Running on Repeal: A Way Forward in November
We on the anarchist, minarchist, libertarian, and conservative sides have had our various mood swings since Sunday, and now it is time to get past the anger, the shock, the grief, the despair, and the vengeance so that we might constructively foment a way to repeal the recently passed healthcare legislation. And make no mistake about it, we will repeal healthcare reform. However, we must also have something to enact in its place to address the systemic issues of our healthcare system.
Much of the crisis, if there ever was one in healthcare, was nothing more than manufactured histrionics and individual anecdotes. Those individual anecdotes, when taken together, constructed a powerful portrait of a health insurance industry run terribly amok. Forget the uninsured, if you can, and focus on what these companies were doing to their customers. If you had insurance, and you had held a policy for years, with no late payments, and you had the misfortune of being diagnosed with cancer or HIV, you were faced with the very real possibility that your health insurer could and would drop your policy and refuse to cover your treatment. The reasons were varied, but at the end of the day, the insurance companies usually manufactured some flimsy excuse in order to scamper out of their obligation to their customers. They might have deemed a yeast infection a preexisting condition in order to deny coverage for uterine cancer, or some other such nonsense. Abuses were real, even if they weren’t as common as some on the left might want us to believe.
If it were your mother, your daughter, your son, your brother, or your father facing such dishonest and abusive practices, you would have been outraged, and justifiably so. Let us say that the insurance companies earned their reputation and the enmity of their customers. If the rest of the nation reacted with contempt, it was only because the behavior of the insurance industry was contemptible. Moreover, the entirety of this process for healthcare reform, despite all of the hullabaloo and feigned outrage, was driven primarily by insurers seeking to use government power to force individuals into purchasing health insurance.
It is time, ladies and gentlemen, to have a night of long knives come November and the following months, and to ensure that those knives find their place in the heart of the insurance industry. Get out your pitchforks and your torches, because we’re going to get the bastards once and for all. These companies and their lobbyists wrote the healthcare reform bill, and betrayed their real feelings for individual self-determination and liberty in the process. Individuals only have the right to determine for themselves whether or not to buy a product if and only if the industry affected deems it appropriate for them to abstain. Otherwise, an industry may construct a justification for their product that supersedes individual choice, and use the government to compel individuals to buy private products and services. This is tyranny.
It is also a juicy bit of motivation for an outraged electorate. Oh, and the fact that these corporations managed to extract sweetheart deals exempting themselves from price concessions, market competition, and real regulation. And don’t you think for a minute that when the healthcare system finally collapses under the burden of this so-called reform, these same corporations aren’t plotting today to position themselves to administer single payer at the state level in much the same way that private defense contractors oversee food stamps and other welfare programs.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, in addition to exploiting voter outrage over the various deals for states, we will also exploit voter outrage against the backroom deals of the pharmaceutical industry and the exemption of government employees, senators, representatives, and their aides from this bill. We will hammer the left, and we will hammer the insurance industry, and in doing so, we will finally bring market based healthcare to life in this country by lifting the anti-trust exemption, allowing drug reimportation from Canada, and installing a market based on real competition by insurers. Those who fail to compete will fail to survive.
For those in the GOP who might be a little squeamish about the prospect of hammering the insurance industry, I would say this: you should be focused on extricating yourself from any notion that the insurance industry is on your side. They got a better deal out of the left, and they stabbed you and the American people in the back to get it. What’s more, we are going to band together to pay them back in the coldest and most calculating way possible.
Seniors are easy to recruit. They just received cuts of nearly half a trillion dollars to their precious Medicare. The poor? Their Medicaid and SCHIP just got the same treatment. The fiscally conservative? Today, Warren Buffet can borrow money more cheaply than the U.S. federal government can. So can Lowes, and it’s only going to get better as the bond markets react to the real numbers on the law as independent assessors pick through the 2,500 plus pages and find out the real sum total cost of healthcare reform.
Ladies and gentlemen, don’t look at this as a defeat. This healthcare reform is a rocketship back to power if we utilize it correctly. We can decimate the left by depicting them as the allies of a corrupt and abusive industry who enabled that industry to seize unfettered power over the healthcare industry at the expense of individuals and their freedom to determine for themselves as consumers whether or not to buy health insurance and what type of health insurance to buy. We can utterly destroy the insurance industry’s credibility in political matters for decades to come. Any politician who dares to take their money or advocate on their behalf will be seen as toxic.
In short, we can really reduce costs, improve service, and get real healthcare reform done. We can ban mandated treatment by emergency rooms of the uninsured and therefore provide a real incentive for the parents of the 7.7 million children who are eligible for SCHIP to sign them up, thereby ending that form of unreimbursed treatment. We can do the same for the 12 million individuals who come from households making $50,000 a year, or for the significant amount of individuals in the 18-34 year old demographic who refuse to purchase a $300 a year catastrophic insurance policy while spending the same amount on alcohol, tobacco, and recreation as their insured peers who have greater means. Just by banning mandated treatment alone, we can cover nearly 32 million people who will realize that if they don’t have insurance, they won’t be able to walk into an emergency room and receive treatment for which they will ultimately pay nothing. Believe me, they will sign their children up for SCHIP, and they will buy at least a catastrophic insurance policy at a whopping cost of around $25 a month per individual. No more unreimbursed treatment.
Moreover, due to the fact that the anti-trust exemption will be lifted, and real competition will come into the market, prices will go down. The differentiation between comprehensive policies will be real, and individuals and families will be able to choose a policy which meets their unique needs. And drug reimportation? That’ll end our generous subsidy to our neighbors to the north, who now receive cut rates on their pharmaceuticals from U.S. drug manufacturers who pass on the difference to U.S. consumers. In short, we’ll be doing what’s right for the American people while expanding healthcare coverage and access that individuals can choose of their own volition according to their individual needs. Oh, and we can continue the ban on preexisting conditions as well and even bring it up to the current day rather than sunsetting it to 2014, not to mention recidivism.
And the medical industry which sat on the sidelines and didn’t effectively oppose healthcare reform? We’re going to move away from fee for service. Doctor compensation won’t be predicated on how much treatment you give. It’ll be predicated instead on the results of that treatment. An industry that provides six times the cardiac bypass surgery here as opposed to Europe with no greater rate of survivability and no discernible increase in quality of life for patients will be called for what it is: a bunch of practitioners who prescribe treatment based on the voracious appetites of their wallets rather than the health of their patients.
That whole bit about tort reform will be addressed as well. In states where tort reform has been instituted, costs are rising at the same rate as states where tort reform hasn’t yet been implemented. The only thing tort reform affects is the ability of patients to sue their doctors if they operate on the wrong body part or engage in gross negligence and abuse.
We can do all of this, and we can have private, free market healthcare that matches or exceeds what we have today at a better price while simultaneously expanding access and destroying the political viability of the left. For the GOP, this means the ability to link their brand with real healthcare reform which has meaningful and substantive benefits for the American people. For the rest of us in the Libertarian Party, it means limiting government regulation of the industry by lifting the anti-trust exemption and lifting barriers to competition like the drug reimportation ban. By merely tilting the playing field away from fee for service, we can restore Medicare and Medicaid viability in the short term and gain the votes of seniors for years to come.
