated after 120 days.   What I found interesting is that Burris said he was called "unreasonable" for leaving this provision in the bill.   That indicates to me that, even though all the Democrats are expressing 100% confidence that the feds will keep their promises to keep paying for almost all of this, they really fear that the feds will renege.

And they should fear.   The whole premise of this plan is that we are going to keep getting all of this new money from Washington forever.  That is more magical thinking.   Washington is out of money, they are either going to break the budget or break the dollar and either way they will not be able to pay what they say they will.

That being said, the provision is worthless so long as legislators like the ones we have now are in office.  Let's say in three years the feds cut the amount they fund by 5% more than they said they would.  Are our future legislators really going to let the program expire over that five percent?  Are they going to let the media tear them up over all the people who are going to lose their insurance coverage?    No.  They are going to call a special session and find a way to change the law before the 120 days are up.  They are going to blink,  just like they did this time.    Any teeth this provision might have rests solely on the premise that some future legislature will be willing to show the strength that the present legislature did not.   More strength in fact, because it is much easier to say "no" now before dependent people get used to the program.

The insurance companies are given one tool in this plan that they might be able to use to negotiate better rates for some- that is the fact that the plan uses state coercion to force many healthy people that don't feel they need exchange products into the system.   That large pool of healthy people forced to enter against their will are pooled with the sick people and help lower the costs for them.

This part of the critique goes beyond HB1143.  When I say what I said above, I am not just referring to people who don't have health insurance, although it is absurd that Sam Walton's grandchildren are going to be forced to buy insurance or pay a tax as if they will be a burden on some emergency room somewhere.   I am talking about people who disagree with the whole idea of the state determining what type of insurance products are best for their needs.

For example, I may want a plan that has a $10,000 individual and $30,000 family deductible.   Basically, I only want a major medical policy.   I figure I can pay the rest out of pocket.  If I have a $100,000 insurance bill the hospital can get $90,000 from my insurer, and I will pay the rest out.  But President Obama and Representative Burris don't let me have that choice because plans of this sort don't count as one of the "qualified" plans.   I must take a lower deductible.   Again, the effect is to force healthy families to buy more insurance than they want or need in order to subsidize the rest.   Insurance companies love it because they have a captive audience who buy more of their product than they would choose to buy of their own free will.  

In conclusion, HB1143 is a giant gamble whose success rests on the goodwill of the Obama administration, confidence in a "private" market that is not really private, and the presence of unshakable integrity and grit in some future legislature.   I wish there were a major party who understood the message of freedom.   I wish we the people had a major party which fought for reducing government coercion in people's lives instead of simply a party which tries to make such coercion more palatable.

HB1143 Even the 'Good' Ones are Covering for the Bad Ones

Before I get to the actual bill, I want to make a point about the way it is being pushed through. Just yesterday I was chastised by a house member, let's call him "Representative X" for now, for down-talking the bill because "I did not have all the facts". He said he knew this because they themselves were still gathering facts. Meanwhile, in the same hour, the House Committee on Health gave the bill a "Do Pass" recommendation on a voice vote.

 That's right they could not even find two members of that committee who wanted a roll call vote so that the voters could know who to thank for this coming monstrosity. Even the "good" ones are covering for the bad ones, just like Representative X was doing. That is one of the terrible things about political parties and party spirit. All too often they protect each other more than they protect their constituents. That's just one reason why I think the state legislature should all be elected as Independents backed by local grassroots groups in their area instead of running on a party ticket. I will go further and say that until you the grassroots are willing to do that, you will not get your government back. They will always have divided loyalties.

 The final house vote on this is going to be tomorrow. What Representative X and his ilk do is serve as enablers. They may not vote for the bill themselves, but that is OK because once the bill got out of that committee, their vote is not necessary. It will pass. Their job was not to vote for the bill itself, but rather tamp down all grassroots opposition by pretending it is too early to make a call on the bill even as their co-harts in crime are rushing the cursed thing through.

 If you want to be lied to, please let some Republican legislator tell you that there was nothing they could do to stop this bill from passing. Sure, once they threw away every process advantage, then they could not stop it. But they did not have to throw away every process advantage. Last session, there was a "pro-life" majority. That is, if you count the mostly Democrat politicians who were claiming to be pro-life but were not. A lot of pro-life bills were sponsored which could have embarrassed them if they voted against them, or they might have even held their noses and voted for them. In that case the bills would have passed two years ago. 

