Sunday, December 18, 2011

Is Liberalism a Religion?

When people make statements that are completely at variance with reality and they continue to repeat them and you know they are not crazy, it’s only natural to wonder, what’s going on?

I’ve concluded that for some people on the left, political beliefs are like a false religion in which the parishioners become unable to distinguish myth from reality.

How else can you explain the statements of Donald Berwick, President Obama’s recess appointee to run Medicare and Medicaid, on his way out of office the other day? For starters, he claimed that the Affordable Care Act (what some people call ObamaCare) “is making health care a basic human right.” Then he went on to say that because of the new law, “we are a nation headed for justice, for fairness and justice in access to care.”

Now I can’t claim to have read everything in the 2,700-page law, but I can assure you that “making health care a right” just isn’t in there. Nor is there anything in the new law that makes the role of government more “just” or “fair.”

To the contrary, a lot of knowledgeable people (not just conservative critics) are predicting that access to care is going to be more difficult for our most vulnerable populations. That appears to have been the experience in Massachusetts, which Obama cites as the model for the new federal reforms. It’s not that Massachusetts tried and failed to expand access to care. It didn’t even try.

True enough, Massachusetts cut the number of uninsured in that state in half through Governor Romney’s health reform. But it didn’t create any new doctors. The state expanded the demand for care, but it did nothing to expand supply. More people than ever are trying to get care, but because there was no increase in medical services, it has become more difficult than ever to actually see a doctor.

And far from fair, the new federal health law will give some people health insurance subsidies that are as much as $20,000 more than the subsidies available to other people at the same level of income. In fact, the new system of health insurance subsidies is about as arbitrary as it can be.

Berwick isn’t alone in making bizarre statements about health reform. Right after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, administration health advisors Robert Kocher, Ezekiel Emanuel and Nancy-Ann DeParle announced that the new health reform law “guarantees access to health care for all Americans.”

In fact, nothing in the act guarantees access to care for any America, let alone all Americans. Far from it. Again, take Massachusetts as the precedent. The waiting time to see a new family practice doctor in Boston (63 days) is longer than in any other major U.S. city. In a sense, a new patient seeking care in Boston has less access to care than in just about every other U.S. city!

The disconnect between belief and reality is not unique to our country. With the enactment of the British National Health Service after World War II, the reformers claimed that they too had made health care a “right.” The same claim was made in Canada after that country established its “single-payer” Medicare scheme.

Yet in reality, neither country has made health care a right. They didn’t even come close. Neither British nor Canadian citizens have a right to any particular health care. A patient with a mysterious lump on her breast has no right to an MRI scan in either country. A cancer patient has no right to the latest cancer drug. A cardiac patient has no right to open heart surgery. They may get the care they need. Or they may not. Sadly, all too often they do not.

The British and the Canadians not only have no legally enforceable right to any particular type of care, they don’t even have a right to a place in line. For example, a patient who is 100th on the waiting list for heart surgery is not entitled to the 100th surgery. Other patients (including cash paying patients from the United States!) may jump the queue and get their surgery first.

Imagine a preacher, a priest or a rabbi who gets up in front of the congregation and gets a lot of things wrong. Say he misstates facts, distorts reality, or says other things you know are not true. Do you jump up from the pew and yell, “That’s a lie”? Of course not. But if those same misstatements were made by someone else during the work week you might well respond with considerable harshness. What’s the difference? I think there are two different thought processes that many people engage in. Let’s call them “Sunday morning” thinking and “Monday morning” thinking. We tolerate things on Sunday that we would never tolerate on Monday. And there is probably nothing wrong with that, unless people get their days mixed up.

In my professional career I have been to hundreds of health policy conferences, discussions, get-togethers, etc., where it seemed as though people were completely failing to connect with each other. One day it dawned on me that we were having two different conversations. Some people were engaged in Monday morning thinking, while everyone else was engaged in Sunday morning thinking.

Here’s the problem. Whether the beliefs are true or false, if people didn’t come to their religious convictions by means of reason, then reason isn’t going to convince them to change their minds.

This same principle applies to collectivism and health care. If people didn’t come to the false religion of collectivism by means of reason, you are not going to talk them out of it by means of reason. If you remember this principle, you will save yourself the agony of many, many pointless conversations.



