Tag Archive | "Medicare"

The Dark Horse

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Frequently dubbed the sport of Kings, horse racing provides the origin of the phrase “dark horse,” an unknown horse on which handicappers have difficulty in establishing betting odds.  Later, the term was broadened to apply to any unexpected winner.  In American politics, the term was first applied to James Polk who, in 1844, wrested the Democratic Party’s Presidential Nomination from a field of well-known candidates en route to winning the Presidency that year.


2012 is shaping up as a similar type of year – albeit, on the opposite side of the ledger – as Republicans seek a savior to help them recapture the Presidency, lead America back to its capitalist roots, and rescue the Grand Old Party (GOP) from its own historical proclivities.  Noted for its pattern of nominating the next person in line (i.e., the runner-up in the previous Presidential election cycle’s nominating process) – particularly when running against an incumbent President, the Party has nominated such lackluster candidates as Bob Dole and John McCain, candidates who were not really in step with the Party’s conservative mainstream.


This cycle, it appears to be Mitt Romney’s turn.  Lacking the passion and conservative chops that the Party’s faithful desire most, Romney has been challenged by a host of candidates whose primary credential for the Presidency is that each is not Mitt Romney.  And so, we have seen the rise and subsequent fall of Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul (whose fall is still in progress).  Thus, it appears likely that when the smoke clears, a bloodied Mitt Romney will prevail as the Republican Nominee.


But, something is different this time.  Hailed as among the most defining elections in our nation’s history, the 2012 Presidential Election – coming as it does at the conjunction of the Great Recession, jobless recovery, declining middle class, rising income inequality, worldwide financial crisis, international political and social unrest, exponential growth in healthcare costs, and growing class of senior citizens expecting to receive entitlements in the form of Social Security and Medicare to which they have been paying taxes their entire lives –  may well determine America’s future course.  Are we still going to be a country “of the people, by the people and for the people,” or will we go down the same road as previous republics such as the Roman Empire?


Some, many in the broadcast media included, want the United States to become a European-style social democracy.  Founded on the principles of personal liberty and economic freedom, America and its capitalistic system have been viewed by many as a “shining city on a hill.”  Yet, unfettered capitalism and its close relative, free trade can create a cold, cruel world for those who do not attain at least a middle class income – a class which, by the way, is ceding many of its members to poverty.  Capitalism and free trade care nothing about people, only about costs and profits.  And, our public policies, economic system, and the rise of multi-national corporations are among the most significant reasons why American jobs are being exported to other parts of the world.


Yet, not everyone in our society must adhere to the laws of competition.  As was evident during the economic crisis of 2008, we live in a country that practices Socialism for the wealthy and Capitalism for the working class.  Taxpayer dollars have been used to bailout corporations and financial institutions, despite the fact that these enterprises created the situations that bankrupted them and ultimately used bailout funds to reward their executives through lavish bonuses.  Social Security contributions are still being dumped into the general tax fund and used for projects other than that for which they were intended.  Whatever happened to the Social Security Lock Box?!?


Among the most tried and true paths to wealth in our country is by gaining elective office.  Our political leaders are all extremely well off financially.  They live by a different set of rules, have their own healthcare system, and exempt themselves from many of the laws that they pass (e.g., laws preventing those with insider knowledge from profiting by virtue of that knowledge).  Yet, absent a significant bankroll, the little guy seeking entry into the national political scene is largely shut out; unless, of course, he can secure the support of wealthy Godfathers to whom he will be indebted when he assumes office.  And, when it comes to running for the Presidency, outsiders are not welcome regardless of their financial status.  Remember Herman Cain.


Social programs that make life in America a little less harsh and cruel to the poor and working classes are deemed welfare.  Yet, subsidies to industries (like the now bankrupt Solyndra) are termed investment.


Charity is the balm of a capitalistic society, the salve that eases the consciences of today’s Ebenezer Scrooges – the one percenters like the members of Congress and the captains of industry enriching themselves on the blood, sweat, and tears of their underlings.  Like the unrepentant Scrooge at the beginning of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, they seek profits first, with their consciences and concerns for others running a distant second.


Home and property ownership, hailed as the American Dream and one of the pillars of our society, is a farce, because you never really own your property if you cannot afford the taxes.  Many seniors living on fixed incomes have become increasingly aware of this situation as their fixed incomes vanish before the tidal wave of increasing property taxes and costs of living.  What will become of the American Dream?


In this great struggle to reclaim the soul of America, we the people can only hope for the emergence of a dark horse who has the best interests of our citizens and country at heart.  Then, perhaps, we can create a new America where individual freedom is tempered by compassion, and we reclaim our place as the moral and economic beacon to the rest of the world.


To What Are You Entitled and From Whom?

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Once again, the word “entitlements” crops up in the quest to save the American economy.  The hew and cry of our elected officials is, “We cannot afford Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for the underprivileged citizens of America.”  Our officials throw words like “unsustainable” and their ilk around, to describe the situation of the richest country on this planet.  Yet, other countries of the world can afford the same entitlements for their citizens!


In most local and State governments across America, comptrollers oversee the fiscal responsibility of the government they represent.  Comptrollers are the ones who control spending. I didn’t know if an Office of the Comptroller existed at the Federal level, because I’d never heard anyone from the Federal government mention it.  So, I wondered, who does oversee and control the spending by our Federal government?


In pursuit of the truth, I typed this question into an Internet search engine, which yielded this result: “The House of Representatives (Congress).”


