Honesty Is On Life Support

 

I’ll bet you feel uneasy about the state of affairs in our world today.  Almost everybody does.

We know something is going wrong and we sense that we are gradually sliding downhill, toward an unknown fate.  We have that hinky feeling that whatever awaits us at the bottom of the hill is not good, and we are powerless to stop it.

I suspect the cause of our angst is the decline of honesty.

Our grandfathers lived in a world where one’s most important possession was his or her honor and reputation.  Business and real estate deals were often made with a handshake rather than a contract.  Out of wedlock births and adultery were pretty rare.  Thieves and hucksters went to jail.  Schools and churches taught children that dishonesty is wrong.  Liars were not tolerated.  News reporters triple checked their facts to make absolutely certain they were accurate.  Yes, there were bad guys, but they were vilified by the general public.

That world is gone.  Today we are barraged by news reports that are purposefully false.  Politics has become a lying contest where partisans have no problem with their leaders uttering obvious fabrications, justified because “the other side lies too.”  We have become numb to dishonesty in politics and in the news media because it is so pervasive.  Nothing surprises us any more; corruption has become expected and normal.

And it’s not just politics.  In the course of my business career I witnessed an appalling decline in the standards of honesty and fairness.  When I started in the corporate world, almost all large companies operated with the balanced interests of their customers, employees, vendors, and owners always in mind, based on the goals of long-term success and good citizenship.  Before I retired I witnessed, firsthand, appalling chicanery and deceit by corporate executives, whose goals were maximizing their personal income and power.  With today’s astronomical executive salaries and bonuses the situation continues to worsen.

Most men and women no longer marry because commitment to an honest relationship is just too hard (forget about the impact on the kids).  Schools and colleges fill young minds with disinformation and revised history while emptying their pockets and mortgaging their futures.

Today my news inbox is absolutely stuffed with illustrations of dishonesty:  proven vote fraud in Texas, politically motivated false charges of impropriety in Washington, DC, police officers looking the other way instead of dealing with criminals.

Thankfully, there are still honest people in our world.  We are in decline, but it is reversible.   Honesty is on life support.  God help us.  Please.

Tom Balek, Rockin’ On the Right Side

  1. Honesty is such a lonely word
    Everyone is so untrue
    Honesty is hardly ever heard
    And mostly what I need from you

    Honesty – Billy Joel

ObamaCare vs. “SwampCare”

photo by Salon.com

Yes, ObamaCare sucks.  It is unsustainable, and insurance carriers are dropping out of the exchanges left and right.   So our fearless leaders in the swamp feel compelled to replace one failing top-heavy government program, ObamaCare, with another.  I call it SwampCare.

Unfortunately, in their effort to grind out a replacement plan, our leaders keep bumping into an unfortunate truth:  in a free market some people will get more stuff than others.

I’m not saying that health care should not be available to everybody.  I’m just saying that in the real world you can’t drive a Cadillac if you ain’t got no money, honey.

Today the Sunday news talking heads were breathlessly grilling Paul Ryan and Reince Preibus over how many people will needlessly die because they have stripped the ObamaCare “pre-existing conditions” feature from their new health insurance bill.  The swamp boys fell all over themselves denying it.  “No!  SwampCare will cover everybody for everything all the time, and costs will go down!  Trust us, we’re the government!”

Yeah, right.  And it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime. (That’s a musical allegory for both of you readers who are under age 60).

Covering pre-existing conditions without requiring continuity of coverage is like wrecking your car and then buying a policy to get it repaired.  It is certainly not insurance (shared risk).  And the whole discussion is pointless anyway, as long as health care providers are required by law to take care of patients regardless of their coverage, ability to pay, or even citizenship.  The mandate requiring everybody to buy insurance is unAmerican, if not unconstitutional.  So is requiring a doctor to care for a patient without any compensation for this work.

