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This blog used to be about politics. Not so much anymore as I have worked through my fascination with that subject. It now seems appropriate that with a new president and the end of the Bush nightmare that I move on to new subjects that are more in line with my current interests. I may still occasionally express an opinion about political matters but for the most part I will be commenting on music, photography and personal observations. Thank you for reading.

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Sins of omission - The George Will edition

Will South Carolina send a difference to D.C.?

Mr. Will likes to spin phrases in such a way that almost trick you into not realizing that he just omitted a potentially damning detail that would sink his entire argument.

Lets examine a little editorial that appeared in the Tulsa World this Sunday (which the Fort Worth Star Telegram was so gracious to make available)

In the context of a welfare state devoted to assuaging the insecurities and augmenting the competencies of its citizens, conservatism's challenge is to use government -- collective action -- to promote individualism. DeMint believes that dependency can be countered by policies that foster attitudes and aptitudes requisite for independence.

Jim DeMint is the Senatorial candidate that Will is shilling for in this column. If you have to ask whether Demint is a Republican you just haven't been paying attention now have you?

Will earlier defines the welfare state as "health care, education, income or retirement". He makes the point that when people rely on somebody else to pay the bills they have little or no incentive to contain the costs. I agree, and while these categories that Will mentions do account for a large amount of government spending he and his conservatives buddies consistently refuse to include massive corporate handouts masquerading as military spending in their criticism of the government dependency nexus. He also makes it seem like the people pushing for increased social spending are the poor people that pay little or no taxes. I am a little shocked because if you look at the recent drug benefit added to Medicare it is textbook corporate pork. The people pushing for the new spending may be doing so under the guise of helping seniors but the prime beneficiaries will be drug companies, their executives and shareholders. These are the same people that will be the main beneficiaries of tax cuts coming down the road. So yes, Mr. Will, we do run the risk of having a group of unaccountable people who are increasing the amount of money they get from the government while reducing the cost they have to shoulder. Its just not the group that you want us to believe it is.

DeMint did vote against the Medicare Drug Prescription benefit despite White House pressure. So maybe he's not so bad after all huh?

DeMint asks: "How can any free nation survive when a majority of its citizens, now dependent on government services, no longer have the incentive to restrain the growth of government?"

Yes, now just extend that argument into the realm of corporate citizenship. Entire industries are dependent on the spending of the Federal government and they DO push for greater and greater spending all the while shirking their tax burden by hiding assets offshore. Why is it so hard to make this part of the conservative agenda? If they did I might have more respect for them. But I suspect that the conservatives have been in bed with wealthy donors from the corporate sector for too long to start pointing fingers in all the obvious directions.

The conservative message has some merit. But its too bad that they are partnered with the corporatists within the Republican Party. The corporatists are the epitome of the kind of government dependency that people like Will should be screaming about. Instead they focus their attention on what is a politically impotent group, the poor. The corporatists are the funding machine within the Republican Party while the conservatives are able to muster popular support from people that have a deep and bitter resentment for government control over their lives.

Do Republicans realize that their party is a composite of two opposing forces that just happen to complement each other? One side seeks to transfer as much wealth into the private sector for the purpose of creating what is in effect a class of people dependent on government for their wealth, and the other that believes that this process will eventually produce a more restrained government. So when you examine an idea like private investment accounts for retirement or health care, one side is licking their chops thinking about all the new money entering into the Wall Street system and the benefit that will bring to stock prices while the other side thinks that these accounts will mean greater individual freedom and control for citizens.

I think the true conservatives are outmatched and are being taken along for a ride by the current powerbrokers in the GOP. Bush passes tax cuts not because he wants to shrink government and give people more control over their lives, but he does so because it will enrich his corporate donors and therefore generate increased campaign donations. The conservatives are left saying "now he just needs to cut spending".


The other half of the corporatist agenda means transferring as much federal spending into direct or indirect subsidies for select industries. So well-meaning people are left apologizing for the runaway spending happening under the watch of the Republicans who control the White House, the Congress and the Senate... with not a Democrat in sight to blame.

Yet the spending train keeps a rolling...

Puts a lie to all that talk about how it was the Democrats all along.

Back to George...

The key to cost containment is turning patients into cost-conscious health care shoppers, with a personal financial incentive to reduce the "optional" medical problems arising from known risky behavior (imprudent eating, drinking, smoking and driving, inadequate exercise, unsafe sex). Moving away from a third-party payer system means giving individuals ownership of personal health care resources -- those health savings accounts -- that they will have an incentive to husband.

Why has the cost of laser eye surgery fallen 22 percent in four years? For the same reason that the cost of cosmetic surgery has been rising slower than the inflation rate. These elective procedures are generally paid for by individuals, from their own resources.

I fail to see that people engage in risky behavior because they think they won't have to pay for the medical costs associated with that behavior. Most people simply believe that their behavior will not have consequences. Seriously, how many people drive recklessly because they know they have good insurance? Not many people with health savings accounts will be thinking that they better not run through a red light because it might cost them money once they pry their broken body from the wreckage. If possible death and pain is not incentive to keep people from engaging in risky behaviors I doubt money will. If catching AIDS or an incurable disease can't keep people from engaging in unsafe sex, what hope will savings accounts have?

Nobody budgets for accidents, that's why we have insurance. So what's too keep people from blowing their health savings on fake boobs or penile enhancements? Nothing... but what do we do about people who have acted irresponsibly with their money? Do we set up a safety net or do we say "heck, you stupid ass, now you suffer for your own misfortune!" We either go back to what we had, or we accept that we'll have people needlessly dying because they spent all their health money on boobs.

To extend the argument into elective surgeries like plastic surgery and eye surgery is bewildering. What makes health care issues such an albatross is that it doesn't have the same mechanisms as consumer driven markets. It gets sticky when people have no control of the amount or timing of their health care purchases. Its not as if we sit around and decide to have expensive chemotherapy at some point in our lives. Furthermore with these new health care accounts you have a new factor getting involved. Should you decide to have a life saving procedure and spend a good portion of your health savings it will reduce the amount of money you can pass on to your children (at least that's how I understand it because these accounts will be individually owned assets). Will we start to see people electing to not have medical procedures because of pressure to preserve assets for their kids?

Its a consideration isn't it? I won't draw any conclusions though.


About Me

35 yr old
Highlands Ranch
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Voted for Kerry
Voted for Obama
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