Latest Entries »

This morning, I was asked to explain my philosophy and how it shapes my view of public policy in 150-250 words.  It seemed like a good idea for a post.

 

I am a fiscal, social, and foreign policy conservative because I believe in truth.  Truth can be known because God has given us minds able to perceive reality, including moral truth, through the senses, reason, and revelation.  Biblical Christianity is true given that it corresponds with reality.  The Bible says that people were originally created perfect but are fallen and tend to sin, causing the vast majority of our problems.

            Original sin, as G.K. Chesterton put it, is a fact “as practical as potatoes.”  Because of man’s fallen nature, we can’t produce utopias.  Our utopias inevitably become killing fields and gulags where we see the violent deaths of millions and the enslavement of millions more.  The French Revolution, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Communist China, Cuba, and Cambodia prove this.    

            Because of man’s fallen nature, power concentrated in the hands of too few is dangerous.  As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Hence, I believe in limited government with the power delegated to as many people as possible with the private citizens having as much freedom as we can stand. 

            I am a fiscal conservative because it is wrong to spend the money of people not yet born.  I am a social conservative because Judeo-Christian morality prevents social problems that require big government and that make many citizens miserable.  I am a foreign policy conservative because terrorists and other bullies respect only strength and relentless determination.       

Last week, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and Reince Priebus asked for my ideas on how to reduce federal spending and indicated that they would like to discuss them over lunch.  Yeah, right.  Actually, it was a fund-raising e-mail that did ask for suggestions from the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people on their distribution list.  Nevertheless, I bit.  I’m pretty sure I told them more than they wanted to hear.  Here’s what I wrote.

 

There is no one simple and painless solution.  Whatever you decide upon will need to be sold to the American people as necessary, albeit painful. 

 1)  Cut your salaries, perks, and office expenses.  If Americans don’t see you as willing to share the pain, they won’t be on board. 

2) Reform Social Security.  People are living longer, so the age at which benefits start needs to be raised.  People need to expect to work longer.  Means testing should be considered, at least for the wealthy retired.  It’s not fair as they’ve paid the most into the system, but it’s something the wealthy should be prepared to sacrifice.  Also, phasing out  Social Security over several decades should be considered.  Roosevelt’s actuaries told him that the program was financially unsustainable.  Given our demographics, it’s even less so now.   

3)  Reduce health care costs using the following measures.

a.  Reform tort law to reduce doctors’ medical malpractice costs, savings they could pass on to their patients.

b.  Allow health insurance companies to do business across state lines.  This would make the market more competitive.

c.  Change Obamacare so that health insurance companies can offer lower-cost insurance that doesn’t cover routine doctor visits or medication.  This would lower doctors’ overhead by eliminating the need to most medical coding for reimbursement from insurance companies, again allowing doctors to charge less.  When consumers pay out of pocket for medical care, they will shop around for the best care, medications other medical products at the best price, encouraging doctors and pharmaceutical companies to lower their prices.

3.  Reform Medicare and Medicaid by giving vouchers to purchase private insurance for emergencies and for routine doctor’s visits.  The beneficiaries would have the power to choose, and doctors have more incentive to keep their fees low.

4.  Reform welfare much like you did in the 90s.  People need to know there are limits to government compassion. 

 None of this will work if Americans are not willing.  Americans need to be persuaded that the deficit and debt are serious, and fixing it will require that we change how we live.  We will need to take responsibility to plan and provide for our own retirement through saving and investing as opposed to retiring on government welfare.  People should be willing to live in multi-generational households in order to help their parents and pool resources to help build wealth in the family.

We need to take care of our families by working very hard and living within our means.  We need to stop having children out of wedlock and getting divorced unnecessarily; single-parent homes headed by women are statistically the most likely to be poor.   One out of three children lives without his or her biological father, which is a predictor for all kinds of social pathologies which increase the cost of government at all levels.

We, individuals, need to take responsibility to help the genuinely needy, especially within our own families.  By its nature, the help would be temporary and would come with accountability for those able to work.  Private charities and faith communities would respond when the family fails, and local and state government when they fail.  Those unable to work would need to be taken care of on a permanent basis.

Citizens need to stop believing that government can manage the economy or create jobs.  We need to know that we don’t need you to fix the economy.  You can’t, and we can, so you could stop spending money on bailouts and job creation programs.

I won’t be waiting by the phone to hear from Rand, Paul, and Reince.

Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby II

 

Women should not be forced to jump through extra hoops to secure the fundamental health care they need.”              Nancy Pelosi

 

No woman should have to choose between necessary health care and having to pay their bills.

U.S. Representative Tim Ryan

 

Successful people use powerful words and images to connect with their listeners’ emotions.  The idea is to move people to belief or opinion by moving them emotionally.  The audience’s intellect need not be involved.

In a cynical mood, I might believe that politicians would prefer that we not use our intellect at all, at least when they are pushing some policy position or energizing their base.  When we do engage intellectually, politicians’ words are often revealed to be more verbal slight-of-hand than honest discussion of the issue.

Pelosi and Ryan, echoing the Administration’s position about Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, assume that contraception and abortifacients are “fundamental” and “necessary health care.”  To get us to make that assumption as well, Pelosi gives us a picture of women being “forced to jump through extra hoops” to get that basic health care.  We’ve all been through bureaucratic mazes before.  For example, we may have tried to get information from the IRS about taxes or gone through all of the steps required to get a building permit for an addition on a house.  Getting bureaucratic approval for a medical procedure may cause the need for further medication.  Getting approved for immigration or a welfare benefit at least used to be time-consuming and difficult.  We feel the trouble women having to go through all those extra steps to get basic health care on a gut level.

But when we engage the intellect regarding Pelosi’s statement, it makes no sense in the context of Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby.  The decision simply says that Hobby Lobby doesn’t have to pay for contraception or abortifacients because of a religious and moral objection.  The result for women on employers’ health plans does not require any additional bureaucratic hoops.  When a woman (or man) wishes to purchase contraceptions or abortifacients, all he or she has to do is go to the drug store, select the contraceptive or abortifacient, and then pay for it with cash or plastic.  No muss, no fuss.

Tim Ryan uses another powerful image that most of us can relate to:  paying bills.  We’ve all been at the kitchen table sorting through the mortgage, electric, water, and trash bills.  We know what it feels like when we have to choose either which bill we will pay or what necessity or want that we might need to forgo for a while.

However, the image distorts the truth again.  Yes, paying out of pocket for contraception does cost additional money   But it doesn’t have to be much money.  There is a variety of contraception with a variety of costs.  People could choose a low-cost option, say condoms.  A quick perusal of the condom prices on the Walgreen’s website shows that condoms can cost as low as a dollar or so apiece.  A condom and some spermicidal gel shouldn’t break anybody’s budget.

But wait.  Can’t that additional expense add up and be another burdensome expense?  It could.  If people have sex 60 or 70 times a month, it could put a crimp in a modest budget.  All the same, people choose to have that much sex or use a more expensive contraceptive.  It’s not another bill one has to pay in order to keep the lights on.  Of course, with the cost-curve of health care bent up for most of us, any additional expense may be burdensome.

The verbiage “necessary” and “fundamental health care” is more dishonest.  First, health insurance does not cover all basic health care.  Insurance doesn’t usually cover dental hygiene products or over the counter medication for pain and illness.  Most would agree that these items would be part of fundamental health care.  We could go further and define gym memberships, healthy food, eyeglasses, and decent mattresses as necessary health care.  Insurance generally doesn’t pay for those, so why should it pay for contraception?

Second, people can choose not to use contraception and remain perfectly healthy.  They would just need also to choose to take care of their health by not having sex with people they are not married to and be willing to rear a child should they become pregnant.  If people choose to sleep around, they are choosing to endanger their health.  Why should employers and the other people on the insurance plan buy protection for people if they choose to indulge in risky recreational activities?

Regardless of what one thinks about the decision in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, the debate should be honest.  Misusing words to frame the debate reveals that one doesn’t believe that an honest statement of one’s case is defensible.

Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.   George Orwell

During his presidency, Bill Clinton continually assaulted the English language.   He would make statements that sounded as if he meant one thing when in reality he meant something very different.  As a student and teacher of English, I found this deeply offensive.

When one of his nominees for the Justice Department, Lani Guinier, was criticized for some of her radically leftist opinions, Clinton defended her saying “right now” she “is” his nominee.  In hindsight, after she withdrew her nomination, some pointed out that the phrase “right now” indicated that his willingness to stand behind her was meant only for that specific time.

