A few thoughts on the prospects to “repeal and replace” Andy Harris (and Obamacare, too)

The other day I noticed on social media that our Congressman, Andy Harris, had put up a post explaining his vote for Trumpcare 2.0, the “repeal and replace” bill for Obamacare. (Most people refer to it as the American Health Care Act, or AHCA.) At the time I saw this there were 1,043 comments on his post and probably 80 to 90 percent of them were negative. I can guarantee you that 80 to 90 percent of his district doesn’t oppose his vote, but thanks to this so-called “Indivisible” movement we are seeing some of the most seriously squeaky wheels get the grease that comes from taking 30 seconds to write the linguistic equivalent of “you suck!” on his wall. So I took about five to ten minutes to write my response, because there was a little research involved.

1,043 comments, mostly from people who probably didn’t vote for Andy in the first place, vowing he’s going to lose in 2018. Y’all need about 139,000 more folks.

In terms of repealing the disaster known as Obamacare, this was the correct vote, We have a long way to go in the process and it’s way too early to say what will happen in the Senate (except that regardless of what it is, Maryland’s Senators will vote no.)

Oh, and by the way, I just checked out that Allison whats-her-name and if she’s praising NARAL she’s not getting too far in this district. Most of us stand for life.

Also, since you are on the subject of town halls up and down the thread, could you get those aforementioned Senators down here to have one? Interesting how I never hear anyone clamoring for that.

I have to admit I was only being semi-flippant when it came to “Allison whats-her-name” because I had closed my window and honestly didn’t feel like looking it up. Her name is actually Allison Galbraith and she makes her living from, of all things, steering companies to government contracts. I kid you not.

But to begin this piece I want to address the two people who replied directly to my comment, whose names are Gail Jankowski and Bill Schwartz. I’m going to quote their opening sentences here, ladies first.

Gail: We will get MORE than enough votes to replace him because more and more constituents are learning just how negatively this AHCA will affect them!

Bill: Maryland is a Blue State and we need to ensure that the first district is fairly represented.

I’m sure Gail and Bill are nice enough people, and in her case she gets bonus points for (at least presumably, judging by the surname) marrying into a Polish family. (By the same token, I won’t take any points from Bill just because his ancestors insisted on unnecessary consonants.) But they seem to have a slim knowledge of political reality.

What the vast majority of people “know” about the AHCA comes from the talking points being fed to them from the media, which isn’t exactly a set of unbiased observers. But the 2018 campaign won’t begin in earnest for another 15 to 16 months, and what I’ve found out over the years, Gail, is that the issue you may think will drive the electorate this far out isn’t always the one that is front and center by the time people really begin to pay attention, let alone when votes are cast. The big difference between the era of the TEA Party eight years ago in the Obama administration and the Indivisible movement now is, while both are having a discussion about health care as a topic in the off-year before the election – although Obamacare was more dominant in the fall and winter of 2009 – the economy was much, much worse back then. If the economy is in good shape come the fall of 2018, the AHCA will be a minor issue by comparison. People generally vote with their pocketbooks, and the reason the 2010 election was such a wave was the pent-up outrage at an administration that addressed health care before job creation and the economy. (The sticker shock effects of Obamacare were the reason for the 2014 wave election, since it took effect in earnest that year.)

So if the economy remains in decent shape, the AHCA will be so minor of a concern by then that Andy Harris will once again get his 60-65% of the vote and cruise to victory. You see, Bill, Maryland is indeed (and unfortunately) such a blue state that our previous governor and the Democrats got greedy – or at least as greedy as their incumbent Democrat Congressmen would allow them to be. I’ve made this point before, but if the composition of the First Congressional District were the same in 2008 as it became in 2012, Andy Harris would be on his fifth term. By erasing the northern half of Carroll County from the previous configuration of the Sixth Congressional District and adding it to the First, it assured whoever the GOP puts up in the First District will win because the plurality of the state’s Republican voters now reside in the First, and it’s by a factor of almost 50% more than any other district. So based on the electorate of the district the First is fairly represented. (The rest of the state? Well, they are just poorly represented, but I’m working on that.)

So now let me turn to another aspect of social media. My friend Sarah Meyers, who describes herself as a proud moderate Democrat (and is a member of our county’s central committee) was distraught about the passage of the American Health Care Act, claiming, “The Republican House just voted to allow insurance companies to deny me healthcare.”

Now I’ll set aside the false conflation of actually having health care provided and paying for it, since there are other methods of doing so out there, but my response essentially noted that she is in the minority of people who are net beneficiaries of the ACA in terms of paying less. Those who get their insurance through their employer are paying far more, a fact that she chalked up to the “greed” of the insurance companies. But the “greed” is tempered by the fact that group insurers have to pay out 80 to 85 percent of their premium income on medical care, leaving the remainder for “administration, marketing, and profit.” Since neither administration nor marketing are free, one can presume these insurers are not rolling in profit. This “medical loss ratio” is part of the ACA and may be one reason why insurers are dropping out of the business.

One of the next arguments I got was that the ACA “saves lives,” presumably because those who could not afford insurance or were no longer being tossed off for the various reasons of pre-existing conditions, lifetime limits, and so forth were being covered. But the evidence of this is anecdotal at best, and rather dubious in the amount of inference that has to be made. It truly depends on the source, but the best scholarly guess is a net wash. Even some of the partisans concede it’s a bogus argument. And while there’s always the emotional appeal of someone who can come out and claim they are a survivor because they had health insurance through Obamacare, it’s pretty difficult to speak with someone who didn’t because Obamacare made their deductible too expensive.

The most radical solution offered up was the old single-payer bromide, from local leftist Chuck Cook:

Single payer is the only solution, and it has been proven to work in every single industrialized first world nation on the planet… except ours. We are the outlier due to conservative ideology that honors the wealth of billionaires over the health of children.

Uh…..no. Honestly, we’re very close to having a single-payer system in place here given the lack of competition in many places and tight regulations on the health insurance industry in terms of how much they can make, what they must cover, and how they conduct their business. Basically it would be a Medicare/Medicaid for All system and you can just ask a doctor (whose Medicare reimbursement increased a whopping 0.24% this year, with Medicaid reimbursement being a fraction thereof) how they like it or check out study outcomes, as the left-leaning Kaiser Family Foundation did recently, noting…

Multiple studies, though not all, have documented improvements in beneficiaries’ self-reported health, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved quality of life following Medicaid expansions. The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, which used a research design that is considered the gold standard, compared the experience of adults who gained and adults who did not gain Medicaid coverage through a lottery that allocated a limited number of new Medicaid “slots” for low-income uninsured adults in the state. The study found that Medicaid improved self-reported mental health and reduced clinically observed rates of depression by 30% relative to the uninsured group. The findings related to impacts on physical health were mixed. Medicaid increased the detection of diabetes and use of diabetes medication, but did not have a statistically significant effect on control of diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. The researchers note that the study did not have sufficient statistical power to detect changes in these measures, and also that factors including missed diagnosis and inappropriate or ineffective treatments, among others, could mitigate the impact of coverage on clinical outcomes.

…to see if this meets your definition of “proven to work.” For me it’s lacking.

I think both sides agree, though, that the problems with the system are defined simply: access and cost. The government’s solution was twofold: one side was to force everyone into the insurance market whether they wanted to be or not (hence, the “shared responsibility payment”) so that the healthy people would balance out the sick and the other side was to try and make preventative care cost nothing out of pocket, but the problem with that is doctors aren’t going to work for free because they have families to feed, too. And thanks to all of the billing and coding concerns we have with modern government medicine, a good percentage of the staff in any doctor’s office is the overhead required to deal with billing and not there for patient care. (It’s akin to the number of administrators in a school system who don’t educate children.) In other words, “free” is the extra $2,000 on your deductible or $40 a week out of your paycheck.

One analogy often used as a comparison to health insurance is auto insurance, which is also mandatory in most states (New Hampshire is the lone holdout.) However, when you buy auto insurance it does not cover oil changes, new tires, and other mechanical issues. Similarly, the original intent of health insurance was to cover the medical bills in case you were hospitalized, as opposed to supplemental insurance like AFLAC which covers other expenses.

