Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Vindication of Ted Cruz

Pundits and journalists across the country have suggested that Ted Cruz and friends accomplished nothing with the government shutdown. I’d beg to differ. Indeed, I’d suggest just the opposite. The best parallel I can draw is with Ronald Reagan in 1976 when he angered the GOP establishment by challenging Gerald Ford for the party’s nomination before he went down to defeat at the hands of a peanut farmer from Georgia. Reagan however had made his mark. He was for smaller government and everyone knew it. As a consequence, four years later he won a resounding victory on the strength of the army of supporters he inspired in 1976.

In the same way, Ted Cruz hates Obamacare. He recognizes that Obamacare is an anvil around the neck of American freedom and prosperity. What is most important about his “filibuster” and the shutdown is that he has left no doubt in the minds of Americans exactly where he stands. Not only about where he stands, but also about his willingness to suffer the slings and arrows from both the opposition and those within his own party in order to make a clear statement. And that statement is that big government in general and Obamacare in particular are bad for America.

Many GOP establishment types pilloried Cruz for the shutdown, saying that had it not been for the shutdown he championed, the news from October 1st would have been the failure of Obamacare itself. They are simply wrong. Had the shutdown gone on longer two things would have occurred.

The first is the most telling: Given enough time it would have become clear to more and more Americans that the “shutdown” of the federal government would not bring about the end of the world, despite the warnings from the big government types in both parties. This was the real reason that the media and the Washington establishment focused on the shutdown. By the shutdown demonstrating the irrelevancy of Washington to the lives of so many Americans, they feared that the voting public might just decide that they didn’t really need to be taxed to the hilt and mortgaged beyond their lifetimes to pay for things that didn’t really matter. As such, the war on Ted Cruz and the Tea Party via the shutdown had to be job number one, which it was. The reality of this fact can be seen in the results of a Washington Post / ABC poll. Despite weeks of shrill coverage and apocalyptic predictions, once the shutdown was over a full 78% of Americans reported that they weren’t inconvenienced by the shutdown at all and another 11% felt only minor inconveniences. When 89% of the population barely notices that you’re not showing up for work it’s time to be concerned about your job. The establishment was… and it should be.

The second thing that would have occurred had the shutdown continued is the thing that is happening right now. Americans would have become well aware of the train wreck that is Obamacare because it’s so catastrophic a failure that it would have been impossible to miss. The failures of the website are legion, as are the basic elements of Obamacare itself. As more and more people were feeling the punch – i.e. losing their current health insurance, seeing premiums skyrocket and watching their choices disappear – the reality of the actual damage caused by Obamacare would have become more than the sycophant media cold hide. It’s one thing to read about our Spoiled Child in Chief keeping veterans from visiting monuments to their fallen brethren, but it’s another thing altogether to get a notice from your insurance company telling you you’ve lost your coverage or that your premiums have doubled and your deductible has tripled. Those are the kinds of things people notice regardless of what is going on in Washington.

Which brings us back to Ted Cruz and his alleged tilting at windmills. It turns out that the thing he was warning us about was even worse than even he knew. That said however, in reality Obamacare is just the most obvious example of the thing that Ted Cruz stands against, which is dysfunctional, failed and crippling big government. Listen to his sequester speech, or most speeches that he gives. The enemy is not government per se, but rather a government that undermines on the freedom and rights of American citizens. The enemy is a government that destroys jobs and impedes prosperity. The enemy is a government that listens to Washington lobbyists and bureaucrats while ignoring the voices of the people. The enemy is an unaccountable government that sees no limits to its power, its reach or its checkbook, whether there is money to cover the checks or not.