Adult Americans know there is no such thing as a free lunch.  But most politicians promise it anyway. They don’t dare take away the guarantee of insurance coverage for people who are uninsured and have a pre-existing condition.  But somebody has to pay the freight.  Both ObamaCare and SwampCare pass the cost on to the taxpayers; the former through premium subsidies, and the latter through funding assigned-risk pools.

ObamaCare, a product of the nouveau-left, is all about fairness, so it requires young people to buy policies and pay higher premiums to subsidize the high-cost old timers.  The designers of SwampCare think that’s terrible.  So their solution is to have seniors pay a little bit higher premiums, and stick the rest of the cost difference on the taxpayers via subsidized tax credits.

Every time government sticks its nose into private industry trying to make things “fair” the market is distorted and everything gets screwed up.  And while Nancy Pelosi dreams of an America dotted with gleaming white government health care centers, stuffed with highly-paid Democrat-voting unionized health care employees, we all know the two reasons why PelosiCare could never work: 1) big government can’t do anything right  2) we couldn’t afford it even if it could.

By the miracle of free markets, most of us have access to great cars, reliable refrigerators, skilled veterinarians, safe and inexpensive food, and internet service that gets better by the second.  The best healthcare system in the world was developed in this free-market environment with minimal government intervention.  Churches and charities played a large role, and families took responsibility for their own destinies.  People expected to pay for their own health care, just as they paid for their own food and housing.  At one time it all just worked for most Americans.

We all want everybody to have the best health care possible.  But can everybody have CadillacCare?  Realistically, no.  Instead of destroying the health care system for everybody with experimental regulations and laws, why not let the free market work its miracle for most of us and concentrate on how to provide adequate care via public clinics and hospitals for those who fall outside margins?

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

 

Swamp, swamp, swamp, swamp music
When the hound dog starts singin’
I ain’t got them big ol’ city blues

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Swamp Music

 

Cut the Budget, Or A Whole Department? You Decide!

When is the last time the Federal Government asked you what you want it to do?  Been a while, hasn’t it?

Here is yet another example of how elections really do matter.  The Trump administration, via Mick Mulvaney and his Office of Management and Budget, wants your input.

They set up a web page on the White House website and are asking for suggestions from citizens on how to make our federal government “more efficient, effective, and accountable to the American public.”

They want you to name names.  They are asking for details.  If you have seen a federal agency that is not operating at, shall we say, “peak efficiency”, here’s your chance to do something about it.  Trump and Mulvaney want to know which agencies, boards, and commissions are screwing up, wasting money, or are no longer even necessary, and visitors to the website are encouraged to share their ideas and solutions in detail.

In addition, citizens are asked to weigh in on federal government management reform and reorganization of the government.  How damn refreshing is that?

It’s hard to resist the temptation to “select all” for elimination or reform and hit enter.  So I zeroed in on all the departments and agencies related to the Indian Reservation debacle.

Rumor has it that Mulvaney and his team are also planning to “tech up” the government to modern business standards, something I have advocated for years.

Information technology (IT) advancements have been at the center of a transformation in how the private sector operates—and revolutionized the efficiency, convenience, and effectiveness with which it serves its customers. The Federal Government largely has missed out on that transformation due to poor management of technology investments, with IT projects too often costing hundreds of millions of dollars more than they should, taking years longer than necessary to deploy, and delivering technologies that are obsolete by the time they are completed. We are working to close the resulting gap between the best performing private sector organizations and the federal government.

— Office of E-Government and Information Technology

Of course asking for input and actually using it are two very different things.  But I find it flattering to even be asked, after two terms of total arrogance in the executive office.

So I hope you will take a few minutes and look over the long list of agencies.  Consider whether the National Endowment for the Arts is still deserving of taxpayer support, and check yes or no.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Do you love me,
Do you want to be my friend?
And if you do
Well then don’t be afraid to take me by the hand
If you want to
I think this is how love goes
Check yes or no

Check Yes or No – George Strait

It’s Time To Do Away With Indian Reservations


*update 4/18/17   My article seems to have touched a nerve among some reservation Natives who have sent comments.  While I don’t retract my premise (that Natives are getting screwed by the federal government and racial segregation is not acceptable today) I can see that parts of the article appear to broad-brush all reservation Natives, and I know better than that.  My article is based on US Census Bureau and other federal statistics, and my opinions reflect the aggregate data of the reservation system, not any individual Native, tribe, or reservation.  My apologies for any poorly chosen remarks, no offense intended.  The article follows unedited.

