Monday, April 28, 2014

New Pryor Ad: Not Even His Own Ads Can Make Him Sound Sincere

People who know me know that I am no fan of national Republicans like Congressional Wunder-Kid Tom Cotton.   I have no idea how or even if, I will vote for U.S. Senate this year, other than it won't be for the incumbent.  So when I deconstruct Senator Mark Pryor's new ad, you can know that I am not telling you that it's terrible because I am a red-team partisan.  I am telling you that it is terrible because it truly is an awful ad.   It's only "redeeming" feature is that it might work.  It might do what it was made to do, which is to use deception to terrify easily confused senior citizens into voting for Pryor.

You would think they were only allowed one take on the ad, so unappealing does Pryor look and sound during the few seconds his handlers allow him to speak on the video.  At second six he bobbles his head like some sort of dashboard knick-knack.     He does not look the camera in the eye, and any semblance of eye contact he makes with the other actors in the commercial are as synthetic looking as his acting sounds. He looks shifty, and insincere.  It's like on some level he knows that what he is doing is a sham, and that somewhere in his heart whatever human decency is left in him feels revulsion at his own tactics.

Mark Pryor has been in office for over a decade.   He just filed the "Medicare Protection Act" last month, and it is given a "0% chance of passage" at govtrack.  Nor would its passage do much if anything to "protect Medicare" if it miraculously passed, since the little it claimed to do can be just as easily undone by future legislatures.   One can't justly claim to have "done something" on the basis of sponsoring, or even passing, a bill which purports do obligate future legislatures as to how they must act. Each legislature can decide what its own rules will be.  So it is pretty obvious this bill is a gimmick.  It looks like something Pryor's campaign consultants cooked up for him so that he could run an ad saying he was trying to save Medicaid while his evil opponent wants to destroy it.   This is what politics in our former Republic has degenerated to- something too fake and anti-intellectual to rise to the level of a clown show.

Going beyond that, far from protecting it, Mark Pryor, along with the rest of the Democrats and most of the Republicans, are in the process of destroying Medicare.  Not deliberately mind you, but simply by insane over-spended of public funds to such unsustainable levels in order to try and buy the votes of the short-sighted and greedy.  They are going to try to buy votes by laying more and more on the "safety net" until the thing snaps.    For example, we have been running trillion dollar annual deficits since 2011, and Pryor and company think its a good time for another massive expansion of government in the form of Obamacare.

It is delusional. Government is drowning in red trying to maintain our present safety net, yet they want launch major new expansions of government.  Can't they see this lack of fiscal discipline will threaten our entire economic structure?  They seem completely oblivious to fiscal reality, or they don't care about the economic implosion they are causing, because they think they are passing the bill to the next generation.  The only way they could get away with such a cowardly and dishonorable course of action is because the voters have let them.  They too want to live above their means at the expense of the children, so long as no one makes them face up to the fact that this is what they are doing.

Adding additional absurdity to the claim that anyone who was for Obamacare is trying to "save Medicare" is the fact that the original Obamacare plan called for 400 billion dollars to be cut from Medicare in order to help fund it.   Those cuts did not last though, nor are many of the tax increases. They never stick with the planned cuts, but the planned spending not only continues, it consistently exceeds the planned amount.   That of course means Obamacare is being funded by debt more than ever.   And when our national credit card is maxed out, the whole thing is going to come down just when the population is most dependent on it.   Pryor is the one who actually voted to cut Medicare, and his other actions will insure its eventual failure.

Grown ups realize that things have to be paid for, but politicians like Pryor and the people who vote for them want to maintain a state of perpetual adolescence.   A decent case could be made that it is really Cotton who is trying to preserve Medicare, because he is the one suggesting benefit reductions (like raising the age of entry to seventy) which might actually make the program sustainable.   Personally, I just think Cotton wants to spend the money on other things like more police state at home and foreign interventions abroad, but I don't know that.   What I know is that Pryor's actions will, intentionally or unintentionally, result in the destruction of Medicare.  Of the two, Cotton's plan is more likely to keep the program alive.

None of this is rocket science.   It is not hard to see. Nor are the future consequences and what we are doing to our children with this government debt hard to see.   It doesn't take "genius" to see it, it takes courage and moral virtue to see it.   I am depressed at the very thought that this tricksey Pryor ad might work at garnering the vote of anyone outside of persons who are suffering from some sort of senile dementia.  I would hope that the vast majority of voters could see right past it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Other Shoe on So-Called "Private Option" costs

We have been told that about 155,000 people have signed up for the so-called "Private Option", which is an expansion of government subsidized medical coverage via the Medicaid program.  Since poor children and very poor adults were already covered under various Medicaid programs, once you follow the money and take away all the window dressing this is essentially government health care for adults who earn over 17% of the federal poverty level but less than 138% of it (about $16,500 a year for an individual).

