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Posts Tagged ‘liberals

Conservative Health Ideology is Still Wrong…..

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Budget Cuts in 2011 Sign

I object to many of the points in this article published by the American Conservative Magazine…and many of its comments.

According to PEW, I’m a liberal. However, I do not believe in taxing hospitals and providers at extraordinarily (75%!) high levels as the American Conservative article claims all liberals want. Nor do I believe in making all doctors/practitioners state workers. I find these notions shocking and antithetical to our democratic principles. In addition, I do not agree that liberals want someone else to pay for our health care needs. All of my liberal, Democratic friends agree with me on these points. Conservative talking points about what liberals and Democrats is long out of date, thus making them no longer relevant.

I agree that more money should and could be put into health cure research. Curing diseases, as in eliminating them, does bring down cost of health care. However, contrary to what some people posted in the comments section, the fed government via the NIH has provided much of the needed funding for basic research. Health care companies, in general, have reduced their R&D budgets by billions as more me-too drugs and generics hit the market which means the NIH grants become all the more important. I realize this flies in the face of the oxymoronic notion that government cannot do anything right. Would those thinking this way say the same about the DoD and DARPA over the last 30-plus years? Tremendous research is being carried out all across the country by leading research labs and universities as a result of NIH and allied federal research institutes’ funding.

Third, regarding costs. When people talk about how much cheaper it was to get medical care back in the ’50s they fail to note how much medical care has changed since the ’50s. Technologically driven advances drove much of the increased costs. Comparing 1950s medicine to today is like comparing the Model T to today’s automobile. Ain’t gonna work! It’s why a comparison of the 1950s costs to today are totally worthless at best and deceptively ignorant at worst. By the way, health insurance was instituted by companies, as an employee recruitment draw, during WWII. You know, back in the early ‘40s. So, the ‘50s argument about costs is ludicrous on its face as most large companies already offered health insurance to their employees.

The author correctly states in his analysis that hospitals shift cost losses from ERs to all other areas of the hospital. If hospitals failed to do so, they’d go broke rapidly since EMTLA (since Reagan signed the law, hospitals cannot deny treatment to anyone without insurance, regardless of ability to pay cash) is the law for the land. Thus, ERs have become loss leaders even while being necessary as public/community services. But the medical establishment, in conjunction with politicians, has divided up hospital territories upon which, all too often, none shall intervene.

But more to the point is that medical costs are opaque. Even when you ask about costs, most of the time you cannot get an answer. Either the provider refuses to give an answer or says that different insurance negotiating policies provide different pricing so they cannot/will not provide you an answer regarding pricing. In Taiwan, which has a single payer system and a private practitioner system, all prices of all the different providers are printed and posted in every provider’s office so patients can see the prices and can make their decisions accordingly. We don’t have that same transparency here in the US. How can you know you’re getting the best bang for the buck if pricing and comparative quality remain a mystery?

In addition, regardless of emergency needs, how many of us are capable of telling our doctors, “Sorry, I don’t want to do that test you demand I take or take that expensive medicine you prescribe”? Medical care is not like buying shoes or cars, regardless of the libertarian arguments simply because health care consumers – patients – understand they are not medical experts. If the doctor says do x, y, and z, we tend to do it because we believe the doctor is the expert and knows best. And all too often, as I’ve discovered, when you argue with the doctor, he angrily pulls the argument that he’s the professional and you’re not…do it or else! Free financial markets, to work correctly, depend upon access by all to the same information. That doesn’t occur all too often, and most particularly does not occur in the health care market because we’re not all equal experts in health care.

In addition, current regulations preclude the ability of Medicare from negotiating RX prices which means this country subsidizes other countries. We in the US essentially pay higher costs so those other countries can obtain lower prices. As a free market advocate, I object to that subsidy to other countries.