Let me be explicitly clear: the insurance industry hates these ideas. They hate the free market, they hate capitalism based solutions to individual problems, and they hate individual freedom and self-determination. The only question is why we haven’t been lining up against them for decades now as they’ve directed the government towards the type of freedom quashing healthcare reform that was just signed into law. It’s time to bring the pain to the left and their masters within the health insurance and healthcare industry lobby. It’s time to represent the best interests of the American people, and we don’t even have to do a backroom deal to accomplish this. We just have to be honest and candid about what healthcare reform is and what it means for the future, while articulating what our program will mean. How hard could that be, especially when everyone of the proposals I outlined in the preceding paragraphs will lead to an infinitely better result for the American people?
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Healthcare Reform: Worse than the Patriot Act, or, Objects in Rearview Mirror May Be Larger than They Appear
For all of the huzzah and bustle surrounding the recently passed healthcare reform bill, and the signing of that bill into law by President Obama, key realities are being overlooked. The question we must ask ourselves is this: “How did this happen?” The answers are discomfiting, but we must face the past in order to understand how to deal with the present.
The simple truth is that Republican politics, indeed, the politics of the right, have been run through with hypocrisy for nearly four decades. Of the past forty years, only four had a budget surplus on paper, and those four years were under the Clinton Administration. I add the caveat “on paper” simply because those four years of surplus were not genuine surpluses in that incoming revenues exceeded outgoing expenditures. The reason the Clinton Administration was able to spend more than it took in while claiming a net surplus was, yet again, another Republican betrayal of core conservative and libertarian fiscal principles.
In short, under Ronald Reagan, the Republicans undertook Social Security reform. The reason Social Security reform was necessary was because Social Security had previously been a pay as you go program. Whatever you paid in was immediately taken out to pay for the current generation of retirees at the time. This arrangement worked because employment numbers were generally high. However, in the first term of the Reagan Administration, unemployment was high. Unemployed workers don’t pay Social Security withholding, and for the first time, people were beginning to see that Social Security was, and had always been, nothing more than a Ponzi scheme where new investors had their contributions plundered to pay dividends to prior investors. Social Security was in the red significantly for the first time in its history. Reform was needed.
Thus, Ronald Reagan and Congress raised the withholding tax rate, and transformed Social Security from a pay as you go Ponzi scheme into a Ponzi scheme which produced a surplus. The Republicans and their Democratic allies in this effort enacted a myth concerning a trust fund, where all of the surplus funds would go to generate interest and greater returns over time. In short, the funds never made it to a trust fund, or a lockbox. The new law on Social Security required that the surplus funds be automatically loaned to Congress. A decade later, the Clinton Administration, using surplus funds from Social Security, was able to construct a mythical budget surplus out of these very funds. Who said Reaganomics didn’t work?
Before Reagan, we had Richard Nixon. Nixon had previously been shuffled out to pasture after losing the presidential election of 1960 to John F. Kennedy. It seemed as though Nixon was done in politics. Lyndon Johnson was undone by Vietnam, and Robert F. Kennedy was undone by an assassin’s bullet. The Democrats soon found what harboring subversives could do a party’s electoral prospects, as the SDS and other such groups turned the Chicago convention into an epic of mayhem.
Enter Richard Nixon, reborn. In 1968, he took the White House, and promptly set about doing every non-Republican agenda item one could have thought of. He established the Environmental Protection Agency, ostensibly to protect the environment. No one who knew Nixon prior to his election in 1968 would have thought him to be an outdoorsman or a conservationist a la Teddy Roosevelt. Yet there he was, establishing an entire new bureaucracy for just such a purpose.
As it turned out, establishing such a bureaucracy with vast powers had nothing to do with protecting the environment and everything to do with securing the mineral rights of that environment and newly protected public lands. A federal government which had previously been forced to rely upon tax revenues in order to cover its budgetary outlays now had broad powers to confiscate land and declare it protected for environmental purposes, but the truth was that the land in question usually had mineral or oil deposits just below its surface. Those deposits could be used a borrowing collateral for a federal government which sought to increase spending while reducing taxes in order to win for itself the consent of the governed through handouts that could be paid for on credit in the present day, with full payment reserved for future generations.
Republicans did not object to this. They had no problem with expanding federal bureaucracy and federal authority, so long as a Republican was the one responsible for the expansion. Nixon also used the FBI to wiretap Americans who demonstrated the temerity to protest the Vietnam War, which the government had been lying about from its inception. From the original two Gulf of Tonkin incidents to the statistics concerning casualties and progress in the battle theater, America’s federal government had lied constantly and shamelessly about the war. In the meantime, America’s intelligence community was busy engaging the most exotic experimentation imaginable, up to and including the administration of hallucinogenic substances to individuals without their knowledge or consent. Lest you think that the intelligence community was out of control or off of the reservation, consider the findings of the Pike Committee, which stated that the opposite was true. The members of the committee found that the intelligence community had merely been doing the bidding of whatever President held office at the time of the malfeasance in question. And yes, Republicans were in office and approved of some of the worst instances of misbehavior and illegality.
The vast majority of expansions of intelligence power and defense bureaucracy have come under the Republican Party’s rule. The legacy of this has been chilling: an FBI which arrogates for itself the power to intrude into every area of our lives, right down to our library records. It is hard to imagine what valid law enforcement purpose the FBI could have in checking the reading material of average Americans, especially since public libraries do not stock illegal books or periodicals. The implications are chilling enough: a federal law enforcement agency which believes that it can glean criminal intent by its subjective classification of certain reading material into categories whereby it may be seen as the information favored by potential terrorists and criminals.
There is the NSA, which is nothing more than an institutional attempt to circumnavigate around the limits placed upon the CIA where domestic spy craft is concerned. You see, the NSA is tasked with gleaning domestic intelligence, which the CIA is forbidden by law from even attempting to accumulate. Again, there are few Republican objections to either the powers arrogated or the abuses springing forth from those powers where law enforcement and intelligence agencies are concerned. The fact that the vast majority of Americans can be persuaded to impart the imprimatur of democratic legitimacy to such efforts if they believe that the efforts are for some general concept of public safety really only serves to further confirm why the Founders chose to enact a republic rather than a democracy. Democracy is the accomplice of tyrants and demagogues, and it always has been. Only the concept of individual rights which limit the reach and authority of a democratically elected government are sufficient to hold democratically chosen tyrannies in check.
