The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Bill O’Reilly’

“THE FOLKS”

In the last post I spoke about the latest new catch phrase, “the law of the land” which those who support the ACA use in reference to justifying Obamacare.  But there is a second term which I find equally annoying and which is frequently employed both by the President and by some on the right, notably Bill O’Reilly of FOX News and literary fame.  That phrase is “The Folks.”

Personally, I find this term rather disparaging – no matter who the speaker.  To me it is condescending, as though the President and Mr. O’Reilly are both sitting on their lofty perches, looking down on those who are, in their perception, beneath them, the “little people.”

Well, “the folks” are getting a little taste of “the law of the land.”  The Heritage Foundation has released their analysis of how health insurance rates, on average, will be affected as a result of Obamacare.  The following link will take you to their study – which shows an increase in 45 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/10/enrollment-in-obamacare-exchanges-how-will-your-health-insurance-fare

The Heritage Foundation in this study, which makes certain assumptions which may or not prove to be completely valid, simply examines the cost of currently available insurance versus what will be available on the insurance exchanges.  It is unclear whether this study incorporates the generally higher deductibles which most insurers are building into the new policies.

This, however, is merely the first issue, albeit probably the most surprising one, which “the folks” will deal with come next year.

It is hard to argue that Obamacare is anything but an “ambitious program.”  And it shouldn’t surprise any of us that despite having more than three years to build a website, the one that HHS commissioned is flawed, perhaps fatally so.  We are now into week three of the “rollout” and even supporters of Obamacare are being forced to admit that there are “glitches” which some are even willing to admit are “serious problems.”

Beyond the problems of simply enrolling people in Obamacare, and if you review the increases which the majority of healthy, younger people will face in order to support those who are older and more sickly, it seems unreasonable that the underlying financial assumption that getting the young to enroll and pay more than they actuarially should in order to subsidize those with serious health and pre-existing conditions, will be realized.  That is simply a statement related to the economics of this program.

But that may be the least important reason for a person choosing not to enroll in Obamacare.

One of the much touted benefits which purportedly makes Obamacare “affordable” is the fact that some taxpayers will be eligible for subsidies.  However, the system is currently unable to compute what those subsidies will be.  Therefore, no one who enrolls can be certain what his or her net premium cost actually will be.  That, of course, provides a further dis-incentive for signing on the dotted internet line.

But let us “folks” step back from the problems in getting an effective website up and running, despite the government’s spending hundreds of millions of our taxpayer dollars to implement it, and look at the broader picture.

When I flew frequently, I remember reading an article in one of the In Flight magazines that there were certain things about an airplane which caused consternation among passengers.  One of those was getting on a flight and noticing that the ashtray in your seat’s armrest was filled with cigarette butts.  Passengers tended to ask themselves, “If they can’t clean the ashtrays, how well does the airline maintain the plane itself?”

That same line of thinking can reasonably be applied to Obamacare.  If it is essential for the success of the program that young people sign up but have commissioned a website, the primary vehicle to achieve that end, that is apparently incapable of achieving that goal, then what would a reasonable person expect from the far more important issue of taking care of “the folks’” health – and at what price?

If a person bought into the value of Obamacare as it was sold by the President and his supporters based on how it was originally presented, they must, if they are honest, be greatly disappointed in the product which we are now being required to purchase.  Of the original promises made by Obama, the only one which appears to be accurate is that those with pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain coverage.  And that is a good provision.

But the promise that “the folks” would on average see a decrease of $2,500 per year in the cost of insurance, apparently not the case for most; that people would be able to keep their present insurance if they liked it, apparently not the case for many; that people would be able to keep their health care provider, apparently not the case for many more.

A reasonable person would ask himself or herself, with this sort of a track record at its launch, what can we expect if Obamacare gets fully implemented?  But before you come to a conclusion there is yet more bad news.  Embedded into the source code is a disclaimer that “the government is not responsible for the security of any information which is posted by the user on the site.”  According to interviews I heard with five different IT professionals, the way this site was designed provides an open invitation to hackers to access our most important health and financial information.