Speaking directly to the American people during a press conference about the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”  Almost anybody would understand that to mean that he didn’t engage in sexual activity with her.  Not so.  By “sexual relations,” he meant sexual intercourse only.  Nothing else qualifies as sexual relations, so everything else he and Lewinsky did-which was quite a lot as further events revealed- was not addressed in that statement.

Clinton also challenged the very the nature of language and communication.  During grand jury proceedings, he was asked about statements his lawyer made as to whether Clinton had sex of any kind with Lewinsky.  His answer was  “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”  He focused on the difference in meaning between verb tenses, which is technically true.  However, like the previous two statements, he used language to mask meaning rather than communicate truth.

Many have copied Clinton’s example as revealed by the Clintonesque abuse of language in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. 

Here are the facts of the situation.  The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision said that private employers, at least of closely held companies, were not required to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients they had a religious objection to.   Hobby Lobby is owned by the Green family. They are Christians who object to to abortifacients which destroy already fertilized eggs, which they consider to be human life.  The Greens had no problems providing 16 forms of contraception on the company insurance plan, just not the four abortifacients required on all health insurance plans by Obamacare.

Here are some statements made by people opposed to the decision:

Hillary Clinton declared it “a serious breach of a woman’s right.”

Charles Trentelman said, ‘it is not right” for an employer “to control the health choices of its employees” and “refusing to pay for valid health care is not okay, it is using employer power to control people.

National Abortion Rights Action League President Ilyse Hogue stated, “Allowing bosses this much control over the health care decisions of their employees is a slippery slope with no end.”

The speakers all use language deceptively in order to frame the debate in terms of their position on the issue.  The first three speakers indicate that an employer not paying for contraception is violating a woman’s right to use contraception, i.e. to control the woman.  This is patently, nakedly, obviously, and without question false.  Women are not being denied the right to purchase or use contraception.  They are denied what some people are trying to make into a right:  having other people pay for their contraception.

Regardless of what is covered in a health insurance plan, nobody is stopping a woman from going to drug store and buying condoms, spermicidal creams or gels, or a morning-after pill.  The woman just has to pay for it from her own funds, not her employer’s funds and the funds of her fellow employees who also pay for the plan.  The employer cannot lift one finger to prevent a woman from going to her gynecologist and getting fitted for a diaphragm.

Yet the language the speakers use paints a picture of bosses as religious prudes pointing a finger and forbidding a woman from obtaining birth control.  In other words, the Supreme Court’s decision will take us back to the days before Planned Parenthood, when women were not legally permitted to purchase contraception.  Now women will have to stay at home and raise all these babies that the employers caused by denying these women access to contraception.

Clinton, Trentelman, and Hogue are using political language as Orwell defined it, misusing words such as “right” and “control,” to indicate that something is happening-employers controlling the health care choices of their employees—that is not happening.  They are trying to solidify wind, blowing smoke at us.

 

This and That

It’s been a while.  Since September, I’ve been teaching and writing the book.  Teaching is a more than full-time job, and add writing a book on top of that, there’s not much time for anything else.

The book manuscript is finished.  The second major revision which changed the form of the book was completed in December.  After that, I proofread it and cleaned up the documentation.  Then it went to a copy editor for further proofreading.  He also made me aware of some publishing conventions.  I then proofread the book once more.  After that three other people proofread it.  Lastly, I incorporated the changes and then sent it off to the text layout designer.

The remaining steps before the book goes to press are as follows:

1)  Get an ISBN number and barcode

2)  Have the book indexed

3)  Get a cover design

4) Get permission from Random House to use “The Unknown Citizen” by W.H. Auden

I’m still checking out printers.   Once I settle on one, I can set a price.  At this point, without shipping, it looks like I’ll be able to price the book close to $15.  We’ll see.

 

Through the Richmond Tea Party, I discovered a group that is practicing and teaching how to practice what I preach in the book Power to the People (Really!).  The group is the Tennessee Center for Self-Governance.  What I saw on their website, http://www.tncsg.org, is very impressive.  They teach citizens how to actively engage their representatives on all levels of government and be part of the legislative process, which is partly how self-government is supposed to work.  If you’d like to make an impact politically, check out their website and find out where classes in self-governance are held locally.

 

Here’s an e-mail I sent out to my contact list.  If you’re reading this blog, consider it addressed to you.

Friends, acquaintances, and people I’ve made eye contact with,

            I e-mailed you a couple of months ago regarding a book I’ve been working on.  I asked you to contribute to the Indiegogo campaign I started to raise publication expenses.  To be honest, I like asking for people about as much as having dental surgery.  However, some of you were nice enough or believed in the project enough to contribute, and I thank you. 

