Earning my presidential vote: entitlements

Social Security was once considered the “third rail” of American politics: touch it and you die. But I would contend that we have added Medicare, Medicaid, and perhaps Obamacare to that description. Republicans talked tough about repealing Obamacare through defunding it, but chickened out when the threat of being blamed for a government shutdown became the price to pay. But knowing the toll these programs take on our budget and idea of limiting government, I only need one bullet point for this one.

  • The next president should set in motion the eventual sunsetting of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. If states are dumb enough to try this stuff, that’s their problem. But “promote the general Welfare” did not mean cradle-to-grave dependence on the federal government for support.

To re-introduce the candidates, we begin with Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, then it’s Jim Hedges of the Prohibition Party, Tom Hoefling of America’s Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, and independent Evan McMullin. Johnson is on the Maryland ballot; the rest are write-ins but their votes will count. And if you want to start this series from the beginning (this is the ninth part) you can go here and I link to each succeeding part in turn. At stake is thirteen points, which is the second-highest individual total.

Castle: Would repeal Obamacare and replace it with a “free market solution.”

Poor would be best helped on a voluntary basis. No provision for it in Constitution – money is not ours to give. (“Iron Sharpens Iron” radio show)

Hedges: “A financial foundation must be provided to those who cannot work.” There must be affordable housing, basic medical care, and convenient public transportation for all.

“We advocate an actuarially sound federal Social Security System.” (party platform)

Health care should be a state-level concern, but will address “inefficiency” from insurance company overhead and profits. (party platform)

Hoefling: All of the “entitlements” you list are unconstitutional. James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

We have a moral obligation to care for our older folks, and any who cannot care for themselves. But it is immoral to usurp power, and to rob our children and grandchildren in order to keep the socialist Ponzi scheme going.

We survived and thrived for 300 years in this country without socialism, by acting as Christians. We’re going to have to learn to do that again, one way or another. Because, within the space of the next eight or nine years, we’re going to see our government go completely insolvent trying to pay for “entitlements” and interest on the debt. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office has said that by 2025 the ENTIRE budget will have to go to those two things, with nothing left over for anything else. That is bankruptcy, on a Biblical scale. (response to question on Facebook)

Johnson: Johnson has personally endorsed privatizing Social Security, too — an idea favored by some Republicans (but not Donald Trump). This arrangement would let Americans self-direct their Social Security retirement funds through personal investment accounts, allowing them to buy stocks, for instance.

Johnson also favors raising Social Security’s Full Retirement Age from the current maximum of 67 to either 70 or 72. “Look, it’s [the Social Security Trust Fund] insolvent in the future. It’s going to be insolvent. It has to be addressed,” he told The Washington Examiner in July. Whether Americans could afford to hold off claiming until 70 or 72 to receive full benefits, however, is a real question, considering the majority of beneficiaries today start taking their Social Security money at the earliest age they can, age 62.

And Johnson would like to see Social Security begin “means testing that’s very fair.” Translation: The amount people receive in Social Security retirement benefits would be based on their financial well-being at the time they apply. Today, your benefit is based purely on your previous earnings.

Johnson would repeal Obamacare “in a heartbeat” if given the opportunity, he has said. “If the GOP bill lowers costs and improves care, I’ll sign it,” Johnson proclaimed in a CNN Libertarian Town Hall in June. On Joe Rogan’s podcast in May, Johnson blamed Obamacare for his health insurance premiums quadrupling “and I have not seen a doctor in three years,” he added. “I wish I didn’t have to have health insurance to cover myself for ongoing medical need.”

He wouldn’t have to under his main health care proposal.

Johnson would like to get rid of health insurance as we know it. Instead, Americans would buy health insurance only for catastrophic events and illness.

He believes a free-market system would lead to more affordable health care with price transparency and open competition. This system, Johnson told Rogan, “would probably cost about one-fifth of what it currently costs. We would have Gallbladders ‘R’ Us. We’d have gallbladder surgery for thousands of dollars as opposed to tens of thousands of dollars. We’d have Stitches ‘R’ Us, we’d have X-Rays ‘R’ Us. We’d have the radiologists next to X-Rays ‘R’ Us to read those X-rays.”

As for Medicare, Johnson told 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft, “We’re not looking to eliminate Medicare. We do believe in a safety net.” But, he said to The Washington Examiner, “Medicaid and Medicare both need to be devolved to the states.” Johnson has referred to those programs as “the worst runaway expenditure in the federal government today.”