What the Democrats did was have the Speaker send all pro-life bills to a committee stacked with Democrats and Chaired by Linda Tyler. None of those pro-life bills ever saw the light of day. The Democrats on the national level went further than that when it came to using process to fight for what they want. The Obamacare Bill actually originated in the Senate. The House never voted on it. Pelosi and company used a tactic where they said it was so close to something that they did vote for that the bill was "deemed to have passed" without a vote ever being taken on that bill! Democrats don't hesitate to use every process they can to grow government. Republicans almost never use process to stop them, but then maybe the Democrats really want to grow government while Republicans don't really want to stop it, they just want to manage its growth more efficiently.

 I think the "deemed to have passed" tactic was over the line, over the bounds of honesty. But using the committee process is not out of bounds at all- it is part of the system. Some of those Republicans in the Health committee voted to send the Bill out with a "Do Pass" recommendation on the grounds that "the whole house should have a chance to vote on it." Then why have committees at all? The Democrats never hesitate to block bills they don't like.   The argument is particularly bogus because if a committee gets too abusive there is a process by which they can be by-passed.  A bill they stop can still be brought to the floor if a super-majority of the members votes to do so.  

The Republicans, and specifically House Speaker Davy Carter, also threw away much of their leverage to stop it (because again, they did not want to stop it) by sending the bill to expand Medicaid in a way agreeable to Obama to a committee with a majority of Democrats.  True it was chaired by a Republican, but he was the ram rod for the bill.   Since the program is to be administered by our Department of Health and Human Services, there was just as good a case that the bill should go through the State Agencies Committee.  That Committee has a solid Republican majority.  They could have stopped any bill to expand Medicaid, instead they made that project their own.

Oh, and just in case any of them try to tell you that "no one could have seen this coming", here is a link to an article I wrote in November of last year, right around the time Carter was elected Speaker, where I and my friends had already "seen this coming" and I tell you one of the keys to watch would be what committee any Medicaid expansion bill would be sent to, Health or State Agencies.  If the Republicans who got Carter in did not think of this too, and did not get a commitment out of Carter on the biggest issue of the coming session, then it was only because they did not really want to stop it bad enough.

As an aside, Burris and others deny this bill is expanding Medicaid.  They call it the "private option."  They are full of baloney.   This program is administered by the state, under Medicaid guidelines, and funded by public money.   There is little "private" about it, unless you count crony capitalism as private.    Just look at the bill, at the top of page five.  If it is not Medicaid, then why does the state need to "submit Medicaid state plan amendments" and waivers in order to implement the program?  

What they are changing is that the Medicaid money, instead of going directly to providers, passes to insurance companies first and then they pay the providers.  It is still Medicaid and they can only do what the Obama administration will let them do under Medicaid.    In this video Rep. Nate Bell, at minute 32, asks Burris why the 100%-130% of poverty level group is still "under Medicaid guidelines instead of the exchange guidelines that apply to the higher income groups.  Burris does not correct him and dispute his claim that they fall under Medicaid guidelines.   That's because this program is an expansion of Medicaid, even though he said earlier that "nothing could be further from the truth."

So Carter could have sent it to State Agencies.  But of course, if Carter had done that, then they would have been in position to successfully stop the growth of government, something Republicans don't seem to actually favor, except during primary season.   They would have lost a chance to do what they really want to do when actually legislating- grow government more efficiently.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Arkansas Watch Extra-Special Report: One of Us is Not Telling You the Truth

Arkansas Watch Special Report: Medicaid Expansion and the Arkansas Senate

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Arkansas Fusion Director Says He Is Not Here to Spy on Americans, Except for The Ones They Spy On

How sad that we have to count on "Russia Today" to give us reports about this story on our own soil.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

From Lions of Liberty to Lap Kitties of the Left in Six Short Months

The Republican-dominated Arkansas Senate just voted 24-9 to pass Senate Bill 1020.   This bill is an expansion of Medicaid which is a key component, perhaps the most important and costly thing a state legislature can do, to implement Obamacare.    Ten Republican Senators voted for the expansion, and nine against (two more did not vote).  Naturally, the Democrats voted overwhelmingly in favor of the expansion.