The "Private Option" is a Medicaid program.   It is not private at all except that it combines the worst features of crony-capitalism with the worst features of socialism all in one ultimately un-affordable package.  Much has been made of the fact that this new Medicaid program is already, three months in, experiencing 11% cost over-runs, called wrap-around costs.

Some legislators have come to so identify with the state government and so un-identify with the taxpayers that they act like if the state does not have to pay for it then it is free.  It is not free to the citizens, just the state government.  American taxpayers are on the hook for all costs of the so-called "Private Option".  Right now as both state and federal taxpayers we are on the hook for 100% of the regular costs as federal tax payers and 100% of the wrap-around costs as state taxpayers.  Forbes has estimated that these wrap around costs will obligate state taxpayers to around ten to fourteen million extra dollars in 2014, and an increasing amount thereafter.

Starting in 2017 we will be responsible for a decreasing percentage of regular costs as federal taxpayers and an increasing percentage as state tax payers until we are responsible for 90% of the regular costs as federal tax payers and 10% of the regular costs and 100% of the wrap-around costs as state tax payers.  Since our state does not have its own printing press and thus the ability to "borrow" vast quantities of funds at essentially no interest, the increasing cost coming to the state will bring immediate pressure to increase taxes.

What is amazing is that these costs have been so high even though the lawmakers responsible for the scheme tried to rig the pool of "private option" enrollees by segregating out the 10% least-healthy and sending them to the traditional Medicaid program.  The next time a private-option legislator tries to claim they did not vote to expand Medicaid you might point out to them that even if you were to accept their flat-out delusion that the "private option" is not a Medicaid program, which it is, there is still the fact that 1/10th of "private" option enrollees were always meant to be sent to traditional Medicaid roles.  So yes, its an expansion of Medicaid, both in the form of the new program and the traditional one.

What is more amazing to me is how little discussion there has been about the addition costs coming from the 10% most sickly among poor and semi-poor adults who are being added to the state's traditional Medicaid rolls due to the Medicaid expansion. If 155,000 have been signed up for the "private" option then I suppose about 15,500 have been added to traditional Medicaid rolls.

It is true that the federal government is paying all the costs this year, but us citizens are federal taxpayers too.  Because they are financing this expansion of government with debt we may not have to pay increased taxes for it right away, but either we or our children will have to pay for it eventually.  And starting in 2017 we will begin paying for a share of that group too.  After a few years, we will pay for 10% of those increased costs, and that's if the federal government keeps all of its promises about how much of this it will fund (hint, in the long run they won't and they can't).

So how much will we have to pay each year for the expansion of traditional Medicaid under the "private" option program?   I don't know, but these are the sickest slice of a sub-population which tends to be sicker than average.   How many have health issues related to meth addiction?  How many have AIDS from homosexual relations?  How many need new livers from alcoholism?   How many are simply eating and slouching their way into a million dollars worth of medical bills?

I can easily see the cost of these patients being $10,000 or even $20,000 per year.  Even if it is only the former figure, that means we taxpayers are on the hook for 15,500 X $10,000 equals 155 million dollars in additional government health care expenditures.  15.5 million of that will be as Arkansas taxpayers and the rest as federal taxpayers, if FEDGOV keeps all of its promises about this program.   I expect my numbers are very conservative.

Look, I am not saying that the meth addict, the promiscuous homosexual who picked up AIDS, or the alcoholic who needs a new liver don't deserve medical care.  I am not saying that at all.  I am saying that I don't want my children to be sent the bill for all of it, which is what is presently happening.  All of these promises are being paid for by debt.  It is not being done on a pay-go basis at all.

So everyone is looking at the immediate benefits but ignoring the long term costs, since they are not paying them.  I just think my kids should have a say in the decision on whether or not their earnings should be used to give one million dollars worth of medical treatment to prolong the life of an AIDS victim for another three years, or if instead they should someday be able to buy a house. Like it or not those are the kind of hard choices people have to make in the real world where money does not exist in infinite quantities.  Right now, because of the "private" option, your kids and mine have no say in the matter.  The money they haven't made yet, the money they will need to have the kind of decent life most of us have enjoyed, is being spent on adults whose own choices have ruined their health.   Its automatic now.