Recently, I read that an astounding one out of four of us currently suffers from some form of mental illness, including depression.  I suspect that if Obamacare truly gets fully rolled out, “the folks” are going to be asking for a lot more prescriptions for valium. .

THE O’REILLY FACTOR

Last night I listened, as I often do, to “The O’Reilly Factor” on the FOX network.  With so much media slanted in one direction, I find it necessary to get an occasional fix of some conservative input to remind myself that I’m not totally insane.

One of the stories that Mr. O’Reilly covered in his introduction was that Attorney General Holder has made an effort to dissemble the minimum sentencing requirements for non-violent drug offenders.  He made this statement at a meeting of the American Bar Association.

I heard a portion of his speech earlier in the day and, to be honest, I thought it was the most enlightened thing that the AG had said during his tenure.  Mr. O’Reilly felt otherwise.

Bill O’Reilly’s point was that drug dealers are selling poison – true; and that their sales, particularly to minors and others who are not capable of making prudent decisions may result in death – also true.  Therefore, he concluded that all drug sales had the potential of resulting in violent consequences and that the Attorney General was totally off base.  He also made reference to the recent death of Corey Monteith as an example of the horrible negative effects of drugs.

Bill O’Reilly has a point of view that is internally consistent – generally.  Part of his credo is that the individual has the right to make choices, free of government interference.  In that respect, I have to question his position on the issue of drug sellers and drug abusers.  Mr. Monteith is a case in point.  He made a terrible life choice which resulted in his death.  But it was his choice to make.

Then there’s the now much-touted case of the thirteen year old youngster in Florida who was savagely beaten by three older teenagers on the school bus.  This kid did the right thing by informing school authorities that his assailants were selling drugs on school grounds.  The result was that he suffered a terrible beating and a fractured arm.

Should those thugs be punished for their primitive behavior?  Of course they should.  But they should be tried and punished irrespective of their motivation or their drug-selling activity.

If I had a magic wand, all drugs would instantaneously disappear from the face of the earth.  But we know that isn’t reality or a lot of good people would have waved that wand a long time ago.

Anytime there are massive amounts of money involved in selling a product and a consumer demand for it, you can be certain people will make a market in it.  Setting aside our personal moral objections to drugs or drug use, we need to acknowledge that.  And then we need to find a productive strategy that will minimize their impact on society.

As a kid in New York City I don’t know how many times I read about some junkie holding up and harming an elderly person who was waiting to catch the subway, robbing them so they could get money for their next fix.  Some of those episodes resulted in the death of the victim.  That isn’t justice for the victims.

To my mind there is only one way to deal with this in a rational way and that is to decriminalize drugs and to dispense them through certified outlets – whether run by government or by a closely-regulated private operation.

Since most of the western world has adopted the American mind set toward drugs, we have few examples to guide us as to how implementing a process of legalization and regulation might work.  One country which has experience with this approach is the Netherlands.  They implemented their heroin-assisted program in 1998.

Since that time they have found that the number of heroin addicts has increased at a rate slower than the general population growth and that the average increase in the age of users has increased from 27 years of age to 38.  In other words, fewer young people are entering the addict population and those who are confirmed users are simply getting older, pulling up the average age.

Although cannabis is legal, using it while operating a vehicle is strictly prohibited and the police routinely give motorists who are involved in a traffic accident a drug test.  Failing this test can lead to a minimum three year jail term.

As a conservative I rely on the lessons that history teaches us.  If a particular philosophy, no matter how well-motivated, simply doesn’t work, it’s time for all reasonable people to question its usefulness.  That is what we learned with respect to alcohol.  And with all due respect to Bill O’Reilly, that is what we should be willing to admit about illegal drugs.

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