Archives for Big Government

Lessons from Single Payer Health Care Nirvana

VAThe last thing that people who want more government control of healthcare need is for people to see the bad things that can happen when the government controls healthcare. But that is precisely the problem that Democrats have now that the skeletons have tumbled out of the VA closet.

The scandal suggests that the “death panels” that Democrats said would never happen under Obamacare in fact already exist in government-run VA healthcare. They come in the form of the secret waiting lists that caused the deaths of dozens of veterans, and the bureaucrats who decide who goes on the lists and how long you have to wait.

Multiple reports have shown that Obama’s administration knew about the growing problem as far back as 2008, and a recent Washington Post report even documented that one VA Deputy Undersecretary went so far as to send a memo up the chain of command detailing seventeen different methods being used in the VA to cover up long wait times.

It will come as no surprise to learn that not one single person has been fired as a result.

For a president who finds time to pick up the phone to congratulate the 249th pick of the NFL draft, you would think that he would have found the time in over five years to make a few calls about this. Instead we get the usual rhetoric that Obama “just found out”, that he’s “mad as Hell” and that they are “investigating the problem”. This pattern is usually followed months later by “we’re still investigating”, then even later by, “that’s old news, what are you, a Fox News reporter?”.

They are turning on the fog machine because they have a fundamental political problem, given that this is exactly what they want the American health care system to look like, (that being big, government-run, and inescapable for the people who have to use it). Obama himself was quoted telling the labor unions that, “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer, universal health care program”. For those who don’t know better, “single payer” means government-run. You know, like the VA.

It is somewhat ironic that the liberals who have spent years pushing abortion “rights”, professing that “nothing should come between a woman and her doctor” are the same folks who dream of a health care system where nothing comes between you and your government, (i.e. your government hospital, your government nurse, your government doctor, your government bureaucracy and your government waiting list).

Considering that this scandal comes at a time when polls show that Americans are nearly split on which party they trust more on health care, it presents what is usually referred to as a “teachable moment”.

People who haven’t been paying attention to the health care debates in recent years need to see the VA held up as the bright, shining example of everything that liberals want health care to be: total government control, no consumer choice, all government employees, (and the unions and union dues that come with them), a secure, generous budget and no incentive to be efficient and please the customer.

Since the media is not going to do that job, it’s up to Republicans.

Here are a few tips for conservatives and candidates running for office this year:

  1. Hold every failure of the VA up as an example of what Democrats want health care to be
  2. Draw a parallel between the VA’s failures and every vote any Democrat has ever cast in favor of greater government control of health care
  3. Wrap it around their necks in everything you spend money on

Conservatives should make the most out of the opportunity to put Democrats and Obama on the spot to support (or oppose) real reforms that would actually help veterans get access to better care, and create a wedge that would make it easier to reform the rest of the system in the future.

Why not move to privatize the VA’s facilities and transform it into a veterans’ healthcare reimbursement agency? Or better yet, let it buy full private insurance coverage for veterans as a group and then let them shop for the best care? Win or lose, it’s an idea that offers something for the victims, and puts Democrats in a bad spot.

It’s messaging 101: find the victim, point them out, then tailor your proposals and rhetoric around helping the victim.

The ongoing messaging problem for Democrats is that, not only are they selling government, but they are selling the most unpopular kind of government, (i.e., the big, inefficient, one-size-fits-all variety), and the VA scandal reinforces the notions that Americans already have about the inadequacies of big government.

Republicans need to help voters get a really good look.

If You Build It, They Will Come

big brotherJust over one month after repeated assurances from the government that the NSA’s data-collection program wasn’t anything like what we thought it was, we’re now finding out that they were right.  It’s worse.

A review of some recent headlines:

“NSA ‘dragnet’ wider than previously suspected” – NBC News

“Report: NSA Searches and Stores Americans’ Emails” –

“The NSA is giving your phone records to the DEA. And the DEA is covering it up” – Washington Post

“White House: NSA monitors ‘very small percentage’ of Web traffic” – The Hill

“US directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans” – Reuters

“Other Agencies Clamor for Data NSA Compiles” – New York Times

“FBI pressures Internet providers to install surveillance software” – CNET

“IRS manual instructed agents how to hide secret DEA/NSA intel” – Reuters

Despite the fact that when the scandal first broke, the government claimed that it was just harvesting “meta data” – supposedly just the same records that your phone company has – we now learn what most people suspected: that they are indeed collecting emails, texts, Internet search and social media data, along with some content.  Further, the snooping isn’t limited to communications from terrorist suspects outside the US, but covers those between regular people right here in the good ol’ US of A.

We were told that this was exclusively about stopping terrorists, but now we find out that the NSA has been sharing its notes with the DEA to assist in its investigations too.  Worse, the DEA is hiding the use of that information from judges and prosecutors; meaning there’s no legitimate oversight of their criminal surveillance practices, making it harder for defendants to challenge the evidence against them.

Now before you shrug this off as not being your problem, (hey, it’s drug dealers!), read further.

According to a New York Times report last week, other government agencies have been looking to get their hands in the NSA’s treasure chest too, in order to “curb drug trafficking, cyber-attacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement”.

Still not close enough to home?  A Reuters report found that the IRS had also been receiving NSA intelligence by way of the DEA connection.  You’ve dealt with the IRS before, haven’t you?  Remember, those are the guys whose leadership and staffers have been found to deliberately target certain Americans based on their political beliefs.

