Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Time Has Come


"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
If only I were as eloquent as Thomas Jefferson.

In every society there comes a time at which government fails and the voices of the governed are lost. Power, rather than a tool of governance, becomes an end in itself, reserved only for those who can afford to grasp it.

That moment is here. That time is now.

The government of the United States of America has become"destructive of these ends" in that it has become a tool for those in power to retain power, for those with means to amass more fortune. Governance has been replaced with self-aggrandizement. The president has become nothing more than a distraction, diverting attention away from a Congress that concerns itself only with preserving -- and expanding -- its own power.

We have tried following the process, unelecting those who are the worst offenders, only to have the replacements be as bad or worse. This is clearly not working, and it's time to try something different.

It's time to shut it down.

Congress comes back from recess the week after Independence Day (the Senate on the 10th, the House on the 11th). I propose we blockade the Capitol beginning July 11th and prevent anyone from leaving until they have accomplished the following:
  • Reassert the commitment of the United States to adhering to the Paris Climate Accord.
  • Pass term limits for members of Congress. These limits shall state that no person shall be eligible to stand for election if he or she has served up to 14 years, consecutive or not, in any Federal elected office.
  • Eliminate private campaign funding for general elections and establish a public campaign fund. Private contributions may be used for primary elections; however, any money that is left over after the primary is deposited into the general campaign fund, where it shall be divided equally among all declared candidates in the general election.
  • Eliminate anonymous donor lists from 501(c)(4) organizations. Currently a 501(c)(4) organization, while not permitted to engage directly in political activity, is allowed to solicit unlimited donations from anonymous donors and to donate that money to a corresponding 527 organization. Basically a money-laundering scheme that allows dark money to flow unimpeded. By removing the anonymity of 501(c)(4) donor lists, we can eliminate dark money altogether.
  • Set national election days. Move election days for both primaries and the general election to Saturday, and establish Election Day for both primary and general elections as national holidays.
This is a peaceful protest. We will not tolerate violence, destruction of property, looting, rioting, etc. The idea is to put the Capitol under siege until they do their jobs, which is to reflect the will of the people.

We want our country back. #ShutItDown

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Alternative to the Republican Alternative


Health care is a hot topic these days, with good reason. It accounts for nearly 18% of GDP. It is up to an average of just under $10,000 per person as of 2015. For many people, it represents the second biggest monthly expense, after rent/mortgage (for some, it is the single biggest expense). And yes, by some measures it is woefully inefficient in the United States.

The Republican plan is attempting to reform the system by a) reducing costs, and 2) passing those reductions on to the top 1% in the form of tax cuts. I don't think the GOP is going out of its way to be cruel; it appears that the cruelty is just a bonus for the likes of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.

One common buzzword that is emerging is "consumer choice." Apparently, to the GOP, more choice = better outcomes, even though this has never been the case when it comes to health care. The problem lies with the assumption that health care is a consumable service, like tax preparation or car repairs. It is not. Paul Ryan has said that the House plan "guarantees access to health care." It absolutely does, but only in the same way that I have "access" to a villa in Tuscany and a new Rolls-Royce ... there's nothing that forbids me from owning these things, but if I can't afford them then it's my own damned fault.

"Choice" is not always good. When someone has been in a car accident, or is having a stroke, or has fallen down a flight of stairs, they are in no position to research an acceptable "choice" ... they need care, and they need it fast. I realize that it has been a long standing policy in the United States that nobody gets turned away if they need care, and that is definitely how it should be. However, it is grossly unfair that someone is not turned away, only to be driven into bankruptcy because of some minuscule print on an insurance policy that says claims will not be paid if the doctor's name is Harold, or something like that.

The ACA was an attempt to make the free market behave like single-payer. In some ways it was successful, in other ways less so. Regardless, single-payer is the only way to guarantee:
  • Everybody has unfettered access to health care.
  • Nobody will go bankrupt as a result of medical expenses.
  • The amount spent on health care will actually go down.
"But, but, but," I can hear Republicans sputtering, "how will we pay for this?" The answer is easy: raise taxes.

I know, I know. This is a concept that is anathema to conservatives, and not a favorite of everybody else, but look at the math. For example, I spend roughly $6,600 a year for employer-provided health insurance (including dental and vision) for myself and my family. There are roughly 126 million people working in the United States. Assuming a conservative estimate that each person with insurance is covering another one of these working people, and that the insurance costs about the same (mine is actually fairly inexpensive by comparison -- the Department of Health and Human Services pegged the average annual health care cost per person at $10,345 in 2016), that equates to about $415 trillion dollars being spent on health insurance each year. Compare that to the $110 billion being spent by the federal government to support the ACA.

Now, let's say we needed to fund single-payer health care, and we do so by raising taxes to cover the anticipated cost of $1.34 trillion over the next decade for the ACA, or $134 billion per year. To do this we would have to raise taxes on every working person in the United States by an average of $1,064 per year, or about $90 a month.

So yes, taxes would go up, but they would be more than offset by the fact that people would not have to pay for health insurance any longer. In this extremely simplified average, this means that each working person in the United States will see an average of $460 more in their pay each month.

Granted, these are drastically simplified numbers, and this example makes a lot of assumptions, but it is fine for illustrative purposes. The long and short of it is this: single payer will give us better results, at a lower cost, than the ACA, and definitely a better scenario than the ridiculousness put together by the Republicans in Congress.

Let's Have An Honest Discussion


As those who read my rants on a regular basis (both of you) know, I am not a trump supporter by any stretch of the imagination. In my opinion, he is loud, boorish, intellectually incurious. he does not have a Presidential temperament. He lies. He rips people off. He will say whatever he needs to say in order to accomplish his goal ... and his only goal is glorifying himself.

I found myself thinking, though, that I am wrapping myself in this anti-trump bubble. I associate with people who feel as I do. Not out of the ordinary, I suppose; for millennia humans have gravitated to those with whom they have common ground. But what about those people outside the bubble?

This got me to thinking that part of the problem we are facing, part of the unending rancor, is due to the fact that stereotypes abound in a landscape facing a dearth of factual information. All trump supporters are racist. All Hillary supporters are whiny liberals. All Republicans are interested only in being cruel. All Democrats just want to give handouts to illegal immigrants.

The truth is obviously somewhere in the middle of all the shrieking, something I tried to cover in a previous article entitled Republicans Aren't Necessarily Bad. They're Just Drawn That Way. And while this may have been fine as far as it went, it is still just my side of things.

So I want to start hearing from Republicans in general and trump supporters in particular. However, since the circle that reads this is noted for being vehemently anti-orange, it's going to take some help to get conservatives to take notice of this ... and to take it seriously instead of resorting to a knee-jerk "libtards!" reaction.

This is where you come in.

I'm sure there are people out there who know someone who is a conservative Republican and/or trump supporter, and those are the people I would like to hear from now. All I am looking for is the answer to one question:

Why are you a Republican?

This is not intended as a challenging question, but a sincere effort to understand. Political debate in this country will go absolutely nowhere if all we do is scream at each other across an ever-widening divide. So, in an effort to open up the discussion, I would genuinely like to hear from Republicans explaining why their affiliation lies with the Republican Party.

Please share this with any Republicans you know, and let's get the ball rolling.

Please like and share my page at www.facebook.com/BlowhardPundit.

And The Oscar Goes To ...

Yeah, yesterday's column? Um ... no. Yesterday I posted that I had undergone a change of heart, a radical shift in my political lean...