On the left, the same agencies which raised unholy and unremitting hell for eight years under the Bush Administration have yet to raise the same sort of hell under the Obama Administration where healthcare reform is concerned, even though healthcare reform is arguably more coercive and just as intrusive as the Patriot Acts which organizations like the ACLU decried. This is not to suggest that the left is more concerned with civil liberties than the right, but only to highlight the fact that the left has a selective concept of just how sacrosanct civil liberties and individual rights are. If a government proposes systemic change under the auspices of the “common good” where welfare programs and entitlements are concerned, the ACLU and other such organizations will remain silent. If a government proposes systemic changes under the auspices of the “common good” where national security and law enforcement powers are concerned, out come the knives, the pitchforks, and the hot rhetoric.
Healthcare reform puts the IRS in our checking accounts on a monthly basis without a warrant or any judicial oversight whatsoever. This vast power and unlimited authority will give the IRS greater abilities to check on transactions unrelated to healthcare as well. Imagine, if you will, the access given to the IRS being used to check for patterns in our expenditures as they relate to consumer preferences and the trends thereof. The information gleaned could be invaluable to private interests. Moreover, the same power to intrude could be used as an end around search warrants where items like money laundering were concerned. Essentially, it isn’t that hard to imagine vast new interagency cooperation emerging out of the new powers delegated to the IRS where the financial transactions and accounts of Americans are concerned.
To those who scoff at such notions and note that nothing in the healthcare bill explicitly allows the IRS to accumulate consumer information in order to sell that information to third party marketing and advertising firms, I say this: nothing in the healthcare reform law prohibits this from occurring. Everything we know about expanded government power is that it inevitably leads to some unforeseen and unintended abuse which takes advantage of gray areas and loopholes in the law.
It may not be likely, but the fact remains that it is possible.
This is exactly why civil libertarians and the leftist organizations who have traditionally advocated for privacy rights ought to be up in arms, and even arm in arm in their opposition to the recently passed healthcare reform legislation. Yet nothing of the sort is happening; moreover, nothing of the sort is likely to happen until after an abuse has occurred. Anyone who points such possibilities out at this juncture will likely be labeled a fearmonger or have their motivations challenged by supporters of the legislation. Yet, when the abuses inevitably occur, individuals will look back at the record and note the objectors are somehow prescient. A prophet is mocked in his own country and in the time in which he issues his prophecies.
Ultimately, however, the blame for healthcare reform lies squarely with us on the right. We were not vigilant enough against those elements within our own parties and organizations to prevent this from happening. One of the more stunning exchanges I’ve had recently with another individual came on Twitter, when this individual came out in favor of healthcare reform after its passage, insisting on the presence of some “social contract” which would permit for healthcare reform’s passage and enforcement. When I objected strenuously to her argument and refuted her logic, she told me that there was something obviously wrong with my own logic. She was, she insisted, a conservative, as though it ought to have been evident by her support of healthcare reform and her assertions of some amorphous concept of a social contract which gave legitimacy to our federal government’s regulation of healthcare.
This is what we have running around nowadays on the conservative side, taking up the nomenclature of conservatism. To be honest, this has been a gradual deterioration rather than an overnight phenomenon. When you have conservatives talking about small government where business regulation and financial oversight are concerned, while simultaneously blustering about the need for federal level regulation concerning the definition of marriage, you have a real problem. These individuals are not conservative. They are not libertarian. They are leftists.
Allow me to explain what I mean when I label fiscal conservatives and limited government anti-regulation types as leftists when they advocate for an intrusive government where social mores are concerned. The key dynamic of leftism is its assertion that ends justify means. If the end is a holy and just goal, well, then, whatever means need to be undertaken can be seen as appropriate and even holy by themselves. It is impossible to have order or tradition when such reasoning is the rule rather than the exception.
Order and tradition are the hallmarks of conservatism. We have processes in place. The role of government is clearly delineated by the Constitution, and the limits placed on the federal government are clear. If it isn’t specifically enumerated for the federal government, it is therefore delegated to the states. Had these rules and principles been followed, it is likely that a libertarian movement separate from the Republican Party would never have emerged.
Somewhere along the way, and I would pin it on the Goldwater defeat in 1964, conservatives decided that if they couldn’t beat the left, they’d join them. Conservatives only had one problem: when you compromise your principles in order to achieve expediency, your principles are destined to remain unimplemented. Despite two Republican terms in the 70s, and two and a half in the 80s, and one half in the 90s, government grew and grew and grew. Under Reagan, the average annual deficit quadrupled from what it had been under the Carter Administration. Expediency ruled the day. We received tax cuts, but spending grew. The net result were deficits. Furthermore, in order to offset the impact of the deficits and to grow the economy to full employment (a mythical concept whose sole occurrence in human history was when Adam named the animals) the Federal Reserve pumped up the monetary supply. This had two effects: it devalued the existing dollars in circulation, and it created excess credit and led to a real estate boom and bubble.
Apart from the credit created by the Federal Reserve, there was no real demand and no economic growth. Anyone can create an economic miracle by giving men money with which to do as they please, especially if those men never have to pay the money back, and, given the facts of the Savings and Loan bailout, many of the men who received vast sums in loans never did pay them back. The ranks of these men include two Bush sons, and a host of their preparatory school peers. In short, we on the right were guilty of abdicating our principles and core beliefs in order to achieve political expediency.
At no time was this more evident than in 2000, when George W. Bush campaigned on compassionate conservatism. Conservatism needs no preceding modifier. Its compassion lies in its commitment to brutal honesty in public policy. The fact that such redundancy was the key element of Bush’s self-identification ought to have been enough of a warning that the fox was entering the hen house, but millions of Americans slapped W stickers on their SUVs and rode around spouting his nonsense gobbledygook to their friends and neighbors.
For the next eight years, George W. Bush presided over the largest deficits in history and the largest expansion of the federal government in some 40 years. There was the Department of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence position, and both proved that Bush, like God and the various politicians of the left before him, could create ex nihilo various government agencies and bureaucracies. Bush also presided over the expansion of Medicare by supporting and signing into law a Medicare prescription drug benefit and an expansion of SCHIP Medicaid programs in all 50 states. His No Child Left Behind legislation, which I and other educators came to refer to derisively as Every Child Held Back, was initially left unfunded at the federal level. Thus the states had to pick up the tab of the new federal mandates on education.
Whereas the Republican platforms of the prior three decades had called for the abolition of the Department of Education, George W. Bush pumped funding into the Department of Education like never before. Today, the average U.S. educational expenditure per student exceeds some $11,000, a total which puts the U.S. at the top with Switzerland. Our result? We hover around eighteenth or nineteenth place, well below countries who expend half of what we expend per student. You see, the U.S. funds go towards feeding a gigantic and voracious administrative bureaucracy, the effect of which can be seen in various ways. A recent Goldwater Institute study found that in order to lower classroom student teacher ratios in public schools to levels comparable with private schools, the state of Arizona would have to fire some 21,210 administrative workers and hire 25,000 teachers.