'The government' does not really have any money.  They are just giving those pieces of paper they hand out value by borrowing against the earnings of the next generation.  Your children's future earnings are the collateral for all the loans FEDGOV is getting to pay for all of this.   Voting for those who support this program is not the "nice" thing to do, it is not the "compassionate" thing to do.  It is just more immediately gratifying than doing the right thing.  It is just choosing to relieve ones self of the stress of telling people "no" now at the expense of the next generation.  Whether or not our children end up blessing us or cursing us will depend in part on our willingness to make the hard choices and pursue a just morality over a shallow, feel-good-about-ourselves-today pseudo-morality on questions just such as this one.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bureaucrats Dissing the People's Branch of Government

The Legislature is supposed to be "The People's Branch" of government.   It is the one most directly accountable to the individual citizen.   If an individual citizen feels they have a bad President, there is little they can do about it.  It is much easier for them to have an impact on who their Congressman or state legislator is than who their President is.

As conceived by the Founders, it was to be the "first among equals" of the three branches of government. They were to make the laws, and the executive was only there to enforce such laws as they made.  The judiciary was there to interpret such laws.   As envisioned, the legislature was the lynchpin of the nation's government.   The other two branches existed only to work with the material given them by the legislature.

That has all changed now.  The legislature is by far the weakest branch, almost irrelevant these days (to some extent by their own choice). We all know they roll over for the courts, and that's not always a bad thing.  But they are now dominated by the Executive Branch as well.   The bureaucracy attached to the executive branch has almost replaced them as they pass vague laws which empower agencies that churn out "regulations" which give the law meaning.  That is, this is what happens when the executive doesn't simply make up the law themselves via expansive signing statements, or heavy-handed executive orders which either make up fiat law on the spot or announce that laws properly passed will not be enforced.

The continued disrespect that the legislature gets from the executive bureaucracy is a serious problem that has reached epidemic proportions, yet is seldom discussed.  Our representatives are only as good as the information they are given.  If they are kept in the dark, or even lied to, then they simply cannot make good decisions on our behalf no matter how capable they are as individuals.

The Arkansas Project touched on this issue recently when Rep. Joe Farrar tried to get information about the costs of the so-called "private option" from DHS spokesperson Amy Webb.   She kept telling him that he would get the information to him soon.  I guess she meant when he read it in the newspapers because the Demo-zette got the data he had been asking for before he got it!

She apologized for it, and Farrar accepted her apology, but I have seen situations where any "apology" would be insincere, should not be accepted, and even if it was accepted should not serve as an excuse to get out of accountability to "the People's Branch."

The ledge is constantly being given bad information, or kept from information, that they need to do their job. Let me tell you this story so that you will see how bad the problem is: I was part of an effort to get a bill passed which would allow parents of autistic children to direct home or other services, under and in accordance with an Individual Education Plan devised by state certified personnel, using the money we would already be spending on them in the public school classroom.  It was not a voucher program, and it was not applicable to the general student population, but it was close enough to all that to scare the educrats.

What they really hated about it though, was that it gave the parents more leeway on who was to educate their child and where than parents of children with autism had ever had before.  Oh, they could get tossed from the program if they were not implementing the IEP agreed to by the state personnel, but the state had to jump through hoops to toss them instead of the parents having to jump through hoops to get permission from the DOE to take each step forward.

I am here to tell you now that the bureaucracy lied repeatedly to the legislators over that piece of legislation.  They told them anything they had to in order to scare them out of voting for that bill.   They told them that we could lose our title X federal funding if it passed.  The educrat (I would mention her name if she was still working there, but I understand she has since been canned) also filibustered.  Parents who drove hours to speak got no chance to tell their side of it because this DOE person who was right next to the legislators every day of the session took up all available time.

 The House Education Committee voted it down, but the sponsor called for an interim study on the question, and it passed.  Usually, these studies are just a polite place to send bills to die, but we found a good lawyer (Greg Brown of Rogers) who found the applicable case law proving that courts had ruled in some cases that states had to go beyond even what we were asking for.

We has asked a devastating series of questions in our interim study, but the DOE simply did not respond.  Bear in mind that when they voted for the interim study, the legislators were voting to have these questions answered.   When it came time for the big meeting to discuss the findings of the study, the other side did not even show up.   The joint committee on education endorsed our findings right down the line. There was no threat to the state's federal education money poised by the bill in question, in fact the state might be more open to an expensive lawsuit by the failure to pass it.

The next session, we were back again. This time they could not claim that the bill would cost us federal education dollars, but State Budging did present a cost study where they claimed implementing the bill would cost the state $84 million.

Strangely enough, two years ago this same state agency presented a cost study which claimed that implementing the bill would cost the state zero dollars per year!  And under static budgeting assumptions, that was correct.  Since the bill would only use existing dollars in one pot and put those dollars in another pot, under static budgeting assumptions the obvious answer on how much the bill would cost was zero additional dollars.  And static budgeting was all they ever did.