When he was governor, Johnson has said, “I oversaw the reform of Medicaid in New Mexico. Changed it from a fee-for-service model to a managed care model. Improved on the delivery of health care in New Mexico and saved hundreds of millions of dollars.” Johnson has maintained that if the federal government had given New Mexico 43% less money for Medicaid and put him in charge of the delivery of health care to the poor there without “all the strings and mandates that went along with their Medicaid money,” he could have done it.

As president, Johnson has said, he’d balance the federal budget partly by letting states restrict eligibility for Medicaid. (excerpts from Forbes article by Richard Eisenberg)

McMullin: Obamacare has failed American families, driving up costs and reducing access to quality healthcare. With costs running into the trillions, Obamacare is also sinking America further into debt while imposing hundreds of billions of dollars of new taxes. By emphasizing competition and innovation instead of government controls, we can build a modern health care system that delivers accessible, affordable, and high-quality care. We can also protect vulnerable populations, including patients with preexisting conditions. Real healthcare reform means putting patients, families, and doctors first.

Obamacare has proven incapable of controlling the growth of healthcare costs, which take an increasing cut out of workers’ paychecks or even force them to give up insurance. Major insurers are pulling out of Obamacare exchanges because the program is so poorly designed and so full of complex regulations that the insurance companies are losing money despite vast federal subsidies. The cost of those subsidies will be $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, or an average of $120 billion per year. The program will also impose more than $200 billion in penalties on workers and employers – and still 33 million Americans won’t have health insurance.

We must repeal Obamacare as soon as possible, replacing it with a more streamlined, pro-market approach to insurance. The few positive elements of Obamacare, such as guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions, could easily be incorporated into a new program in a much more efficient manner.

The heart of any Obamacare replacement should be a tax credit for every household that does not have insurance through an employer. Instead of the government defining a long list of benefits every insurance plan must have, customers should be able to tell insurance companies what they want. This will spur competition and ensure that the tax credit is sufficient to purchase any number of different plans. Allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines would also increase competition and bring down costs. Finally, encouraging the use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) will help create more educated consumers who seek treatment from efficient and high quality providers.

Medicare plays an indispensable role in providing health care for America’s senior citizens; it must be put on a sound financial footing so that all Americans have access to high-quality care in their retirement years. The only way to preserve Medicare for the next generation is to get hold of the runaway costs that threaten the program’s viability while spurring massive growth of the federal debt and deficit.

Established 50 years ago, Medicare hasn’t adapted to an aging population with a rising life expectancy. Instead of covering 1 in 10 Americans, the program now covers 1 in every 6—or 50 million men and women—who spend close to 20 years as Medicare patients, up from just 15. At the same time, relentless inflation in medical costs has led the cost of coverage to triple. Whereas payroll taxes and premiums once covered 70 percent of costs, the government now spends $700 billion per year while collecting only $100 billion from Medicare payroll taxes.

Without reform, Medicare and other entitlements will push our government to the edge of bankruptcy. Evan McMullin is not afraid to challenge the status quo in order to put Medicare on a sound footing for the future.

The way to reform Medicare is encourage competition and innovation by putting patients, families, and doctors for first. The key to reform is premium support, a system in which all beneficiaries would receive a uniform subsidy toward the purchase of coverage from competing health plans, including the option of traditional Medicare. This approach would give seniors greater freedom to choose the plan that best suits their needs, while spurring competition among plans to provide the best quality care at the most efficient price.

To promote informed decision-making by beneficiaries, the federal government must develop and distribute user-friendly publications that enable beneficiaries to compare plans, estimate out-of-pocket costs, and assess the quality of competing providers. By making informed decisions, beneficiaries can encourage a cycle of competition and innovation that leads to better outcomes for all.

Medicaid’s purpose is to provide lower-income Americans with the health care they need but can rarely afford. Despite its tremendous cost, there is little evidence that Medicaid is actually improving the overall health of the citizens it insures. The program should be reformed substantially, so that it continues to fulfill its critical mission without pushing our national debt past the breaking point.

When first established in 1966, Medicaid covered just 2 percent of the population. Today it covers more than 20 percent—almost 70 million men, women, and children. Obamacare alone has pushed 12 million individuals onto Medicaid. The annual cost of the program has risen to $550 billion, an increase of $200 billion under President Obama. The cost per beneficiary has also risen sharply to more than $7,000 per year.

Along with other entitlements, Medicaid is pushing our government to the edge of bankruptcy. Evan McMullin is prepared to demand accountability from Medicaid, in order to bring costs under control while delivering better health outcomes for Medicaid patients.

Despite having a different purpose than Medicare, Medicaid would also benefit from reforms that emphasize competition and innovation while putting patients, families, and doctors first. Currently, individual states rely on federal matching funds for Medicaid. This leads to inefficiency because the system rewards states for spending more instead of spending more wisely.

