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Lawless Laws

On days like today, I wonder what was in the manila envelope some “security” firm personnel handed to John Roberts. Was it photographic evidence of an affair? Was it a copy of the trial record on which the discrepancy was circled which led to the proof that Roberts murdered somebody? Was it a record of his having been in a rehab center for cocaine addiction under a fake name?*

I have to believe that blackmail is involved, because the alternatives make no sense. John Roberts has gone out of his way to support Obamacare, either pretending he can’t read or indulging in some Post-modern school of literary criticism where words have only the meaning we ascribe to them at the moment. The first time he supported Obamacare, the states’ argument was that the federal government had no constitutional power to fine people for not purchasing a product. The Obama administration argued that it did, emphasizing in oral arguments that the penalty for not purchasing health insurance is a fine and not a tax.

Roberts knew that fining people for not purchasing something that is not even alluded to in the Constitution is blatantly unconstitutional. What he did to get around that was to call the penalty for not purchasing health insurance a tax.

Well, that makes the situation so much better. Fines are now taxes. I guess that I went to the courthouse to pay my speeding tax. Corporations that commit federal no-no’s suddenly have to pay enormous federal taxes.

Even more special is that Congress can now require us to do anything as long as they “tax” us for not doing it. This is an expansion of the already expansive taxing powers of the federal government. In 1934, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins was concerned that the proposed Social Security Act had no constitutional basis, which it didn’t. At a tea party, Supreme Court Justice Harlan Stone in 1934 told her “The taxing power of the Federal Government, my dear; the taxing power is sufficient for everything you want and need.” Apparently because the federal government has the power to tax, Congress can levy any tax they want on anything we do and, now, anything we don’t do. That’s a new definition of freedom.

Apparently, John Roberts and the rest of the majority didn’t think that the power to tax was flexible enough. Constitutionally, Congress, the elected representatives of the people, is also known as the legislative branch because they are entrusted with making law. The President and his administration are also known as the executive branch because their job is to execute, i.e. put into practice and enforce, the laws that Congress writes. That’s known as the separation of powers. Congress has the power to legislate; the President has the power to execute.

SCOTUS’s decision in King v. Burwell ends all those inconvenient constitutional formalities. The ironically named Affordable Care Act as Congress wrote it reads that federal subsidies to purchase health insurance are available to people who purchase their insurance in public exchanges “established by the State.” About 14(?) states established state exchanges for purchasing health insurance. The other 36 states chose not to, so their residents had to purchase health insurance through the federal exchange.

It would seem to me that, based on the wording of the law, only people who purchased their insurance through state exchanges were eligible for federal subsidies. I claim some expertise on this subject since I have an English degree and I taught reading, writing, and grammar for almost 24 years. Unless we’re purposefully using figurative language, words mean what they mean. They have denotations—dictionary definitions. It is this agreement about what words mean that allows us to communicate clearly. When Congress writes a law, it is communicating to the President what it is directing him to do, which he is constitutionally obligated to do.

President Obama and his Administration don’t agree with this principle. They believe that they can change laws when it suits them. In 2014, mandates to employers of 50-99 employees and of 100+ employees to provide health insurance for most or all employees were supposed to go in effect. The Administration, without any congressional authorization, decided to delay the mandates until 2015/2016. The ACA, as written, provides health insurance subsidies only to those who purchase their insurance exchanges “established by the State.” The Administration decided, through the IRS, to give subsidies to people who purchased their health insurance through the federal exchange contrary to the law that Congress passed.

In its decision on King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court essentially codified the Administration’s ability to “interpret” (read as “change”) a law any way it wants regardless of what the law plainly states. No matter what law Congress passes and the President signs, if he doesn’t agree with it or find part of it convenient, he can change it.

How are we supposed to live in a country where the laws as written can be changed arbitrarily by the President or the Supreme Court. It’s like playing Calvinball from Calvin and Hobbes. For those who don’t know or remember, Calvin and Hobbes would play a game and constantly change the rules based on what would give one advantage over the other at the moment.

The Court has just expanded the President’s powers exponentially by removing the separation of powers. The President can now rewrite legislation as it suits him. He can ignore the plain will of the Congress—the people’s representatives.

