Archive for March, 2010

Overreach an Understatement

It was fitting that President Obama had an 11-year-old beside him as he signed Obamacare into law Tuesday. That young man will be paying for the legislation all of his life; that is, if he ever rises above the need to receive benefits from the plan.
 
The incentive misalignment of government entitlements slows economic growth and actually impedes social mobility. In this case, how motivated will Americans be to produce more and earn more if it causes them to lose their health insurance subsidies? Why seek a better job that offers health care insurance when the government will provide the benefit?
 
Americans understand this conflict. It’s a reason they came out in droves to oppose the bill.
 
PBS Newshour’s Jim Lehrer asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi how she could reconcile moving the legislation forward when so many Americans wanted it to stop. Her answer encapsulates the perspective of the elite liberal political class that wants to grow the size of government: We don’t give Americans what they want, we give them what they need. How comforting.
 
Obamacare is too complicated, too expensive and too one-sided.
 
Too complicated. I hear the talking points: insure 32 million people, force people to buy insurance, force insurance companies to cover more people and procedures, reduce Medicare costs, etc. In reality, it is immensely difficult to know exactly what is in the 2,000+ page law and how it will be implemented. 
 
At a minimum, Americans understand that the law dramatically expands government entitlements at an economic time when we need to be reducing them. They know that reducing Medicare costs means reducing care for seniors.
 
Democrats talk enough about the evils of heartless, premium-raising insurance companies to assume that the law “sticks it to them” in ways that will either drive them out of business or force them into a government-prescribed box. As a result, Americans believe that the law will ultimately lead to a highly regulated, single-payer system.
 
Too expensive. Americans instinctively know that the law’s trillion dollar price tag means an infiltration of government into our bank accounts, not to mention into our health care delivery system. They know from history (i.e., Social Security, Medicare, etc.) that entitlements get costlier over time, not cheaper.
 
Too one-sided. Mr. Obama stated that “we rose above the weight of our politics” to pass the law, a dubious claim given that he, in all of his eloquence, could not persuade a single Republican to support it. Contrast that with his predecessors. In 1935, FDR got 97 Republicans to vote for Social Security. In 1965, LBJ garnered 73 Republican votes for Medicare.
 
Mr. Obama’s campaign promise of bi-partisanship has gone up with the smoke of his last cigarette. His party disregarded the calls of the American people and disrespected the rules and customs of the United States Senate. He has commandeered a huge chunk of our now less-free health care market. To say he overreached would be an understatement.

I understand that to the victor go the spoils. It is still hard to watch America’s uniqueness evaporating. Our ancestors broke from Europe to pioneer a better, freer way. But now the European way is catching up to us. Welcome to the United Social Democracy of America, where government dependence is the new independence.

A Hand Up

Have you ever noticed how many hospitals are named for some brand of the Christian faith? Before there were trillion dollar health care bills, there were believers who cared for the sick. Baptist, Methodist, Santa Rosa. The Christians competed to see who could best be the healing hands of Christ. Still today, the faithful rise to help the downtrodden.

In Kendall County, the Christian Women’s and Christian Men’s Job Corps mitigate the effects of high unemployment and low job skills. I had my first opportunity to address the men’s corps last month. What a distinct pleasure and high honor.

Each of the eight students in the current men’s class has committed to four hours per night, three nights per week for twelve weeks; that’s 144 total hours of intense, multi-disciplined training. The program covers everything from setting goals personally to how to dress professionally.

The men learn what it means to honor a Heavenly God and to please an earthly employer. They receive technology and life skills, from saving files on a computer to saving financially for the future.

Who teaches them and why do they do it? Local people of faith who wait not for a government agency to pad the plight of those in need; people who understand that faith equals action, that “brother’s keeper” is the role of giving people, not merely government programs.

The result? A program that works, by the grace of God. Dozens of graduates per year receive a hand up, not a hand out.

I wish more Christ-followers rose to such occasions. Today’s Christian church may very well be judged anemic compared to historical records of social rectification. Nevertheless, many Christians are fulfilling the Great Commandment and, in the process, minimizing burdens on taxpayers.

For example, the Boerne Service Unit of the Salvation Army assists people weekly who need short-term help with housing, transportation or utility bills. All with minimal bureaucratic red tape.

On the hunger front, Hill Country Daily Bread provides not only physical food but also spiritual guidance to help address the core issues to surface-level struggles. A clear step up from traditional government food stamps.

No one disputes that a religious foundation underpins our great nation’s history. Yet, the more secular and godless our governments become, the more our governors seek answers to social ills only in growing the programs under their control.

This humanism permeates much of liberalism. If there is no higher power than the human being, then we must aid the ailing with public resources generated by forced contributions (i.e., taxation).

On the other hand, if there is a supernatural father to the fatherless, a defender of the poor and widows, a liberator of the oppressed, etc., the weight of setting the world right doesn’t primarily rest on earthly governments. An Almighty God, through imperfect but willing people, can effect redemption well beyond a government’s reach.

