Et Tu, Ioannes?

Thursday, June 28, AD 2012

The Supreme Court has ruled the individual mandate is constitutional as a tax. So the individual mandate is not a permissible use of the commerce clause; however, it is appropriate for Congress to levy a tax that essentially forces taxpayers to buy health insurance.

I will have to wait until I read the entire opinion before rendering judgment, but at first blush this looks like a terrible defeat for the rule of law.

By the way, it looks like it was a 5-4 decision. Kennedy voted with Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Let that sink in.

Correction: I am now reading that it was 6-3. Honestly, I’m reading a lot of conflicting reports, so I’ll refrain from further commentary until I read the opinions.

Correction to the Corrction: Nope, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas and Scalia would have decreed the entire act unconstitutional. It was John Roberts who saved Obamacare.

And now I offer my apologies to all those I scolded for critiquing the John Roberts selection. You were right. I’ve thus changed the post title.

Continue reading...

74 Responses to Et Tu, Ioannes?

  • Roberts bows to King Obama. Another sorry day for the late great USA

  • (Guest comment from Don’s wife Cathy:) Don’s just come down with a kidney stone; otherwise, I’m sure he’d be commenting at length on this.

  • Past time to vote out Congress and start over.

  • We need to win both houses by super-majorities and the presidency in order to repel Obamacare.

    I don’t see this happening.

    And the argument that we can stop funding of Obamacare is pointless, because once a democrat takes the executive branch and the legislative branch (which will happen over time), they’ll go back and fund it.

    It’s a bad day for American Freedom.

    That and Chief Justice Roberts is looking more like the equivalent of Bush I’s Souter. A liberal wolf in conservative sheepskin.

  • Excellent re-title of this post, execpt it should read:

    “Et tu, Ioannes?”

    Ioannes is the Latin (and Greek) for John.

    I am beyonmd livid, BUT we have to remember that God allows everything to happen for a reason, and Jesus Christ is STILL on the Throne and STILL in control.

    Obama cannot and will not win. He will one day stand before that Great White Throne of Justice as we all shall. He will answer for his crimes and he will NOT escape the rightful punishment due to him (as none of us shall escape should we remain in a state of unrepentant sin).

    Lord have mercy!
    Christ have mercy!
    Lord have mercy!

  • And the day started out so well….

  • Trying to wrap my mind around KENNEDY being solid on this.

  • ACA: Taxation Without Regulation.

    If Congress can say you can be taxed for not buying health care, then they can say you may be taxed for not buying broccoli.

  • Excellent re-title of this post, execpt it should read:

    “Et tu, Ioannes?”

    So let it be written, so let it be done.

    We need to win both houses by super-majorities and the presidency in order to repel Obamacare.

    Well it’s a good thing we’ve got a nominee who can really lead the charge on the awfulness of an insurance mandate.

    Oh. Wait.

  • Pingback: Well, Frick. « Head Noises
  • If this doesn’t put the nail in the coffin of the “you must vote GOP because of the importance of Supreme Court nominations” meme, nothing will. The appointment of John “Roe is settled law, and I do pro bono work for the homosex lobby” Roberts should have been enough in itself; but really, can there be any reasonable doubters now?

  • Roberts (via FoxNews:) “The Affordable Care Act is constitutional in part and unconstitutional in part The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause,” Roberts wrote. “That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance [empahsis mine]. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.”

    So, just being unfairly rich isn’t bad enough anymore? Now, you can’t be unfairly rich and unfairly independent?

    They can’t make me buy an electric car that doesn’t work, but they can tax me at any given rate (which the Secretary shall determine at a later date) for NOT buying one.

    Great. I believe that gun and ammo sales will begin to increase soon.

    Ruger: RGR on NYSE.
    Smith and Wesson: SWHC on NASDAQ.
    Taurus Brazilian: SAO-FJTA4.

  • WK Aiken,

    Is that a gremlin or cat you are using as your avatar?

    /trying desperately to forget that John “Souter” Roberts is very young and will be on the Supreme Court for a good 40 years.

  • I feel like I just got punched in the gut….. really, really hard…..

  • So Obamacare now becomes the new litmus test for nominees. Only those who would agree to overturn Roe and Obamacare get nominated.

    Unbelievable. This day shall live in infamy.