This Medicare Expansion is being done in the hopes that Arkansas can run the Medicare money through a State Insurance Exchange in order to subsidize premiums.  In other words, rather than Medicare directly paying providers, Medicare would send money to insurance companies, and they would pay the providers, after taking a cut.    This government program is called the "private option", but of course there is nothing "private" about it.  The government money simply passes through an extra set of private hands (Arkansas Insurers who are all for the idea) on the journey to a socialist/fascist mega-state.   It's Obamacare wearing a hat and sunglasses.    And the waivers for this "private option" only extend to 2016.  After that, there is not even a promise from liars that they won't take off the hat and sunglasses, leaving Arkansas with the exact same plan these legislators ran against.

Some of those same Republican legislators who ran as "Lions of Liberty" have in a mere six months become "Lap Kittens of Compliance".  These are the people who in the Fall were strutting around to your applause as they denounced Obamacare with forceful language.   Oh they still use forceful language, but it is not to declare their opposition to the centerpiece of Obamacare- Medicaid Expansion.  Rather, they are now using forceful language on grassroots activists who annoy them by reminding them what they said six months ago.  Their ire seems to be directed toward those who remind them of their own promises.

More about that in a bit, but before I do, let's address some of the issues surrounding this outrageous betrayal of trust.

First let's sort through the double-talk on the costs, to Arkansas taxpayers, of the various options.   And I would like to thank Nic Horton of the Arkansas Project who has really taken the lead on this issue and helped get this information out.   The legislators are keeping information close to their vest.  They keep throwing out numbers to make the case they should pass Medicaid Expansion, but from the communications I have seen they don't source these numbers or put them in context.   They just throw a bunch of numbers out there.  It's meaningless except as a tactic to try to baffle a grassroots activist who is trying to remind them of what they promised us they would do six months ago!

Our own state budget office put together numbers which said that traditional Medicaid Expansion would cost more than the mis-named "Private Option", but much less than the option of "Doing Nothing".   Not that I consider defending taxpayers and the free market "doing nothing", but that's what rejecting Obamacare has been called.   This is a tactic of the left that the Republican legislators are using against the grassroots, that saying "no" to government expansion is "doing nothing", and of course "we have to do something."

Defending freedom, fighting the expansion of a soon doomed-to-fail government program is not "doing nothing".  It is instead, what they ought to be doing.  The right thing ought to have a better moniker than "no-thing."  I am going to call it the "Rational De-Linkage option", because our state should pursue a policy of "rational de-linkage" from a federal government that is acting insane by launching massive new programs when they are borrowing 43 cents of every dollar they spend trying to finance the things they are already doing.  We need to get as far away from partnerships with them as possible, so that when they finally go down we don't go down with them.  So I hope you will join me in calling the effort to stay as far away from this soon-to-be massive failure as "the De-Linkage Option".

I don't trust the state budget departments numbers though, both because I have had personal experience with them that demonstrates to me that they don't deserve to be trusted, and if they change their behavior I would be glad to stop writing that particular truth, and because I think they made some assumptions in those numbers about the sort of flexibility that insurance providers would have to cut costs that the Obama administration has not and will not give them.    A lot of the final numbers are based on assumptions about what the feds will let us do right out of the gate and what they will continue to do in the future.

I do trust the Heritage Club to give good numbers, and they provide an good graph in this article by Horton which puts the numbers in context.  What they show is that for the first two years the state "saves" money (but the taxpayers don't, the feds would just pick up more of the bills for expanding Medicaid).  After that, the state spends more money by expanding Medicaid, and the amount of the increase spending goes up as time goes on.   When legislators talk about the "savings" from expansion they are either talking about savings as compared to a fictional universe where they would spend even more money, or they are talking about the next two years only.

Though Statesman govern for the next generation, politicians only see to the next election.  They only see to the next budget.  All of these guys have something they want to get through.  They have some bill they want to pass.   These bills either increase spending or reduce taxes.   If something they want causes the state to be short somewhere, they have to find a way to make up for it somewhere else.  They have to make the budget balance over a two year period with their pet project worked in.    What I think is happening is that Beebe and the Republican Establishment are telling some of these legislators "that bill you want costs money.  We can't find a way to fit it in unless we take the Medicaid Expansion.  If we do that, we spend $60 million a year less over the next two years, and there is room for us to support passing your bill."  