The other reason these agencies want access to the NSA’s data is that any warrants they get for their own investigations have to be specific, whereas the NSA obtains its vast data through secret, generalized warrants.  It’s just easier not to follow the rules.

What we have now with the NSA is an agency that is taking advantage of the legitimate need Americans see in spying on our enemies to build a vast infrastructure that is now being directed at us, even if just incrementally.  But as long as such an infrastructure exists, it WILL be used for things that neither Congress nor the American people ever intended.

It is metastasizing into less of an intelligence agency and more of an intelligence warehouse that is subject to being accessed by other government agencies whose missions would never allow them to conduct this type of spying on Americans.

If you build it, they will come.

Meanwhile, some politicians on both sides of the aisle act as though there’s nothing to see here.  Liberals who manage to find a right to an abortion hiding in the Fourth Amendment don’t seem to know the meaning of the right of Americans to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects”.  And some “conservatives” have forgotten that one of the defining aspects of real conservatism is a very healthy dose of skepticism and distrust of government.

But the politics here is clearly on the side of liberty.  Sixty-nine percent of Americans believe that this is a real scandal that needs to be taken seriously, despite Obama’s lumping it into what he recently referred to as “phony scandals”. Most people think it’s a pretty big deal.

It is now possible to construct a government that could legally snoop on the content of every conversation we have, know everywhere we go, when and with whom, (via cell phone location data and closed circuit cameras), every dollar we spend, when, where and on what – and record every bit of it.  And that information would most certainly enable the government to catch a lot of bad guys and save a lot of lives, but would that make it worth the costs?

Once we decide that we are willing to give up “x” in exchange for more security, we’ll soon hear from the “If it would save a single life” crowd telling us that we should also be willing to give up “y”, and then “z”, etc..

As Ben Franklin put it, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”.

We’re on a slippery slope.

Celebrating (less) Independence

The land of liberty ain’t what it used to be.

Big GovernmentOn the one hand we have faceless bureaucrats becoming more ingrained in our everyday lives, and on the other hand we have judges overturning the will of the voters, whether expressed in referendums or via elected representatives.

Hardly a cause for a celebration of independence.

And just what are we supposed to be celebrating independence from anyway? Large, distant, unrepresentative government that infringes on our liberties?

Take a moment today and read the list of charges made in the Declaration of Independence against the British monarchy. I won’t spoil it for you, but a person could be excused for thinking it was meant to describe some of the actions of our own federal government.

In fact, the last time we celebrated a real expansion of liberty from intrusive, dictatorial government was when the Declaration was written two-hundred and thirty-seven years ago. Each passing Independence Day since has seen a government grown larger at the expense of the liberties of the people it is supposed to serve.

(Read “Common Sense”, the book that helped start the Revolution)

The primary means our Founding Fathers employed to control government and preserve liberty was separation of powers, taking political power and splitting it into executive, legislative and judicial functions. The novel idea was to set them in opposition to one another so that each one would check the powers of the other two.

It would be nice if we actually lived under such a government.

It’s a measure of who is really in charge of our country when you compare the size of the Congressional Record (the sum of all of the proceedings and legislation enacted by Congress) versus the Federal Register (the sum of all the regulations put in place by faceless, unelected bureaucrats). The Register wins hands down, totaling just shy of eighty-thousand pages in 2012 alone – and almost 1.5 million since it was first published in 1936.

The Roman historian Tacitus once said, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws”, but he didn’t live long enough to see a modern “progressive” tax code-enabled, social-welfare regulatory state. Today he might say, “The more oppressive the government, the more numerous the laws”.

So, how did it get to this point? Slowly but surely, Congress passes broad stroke legislation with language like “as the Secretary shall determine”, allowing executive branch bureaucrats to fill in the details. That’s how two-thousand page bills like Obamacare spawn over ten-thousand pages in new regulations.

The problem with the regulatory state is that it is an end-run around the separation of powers. It coalesces more power in the executive branch, (which means into the hands of bureaucrats); and more of it in Washington, DC, as opposed to the state and local governments that are closer to the people.

Of course the beauty of the regulatory state for the political class is that nobody is really in charge. And when a scandal presents itself, it’s met with calls by government enablers for “better regulations”, or more people or money to better enforce them; never with why they should exist to begin with.

The simple fact is the more regulators that the government has (and Obamacare adds an additional sixteen-thousand), the more power it has over the individual, and the more opportunities it has to exert bias, (as the recent IRS scandal demonstrates).

If our representative branch has abdicated much of its authority, the judiciary is steadily eroding what’s left.

Just this past week the Supreme Court claimed that Congress was bigoted to try to defend the definition of society’s most fundamental institution as it has been understood for several thousand years. This was on top of their condoning a lower court decision which threw out a referendum passed on the same subject by voters in California.

Further, Christian Americans are now being hauled into court on “civil rights violations” for refusing to provide services for gay weddings, Christian charities are forced to close in states that won’t allow them to practice faith based adoption services, and others face millions in fines for not providing abortion-related services in company health-care plans.

And this is the land of liberty?

Instead of celebrating independence on July 4th, maybe we should treat the occasion more like Memorial Day, honoring what our Founding Founders achieved, and remembering what we’ve lost.

I think it’s safe to say that they wouldn’t be doing too much celebrating.