  • Defeat for the rule of law? This was a great victory for limiting the scope of the Commerce Clause. Finally, a limit! Roberts just needs to learn how to read a statute and we will be all set.

  • The avatar is a photoshopped rabbit (eyes) who is objecting vociferously to having its teeth brushed. Ironically, it does well represent the emotional state of most right-thinking Americans today.

    I do not know why the website grabbed onto it from among the (literally) hundreds of graphic images I have on my computer. Perhaps I used it as a past logon avatar.

  • This was a great victory for limiting the scope of the Commerce Clause.

    Indeed, as I read through his opinion now, this would be one of the great Supreme Court decisions of all-time if Roberts had stopped on page thirty. Alas, he continues.

    Unfortunately, Roberts’ decisions to apply the taxing power to the individual mandate may be an even more absurd application than relying on the commerce clause. I’ll post on the Roberts’ decision in a little bit, I hope.

  • Pingback: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Religious Freedom Healthcare Mandate | Big Pulpit
  • This is a parody I wrote a few years ago.

    OHHHHHBaamaaa, Ohhhhhbbbbbbammmmaaa

    (sung to the tune of Ritichie Valens Oh Donna)

    We have a president, Obama is his name. Since January, he’s been goin’ insane. Oh I loathe his ways, but with Obama this is how it’s going to be.

    Ohhbaama, Ohhbaama, Ohhbaama,

    Turnin’ health care into welfare, he’ll make us all sick, it’s a part of his scheme, a socialist trick.
    Though we loathe his plan, but Obama wants to force it to be.

    Ohhbaama, Ohhbaama, Ohhbaama,

    He hates the military, this is clearly true. he prefers Code Pink to the red, white, and blue. He loathes this land, Obama this doesn’t have to be.

    Ohhbaama, Ohhbaama, Ohhbaama,

  • What can we do about it now?

  • What can we do about it now?

    According to the smart set, we now vote for the guy who implemented the same exact thing in his home state.

  • “What can we do about it now?”

    Put your head between your legs, lift your head up and kiss your sweet ass goodbye.

  • I will never comply! We have been stabbed in the back by Chief Justice “Bart Stupak” John Roberts! Sadly, I’ll probably end up in prison over this. I will never give my money for abortion!!! There will be no redress from this. The entire republic has been fatally undermined. I do not envision an electoral remedy. I am cleaning my shootin’ irons.

  • I haven’t really been praying about this in particular– thinking about it but not praying. I will pray more. I will give to the Becket fund. Would like to go to Courthouse steps but alas Even if we had a many people in Washington as they do on Jan. 22, will they pay attention? I will vote__________. II hope the repub convention speaks loud and clear to this issue. I hope Rubio etal take a look at what justice Kennedy saw.

  • The Roberts court is the lasting legacy of “conservative” support for George W. Bush. Now of course we simply MUST vote for Romney, because gosh, we can’t let the Left control the Supreme Court.

    Unless something happens to completely re-orient American conservatism to be actually, you know, conservative, there will no longer be a country worth conserving.

  • Arizona got trashed so why is this a big surprise? The fix was in when Kagan and Sotomayor got in. The bishops have zero chance of winning against the Obama juggernaut. “Women’s rights” will trump “religious liberty.” Time to re-read 1984.

  • From facebook:
    Todd Brophy posted in Hot Air Free Speech Zone
    Todd Brophy 9:38am Jun 28
    OK……………. I feel much better about this now. The States can opt out of the Medicare boondoggle. This reaffirms the 10th Amendment and States rights. This law cannot be supported by the Commerce Clause argument. The Federal Government, under this precedent, cannot force you to buy anything. The personal mandate is a tax. If you refuse to pay it, there is no mechanism to force payment. This makes the law a sham. If the mandate is a tax, it may be repealed by reconciliation. This means we need 51 votes in the Senate, not 60. Roberts is perhaps a genius and he is telling us, you make think you lost, you won big, now vote Obama out and secure your future.

    View Post on Facebook · Edit Email Settings · Reply to this email to add a comment.

    Anybody with better legal kungfu than me (ie, most any adult over 30) got a clue?

  • Don, praying that you get well so soon. For your own comfort and so you can get it taken care of before Obamacare fully kicks in and you find yourself in “hospice” due to this malady disease which would be too costly to treat.