This process of expanding executive powers is similar to what happened to the Roman Republic. At the beginning of the Republic, the Senate wrote the laws, and the Consuls (chief executives) carried them out. Over several decades, the consuls gained more and more dictatorial powers. Augustus Caesar recognized this reality and took upon himself the title “emperor.” Rome became a republic in name only. The Senate still met, but their deliberations meant little.

As I was writing this, the news broke about the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage. They overruled the voters of 30 states who voted for marriage amendments based on a new constitutional right they just found in the Constitution.

Well. It seems we don’t need Congress or state governments anymore. The way matters are proceeding, we’ll just look to the President and the Supreme Court to tell us what to do.

*I am not accusing John Roberts of anything. I am speaking hyperbolically.

Esau Jardon had a rough couple of weeks—all because he spoke his mind.

It began innocuously enough. Jardon, a Christian jeweler in Canada, made a pair of wedding rings for a lesbian couple. Nicole White and Pam Renouf. They were so pleased with the service and the price that they recommended Jardon’s services to friends. One of those friends went to buy an engagement ring and saw this sign in the shop: “The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let’s keep marriage between a man and a woman.”

When White and Renouf heard about the sign expressing Jardon’s belief about marriage, they were very upset and demanded their money back. Initially, Jardon refused to refund their money. As White and Renouf had said, Jardon had treated them very well. They demanded a refund because his expressed beliefs about marriage offended them.

Unfortunately, others were also upset with Jardon’s expressed beliefs. Jardon received hundreds of hate messages, some including threats. One message read, “you better give them the money back or you will be very, very sorry.”1 Jardon eventually gave in to the threats and refunded the couple’s money. Well.

Political correctness is chipping away at our freedom of speech. About half of Americans think that we should have tougher hate speech laws according to The Economist.2 Although the poll, specifically narrowly defined hate speech as “public comments that advocate genocide or hatred against an identifiable group based on such things as their race, gender, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation,” not everyone sees hate speech as so limited. One person’s expressed belief is another person’s hate speech, which must be punished if Jardon’s experience is any indication.

Another attack on free speech is the attempt by Islamists to impose Shariah law on our speech. Pamela Geller recently held a Muhammad cartoon contest which, predictably, incited jihadists to attempt to kill the participants. Geller has refused to back down or apologize for her exercise of free speech   A Vermont restaurant took down a sign advertising bacon because a Muslim vegan found it offensive. Oxford University recently recommended that writers publishing through Oxford University Press not mention bacon or pork or words that could be construed as referring to bacon or pork for fear of offending those offended by bacon or pork. I’m going out on a limb and suggesting that those potential offendees would be Muslims as Jews have never had a problem with writing about bacon or pork.

In light of the attacks on free speech, I’ve made a decision. I will continue to exercise my right to free speech regardless of unconstitutional laws or people being offended by it. I won’t deliberately go out of my way in order to offend people. However, if some people find what I have to say offensive, that’s their problem. I will not be silenced by intimidation or social pressure of any kind.

Consequently, I will defend everybody else’s right to free speech. As Beatrice Evelyn Hall wrote in her book about Voltaire—The Friends of Voltaire—“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I’m a Christian. If someone wishes to disrespect Christ (I did as a teenager), they can have at it. People have been cursing and mocking Him for millennia. Somehow or other, the Gospel still gets out, and Jesus rescues many of the mockers from sin and Hell. I know that from personal experience.

I’m a conservative with libertarian and reactionary tendencies. Want to make fun of conservative positions or call me an idiot for holding them? Go for it. I just assume that people who do that can’t support their own positions with logic and evidence.

So here’s the deal. Everybody says what we want to say, except threats, libel, and slander.  If anybody doesn’t like it, that’s too bad for them.  We silence nobody.

 

 

  • Dreher, Rod. “Heads LGBTs Win, Tails Christians Lose.” The American Conservative. N.p., 21 May 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.

 

  • Power, Louis. “Jeweller Says He Has Been Bullied, Threatened.” The Telegram. Transcontinental Media GP., 18 May 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.
  • Frankovic, Kathy. “America Divided on Hate Speech Laws.” YouGov: What the World Thinks. Economist, 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 26 May 2015.

Some well-meaning person a couple of centuries ago laid down the etiquette dictum never to discuss religion and politics.  That makes no sense for Christians or those living in a self-governing republic.  And that’s putting it in the kindest words I can come up with.