Ted Cruz may have lost in the Senate and on the shutdown, but those are merely the first battles in the war that will be waged for the heart and soul of America over the next four years. What kind of America will emerge from that war of ideas we will have to wait to see, but Ted Cruz has already signaled a clarity of vision, a willingness to lead, and a capacity to inspire that suggests conservatives may finally have a champion who is prepared to take a stand and give the country a real choice for the first time in a generation. That is a victory not only for conservatives, but for Americans in general because as Ronald Reagan demonstrated, one man with a clear vision and message of freedom can move save a nation on the brink of failure and put it back on the path to prosperity.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Greek Tragedy of Obamacare

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where at some point you stop and ask yourself “how the hell did I end up here?” I have, and like a Greek tragedy, usually whatever predicament I found myself in was the result of a number of poor decisions that seemed to compound themselves until they finally reached a point where I had to stop and say “What the hell am I doing?” At that point I had to figure out if there was a way to extricate myself from the situation without hanging myself in the process…

That is exactly where the country is in reference to Obamacare.

Obamacare was passed in 2009 in reaction to anecdotal examples of Americans who couldn’t get healthcare. According to Gallop, in 2009 there were 50 million Americans who did not have health insurance. That represented approximately 16% of the population. Gallop also reported that of those without health insurance, fully 50% were satisfied with their healthcare. That means that fully 92% of the American population either had health insurance – 80% of whom were satisfied with that insurance – or were satisfied enough with their healthcare not to have insurance.

To give those numbers a bit of perspective, compare them the rest of the developed world. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development publishes the Better Life Index which ranks developed nations by a wide variety of criteria, one of which is health. According to the 2011 Better Life Index survey, in 2009 88% of Americans were satisfied with their health. Of the 34 countries covered in the data, in only two – New Zealand (89.7%) and Canada (88.1%) did citizens report a higher level of satisfaction with their health. Not the United Kingdom (76%). Not France (72.4%). Not Sweden (79.1%). Now, of course health is not healthcare, but the goal of healthcare is to improve or sustain a person’s health.

So, in 2009, when 92% of Americans had health insurance or were satisfied enough with their healthcare not to have it, and 88% of Americans were satisfied with their health, we got Obamacare, a 2,000 page bill that needed to be passed before it could be read.

None of that suggests that there were not people who had challenges, difficulties and, frankly, unfair situations. Those people and those difficult situations did indeed exist. But they exist in every endeavor of man in which human beings play a part. Nothing manmade is ever perfect. But 92% was pretty damn good for a country of 305 million widely diverse people. That doesn’t mean that things couldn’t have improved. From allowing a national marketplace to eliminating tax deductions to implementing tort reform, there were many proposals for improving the healthcare situation in America. No doubt those projects would not solve all of the problems. But then neither does Obamacare. By a long shot.

The problem is, Obamacare not only doesn’t do what it claimed it would do, which was to let everyone who was satisfied with their plans keep them while providing affordable insurance for all those who couldn’t get it, but it has failed in its most basic goals. Millions have lost their health insurance, millions more have seen their hours cut, if they can find a jobs in the first place, premiums are skyrocketing for tens of millions of people and the infrastructure upon which the program rests is a failure of epic proportions.

What’s worse, if that’s even possible, is that Obamacare inserts government bureaucracy and ineptitude and failure directly into the most personal lives of every American. Not only that, the regulations that Obamacare generated (fully 30 times longer than the legislation itself) are nothing but tools with which bureaucrats can provide favors for friends or punish enemies.

At the end of the day, we probably should ask ourselves: “How the hell did we get here?” The answer is actually pretty simple: It’s the 1-2-3 recipe of Liberalism. 1) Take an anecdotal problem that, while troubling, is limited in scope, and project it on the larger population. 2) Propose an overarching government solution that will solve said problem while not harming the rest of the population. 3) Implement a bureaucratic nightmare that not only fails to solve the problem but generally makes the situation exponentially worse.

Such is the history of progressive government. Welfare. Poverty. Mortgages. School bussing. Education – at all levels… Failed programs, over and over again. And now we have Obamacare, where a healthcare system that was meeting the needs of 90% of the American population will be transmogrified into something that meets the needs of far fewer, all while imposing financial and regulatory hardships on hundreds of millions of Americans.  