Finally, let me say that I and my liberal friends look forward to the day when health insurance is completely separated from the current employer based system to one that enables a group of like minded individuals to buy insurance on an exchange at market competitive prices. We recognize, as realists, that health insurance is not going away…it’s been around too long and has a huge hold in the mindset of too many people as an appropriate way to spread costs a la all other insurance policies. In addition, many of us liberals hope that once the exchanges are up and working well, a la Reihan Salam, that Medicaid, Medicare and VA outpatient systems can be moved into that singular system similar to Switzerland which spends approximately 11% compared to our almost 18% (17.9% in 2012). Currently, our health care systems are so fragmented that the most needy in those systems cause the highest cost. Moving everyone into the same system spreads the cost across a greater market – which the rest of the insurance market essentially does – to decrease costs for any individual or family.

Further, it should be noted that PPACA, aka Obamacare, does go a long way to fund pilot projects that looks at other health care funding models. Some 27 provisions in the PPACA legislation provide state approved or organizationally approved experimental models. The goal of these 27 provisions is to determine what works to provide the best heath outcomes at the best prices. Many of them are showing such remarkable results that large private companies like Boeing have signed up for.

For the libertarians out there, might I remind you of two things: 1) Friedrich Hayek said he was not a conservative because conservatives look to the past while he looked to the future, and, second, that he believed it was necessary and vital to provide a strong social safety net, including national health care, as societal goods because they promoted social and political stability.

What I believe most conservatives, including many social scientists like Prof. Heidt who claims to lean liberal, get wrong is that modern, post-Clinton Democrats are not adverse to capitalism but rather see the difference between laissez-faire capitalism which never worked for the masses (see Adam Smith, the Irish Famine & British Parliamentary history, early 1900s in the US, Robber Barons, Progressive Movement, TR’s autobiography) and long held Jeffersonian – Jacksonian values of opportunity regardless of the social and economic class into which one was born and regardless of race or ethnicity or wealth. What we liberals don’t demand is equality of outcomes, but rather equity of beginnings, i.e. education.

As a result of our modern belief system, liberals want a medical care delivery system that is fair to all providers while using the best technology and gathered data available to lower delivery system costs including using data from other OECD countries.

Rather than being ideological, we seek pragmatic answers to our modern challenges. Can today’s GOP and its libertarian allies say the same?

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Conjunction of Conservatives vs Liberals in Public Policy

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Power to the PeopleDavid Frum, conservative public policy writer and contributor to The Daily Beast and CNN, wrote a scathing blog post today on his DB blog excoriating protesters, whether OWS, NATO, or other issue protesters, specifically regarding the planned protests during upcoming G8 and G20 meetings.  It’s not likely Frum will read my response, let alone respond to it since he has chosen not to interact with those who comment on his blog posts, either at TBD or Frum Forum.

Nevertheless, he raises an important issue which is the difference between the conservative mind and the liberal mind on issues relating to public policy, societal structures, and cultural norms. As Jonathan Haidt points out from his psychological research, conservative minds and liberal minds are quite different in how they view the world and change. So, it is with this information in mind that I speak to Frum’s – and other conservatives’ – fears and concerns regarding the changing nature of our public dialogue as well as why change is not a net negative.

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I suspect what really angers conservatives is that OWS, NATO, and other protesters refuse to accept the dictates of authority and common order as perceived by the hierarchy of  those structures. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of thinking. After all, generally agreed upon order and a certain amount of submission to authority enables societies to grow and function.  They still do.  Order, stability and culturally agreed upon structures and values are necessary to maintain a functioning society.

However, when those structures become strictures, people – the young in particular – revolt.  Protests are the simplest and least destructive of all revolts. Moreover, protests often bring attention to issues that otherwise go unnoticed and unresolved.  If the protests are loud enough, the media will report it, bringing the issues and problems to the attention of the political and elite classes where public policy is determined as well as the public where opinions can be changed and thus create policy changes.

Reflect upon how the Vietnam War protests, both violent and non-violent, changed the public perception of that War and, thus, the opinion of the political and elite classes. The same clash of conservative vs liberal ideas played out in public and in private then too as young people, those most affected by the war, publicly protested.  Eventually change occurred, even within the staunchly conservative military establishment.