GOP must stop apologizing

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident..." What truths? What has happened to our passion for liberty? I am concerned that we conservatives, instead of making our case as fearless champions of liberty, are too often on the defensive, preoccupied with trying to prove we aren't the demons the left says we are.

In the GOP primary contest, you'll hear one candidate scolding the others for lacking compassion, another demagoguing a rival for advocating essential entitlement reform, and another shaming an opponent for being too wealthy.

Shouldn't our side do a better job of proudly proclaiming our case for what we believe in rather than have our tails tucked between our legs, apologizing for conservatism and all too often neglecting our first principles?

Because we face an existential threat to the nation in our exploding discretionary and entitlement spending, we rightly aim our rhetoric against the deficits and the debt. That's critically important, but in the process, do we forget to explain that we favor smaller government also as a matter of principle? Do we make the case that we oppose a bigger and more intrusive government because a) it is incompatible with what we stand for -- robust political liberty -- and b) other than metastasizing and swallowing up the private sector and our individual liberties, government does only a few things well?

Likewise, do we connect the dots between our confiscatory tax policies and the diminution of our liberties, demonstrating a nexus between oppressive taxes and serfdom? Do we protest that we are already overtaxed and that an onerous tax system, enforced by a menacing federal agency, devours our political liberty?

To the contrary, instead of communicating our passion for liberty -- the bedrock principle upon which the nation was founded, lest we forget -- we spend too much time defending against the false charge that we are evil elitists protecting a tax structure that is tilted in favor of the wealthy. It's not.

We say we can't support tax cuts during tough economic times, but are we tacitly conceding that it will be just fine to tax ourselves further into oblivion once the economy turns around? How about saying, "We are taxed too much at every level, and our government's financial problems are a result of overspending, not of under-taxation, and they will be solved not by increasing liberty-choking taxes, but by cutting spending"?

We conservatives constantly complain -- and rightly so -- about the chilling effect overregulation has on the economy. But do we emphasize that this frightening explosion of power in mostly independent and largely unreviewable federal agencies represents a grave threat to our individual liberties?

Do we conservatives inspire the American people to reach for the sky, saying that a rising tide lifts all boats and that they should aspire to be the best they can be? Or do we spend too much time apologizing for inequitable distributions of the wealth?

Do we affirmatively champion the virtues of the free market and point out that greater liberty produces greater prosperity and greater prosperity means greater liberty?

When the left incites covetousness and greed by demonizing the "rich" and scoffing at capitalism's allegedly false promise that the prosperity will "trickle down," we should remind these socialists that a) it is absurd that we measure material prosperity based on how much more the other guy has instead of how much we have in absolute terms, b) a free market system, by definition, means some will do better than others, c) the idea isn't for meat scraps to trickle down from the more affluent in a zero-sum economy, but to expand the economic pie with more people producing and succeeding on their own, free of dependence on the government and retaining their dignity, d) our capitalistic system, undergirded by the Constitution and the rule of law, has produced the most prosperous society in world history, and e) the coercive command-control system they champion in the name of equalizing outcomes is antithetical to liberty and thus to America's founding principles and inevitably leads to less for everyone except for the ruling class and its cronies.

Have we gotten to the point that we can no longer preach the work ethic? Rugged individualism? Thrift? Individual responsibility?

Let's passionately attest that America is the only nation in the history of the world founded on a set of principles -- the most important of which is that we have God-given, inalienable rights centered in political liberty -- that the preservation of our liberty is not on autopilot, and that if we abandon our commitment to liberty, liberty will just as surely abandon us?



Obama EEOC Wipes Out Jobs By Making Hiring More Difficult

Obama appointees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are killing jobs by making hiring decisions riskier and more costly. As I explain below, employers’ ability to hire based on merit has increasingly come under assault by the EEOC, as it has ordered employers to discard useful employment tests and put up with incompetent employees. It is not worthwhile setting up a business if all your sensible hiring decisions are second-guessed or vetoed by the EEOC.