First, the politics.  Can effective citizens not discuss politics?  Do political ads or the media tell us everything we need to know about candidates for office or important legislation being considered?  I think not.  Making informed votes and giving meaningful input to our representatives about important legislation require enough accurate information.  Listening to other people, especially those we would normally disagree with, gets us out of the echo chamber of our favorite channels and websites and gives us a look at candidates and legislation from different perspectives.

What about religion?  Isn’t that a personal, private matter not appropriate for the public square?  It could be, for a personal, private religion.  For religions people did not make up just to experience some kind of peace or joy within themselves, silence fails.  Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Muslims would be incredibly selfish to be silent about the only way to escape a present or future Hell.*  For Christians and Muslims, it would also be disobedient.  They are adherents of missionary religions–though the methods are quite different–which command that the believers tell others about their respective ways of salvation.  To expect or demand that believers be silent about what and who they believe is ridiculous.

But won’t people get upset and argue about religion and politics?  Some will.  We can choose, however, to behave like mature, thoughtful adults.  We can listen to other points of view without feeling so insecure in what we believe that we can’t handle any challenge to it.  Who knows?  We might even learn something.  Perhaps we’re not 100 percent right about everything.

Here are some ways of mixing religion and politics for Christians.  I won’t speak about mixing the other religions’ adherents’ political and religious responsibilities mainly because I don’t know them well enough to do so.

The best place to start is to look in the Bible for what God has to say about Christians’ political responsibilities.  I could be a liar or talking through my nose, so it’s better to check what I say against the ultimate authority.  Good books to look through for political principles are Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Judges, Ist Samuel through Nehemiah, the Gospels, Acts, and Romans.

The sine qua non of Christians’ religious responsibilities is to pray.  Everything else we do–vote, discuss politics, contact our legislators, campaign, write, run for office or what have you–are pretty useless if we don’t.  If we want God’s blessing on America, we need to ask for it.  The Bible discusses a couple of specific ways for us to pray.

We need to pray for our leaders.  Paul commands this in 1st Timothy 2:1-3.

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,…

Notice that this does not say to pray for leaders who we agree with or even good leaders.  Paul lived in the Roman Empire under some very nasty emperors and governors.  We might think that this or that president, governor, judge or congressman is awful, but we still need to pray for him or her.  In fact, we need to pray for bad leaders all the more.

We don’t have to agree with everything that a leader does.  We can pray for a president and still discuss how we disagree with a particular policy or decision.  If we believe an official is doing something illegal or unconstitutional, speaking out against it is not only permissible but necessary.  Our leaders are only human beings.  They can make mistakes or hold immoral policy positions like anyone else.  When a leader promotes injustice or immorality, we must speak out about that particular issue, while we are praying for him or her.

We also need to remember the most important leaders:  the citizens.  We live in a self-governing republic.  That means our government works for and answers to us.  Every election, we have the choice to keep the current leaders or elect new ones.  The citizens are in charge.  Therefore, we are to pray for the citizens just like we pray for any other leader.

This post went in unexpected directions.  Maybe that’s a good thing or a God thing?  In any case, this subject requires another post or two.

*  I can’t speak about Jews’ missionary efforts because I’ve never heard a clear teaching about either a command to tell other people about Yahweh or heaven and hell.  I don’t intend to denigrate Judaism in anyway.  I was brought up a Jew and later was dragged kicking and screaming into faith in Christ.

I stole the title. Richmond.com uses that on their Twitter feed as a title for discussions of anti-social Richmonder behavior, such as not cleaning up after the dog during a walk. A much more serious Richmond issue exists that needs to be addressed.

Since I’ve been driving for Uber, an online taxi service, I’ve gotten to know Richmond a lot better.  I lived in the city for about 15 years, but moved out to the counties over ten years ago. In that time, the city has changed quite a bit. Many of the old, dilapidated neighborhoods now have new apartment buildings and houses. I don’t know how it was possible, but we have even more restaurants and clubs. There definitely seems to be less crime as women are walking around the downtown area at night with apparently no thought of danger. All in all, the city has definitely improved.

I like how the city has changed so much that I feel like an ambassador when driving out of town passengers. I tell them about how there’s always something to do as we have so many festivals and outdoor concerts. The Bacon Festival seems to wow them. The James River has class-four rapids in the middle of the city. We’re a foodie destination with Richmond chefs and restaurants getting national notice. There are the Jefferson, Maymont Park, historical sites, farmer’s markets all over the place, and on and on. The people are friendly and laid back. Driving around on a sunny day, my passengers see Richmonders strolling around, relaxing on restaurants’ outdoor patios, and generally having fun. There’s a lot to brag about.