A Tale of Two Missions

W. and O. could not have come from more disparate backgrounds. Still, both bounced into the White House with grand visions of unification. W. had fostered collaboration in Austin with his optimistic magnetism. O. had organized communities in Chicago and inspired millions from the political margins.

Within months of each man’s inaugural, each declared a national emergency of historic proportions. Each described a threat to our way of life that would end up threatening their goal of bi-partisan unity.

For W., the threat was mass murder. For O., it was mass uninsurability. Both men set out on a mission that would divide the country. With zealot-like determination, both sacrificed their visions of inter-party unity for the perceived greater good of their individual missions. W. embarked to free millions from the rule of a brutal dictator. O. set out to protect millions from medical catastrophe.

Both missions would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Both would affect our nation for years.     Both would face increasing opposition and dwindling public approval. Even ardent supporters of the men would doubt their missions.

Still, the stubbornness that drives one to seek the presidency would drive these men to exhaust every available means to stay the course. They believed they came to the national stage for such a time as this. What is right is not always popular, they may have thought, and what is popular is not always right.

W.’s perseverance paid off at least in part this week as 19 million Iraqis faced the threat of death to vote in an election with an uncertain outcome. (In 2002, 11 million voted in an election of certain outcome; Saddam Hussein was the only name on the ballot.) Was it worth it? All the sacrifice of human life? The $700 billion or whatever the count is at this point?

The jury will stay out for some time. But this juror says freedom, even at a high cost, is still a good buy. The alternative costs you much more, like your opportunity, hope, potential, power to choose, the core of who we are as humans.

These costs are precisely why stateside soldiers are up in arms against massive expansion of the federal government, including O.’s mission to insure the literally uninsurable.

The irony: W.’s mission (which was backed by the U.N. and the U.S. Congress, by the way) sent our fellow countrymen and women to bring freedom for a people half-way around the globe. O.’s mission will squelch freedom in our health care system at home.

Health insurers won’t survive ObamaCare’s onerous requirements. If risk management companies can’t manage risk reasonably and then price for it appropriately, their days are numbered. The result will be a single, government-run system. Where’s the freedom in that?

There is none. It’s just the hefty price we’ll pay for handing the keys of leadership to a man on a radical, socialistic mission.


The Railroad Commissioner’s Race

In recent years, both political parties have at times “eaten their own” in primary elections. If an incumbent cooperates excessively with the opposition or lacks platform plank fervor, she faces getting caricatured as ideologically impure and unfit for continued representation.

A reformer then rises to rile the masses (or at least the politicos) and rallies to remove the disappointment. Political cleansing, if you will.

Certain contests across the state had such a tone and outcome Tuesday. One did not: the statewide race for Railroad Commission, an anachronistically-named state agency that manages oil and gas issues. The incumbent sought a second term after being appointed to his post by Governor Perry in 2003 and then elected to a first full term in 2004.

Though a politician when first tapped to serve (councilman of a city of 100,000, then county judge representing 125,000 people), Victor Carrillo was actually qualified for the Railroad Commission. A licensed geoscientist with a master’s degree in geology from Baylor, he also held a law degree from the University of Houston.

In addition to industry qualifications and political experience, Mr. Carrillo has impeccable conservative credentials. Unabashedly pro-life and pro-family (25-year marriage, 3 home-schooled daughters), he garnered the support of virtually every conservative group and statewide official willing to endorse in a primary (most stay neutral in internecine affairs).

The major urban newspapers have no problem playing favorites in primaries, and all but the Houston Chronicle endorsed Carrillo (and the Chronicle made no choice on the matter).

So what caused Victor Carrillo to lose in a landslide, 39-61? Was he outspent? Hardly. He raised and spent more than $500,000. His opponent, a little-known accountant with minimal industry experience from a town of 6,000, expended less than $30,000.

Was Carrillo outworked? Not apparently. He covered the bases of direct mail, radio and print advertising, “robo” phone calls and personal campaigning. Was it because he was an incumbent? No. Other statewide incumbents won going away.

I dislike those who play the race card almost as much as I dislike outright racists. While I understand the need for historical affirmative action, I rarely think people’s plights today are dictated by their race. Too many of all shades have accomplished too much.

But in Commissioner Carrillo’s case, no explanation exists except he was discriminated against because of his Hispanic surname.

Making the sin more egregious, our party has voted out a key connection to the fastest growing voter group in the state. With no Hispanic Republican in the Texas House or Senate, we’ve now expunged one of our three Hispanic statewide officeholders.

(Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman staved off defeat Tuesday by having the good fortune of being opposed by a fellow Hispanic. Her Supreme Court colleague, David Medina, is up for re-election in 2012.)

One should not vote for a candidate strictly because of her race, but neither should a person not vote for someone strictly because of his race.

So three pleas for my fellow Republicans: check your racial biases permanently; if not permanently, at least at the primary voting booth door; and if not there, at least leave blank the races you know nothing about. Better to leave your ballot blank and be thought a fool than to make a mark and remove all doubt.


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