Oh, and yes, the song I chose sucked.  I did remove that!


*update 4/24/17  I just discovered the excellent work performed on this very subject by Naomi Schaefer Riley.  Her book published last summer is titled “The New Trail of Tears – How Washington Is Destroying American Indians”.  And here is a link to her excellent video for Prager University, published today: American Indians Are Still Getting a Raw Deal 

I’m pleased that this topic is getting some attention.

 


 

 

About 1 million Native Americans live on reservations, most of them in poverty.  Crime, unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse, bad schools, poor health and other hardships are common.  While they are not required to stay on the reservations, federal policies effectively keep Native Americans there, dependent on their benefits.

There is no longer any justification for continuing the archaic, immoral, and wasteful practice of racially segregating Native Americans and subjugating them to perpetual poverty.

Surely nobody would argue that the quality of life for families isolated on Indian reservations is acceptable.  Yet no effort has been made to assimilate reservation Native Americans into the American mainstream.

The reservation situation is not only inhumane, it is a fiscal disaster.  Billions of federal dollars flow to the reservations, with little evident result.  Corruption is rampant.

The tribes have also been used by big-government and left-wing organizations to seize property, wealth and control from landowners and taxpayers.  The Flathead Reservation Water Compact threatens to claim water rights for the tribe that far exceeds their dominion and would cripple the agriculture industry.

Total government spending on the reservations is hard to determine due to an intentional lack of government transparency.  I found a chart prepared by the Dept. of the Interior that shows a 2017 budget estimate of $21 billion targeted to tribes and Native American communities.  The cost of health and welfare benefits, including food stamps, disability, housing subsidies, unemployment, education programs, health care and other programs could easily exceed that figure.  Many seemingly unrelated federal programs concentrate spending on the reservations that just blurs into oblivion – for example, I observed eight years ago that the largest proportion of Obama “stimulus” money in Montana went to the reservations and tribes.

The 2016 elections made clear that now is the time for swamp-draining and fiscal reorganization.  Now is the time to end racial discrimination in every form.  Why not transform this large group of Americans (many of whom have distinguished military service) into happy, healthy, productive taxpayers? Now is the best opportunity in many decades to take a fresh, honest look at what our government is doing, and make sweeping changes.

We could, within a year, eliminate the embarrassment of Indian reservations from our landscape.  Reservation tribes could distribute their commonly-owned property to members, and preserve their privately-owned property.  All federal agencies, departments and programs related to Native Americans could be sunset.  And I submit that two years of federal spending on the reservations and tribes could be calculated, divided, and paid to reservation dwellers in a lump sum.  My cursory math:  $100 billion divided by 1 million reservation households = $100,000 per household.

Here’s your share of the property.  Here’s a check.  The reservation is no more, welcome to the United States of America.

This does not need to threaten the Native American culture or traditions.  Eliminating the reservations would blow up the subjugation of this group by an over-reaching and cold-hearted federal government.

This is a simple first look at a very old problem, but the situation can’t go on, and nothing gets done until we start.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

 

 

 

More World News We Didn’t Get

We get plenty of news – in fact it seems like we have news in our faces almost all the time.  Unfortunately, some of it is fake news.  Much of it is opinion that we have come to accept as news.  A lot of it is totally unimportant political drama that gets hyped until it appears to be news.   If you flip between cable news networks you will see the same one or two stories bleated and repeated hour after hour, often day after day.

Meanwhile the world keeps turning and you just know that there is something important happening somewhere – the news we didn’t get.