One embarrassing issue, however, is impossible for my passengers not to notice. The vast majority of my driving takes place downtown and in the Fan, one of our older and more diverse neighborhoods. Unfortunately, these areas contain our oldest and most “diverse” roads. Some streets have potholes left after the winter. Many streets have a lot patch-job paving after water or sewer repairs. Some of the man-hole covers, apparently by design, are potholes. Driving these roads punishes both my car and my passengers.

The badly maintained streets scream city government incompetence. If there is one thing a city ought to do and do well is maintain the streets. It shouldn’t be rocket science. We have decades of data about repairs and maintenance. We should be able to predict maintenance needs (the wear and tear, the damage from the weather, and the number of patches from sewer and gas repairs) and budget accordingly. Streets that get the most use should be regularly repaved.

I can’t imagine the city doesn’t have the money. Thousands of new tax-paying residents have moved into the city if the new apartment buildings all over the place are any indication. Given the meals tax, the new restaurants ought to be pouring cash into the city treasury. If the city doesn’t have the money to properly maintain the streets, perhaps the issue is fiscal incompetence. Considering how many stories of Richmond government wasting money have been written, this is more than likely the problem.

This issue is making me rethink a discussion I recently had with a political activist. We both agreed that libertarians are wrong that roads should be privatized. However, thinking about how badly the roads of Richmond have been maintained reminded me that everybody has reasons for what they believe. The libertarians are reminded of government incompetence every time they drive in the city. Perhaps they think the private sector could do a better job.

I still don’t think that privatizing the roads is a good idea, but privatizing the road maintenance merits some thought. What if the city hired one private contractor to maintain the roads? The road contracting companies could bid for the job, giving realistic budgets for the cost of maintenance and a reasonable profit. If after a year or two, the contractor is not doing a satisfactory job, he or she could be fired and the job put out for bids again. Even if the experiment failed, the city would at least know what a realistic road maintenance budget is and plan accordingly.

Obviously, the issue of street maintenance is more complicated than can be discussed in a few paragraphs. Nevertheless, certain basic facts remain. The local government is responsible for maintaining the streets. If the streets are not maintained properly, the local government isn’t doing its job. Richmond is a great city with a lot going for it. A government that maintains the streets properly would go a long way in making the city better.

Hillary, come save us!!

“Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion so you can do more than just get by. You can get ahead and stay ahead, because when families are strong, America is strong. So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote, because it’s your time, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”

I can honestly say that Hillary Clinton’s announcement video left me almost speechless. Anybody who knows me well would say that is—perhaps unfortunately—a rare occurrence.

The very first sentence, about how the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top, defies anything approaching logic and is another lame appeal to class warfare. If the deck is stacked in favor of the rich, the one-percenters, then it must be stacked against the rest of us? How? What is it that the rich can do that would prevent the rest of us from working hard, saving and investing our money, starting businesses, or doing anything else that would that would improve our finances?

Even the one advantage that the rich do have, that of being able to bribe congressmen and women to carve out provisions in the tax code that benefit their businesses or investments, doesn’t keep any of us from improving our personal financial situation. Even after six years of Obama, we still live in a capitalist economy in which we can make choices that benefit us and our families. While we might have to pay far more for health insurance, we can still get a part-time job temporarily to pay off debts, build up savings for investments, or save some seed money for a business. We can still go to school to retrain ourselves for a different career. We still have options.

Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.” Really? Those big business bully boys are attacking us, and we can’t defend ourselves? Hillary will come, a knight in shining armor, to defend us weak middle and lower class peons who don’t stand a chance against the rich who are doing something or other to us. Again, what are the rich doing to hurt us, and why can’t we improve our own finances?

By the way, isn’t Hillary a member of that one percent? I’ve heard she makes at least $200,000 a speech. That’s almost four times as much as I’ve ever earned in a year. Hasn’t she gotten book advance deals in the millions? If she’s not a one-percenter, she doesn’t have a clue about money.

“So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote.” This is the one part of the speech that almost makes sense. In eight years as a senator and four years as secretary of state, Hillary has not earned our votes. Can anybody name one solid accomplishment she made in those 12 years, besides getting elected and appointed? Is there any legislation that she forwarded? When she left the State Department, was America’s position in the world better? Did she negotiate any treaties that furthered our interests or actually promoted peace anywhere in the world? No, no, no, and no.