It is analogous to a person opting for a deferred payment plan that costs the far more in the long run just because the lower initial payments allow them to do something they really want to do now.   Only the analogy fails because as an individual, you are the one who has to worry about the higher future payments when your plan doesn't work anymore.  As a legislator, they may not be there in 2016 when the wheels really start to come off this thing.   Is it short sighted?  Yes.  Is it vain-glorious of a legislator to ram through a program that in the long-run costs us much more just so they can get a pet project passed with their name on it?  Of course.  This is one of life's character tests, and there are some of them that I am really pulling for to pass it.

There are conflicting claims of how much the "Private Option" (since this name is not accurate I am going to call it the "Crony Option" because it is a perfect example of Crony Capitalism, government working with business interests to tilt the market and defraud taxpayers) will cost.  The conflicting claims are often the result of differing underlying assumptions.  If we see which assumptions are the most probably, we can determine which cost outcomes are the most probable.

The potential "cost savings" can only come from allowing insurers in the exchanges to offer the Medicaid group, those up to 138% of the poverty level, to structure plans in the ways that insurers use to control costs.  These include things like variable co-pays and measures to keep people "in network" with the lowest cost providers who allow audits to minimize fraud.   But it is clear from yet another fine article by Horton that the insurance offered to the Medicaid folks will be of a different sort than that offered to those that get the regular exchange subsidies.  They won't be offered the regular exchange plans, but a special class of plans cobbled onto the exchange system.   In the Medicaid subsidy plans the companies can't do any of those cost saving measures the now use, all they can do is stand in the middle and take a cut of a plan that has the same features that Medicaid now has.

With this understanding, the Crony Option can only cost more than the Public Option.  And remember, you can't trust the feds, but even they won't commit in writing to extending the Crony Option beyond 2016.  The feds don't want to pay the state cronies, this is just what they are holding out to get the state to vote it in.  Therefore the feds have an incentive to keep the rules inflexible so that the cronies cost the state more.  That way it will seem like a relief in three years when they take the hat and sunglasses off of this thing and end the waivers for the Crony Option, leaving us with not even a fake mustache to hide the fact that this is all Obamacare.    The De-Linkage Option is the only course of action which can protect us from this outcome.

All of these numbers assume that the federal government will continue to keep its promises to the states.  I take issue with that assumption, and so should you.   Instead of the numbers factoring in a zero percent chance that the feds will default on their obligations, factoring in a 100% chance that they will do so seems much more probable.   Any shifting of costs to the state will make the numbers for the Crony Option look much much worse compared to the De-Linkage option.   And remember, savings to the state is one thing, but savings to the taxpayers is another.  In no year does the Crony option cost you as a total taxpayer cost you less than the De-Linkage option.  It is just that for the first few years your federal tax bill goes up more than your state tax bill goes down.  After that, both bills go up.

Some legislators are throwing around the "woodwork effect" as a reason they feel like they can break their word to the voters.   That is, the Feds are going to start an exchange whether we do or not.  They are going to provide subsidies for those over the poverty level to buy insurance on this exchange.  Even if we don't come up with something for those under the poverty level, we already have something for those at 17% of poverty level or below.   Not everyone eligible for benefits right now (that is, under 17% of the poverty level) are enrolled in Medicaid now, but the publicity and activity surrounding the implementation of Obamacare will bring them out of the woodwork.  Therefore, we will have more people on Medicaid afterward, even if we don't increase coverage.   The feds pay about 70% of Medicaid now for those under 17% of poverty level, but if we take Obamacare they will pay 100% for the first three years and 90% thereafter if we cover the whole population under the poverty level.  That's the thinking.

I suggest to you that the reason those poor people that are eligible for Medicaid have not taken it is because they are healthy, so they don't need to bother with it, or they are so crazy that they won't know how to even crawl out of the woodwork.   I further submit to you that far more will crawl out of the woodwork in that bottom 17% if we give coverage to everyone under the poverty level than if we leave it where it is now.  One may argue that the feds will pick up more of that tab, but 1) for how long, and 2) it will be a much larger tab. The "woodwork" problem will be a much bigger problem in the long run if we expand the number of people under the wood.