This is no one, individual Comptroller.  Instead, the House Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over all taxes, tariffs, and other revenue raising measures, including:


  • Social Security
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Medicare
  • Enforcement of child support laws
  • Temporary assistance for needy families (the Federal Welfare Program)
  • Foster care and adoption programs


The Constitution of the United States requires that all bills regarding taxation must originate in the House of Representatives, a mandate that makes the House Ways and Means Committee very influential.  Its counterpart is the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.


Chairman Charles Rangel of the 111th Congress came under the investigation of the House Ethics Committee and had to step down until his case was resolved. However, Rangel’s leave of absence was considered a resignation.  When his pro tempis successor, Acting Chairman Pete Stark resigned, Sander Levin stepped in until the Republicans won the House.  Upon that victory, Dave Camp became the new Chairman.


Now that we’ve gotten that straightened out, who is watching the store?  With these two committees overseeing all revenues, how on Earth are we in debt?  If one person — say, Tim Geithner — were making the decisions, we could understand it.  But with two committees, it’s hard to swallow.  Sounds like trouble, right here in River City, with more problems for the House Ethics Committee.


There is an old Biblical quote, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”   But our lawmakers in Washington are far from Godly.  As human beings, they are subject to all temptations.  So, how can we, as a nation, trust them?


The same people that bestowed the entitlements upon us now want to revoke them, because the two committees did not have the foresight to create an exit strategy.  Before they’d decided to reform programs that affect the welfare of the American people, you would think that they might have considered attacking wasteful spending.  Under the category of “wasteful spending” falls the following:


  • Constructing the Bridge To Nowhere
  • Saving marsh mice in San Francisco
  • Saving tiny fish drying up in the San Joachim Valley
  • Sending military and financial Aid to 148 of the 192 countries in this world (see the video clip in the article “Who’s Getting Hosed” on our site).
  • Last but not least: The self-proposed endowments of our elected leaders, which make their future rosy even as the rest of the country gets flushed down the toilet.   I think they took a page out of Emperor Nero’s book.  As you may recall, he fiddled while Rome burned.


The answer to the question of how we tax and spend should be “by the will of the American people.”  Maybe it’s time to elect an ad hoc group to oversee the guys who hold our nation’s purse strings.


Before I leave you to cogitate on this, I’d like to sum up with a quote posted in a little mom and pop store during the Great Depression.  It read, “In God we trust; all others pay cash.” 


America, Your Expiration Date May Have Arrived

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Expiration-Date1

Nothing – in the history of the world – conceived, engineered, built, or otherwise created by Man has any real permanence.  All of Mankind’s towering achievements are subject to inevitable decay and destruction.  Whether a structure, philosophy, society, or form of government, each is inherently flawed by the limited thinking and understanding of its creator(s); thereby, containing within itself the ultimate cause of its own demise.

 

In the world of consumable food products, we know that even those products that have been preserved in one fashion or another will spoil after a period of time or lose their nutritional value. Thus, we affix an expiration date beyond which that item may not be sold, even though it may still be edible for some time beyond its determined expiration.

 

In 1787, at the time that the Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and shortly thereafter ratified by conventions in the original thirteen states, Alexander Fraser Tytler (also known as Lord Woodhouselee), a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, analyzed the history of democracy and expressed the following:

 

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. [It] will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.  From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.  The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years.  During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:  from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; and from dependence back into bondage.”

 

Sadly, if Lord Woodhouselee’s analysis is accurate, America is well past its prime.  Perhaps, its expiration date has already lapsed, and we, its people, are living through that confusing period between point of no return and actual, recognized demise.

 

With $3 trillion in federal bailouts over the past 18 months, it appears that an apathetic America is evolving into a state of dependency on the federal government that would have appalled our Founding Fathers.  Insurance and financial giants AIG, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs owe their continued existence to the American taxpayer via our growing federal government, as do automakers Chrysler and General Motors.  What our economy would look like today absent these bailouts is uncertain.  What is certain, however, is that our record levels of indebtedness will be a drag on economic growth for years, if not decades to come and the bane of the existence of future generations.

 

Prior to the Great Depression, American citizenry and enterprise possessed a self-reliance and spiritual faith that propelled this Nation to heights unseen in the history of our planet.  Since that time, the quest for security has eroded personal liberties and created dependency on governmental largesse, even by many of our most self-reliant citizens and well-known companies.  The growth of entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and AFDC among others, while giving a helping hand to some, has had a narcotic effect upon many with estimates of up to 40% of the current population receiving payment monthly from some form of government entitlement program.    In commerce and industry, lucrative government contracts and protectionist trade legislation can spell the difference between profitability and failure.

 

The desire for security is both seductive and compelling.  It works at odds to the “eternal vigilance” required to maintain a free society.  Our Founders possessed an abundance of the self-reliance and spiritual faith of which Lord Woodhouselee spoke.  Self-reliance and spiritual faith are really, in the final analysis, the flip sides of the same coin.  With spiritual faith comes knowledge of the Truth of our Being – that our Creator is the source of all good and the only source upon which we can always depend.  Armed with the Truth, our Founding Fathers and their descendants depended not upon government programs but upon their expression of that Truth to confidently build a nation that became a beacon of hope to the rest of the world.

 

Today, that beacon has dimmed, shrouded by the burden of big government and the concomitant taxation and governmental intrusion into virtually every phase of the lives of our citizens.  Yet, many in the world still covet what we have.  Perhaps, we can save our country and the world by returning to the spiritual faith, knowledge of the Truth, and self-reliance that have built a great nation.  The Truth knows no limits and has no expiration.  If we embrace It, neither do we. 

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