Monday, September 29, 2008

Obama's Infuriating Disingenuousness

So I've been speaking to people - well meaning, reasonably informed (NYT, generally), middle of the road people - who seem not to be terribly concerned about the prospects of an Obama Presidency. In fact, some of them are downright enthused. Many saw the debate last Friday night, and thought that Obama did a fine job (which, in some manner, he must have), and are convinced that certain of his positions have merits (cough, cough).

My question is this: how is it that reasonable, middle of the road types are not scared witless by Obama, when the man, based on his voting records as tallied by several watchdog organizations, ranks as one of the, if not the very most, liberal members of the Senate?

Now, the Senate is not the House, but being the very most liberal member of even that august body must place someone just to the right of Joseph Stalin. If all that I hear about his legacy and his real, deeply held philosophical positions is true, then he is, at heart, a socialist, or something very close to it. Let's put all our money in a pot and divvy it up equally.

So how is it that all these people are flocking to him? Would these people not see that such a figure would, especially when coupled with Democrat majorities in both houses, result in the largest power grab by the federal government since FDR and the great depression? Do people not understand the risk to our economy and our nation?

My inclination is to assume that Obama is simply lying to people. He is trying to portray himself as a middle-of-the-roader himself. He is hiding the truth of his real beliefs. He is pulling a fast one on the American public - he's a liberal wolf in centrist sheep's clothing.

I must admit that until very recently, these thoughts were almost articles of faith with me - I had not yet dug deeply enough into Obama's stated positions to conclude whether or not they truly qualified for my scorn.

So, I set about to remedy my own lack of understanding. I went to Obama's website, and read up on his stated positions, and I compared them with my preconcieved notions about what they would be.

Guess what. I was right. He's a lying sack of horseballs. His website and his stated positions are so full of holes, so full of contradictions, and so full of meaningless rhetoric, that I am having trouble deciding whether he is the most masterful obfuscator in history, or whether he is just simply an idiot.

Let's look at his health care plan, just for one. Obviously, it's a much larger topic than can be reasonably handled in a short blog post, but after five minutes looking at it, a general theme unfolded - there's all savings, and no cost. Everything gets better, but nothing costs more. It's magic. He has discovered alchemies which have eluded witches and warlocks for millenia! He can turn iron into gold!

A couple of examples which stood out:

  • Obama will save money to pay for a part of the increased cost of his health care plans by eliminating the restriction on direct negotiations with drug companies for prescription drugs. Fine. He thinks this could save $30 billion. Fine. Apparently, he also believes that this $30 billion is free. This is breathtakingly ignorant. Drug companies spend about 50% of their free cash flow on R&D and the rest they dividend out to shareholders. If Obama has his way, approximately $15 billion of critical drug R&D will vanish. Swoosh. With regard to dividends, Obama needs to understand that it's something of a zero-sum game. If a company's earnings available for dividends decreases, that company will reduce their other costs commensurately so that they can maintain a certain percentage of dividends. That means jobs, other r&d, overhead expenses, etc. etc. etc. In a flash, $30 billion disappears, and it's got to be accounted for somewhere else! If he's proposing $15 billion of federal drug R&D, that's one thing, but he's not. It's free! The same logic, by the way, can be applied to his idea to reimport drugs from lower cost countries (which, by the way, negotiate with the drug companies!). If he has a plan to get other countries to pay more for their drugs while we pay less, then fine. But in the absense of that, again, it's a zero-sum game.
  • Obama thinks that his health care plan will save American families approximately $2,500 by, among other things, making investments in healthcare IT. This is one part arrogance and one part ignorance. First, guess what! IT investment requires, get this: investment! It costs money! Second, if he doesn't think that every single health care CEO in this country already has gobs of incentive to save costs by making their IT work better, then he's got another thing coming to him. They're doing the best they can. To suppose that Obama is going to come along, wave his wand, and make it all work better is, I dare say, a tad arrogant. I think Hillary found this out it 1993.
  • He wants to reduce health care expenditures by making health care universal, and thereby reducing spending on uncompensated care. Sorry, but somebody's got to explain that logic to me. If he's saying that doctors charge payors more for uncovered patients than for covered patients, then we're back to the zero-sum game logic. If those doctors are then going to charge the uninsured less because they're now insured, then they're going to charge the rest of us more for the foregone incremental earnings! It's not free! He can't get free health care for uninsured people by making them insured! Am I the only one who has noticed this? As they say, where's the outrage?
  • Mandatory coverage for children. Barack Obama will mandate that all children will be covered by medical insurance. Ah, the children! But what does this mean? Are children more important than other people? What about their parents - aren't they important too?Will children get healthcare insurance but their parents won't? This is a platitude masquerading as a policy. It has no place in serious discussions, and it makes me think little of Barack Obama. And don't say that I don't love children. I know that all conservatives are baby-killers, but I, for one, am not. I love children, but if they have healthcare, I want mine, too.
  • Other, more general inconsistencies in the plan: First, Obama points out that health care costs have been rising dramatically lately (true). Then, he states that his plan will save the average family approximately $2,500 per year (great!). Finally, after all that cost savings, here's what you're also going to get: guaranteed eligibility and comprehensive benefits for all of the uninsured in the nation; subsidies for low-income families; expansion of medicaid and SCHIP; employer contributions (think: zero-sum); support for small businesses; etc. etc. BUT, it's going to cost you $2,500 per year less! What he doesn't tell you, is that your taxes are going to have to go up by many multiples of that number. Net, net, you're way, way behind. But you'd never figure that out from listening to Obama, or reading his puff pieces. You'd actually have to read it, and think about it like I have.