So every once in a while I hit the web and scratch up some current news items from far-flung places that our pathetic news media failed to report to us.  Here’s what I found today:

South Africa in Chaos after President Fires Financial Minister – President Jacob Zuma replaced highly-regarded finance minister Pravin Gordhan with an inexperienced African National Congress loyalist last week in the face of growing tension over South Africa’s deteriorating economic conditions.  Gordhan has criticized the ANC-controlled government for “corruption and mismanagement.”  Rival political parties are gaining momentum in their quest to upend the ANC’s dominance of South African politics.

Pakistani and Indian Armies Exchange Mortar, Small Arms Fire On “Line Of Control” in Kashmir – India claims the Pakistani army broke the cease-fire on the LoC yesterday, firing mortars and automatic weapons at Indian soldiers, who returned fire.  The conflict over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir goes back to 1947 when India was originally partitioned, and scuffles over the artificial border separating the claimed areas have gone on ever since.  Most Americans have no idea that these two nations with large armies and nuclear weapons routinely engage in battle, with no end in sight.

Brazilian Presidency Hangs By A Thread – Michel Temer awaits a court hearing that could oust him from Brazil’s presidency over claims of illegal campaign funding by his predecessor and running mate, Dilma Roussef.  Roussef was impeached for corruption in 2014.  Brazil’s economy had cratered during the leftist Roussef’s term, but was healing rapidly since vice-president Temer took over last year after a period of indecision and legal wrangling.  The court must now decide whether Roussef’s actions invalidate her election and thus that of Temer as her running mate.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

How was I to know
About the warm soulful secret
You been keepin’ for years
I got the news

I Got the News – Steely Dan

 

What The Hell Is ‘Mad Dog” Up To?

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

With all eyes on the middle of the swamp, riveted on the battle over the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare, a little drama has been percolating, unwatched, over in the far corner under the cypress trees.

Not long ago, General James Mattis rode President Trump’s full-throated endorsement to the lofty post of Secretary of Defense, past eminently qualified candidates like Sen. Jeff Sessions, Rep. Mike Rogers, and veteran security advisor Stephen Hadley.  The men overlooked for the job had several things in common – all are Republicans, are loyal Trump supporters, and are broadly respected in conservative circles.

Mattis had a few things going for him, too.  People called him “Mad Dog”.  He once said, “it’s fun to shoot some people.”  He also once said he is opposed to the Iran nuclear giveaway.  Did I say his name is Mad Dog?

President Trump was so impressed with old Mad Dog he slam-dunked him right into one of his most critical cabinet posts.  Congress didn’t hesitate to give Mattis a waiver allowing the recently-retired general to bypass the required 10-year waiting period between active military service and SecDef.  Why, Leon Panetta himself personally campaigned for Mattis.  What’s not to like?

Wait a minute, Leon Panetta?  The guy who viscerally hates Donald Trump?  The far-left, Obama insider, Democrat apparatchik who was one of the biggest moving parts of the Clinton Machine?  That Leon Panetta?

It gets weirder.  Old Mad Dog’s first big recruit was Anne Patterson for undersecretary of defense for policy.  Patterson gained notoriety as a honcho on Hillary Clinton’s team for her support of the Muslim Brotherhood regime that failed so spectacularly in Egypt.

General Mattis also flirted with Democrat Michele Flournoy, founder of the far-left Center for New American Security and former Obama undersecretary of defense for policy, for a sub-cab post.  Flournoy ultimately turned him down because Mad Dog is not quite leftist enough to suit her taste.

Mattis’ latest pick is Rudy DeLeon for undersecretary of personnel and readiness.  DeLeon is a senior fellow at the Center for America Progress, whose current stated mission is to undermine the Trump presidency.  CAP was created and developed by John Podesta (there’s that name again) and is funded by George Soros.  According to Jordan Schactel in Conservative Review, DeLeon signed on to a letter that calls Trump’s national security order restricting immigration “beneath the dignity of our great nation” and advised government workers to apply “discretion,” in an attempt to essentially undermine the president’s initiative.  DeLeon is a big proponent of Obama’s nuclear giveaway program to Iran.