Like it or not, protests of one sort or another have been the case since communal history began.  Without these rebels – those protesters – little in human history would have changed over the course of the last 20,000 years as the status quo is always more comforting…or at the very least knowable. Change is disruptive and unknowable in its final form; thus, it is frightening to the psyche that appreciates structure and the values of existing social norms.

Yet, even our own founders were protesters. Rebels and anarchists defying authority and the stated order to create a change in their circumstances: more freedom to live as they chose regardless of British social structures; more liberty to determine their own destinies without the heavy hand of a distant British Empire; and more representation in governmental affairs that affected them.

Remember these words from the Declaration of Independence: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.”

Those are not the words of conservative minds, holding fast to the existing order of authority and cultural restraint. They are the words of protest and of rebellion and of rabble-rousers.  Parliament saw the original Tea Party as destroyers of private property; as people acting outside the law; as anarchists. And so they were. Those original Tea Partiers defied Parliamentary authority and were destructive. Yet, today – 200+ years later – we nearly have deified those rebels, those destroyers of private property, those rabble-rousing anarchists who defied the existing order to bring about major political change that affected – and continues to affect – the world over.

As biographers of Teddy Roosevelt write, he chose to demand changes in public policy via restrictions on business practices during the Gilded Age not to destroy capitalism but to save it from the worst of the radical protests. Protests which, bear in mind, had authenticity and broad public support. By understanding the problems and concerns of average working Americans, he protected capitalism from its worst impulses and conserved societal and cultural norms from massive – and potentially destructive – upheaval.

While he’s called a Progressive today – an evil nomenclature among the far right – his policy prescriptions conserved the country from massive revolt and violent revolution that would have destroyed not just private property but capitalism itself. His conservative mind recognized the need for liberal change not only to advance liberty and freedom but to protect conservative values of societal stability and cultural norms.

There’s an old Indian saying about walking a mile in the moccasins of another to understand that person’s life.  For the more serious of the protesters, whether they be OWS or NATO protesters or large scale protesters of other sorts, it might be well, in order to preserve the conservative values, to understand and address the issues of those protesters before destructive rebellion occurs.  In that way, conservative values will be maintained while creating solutions to address the problems and concerns of those who protest.

So, perhaps, evaluation of protesters lies in the eyes of the beholder.

Progress towards more humane values are often wrought through protests of one sort or another. The American Revolution is one sort of protest that advanced humane values of liberty and freedom for all. Another type of mass protest brought Civil Rights and the belief that all humans, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religion, deserved equal opportunities and freedoms.

Conservatism is not just defending what was, regardless of how inequitable society is, but in creating a society and culture in which all peoples have a voice and their concerns are understood and met in order to maintain a stable society.

Steve Benen Says Lefties are Sticklers for Reality

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Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly spotlights an important question in the difference between the two parties in his column of June 08. And it’s why I get so angry at the GOP spin that currently serves to replace intelligent policy differences.

Here’s what he wrote:

Kevin Drum asks a good question.

Reading Tim Pawlenty’s paean to double plus supply-side-ism yesterday made me wonder, once again, why conservatives think we liberals are opposed to it. I mean, if it actually worked, why would we be? It’s politically popular, and by their accounts it would generate trillions of dollars in extra revenue that we could use to finance our beloved lefty social programs. What’s not to like?

The only answer I can come up with is that conservatives are now completely invested in their theory that we liberals loathe rich people so much that we don’t care. We all want to screw the wealthy so badly that we’re willing to forego the elections we’d win and the mountains of revenue we’d gain if we lowered their taxes. We hate them that much.

And Jon Chait explains that Kevin’s assumption is spot-on.

The early supply-siders, like Jude Wanniski and Jack Kemp, were sure they could convert liberals to their theory once they had learned the Good News. They actually viewed liberals as their most promising potential converts, precisely because they believed they had unlocked the key to higher revenue at no cost. They genuinely, tirelessly evangelized for years.