Now that I’m very close to a finished manuscript, I’ll soon meet with my publisher, the Dietz Press in Petersburg, to work out the details of getting the book published and in stores.

            Here’s where I need your help again (writing is a humbling process).  My publisher wants a list of people who will commit to purchase the book.  My publisher is concerned about losing money.  If enough people sign up to purchase books, that issue is off the table, and we can move forward.  The first edition of the book will be paperback and should cost under $20.     

            If you agree to put your name on the list of book purchasers, here’s what you get.

 1.   I will personally sign your book.  I will even try to do it legibly.  Your friends and family will be impressed 

    1. You will be helping to get the message out about citizens taking back the power and responsibilities of real self-government.  Assuming the book has the impact I’m believing for, we’ll be a nation of better citizens who solve the problems the government has been working on for a few generations now.      

     I can’t guarantee this, but I will talk to the publisher about a discounted price.

 If you’d like more information about the book, here are some sources.

 

The book’s website address is http://www.power2thepeoplebookc.ipage.com/

 

The Indiegogo campaign is at www.indiegogo.com.  Search campaigns using “Power to the People.”  You’ll see one with my name on it.  The picture is a flower.  A few people have contributed to the campaign, but more have sent a check directly to me.  If you’d like to contribute, I wouldn’t be upset.  I still need close to $3000 for layout, cover design, and swag for contributions.  I’ll honor the swag commitments on Indiegogo.  I do have a business entity for the book and a business checking account, so I keep the book’s finances separate from my personal finances.

 

I’ve attached the first few chapters the way they will look professionally laid out as a pdf file.  They’ve been cleaned up since that layout, but you’ll get the general idea.    To the 100 Percent is an old title.  

 

Lastly, if you do decide to purchase a book now, the only thing I put on the list will be your name and e-mail address.  I will not sell or rent the list to anybody.  I will show it to the publisher so that he will know that you are real people.  
Feel free to forward this e-mail to anybody you think might be interested.

Thanks,

Craig

If you’d like your name on the list, send me an e-mail at craigcomess@yahoo.com

I finally did it.  I set up the Indiegogo campaign to fund publishing expenses for Power to the People (Really).  I’ve been working on this book for over two and a half years.  Go to Indiegogo.com and search under Craig Comess  or Power to the People to check out the campaign.  You can also read a few sample chapters in the post right before this one (“Power to the People”).  If you like what you see, contribute to the campaign so that I can get the book published.

There’s also a website for the book.  The address is below.  It is very basic.  I’d love to hear suggestions on how to make it better or criticisms of glaring errors.

http://power2thepeoplebookc.ipage.com/

Here’s what I hope is a copy of the PowerPoint video from the Indiegogo campaign.  It looks a lot better here.

 

file:///C:/Users/User/Documents/Indiegogo%20Video%20Pitch.pptx

Power to the People

If anybody is wondering why I haven’t updated the blog for over a month now (anybody?  anybody at all?), it’s because I’ve been finishing my book Power to the People:  It’s Time.  Between teaching full time and working on the book, I just haven’t had time to do the blog.  I’ve got to get the book finished soon in order to get it published by June when I can use summer vacation to market it.  However, because of the deal I’m working out with a small local publisher, I’ll be paying for the copyediting, layout, cover design, and much of the initial marketing.  This is not a vanity publisher, but I’m an unknown author, so they’re taking no chances.  In fact, I’ve got to pre-sell hundreds of books before they’ll publish it.  Sigh.  The publisher can, however, get the book into local chain and independent bookstores.

To that end, I’m setting up a crowd-sourcing campaign on Indiegogo.  For those who don’t know, crowd-sourcing is asking people to contribute funds for the expenses of a project.  I will have to do written and video pitches explaining the project.   As part of the pitch, I’m including a link to some sample chapters.  I’m developing a website for the book, but the econo-platform I’m using won’t allow me to embed a Word file.  WordPress allows that, so here it is.

When I’m finished setting up the website, I’ll do a post on it and include a link.  When the Indiegogo campaign is set up, I’ll do the same.  If you like what you see, please contribute and sign up for a pre-sale copy.  Also, I need you to share the posts and links to the website and campaign.  l will have some swag (bumper stickers?  bookmarks? tee-shirts?  copies of the book?) for those who contribute.  I’ve got to work out the costs (printing and mailing) to see what I can do.