The problems of education are clearly not with the funding. American students are funded to no end. The problem is with the structure of American education itself, which is administratively top heavy. Administrators do not teach pupils. In many cases, they do not administrate effectively or efficiently. At the end of the day, administrators in the American educational system adopt an attitude of hauteur towards parents that is remarkable for its arrogance: they fight diligently against the notion that the very individuals who are funding public education with their sales and property taxes should have any input whatsoever into where those dollars go. The great question of the right is not whether or not we should be fighting for increased parental choice and input in education; it is why we have not been fighting tooth and nail for that cause as our own for the past thirty years.
On the libertarian side, we argue that public education is something we cannot support as advocates of privatization, but the truth of the matter is that change in this area is incremental. We cannot simply say that we oppose public education per se, and sniff at the notion of vouchers as yet another redistributive effort with which parents who lack means appropriate the wages of those who possess means in order to fund their child’s education. On some level we are going to have to get over ourselves if we are ever to arrive at a better future for this country.
Libertarians accuse the left of existing in a haze of utopian zeal, but the fact of the matter is that we have existed in our own conceptual nirvana virtually since the inception of the Libertarian Party. As a result, very few of our programs and policies have ever stood any real chance of being implemented. We are the pure, thus we have the courage of our convictions and the absolute certainty that none of those convictions will ever be sublimated into action. However, we will at least be right.
It is easy enough to tell an individual of some means, usually middle class or better, that he ought to be able to take his tax dollars and buy the education for his child that he wants as a consumer. It is another thing to turn around and tell an individual who is of working class or working poor status due to an economic system which is skewed towards inverted socialism for the rich that they should dig deep in order to provide a better education for their children when many of them already work multiple jobs in order to provide food, clothing, and shelter for those very children.
It is not socialist, nor is it antithetical to the history of the Republic to support public education on some level. Our history as a country is one where public education was seen as vital, but left to the states and local municipalities for both funding and oversight. Seventy years of socialism and creeping federalism will not be undone overnight or by instantaneous libertarian self-actualization.
Moreover, limitations on education ought to be obvious to adults. We cannot say on the one hand that we oppose sex education in the schools which teaches safe or reduced risk sexual behavior while supporting wholeheartedly sex education in schools which teaches abstinence as the ideal. The efficacy of either approach is not the point. The point is that sexual education belongs in the home. No adult ought to be talking about sexuality to your child without your direct knowledge and consent, and his or her conversation should not transcend the limitations of your particular set of values. As schools are comprised of students from a wide variety of backgrounds, beliefs, and value sets, it is impossible to achieve a sexual education program in which all sets of values and beliefs are equally acknowledged and taught. Therefore, sexual education is inappropriate for schools.
What we came to understand about sexual education from its initial implementation in the late 60s was accurate enough, as it was never about reducing teenage sexual behavior or eliminating pregnancy; instead, it sought to change normative standards where sexuality was concerned. Imagine, if you will, your child coming home with the news that their new sexual education teacher had shown them a film depicting sexual acts between couples of the opposite and of the same sex. Regardless of your stance on normative sexual standards, you would likely have some reservation about the values being communicated to your child without your direct and prior consent. In thirty years time, the success of sexual education curriculums in changing normative standards on human sexuality cannot be understated. We had a revolution in the classrooms of high schools throughout America, and generation after generation came to gradually accept notions about human sexuality which conflicted greatly with the notions held by their parents and grandparents.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was what it was all about. While you argued vociferously about whether or not prophylactic oriented sexual education had more or less efficacy than abstinence based education at preventing sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy, your children were coming to different conclusions about what was normal and abnormal than the conclusions they might have held if the sum total of their education on human sexuality was confined to the home you raised them in. You missed the point.
Missing the point is the point when dealing with leftist programs and ideology. The end goal is never straightforward or directly placed in front of you. Much of leftism’s success comes from its ability to erect diversions which keep your focus away from the end goal. The truth of sexual education is that it is but one component of a larger program of individuals and groups who do not believe that individuals have the right to determine for themselves or their children which values will be taught and adhered to if those values conflict with the agenda of the left. Quite simply, the left does not believe that a parent ought to have the prerogative of teaching values in the home without having to worry about those values being challenged, contradicted, or even mocked in the classroom.
The left has chosen to conduct a war on choice, to define for itself and for everyone else which choices are appropriate and which choices ought to be consigned to nonexistence. There are some value sets that I personally abhor, even despise, but I don’t dream of appropriating the institutions of government in order to deny the right or the prerogative of others to choose them. Individual autonomy, the right to make the wrong choices as well as the right, is central to a free human existence. I believe that virtue ceases to be virtuous when it is compulsory. The point is not that a man is forced to choose the right; it is that he wants to choose it of his own volition because he has come to realize that it works because it is right.
The great danger to the right comes when its own members seek to appropriate the tactics and reasoning of the left in order to contend for their beliefs. Let me be clear: one does not enact the sacred by utilizing the profane. In the various seesawing back and forth between the right and the left over the nature and extent of sexual education programs, a central feature has been the willingness of the right to acknowledge the role of the federal government in imparting moral belief whereas before we would have said it was none of the federal government’s business. The damage has been catastrophic.
Conservatives no longer contend for limited government; they merely seek to take the government which has overreached on behalf of the opposition and appropriate that government for their own agenda. One of the key consequences of this approach has been the emergence of the Libertarian Party. In many respects, libertarians are ultra-moralists who believe that morality is something to be arrived at by the individual through their own trial and error. We have watched in horror as conservatism has metastasized into something we no longer recognize: a right wing version of the left, with the same tactics, strategies, and justifications, only towards differing ends.
As conservatism has evolved into a mirror image of leftism, we have seen the emergence of leftist offshoots from conservative quarters. Of particular prominence are the neoconservatives, whose origin within Trotskyite Marxist thought cannot be overstated. These were leftists, and they still are leftists. Ends do not justify means. It is wrong to do what the left does, because the left denies the role of individual autonomy and free choice in arriving at a moral choice free from statist coercion. Fundamental to the leftist ideal is the notion that an individual, if submerged in goodness through statutory requirements, can be transmogrified into a citizen of some utopia. Leftism does not merely seek to erect utopias; it seeks to erect utopians. How is this any different from the ideal of social or evangelical conservatives? And how is the end goal of moral goodness through statutory coercion and statist enforcement any different from totalitarianism and Soviet style governance?
We believe on the right in absolutes. We believe that human life is a moral absolute, above negotiation or exception. Everything hinges upon this. While lying is generally bad, the illustration given by Ayn Rand of a contextual morality in which one may remain moral by lying in order to protect a potential victim from his or her potential killer by misleading the killers at the whereabouts of his victim is relevant and entirely appropriate. We believe in real absolutes with implications for every context. Our morality is not subjective because we insist on the truth in one context while acknowledging the appropriateness of deceit for another context; it is instead objective and therefore absolute precisely because the motivation in either context is the same: preserving human life.