If she hasn’t earned our vote in 12 years of public service, how will she do it on the campaign trail? Will talking earn our vote? Will listening to sympathetic voters in carefully staged campaign conversations do it? No, and no.

The people who produced this ad must think we’re stupid and want to be taken care of by the government. I so hope that’s not true. We’re well capable of taking care of ourselves without Hillary’s championing us. If she is elected, we’ll get the government we truly deserve.

Pot Kettle Black

There has been a terrific uproar since Indiana became the 19th or 20th state to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  As I understand it, the law was passed so that people would not be forced to lose their First Amendment right of freedom of religion by being forced to participate in activities that would violate their consciences.

Here is the ironic part of Indiana’s situation.  Several businesses and people have declared a boycott on doing business in Indiana because they believe Indiana is doing something immoral by allowing business owners to refrain from participating in activities that would cause them to violate their conscience.  These people cannot –IN GOOD CONSCIENCE–do business in a state that allows immoral activity, i.e. deciding not to provide services for a gay wedding. How is it okay for some people to refuse to do business because of moral concerns but not okay for others?  Isn’t that a hypocritical position?

Additionally, the people calling for a boycott of Indiana are attempting to force the state government to force business owners to violate their consciences.  The business owners are not trying to force anybody to do anything.  Why should they be forced?

Are there new definitions of fairness, respect, and tolerance that I don’t know about?

                                                               He is a kinsman to the Montague;
Affection makes him false; he speaks not true:…
I beg for justice, which thou, prince, must give;
Romeo slew Tybalt, Romeo must not live.

 

                                                                                                             Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

 

I don’t know why anybody doesn’t like Romeo and Juliet. It’s probably the language, but knowing the basic plot, it’s not all that hard to figure out what’s happening, at least on stage or in a good movie version.

People’s ignorance of the play is a shame because, like so many of Shakespeare’s other plays, it is extremely relevant to what happens in our lives. In the speech above, Lady Capulet is demanding Romeo’s death because he killed Tybalt, her nephew. She automatically assumes that Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin, gave false testimony about what happened. Benvolio had told the truth, explaining that Romeo attempted to be at peace with Tybalt but killed him after Tybalt had killed Mercutio, Romeo’s best friend.

Unfortunately, I’ve reacted similarly when angry, making faulty decisions and prejudging situations before I’ve listened to people explain the circumstances. My emotions ran high, making my intelligence low.

A similar situation occurred with the Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. When news of the shooting broke out, people automatically rushed to judgment, blaming Wilson for shooting an unarmed black man who was trying to surrender, probably because Wilson was racist. Others, rushing just as fast, automatically assumed that Brown was a thug who got what was coming to him.

Both of these judgments occurred before there was any investigation. People saw the news on television, listened to radio commentators, and just assumed that Brown was guilty of assaulting Wilson or that Wilson was guilty of shooting Brown down in cold blood. Both sides assumed racism. Brown did what he did because he was a young black thug. Wilson did what he did because he was a white racist cop. It didn’t matter that no autopsy had taken place or that witness testimony had not been taken and investigated for accuracy. People saw the news and saw what they wanted to see.

 

Unfortunately, this “sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,” as Dr. King said, did an awful lot of damage. Before any kind of serious investigation took place, crowds were out in Ferguson’s streets, protesting Wilson’s shooting of Brown. The militarized Ferguson police force attempted to use shock and awe to control or disperse the protestors, and the protests escalated. Over the following weeks, the protestors began destroying Ferguson businesses to communicate their anger.

The police were also hurt by people’s prejudgments. Officer Wilson had to go into hiding with his family out of fear for his life. His career as a policeman is over, even though he had an exemplary record and had never used his gun on a suspect before shooting Michael Brown. There was a declared war on police, with two officers in New York being killed execution style for no other reason than they were police officers.

Are there bad cops? Sure. But acting prejudiced towards them, assuming racism and ill will on their part, is just as bad as racism. A whole group of people are judged and condemned because of the actions of a comparative few.

Race relations also took a hit. Just like with O.J. Simpson and George Zimmerman, people divided along racial lines regarding the guilt or innocence of the suspects. People rushing to judgment before serious investigation took place deepened the racist neural paths in our brains.