Thanks for your help.

Power to the People Sample Chapters

A co-worker told me I was right today, and I wish I was wrong.

We got one of the last paychecks of the year.  We also got an e-mail explaining that our checks would reflect the 2014 health and dental insurance rates as our employer pays a month in advance.   Merry Christmas to us.

If my situation is typical, our health insurance now costs $40 more a paycheck ($80 a month, $960 a year).  Our co-pays and deductibles have also increased.

My co-worker said that I predicted this situation five years ago.

This should have been obvious to anybody who can do math and understands basic economics.  If 30 million more people are supposed to purchase or otherwise receive health insurance, and the number of insurers and health professionals doesn’t increase, then the cost of health insurance and health care will go up.  It’s called the law of supply and demand, a law that no government policy can eliminate.   Also, if health insurance is supposed to provide more “free” services, whether we want them or not (my household receives invitations to join the AARP; we don’t need free birth control), those requirements also increase the cost.

The government has decided that we must purchase those services as part of my insurance whether we want them or not.  Apparently, we’re too stupid to figure out what we need our health insurance to pay for.

The government has also decided that it doesn’t matter that my insurance premiums increase.  They can decide better how I can spend that not quite $1000 a year than I can.

This has been the progressives’ attitude regarding mandatory health insurance for decades.  When Hillary Clinton was pushing Hillarycare in the early ’90s, she remarked, “We just think people will be too focused on saving money and they won’t get the care for their children and themselves that they need.”*  Government always knows better than the citizen.  It has to make these decisions for us.

Obama sold the Affordable Care Act (appreciate the irony?) as a way to “bend the cost curve down.”  The average American family, he said, would save an average of $2500 a year in health insurance premiums.  President Obama was either lying or clueless when he repeatedly declared those savings as fact.

However, since we’re too stupid to know what health insurance we need, we need to leave those decisions in the hands of people who either have lied to us or don’t understand health care economics.

I still wish I was wrong.  But if I was, and the insurance premiums went down, the progressives would see a better way to spend that money than we could.  They would need to raise our taxes because, as 1990s Hillary Clinton said, “The money has to go to the federal government because the federal government will spend that money better.”

*Thanks for the quote, Holman Jenkins and George Will.

No Political Saviors

Unless somebody has been hiding under a rock, there is no way we can’t know that President Obama did not tell the truth about being able to keep our health insurance coverage if we liked it.   Millions have already had their insurance cancelled.  I’d like to think that President Obama didn’t lie but was making a promise he didn’t have the power to keep.  The general concensus, however, seems to be that he lied.  Leonard Pitts, a columnist for the Miami Herald and an Obama supporter, says that very plainly in the article I’ve given the link to below.

Why should we be surprised?   President Obama is an imperfect human being, just like all of the other presidents we’ve had.  It looks like he’s been dishonest, as so many other presidents were.  Just like the rest of us, President Obama has a number of faults.

President Obama’s sinful human nature contradicts the portrait painted by some in the media and held by many of his supporters of Obama as the perfect president who can do no wrong.  We can look at all of the other presidents in history and see their flaws.  Think backwards to Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Ford, Carter, Nixon, Johnson, and Kennedy.  Some were better than others, but there were no examples of sinless perfection among them.  Kennedy didn’t push as hard for civil rights as he should have.  Reagan failed to veto Congress’s budget deficits and approved several increases in our debt ceiling.  George H.W. Bush broke his pledge on no new taxes with a snarky “read my hips” remark.

President Obama’s failure to tell the truth should remind us that no president and nobody else holding or seeking elective office is the second coming of Christ.  They’re just men and women who may be able to operate our government a bit more effectively.   They can’t save the country from all of its problems.  In other words, they can’t save us from ourselves, the ones who have caused most of the country’s problems.  Only one Christ can and will do that.  At that point, we’ll have concerns larger than politics on our minds.  In the meantime, I recommend that we forgive President Obama, continue to pray for him, and work for or against his policies as we see their merits and defects.  Also, soul searching and repentance on our part would do more to fix America’s problems than any politician can.

http://www.timesdispatch.com/opinion/their-opinion/columnists-blogs/leonard-pitts/pitts-mr-president-you-lied/article_cc5095fa-3a8a-5d81-a73d-fc036f10cb4f.html

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 222 other followers