One may say that the De-Linkage option will leave us with a system where the very poorest get Medicaid, but once they get to the poverty level ($16,000 for a single person, about double that for a family of four) they will have federal subsidies available.   The real problem is the interventions, and their long term affordability  not the gap.   It sounds like a person will have even more incentive to lift themselves out of poverty if they know they can get subsidies if they can just manage to earn enough to that mark.   And there is a good chance they will have more opportunity to do that if we pursue the De-Linkage option.    If Michael Cannon of the Cato institute is correct, states that refuse to set up an exchange are exempt from the employer mandate and the individual tax penalty. E. Note- it is unclear how much of this would be due to a backlog of workload on the feds making exchange subsidies unavailable.

What that will do, is allow our economy to bloom, especially with jobs on the lower end, compared to states which form an exchange.   We will not have to bribe employers to come here anymore, they will come here to escape the mandates they face in other states.   It will suddenly make our business climate very friendly compared to Obamacare states.   Yes, people need healthcare, but most of them would rather have a job that allows them to get healthcare, and the best way we do that is pursue the De-Linkage option.    That way, when the exchanges cost more to run than was assumed, we don't bear the cost, when the feds run out of money for the subsidies, they can't shake it out of the state.

Once you figure all the costs and benefits, not just health care dollars but also the potential benefits to the economy if Cato has it right, pursing De-Linkage is a huge win.   If we go with Obamacare and the Crony Option, states like Oklahoma will look even more attractive to employers relative to Arkansas.
Now I would like to finish talking about the Republicans and their strong support for this plan now that one of their lobbies, the insurance lobby, gets cut in for a while.   House Speaker Davy Carter was never one of the more strident campaigners against Obamacare, so one can't fault him much for a change of course.  Where one can fault him is for his claim that "A vote for the private option is a vote against Obamacare."   If I used any word less strong than a "lie" to describe this statement, then I would not be leveling with you.  I would be sugar coating it in deference to the powerful man who told the lie, thereby disrespecting the people who honor me by taking time out of their lives to read what I write.  I refuse to do this.  His statement is a lie.   The Crony Option is Obamacare, thinly disguised and with the disguise set to come off in 2016.  

I would like to give Speaker Carter the benefit of a doubt, but a man in his position ought to know better.    This is not just a difference of opinion.   This is a deliberate mis-statement of fact, which is a pretty good definition of a lie.     A difference of opinion is something like whether or not Larry Bird was a better basketball player than LeBron James.   It is verifiable and clear that the Crony Option falls under the umbrella of Obamacare.  If you want to continue to be lied to by politicians, continue to make excuses for them and sugar coat it when they lie to you. If you want them to keep it up, keep letting them get away with it.   Personally, I've had enough.

Carter may not have expressed loud objections to Obamacare in the campaign, but plenty did.  The same people who six months ago when they were running for office were strident in their opposition to Obamacare are now throwing out all kinds of excuses, smoke screens, and mis-information in an effort to explain away their craven collapse on the central campaign issue of the recent election.    If this sort of thing was a unique event we might be able to shrug it off, but it is not unique, but rather it is the pattern.  It is the most spectacularly outrageous example of the behavior we have seen from Republican politicians at all levels for decades.

It is time for activists to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask themselves how much longer they are going to continue to outsource the job of protecting their liberties and representing their interests to a political party headquartered in Washington D.C. that has consistently betrayed them.   Why do we, at the state legislative level, have to route all of our candidates through this foreign, alien, and sometimes overtly hostile entity known as the Republican party?   Why can't the grassroots groups find and back to the hilt qualified independent candidates to oppose state legislators who quickly abandon their promises to the grassroots once they fall under the influence of, and feel they have the protection of, a political party?

It may be that they will reverse course and stand firm.   But right now, I would say if this does not convince you to quit putting 100% of your political investment eggs in the GOP basket then you can't be convinced.  It's way past time for a free people to "go rogue' from this corrupt system.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Is God a Bully for Sending People to Hell?

Is refusing to repent of what God says are your sins justification for Hell?  Is God a bully for sending people there?  Mark refutes this accusation against God, made by celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins and others, in this 37 minute audio.

Senator Paul Bookout Faces Ethics Inquiry

Northeast Arkansas Democrat State Senator Paul Bookout did not have an opponent in the primary election.  Nor did he have an opponent in the general election.  Yet various special interest groups were so supportive of this fine statesman that he was able to raise over $80,000 in campaign funds.   Sure, some of that was donated early, and may have helped scare off a potential challenger.  In that sense you can see how raising the funds at least had some describable purpose.   But what gets me is that the good Senator actually spent over $60,000 of that money!  How and why do you spend $60,000 of campaign funds for a state senate race when there is no campaign?