Instead, there should be a cap on federal support. This can be accomplished by giving states block grants instead of federal matching funds, or by giving states a fixed dollar amount for each individual enrolled in Medicaid. The advantage of the latter is that in the event of an unexpected increase in enrollment—because of a recession, for example—states will be able to handle the change.

This would be complemented by paring back the extensive restrictions that Washington places on state Medicaid programs, which discourage innovation and prevent states from taking full responsibility for outcomes. Medicaid could also become far more responsive to patient needs by creating a separate program for disabled and elderly recipients, whose needs are far different from able-bodied adults and their children.

Together, these changes provide a promising way to increase the accessibility of healthcare to Medicaid participants. Right now, many doctors refuse to accept Medicaid patients because reimbursements rates are so low. These reforms point the way toward ensuring that Medicaid patients become valued customers, not second-class citizens. (campaign website)

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If I could have gotten more depth out of Darrell Castle, I would have likely scored him higher. Philosophically he’s correct that we should be our brother’s keeper, but I would like to know how he gets from point A to point B. 5 points.

The statist tendencies of Prohibition candidate Jim Hedges come through in this answer. It is not the government’s job to provide the items he specifies, at least not according to my Constitution. No points.

Tom Hoefling has a great answer, and it’s the honest truth: the system as is will be unsustainable. More detail on how he would address the issue would be good, but he also has a correct philosophy. 10 points.

Gary Johnson wisely takes the first baby steps toward some of my goals: privatizing Social Security, devolving Medicare and Medicaid to the states, and repealing Obamacare. I would expect this from a Libertarian, although in the case of Social Security it’s tempered somewhat with changes in retirement age and the gimmick of means testing. It’s a good policy overview rather than a philosophical one. 9.5 points.

This topic is another example of a “tinker around the edges” philosophy of Evan McMullin. Instead of reforming the programs and slapping yet another Band-Aid on a gaping wound, the idea should be one of addressing the very function of a program that the government shouldn’t be involved with. He would unnecessarily consign yet another generation to the slavery of governmental dependence because eventually the reforms will need reforms of their own. 3 points.

I have just two more categories to go. Tonight I will discuss the role of government and tomorrow will be the intangibles and final decision.

The case against Trump (part 2)

Since I finished part 1 last week, we’ve had a lot of developments in the race: Trump picked outgoing Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate (or did he actually make the selection?) and came up with an awful logo (that lasted one day) to celebrate. Meanwhile, the RNC apparently succeeded in binding their delegates to this dog of a ticket. (My question: how did our Maryland Rules Committee members vote? I believe Nicolee Ambrose, who has fought in that committee before, voted the proper way and against the RNC/Trump minions. Yes, they are shamefully now one and the same.)

Update: Indeed, both Maryland members voted properly, and Nicolee Ambrose is urging members to reject the Majority Rules Report.

So the question may be moot, but I’m going to press on for the record so I can point back at this and say “I told you so.” Not that it will do a whole lot of good, of course, but maybe people will listen to reason in the future. It’s worth a try.

Just as a refresher, the five issues I have left over are taxation, immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and role of government.

Trump came up with a decent taxation plan during the campaign – maybe not all that I would want, but an improvement. But he later admitted that all of it was up for negotiation, so let me clarify: the rates will not go down for many taxpayers, but the increases that made the package “revenue neutral” in his words will remain. Those on the low end of the scale may get the “I win!” form but the rest of us in the middle will lose, again.

I’m tempted to save immigration for last because that was the first important issue for Trump and the one that propelled him from celebrity sideshow to true contender. Americans, indeed, want something done about the influx of foreigners and a large part of that is building a wall at the border. But it’s not my most important issue and I still run this blog, so it goes in order.

The first crack in the Trump immigration façade for me was the idea of building a “big, beautiful door” in the wall to promote legal immigration. Then I found out Donald was an advocate of what’s called “touchback” immigration, which is a fancy way of saying he’ll give amnesty. And I can see it already: in a “grand deal” to get the wall built, Trump will eliminate the “touchback” part – because it’s oh so hard for these immigrants to be uprooted and return to their homeland – for the promise that a wall will get built. News flash: we were promised this in 2006, but the Democrats (along with a few squishy Republicans) reneged on the deal. We see how Congress acts, and regardless of what Trump may say this is not a promise he would keep. Bank on it.