  • “(Guest comment from Don’s wife Cathy:) Don’s just come down with a kidney stone; otherwise, I’m sure he’d be commenting at length on this.”

    Good thing for Don Obamacare hasn’t gone into effect yet.

  • “That and Chief Justice Roberts is looking more like the equivalent of Bush I’s Souter. A liberal wolf in conservative sheepskin.”

    Somehow this brings the image of Roberts unzipping himself only to reveal he is actually David Souter and says, “And you thought I retired…. hehehehehe.

  • The Federal Government, under this precedent, cannot force you to buy anything. The personal mandate is a tax. If you refuse to pay it, there is no mechanism to force payment.

    I simply do not understand how people can make this argument. If you don’t pay your taxes you go to jail. It would certainly be interesting to see a person make a legal challenge when they file their taxes but leave off the portion that is dedicated to the individual mandate. Methinks they would be less than successful.

  • Kinda what I was thinking….

  • (Don’s wife Cathy again:) Thanks for the prayers & good wishes! We convinced our family doctor to open his office early so he could see Don & call in prescriptions for Flomax & paid meds to the pharmacy. (How willing would a physician be to provide that kind of above-and-beyond service under Obamacare?)

  • Pingback: Why is it absolutely vital to vote GOP?
  • I’ve been thinking, which is always dangerous, but it’s been a fairly crisis-free work day so there’s been time. Maybe all the crises are in WDC right now . . .

    Anyway, this excerpt from Herr Roberts keeps jumping up at me and shouting.

    ” . . . it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.” Again, emphasis mine.

    No legal scholar am I, but this looks like SCOTUS has just made it Constitutional for Congress to tax a non-activity. Like division by zero, this makes such power infinite in scope. Regardless of whether it takes place acorss state lines, it is now possible for Congress to say “You are not [doing, buying, participating in] thing X, and therefore we shall tax you for this not doing of it.”

    Now, I also do not consider myself an alarmist, but how many steps is it between the power to tax for Not Doing Something, and This:

    “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.” Rev 13:16-17

    You want to be exempt from all the various taxes incurred by not doing things? Well, here. Just put this on yourself someplace obvious, just so we can keep track . . .

  • No legal scholar am I, but this looks like SCOTUS has just made it Constitutional for Congress to tax a non-activity.

    Bingo. Though 4/5 of the opinion is based on solid constitutional arguments, this one passage turns the decision into an utter abomination.

  • Catherine A. McClarey says:
    Thursday, June 28, 2012 A.D. at 9:20am
    (Guest comment from Don’s wife Cathy:) Don’s just come down with a kidney stone; otherwise, I’m sure he’d be commenting at length on this.”
    Catherine: To purge kidney stones, boil parsley, bunches of parsley and consume the water. After about two weeks, the kidney stone will be passed. My mom was told to do this and it worked for her saving her from surgery. Sorry you are ill, Donald. Many prayers, in Latin and in English. Parsley is an organic deodorant good for halitosis, body order and other things. Happy kidneys to you.

  • http://alphatronshinyskullus.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/this-is-how-they-will-turn-us-into-china/

    This Supreme Court decision can ultimately be used to implement forced family planning similar to China’s.

  • W.K. Aiken: Obama had rolled tanks into the street in a show of force.

  • Ah, the kidney stone. It’s said that imperfect contrition is sufficient for a sacramental confession – that is, a fear of the pains of hell. One little kidney stone and you’ll spend the rest of your life with a strong incentive to holiness.

  • In 923 Executive Orders, Obama has declared martial law and given as though he had the authority to order the Supreme Court around, the unauthorized power to enforce his 923 and all Executive Orders for the past fifteen years. These orders include assigning every piece of free land and waterway as well as all pieces of private property to himself. Obama has already made the law to take all private property as his own, he just needs a cover like Obamacare to set the leemings running. Saul Alinsky would be proud. Let Our Lady of Victories hold FREEDOM from despots, dictators and Obama. Let FREEDOM be granted to the unborn, and the Person of God in the public sqaure.

  • Mary: It will come to that. I remember Father Larry Richards saying only 2 years ago that he saw the end in about 4 years. Father Larry’s a pretty firey guy, but he’s also almost always spot on.

  • Get well soon, Don.

  • This is one ugly, senseless, malignant opinion on so many levels. The majority opinion is unreadable, or not necessary to read, in part because you know what to expect from the lefties. But Robert’s legal construction to side with the lefties is so bad, so absurd that it literally shreads the constitution. At least now there is no pretense of having a constitution limiting the powers of a central government.