When reporters write stories about the cost of regulations, they only focus on regulations found in formal codes. But most regulations aren’t formal rules, but rather agency interpretations of statutes. Typically, such agency interpretations expand the reach of a statute the agency administers, such as a statute that authorizes lawsuits by job-applicants, employees, tenants, or customers against businesses that allegedly violate the statute’s provisions. For example, the EEOC’s interpretations of anti-discrimination laws and disabilities-rights laws are not formal rules, as the Supreme Court has noted, but the courts often defer to the EEOC’s interpretations anyway. So the EEOC can dramatically increase the ability of employees, or the EEOC itself, to sue businesses under those laws, just by coming up with expansive interpretations of those laws (thus expanding its own power). The result is an increase in costly lawsuits that imposes economic burdens on employers, and discourages people from setting up small businesses or hiring new employees to work in existing businesses.

The EEOC has sued, and threatened to sue, employers who hire and fire based on merit. For example, a hotel chain was recently compelled to pay $132,500 for dismissing an autistic desk clerk who did not do his job properly, in order for it avoid a lawsuit by the EEOC that would have cost it much more than that to defend. “The EEOC says Comfort Suites dismissed the clerk when it should instead have accepted the services of a state-paid ‘job coach’ who might have ‘helped the clerk learn to master his job by using autism-specific training techniques.’” Based on a 1979 Supreme Court decision, it used to be thought that employers did not have to alter essential job requirements to accommodate the disabled, or incur more than modest expense, to comply with disabilities-rights laws; but the EEOC has progressively expanded the reach of the disabilities-rights laws since then, through ever-broader and more onerous agency interpretations of those statutes.

The EEOC has sued employers who sensibly refuse to hire as truckers people with a history of heavy drinking and alcoholism. It has done so even though if employers do hire alcoholics for such safety-sensitive positions, they will be sued under state tort laws when the alcoholic driver has an accident. The EEOC’s demand that such employers disregard histories of alcoholism is based on an extremely expansive, and dubious, interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The EEOC is suing employers over the use of criminal histories in hiring, and harassing employers who conduct criminal background checks, even though employers who hire criminals end up getting sued when those employees commit crimes while on the employer’s payroll. The EEOC’s demands thus place employers in an impossible dilemma where they can be sued no matter what they do.

The EEOC is also suing employers who don’t bend sensible workplace rules to accommodate the obese, claiming that obesity is a disability. And it is suing employers who take into account bad credit and financial histories in hiring, even though failure to take that into account can lead to lawsuits against banks and property managers by customers.

All of these burdensome mandates, and the threat of lawsuits, discourage people from setting up a business, just as regulations making it almost impossible to fire people in places like Portugal and Italy have contributed to those countries’ slow economic growth by discouraging the formation of new businesses and the hiring of additional employees. (Researchers like the RAND Institute have found that more employment-related regulation and litigation are associated with increased unemployment rates.)

The EEOC’s aggressive new stance reflects its new left-wing majority under the Obama administration, which has appointed anti-business extremists to the EEOC.

The Obama administration’s demand that businesses make risky hiring decisions reflects its general antipathy to business, which is discouraging job creation. A liberal Yale professor recounts being told by a businessman that he would not hire more employees despite having a “successful business” due to the current political and regulatory climate. “How can I hire new workers today, when I don’t know how much they will cost me tomorrow?,” asked the businessman, “referring not to wages, but to regulation: He has no way of telling what new rules will go into effect when. His business . . . operates on low margins. He can’t afford to take the chance of losing what little profit there is to the next round of regulatory changes. And so he’s hiring nobody until he has some certainty about cost.”

Boston business owner Terry Catchpole noted in The New York Times that economic uncertainty due to Obama administration policies has wiped out jobs at companies like his:

"Two years ago our executive communications company had 17 employees. Today it has seven . . . like many small businesses, we are dependent on big businesses as customers. And the big businesses that we would ordinarily depend on to become clients are sitting on their cash, because they are deathly afraid of an Obama administration that has been hostile to business . . . They have no idea where the administration’s next attack is coming from, and how much it is going to cost them to defend. So businesses do not spend money; they do not hire my company; and we cannot hire back those 10 good people we had to let go."

Democratic businessman Steve Wynn called Obama “the greatest wet blanket to business and progress and job creation in my lifetime,” saying that “the business community in this country is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he’s gone, everybody’s going to be sitting on their thumbs.”

Obamacare’s burdens on employers may eventually wipe out as many as 800,000 jobs.



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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