When you look at the left, there are no fixed absolutes. Life in the case of someone who has been born is absolute, unless of course they are terminally ill or suffering from chronic pain, in which case euthanasia is entirely appropriate, whether by their own decision or through the state’s delegation of authority to medical professionals. If someone is unborn, they are not considered as being alive. They can be three quarters born, with everything below the neck dangling out of a mother’s body, while the abortion doctor inserts a tube into the base of their skull in order to suction out the brain matter and collapse the skull. If their mother is killed while pregnant, the left readily insists upon the prosecution of the murderer for not one but two deaths; however, leftists also argue that a woman who shoots herself in the abdomen in order to abort a child is innocent of any crime whatsoever. At times, it is difficult to see how leftists arrive at their destination where reasoning is concerned.
Let us say that a person is mentally handicapped or born with a birth defect. The left has been in favor of sterilization or eugenics in the past in order to alleviate the potential of procreation by the mentally handicapped or defective. The degree to which eugenics was seen as acceptable went as far as a person who needed to wear corrective lenses in order to see.
What is so disturbing about the left is not that they believe what they believe, but rather why we on the right and within libertarian, anarchist, and minarchist belief systems have been utterly unable to discredit such bizarre and unpalatable logic and reasoning politically. Part of the problem is our unwillingness to vilify the left. When libertarians speak of the left, we assign good intentions to their membership, but bemoan their errant methodologies. It never once occurs to us that perhaps the error in methodology is related to some deeper flaw in character on the part of the left. If it does, we are too polite to say so. Evil is that which renders the good useless by perverting it against its purpose. There is not a single thing that the left touches or impacts which is not rendered useless or turned against its purpose. It is not impolitic, therefore, to make a simple statement of truth: leftism, in all of its various forms, and in all of its various actions and programs, is nothing more than pure evil.
It takes the imperfect, which renders a good result for many men and women, enabling them to have better lives and and existences, and in the name of catapulting men and women to perfection, the leftist condemns them to misery with misshapen programs and policies. Perfection is never achieved. Poverty is never eliminated, crime is never reduced, and the stated intent of the leftist is never realized because the leftist ultimately seeks to deny reality or to reduce reality to the level of a servant. It never occurs to the leftist that there are just some laws of nature or of reality which he cannot overcome. The leftist by his very nature is compelled to deny that he is subject to gravity or to the limits of human nature and the behavior which flows from that nature. He insists that he is superhuman, and that others can be superhuman as well if they will merely follow his program.
The great irony of our current President is that he implored the members of his party not to allow the good to be the enemy of the perfect. The good is always the enemy of the perfect. Perfection is merely an ideal, a goal in the distance we seek to better ourselves by striving for. It is not a destination we will ever arrive at. But we will improve ourselves and our world through the striving. A man who cannot be satisfied with the attainment of that which is better on the grounds that it is not perfection is a man who will drive himself and anyone who follows after him to distraction and destruction. He is a leftist.
Our President has no intention of allowing the good to be the enemy of the perfect. He does not consider the healthcare reform bill that was just passed and signed into law to be anything good or perfect. He considers it to be a means towards his perfect end. Let us speak plainly and say that our President is as savvy as a man of the left can be. He recognized the inherent reality of his political situation: corporations call the shots.
In this healthcare bill, the President has given corporate health insurers and providers the means to do just that: call the shots. They have 32 million new customers, and around $300 billion a year in new revenues. Anyone who looked at the fifteen month healthcare debate and did not see that the health insurers and the healthcare industry were the driving forces behind healthcare reform is utterly asinine. If health insurers and providers did not want this bill to become law, they could have slaughtered it. They had the money, the power, and the influence.
If you believe that they were really forced into an untenable arrangement, allow me to highlight a few features of the legislation for you. Those with preexisting conditions will be covered, but at a premium rate of up to six times higher than their healthy peers. Let me break this down for you to understand: had I came to my new job as a security guard over a year ago as a man with a preexisting condition, I would have been able to sign onto the company health plan. I would have had to wait a year in order to receive coverage for any condition deemed preexisting, but after that year was up, I would have received coverage. All of this would have been at the same premium level as my healthy coworkers who didn’t have a preexisting condition.
Today, I will come to my job, mandated to buy into the health insurance plan of my company or a private insurance company by federal law. I will be paying six times what my coworkers pay in premiums. For me at my current job, that would entail that monthly premiums totaling $250 a month would jump to almost $1500 a month. Since my employer pays another $500 a month, their share would be almost twice that at $3000 a month. In short, between my share and my employer’s share, my premiums could cost a total of $54,000 annually. However, I will be able to receive treatment for whatever conditions I have immediately. Can you imagine a company rushing to hire me as a man with hypertension and Type II diabetes which developed after weight gain associated with the hypertension medication?
Yesterday, before the healthcare bill was signed into law, I would have been able to enter into arbitration with my health insurance company in order to compel them to cover treatment deemed experimental by their medical review boards. Today, I can do no such thing. Minimum st
Monday, March 22, 2010
Last night, we lost a battle that had stretched out for 15 months. The war, however, has just begun. We are not defeated. You feel that taste in your mouth? It’s your own blood. Remember it, because we’re going to give the bastards on the other side plenty to taste in November. In a streetfight, you’re going to take a few licks. You’re going to have a few battle scars, a few bitter moments. But as long as you’re alive, you can fight on.
I want you all to remember how it felt last night, when many of us huddled in front of our television sets, praying quietly for an outcome that didn’t arrive. God works for a reason, and He never heaps a burden onto us that we’ll be unable to carry. Right now, at this moment in our nation’s history, we are being tested. Many of us have never really been tested.
There are wars abroad, fought with bullets and bombs, and there are wars at home, fought with words and ideas. We won the battle of ideas, and we exposed the healthcare reform bill for the fiscally bankrupt, unconstitutional, and flagrantly imprudent piece of legislation it was. The American people did not want this bill, but the ideologues who did want it had their 216 plus votes. Come November, we’ll have our votes. In the interim time, the minute that bill is signed into law by our President, an army of state attorney generals are poised to file briefs challenging it in court.
We fought the good fight, but the fight isn’t over. This is a war for the future of this country, and it will not be over in November, either. The bitter defeat we endured last night should serve as a lesson to us. For eight years, we compromised our principles and ideals as a President from the Republican Party ran up huge deficits, enacted a Medicare prescription drug benefit, created a massive bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security, and yet another intelligence office in the Director of National Intelligence. We watched as he worked across the aisle to establish No Child Left Behind, when prior Republicans platforms for the last two decades had called for the abolition of the Department of Education.
We didn’t put a stop to it. We talked about bipartisanship as though it was a good thing. We had our foot on the throat of the Democratic Party, and we didn’t finish the job. What we saw last night was the price we had to pay for our own failures to stand on principle. Take a look, libertarians. Take a look, conservatives. Take a look, anarchists and minarchists. This is what happens when you don’t coalesce against a common enemy.