At what point will Americans figure out that these failures do not happen on their own but rather they are the scripted outcome of a Greek tragedy called Liberalism? By now the audience should know the outcome of the story… Big government doesn’t solve problems. It simply takes bad situations and makes them worse. Perhaps the spectacular failure of Obamacare and everything associated with it will be the wakeup call Americans need to see that for all of its beguiling charm and compassionate language, liberalism is nothing more than a siren’s song, promising an island paradise in a sea of human misery. Not only is there no island, nor paradise, but the waters are filled with jagged rocks which invariably destroy every ship whose folly brings it too close.  If we’re lucky Obamacare will be that rare Greek play where the protagonist learns from his mistakes and changes course before his ship is impaled on the rocks…

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On Leadership: Winston Churchill & Ted Cruz

In May 1940 the world faced a menace unlike any it had ever seen. After a decade of economic body blows, much of the world was weary. With the carnage of WWI only 20 years past few people had the stomach to fight for much of anything. It was only with great reluctance that in September 1939 the British and the French declared war on Germany after they invaded Poland with the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, even after the declaration, after years of appeasement most British felt that there was little they could do to stop Adolph Hitler.

Things were indeed bleak and spirits were low. On May 10th Winston Churchill would become Prime Minister, and on that same day the Germans would invade and soon overrun Britain’s main ally, France. And so began the most important chapter in the life of the most important leader of the 20th Century.

That chapter had followed many others however. Winston Churchill spent years in the “wilderness” of British politics between the two world wars. For most of that time he had been ridiculed as a war monger for his constant warnings about the growing menace of, first, the Communists, then Hitler and the Nazis. He was considered a crack pot… what some today might call today a “Wacko Bird”.

Nonetheless, Churchill persisted, despite the fact that much of the enmity towards him came from those within his own party… particularly for his advocacy of free trade. By 1940 many in Britain were not sure that the Nazi juggernaut could be stopped.

A funny thing happened on the way to takeover of the entire world however. One man rallied the people of the one country that stood between Nazi dominance of the entire continent: Winston Churchill.

One month after becoming Prime Minister, Churchill gave a speech that laid out clearly why the fight was worth fighting:
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim?
I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.
This speech, and many others inspired the people of his tiny nation to not only survive the Battle of Britain and deal Hitler his first significant defeat, but to go on and play a leading role in the victory over the Axis powers.

Barack Obama is not Adolph Hitler, the Democrats are not Nazis, and Ted Cruz is not Winston Churchill. Barack Obama is however a statist who seeks to replace free markets and individual freedom with state control and government mandates. The Democrats do however seek to control virtually every aspect of an American’s life. And Ted Cruz understands that victory demands a willingness to say things people may not want to hear, the conviction to stand behind principals worth fighting for, and perhaps most of all, the need to articulate why the fight is being undertaken in the first place.

Churchill was a pariah within his own party and ridiculed from both sides of the aisle, yet he continued to take to the floor of the Parliament and say the things that needed to be said, particularly when few others were perceptive enough to recognize the dangers or had the courage to face them. Eventually the British people recognized that Churchill had been right all along and that he was the man to lead them through their darkest hour. Ted Cruz is not Winston Churchill, but perhaps he carries the spirit of the “Last Lion” with him and if we’re lucky his voice will lead the country past the mortal danger posed by a government that has become too powerful, too dysfunctional, too secretive and too coercive for liberty to survive.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why the shutdown scares the petty vindictive little man Barack Obama

Despite the fact that the average federal employee earns $123,000 (2010 numbers) in salary and benefits while the average private sector employee earns $61,000, my sympathy goes out to those who have found themselves on the sidelines because of Barack Obama and Harry Reid’s shutdown. Despite the fact that they will likely get all of their backpay and perhaps a bit more, it’s always difficult to see people have their finances thrown into chaos. Nonetheless, big government is a cancer on productivity, and while a million federal employees are feeling the pinch of this impasse, tens of millions of Americans are feeling the pinch of no jobs, reduced hours and losing their healthcare because of big government and ObamaCare. Viva la shutdown!