Eventually, pretty much all of them gave up on this hope. Now they almost all believe liberals hate the rich so much they’re willing to sacrifice economic growth and revenue in order to punish them.

But then there’s the other question: why conservatives continue to support trickle-down tax breaks for the rich, since they don’t work.

The left, after all, is incredibly pragmatic. If the right could demonstrate with incontrovertible proof that cutting taxes for the wealthy would generate more economic growth and greater government revenue, lefties would sign on. Liberals don’t much care if government is bigger or smaller; we care about end results — making a material difference in the lives of people. To that end, the left wants to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

But notice how the inverse never seems to apply. The left could demonstrate with incontrovertible proof that cutting taxes for the wealthy doesn’t expand the economy and can’t bring in additional revenue … and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to the right. For conservatives and today’s GOP, the point isn’t to do what works; the point is to satisfy ideological goals. Evidence is interesting, but not determinative.

And the efficacy of economic agendas is nice, but conservatism’s larger philosophy matters so much more.

Written by Valerie Curl

June 9, 2011 at 9:22 AM

Cutting Through the Noise

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The political noise in this country has become so loud, it’s hard to know what to think. Each side screams and rants and raves, carrying signs and waving flags.

Margret Chase Smith, Republican Senator from MaineWhen Maine’s Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R) stood before the Senate on June 1, 1950, to give her Declaration of Conscience, she was concerned about the level of vitriol and hate speech that threatened the country’s security and peace during the McCarthy era. She courageously took to the podium in the Senate, just four rows in front of Sen. McCarthy, to speak against the level of radical discourse in the Senate and society at large. She was a brave and courageous Republican who bravely chose to break from her party and overcome fear to speak the truth:

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism —

The right to criticize;

The right to hold unpopular beliefs;

The right to protest;

The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know some one who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.

The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as “Communists” or “Fascists” by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others. The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases to cause nationwide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations.

The United States is not yet, I hope, at the level of fear and frustration to which Senator Smith spoke. But there is nationwide concern that we are once again headed down that road about which Senator Smith spoke so eloquently.

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

It’s easy on the internet to deride someone who holds a different view from ours when the consequences of our words are negligible or non-existant. But think of this: would you call your next door neighbor or office worker, to his or her face, a “Demorat” or “libtard”? Over Thanksgiving dinner, would you tell your cousin he’s a “knuckle-dragger” or a “Republicon”? Denigration is easy on the internet; there are few if any consequences. However, just because it’s posted on the internet, far from physical or personal consequences, does not mean those remarks are okay.

How would you feel if someone said them to your face or you could see the consequences of those words you spoke in a moment of heat in the face of your friends, family, office mates and neighbors? Would you regret them? Words do have consequences. Calling me a “libtard” or you a “knuckle-dragger” only stirs up anger-induced defense mechanisms in the brain, leading not to rational thought but to self-defense and more anger.

As an undergraduate, my Rhetoric professor, trained by Jesuits in classical rhetoric and logic, stated that during a debate, when you stoop to personal attacks rather than logically attacking your opponent’s argument, you’ve lost the debate because it becomes apparent that you don’t have a good argument against his proposition or case. In other words, by attacking the person rather than the argument, you’ve surrendered the validity of your argument. You’ve become like the stereotypical bully who descends into violence.

When our public officials and leaders say words that divide us as a nation, it leads to what Senator Smith said:

Yet to displace it with a…regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. … But I don’t want to see [a]…Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.

I doubt if the … Party could — simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we … aren’t that desperate for victory.

Breaking the Cycle of Fear and Frustration

As a supporter of Jewish Funds for Justice, even though not a Jew, I often join my voice to theirs. I do so again with the following video. I urge you to send this video to your friends and family to change the way we speak to each other as friends, neighbors, and countrymen.

Fear Not

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