I know Trump did a sort of catch-all address on foreign policy some months back, but his criticism of the Iraq war (and accusations about soldiers therein) gives me pause. That’s not to say we are always right, but there is a little bit of hindsight he’s taking advantage of here. If Iraq were a thriving nation and American bulwark in the Middle East such as Israel is, I seriously doubt Trump would say word one about it being a bad idea. That’s the sort of person I take him to be.

It’s very possible to lump both entitlements and the role of government into one statement, reportedly made by Trump in New Hampshire back in 2015 and relayed by Andrew Kirell at Mediaite:

The Affordable Care Act, “which is a disaster,” he said, “has to be repealed and replaced.” That line drew applause.

“Whether it is we are going to cut Social Security, because that’s what they are saying,” he continued. “Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that. And it’s not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut.”

So will it be fair when the train goes off the tracks and millions of younger Americans are left with nothing? Trump is 70 years old, so (as if he really needed it) if Social Security runs out in 2030 he’ll likely be dead anyway. But I will be 66 years old and hoping to retire at some point, although thanks to the Ponzi scheme of Social Security all that money my employers and I grudgingly gave to the government over forty-plus years will long since be pissed away. And the more I deal with the “Affordable” Care Act, the less affordable I find it. The repeal is fine, but the replace should be with the old system we liked, not some new government intrusion.

In sum, it became apparent to me early on that despite his appeal as an outsider, Donald Trump is far from an advocate of limiting government. If he should win in November, conservative Republicans will likely be in the same precarious position they were often placed in by George W. Bush: it’s difficult to go against a president in your own party even if he goes against party principles.

The Republican Party I signed onto back in 1982 when I first registered to vote in Fulton Township, Ohio was ably represented by Ronald Reagan at the time: strong defense, lower taxes for all Americans, and a moral clarity of purpose that included the concept of American exceptionalism. Yet Reagan also intended to limit government; unfortunately he wasn’t as successful in that aspect because he always worked with a Democrat-controlled House (and usually Senate.) I often wish that Reagan could have worked with the early Gingrich-led House and a conservative Senate – we may have beat back a half-century of New Deal and Great Society policies to provide a great deal for all Americans who wished to pursue the opportunities provided to them.

I don’t know how we got Donald Trump as our nominee, although I suspect the early open primaries (and $2 billion in free media) may have helped. Democrats may have put together their own successful “Operation Chaos” to give Republicans the weakest possible contender. (And if you think that’s a recent concept, I have a confession to make: in my first Presidential primary in 1984 I requested a Democrat ballot so I could vote for Jesse Jackson, who I perceived as the Democrat least likely to beat Ronald Reagan in the general election. Not that I needed to worry.) It’s worth noting that the defeat of “Free the Delegates” also resulted in the defeat of some measures designed to reduce the impact of open primaries.

Alas, the GOP may be stuck with Trump as the nominee. So my message for the national Republican Party from here on out is simple: you broke it, you bought it. The mess is on you and I’m washing my hands of it.

Programming note: Over the next four days – in addition to her regular Tuesday column – I will run a special four-part series sent to me by Marita Noon, but originally written by John Manfreda, who normally writes on the energy sector like Marita does. She ”spent most of the day (last Thursday) updating it, reworking it, and cleaning it up,” so I decided to run it as the four parts intended during the Republican convention.

I intend it as a cautionary tale, so conservatives aren’t fooled by a smooth-talking charlatan ever again. Don’t worry, I have a couple things I’m working on too so I may pop in this week from time to time if I feel so inclined. But I trust Marita and this seems quite relevant and enjoyable, so look for it over the next four afternoons…probably set them to run at noontime (how appropriate, right?)

2016 Dossier: Entitlements

September 20, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

While the category of entitlements is worth 13 points, the only people who would get all thirteen are the ones who would embark on an orderly sunsetting of all the familiar entitlements: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. I don’t think any of the contenders would go that far, but we’ll see.

But it also helps to tell me about their vision of the role of government, for the perfect candidate would be most interested in limiting the size and scope of government to a Constitutionally appropriate level. Those who are most willing to divest power to the states and stay out of their affairs will do best. That last part is worth 14 points but also depends quite a bit on previous categories such as education and taxation, among others, as well as fiscal responsibility.

We will then be down to the catch-all category of intangibles and the coveted monoblogue endorsement.

Since he dropped out of the race, I’m off the hook for Rick Perry. That’s sad because he was tracking as a dark horse in my race. Nevertheless, I soldier on with 16 contenders now.

It’s pretty much given that GOP contenders would drop Obamacare like a bad habit, so the question is: what comes after?