But it gets better.   The Dean of Conservative Activism in Northeast Arkansas is a man named Bob Hester.  Hester has filed an ethics complaint against Bookout.   The complaint alleges that Bookout failed to comply with the law which says candidates must itemize all expenditures over $100.   Hester notes that records show that Bookout did not itemize over $50,000 worth of spending, out of a total of some $63,000 spent.

So there is $50,000 worth of campaign spending, when there was no campaign, which is not itemized.  We do know that the bulk of the money, almost $30,000, was spent on "entertainment."   We also know how many unitemized dollars Bookout spent each month on his non-campaign.   For example, in October of 2012, Bookout had over $8,000 of such expenditures.   That is $260 per day, seven days a week, of expenditures, none of which according to Bookout were over $100.     

Maybe I am just too suspicious by nature, but this pattern highly suggests to me that money he claims was spent on the "campaign" found its way elsewhere.   It is pretty dubious to spend $63,000 of campaign money is a State Senate race where one is unopposed in the first place.   The fact that the overwhelming majority of those expenditures are unitemized sends up all kinds of red flags, prompting Hester to call for an investigation.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Is God Unjust for Ordering the Slaughter of the Canaanites?

AP Bans Term "Illegal Immigrants"

In an ongoing campaign of Orwellian "Truth Speak", the Associated Press has banned the use of the term "Illegal immigrants".   They left understands that if they control the terms of the debate, if they are allowed to control the language that is permitted to be used, then they can win the debate, at least on an emotional level.

What is next from the AP, book burnings?    Mike Huckabee made a mockery of this decision on his show yesterday when he asked callers to find a new term to describe this group that the AP can use in place of "illegal aliens".  One caller suggested "future Democrats" would be a fitting moniker.   Huckabee did not like that, but the numbers show it is mostly correct.

The bottom line is that Americans should not trust the giant corporate media for information.   Instead, we should turn to the micromedia.   It is the last free media left.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Is God a Bully for Sending People to Hell?

Atheists are irrational.  Besides staking out a position which requires them to prove a negative even regarding things that are beyond this universe, they alternately accuse God of being unjust for allowing Hitler to go on a twelve year rampage before he reaped what he sowed, to accusing God of being a "bully" for sending people to Hell for refusing to trust Him.    

Obviously if one is displeased with God failing to act against evil on the one hand, and then displeased with Him for acting against evil on the other, your real problem with God is that you are not Him!    God is not punishing, or with-holding punishment based on your preferences, but His.  Perhaps the lesson is that you should endeavor to learn and adapt to His standards rather than demand the reverse, but this would require trust, which I think is really the point here.

But let us examine the idea that God is a bully, and unjust, for sending people to Hell who refuse to trust Him.   Obviously people got this idea about God from scripture.  But I am convinced that they are getting it wrong.  Let's see what the scripture itself has to say about Hell.

Mark chapter nine says, "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:" This chapter goes into a bit of detail and describes hell as a place where "their worm does not die, and the fire shall not be quenched."

First let's talk about the worm that dies not.   Here men's appetite for sin is shown as its own entity, a split-personality in the form of a parasite driving them on even separate and apart from their own best interests.   Notice that this entity, whatever it represents, is personal to the hell-bound. I would say that it is not the sins a person struggles with, but the ones they make peace with.  It is their worm.   I would say that this represents a personification of the sin nature described in the last half of Romans Chapter 7.  We are born with a sin nature, but also a choice on whether we wish to resist it or make peace with it.  For those who repent, we leave aside our carnal natures, our struggles with them are over.  Apparently those who don't wish to part with their sin nature are left with it.

No hint is given that God inflicts this punishment.   If you are a person who craves some hurtful activity (either to yourself or others), that is not pain God is putting on you, it is pain you put on yourself for the choice to hold onto some craven thing or attitude.   Or rather, it is your "worm", your desire to sin which you put over God's desire for you to repent, which has become a thing of its own, operating within you but definitely not for you.

While in this world we can choose or not choose.  But there comes a point when our minds are made up, where our choices are our choices, and if God did not respect them, then those who accuse Him of being a bully would be among the first to shake their fist and condemn Him for it.  