 

Seven months later, the investigations are complete. The grand jury in St. Louis, after examining the evidence—perhaps after examining more evidence than should have been available—declared in November that there wasn’t enough evidence to try Darren Wilson for murder or any other crime. Eric Holder’s Justice Department, after three more months of investigation, stated that Wilson committed no crime nor violated Michael Brown’s civil rights. Had there been any evidence to support his guilt, Darren Wilson would have been arrested on federal charges and given a court date by now.

Too bad that much of Ferguson burned to the ground, innocent policemen were killed, and racial tensions were stirred up before the investigations were completed. We could have avoided all that nonsense had we not rushed to judgment but waited for the investigators to do their jobs and let the truth come out. Perhaps we can get it right next time.

A good step in that direction would be for the people who condemned Darren Wilson prematurely to admit they were wrong and (let’s get a little crazy here) apologize to the man for prejudging him. Unless that happens, I’ll be surprised if at the next incident there isn’t yet another rush to judgment.

“SECOND, people purchase the health insurance they want from the insurer they want, just like car insurance. People could purchase an expensive comprehensive plan that covers routine care, a less expensive high-deductible plan, or a plan that only takes care of medical emergencies, like we had back in the 70s.”

 

So I wrote in the column on health care reform that appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch last Sunday. The underlined section was poorly worded to say the least. The phrase “medical emergencies” suggests car accidents, broken and bloody limbs, 3rd degree burns over the majority of someone’s skin, and the like. I should have chosen my words more carefully, which looks pretty bad for someone who wants to earn his living from writing.

A better phrase would be “catastrophic care.” This includes emergencies involving ambulances and emergency rooms, but it also refers to serious illnesses requiring expensive treatment. For example, treatment for cancer, lupus, Crone’s (?) disease, and serious mental illnesses would be paid for. Minor routine illnesses and injuries, would be paid out of pocket.

A really smart insurance company would pay for or at least subsidize routine checkups and standard diagnostic tests that would catch serious illnesses before they became serious. They could also give discounts for maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and other good health habits, like they do with car and life insurance policies.

The Washington Post recently published an editorial comparing the Republicans’ opposition to Obamacare to the Democrats’ Massive Resistance to school desegregation in the 1950s. That’s comparing apples to chainsaws. In an op-ed rebutting the editorial, John Whitbeck, the Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, rightly points out the difference between opposing a very expensive and ironically named government program —the Affordable Care Act—and supporting racist policies and practices.

What would help the Republicans oppose Obamacare effectively would be to have an obviously superior conservative alternative that would bring down the cost of both health care and health insurance. Fortunately, I happen to have one right here.

 

FIRST, we take care of our health. We put down the potato chips, get off the couch, and do some yard work. Swim some laps. Get on a treadmill. Pump iron. Dance. Walk. Something!

The rest of healthy living isn’t exactly a secret. At the grocery store, more fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats, skim milk and whole grain whatevers go in the cart, with less pizza, cookies, sodas, and beer. We stop smoking or, if we can avoid addiction, smoke a really good cigarette or cigar every once in a while. We get enough sleep.

If we took care of our health, we’d go to the doctor less and buy less medicine. We don’t pay for health care we don’t use. Who knows? The law of supply and demand could kick in, and we pay less for the health care we do use. In any case, we’d save money.

NOTE: This does not require an act of Congress. We don’t need anybody’s permission to take care of our health. We don’t need taxpayer subsidies. We can reduce our health care expenses simply by taking responsibility for our health.

SECOND, people purchase the health insurance they want from the insurer they want, just like car insurance. People could purchase an expensive comprehensive plan that covers routine care, a less expensive high-deductible plan, or a plan that only takes care of medical emergencies, like we had back in the 70s.

People could choose not to purchase health insurance. However, if they have a significant health crisis, they shouldn’t expect a bailout from the taxpayers.

There are advantages to the emergency-only plan to both the doctors and the patients. As routine care would not be covered, doctors wouldn’t have to pay somebody to file a claim in order to get paid. Just like when getting a flu shot at one of those mini-clinics inside grocery stores or pharmacies, we would pay the doctor directly for diagnosis and treatment of a minor sickness or injury. The doctor’s overhead decreases, and he or she can pass some of the savings on to the self-paying patients in reduced fees.