  • Among other things, Jeb Bush‘s plan would shift the program to the states, with the federal government maintaining a hand in catastrophic coverage and tax credits for premiums.
  • Ben Carson is a strong supporter of health savings accounts, which have the benefit of allowing people to share their burden. His idea is to have the government fund each for $2,000 per year.
  • Chris Christie hasn’t put forth a replacement plan – but he expanded Medicaid in New Jersey under Obamacare.
  • Allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines through the Health Care Choices Act is the Ted Cruz plan.
  • “Let’s try the free market,” says Carly Fiorina, with states managing their own high-risk pools.
  • Jim Gilmore thinks there are good things about Obamacare, such as the ban on denial for pre-existing conditions and coverage by parents to age 26 but he thinks states can handle those. He would favor a proposal offered by Rep. Tom Price in 2013 that encouraged interstate sale of insurance, premium tax credits, and HSAs.
  • Lindsey Graham isn’t specific about “cost-effective, market-driven reforms” aside from favoring association plans.
  • I think the Mike Huckabee solution is to pass it on to the states.
  • As he has in other areas. Bobby Jindal has an exceptionally comprehensive plan to replace Obamacare.
  • John Kasich would adopt what he calls the “Ohio Model” nationwide.
  • Whatever George Pataki does to replace Obamacare, it would include the pre-existing condition regulations.
  • Rand Paul favors HSAs, allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, and a tax deduction for all health care expenses.
  • Tax credits and regulatory reform highlight the Marco Rubio plan.
  • Rick Santorum has backed HSAs, tax credits, and selling insurance across state lines but now advocates “federal support for everybody to be able to go out and get the plan they want.”
  • Through a spokesman, Donald Trump‘s campaign vowed to make insurance available across state lines and give individual tax relief.
  • Scott Walker plans to revert authority to the states and install sliding-scale tax credits based on age to go with the HSAs and selling policies across state lines.

On Medicaid:

On Medicare:

  • The left cried that Jeb Bush wished to “phase out” Medicare. Alas, he wants to protect it.
  • HSAs may be the panacea for Medicare, too. Why not? Ben Carson seems to have one solution.
  • Means-testing, increasing the eligibility age, and standardizing deductibles make up the Chris Christie plan.
  • Ted Cruz opposed the “doc fix” bill because he wanted reforms to give seniors “more power and control.”
  • The same “get our house in order” argument applies here for Carly Fiorina.
  • I found nothing to pin down Jim Gilmore‘s position.
  • Means-testing and raising the eligibility age are reform starting points for Lindsey Graham.
  • “I will kill anything that poses a threat” to Medicare (as well as Social Security), Mike Huckabee thunders.
  • Premium support and Medigap reform highlight Bobby Jindal‘s plan.
  • John Kasich argues entitlements have to be “innovated” to survive.
  • George Pataki would increase co-pays.
  • Rand Paul sponsored Medicare reform legislation in 2013 that would have voucherized Medicare, but he’s supposedly backing off that a little bit now.
  • The Marco Rubio vision for Medicare would involve a premium support system, based loosely on Medicare Advantage.
  • Rick Santorum would change it via increasing the eligibility age or changing the COLA structure.
  • Because it’s “not fair,” Donald Trump won’t cut Medicare (or Medicaid.)
  • In 2013 Scott Walker was in favor of cutting Medicare (and Social Security) but it would likely fall on younger workers.

Social Security proposals seemed to fall into three tiers. Most candidates, with the exceptions of Gilmore, Huckabee, Jindal, and Trump, would raise the retirement age. But few (Bush, Christie, Paul, Rubio, and Santorum) advocated for means testing and fewer still (Cruz, Jindal, and perhaps Kasich) had the guts to advocate for partial privatization. Ben Carson even went a bit farther with the idea to allow for wealthier seniors opting out (although it sounds like the money paid in would be forfeited.)

I wasn’t expecting high scores, so it’s no surprise my best candidate has just 7 points.

  • 7 points – Bobby Jindal
  • 6 1/2 points – Ted Cruz
  • 6 points – Ben Carson, John Kasich
  • 5 points – Rand Paul, Scott Walker
  • 4 1/2 points – Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio
  • 4 points – Rick Santorum
  • 3 points – Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, George Pataki
  • 2 points – Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee
  • 1 point – Donald Trump

Next will be the last major category, role of government.

The context for Jindal

We weren’t really paying a whole lot of attention in these parts, but today Bobby Jindal became what he hopes is the lucky 13th candidate to seek the Republican nomination for President. And it didn’t take long for our friends, the Democrat “hacktivists,” to take a few potshots in an e-mail titled “Bobby Jindal for president? Really?”:

Take a look at our Bobby Jindal primer:

  • He’s one of the least popular governors in the country: Under his failed leadership, nearly 1 in every 5 people in Louisiana lives in poverty.
  • He’s one of the architects of the scheme to turn Medicare into a voucher system.
  • He will say anything to please the Tea Party base, like denying climate science and championing extremists like the guy from Duck Dynasty.