The old saying goes: “Sometimes you have to break some eggs in order to make an omelet.” In this case a more appropriate characterization might be “Sometimes you have to break some eggs in order to put on a banquet.” Given that federal regulations are so costly to American businesses – and consequently to Americans themselves – the extended furlough or firing of the apparatchiks employed to enforce government regulations would allow for a resurgence of economic activity, leading to a return of American prosperity. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, federal regulations will cost Americans $1.8 Trillion this year or about $14,000 per household. How would you like to have an extra $14,000 per year to spend? Well, let’s be generous and suggest that 25% of the government’s regulations are both Constitutional and worthwhile. That would mean that the bonus would only be $11,500 per year. How much of a jolt do you think you could give your community if you and every one of your neighbors had an additional $1,000 a month to spend? I guarantee you it’s a lot more than an omelet.

This shutdown is 100% owned, lock, stock and barrel by Barack Obama and the Democrats. As wasteful as most of the government spending is, the House passed a bill that would fund every single piece of it other than Obamacare. The Senate rejected that and the President promised to veto it if it made it to his desk. They can whine as much as they want about obstructionism, but the fact is that they can have everything they want other than something that a majority of Americans don’t want. Cry as they might, the spilled milk has their fingerprints all over the bottle.

Barack Obama is a petty, spiteful, vindictive little man. In order to make sure that Americans knew the shutdown was going on – because most probably wouldn’t notice as they have lives and are not part of the Democrat / Big Government / Mainstream Media Industrial Complex in the first place – Barack Obama chose to inflict the greatest amount of pain possible. If you’ve never been to Washington to see the WWII monument, it’s a beautiful, spacious open air monument with marble pillars, arches and fountains which is accessible 24 hours a day. You don’t need to buy a ticket to see it, there’s nothing for anyone to do to make sure you can enjoy it, all you have to do is just walk across 17th St. from the Washington Monument and you’re there. You just walk around, that’s it. Barack Obama decided to actually spend money to put up barricades so that you could not visit it during the shutdown. When veterans who actually fought in WWII came to see it and ignored his barricades, he spent more money to have the barricades tethered together and then employed horse mounted Rangers there to ensure that the heroes could not visit the monument to THEM! (Until the veterans announced their visits were protected 1st Amendment activities...) What’s worse, according to one Park Ranger: “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.” If that were not enough, at the same time he threatened to arrest supplemental Catholic priests if they volunteered their time to conduct Mass for military personnel who have no priests available to them. He had police kick veterans and visitors off the Vietnam Memorial, which is literally an open air wall and a walkway dug into the ground. He even tried to close the ocean down in Florida. But if he wants to play golf the course on Andrew’s Air Force Base is open.

Like most things in Washington, words don’t always mean what they actually mean. A shutdown in plain English means that something is frozen, stopped, not functioning. In Washington parlance however, shutdown means that 83% of the budget is still being spent. So the shutdown which President Obama and the rest of the lefties are denouncing really only equates to 17% of the federal government, or about exactly what the government spent just a few short years ago.

Ronald Reagan endured half a dozen shutdowns at the hands of the stridently partisan Tip O’Neill and the world did not come to an end. It won’t end now either. This shutdown will not bring about Armageddon any more than sequester did. What it might do however is focus American’s attention on the fact that the nanny state is not as important as those in Washington would like us to believe. Many Americans might be surprised to discover that not only does the sun continue to rise during the shutdown, but the neighborhood supermarket still opens, cable TV is still on the air and their cars still run. Frankly, that’s a danger for Barack Obama and big government types of all stripes, because once Americans rediscover that they can survive without big government they just might start pushing back. And when they start the bell will soon begin to toll for much of what government has appropriated for itself over the last half century... and with it will go the confiscatory taxes that have made that encroachment possible. As such, don’t be surprised to see Obama and Co. continue to look for new ways to inflict pain on the American people. The question is, will the squishes in the GOP be able to stomach the fight long enough for Americans to come to the realization that they don’t need a nanny state to hold their hands from cradle to grave? Let’s hope they do.