The idea of insurance is that of calculating and sharing risk among as many participants as possible. Let’s say you have a group of 1,000 40-year-olds whose lives are all insured for $100,000 and you know four of them will die on the average in a given year. You then know your premium pool will have to be set to $400,000 plus an amount set aside for the off-chance of a year where more than 4 die, plus administrative expenses, plus a little for shareholders. If you assume those other expenses total $300,000, then each participant would pay $700 a year to be insured for $100,000 if they die, which they may find is a prudent and affordable hedge against that risk as they have families to support. It would be impossible for a group of 2 or 10 to be able to do this, but over a thousand people it’s very attainable.

However, what we now have with health insurance isn’t truly insurance because there is so much mandated coverage and the risks are highly unpredictable. Nor are they being shared among all the participants equally because some are paying themselves through their employer, some are being subsidized for their coverage by the government, and others are completely on the government dime. Because a large amount of the money comes from funds never seen by the buyers (deducted from their checks, or just plain subsidized) they don’t much care what treatment costs, just their premiums and deductibles.

So let me return to the car insurance analogy. You have to have car insurance, and it has to be minimum coverage, but after that the market is relatively free and there are a whole lot of competitors. If you get tired of Allstate because they raised your rates 50% for no good reason, there’s always Progressive. When Flo gets too annoying, Jake from State Farm will be happy to help. If you don’t like them, we have local independent agents. They compete on price, coverage, and service – so why can’t that be the case with true health insurance, too? And what I mean by “true health insurance” is that you select what you want to cover from the options provided by the companies, or you can skip it altogether. (Or, the option for employers to provide group coverage can be left in place as well, as I’ll get to in a moment.)

I can already hear the Sarah Meyerses of the world screaming “but pre-existing conditions!” Yes, there can be high-risk pools created for those at the state level, or even groups of states can create a compact to make the pool even larger and share the cost among more people. If states want to create incentives for employers to provide insurance, that’s fair game as well. I happen to think the Tenth Amendment is the part of the Constitution that’s supposed to be most flexible, allowing states to do a large number of things that should be off-limits to the federal government. I may or may not agree with them, but that is their right to do so. There’s very little need for federal involvement in health care at all – certainly nowhere near the amount we have now.

I’m sorry to break this to Chuck Cook, but the United States isn’t like the rest of the “industrialized first world.” We are a constitutional republic where the federal government is intended to be limited, not maximized and in control of everything. (It’s also worth mentioning that the wealth of our billionaires – and the talent of a lot of other, less well-to-do American people – is quite often freely given to assist in promoting the health of people both here in America and around the world. Here’s a great local example.) So the idea that we don’t have single-payer health care is one of those rare things that’s still a feature of ours and not a bug. That’s not to say it can’t stand some serious improvement, though.

Let’s just see if we can’t make it more in conformance with what our great American experiment in liberty is supposed to be all about, mmmmkay?

There’s something about Andy…

It has now made national news that the townhall meeting held by Andy Harris up at Chesapeake College turned into a loud protest brought on by the local, so-called “Indivisible” groups. (Even more amusing is their reaction when Harris called out one woman who continued to be disruptive. It’s from a page called “Shareblue” which is trying to be the Breitbart of the regressive Left.) Now I have attended Harris townhalls in the past (here are three examples; unfortunately two of them no longer have the photos) and they have often began with PowerPoint presentations – this is nothing new. But it seemed like the fringe Left wanted blood, so they reacted accordingly.

In some other forum I made the point that we never get to hear from the other side. Maybe I just don’t find out about it because I’m not on the radical left e-mail list, but it seems to me that our Senators rarely hold townhall meetings and when they do they are in politically safe (for them) areas like Silver Spring.

Yet the argument from the Left is that they are simply doing what members of the TEA Party did during the initial Obamacare debate in 2009. (The “Indivisible” crowd claims to be using the same tactics the TEA Party did.) I will grant the TEA Party stepped out of bounds on a few occasions – one case in point was this protest* in front of then-Congressman Frank Kratovil’s Salisbury office in July of 2009 that I covered (which remains one of the most commented-upon posts I’ve ever done here) – but when it came to a townhall setting, yes, we showed our passion. In comparison to the new alt-Left, though, we were well-behaved.

Then again, local conservatives have had to put up with disruptions from the Left for awhile so perhaps this isn’t a new phenomenon.

As evidence of the difference, I attended a meeting set up by Senator Cardin in August of 2009. It wasn’t initially intended as a true townhall meeting because its target audience was seniors, but a few of those in the local TEA Party (including me) managed to secure tickets – the 100 or so there could have easily been double or triple if the room were set to accommodate them. This explains how the meeting came to be:

Originally the meeting was set up back in March and wasn’t intended to be a town hall; however, once the health care controversy blew up this became a hot ticket. The intention was to get the perspective of residents who are over 50 and live on the Lower Shore, and the ground rules were pretty strict. There would be no questions during Senator Cardin’s presentation, the ratio would be one question for a GraySHORE member for each one from a non-member, and questions would have a 30-second limit.

In the welcoming remarks, it was noted that the state as a whole is getting younger but the Eastern Shore is aging. While the state is a “net exporter of seniors” at least 7 of the 9 Shore counties are net importers. We are also older and poorer than the state at-large. The idea behind GraySHORE was to brief elected officials with policy recommendations.

Something I found intriguing was the mention of Senator Cardin’s career. He has been our Senator since 2007, but served in Congress since 1987 and was a member of Maryland’s General Assembly for almost two decades before that – he was first elected in 1966. Basically, Senator Cardin fits the definition of a professional politician and I thought that was worth mentioning before I got too far.

When Senator Cardin came up, he noted that he was skipping the slide show to get to the questions. He also commented that this size group was a “manageable” group for dialogue.

As he had on prior occasions, the Senator couched the health care question as one of “what happens if we do nothing?” Health care costs were rising faster than income and would double in the next decade. As well, Cardin gave that mythical 46 million uninsured figure as part of his case and claimed that it cost each of us “an extra $11,000 per year to pay for (those not covered).”

The idea behind reform was to bring down costs through wellness and prevention and through better recordkeeping, while creating individual and employer mandates through the bill. It would provide a “level playing field” for private insurers and remove the caps on coverage, but above all reform “must reduce costs and be paid for.” Cardin compared the idea to Medicare, which has worked “extremely well” over its lifespan and was put into place because insurers wouldn’t cover the elderly or disabled. (Emphasis added for this post.)

It should also be pointed out that most of the TEA Party objections centered on policy and not necessarily personality. Bear in mind that the first TEA Party protests were over the stimulus proposal because the bill that eventually came to be known as Obamacare (which used as its shell a bill passed in the House but completely gutted by the Senate in order to satisfy the Constitutional requirement that bills dealing with revenue had to come from the House – a legislative sleight-of-hand if there ever was one) hadn’t been introduced yet. That came later on in the summer. So at the time this was done there were a number of competing bills for the Senate to consider.

And did the TEA Party raise a ruckus over that summer? Certainly, and they asked a lot of questions. But listen to how this went down. My guess is that the context of this video is one where it was taken after some townhall event or other public appearance by Kratovil. The questions are certainly pointed, but the key is that the audience is listening to Frank’s side of the story. They may not believe it, but they are being respectful. Now imagine if the lot at Chesapeake College were to be in that same situation with Harris – I doubt Andy would get a word in edgewise.

In truth, I think the “Indivisible” group would have began no matter which Republican secured the nomination and won the election – out of the field of contenders for the 2016 GOP nomination Donald Trump was probably the second-most philosophically close to the left (with onetime New York governor George Pataki, a pro-choice Republican, the only one being closer.) Remember, Trump is the one that added the “replace” to repeal of Obamacare.