Really, that’s all you’ve got? Granted, Jindal doesn’t have overwhelming approval numbers in Louisiana – earlier this year, he was polling in the 20s at home, but had significant positive ratings elsewhere. Jindal was popular enough to win 66% of the vote in his 2011 re-election campaign, though. It’s not unheard of for a governor to lose polling momentum in a second term as he had 50 percent approval two years ago. And if failed leadership involves cleaning up a corrupt state, I’ll take some in Maryland.

As for the poverty rate, it is roughly the same in Louisiana as it was in 2000. Under governors of both parties it has stayed around 20 percent, with the low point occurring under Jindal’s watch in 2010. In those terms it is not too distinct from its southern peers.

It’s worth noting that the same poll that had Jindal at 50 percent also polled on his decision not to expand Medicaid. And don’t let them fool you: nothing would happen to Medicare until 2024 at the earliest, and, as Paul Ryan explains, this is a program to allow more choice. We know the Democrat hacktivists think they know what’s best for us but I like having choices, thank you.

But I loved that last bullet point. I don’t believe the climate “science” either because there’s too much money at stake for those who parrot the government line to state otherwise; moreover, there are the inconvenient truths that the Earth has been warmer and cooler than it is today for extended periods before the industrial revolution. In short, we don’t have a damn thing to do with it but people want us to think so in order to tax and control us. Yet it’s working, so don’t tell anyone it’s a con.

And “that guy from Duck Dynasty” happens to be a pretty successful Louisiana-based businessman. You could be friends with worse people, like suspected child molesters. To the extent Phil Robertson is “extreme” is the extent he is God-fearing.

With all that, I’m starting to like Jindal a little more. Really. Let’s face it: the Democrats have nothing except the scandal-plagued Clinton family and the walking failure that is Barack Obama. They can’t even get Jim Webb on the same page.

So if you need a good laugh, just wait for the Democratic “hacktivists” to speak up. You’ll get one.

CAR/Salisbury Independent forum part 2: District 37

Yesterday I discussed what was said by the county-level candidates at this forum, so today I’m covering the six hopefuls who represented District 37: Addie Eckardt and Chris Robinson for the Senate seat, and Christopher Adams, Rod Benjamin, Keasha Haythe, and Johnny Mautz for District 37B.

Of the two seeking the Senate seat, Eckardt has by far the most political experience as she was elected as a Delegate in 1994, serving in the House ever since. At the eleventh hour this cycle she dropped her quest for a sixth House term and jumped into the Senate race, defeating longtime incumbent Senator Richard Colburn in a bitterly-contested primary. Robinson, on the other hand, is making his second straight bid for the Senate seat after losing to Colburn in 2010. He could be considered a perennial candidate as he’s also run unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008 and 2006, twice finishing second in the First District primary. Chris was also a last-minute addition after original Democratic candidate Cheryl Everman withdrew.

Their first question had to do with the retirement climate in Maryland, which is bad, but relevant to the district as a number of retirees live along the Chesapeake Bay. Eckardt properly noted the state’s poor showing in rankings of best states to retire in, but added that we needed to look at tax policy across the board, along with addressing the “duplicative nature” of our regulatory system.

After stating that “our jurisdiction is no different than any other jurisdiction,” Robinson agreed that we had to “ratchet back” spending and not raise taxes. But on the second question about the Affordable Care Act, Chris made the case that “it hasn’t worked its way through the country,” and while the rollout of the state exchange was “botched” he thought the emphasis on preventative care was worthwhile. “Give this process a chance,” he concluded.

Eckardt told us that the “good news” about the state’s adoption of Obamacare was the Medicaid expansion, which she believed should have been done first before the exchanges. With it being done in its present manner, premiums were up and employers were dropping coverage. She believed the states needed to promote change at the federal level.

When asked about key real estate issues, Addie wanted to bring together mortgage holders and first time homebuyers by conducting an inventory of tax sales and foreclosures. Meanwhile, Robinson wished to “put points on the board” by making towns exciting and vibrant, calling on builders to create quality homes.

I found Robinson’s closing statement to be intriguing, as he said he was “inspired” by Rick Pollitt and Norm Conway. “I want to be just like them,” he said. Eckardt stressed the power of communication to solve problems, and pledged to be focused and deliberate.