This is what happens when you don’t unite in the face of an evil and ultimately unconstitutional ideology. This is what happens when you don’t effectively work together to achieve the defeat of leftism. We’ve got deregulation from the Clinton Administration and a near unanimous Congress which effectively enabled the banks to bankrupt our economy. That was bipartisanship. We’ve got a deficit that will exceed $20 trillion by the end of the decade. We’re bogged down in two wars, and we’ve spent $3 trillion to rebuild two countries while our own roads, bridges, dams, and levees corrode at home due to a lack of investment in their upkeep and renewal. This, too, was bipartisanship. The U.S. government is spending millions on turtle crossings, and deer crossings, and salmon farms. This is bipartisanship.
We’ve got a TARP bailout that has stretched to nearly $23 trillion in liabilities from its originally advertised price of over $700 billion. The Federal Reserve has extended backdoor bailouts to banks, linked the national debt to the dollar, and various other government agencies like the FDIC have taken on vast liabilities in the form of loans and guarantees to the banks. All of this was bipartisan.
Bipartisanship has been thoroughly discredited. We ought to call it by its proper name: corruption. From now on, we on the other side have to stand on common principles and ideals. We have to stand for limited government, where benevolence is not the cause of the federal government. We have to stand on limited government, where the government does not have have the ability to arrogate for itself vast powers and authorities up to and including suspension of the 4th Amendment, the 5th Amendment, the 6th Amendment, the 8th Amendment, and the 10th Amendment. We will not have a lawless lawgiving body.
We have bickered amongst ourselves for far too long, and last night, the enemy realized its greatest victory in some as a result of our tendency to divide ourselves. We all lost, but more importantly, the American people lost. 85% of them were happy with their coverage, and 61% of them were happy with the cost. Of the 47 million uninsured, 7.7 million were children whose parents voluntarily chose not to enroll their eligible children in state provided SCHIP healthcare. 12 million were individuals who chose not to purchase private health insurance even though they could afford it as individuals who made $50,000 or more a year. Of the remainder, a significant portion were 18-34 year old individuals who made less than $50,000 a year but spent a similar amount as their insured peers on recreation, drugs, and alcohol. They made a choice, as free men and women are wont to do. Last night, the federal government moved to strike down the freedom of those individuals, families, and parents to choose the course for their own lives.
We don’t represent just ourselves. We represent the rights of individuals to choose whether or not to purchase private products and services of their own volition. We contend for individual liberty in the face of an encroaching statism that moves in increments towards totalitarianism. Today, the United States government claims for itself the power to kidnap U.S. citizens off of the street and render them to another country based on suspicion alone. It claims for itself the power to incarcerate those individuals for their entire lives without ever once informing them of the charges against them, and without ever once providing them a legal hearing or affording them the opportunity to retain legal representation. It is important to realize that these individuals have not even been indicted, much less tried and convicted of a crime.
The United States government further claims the authority and the power to subject those individuals to knee strikes, stress positions, even torture abroad in foreign countries and sensory deprivation, the net effect of which can be a grave physical and psychological harm for the rest of their lives based on mere suspicion and evidence which cannot yield an indictment or a conviction. The government claims for itself the power to listen to your phone calls, read your emails, obtain your library records, and to freeze your banking accounts and investments at its discretion, all in the name of some amorphous and constantly shifting national security concern. My fellow citizens, this is not right. This is not American. These tactics, powers, and the philosophy they reveal are better suited to Soviet Russia or some other such totalitarian regime.
They have engineered the consent of conservatives and those of us who support law and order by appealing to our fear. Today I write this and appeal to that indomitable courage that I know beats within the breast of every conservative, libertarian, minarchist, and anarchist. The will and the courage to stand for what is right, even if it means standing against the overwhelming majority of your fellow citizens, is not to be underestimated. Americans will no longer be shackled by fear. We will be freed by our courage to fight the war against the left in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. I have seen fire my whole life in the faces of those who stand on our side, heard conviction in their voices, and seen courage in their actions. It is time to reclaim that.
Our Republic is under assault. We have tolerated the advances of government in the name of security and benevolence for far too long. Tyrants always attach their totalitarian ambitions to a righteous cause, but the end result of their virtue is tyranny. Virtues exist to guide men, to empower them to make the right decision of their own volition. Compulsory virtue is not virtue at all. It is appropriate for children who are under the instruction and authority of their parents, but it is not for free adults. The purpose of moral instruction in youth is to equip free men in their adulthood to follow a path which will ensure the expansion of their individual liberties and their individual happiness. The government is not a parent; it is a servant to free men. It exists to ensure the expansion of freedom, not to constrict or constrain liberty in the name of securing some minimum standard of freedom. Freedom is an all or nothing proposition in the face of expanding government authority. The price of eternal freedom and free virtue is eternal vigilance, and if we are not vigilant, our freedoms and our virtues, and all of the assorted values thereof, will perish. Our government will define our virtues and values for us, and we will have no individual say in the matter. Our consciences will be reduced to irrelevance.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are to fight in the coming months like we have never fought before. We are to fight with the knowledge that a 2/3 majority is our goal. We must elect a 2/3 majority in both the House and Senate, and we must make their election contingent upon two things: the repeal of healthcare reform and the impeachment, conviction, and removal from office of Barack Obama. His offer of a federal office to Joe Sestak in exchange for Sestak’s withdrawal from a congressional race is a federal crime. His support of the healthcare reform bill reveals him to be an advocate of overturning the Constitution. His use of TARP funds to buy stock in domestic automotive manufacturers violated the spirit and the letter of the law establishing TARP. I say to you that it is time for him to go. No candidate who refuses to commit to these two goals is worthy of our support. If need be, we should put forth candidates from our own ranks as independent, or third party, or even write in candidates.
It is time to stand on principle. If we lose in November at the polls, then it is time to take to the streets and overturn this tyranny by force. Our government is null and void the moment it departs from the law and the Constitution. We are no longer pragmatists today. Imagine, if you will, our Founding Fathers deciding that the 2% tax on their incomes wasn’t that bad, even if it was accompanied by forced quartering of British soldiers and no representation in Parliament. Our Republic would have never been pushed into existence. Our Founders had principles, and they bequeathed those principles to us. This tyranny can stand no longer. It is time for revolution, whether by the ballot or the bullet.
It is time for us to atone for our own weakness and compromise of foundational principles and ideals and to stand forth in a united front against tyranny. Our differences are merely cosmetic when juxtaposed against the differences we share as a common force against the left. We are not antithetical to each other, but we are antithetical to the left. Libertarians, conservatives, minarchists, and anarchists, unite as one and take back this country for limited government, limited statism, and expanded individual liberty and self-determination! Vanquish the left once and for all!
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Candidates Tapping In: Why We Must Be Careful
A friend of mine recently asked me to take a look at Joe DioGuardi, who announced on the 18th that he would be seeking the New York Senate seat held by Kirsten Gillibrand, and to give him my thoughts on DioGuardi. After perusing his website, his LinkedIn profile, tracking down his book, and looking over his past record, I came to the conclusion that DioGuardi is symptomatic of our problem over on the conservative and libertarian side.