I will grant that several of Trump’s Cabinet choices are relatively conservative, but for the most part they are also outsiders and I think he was looking more for that aspect of “draining the swamp” by intentionally selecting people outside the Beltway axis than selecting those who are for rightsizing government. But the leftists would likely be out in some force for John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, et. al. - just not to this extent. About the only two 2016 aspirants who would have attracted as much ire as Trump would have been Ted Cruz (because he would have governed from a truly conservative philosophy) and Scott Walker (based on what happened in Wisconsin.) Maybe Bobby Jindal would have been a third.

But here’s a message for those who believe Andy Harris can be toppled in 2018: Go ahead and nominate the most radical leftist you want to Congress, and you will watch Harris spank him or her by 20 to 25 points. Thanks to your favorite former governor, this district basically has the bulk of Republicans in Maryland and considering Andy had almost 80% of the primary vote (over a candidate with legislative experience, a previously unsuccessful candidate, and one other “regular” person) I don’t think you will get too far.

And I know you will point to Frank Kratovil’s 2008 victory over Harris as proof a Democrat can win here but bear in mind that the redrawn district took away the portion of Anne Arundel County Harris won by about 3,000 votes and added Carroll County, where Republican Roscoe Bartlett won by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, or 25,000 votes. Even though the First District doesn’t take in all of Carroll County, I think that with the post-2010 First District Harris would have won in 2008 with over 50% of the vote.

Your caterwauling doesn’t help your cause. And if you want to use the TEA Party as your measuring stick, it’s worth noting that their success was really fairly limited insofar as national electoral results go. The problem with those on the far Left is that they are trying to sell the same stuff that didn’t work for their other “answers” to the TEA Party like the Coffee Party, Occupy Wall Street, and so forth, and most Americans don’t buy it. They wanted repeal without replacement, immigration laws to be followed and the border secured, regulatory agencies reined in, and – most especially – they didn’t want a third Obama term via Hillary Clinton.

Of all the things that fuel the Indivisible movement, they can’t get over the fact that under the rules in place Hillary lost despite getting more votes. Well, to borrow a phrase from another liberal movement, it’s time for you all to move on.

__________

*As longtime readers know, many of my photo archives were lost with the demise of an Adobe website where I used to link to them rather than place them on my website server – at the time my storage there was limited. In a stroke of remarkable fortune, this Kratovil protest piece was on the front page of my site when the Wayback Machine did its occasional archive so I recovered these photos earlier today – the post is once again complete and coherent.

Some thoughts I have on Trumpcare

I don’t quite think I have to reintroduce myself to all of you, but it truly has been a long time since I sat down and wrote a piece for the consumption of my readers. (Editing Cathy’s last piece and writing two articles for the Patriot Post doesn’t really count for that purpose, nor does updating my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame page to add a couple player moves.) Unfortunately, things won’t improve on that front for some time, but the opportunity which presented itself to take my writing time was one I could not pass up.

But in this interregnum, we were given the bill to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, and since we are told President Trump has threatened to find primary opponents for any Republican who opposes it, I think I’m safe in calling this package Trumpcare. It’s still a government entitlement because there was a replace added with the repeal, and that already put a strike against it in my book.

The document I am going to base my initial impressions on will be the “talking point” document put out by the House GOP. To be honest, I really don’t have time at this point to read the original 123-page bill in depth, although I downloaded it for future reference and glanced through it to help with this piece. I look at this website as what the House Republicans are using as their chief selling points to the bill, so presumably this is their vision for federally-sponsored health care going forward. We have lived under Obamacare for about three years (as I recall, the major provisions did not all take effect before 2014, although some were in place shortly after the bill passed in 2010) so we know its effects: sizable increases in insurance premiums, a massive expansion of Medicaid (paid for in large part by Uncle Sam) to ratchet up the number of people with health insurance, subsidies for those who have less than a certain income yet are forced onto or choose to partake in the individual insurance market, the reduction in the number of competing insurance companies in many areas of the nation (some have just one insurer available to them), and the virtual elimination of catastrophic health insurance plans as insufficient for the needs of those insured. There were also a number of regulations and restrictions on insurers put in place, key among them the requirement of children being covered under a parent’s policy through the age of 26 and the elimination of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

With this massive incursion into private industry, for the first time the federal government required purchase of a product under penalty of law – those who chose not to buy health insurance were subject to a “shared responsibility payment” collected by the Internal Revenue Service. Imagine if you had to buy a car every four years whether you were happy with the one you had or not, and you may have the idea of how people felt about this. Obviously the economics of it were to make everyone pay a little something, but that’s not the way a free country is supposed to work for something that’s not essential to core functions of government.

Here are some of the provisions within the American Health Care Act (AHCA):

  • It “dismantles” the Obamacare taxes on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, health insurance premiums, and medical devices.

Okay, so far so good, although I suppose the definition of “dismantle” is in the eye of the beholder. I glanced through that section of the bill and it looks like this would not take effect immediately but at the end of this year. As a whole, individuals may see a little bit of savings but it won’t be something they will notice.

  • It eliminates the individual and employer mandate penalties.

This is perhaps the best news of all, but there is one huge catch to this: instead of paying this as a tax provision, you would have to pay a penalty to the insurance company in the form of a surcharge on premiums if you start up insurance again after not having it for a period of time. And that catch basically negates the whole benefit of removing the IRS from the equation, although I suppose an insurer could use the waiver of this surcharge as an incentive to bring people in.

  • It maintains the prohibition on charging more or denying insurance based on pre-existing conditions.

I have a big problem with this – not that it wouldn’t necessarily benefit me because I have asthma but because the idea for an insurance company is to make a profit by balancing the risks shared by the vast pool of policyholders with the expenses incurred by reimbursing those insured for loss. If someone is very likely to be a net loss to the insurer because they have a pre-existing condition, it should be the right of the insurer to refuse service. After all, banks don’t lend money at the prime interest rate to people who have poor credit records or no verifiable means of income because that would put their capital at too much risk for the return, so they either refuse the customer outright or charge an interest rate commensurate with the risk. That should be the right of a private insurer, too.

I was reading on social media that Maryland once had a high-risk pool for such patients, which was bankrolled by the state. While it’s not the use of taxpayer money that would be my most favorite, it is a state’s right to do so if they chose and there was nothing wrong with that system because it wasn’t directly competing with the private sector.

  • It keeps the provision of dependents being on their parents’ plan until they are 26.

This is another bad feature of Obamacare that should be buried with the rest of it. If you are 26 you should be able to stand on your own two feet and either be working for someone who offers insurance or be able to afford a plan on your own. (Or choose not to have insurance, which would be your right - although not necessarily recommended.)

  • AHCA also establishes what it calls a Patient and State Stability Fund.

Over the next nine years, the federal government will give out $100 billion to the states to assist them with their goals of insuring every citizen. I read quickly through this section and there are some provisions that give me heartburn: there are strings attached to the expenditure of the money and the states are required to come up with a larger and larger portion of matching funds for whatever they use the money for, up to 50 percent by the end of the program in 2026 – assuming, of course, this doesn’t become a more perpetual giveaway (which I’m convinced it will.) There is $15 billion allocated to this over the next two years and $10 billion per year after that, and I’m sure states will say this isn’t enough because they like that financial crack of Uncle Sugar’s money.

  • Modernize and strengthen Medicare by transitioning to a “per-capita allotment.”

The legalese on this one is beyond my scope of comprehension, but to me the idea of modernizing Medicare would be that of sunsetting it, not strengthening it.

  • Enhance and expand Health Savings Accounts.

One of the better features, although it would be even better with the free transfer of money between HSAs and other entities such as an IRA or 401 (k). If you needed more money in a particular year you should be able to move it without penalty.

  • A monthly tax credit for those who can’t afford insurance, up to $14,000 per year.

A subsidy under a different name. Basically they are replacing one tax scheme with another, still targeted to particular people.

All in all, I think the repeal should take place without the replace. It seems to me that we had a whole political movement and a bumper crop of angst spring up over the last eight years because people did not want any part of the government interference in their health care that Obamacare brought to us. Over that time, we lived with the disappointment of Republican excuses: “we’re only one half of one third of government,” “we have the House and Senate but the President won’t sign this,” “we can’t defund because there would be a government shutdown,” and so forth. After 2016, there was a Congress and President who campaigned on repeal, and yet you give us this?!?