When the first barrage of mis-information (that the bill would cost us federal education dollars) was defeated they had to come up with a back-up plan.  Apparently that plan was to change how they scored the bill for spending state dollars so that the same program which they said would cost zero additional dollars two years before would cost $84 million additional dollars!

How did they do that?  For the first time I or the sponsor had ever seen, they switched to dynamic scoring instead of static scoring to estimate the cost of a bill.  Under static scoring rules, the number of people in some state education program was a constant.  They would just move from the public school classroom to this program and back again.   Dynamic scoring recognized that there were children out there who were not being served in public school but who might be enticed to participate in this program.   I agree that this would be the case, but the point is they only used static scoring before.  They only dusted dynamic scoring off and used it in this one instance- where a really big cost number would scare off the legislature.

Their dynamic scoring assumptions were also insanely far off.  For the numbers to work, Arkansas would have had to have had far more autistic school age children than the national average, none of whom were presently being served.   They also double-counted the expenses for these children- they gave the local districts the money and then gave the proposed program the money too.

We called them on the numbers, and finally budget Director Weiss got involved.  He told the legislators that they had revised their estimate and that the program would cost "$5 to $10 million" to implement.  That was quite a discount from the $84 million they said it would cost the previous day, but he still had to use dynamic scoring assumptions to get the cost even that high.   And if more children are being served by the program, if there are children out there right now not in school and not being served but get served because their parents finally feel there is a state program which can help them be appropriately educated, then why shouldn't serving more children cost more money?

What should be done about behavior like this?  Simple.  Bureaucrats should lose their jobs.  They are there to execute the laws the legislature passes.  They are there to provide accurate information so that the legislature can make rational decisions about what the law should be.   If they don't do that, or worse if they provide mis-information, then they should be gone.  Period.  I think legislators should vote on who among the bureaucrats ought to be gone.  If a bureaucrat named Alice Jo Webb conceals information from state legislators who have been asking for it, if she is the worst offender, then members of the ledge should ask the Governor to remover her.  And if he doesn't, then put a line in every single appropriations bill which says "no monies from this bill may be used to pay a wage, salary, or any other employee compensation to one Alice Jo Webb presently of (their address)."

If that sounds harsh, let me tell you that if we don't the results on you and your children will be even harsher.   Good legislators cannot effectively function in an environment like the one I described above.  I realize that is not always the environment, but when it is, someone should go.  This problem of disrespect of the legislature is serious, pervasive, and its not going away unless and until they take measures to defend their turf, which is also your turf, from executive branch assault.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Arkansas' Derelict Legislature

We live in times where the legislative branch of government is held in low esteem.   The judicial branch runs over it, the executive branch runs over it.   Heck, even the bureaucrats of the executive branch run over it- what law is passed does not seem to matter so much as how the regulators regulate what has passed. In our state, they are increasingly losing power to what I call "fiefdom government." Wow-this article could be a bit of a downer if you don't see that there is a solution to the problem, so I will just put that here so you might come back to it later.

If the legislative branch has real any function left at all, it is to exercise the "power of the purse strings".  Yet amazingly, both Congress and our state legislature seem anxious to pass the buck and turn over their last remaining shreds of real power over to the executive.  That way you see, they don't have to make any tough calls.   At that point, they will exist only to preen and bloviate about how bad various things are even after they have given away all of their power to do something about any of those things.  The two-party system has undermined the intent of the Founding Fathers with respect to the function of the legislature.

The elites who run both D.C.-based political clubs called "parties" consider the legislature to be a speed bump in their accelerating efforts to send your children's money to the special interests which fund them both.  They want to legislature to be irrelevant, and so they are increasingly arranging things so that it is irrelevant.  Even the legislators themselves want to shift all the heat for tough decisions elsewhere so that the money skids to their party's special interests stays well-greased while they tell the voters that it is out of their hands.  And it is out of their hands- because they passed rules saying so.

Remember when voters objected to Congress raising the debt ceiling?  Every member of the Arkansas federal delegation voted for it, and they all took heat for it.  So what they and the rest of Congress did was to select a "super committee" made of a few members of each party from safe seats and say that this "super committee" would make the decision for all of them.  That way, if you object to raising the debt ceiling, you have no one to vote against.  It was an outrageous dereliction of their duty to exercise the power of the purse strings, but it fooled voters for a while unto believing there was "nothing they could do" to stop the debt ceiling from going up.