Because the insurance companies wouldn’t be negotiating the fees for routine care, the patients could know exactly what the fees are and shop around for the best care at the best price. They would save money since comparison shopping gives doctors incentive to charge reasonable fees. These savings are in addition to the lower premiums of emergency-only health insurance.

Able to shop for health insurance in the free market, workers would no longer be limited to the plans offered by their employers. Instead of giving a limited list of insurance options they subsidize at a fixed percentage, employers could now offer a subsidy for purchasing insurance, money towards the high deductible, higher wages, or some combination of the three as part of a benefits package. Or they could offer higher salaries as one more way to attract quality employees.

What happens to the huge tax break employees receive by purchasing health insurance with pre-tax dollars through their employers? We extend the tax break to everyone by making health insurance a deductible expense. Alternatively, instead of using the tax code to paternalistically punish or reward our behavior, we could simply lower taxes for everybody by about the same amount as the tax break.

What does Congress need to do to empower citizens to have real choices in purchasing health insurance? Using its constitutional power “To regulate commerce … among the several states,” Congress enacts a law that health insurance companies can operate in any state they want as long as their premiums are consistent in every state. People would be able to choose from any health insurance company in the nation. A free health insurance market would mean more competition, an incentive for companies to keep their prices low

THIRD, Congress reforms tort law. This means when doctors make a mistake, the victim doesn’t win the lottery. The lawyers argue over actual and not punitive damages. If a doctor’s error or negligence causes permanent injury, the victim will get lifetime medical care for everything related to the injury and some compensation for the pain and suffering. They won’t become multi-millionaires, nor will their lawyers.

When Congress reforms tort law, doctors’ malpractice insurance premiums (often more than $100,000 a year) decrease. Doctors can reduce their fees, which they would do to keep cost-conscious patients. Prescription costs would decrease a bit as drug companies wouldn’t have to spend so much money protecting themselves from lawsuits.

FOURTH, medical care for people who cannot afford it devolves to the states, localities, private charities, religious institutions, and individuals. The federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in medical care and can’t afford it anymore.

The first resource people should be able to look to for help with significant medical expenses is their families. Family helping family used to be normal. The next resources to look to would be a person’s place of worship and private charities. If they can’t help enough, local and state government should be a last resort.

Additionally, doctors could provide a certain portion of their services pro bono, like lawyers. Many (most?) already volunteer in free health clinics.

 

These reforms aren’t perfect. They don’t guarantee that all citizens get the health care they need. Plus, there are costs. We would have to take responsibility for our health and manage our health care expenses. We would have to be willing to help our family and neighbors with the occasionally unexpectedly high expenses not covered by insurance.

These reforms do, however, have a couple of advantages over the last two reforms (HMOs and Obamacare) we’ve tried. The cost of both health care and insurance would decrease. We would make most of our health care decisions, not IRS or insurance bureaucrats. The $2.0 trillion cost of Obamacare would be eliminated.

In other words, in exchange for taking personal responsibility for our own health care and helping those who need it with theirs, we get a lot more freedom, lower health care costs, and less expensive government.

The first step might be the hardest. Enough voters would have to say to our representatives and senators, “Stop trying to make sure we have adequate, affordable healthcare. You obviously can’t. We can. Restore the healthcare freedom which rightfully belongs to us.”

If enough of us speak loudly and clearly to our elected officials, we could make real reform happen.

Whatever else we can say about the Ferguson grand jury decision, we can’t say there has been a lot of debates, protests and rioting about it.  Everybody seems to have a strongly held opinion.

Unfortunately, 99.9999999% of us weren’t there to witness the incident.  We didn’t see Michael Brown charge Darren Wilson or Darren Wilson stand over Michael Brown’s body unloading his gun in it.

Therefore, those arguing for or against the verdict are most likely arguing from ignorance.  We rely on hearsay reports, including what the media (who rely on hearsay reports) says.  Arguing from ignorance, our opinions mean nothing.   They are based on nothing.  They carry no weight.

We can change that.  The grand jury report has been released.  It includes all of the testimony from witnesses, Michael Brown’s autopsy report, all of forensic evidence, and all of the expert testimony.  Did Darren Wilson kill an unarmed teenager who was attempting to surrender, or did Wilson use deadly force to defend himself?  We can check the evidence out for ourselves.   Until we do, we have nothing of value to say about the guilt or innocence of Darren Wilson.

http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/ferguson/2014/11/25/ferguson-grand-jury-documents/70100296/

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