A better alternative may be the plan presented by Senator Rand Paul, although it’s not perfect either. But it’s better than the GOP alternative, which is a great letdown for those of us who waited for the moment to eliminate the (not so) Affordable Care Act.

At throats: take two

By Cathy Keim

Michael mentioned a serious problem in his Monday post, “At throats“, which is that we are no longer able to talk to our fellow citizens if their political bent is different than ours. I have been pondering this problem for some time without coming to any conclusions as to how to fix the issue.

Two events Tuesday illustrated the problem. First, I received a phone call that evening from Congressman Andy Harris inviting me to a tele-townhall if I would just stay on the phone. I joined the teleconference and what I heard was interesting because of the shift from previous townhalls that I have attended. I’ll admit that I have not been to a townhall in a while, but they used to be similar in that the questions from the audience were directed at pushing Harris to the right on issues. The tele-townhall last night fielded questions that were decidedly geared towards pushing Harris to the left.

One lady flat out asked Rep. Harris when he was going to impeach President Trump. Others inquired about funding for Planned Parenthood, stating that they did not want it cut. Another questioned Trump’s connection to Russia and the election. Another question was about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and once again, the person asking was not in support of repealing it.

There was also the questioner who implied that Harris was dodging his duties by having tele-townhalls instead of holding in-person events. Andy explained once again, as he has repeatedly over the last few weeks, that he would resume holding townhalls in person once the GOP plan for repealing and replacing ACA was made public for discussion. (Editor’s note: one is tentatively scheduled for the Easton area on March 31.)

Rep. Harris patiently and competently fielded the questions. He explained that President Trump was the duly elected president with a large Electoral College majority and that a month into his administration was premature for discussing impeachment. He pointed out that Planned Parenthood (PP) provides only one item that other health care facilities do not provide and that is abortion. All the other functions of PP could be provided by existing health care facilities. He also pointed out that PP separates out each service that they provide so that they can appear to be doing much more health care than abortions. For example, if a woman comes in for an exam which includes a pap smear, a physical exam, and a prescription for birth control pills, this would be counted as three separate services even though it was all included in the one visit. This is how they inflate their record for health care services in comparison to the abortions they provide.

Finally, he explained that the false divide between giving government funds to PP that could only be used for health services, but not abortions, is obviously a sleight-of-hand trick. My explanation of this is: Anyone can see that if I give you money to spend on your gas bill, but not on your electric bill, that you will say fine, no problem. You can now use the money that you would have spent on your gas bill to pay your electric bill and I will be happy that you didn’t use my money on your electric bill. This robbing Peter to pay Paul does not sit well with citizens that do not want to pay for abortions.

One person stated quite bluntly that he preferred that abortions be subsidized because unwanted children would grow up to be in prison and that would cost him more to pay for 15 years of prison than the cost of an abortion. Congressman Harris made the case for life in the face of this common argument for death.

After the teleconference call concluded, I watched President Trump address Congress.

The women in white were grouped together to make their statement of disapproval for President Trump. While their stated reason for dressing in white was to align themselves with the suffragettes that fought for the right to vote, the real reason that the feminists are against Trump is because they are afraid that he will take away their ability to seek an abortion at any point in a pregnancy.

Even when he made statements that were appealing to a broad section of Americans to come together, the women in white sat on their hands. A few of them even made thumbs down gestures to show their disapproval for the president.

Overall, I felt that President Trump made an appeal to all sectors of our country to come together and work to make America a better place. If he is successful in his efforts to encourage the economy, then many will put aside their differences and be pleased that the nation’s economy is stronger.

This may buy the Trump administration some breathing room, but there is a strong contingent of unhappy people that will not be dissuaded from praying for the demise of Trump no matter how well the economy hums along. This anti-Trump group comes from both the left and the right, making for strange bedfellows indeed.

As a Tea Party participant, I can vouch for our desire to strengthen our nation, to protect and live by our Constitution, and to leave our nation strong for our children and grandchildren.

The forces that are gathering to oppose the Trump administration as evidenced in the Harris tele-townhall and the President’s address to Congress are being presented as a grassroots outpouring like the Tea Party, but are very different in their outlook. They are pro-big government, pro-death, pro-regulation, and pro-big spending.

To Michael’s point about being at each other’s throats, I don’t see any way to get these two groups together any time soon. Their visions of America are so different that they really cannot coexist, and the die is cast in a way that we will inexorably move toward one or the other. The Trump administration will have to fight for every inch of ground it seizes from the entrenched bureaucracy, and since the GOP elites have not shown the desire to fight for the win up to now it will be interesting to watch and see if they will finally join the struggle.

Speaking up about speaking out

There was a little bit of play in the news over the last few days about the refusal of Congressman Andy Harris to hold a live townhall meeting, instead opting to hold “tele-townhall” meetings where constituents in certain parts of the district can be on a conference call with their concerns. Naturally, the handful of liberals and Obamacare lovers (but I repeat myself) are calling Harris a chicken who’s afraid to come before those he represents. (And they know about calling Harris chicken. This is an oldie but goodie.)

So I had a comment on social media about this.

The (Daily Times) letter writer is misrepresenting the idea of why Andy Harris is holding back on in-person townhall meetings. First, it’s been stated in news reports that he wants to have a GOP replacement plan in place before he discusses the subject in an open forum, which makes sense in that respect – anything else is purely speculative. Obviously there is sentiment for keeping the ACA around, but there are also some who want the repeal without the replace.

And it’s also worth pointing out that Harris, far from being “a paid tool of the pharmaceutical industry,” received more in individual donations during the last election cycle than PAC donations. 62.5% of his contributions were individual, according to FEC records. Compare this to a Congressman like Steny Hoyer, who received only 28.2% of contributions from individuals, and ask yourself who’s being bought and paid for by special interests.

Yes, the writer tossed that Big Pharma tidbit in, so I had to set things straight once again.

Speaking of setting things straight, there is a pro-Obamacare group who is putting together a series of what could be called “empty chair” townhall meetings through the First District. Since they already knew Andy’s stance on having townhalls under the logical circumstance of not having a bill to discuss, what better way of sandbagging him than to have meetings and making him out to be afraid to face his constituents?

Yet I am quite confused about the one in Salisbury, which is scheduled for sometime this Friday. (One Facebook page says 3 p.m. but the other info says 6 p.m. Of course, they must know my calendar because I have a church event so I can’t make it.) If it’s at 6 p.m. there’s a pretty good chance the media will cover it.

But since the true intent of these sponsors is not just to keep the Affordable Care Act around, but allow it to morph into their true dream of single-payer, cradle-to-early-grave government health care for the masses (imagine the VA and its issues on steroids) it may be a good idea for some of the folks who provided the opposition at last Saturday’s pro-illegal immigration rally to show up at this event and ask our own questions about the not-so-Affordable Care Act. I’d like to have their excuses for why it’s failed in its intention to insure all Americans, why the exchanges set up in state after state have gone bankrupt, and why the insurance that’s been deemed acceptable has to cover so much when many in the market were pleased with their catastrophic-event plans? I’m sure you can think of others, not to mention that obvious lie about being able to keep your plan and doctor.

Anyway, we know the Left is still completely butthurt over Donald Trump becoming President – so much so that they are taking inspiration from the TEA Party.

I sort of stumbled across this site, which is a clearinghouse of town hall events held by members of Congress. It sounds innocent enough, and yes there is a public service aspect to it. But if you go to their “about” page, you find the real idea is distributing “a practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda.” So I downloaded my own copy of the “Indivisible Guide” for reference, and right up front the writers admit the following:

The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism — and they won.

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda — but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.

Of course, an event like Friday’s isn’t quite the same as a Congressional townhall because the panelists aren’t worried about re-election – and quite frankly, the vast majority of those who will be there wouldn’t vote for Andy anyway. In this case, the idea is to sow just that little bit of doubt in the minds of those who are otherwise strictly given a dose of propaganda. Notice that the event is targeting to a community that is more dependent on Obamacare and government assistance than most.