More recently, for the first time in the history of our Republic, Congress gave the Executive Branch unilateral power to increase the debt ceiling an unlimited amount.  In theory Congress could come back and vote against the increase after the fact, but under the new rules the President could just veto their disapproval and they would have to get enough votes to over-ride a veto to stop the increase.   For the first 236 years of our Republic a simple majority of Congress was needed to approve any increase in the debt ceiling.  Now a super-majority is required to stop an increase which the Executive can initiate on his own.

The problem of 'the irrelevant legislature', irrelevant by their own choice, is not limited to the federal government.  It is an artifact of the complete capture and corruption of the two-party system which has destroyed the finances, economy, and freedom of this nation.  A strong legislative branch, the People's Branch, would be a serious impediment to the elite's looting of America, thus those who run both parties on behalf of the elites want the legislature stripped of all real authority, and most of the puppets they arrange to send to Congress are all too-happy to comply.   Now someone else makes all the tough calls and they can just attend fund-raisers and be feted by lobbyists.

The same thing is going on in Arkansas, even though it is not as corrupt and advanced as the federal legislature is in abdicating their responsibilities.  After Gov. Mike Beebe basically bribed Senator Jane English to change her vote on the so-called "Private Option" by shifting $28 million dollars in state spending to her preferences without specific legislative approval, I started asking questions.  How could he do that?  Doesn't the whole legislature have to approve a spending change that large?  Well, I got some answers recently, and those answers reveal the same underlying problem I demonstrated existed on the federal level- the legislature chooses to basically abandon a large part of its duty to exercise the power of the purse strings over to the executive in order that the executive might have plenty of money available to give them pork.

As an aside, some might object to my referring to the $28 million dollar in spending as a "bribe" because as far was we know English is not personally benefitting from the money- government is just doing something the way she wants it done.  Some would argue that "back room deals" like this have always been cut.  That's right, they have been, but its always been wrong.  That's why previously they were done in "the back room."  Beebe and English have taken this corrupt practice and done it in open daylight right on the front porch.

Using public money to change an unrelated government program for your vote is less efficient for the tax payer than a bribe to an individual!  When lobbyists tried to bribe Rep. Womack of Arkadelphia with campaign contributions for changing his vote on the Private Option the going rate was $30,000, and no serious opposition.   One could speculate that this amount of money directly to legislator's campaign coffers was enough to do the job since eight house members who had been voting against the "Private Option" for at least a month flipped within 20 hours at the same time Womack reported the bribe attempt.

You see, when you give the bribe directly to an account with the legislator's name on it, it apparently takes about $30,000 to flip their vote.   When you only say you will spend some tax money they way they want on some project that does not benefit them directly, it takes $28 million in taxpayer spending. At least that was the price tag in this instance.   Not only is the practice morally reprehensible, its a terribly inefficient use of taxpayer dollars.   Maybe Beebe should have offered to pay English directly for her vote and saved the taxpayers $27 million.

Anyone who cares about what the standard should be to honestly negotiate bills, see this article about The Martin Standard.

But back to the issue of how Mike Beebe could have even legally done such a thing.   The devil is in the details of our state's "Revenue Stabilization Act."   The act is hailed by the mis-information media as a key to our state maintaining a balanced budget.  Nope, the folks who wrote our state Constitution 150 years ago get the credit for that.   The Revenue Stabilization Act as currently used simply serves to insure that the Executive Branch will have plenty of funds available to bribe legislators with back room (or now front porch in our crass times) deals of the sort arranged with English.

The way it is supposed to work is that essential funding is placed in "A" category spending. They appropriate maybe all but $100 million in expected revenue in this category.  Then there is supposed to be things that are in "B" category which only get funded if all of "A" category spending is funded.   There is also a "C" category which is made of things that only get funded if all of "A" is funded and all of "B" is funded, but as you will see this rarely gets used......

The legislature is in the habit of saying "yes" to almost any appropriation bill so long as it is in "B" category.  This is on the assumption that it will never be funded unless there is a surplus.  While that's true, such thinking also insures that all surpluses will be spent.  The legislature does not just appropriate the extra $100 million dollars in revenue they are expecting into "B" funds, they actually appropriate double, triple or even quadruple what the state is expected to get in revenues.   There is no restraint because they figure the money will never be spent, so why not just say "yes"?

Well, one good reason is that passing all those broadly worded bills funding every department under the sun allows the Governor to come in and unilaterally decide where all excess revenues will be spent.  That is, every penny which come in over the limit of "A" category appropriations is sent to "B" category appropriations, and since everything is absurdly over-appropriated in "B" category the Governor essentially gets to pick which of those "B" category items he wishes to fund.   They also tend to be very broadly worded.    The effect in this state is to give the Governor a second budget which is no longer subject to legislative approval.  The legislators get a certain amount of that back in pork, but that is unhealthy too, both for the taxpayers and for checks and balances between the branches.