I could go on and on. He's pulling a fast one on the American public.

Honestly, I don't have a problem with people who favor nationalized health care, but are honest about the implications for our economy, tax structure, etc. Reasonable people can disagree. This is different.

My conclusion: I don't care which one it is. He is either a liar or an idiot. Either way, he is dangerous to freedom in America.

First Political Blog

Well, here I am, at it again - this time about politics, though. This crazy political season has gotten the better of me, and I can't seem to shut my flapper.

If you can't stand it, well then don't read it!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cry, the Beloved Country

From time to time I come upon examples of Originalism, or the proper role of the Judiciary, in literature. Here’s a reasonably good one from Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country:

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For to the Judge is entrusted a great duty, to judge and to pronounce sentence, even sentence of death. Because of their high office, Judges are called Honourable, and precede most other men on great occasions. And they are held in great honour by men both white and black. Because the land is a land of fear, a Judge must be without fear, so that justice may be done according to the law; therefore a judge must be incorruptible.
The judge does not make the Law. It is the People that make the Law. Therefore if a Law is unjust, and if the Judge judges according to the Law, that is justice, even if it is not just.
It is the duty of a Judge to do justice, but it is only the People that can be just. Therefore if justice be not just, that is not to be laid at the door of the Judge, but at the door of the People, which means at the door of the White People, for it is the White People that make the Law.
In South Africa men are proud of their Judges, because they believe they are incorruptible. Even the black men have faith in them, though they do not always have faith in the Law. In a land of fear, this incorruptibility is like a lamp set upon a stand, giving light to all that are in the house.

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Contrast these fine sentiments with those of today’s Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama. When asked in a primary debate what kind of person he would nominate to the Supreme Court, Obama said the following:

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I taught constitutional law for 10 years, and . . . when you look at what makes a great Supreme Court justice, it's not just the particular issue and how they rule, but it's their conception of the Court. And part of the role of the Court is that it is going to protect people who may be vulnerable in the political process, the outsider, the minority, those who are vulnerable, those who don't have a lot of clout. . . . [S]ometimes we're only looking at academics or people who've been in the [lower] court. If we can find people who have life experience and they understand what it means to be on the outside, what it means to have the system not work for them, that's the kind of person I want on the Supreme Court.
…We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges.

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Notice that Obama does not say anything about correctly interpreting the law. Rather, the implication is exactly the opposite; that the law is somehow mutable, so a judge’s empathy or experience or personal judgment must somehow be part of the equation.

The irony here is that Alan Paton was himself a liberal activist who was describing a process by which a poor, African young man was being judged by a rich, white judge of European descent. Paton’s first inclination was not to impugn the judge’s abilities as a juror because he did not have the “life experience… [to] understand what it means to be on the outside,…[to] not have the system work for them” Instead, it was to celebrate the judge’s actions for being faithful to the law, while any sense of injustice was laid directly at the feet of the people.

I feel compelled, once again, to offer my regular qualifier for Originalism before people start accusing me of baby-killing. Regardless of what happens in the judiciary, if injustice continues based on laws enacted by the people, then it is incumbent upon the people to remedy that fact! By stating that justices are arbiters of the law, not justice, I am not concluding that there shall be no justice in this world, I am only stipulating the proper role of the judiciary!