To be honest, I didn’t see Robinson saying or doing anything which would suggest he’ll do much better than the 40 percent he got last time against Colburn. He tried to portray himself as a fiscal conservative, but in this region it’s tough to out-conservative the Republicans.

In contrast to the veteran presence of Eckardt and the perennial candidate in Chris Robinson for the Senate race, the House of Delegates will have two new representatives. Those representatives will have to pay attention to southern and western Wicomico County, which has felt underrepresented in the past based on the thrust of the opening question.

As it turns out, Christopher Adams is from Wicomico, so he stated the obvious: he will be a resident delegate, focusing on our municipalities and business. That business background led him to pledge that “my customers will be my constituents,” regardless of where they live in the district. But he also stressed that we have to start “winning the argument” against the Democrats.

Keasha Haythe replied that she was used to working across county lines as an economic development director, so working with Wicomico County residents wouldn’t be an issue. Similarly, Rod Benjamin pointed out the similarities between his home area in Church Creek and the area of western Wicomico County.

Johnny Mautz noted that he had spent a lot of time in Wicomico County and would work with its local and municipal governments.

This quartet got perhaps the strangest question of the night, one which asked about the effects of climate change and flooding.

Mautz indicated his belief that the state should help flood-prone landowners, but reminded us the flood insurance rates are based on federal mandates.

Benjamin also believed the flood insurance cost was “unfair.” And climate change? “Truth is, I don’t know what the truth is,” he said, noting that he’d seen some extreme tides recently.

Haythe believed we needed to be proactive about the sea level rise, stating it’s already affecting the planned Harriet Tubman visitor center.

But Chris Adams turned the question on its head, taking issue with subsidized government interference. The Eastern Shore, he said, “should be pro-growth, pro-construction.” He also objected to the federal government turning a significant part of Dorchester County into a national park, warning that it would adversely affect private property owners in the area who would lose their rights.

Adams stayed in that vein during the “realtor” question, making the case that Sussex County, Delaware was the prime beneficiary of Maryland’s mistakes, which include a prospective 64% property tax increase because of our state’s growing debt. He pledged to be business-friendly, saying “I’m about jobs.”

Haythe thought a path to success for realtors involved taking advantage of state and federal programs, and leaning on pros (like herself) who know how to create jobs.

Land use was “a large concern” to Johnny Mautz, as were taxes.

Benjamin was asked a little later on about this question, and made the case that local control of issues is preferred. He also offered that the “tier system is better than the smart growth system.” He also proposed a Startup Maryland program, based on a program Wicomico County already has in place for tax abatement.

Later, in his closing statement, Rod told us all we had homework: tell others about what was said tonight. He repeated a mantra of “reduce taxes, reduce government.”

Reducing taxes was also on the agenda of Johnny Mautz, who told us “my word is my bond.”

Keashe Haythe encouraged us to consider both her track record of results and her “human American platform.”

Finally, Christopher Adams begged Annapolis to “leave us to our Shore way of life.”

To me, this was the weakest link in the debate. The questions were relatively uninspiring and most of the answers were fairly rote. One interesting aspect of the House of Delegates discussion was that Rod Benjamin was openly trying to sound as conservative as the Republicans. (In fact, I ran into him at the Autumn Wine Festival and his tone was relatively the same.) On the other hand, Keasha Haythe wanted to make us believe that an economic development director could create jobs.

Yet I did a quick bit of research into Dorchester County’s job creation and retention since 2009, and it shows their labor force has declined by 921 people in five years, with 554 fewer unemployed but 367 fewer actually working. Since she began her job in 2008, Dorchester isn’t doing all that well and one could argue it’s state policies holding her back – policies which emanate from her party. Perhaps it’s something which a woman who’s worked in the public sector for over a decade may not understand.

On the other hand, Adams and Mautz both run businesses so they have created jobs and added value. (Both also support this local blog.)

To me, it was telling that almost all of the candidates tried to convince the crowd of their conservatism. It was much the same in District 38, although there were a disappointing number of omissions. More on that tomorrow.

WCRC meeting – June 2013

We hadn’t met in two months, but probably received enough information to make up for the difference in Monday night’s meeting.

After the usual preliminaries, we stopped for a special presentation. Two deserving students outshined a solid pool of applicants and were honored with the Wicomico County Republican Club scholarship. Both Joseph Pitsenbarger and Emma Miller hail from Parkside High School.

Once we presented the scholarships, the meeting was opened up to featured speaker Dr. Mark Edney. The local urologist and member of the American Urological Association’s Health Policy Council and Legislative Affairs Committee knows his stuff about Obamacare, and his nearly hour-long presentation was jammed full of facts to back up his thought that “Obamacare is a liberal-made disaster.”