The proper thing to do is for the legislature to really do their job and make the tough calls.  They need to fund category "A" like they are doing it now, only maybe shave the margin a little closer.  For "B" category, instead of passing appropriations that are triple the amount of the whole budget, they should fund to maybe 105% of expected revenues.  If more money than that comes in, it should sit as savings so that the voters can be in on the conversation about what ought to be done with it. They should use it to really prioritize, to make the calls about funding that they were sent there to make.  This way, "B" category can be used the way it was intended to- to fund things that the legislature, the whole legislature not just the few members in the back room with the Governor, decide what should be funded if money is available.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Rest of the Health Care Safety Net Comes Down as State Bets Lives on Obamacare

This is all just so predictable.  In fact, I did predict it, but it was so obvious that it should not be any big deal that I did so.  The movers and shakers in this state are betting the lives of poor adult Arkansans that Obamacare will work and is sustainable. They are also betting that their mostly cosmetic modification of Obamacare which they mis-named "The Private Option" will work.

Legislators were pressured into voting for the bill with claims of "people are going to die" if they don't.   The truth is, people are always going to die and in the long run there is nothing the state can do about that.  If Obamacare works exactly as designed, some adults may get extra years of life at the expense of the children who will have to pay for it (since it is now being paid for with debt) spending extra years of their lives working to pay off the debt incurred to do so.   If Obamacare fails, or if it finally leads to a collapse of the dollar due to the world losing faith in our ability to keep our fiscal house in order, then many, many more people are going to die due to a lack of health care.

You see even poor people who did not have access to traditional health insurance plans, or who had conditions not covered under those plans, still had a patchwork system of health care services in place.  This was through a combination of private charity outreaches, community health clinics, and hospital provided clinics (to keep those same people out of their emergency rooms).   What is happening now is that this network of healthcare, the system the poor used prior to Obamacare coming in with all its big promises that it has no means to keep, swooped in and for a time made them appear to be superfluous.

Here is an excerpt from a recent "Mena Starr" article, but the same thing is happening all over the state, heck all over the country in places where, like Arkansas, Medicaid was expanded to comply with the demands of Obamacare....
“Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser RN, 9th Street Ministries Clinic Director, stated. “We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission. ..."
To the left, this is a triumph.  To the wise, this is a tragedy.  The almighty state has stepped in and rendered the need for a private charity null and void.  You can be sure that this is not only happening in Mena, but throughout Arkansas and every other state which expanded Medicaid.  Thus, our state's network of private clinics withers and passes as all chips are placed on government's number.  And not just "government" as a whole, but the central state, as in Washington D.C.   The one which even Rahm Emanuel, the current President's former Chief of Staf,f called "dysfunctional" and is working to get his city less dependent on.

You see not only did private charities have a network of clinics for the poor, but state and local government have one as well.  Though there political pull might still save them, they too are in danger of being put out of business due to Obamacare.  After all, why provide a network of state and county health clinics when all the poor can get access to medical care via Obamacare?

Private hospitals often sponsored clinics which gave free medical care to the poor out of their own self-interest- just to keep those people out of the emergency room where by law they had to get some treatment. Those too can go away since their former clients can now sign up for Obamacare. What the hospitals once was doing for free will now be paid for by the federal government laying more debt on your children.  I say "free", but the reality was that the up-charged everyone else to pay for the clinics.  Will we get that money back now?  There is no sign of that happening. This looks like a multi-billion dollar windfall for hospitals.

The bottom line is this, the politicians in Arkansas have fixed it so that we are placing all of our chips on Obamacare.  It is not just the middle class who lost their existing health care coverage when Obamacare went through, it now turns out that poor people are losing whatever health care coverage they had too, on the hopes that Obamacare will be better.  The existing health care infrastructure for poor adults is going away due to Obamacare.  If in a few years we realize that we can't afford Obamacare, the poor will be far worse off than they are now.  "
This is my prediction for what will happen.  We will get into this thing and in a few years FEDGOV will try to shift costs to the states or something else will happen which will cause it to fail.  We will then realize that the money to pay for all of these promises does not exist.  The money to pay for it never existed, they only said it did in order to gain control over your family's health care.  We will have dismantled our existing health care structure for the poor only to see the single federal system the state's leaders pinned all of our hopes on fall apart.  