In this day and age of trying to eradicate the Obama agenda against America, the left is fighting the rear-guard action they didn’t think they would have to. The fun thing about the Indivisible page is their “action page” where “Actions are listed provided their hosts agree to resist Trump’s agenda; focus on local, defensive congressional advocacy; and embrace progressive values.” Front and center on this page are these area events, so the truth is out.

So let me ask a question: where’s their complaints about our esteemed Senators? Where is their local townhall meeting?

Perhaps the “silent majority” that elected Donald Trump better start speaking up.

The replacement

For whatever reason, these days I get a lot more e-mail from the Democratic Party than I do the Republicans. (Perhaps the GOP stuff ends up in my junk mail somehow?) A lot of the time the Democrats’ stuff is comedy gold, although they are getting more than enough mileage out of vilifying the already easy to vilify Donald Trump.

Now I’m going to do something I try not to do here, and that is accept their word as gospel for the sake of argument. Lord only knows what kind of Astroturf George Soros, Peter Lewis, and other big-money far-left donors can gin up for rent-a-mobs, but as I said this can suffice as their case. This is an excerpt from an e-mail I got today.

Republicans are frantically trying to dodge their constituents who want answers about what’s going to happen to their health care.

Virginia Congressman Dave Brat recently complained that “since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go.” Another Virginia Republican, Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, skipped out on “office hours” with her constituents after dozens showed up to ask about her Obamacare replacement plan.

When Arkansans showed up at Senator Tom Cotton’s office to ask about their health care, staffers locked the door and turned them away. Sixteen constituents showed up at Congressman Peter Roskam’s office in West Chicago to voice their concerns about repealing the Affordable Care Act and were told their meeting had been abruptly canceled. Congressman Mike Coffman from Colorado was caught on camera sneaking out of a constituent event through a side door to avoid his constituents’ questions about health care.

After more than 200 people submitted questions for a Facebook town hall with Sen. Thom Tillis, the senator logged off 11 minutes into the 30-minute event.

The Affordable Care Act is more popular than ever. Millions of Americans are reaping the benefits of access to affordable care — and 30 million stand to lose their health care if the law is repealed.

Again, this all may be “fake news” but here’s something that’s not fake: those who don’t want Obamacare repealed are probably the few profiting off of it at the expense of the many, which constitutes a great deal of working America. Since the RCP average has tracked the question in 2009, there has never been a majority in favor of Obamacare. To say it’s “more popular than ever” is true to the extent that it’s less of a dog than it has been.

And the other “fake news” is that oft-repeated claim that Americans will lose their health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, and that’s not so. It’s federal law that emergency care has to be provided regardless of ability to pay. Nor is this considering how many people have decided to take their chances with the tax penalty since it would be less expensive than health insurance.

So this is a message to Republicans who are getting cold feet about repealing Obamacare: find yourself a fire and warm them up – let’s do this thing. The Democrats are so full of crap their eyes are brown: America wants Obamacare to be gone!

Yet there is the question of cost, because medical expenses are, well, expensive. I have a theory on that, though, and it relates to a similar phenomenon in another aspect of life.

Look at the cost of college tuition as an example. To some, the cachet of a degree at a prestigious university is irresistible, and they will pay whatever it takes to get it. Some people who are more academically suited to a state university still demand to go to an Ivy League school, and those schools know this. They also know that a) these students will likely go many thousands in dollars in debt, and b) they get paid up front by the federal government. Whether the student pays back his or her loans or not is immaterial to them because they got their money, and because of that these schools are padding their tuition and fees because they can. Maybe it’s to increase their endowments, but oftentimes it’s to provide non-educational amenities.

Let me share a story with you. I went to college from 1982-86 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. It was selected because it had the program I sought to major in and was in-state so my tuition was lower – although higher than most others, as it had the reputation of being the best state school in Ohio academically. (So there was a little bit of cachet factor, too.) Very nice campus, relatively solid education. I would have been happy to see my older daughter go there, but she had other plans.

My wife at the time was a non-traditional student who had gone to another school before having the older daughter in question (I’m her stepdad.) So, after we married, she enrolled at the University of Toledo, which is more of a commuter school. Yet one thing they had was a state-of-the-art recreation center, paid for by the state since UT is a state school, too. I got to enjoy the facilities on occasion since my ex was a student, and they were nice. Soon enough, all of the other state schools were getting in line to have similar facilities put up and sometime in the 1990s, well after I graduated, Miami got theirs. While it may have been beneficial for the small percentage of those who majored in physical education, the real reason these were put up was so each of these state universities would have something to attract students. More students = more tuition and fees = job security for the thousands of university employees. And as I said: they got their money up front, never mind the students were saddled with debt for a decade or more. (As I recall, I didn’t finally pay my student loans off until 2001 or so.)

Now look at the medical field. Obamacare placed it in a similar position to that of state universities because it was flush with federal cash – as originally envisioned, people would either have their medical care paid for directly by the federal government (Medicaid) or they would give insurance companies a captive audience with relatively few choices via the exchanges. Insurance companies, in turn, were supposed to have “risk corridors” and other accounting tricks and bailouts to make them whole – the only people who would be left holding the bag would be the ones who actually paid for the insurance, and many of them on the individual market received subsidies from Uncle Sam, too as well. No wonder it cost a trillion dollars a year.

The weakness of the Obamacare system is that there’s no real incentive to cut costs. Yet there are two groups of beneficiaries who stand to lose the most if the ACA is repealed: those who are getting the subsidies or “free” insurance from the government and those providers who have been able to just keep raising prices because there’s a massive pot of money they want to get their paws into. Therein lies the rub: Obamacare is now in a place where it cannot be just cut cold turkey – there has to be a year or two transition period, and of course that gets into election time.

It’s worth reminding readers that Obamacare has its roots in what some dubbed Romneycare: the insurance mandate Massachusetts put into place several years before. To be quite honest, that is where the solution lies. Perhaps it would be appropriate to block-grant funding to states for a interim period of up to three years and allow them to tailor their own programs and set up funding mechanisms. States can choose to have all the bells and whistles or they can choose to invest their resources elsewhere, and that’s the way it should be. I think this would take care of most (but not all) of those who are getting the largest benefits. The others can vote with their feet if they so choose: government is not supposed to be all things to all people.

On the cost side, I think any and all federal insurance coverage mandates should be scrapped, allowing states to set their own systems and priorities. Now it can be argued that having 50 different systems would be difficult for a health insurance provider to navigate, but auto insurers already do this. There are advocacy groups out there that suggest how states can streamline the process by being similar to other states, so I suspect most states will have health insurance requirements that are fairly similar. Maryland may have the extreme in required coverage on one end while Texas may be the flip side. Because of this, I’m not sure selling insurance across state lines is necessarily doable in the respect that I can’t buy a Texas policy living in Maryland. But states should be encouraged to allow insurance products that reflect everything from the catastrophic coverage health insurance was originally to the Cadillac plans that pay for everything, even your hangnail or gender reassignment surgery.

So, the replacement for Obamacare is a more free market and freedom of choice to participate. Sorry, Democrats, but Obamacare has to go to help make America a healthy nation again. If Andy Harris has a townhall, hopefully he will stand his ground and make the case for repeal.

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)

**********

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.

Stand up and legislate!

September 10, 2016 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

By Cathy Keim

Congress headed back to work right after the Labor Day weekend. This will be the last opportunity for the Republican controlled House and Senate to finally find their legs and stand up to President Obama’s out of control executive overreach. Sadly, I do not expect them to even try based on their previous performances.

With the presidential election looming in November, wouldn’t this be a great time for the House to remember that they control the purse strings? If they do not put the money in the budget that they will be approving in September, then they can bring programs to a screeching halt. Their fear of a government shutdown renders them incapable of using the only instrument left to stop a president run amok.

Our national debt is now over $19.5 trillion, but still our Congress cannot find it in themselves to defund anything that the president demands.

Obamacare is collapsing, as it was meant to do from the beginning, to force us into a single-payer national health scheme. Watching the United Kingdom struggle with their broken system should give our leaders the encouragement to stop this, but instead they have funded the demise of our health care.