I can’t see any reason why a person with DeLeon’s pedigree wouldn’t fit perfectly into Trump’s administration, can you?

General Mattis’ appears determined to load up the administration with as many Trump-haters as he can find, as if there aren’t enough enemies left over from the Obama regime already.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Big man, walking in the park
Wigwam, frightened of the dark
Some kind of solitude is measured out in you
You think you know me but you haven’t got a clue
Hey Bulldog!

Hey Bulldog – the Beatles

 

Let the Miracle of the Free Market Work For Health Care

We have two problems with our health care delivery system:  access and cost.  In 2010, ObamaCare was passed to address both problems.  Predictably, it failed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made voting for ObamaCare very simple,   instructing her fellow Democrats to “pass the bill so that you can see what’s in it.”  All but 34 of them did.  Not one Republican voted for ObamaCare.

The American people never did like the Affordable Care Act, especially after the President’s fake-out that we could keep our doctors and insurance plans. Costs have increased even more rapidly, and access to plans and care has become even ‘iffy-er’ as more insurers jump ship every day.

Throughout Obama’s term outnumbered Republican legislators set up “show votes” to signal their desire to repeal ObamaCare.  But that talk was cheap when they knew the bills had no chance of getting past Obama’s veto.  “There’s nothing we can do about it,” they whimpered, even though they had complete control of the nation’s purse-strings and could have cut off the funding.

So the people did the only thing they could do to get rid of this economy-crushing, freedom-sucking, unsustainable mother-of-all-government-programs.  They elected majorities in both houses of Congress and a Republican president who promised to do away with ObamaCare, once and for all.   “NO MORE EXCUSES”, they told Congress.

But it seems voting this hot mess out is not nearly as simple as voting it in.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is trying to ram his “ObamaCare Light” plan through Congress.  But unlike Pelosi’s sheep, conservative legislators in the Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Group and a few brave senators want to see what’s in it and make it right before they pass the bill.

Ryan’s AHCA plan disguises and leaves in place many of the worst provisions of the ACA.  There are so many details that I won’t even try to elaborate here.  But I have one overriding concern about Ryan’s plan.  It does nothing to reduce the cost of health care, and may have the opposite effect.

Only one thing lowers the cost of any product, and that’s competition.  Until consumers make their own health care buying decisions in a competitive free market with transparent pricing, costs will never be reduced.

The GOP plan doubles down on the Medicaid expansion of ObamaCare, continues government subsidies in the form of refundable tax credits (some citizens will get cash back from the government because they pay little or no federal tax), and retains mandates that force individual and employer participation.  This distorts the market and makes health care just one more entitlement, edging us ever closer to a single-payer national plan.  And it further isolates the end consumer from health care purchasing decisions.

The first step must be the complete repeal of ObamaCare.  In 2015 both houses of Congress passed a bill under reconciliation that would fully repeal ObamaCare at a future date.  It was, of course, vetoed by President Obama.  Why not present the same bill to President Trump?  Then let the “invisible hand” of the free market find the appropriate price levels for health care instead of over-prescribing and over-pricing everything by running it through the same big-government machine that pays $700 for a toilet seat.  With all the complexity and control of ObamaCare completely out of the picture, Democrats and Republicans would be forced to start fresh with new legislation to protect consumers and provide a humane, and hopefully more efficient, safety net.

Even before ObamaCare the federal government was the biggest purchaser of health care.  The worst thing our legislators could do right now is pass a watered-down bill that leaves too much of the nasty old fat in the sausage, hoping to squeeze it out later.

Most of us can take care of ourselves and our families if the government will just get out of the way and let the miracle of the free market work.  That would be a big step toward making American great again.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

All I need is a miracle, all I need is you
All I need is a miracle, all I need is you
All I need is a miracle, all I need is you

Mike and the Mechanics – All I Need Is A Miracle