The window of opportunity to avoid disaster is rapidly closing.   If we can escape this thing in the next year it may not be too late to keep much of our existing health care infrastructure for the poor in place, and bring back on line that which we have lost.   Five years from now, I believe it will be too late.  The people will have wandered off, the equipment will have been dispensed with, the facilities put to other uses.  \


Mark is an advocate for a philosophy of government called "Localism."

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Resisting Revisionism on Rove

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened.” - Winston Churchill

As I moved to adulthood, I was very late to grasp what many people sense instinctively- the role of the will when it comes to accepting something as true: People believe what they wish to believe rather than what the evidence available to them suggests. What is more, many strongly resist any effort to get them to change these beliefs until absolutely forced to do so by urgent circumstance. When reality hits them in the head with a 2X4, that's when they will face it. Until that point, they will aggressively resist any attempts to revise their positions, perhaps even lashing out in anger at the person warning them that its time to duck.

I was slow to catch onto this aspect of human nature (though I claim no exemption from it). For a while I just thought I should get more skilled at presenting the information. Experience has taught me that this is sometimes worse than futile. It's counter-productive. The more starkly and irrefutably truth is presented to a person not willing to hear it, the more angry they become. They become madder, not wiser!

This tendency for people to see only what they wish to see is most common on the far left, but none of us are immune. Many of my Tea Party friends for example, seem to have revised their mental history when it comes to the last Bush administration and "The Architect" Karl Rove. Some of them think America was only in trouble when Obama got in office and the Bush administration represents the good old days that the Tea Party came into existence to fight to restore. If that is what you want to believe, and you will get upset if someone shatters this idea, then just stop reading right here. Perhaps we will talk again after the swelling from the 2X4 goes down.....

Was the Tea Party a response to Obama only? No. It got kicked into high gear when Obama pushed for a bill which mandated gigantic "stimulus" spending, but the movement was coalescing even during the Bush White House. It was anger and frustration with both parties, especially the big bank bailouts, which prompted the Tea Party. After all, if what formed the Tea Party was simply anger at the Democratic Party, the people who first started the Tea Party could have just joined the Republicans instead of starting something new.

It is true that the national protests did not get organized until February of 2009, but that was mere days after Obama took office on January 20th. The discontent was fermenting long before that, and the trigger for the protests was not just Obama's stimulus plan, but the big bank bailouts that Bush, Obama, and McCain all supported over the objections of almost all Americans.

Newsmax had this interview with pollster Scott Rasmussen. Here is an excerpt from that report.... "The Bush and Obama administrations’ bank bailouts triggered the tea party’s rise, he says."

"Voters are really upset about that,” Rasmussen explained. “Establishment figures said wait a minute, the bailouts saved America. Most Americans have the opposite belief.”

Tea partyers’ anger focuses on two issues, he says. “They think federal spending, deficits and taxes are too high, and they think no one in Washington is listening to them, and that latter point is really, really important.”

The Wiki article on the "Tea Party Protests" also acknowledge that the two-party bank bailouts were the impetus for the protests. Here is a very early UPI article from April of 2008, before the election, which says that "the Boston Tea Party is serving as a template for protests across the nation" without giving many specifics. The suggestion to send Tea Bags to the Congress and Senate (not the White House) for example, was made on Jan. 19th 2009, the day before Obama took office. It was between February and April 16th of 2009 that the media began covering the movement, but that was the beginning of its coverage, not its existence. It was then that people knew there was a band-wagon to hop on, and many hopped on it.

I think what happened was that a lot of traditional Republicans who were OK with Bush saw this movement going on and decided to jump on the band wagon. They were OK with Bush on a purely partisan basis. They did not care to object when he did the exact same kinds of things they were mad at Obama about (big bank bailouts, federalization of education via NCLB, domestic spying, expanding government health care via Medicare Part D, pushing for amnesty for illegal aliens, excessive spending).

When this second wave hit, it expanded the movement but in a way almost killed it. It almost blunted the real signal that much of the country is dissatisfied with the two DC-based political parties. As the outsiders troubled the system, some of them were invited to become cozy with the insiders. This ongoing process risks moving Tea Party members from being on the cutting edge of political change to one of the last ones to know how the country really feels. If the Tea Party is nothing more than an amen corner to the Republican party, if it is only there to cheer one half of the DC party machine rather than hold them both accountable, then it is superfluous.

That brings me to Bush advisor Karl Rove. I don't hate the man. I don't wish him any ill-will at all. I simply disagree with him on public policy and do not wish him to be a member of the group of people who are ruling over me. Karl Rove is anti-tea party. He is the ram rod of one of the most prominent groups of Republican big money establishment wing of the Republican party. He formalized that opposition with a project called "American Crossroads", but the blow back from the conservative grassroots caused that brand to become damaged. So what he did was keep the same idea but launch a spin-off group deceptively named "The Conservative Victory Project" By that they mean "a conservative who can win". And by that they mean, no conservative at all, as experience has shown us.