The Iran deal has been shown to be a disaster with our government trading money for hostages and Iran increasingly ready to harass our Navy ships.

Or how about the president’s giveaway of our internet to China, Russia, and Iran!

Ann Corcoran has released a new video called “Changing America by Changing Its People.” In under five minutes, Ann explains the Refugee Resettlement Program and how it can be stopped. You guessed it! This program that was started by Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy could be halted by defunding it. All the Voluntary Agencies (VOLAGS) that are bringing in the refugees are funded with your tax dollars.

Many of the VOLAGS have religious names, but they are not allowed to speak the name of Christ to the refugees they import. They are on the government payroll as private contractors and thus are prohibited from proselytizing. Why would Christian and Jewish groups bring in thousands of Muslims who are bound by their religion to make every effort to institute sharia law instead of living under our Constitution? People whose religion teaches them to hate Jews and Christians and to subjugate or kill them? I have not been able to come up with a reasonable explanation for that.

Since the Democrats cannot get Americans to willingly agree to their progressive Utopian scheme, then they will overwhelm the current Americans with imported people that they hope to keep voting Democrat forever.

If our Congress would defund some programs, another one that could bear careful scrutiny would be the food stamp program. Once again, Ann Corcoran on her blog Refugee Resettlement Watch pulls together the information that is out there, but that our Congressional watchdogs don’t bother to notice. Baltimore, Maryland gets unflattering attention again for a huge food stamp fraud bust. Buffalo, New York, makes the news with this convenience store operator getting charged with fraud. The local convenience store operators buy the EBT cards from the food stamp recipients for 50% of the face value. Instead of food, the customer gets cash and the owner takes the other 50% to buy items to resell at his store. Sweet deal if you can get it, right?

I do not know if any of the convenience store owners are refugees, but Ann points out that their clientele most likely includes refugees: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama stated on his website last September that more than 90% of recent Middle Eastern refugees are on food stamps and almost 70% are on cash welfare.

Put these statistics together with this interesting statement:

[T]he Koran encourage Muslims to collect jizya – blood tax – from kafirs, the non-Muslims, and welfare is looked upon as jizya. Collecting money from non-Muslims is considered a legal entitlement since the kafir is not entitled to any land or laws of their own anywhere, meaning their presence on a land or country of their own is a “theft” of “occupation” of what should be Muslim land.

Defrauding the welfare system becomes a type of jihad against the welcoming host country.

The list could go on and on with all the missed opportunities to block an imperial presidency and to recalibrate the separation of powers equation. What better time to grandstand against the president’s failed policies than the last session while the GOP still has control of both houses of Congress? Use every platform available to broadcast the deficiencies of the current administration that would be continued by the next Democrat president. Give speeches, hold hearings, give interviews, and hold the failed policies up to the public view during the entire budget process instead of acquiescing to the agenda and rubber stamping another omnibus spending bill.

Unfortunately, Paul Ryan and the House leadership don’t see the situation like I do. According to The Hill:

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are pushing to extend government funding into early 2017, wary of a massive bipartisan spending deal in the lame-duck. But GOP leaders and House Democrats are already laying the groundwork for a short-term continuing resolution, or CR, that will set up a vote on a catch-all spending bill right before the holidays.

Once again, the GOP will cave, even if it means passing the omnibus bill with Democrat votes just like the last CRomnibus budget vote. And when they cave, they will not show the fortitude to fight to cut the funding for refugee resettlement, or any other item that President Obama desires.

The GOP leadership is already signaling defeat when “Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a senior appropriator and leadership ally, dismissed the Freedom group’s approach, saying it’s backed by Republicans who would rather create ‘some sort of massive showdown crisis.’”

We don’t even try to mount an offense. The House leadership has already begun attacking the conservatives in their own party before the session even opens. The leadership seems to think that the election is going to be a disaster, so they need to do the best deal now. It appears that they have already given up on maintaining control of the Senate and winning the presidency.
It is interesting that Paul Ryan would think that he can get a better deal with a lame duck President Obama rather than Trump or Clinton. Let’s see where Andy Harris goes on this budget vote.

What is particularly galling about this whole sham of not passing budget bills until the last minute so that they can all be rolled into one huge omnibus bill and rammed through is that the American people are being played by their elected representatives. This process of not functioning in order to push through a monstrosity has been perfected by our Congressional leaders as a means to keep the status quo. Since everything keeps being funded at previous levels, nothing ever changes. The American citizen is being played. This is why there is a revolt brewing. There is discontent on every side. The leaders will not be able to keep this scam going forever.

Seeking action on Medicare

The mailing had everything needed for the shock value: a worried-looking senior citizen juxtaposed over a stack of paper stamped “DENIED.” “Worried About Government Bureaucracy Restricting Your Medicare?” it asked. If the piece of paper could listen I would tell it that I’m not even counting on having Medicare when I get to that age, but I figured this may be a fun bit of research and exploration to do. “Okay, I’ll bite,” I thought.

The mailing came to both my wife Kim and I as two separate “families” and was paid for by the American Action Network (AAN). So my first question was obvious: who is the American Action Network? According to Wikipedia, the AAN is “a nonprofit issue advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. which promotes center-right public policy. It was established in 2010 by Fred Malek and Norm Coleman as a 501(c)(4) organization.” On their behalf, the AAN argues its “primary goal is to put our center-right ideas into action by engaging the hearts and minds of the American people and spurring them into active participation in our democracy.” So the heart must be the center and the mind must be right?

In essence, it’s a group similar to one I pointed out last week, Americans for Limited Government. AAN may have fancier digs and a larger mailing list and donor base, but they are just another of the thousands of issue advocacy groups orbiting around the capital region – one that has $1.7 million to spend on sending a piece that specifically asked me to, “Tell Congressman Andy Harris to Continue His Fight to Protect Your Medicare.” Since both Kim and I are registered as Republicans, I’m thinking the list was culled to specifically target GOP voters and it wouldn’t shock me if they also narrowed this mailing to only reach those over 50 (as Kim and I both are.) According to AAN, 61 districts in 27 states were targeted for the advocacy campaign, for a total cost (with print and digital ads) of $4.8 million.

To be specific, the mailing advocated the passage of two bills: H.R. 1190, which is better known as the Protect Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2015, and H.R. 5122, which doesn’t have a fancy title but is intended “To prohibit further action on the proposed rule regarding testing of Medicare part B prescription drug models.” Harris (as well as every other Republican present, and 11 Democrats) voted for the former bill last year, but it’s been bottled up in the Senate.

H.R. 1190 has two purposes: one is the termination of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (or, in the words of Sarah Palin, the “death panels”) while the other cuts billions of dollars in spending on the Prevention and Public Health Fund over the next decade. But because Barack Obama isn’t going to agree with this anyway, it’s apparent that the bill will go nowhere in the Senate (they won’t even make it past the cloture vote.)

The second bill, H.R. 5122, would eliminate spending on a proposed rule, which is 33 pages to explain that the Department of Health and Human Services wants to try a new method of payment for certain drugs administered to Medicare patients as a trial program. The overall idea is to encourage the use of lower-priced drugs, since the authors of the rule contend the providers use more expensive medications to take advantage of a flat 6 percent reimbursement rate. As an experiment, the rate would go down to 2.5% plus a flat $16 additional reimbursement. After its introduction the bill has apparently sat in a desk drawer someplace because no vote has been taken on it.

Yet AAN objects to both bills, and ”calls on seniors to advocate for two key legislative priorities: (1) H.R. 5122, to prevent the Obama Administration from changing the Medicare Part B payment policy for treatments, and (2) H.R. 1190, to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Both bills will block bureaucrats from imposing harmful changes to Medicare that could threaten seniors’ access to care.”

So I investigated further, and found a missive Coleman wrote last month about this and other issues. Among the things Coleman said:

Despite assurances that ObamaCare would be the end all, be all, for health care reform in America, we now know that it is simply collapsing in on itself.  Insurers are fleeing the system - premiums are increasing - and recent court rulings have undermined the credibility of the financial assumptions used by liberals to justify the creation of ObamaCare.