On the surface, DioGuardi seems to be a plausible candidate. He’s a self-made man who put himself through Fordham University and made partner in ten years at Arthur Andersen as a CPA. He’s been a critic of government spending since he started in Congress back in 1984, but only insofar as government spending wasn’t matched by incoming revenues. Therein lies a critical piece of information, which I will explore in some depth in later paragraphs.
DioGuardi served in Congress from 1984 to 1988, when he was defeated by Nita Lowey, but his signature piece of legislation, The Chief Financial Officers Act, lived on after his departure from Congress and would eventually be signed into law by George H.W. Bush in 1990. This law expanded the oversight of the Office of Management and Budget over 24 departments and agencies within the Executive Branch. It established a new agency with the OMB, the Office of Federal Financial Management, as well as the Controller position which would head up the newly established agency. The Deputy Director for Management position was also established within the OMB, and each of the 24 agencies and departments would also have a Chief Financial Officer.
Therein lies the problem: the answer to the failures of bureaucracy to control spending was ever more bureaucracy, in the form of a 26 new official positions as well as a new agency within an agency. And did federal spending decrease? No. Did the federal deficit suddenly come under control? No. Do we still have questions as to where exactly all of our tax dollars are going? Yes. Did the deficit and the national debt come to a standstill? Not at all.
The problem wasn’t the lack of a specialized bureaucratic position to highlight spending and therefore bring it to transparency so that it might be brought under control. The problem was that bureaucracy is self-perpetuating. The only way to control spending in government is to cut the mission of government. You have to limit the scope and range of matters which fall under the government’s purview.
It’s not the size of federal government; it’s the range of its authority over a vast array of matters and concerns, many of which do not fall within the specifically enumerated powers delegated to Congress by the Constitution in Article I, Section VIII. When you really get down to it, the Founders never intended the mission of Congress to be one of benevolence, as in entitlements that have come to consume our budget. The Founders never intended for a standing army or an entrenched military bureaucracy to develop which would require ever greater amounts of spending and investment over time. It was a fine model of government, and the real question of our current situation is this: why did we ever abandon that model in favor of the one we currently have?
We certainly had no other choice but to go to war in World War II. We had been attacked, and Germany had declared war on us and therefore signaled its intent to obliterate us in the same fashion that German panzers and the blitzkrieg has obliterated most of Eastern Europe. We had to fight. Moreover, we had to win. It was entirely appropriate that we should develop the most potent war machine possible, and the infrastructure to support that machine in the successful pursuit of victory. A bureaucracy was appropriate.
Afterwards, Europe lay in ruins. The Soviets may have been able to overrun a German army with no support from its bombed out Fatherland, and the assorted decimated Eastern European countries which had already been destroyed by the Germans, but they could not possibly come across the ocean to meddle with the United States. The Soviets had suffered heavy losses and a great deal of damage from the German invasion. Their economy was just becoming a modern and industrialized. They had no capacity with which to project power. We were in the Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East. The only place we lacked a foothold from which to attack Russia from a distance was the North Pole.
A telling feature of the German invasion of Russia was that the invasion was not repelled by Russian military might, but rather by armed civilians shooting at the Nazis from burning buildings as they were incinerated. Between the weather and the Russian civilians, the Nazis had never faced that sort of entrenched resistance anywhere else. The Poles, Slavs, and Czechs had not mustered up the sort of determined resistance that would have decreed shooting at Germans while being burned alive. If it had been the Russian military alone, all of Russia might have come under German domination.
We had an atomic bomb, and then a hydrogen bomb. We were at the forefront of every developing technology of any significance. If we had wanted to reduce the Russian ability to challenge our eminence in the world, we could have done so rather easily. We chose not to.
The arms race that followed and the bluster on both sides was the stuff of folly and myth. We allowed the Russians safe passage across the Atlantic Ocean to deposit nuclear weapons in Cuba. We allowed a blockade of West Berlin, but defeated it with an airlift. History aches for acts of greatness, as William F. Buckley once wrote, but in the four decades of the Cold War, we lacked the resolve to muster a single act of final greatness which might have revealed the Soviet threat for the hollow and ultimately callow thing it was.
The Soviets were excellent at producing raw materials for a command economy in which its satellites countries were captive partners to commerce. They were absolutely terrific at defeating those satellite countries in the event of a native uprising. Of course, the fact that those satellite countries had no standing armies of their own or an infrastructure from which they might have fought effectively is of no real significance to historians or those individuals within the U.S. who made fortunes and reputations by hyping the Soviet menace. In the one real conflict where the Soviets attempted to invade and suppress a country where the natives had our support, the Soviets were humiliated. Afghanistan stripped away the illusion of Soviet military dominance.
It also gave one question as to why it was we had been unable to defeat the Viet Cong. The reason, of course, was that Ho Chi Minh was to the Vietnamese what George Washington was to us here in America: a Founding Father. He was one of their own, and Diem was just a puppet of ours, and his strings were held by us rather than the Vietnamese people. Small wonder, then, that ragtag ragamuffin Vietnamese people of limited means and training fought a guerilla war in which they lost many times more of their own than we did, and yet they kept generating more recruits to replenish their fallen comrades. Their hearts were in the fight.
Considering that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was later revealed to be nothing more than utter fabrication, we should have never been in Vietnam to begin with. Had the Soviets ever attempted to invade and make Vietnam their own, they would have found the same inhospitable reception that we found upon our arrival. They would have met with the same result as the natives exploited their knowledge and familiarity with the terrain while Russian soldiers slogged through a foreign jungle.
We went to Vietnam and Korea because we ultimately fell prey to bureaucracy. Bureaucracy, as I noted earlier, tends towards self-perpetuation and self-justification. Leave a military and an intelligence complex to its own devices, and, combined with the private sector industrial corporations whose continued expansion and growth depends largely upon permanent war, you will have ever greater threats emerge on the world stage. Bogeymen in geopolitics are invented and maintained by people with a profit motive.
Fear was the impetus for the discarding of the Constitution and the checks and balances thereof. Fear is the great tool of bureaucracies. It is the means by which they justify their preservation, expansion, and increased authority. And yet, the promised result of that preservation, expansion, and increased authority never materializes. Not once. In the case of the late 80s, we began an obsession with the deficit and the debt. This was justifiable, but the means proposed to deal with the problem of our debt ought to have betrayed itself upon proposal as a false method: in order to cut money from our debt and contain spending, we needed to create 26 new positions and a sub agency, the net effect of which would be more spending.
Candidates tap into our fears. They are masters of suasion, and they promise us deliverance from the perceived misery of the current day if only we will buy into their solutions. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at Joe DioGuardi’s proposed solutions.
On DioGuardi’s website, nothing meaningful is said about cutting the size of government or its authority and focus. DioGuardi merely worries about how to pay for it all. He talks about reducing spending, but he doesn’t say what spending he would cut. It’s the ultimate safe hedge: you use a phrase which means something to the person hearing or reading the phrase, but you never define with specifics what the phrase actually entails for you as a candidate or as a potential Senator or Representative. Specificity is the enemy of those trying to get elected to higher office, because being specific means angering some constituency or demographic.