But what of the fire?   While having sinful cravings that go forever unfulfilled might be uncomfortable, the big objection to Hell has to be the fire within it.  In Matthew 13 two parables are given which end with the wicked being cast into a furnace, "and there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  Is God tormenting them with fire for the "crime" of not trusting Him?

As an aside, there are actually more than one Greek words which get translated into "Hell".  "Hell" or "Hades" is more like a place of the unsaved dead to await eternal judgement.    Revelation describes the last judgment, where the wicked are cast into a lake which burns with fire and brimstone.  To emphasize that what most people think of as "Hell" is actually the lake which burns with fire and brimstone in Revelation, that book tells us that "hell and death" were also thrown into the lake of fire.   So it seems that anything that caused the righteous pain and suffering is to be cast into the lake of fire.  Everything that was a cause for offense, including the devil and the wicked, are to be confined there.

 On Judgement Day, those unsaved souls are, according to the book of Revelation "cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone."  This was the fire Jesus said in Matthew 25, was "prepared for the Devil and his angels".  Though it was prepared for them, the wicked are told that they will share his fate.   All souls which rebel against God are given their wish- separation from Him.

You may say, "well the separation is one thing, the burning with fire is another."   The interesting thing is that I don't see a lot of scriptural evidence that this fire is God's fire.   I see that the fire was "prepared" by God.   The word has two meanings.  One is about what it means in English, to "get ready" much like one would "prepare" a chicken for dinner.  But that does not say anything about whose chicken it is that is coming home to roost!  The other meaning is "ordained".   That is, this fire was meant by God for the Devil and His angels, but unbelieving souls will also experience this fire.  While it may have been ordained by God, there is a strong case to be made that He is not the source of this fire.  Read on to see what I mean.... 

Do a word search on "wrath" in the Bible.   I think you will find that God is frequently threatening to pour out His wrath on people on earth if they misbehave, and it frequently records that He carried out many of those threats, and Revelation in particular says that He will pour out His wrath on men on this earth.   But what seems to be missing in the Bible is God pouring out His wrath on people in the afterlife.  Indeed Revelation 15 hints that at the end God's wrath will be finished..."And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous  seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God."  

The point of God's wrath is always to correct an imbalance.  It is to reset the culture and give people a chance to reboot with things set aright.  The usual cycle in scripture is that God blesses people, then they use that prosperity to pursue wickedness, then God has to take them down a peg or ten, then they repent and He starts blessing them again.   

Pouring out wrath on a sinful culture is the first step in the healing cycle of history. The final time, it won't work.  Men will not repent, they will not respond to the rebukes, except with more anger at God.  That appears to be when God calls an end to the age of man and Judgement Day comes.    

Once the final judgments are made, God does not seem to have any further use for pouring out wrath on any soul.  Sure, they are punished.   God would not be just if the wicked were not punished, but it seems to me that the punishment is that they are left to the consequences of their own deeds.   They stew in their own juices.  They get what they want, separation from God with others who also want nothing to do with God.  The result is what one might expect in a bubble universe, a void in the cosmos, with all of the love of God taken out of it.

I started this by citing the Gospel According to Mark Chapter nine, where it is recorded "their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."   It is hard to tell in the Greek whether this fire is some fire belonging to them, like the worm, or if it is external fire from God.   But this phrase is used previously in the Bible, in Isaiah 66: 22-24.   There it is clear that both the worm and the fire belong to the individual.  "Their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched."   God will not be around to rage at anymore, but they will still rage.  They will still lust.  Indeed there will no longer be any restraint upon their lusts, nor any satisfaction of them.  

They will still burn with lust, be it greed, envy, power, sex, or what have you, but it may be that they will have no form with which to carry out these desires. As bad off as that puts them, it would be worse for them if they did.  If they could tear each other to pieces to satisfy their desires or vent their rage at their inability to satisfy them then they would do so.  

I would say that I see no evidence in scripture that God is the source of the fires in Hell.   

If God is great in His mercy, then He will not give them new bodies, as He does with the faithful.  If He shows mercy, He will leave them dis-embodied spirits.  They will then have no hands to tear with and no body to be torn.  Their ability to harm and torment one another will be restricted by that final act of compassion.  Only then, after doing for them all that He can do given their choices and their will, will a Holy and Loving God turn His loving gaze from them for the last time ever.  Truly their fire will never be quenched.