All this is true. Yet Coleman goes on:

In the end, America doesn’t need only to reform government.

We need to reform the notion that government is the solution to our problems or the key to our future prosperity.

Again, truer words have never been spoken. But the premise of the AAN mailing is that of protecting a government program by appealing to the beneficiaries. (A subsidiary site operated by AAN and promoted on the mailing makes this clear: DontCutOurMedicare.com.) If government isn’t the solution to our problem, one would think AAN would be looking to repeal Medicare entirely (over a relatively lengthy sunset period, of course) to truly reform the notion that Americans should depend on our government for health care or feel entitled to it. At the very most, the idea of Medicare should be no more than a state-level initiative – if the people of Maryland want a lavish senior care program, let them adopt it as their own. However, those in Delaware may feel differently.

So the definition of “center-right” seems to be the same sore subject that millions of Donald Trump voters used as their excuse to vote against the “establishment.” While they have selected a deeply flawed vessel to amplify their message, it seems those frustrated voters are looking more for the “right” than the “center,” since all the center seems to be is the maintenance of a failed status quo.

On the other hand, one can argue that their objection is not about government involvement, but instead only a complaint about the originator of the idea. They don’t seem to have the same issues with the Medicare Part D program enacted under Republican President George W. Bush – which is, in some respects, similar to the pilot program H.R. 5122 seeks to defund because Part D tends to reward the usage of less expensive medication. It’s still the federal government subsidizing health care, but it was done in the name of a centrist ”compassionate conservatism” instead of the leftward ”fundamental change to America.”

To me, it’s very ironic that a group which wants to back away from the idea that our government is a solution sends out a directive to appeal to our very conservative representative to maintain a costly government entitlement program. Even more so, those who complain “don’t touch our Medicare” would be the first to object to expanding eligibility to cover those over 50 years of age, in part because it’s Hillary Clinton’s idea. (Trump seems to favor the Medicare status quo with a few tweaks, which may explain why much of the AAN target audience is his support base.)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is figuring out where they got $4.8 million for the campaign. We have a few clues, but the backers of this group aren’t being very public about it. So if they were looking for exposure, I suppose this piece is added value to them. But I must say: the “center” of their “center-right” really comes out with this one, particularly if you consider the center as our current situation – a President pulling to the left and Congress mildly countering to the right. Then again, to AAN we are only a “democracy” anyway, so at the moment the people want largesse from the public treasury, with AAN’s large donors perhaps trying to preserve their cut of the proceeds.

While those on the Left, such as writer Igor Volsky, celebrated Medicare as a success and believe the issue is settled, I happen to think those Volsky cites who argued against the concept when it was first proposed over 50 years ago were proven correct. Volsky also quotes an exchange between then-Congressman Mike Pence and journalist Andrea Mitchell:

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) explained his opposition to a new public health care option by arguing that Medicare spending has exceeded actuarial estimates from 1965. As Andrea Mitchell pointed out, somewhat jokingly, “I don’t know if you want to go back to Indiana and campaign against Medicare.”

Obviously those on the center-right don’t want to, so it’s going to take decades of re-education on the concepts of liberty and personal responsibility to counter the effects of the entitlement mentality society we live in today. Some may consider Medicare a success and wish it saved, but to achieve the rightsizing of government we need it’s clear Newt Gingrich was correct: Medicare does need to “wither on the vine.” Given the sheer number of insurance companies that now cater to the senior market, the problem Medicare was created to “solve” can easily be addressed by the private sector.

The first post-GOP teaching moment

It was about seven or eight years ago that I first came in contact with the group called Americans for Limited Government. One of their projects that I participated in for awhile was called Liberty Features Syndicate, which (as the name implied) was a syndication service that generally catered to small newspapers. For perhaps a year, I was one of their writers and every so often I would find out one of my 600-word columns was placed in some small-town newspaper. That was a neat experience, particularly the very first time when I found out my column was in a Kentucky newspaper fitting that description. For a moment I thought I was destined to be the next Ann Coulter. (Now I’m glad I’m not.) They also do the NetRightDaily site, which is where I first discovered Marita Noon as they also carry her weekly op-ed. Somewhere in their archives I’m sure most of my columns survive.

All that has gone by the wayside, but I remain Facebook friends with current ALG president Richard Manning. Over the last few months, though, I’ve been dismayed to see how a group which claims to be for limited government has climbed aboard the Trump train. A case in point was something they posted last week, which I want to use as an educational tool. It’s called “Trump’s the nominee, deal with it.” I’m going to go through it a little at a time and share my thoughts as we go.

Donald Trump is the nominee and the establishment is going to have to deal with it. These anonymous GOP sources speculating on what the process would be if Donald Trump chose to withdraw from the race for president should be identified and forever run out of the GOP.

I find this rhetoric to be disheartening and a little disingenuous. Manning should remember that 56% of the Republican voters did not support Trump, but when it came time for that group to be represented at the RNC Convention Trump was right there with the “establishment” to shut it down. It was a coordinated effort, so don’t tell me Trump is not part of the establishment when it serves his purpose, and vice versa. Personally, I believe the whole “Trump will withdraw” story is wishful thinking on the part of some, but given his meteoric personality it’s not outside the realm of possibility. If anyone deserves to be “forever run out of the GOP,” though, it’s the Trump/RNC “enforcers” who were at the convention intimidating the grassroots supporters of needed rule changes. That action was one of the reasons I left the party leadership.

Where were they when Mitt Romney was outed telling donors that 47 percent of the people were on government assistance, creating the exact class warfare narrative that the Democrats craved? These anonymous, cowardly whiners were more than likely busily making fortunes at the GOP trough.

Probably the same place they were when Trump alienated women voters with his remarks about Megyn Kelly – except those weren’t surreptitiously recorded like Romney’s remarks were. The Democrats are going to attempt their tactics of division regardless of what the Republican nominee says. The one thing to criticize Romney for? He was off by 2 points – it was actually 49 percent. One would think that a group advocating limited government would embrace that fact as a reason to begin work on the issue. The truth hurts sometimes.

The only reason that this circular firing squad story exists is because the D.C. establishment class cannot get over that Jeb lost and with his loss, their every four-year financial windfall went away. And that’s the ugly truth, Donald Trump’s real failure is his unwillingness to spend millions in consulting fees to keep the GOP consulting vultures at bay. If these consultants had not lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections, they might have some validity in their concerns, but they are proven losers, and Trump doesn’t like losers.

This is perhaps Manning’s best point, but by making it about Trump he makes a mistake. Trump may not be using the consultant class, but the problem is that he’s losing just like in the other five elections (and the current polls track similarly to theirs.) If Trump were running at 60% in the polls Manning would have a great point, but the only thing about Trump at 60% is his negatives. We should hope that the consultant class withers on the vine, but the way to do that is through limiting government so there’s less financial incentive to be a consultant.

So, now they are all-in in trying to stop Trump, and by fostering speculation that he might drop out, they give their cohorts in the mainstream media the excuse to replay some mistakes that Trump has made and the campaign is trying to move on from.

They don’t have to replay mistakes because Trump creates a fresh batch on an almost-daily basis.

It is time to root out these conspirators to elect Hillary Clinton president, and not allow them to hide under the cloak of invisibility that cockroaches and vermin depend upon.

Someone really needs to do an exhaustive study on how many Democrats crossed over in the open primaries to help make Trump the GOP nominee. Oh, wait, those aren’t the conspirators Manning is referring to? My contention all along is that the only candidate Hillary could beat was Donald Trump, so I suppose the real conspiracy was within the group that talked Trump into running when there were already several in the race – remember, Trump was among the last to announce.

For the rest of us, Donald Trump is the only chance to end the Obama expansion of federal government power, his disastrous EPA regulations, Obamacare and his use of the enforcement powers of the Executive Branch as weapons against his political enemies.

For Trump, any and all of these will eventually be negotiable except for the last one. Given the ferocity of his attacks against his former Republican foes, I don’t doubt that Trump has an “enemies list” of his own, and it won’t be all the groups who have tormented conservatives the last eight years. The conservatives will remain in the crosshairs because Trump didn’t need party unity anyway.