And let’s review DioGuardi’s ideas about the environment and what to do: “I am committed to reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and so I support alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power, hybrid vehicles that reduce gas consumption, and the installation of bicycle paths across America. A new generation of nuclear reactors with enhanced and standardized safety standards must also be given priority.”
Note that he never specifically says how he would reduce our dependence on foreign oil, because for all practical intents and purposes, not a single country on this earth is independent of foreign oil. We all import foreign oil. It’s that simple. The greenest and most environmentally conscious nations of Europe import foreign oil. He supports alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power, but what he neglects to mention is that we lack the energy infrastructure to deliver power from those sorts of projects to homes across the country. Erecting that infrastructure will mean a vast investment of public and private dollars in order to sustain energy sources which ultimately don’t deliver their promised result. Take Denmark, for example. It has extensive investments in wind farms, and generates electricity for its people through those wind farms. Want to know the number of coal fired electricity plants Denmark has been able to take offline due to its surplus generation of wind power? Zero. Zero. That’s right, zero.
Wind power is a sporadic source of electricity, as is solar power. We lack the battery technology to store the electricity for later use, and we further lack the infrastructure and technology to deliver such power in a cost effective way to homes halfway across our country. Does anyone really think that the construction of bicycle paths across America is an appropriate mission of the federal government, especially when fully half of our roads and bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete? Only the most pantheistic, patchouli-fragranced, hippy-dippy sort of voter will buy into this poppycock.
And those nuclear reactors? We have no means of storing the waste generated by them, because the federal government lacks to resolve to tell the people of Nevada where to get off in order to store said waste in Yucca Mountain, which we have spent billions of dollars on in order to ensure the safe and secure disposal of said waste. We also have no means in place to recycle said waste, which the French currently do as a matter of routine.
And let’s review DioGuardi’s education plank: “I believe that we must reinvent education to give our newest generation the tools they need to succeed in the global marketplace created by the Information Age and the rapid expansion of the Internet. We are falling behind the world. Our children and grandchildren will not be able to compete unless we first establish a level playing field by providing high quality education to children from pre-school through high school, from the inner cities to the suburbs. This will require us to rethink our funding formulas and sources and to replicate the programs of our high-performing schools across the country.”
DioGuardi’s plank says nothing specific, but implicit in the approach he appears to be advocating is centralized federal control and oversight of education. Let us review the record of federal input on education since 1979, the year that the Department of Education was erected with huzzahs and hallelujahs from the Left.
In 1980, 17 year olds scored 285 on their NAEP reading averages. In 2008, due to rounded scores coming into play, 17 year olds went to 286 on their NAEP reading averages. 13 year olds went from 258 to 260, and 9 year olds went from 215 to 220. From 1980 to 2008, we saw an average expenditure per pupil that went from $5,492 to $9,683. In other words, expenditures nearly doubled, and we saw a 5 point jump in average reading scores at best for 9 year olds, with rounded scores accounting for the jump in 17 year old reading scores over that period. Minus rounding, the 13 year olds had a 1 point or so increase. The Department of Education had a 2009 discretionary budget of some $62.6 billion, but the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, otherwise known as the stimulus, heaped on a modest $96.8 billion in additional funding.
Clearly, the problem isn’t our funding. We actually spend more total money in the U.S. than any other OECD nation. Our per pupil funding ranks us first as well, in a tie with Switzerland as of 2005. The result doesn’t translate into greater results, because the problem in U.S. education is akin to that of every other area of our society: bureaucracy which is self-justifying and self-perpetuating. In 2006, the Goldwater Institute conducted a study of Arizona’s public and private schools which found that the public schools spent 50% more per pupil than their private counterparts. However, in order for public schools to have the same teacher-student ratio as their private school counterparts, Arizona’s public schools would have to hire 25,000 more teachers and eliminate 21,210 administrative positions. Therein lies the issue with American education: the emphasis is never on education, but rather on satiating the need of administrators who require ever greater amounts of bureaucracy to accomplish goals.
We’ve been reinventing education for 30 years to no avail. Why would we need to reinvent it yet again, as DioGuardi advocates? Moreover, replication of high performance districts is largely obstructed by the very bureaucracies in place in local districts, who seek through unions and regulation to deny the ability of parents to choose which school their children can go to by denying funding for vouchers. They cry out that the public school system needs more money, despite the fact that U.S. public education spends more per pupil than any other nation on the planet. The problem is the bureaucracy, and until you obviate that obstacle, you won’t change a thing. That same bureaucracy points to the family background as a key component of educational performance, yet denies its role in utterly destroying that family background through the erection of sexual education programs which challenged the norms parents tried to instill in their parents where sexual morality and behavior were concerned. And make no mistake about it, the public health was never the concern of the bureaucrats and the ideologues who tried to foist pornographic films which depicted heterosexual and homosexual behavior onto sexual education curriculums. It was a direct attempt to change normative standards and sexual mores, and it worked.
Educators, welcome to the future you helped to create! Today, we have teenage pregnancy rates which far exceed the rates present at the beginning of widespread sexual education in schools. We have a devastated family structure, with chronic divorce rates. And, to top it all off, people now graduate high school with advanced computational skills which enable them to discern that 25% APR and subprime mortgages are a fine path to prosperity!
Until DioGuardi and other candidates muster the courage and the brazen will to state the obvious, which is that a lack of investment isn’t the problem with public education, but rather the bureaucracies, which dominate the educational system at the state and local levels, are the problem, we’ll have more of the same result that we’ve had over the past three decades. Tellingly enough, in the districts where vouchers have been tried, the opponents of their continued use are bureaucrats and the supporters are parents.
Sources on the assertion that increased funding doesn’t work to increase results:
The very best thing to be said about Joe DioGuardi is that he isn’t Kirsten Gillibrand. But he isn’t the answer to our prayers and hopes, either. He’s a six year patch, the lesser of two evils or poisons. Joe DioGuardi is somewhat akin to that song by The Who, Won’t Get Fooled Again. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Entertain no delusions about the man. He is what he is, and what he is is more of the same of what we’ve had in the past, but at least he’s not Kirsten Gillibrand.
Those of us who are tired with the current course of our government, but are determined to work within the ballot to effect change must recognize the imperative need to develop candidates from within our own ranks who believe as we do. This process will be long, and it will stretch over several election cycles, but by 2016, we could be ready to go national with a presidential candidate, and in the three election cycles between now and then, we need to take out the individuals currently holding office and convictions which are amendable to bureaucratic tyranny. Convictions matter, if they are based on empirical evidence. We know that the course we’ve been on hasn’t worked. Real change, if there is to be change, will depend on our willingness to sustain a resistance to the current paradigm in order to forge a new direction for America.
We must be wary of those candidates seeking to tap into our resentment of the present political reality. We must measure their statements, platforms, and, most of all, their specifics against the evidence. If they are found wanting, we must be willing to dispose of them without reservation.