Karl Rove is anti-Tea Party. That much is common knowledge, again except among many Tea Party folks themselves. They may remember an image of Rove from their GOP days that is dangerously out of touch with present reality. While they are fondly reminiscing on a mental picture of Rove based on who they thought he was, the real one is on the phone to big donors trying to raise the money needed to destroy their movement.

That Rove is on the forefront of the Establishment's push back against the Tea Party is obvious and clear, but again, accepting truth is more than a matter the facts, its a matter of the will. Plenty of Tea Party people, as an act of the will, refuse to accept the abundant evidence that Rove is out to defeat the Tea Party movement. Other Rove fans who are ostensibly in the Tea Party know what Rove is up to. They approve because their first allegiance is to the GOP establishment and they are only associating with the Tea Party to live out the old political adage "keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

Some may refuse to accept the facts, but for those willing to accept them there is no doubt that Rove is out to defeat the Tea Party on behalf of the GOP establishment. What is slightly less obvious is that he left the White House under a cloud. I recently had a professional political consultant, good at what he does, insist that Rove was in the White House until the very end of the Bush administration. In other words, so completely did he revise events in his mind that he was sure Rove never left early at all, much less under a cloud.

The CNN coverage of Rove's resignation mentions that he was leaving while under subpoena from Congress concerning his role in the firing of U.S. Attorneys and replacing them with close political operatives like Arkansas' own Tim Griffin. The accusation was that they intended to use the offices for political prosecutions.

Maybe the people who don't know much about the circumstances surrounding Rove's departure only watched Fox News. The Fox news story on the same event does not even mention the U.S. Attorneys scandal, even though it was so big that it was widely considered to be a major reason that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned at about the same time as Rove. Not that I have much faith in CNN, but I consider that to be a ridiculous omission by Fox. The Wall Street Journal report was somewhat between the two, waiting until the last paragraph to mention the scandal's role in his departure.

A couple of my friends who are looking for excuses to not see that Rove left under a cloud repeated the White House claim that Chief of Staff John Bolton had told "senior staff" that if they did not leave by a certain date then they would be expected to stay until the end of the term. They reason that this deadline was why Rove and Gonzales departed when they did, and so quickly. That's rubbish. Rove and Gonzales were both far closer to Bush than Bolton. Bolton was not making the rules for them. They could have left anytime they wanted to and their 30 year personal friend G.W. Bush would have allowed it. The story about the deadline is an obvious fig leaf to cover the departure of two very senior staff right as the U.S. Attorney's scandal was getting hot.

Another claim was that if Rove was guilty, he would stay and keep the protection of the White House attorneys. He still had that protection, because the Bush administration continued to exert Executive Privilege in order to block Rove's testimony. Rove was found in contempt of Congress, but that carries no jail time. Rove would not have gotten jail time anyway, because at that level the two parties don't prosecute each other.

Look, Bush did not prosecute the Clinton gang for any of their improprieties and the quid pro quo is that the Democrats would not prosecute the Bush side for their crimes either. It is to the advantage of the elite of both parties, but to the great disadvantage of the American people, if they simply don't prosecute members of each other's highest ranks. They may pontificate, but they don't prosecute. This is why I told a friend three years ago that Attorney General Eric Holder will never be prosecuted no matter how many deaths he is responsible for by arming ultra-violent Mexican drug cartels in violation of our law. The two clubs, at the highest levels, give each other a pass. At most, they resign. Rove and Gonzales resigned.

A close Karl Rove associate, Tim Griffin himself was part of the fallout. He stepped down in June of 2007 when he realized that the Senate would never confirm him as a U.S. Attorney. At the time his statement said it was "to pursue opportunities in the private sector." In reality, he got paid by the Presidential Campaign of Fred Thompson, but that campaign folded by the end of January 2008. By September of 2009 Griffin apparently had had enough of private sector opportunities and announced for Congress.

There are a lot of claims floating around out there about Griffin's role in the politicalization of the U.S. Attorney's offices, but I want a little more evidence before I even talk about that here, if it even bears talking about. None of it even matters for my point. Karl Rove is an enemy of the Tea Party by his choice, and Tim Griffin is a Karl Rove protege, yet Griffin appears to have almost unanimous Tea Party support in his latest campaign. This is so even though he has two Republican primary opponents. It makes no sense at all to anyone who is looking at it objectively- but again that might be the problem.