His activism on the subject started with an op-ed on the Ryan/Romney plan prior to the 2012 election. But as more people questioned that plan with the talking points of Obamacare, Edney looked a little deeper to find, as one example, that half of all health care dollars are spent by the federal government, and spending on health care comprises 24 percent of the federal budget as well as 25 percent of Maryland’s state budget.

But that’s not really why we have the most expensive health care in the world, Edney continued. Much of that expense comes because we have the most technologically advanced system. Still, about 85 percent of Americans are covered under the existing system and the Democrats “have upset the apple cart” for them, said Mark.

Yet what Obamacare tries to do is make sure that all Americans have health insurance; meanwhile, it also creates a subsidy that affects even those in the middle class, up to 4 times the federal poverty level. Unfortunately, the CBO figures that Obamacare will only address about half – 25 million – of the 49 million uninsured in the country, down from 33 million estimated just two years ago. And the real challenge, said Edney, will be getting 2.7 million 18-to-35 year olds, predominantly male, to willingly pay a lot more for insurance to subsidize the aging population which uses most of the services rather than pay a tax penalty which is a fraction of the cost. The Affordable Care Act, Edney predicted, will be “the slow death of private insurance as we know it.”

Another problem on the horizon, added Mark, will be a shortage of suppliers. While the state is trying to expand the role of nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, and pharmacists into those roles normally reserved for doctors, they’re not a substitute.

Instead of Obamacare, which diagnoses the problem correctly but fails to cure it, the better solution lies in free market reforms to the system, in particular introducing the aspect of competition. Edney pointed to the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug programs as “excellent examples of competition.” He also suggested raising the Medicare age to 67, noting that most of those who would fall into that 65-67 age bracket continue to work anyway or would be eligible for Medicaid based on income.

Edney also discussed how this could affect us on a local level. While consolidation of providers has occurred up the Eastern Shore with the merger of Chester River Health and Shore Health, at this time our area still has cutthroat competition between several players: the Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, Atlantic General in Berlin, McCready Memorial Hospital in Crisfield, and perhaps even Nanticoke Health Services in Sussex County, Delaware may need to combine their efforts or be swallowed up by even larger entities. He predicted some movement on this front within five to seven years.

After that extremely informative presentation, of which I barely scratched the surface, we still had to go through our business.

In her President’s Report, Jackie Wellfonder mentioned a number of upcoming events, noting the 2014 primary was exactly one year away. But on a closer timeframe, the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake will be July 17, the Pathfinders event in Worcester County will be July 20, and the rescheduled Agenda 21 meeting with the Republican Women of Wicomico will now be August 1.

She stole the thunder from Dave Parker’s Central Committee report, as he mentioned many of the same events in passing – adding that we will have our usual joint Tawes presence with Worcester and Somerset counties – but Parker came up with the quote of the night regarding this administration: “Everything Obama touches turns to mush…if it ain’t broke, don’t Barack it,”

Joe Ollinger has steadily been working on the upcoming WCRC Crab Feast September 7, assembling a small roster of volunteers and getting the tickets printed and available. They will be $1 more than last year, but $26 for all-you-care-to-eat crabs is still a good deal.

That seemed to be the extent of what people wanted to discuss insofar as business was concerned. But July’s meeting may be more productive in that regard. Meanwhile, it appears that our August meeting may feature another candidate for governor as Charles Lollar is penciled in as our speaker that night, so July may be a sweet spot for finalizing some loose ends before we start going wall-to-wall with campaigning candidates.

A call to restore the oath

September 18, 2011 · Posted in Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Every day more and more Americans are convinced the government doesn’t have the nation’s best interests at heart. Despite the chance to elect new leaders every other year, it seems to us that nothing really ever changes and the nation sinks deeper and deeper into the morass created when the rule of man supersedes the rule of law.

But all is not lost. My friends at the Patriot Post are trying a new tactic to reverse the decline, and it’s called the Breach of Oath Project. As they state:

To enforce our Constitution’s limits on the central government, we believe a formal legal action is necessary. This action, if successful, would require that all members of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, first and foremost, abide by their oaths “to support and defend” our Constitution, under penalty of law, and thus, comport with its enumerated “few and defined powers” (Madison) of the federal government. The current scope of federal activities provides abundant evidence that many members of those three co-equal branches have long since abandoned their oaths, and, at present, there is no recourse for prosecution to enforce compliance.

So far, over 68,000 citizens (who may or may not run afoul of the Attackwatch.com website) have signed on in an effort to establish legal standing – failing that, the Breach of Oath goal is 500,000 signatures in order to codify this into law.

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