Monday, March 09, 2020

'Berning' Down America

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” —Ronald Reagan

“In many US states, a single high-school history class is the only civics instruction that future voters ever receive. Eight states don’t even make the study of American history a graduation requirement.” —from a column, “Public schools are teaching our children to hate America,” by Mary Kay Linge

Bernie Sanders is what you get when orchestrated ignorance, a cultivated contempt for America, and “an everyone gets a trophy just for showing up” sense of self-entitlement reaches critical mass. On Monday night, the leading Democrat candidate for president released a plan calling for a cornucopia of big-government “solutions” to the nation’s problems that demonstrates exactly that. It is a paean to the idea that there are sufficient numbers of intellectually challenged Americans who believe that massive giveaways are “free” or can be paid for by extracting large sums of money from “greedy” fellow Americans who have “more than their fair share.”

Why did Sanders release the plan? Perhaps it’s because he is as ignorant as many of his followers. Asked how he’d pay for his program, Sanders insists he “can’t rattle off to you every nickel and every dime.” Tuesday’s chaotic debate proved no better, as Sanders had difficulty answering a number of other questions as well.

Yet who’s kidding whom? For legions of “Bernie Bros,” who see the 78-year-old socialist/Marxist as more of a televangelist than a presidential candidate, details are largely irrelevant.

Even more irrelevant? These same followers — who support a plan that envisions raising money by precipitating lawsuits against the fossil-fuel industry, eviscerating the military, massively expanding the power of the IRS, and simply seizing wealth for the sake of “social justice” — somehow presume that behavior is static. In short, they think no matter how much money one extracts from the private sector, people will continue to work, take risks, create new businesses, and live their lives as if nothing has changed.

It doesn’t get more ignorant than that, yet that ignorance is hardly surprising. “Feel the Bern” is a triumph of emotionalism over intellectual curiosity.

And no one champions that useful-idiot dynamic more than Sanders himself. Sanders remains an apologist for one of the most repressive regimes on the planet. “We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but, you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who had played a 1985 clip of Sanders extolling Castro’s virtues. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did?” Sanders continued. “He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

For older Americans, idiotic tradeoffs have a familiar ring, akin to the apologist assertions that murderous dictators like Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler were not all bad, because Mussolini made the trains run on time and Hitler restored the pride of a German populace devastated by WWI. In that vein, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had the perfect response to Sanders’s assertion: “It really makes a difference when those you murder at the firing squad can read & write.”

Sanders’s affection for totalitarian societies isn’t limited to Cuba. The man who honeymooned in the Soviet Union also praised it for providing a “whole variety of programs for the young people, and cultural programs which go far beyond what we do in this country.” He added, “We went to a theater in Yaroslavl which was absolutely beautiful — had three separate stages.”

Columnist Katya Sedgwick, who grew up in the then-Soviet Socialist State of Ukraine, gave the proper context to such an assertion. “My generation of Soviets came of age knowing that the USSR was built on tyranny and lies,” she writes. “We are the most cynical generation in Russian history. Once the country crumbled, our lives spun out of control. As a result, Russian speakers my age suffered through high rates of substance abuse, low life expectancies, and through-the-floor birth rates. On the plus side, we grew up with gaudy chandeliers in public places.”

The same kind of cynicism is the life blood of Sanders’s campaign. Columnist Jake Novak illuminates a number of factors that drive it, all of which involve the alienation of younger Americans, besieged by student debt, even as they underwrite Social Security and Medicare skewed toward older Americans, and remain largely ignored by the establishment members of both parties.

Novak also explains that Democrats have brought Sanders’s popularity down upon themselves, courtesy of their assertions that President Trump is a white supremacist and an agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Think about it: if you really believe the president is a traitor and supporting violent plots against non-white Americans, is this really the time to support mainstream Democrat or Republican candidates?” he writes. “Sanders may be a career politician, but he’s never been a mainstream politician. His persona and political brand fits much better into the current Democratic narrative that we’re living in desperate times.”

Desperation is an emotion, and there is little doubt that emotionalism has transcended intellectual rigor in modern-day America. We are a nation where absurd concepts such as “triggering,” “microaggressions,” “intersectionalism,"and "my truth” have supplanted logic and reason as the common currency of younger generations so cynical, many believe the entire planet has only a dozen years left until climate apocalypse ends humanity itself.

Thus an entire reordering of society, a.k.a. “fundamental transformation” — with retribution as a possible part of the “social justice” mix — is the only way forward.

The searing irony is impossible to ignore. “Democrats have for decades (since JFK) admired godless socialism,” columnist Kevin McCullough explains, even as he further notes that the party “lied about what it all means — especially during election cycles — knowing that middle of the road Americans wouldn’t quite be able to stomach it.”

Enter Sanders, who has unmasked the subterfuge to the utter horror of establishment Democrats and their mainstream-media allies, who are appalled by Sanders’s honesty.

Why? By any reasonable standard, every Democrat still in the presidential race is a radical leftist in a party that has reached “peak progressivism,” as Victor Davis Hanson puts it. Thus it’s hardly surprising that a genuine socialist/Marxist would resonate more than his less honest competitors.

Yet Sanders represents something else as well. For decades, this nation has done a terrible job passing American exceptionalism down to the next generation, and at some point that failure reaches critical mass.

Can Sanders win the nomination? If Sanders maintains his front-runner status, Democrats will likely engender chaos — maybe even a brokered convention — in trying to prevent it. If Sanders still prevails? The 2020 election will be all about revolution or repudiation.