Moreover, The Donald yo-yos between wailing about “draconian rules” regarding federal land and advocating the federal government remain in control of it. His stated health care plan repeals Obamacare, but he also vowed to make a deal with hospitals to take care of the poor at government expense. EPA regulations are bad unless you’re pandering to Iowa corn farmers.

In short, I truly don’t see any real support for limited government from Trump, which makes me wonder why ALG is involved in this election. To be honest, I’m sure Americans for Limited Government is a relatively modest group, living on a comparative shoestring as one of many thousands of advocacy groups around Washington, D.C. (That in and of itself is rather ironic. If they don’t like the inside-the-Beltway culture perhaps their headquarters should be in flyover country.) They take Trump’s outsider image to heart, even though he has donated thousands of dollars to political candidates on both sides.

But simply being an outsider with little political experience does not necessarily equate to limited government. And while some argue that with Trump we at least have a slim chance of success, let me remind you that failure to constrain government will once again be a Republican trait if Trump wins and governs on a platform where Obamacare is replaced by other government involvement, regulations are addressed in a capricious manner, and entitlements like Social Security and Medicare are off limits to needed reform, let alone the true limitation of government that can be achieved by sunsetting the programs over a multi-decade period to provide an orderly transition.

I use this as a cautionary tale about consistency. If you believe the group’s mission statement, it’s a curiosity to me why they involved themselves in this race:

We are leaders in identifying, exposing and working with Congress and state legislatures to prevent the continued expansion of government. Never shying away from the big issues, ALG is perpetually ahead of the issue curve taking on issues like the $100 billion International Monetary Fund line of credit while others are still trying to spell IMF. This aggressive, non-partisan approach to the threats posed by an ever expanding government to our basic freedoms gives us the ability to honestly present the limited government perspective both inside the beltway and most importantly around the country.

It’s clear to me that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton will lift a finger to limit government; rather, they will rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. I can understand the fear of Hillary Clinton being a third term of Barack Obama, but who’s to say Donald Trump wouldn’t be a third term of George W. Bush, where government expanded at an alarming rate, too? There were several other candidates who were willing to begin the process of rightsizing the federal Leviathan, but Trump prevailed as the “Republican, not the conservative” nominee. It’s troubling to me that the folks at ALG let party override principle and fear take the place of common sense.

So despite the admonition of Manning and friends, the only nonsense we need to stop is continually claiming that not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary. One can be #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary at the same time. There are other candidates out there who hew closer to the principles of limited government, and one of those things which holds them back is the perception that no one other than a Republican or Democrat can win. In the end, the decision is up to the voters, so what ALG needs to do is return to stressing the value of limited government rather than shill for one flawed candidate against another.

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?)

Odds and ends number 80

For awhile I wasn’t sure I would ever make it to the 80th edition of this longtime monoblogue series but I have finally arrived with more tidbits that require only a few dozen words to deal with.

Since this category has the item I’ve been sitting on the longest, I’m going to talk energy first. Some of my readers in the northern part of the state may yet have a little bit of remaining snow from the recent blizzard, snow that may be supplemented by a new blast today. But the fine folks at Energy Tomorrow worry about a regulatory blizzard, and with good reason: Barack Obama has already killed the coal industry, states are suing for relief from the EPA,  and a proposed $10 a barrel oil tax may further hinder the domestic oil industry already straining under a price war with OPEC. So much for that $550 annual raise we received, as Rick Manning notes in the latter story I link – for the rest of us, that’s like a 25-cent per hour raise without the increased taxation that normally comes with a pay increase. Yet that quarter would be lost to taxation under the Obama scheme.

It’s interesting as well that the Iowa caucus results favored Ted Cruz over Donald Trump despite their competing stances on ethanol, as Marita Noon wrote, but Cruz’s Iowa win also emboldened others to speak more freely about rescinding the ban.

Speaking of Cruz and Iowa, over the last week we’ve heard more about third-place Iowa finisher Marco Rubio in New Hampshire, as Erick Erickson predicted we would. It’s obvious to me that the media is trying to pick a Republican candidate for us, so they have been pushing either Donald Trump (who is far from conservative on many issues) or Marco Rubio (who has been squishy on immigration and perhaps can be rolled more easily on the subject again.) Or, as Dan Bongino writes, it could be the left’s divide-and-conquer strategy at work once again.

It seems to me that today’s New Hampshire primary should bring the race down to about five participants on the GOP side. The herd will almost certainly be culled of Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Jim Gilmore based on results, polling, and financial situation, and that would cut it down to six. The loser between Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich should whittle the field to five in time for South Carolina and we will begin to see if Donald Trump’s ceiling is really about 25 percent.

Trump’s popularity has been defined by a hardline approach to border security, but once again I turn to Rick Manning who asks what Trump would do about Obamacare, He also shrewdly invokes Bobby Jindal’s name, since the policy wonk had a conservative approach:

Jindal understood that the Obamacare system has put down some roots, and tearing it out was not going to be an easy task that could be glibly done with the wave of a wand or a pronouncement from a podium. He understood that whatever health care system replaced Obamacare would set the tone for whether or not the federal government continued its expansion in scope and power. He understood that what we do about Obamacare is likely to be one of the most important domestic policy decisions that any president will make. So, he laid out his vision for what health care should look like in America. (Link added.)

Yet on another domestic issue New Hampshire’s neighbor Maine is making some serious steps in cleaning up their food stamp rolls. It’s a little scary to think that the Millennials and Generation X decided keeping the “free” stuff wasn’t worth actually getting a job (or taking alternate steps to improve themselves or their community.) Perhaps it is fortunate that these are childless adults.

Turning to our own state, Maryland Right to Life was kind enough to inform me that a rebadged “death with dignity” assisted suicide bill was introduced to the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate (HB404 and SB418, respectively.) The 2015 rendition never received a committee vote, but it also had a late hearing – this year the setup is a little bit more advantageous to committee passage and the number of sponsors (all Democrats) has increased. They thought they had enough votes to get it out of committee last year, and chances are they are correct.

I have postulated on previous occasions that this General Assembly session is the opportunity to plant the seeds of distrust Democrats desperately need to get back that which they consider theirs in 2018 – the Maryland governor’s chair. It will likely be a close, party-line vote but I suspect this bill will pass in order to make Governor Hogan either veto it (which, of course, will allow the press to make him look less than compassionate to cancer sufferers such as he was) or sign it into law – a course for which he will accrue absolutely zero credit from Democrats for reaching across the aisle but will alienate the pro-life community that is a vital part of the GOP.

Try as they might, the Democrats could not bait Hogan into addressing social issues during his 2014 campaign but that doesn’t mean they will stop trying.

On a much more somber note insofar as good government is concerned, the advocacy group Election Integrity Maryland announced they were winding up their affairs at the end of this month. As EIM president Cathy Kelleher stated:

The difficulty of maintaining a small non profit was a full time job and the responsibility fell on the same few individuals for far too long.

We can proudly say that in our 4+ years of operations, we made a difference in the way citizens view the record maintenance of the State Board of Elections and had an impact in the legislative process.

The problem EIM had was twofold: first, a lack of citizens interested enough to address the issues our state has with keeping voter rolls not just up to date, but insuring they are limited to citizens who are eligible to vote; and secondly just an overwhelming task considering there are over 3 million voters registered in Maryland. And for some of the counties that are more populous, the powers that be didn’t much mind having inaccurate voter rolls that may have had a few ineligible voters among them just in case they needed a few extra on election night.

And it’s that prospect of fraud which is among the reasons not to adopt National Popular Vote, as Natalie Johnson notes at the Daily Signal. It’s a good counter to an argument presented in the comments to one of Cathy Keim’s recent posts. After the angst of Bush vs. Gore in 2000, could you imagine the need for a national recount with states hanging in the balance?

I think the system can be improved, but there’s a time and place for that proposal and it’s not here yet. There’s also a time and a place to wrap up odds and ends, and we have arrived.

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