Here’s hoping for repudiation — on a massive scale. A constitutional republic is a terrible thing to waste.



What Bernie Sanders Isn’t Telling You About Canadian Health Care

All Americans, regardless of political party, want access to timely, high-quality health care. The question is how to get there. Do we harness the power and innovation of the private sector, or do we hand it to the government and hope for the best?

Canada has chosen the latter route, and at one of the most recent debates among Democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders once again touted its government-run health care system as a model for America.

Alas, Sanders’ sanitized version of Canadian health care doesn’t remotely fit the facts.

No more out-of-pocket expenses? In reality, Canadians’ out-of-pocket health costs are nearly identical to what Americans pay—a difference of roughly $15 per month. In return, Canadians pay up to 50% more in taxes than Americans, with government health costs alone accounting for $9,000 in additional taxes per year. This comes to roughly $50 in additional taxes per dollar saved in out-of-pocket costs.

Keep in mind these are only the beginning of the financial hits from “Medicare for All.” Canada’s public system does not cover many large health costs, from pharmaceuticals to nursing homes to dental and vision.

As a result, public health spending in Canada accounts for only 70% of total health spending. In contrast, Medicare for All proposals promise 100% coverage. This suggests the financial burdens on Americans, and distortions to care, would be far greater than what Canadians already suffer.

Canada’s limited coverage may surprise Americans, but the key is understanding what “universal” means in “universal care.”

Universal systems mean everybody is forced to join the public system. It emphatically does not mean everything is free. Indeed, out-of-pocket costs are actually significantly higher in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway than they are in America.

More serious than the financial burdens is what happens to quality of care in a government-run system.

Canada’s total health costs are about one-third cheaper than the U.S. as a percent of gross domestic product, but this is achieved by undesirable cost-control practices. For example, care is ruthlessly rationed, with waiting lists running into months or years.

The system also cuts corners by using older and cheaper drugs and skimping on modern equipment. Canada today has fewer MRI units per capita than Turkey or Latvia. Moreover, underinvestment in facilities and staff has reached the point where Canadians are being treated in hospital hallways.

Predictably, Canada’s emergency rooms are packed. In the province of Quebec, wait times average over four hours, leading many patients to just give up, go home, and hope for the best.

Seeing a specialist can take a shockingly long time. One doctor in Ontario called in a referral for a neurologist and was told there was a four-and-a-half year waiting list.

A 16-year-old boy in British Columbia waited three years for an urgent surgery, during which his condition worsened and he was left paraplegic. One Montreal man finally got the call for his long-delayed urgent surgery—but it came two months after he had died.

Canadians have found a way to escape the rationing, the long waits, and substandard equipment. They go to the U.S.

Every year, more than 50,000 Canadians fly to get their surgeries here because they can get high-quality care and fast treatment at a reasonable price. They willingly pay cash for care that, for the vast majority of Americans, is covered by insurance, private or public.

Far from being a model of government-run health care, Canada serves as a warning of the unintended consequences of socialized medicine: high taxes, long waits, staff shortages, and substandard drugs and equipment. Those suffering the most are the poor, who cannot afford to fly abroad for timely treatment.

Far from the feel-good rhetoric, socialized medicine in Canada has proved a bait-and-switch that has never lived up to the promise.

In Washington today, there are very sound proposals on the table to reduce U.S. health care costs. They include reforms to assure price transparency, increase competition, and repeal price-hiking mandates. That is the best way forward.

Canada’s system of socialized medicine has created high taxes and suffering patients. That’s not what Americans want or deserve.



The Endless Stalemate Ends  -- or does it?

The news that a peace agreement has been reached with the Taliban after 18 years of war has drawn some criticism of President Donald Trump from Patriots concerned about national security. We in our humble shop agree with Rep. Liz Cheney and former National Security Advisor John Bolton that this deal comes with risks.

That said, we also have long thought that Afghanistan had reached a point where there were no good options. As we also have noted, there was no clear idea of what victory looked like and how it would be achieved. Thus, the war effort became a mess that was largely passed off to Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

Even under George W. Bush, who was serious about winning, America pulled punches that should have been allowed to go full-force. Dalton Fury revealed in 2008 that requests to use modern GATOR mines were rejected during the Battle of Tora Bora. These mines would have self-destructed or gone inert within 40 days. But micromanaging from Washington allowed Osama bin Laden to make it into Pakistan, where he hid out for nearly a decade.

The betrayal of Patriots who served — like James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who played crucial roles in getting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to spill his guts — also raised questions about how serious those in Washington were about winning.

Yet we were supposed to let SOCOM send its highly trained operatives on numerous deployments to that region with no clue about how to win or what winning looked like? How numerous were those deployments? Here is one indicator: The first military casualty during President Trump's administration had been sent on 12 deployments.

We should not dismiss what was achieved: Afghanistan has a freely elected government. We have killed or captured a lot of the senior leadership of al-Qaida. We have not seen anything like another 9/11. We have trained an Afghan military that is capable of defending that country. We should be proud of what our troops, including those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, accomplished.

But we should also keep some things in mind. We have lessons to learn from this war. We should, as a country, resolve that when we do ask our troops to fight and risk being maimed or killed, they be allowed to win.

Whether this peace agreement will hold is an open question. Could the Taliban merely be using this as a chance to re-arm and gain strength to go after the Afghan government? We can't rule that out. If that should happen, then the Taliban must pay a fearsome price for breaking the deal.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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