    The dissent is real simple, eloquent and straight forward. The dissent points out, citing Madison, that taxing authority is limited to the purposes of the federal government as enumerated in the Constitution. Makes sense right? Otherwise, you can tax for that which is unconstitutional. So Roberts is part of the majority which held the law unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause—-you actually have a majority holding on this point. How then does Roberts go with the lefties, who hold the constitution in disdain, and find that the taxing provision of the Orwellian “Affordable Health Care Act” is permissible when he otherwise holds that congress did not have power under the commerce clause to enact it.

    Unlike the lefties, I find Roberts’ legal constuct to be dangerous. Congress can always use taxing authority to undermine the constitution. And if a tax can be used to undermine the constitution and modulate and control social behavior, then the all powerful central government can use its unmitigated taxing power to regulate religion (there is no way applying Roberts’ logic that the religious mandate could be struck down), regulate home schooling or private schooling (“taxed” for not teaching homosexual curriculum), regulate the size of families (taxed for having more than two kids), regulate food or beverage consumption (taxed based on calorie intake), regulate fuel consumption (“taxed” for excessive fuel consumption), regulate choice of consumer goods such as vehicles (“taxed” for not purchasing a “green” car),—–regulate from a central authority any human or civic activity under the rubric of “taxation”.

    This is an unspeakably dangerous precedent and a super highway to serfdom. If you hear a pundit say this will mobilize the base blah blah blah….ignore him. The danger is that as precedent any congress, and for sure any leftist president and congress has now been given unbridled powers. It’s not just bad for now, it’s bad for the future of this country.

  • “regulate home schooling or private schooling (“taxed” for not teaching homosexual curriculum), regulate the size of families (taxed for having more than two kids), regulate food or beverage consumption (taxed based on calorie intake), regulate fuel consumption (“taxed” for excessive fuel consumption), regulate choice of consumer goods such as vehicles (“taxed” for not purchasing a “green” car) . . .”

    Regulate the dispensation of contraceptives, sterilization and abortions on demand (taxed for not providing these things.) The left has been wanting to get its hands on the Church’s money for decades, and now it has the tools.

    Euthanasia is next.

    I just finshed “Sons of Cain.” While no Clancy novel, the underlying theme is crystalline and fighteningly real. The dogmatic narrative of Chapter 37 is the most clear and pointed explanation of the current political landscape I have ever read.

  • WK Aiken mentioned the book, “Sons of Cain”, which obviously I must now buy ad read. A review at Amazon says:

    “An ancient group of twelve unspeakably powerful men are prepared to implement mass suicide in the United States. Already in control of the Congress and the Presidency, all that they lack is the Supreme Court. The only thing standing between these SONS OF CAIN and the lives of the Court is a small group of dedicated warriors. Wealthy ex SEAL, Nick Rieper, and his dozen, Knights of Longinus, may be the most deadly strike force alive. The have pledged their lives, their fortunes and their honor to battle international Satanism. Battle is joined as they engage the Cainites and their demon leader, Namon, in mortal combat. They stand alone as the only force alive with the knowledge, the skill and the faith to prevent a crime that will change America… forever.”

    Sadly, Satan has been in control of SCOTUS for a very long time indeed, at least since Roe v Wade, and perhaps since the Dred Scott decision of 1857.

  • Hope you will feel better soon, Don.
    Have heard good things about blueberries (to add to Mary’s idea) from someone who could understand the discomfort, but this day is different … .
    My father warned me that I may live to see the loaf of bread I might have, if I were wise enough to stop shopping for inedible things, be why I got killed by some ‘starving’ mob.
    No exec. order to help with chaos from unknown right and wrong.

  • What we have witnessed today is something akin to the ascendancy of the NAZI’s to power in Germany. It was an evil turning point for Germany and the whole of Europe, the same here. We are on an unalterable path to destruction, and we are dragging the rest of the world down with us.

  • “What we have witnessed today is something akin to the ascendancy of the NAZI’s to power in Germany”

    You are absolutely right Tom. This is as momentous and dreadful as that event.

  • Let’s all sing together.

  • Alphatron, our country has taken a step that cannot be retraced. The momentum of evil is at a self-generating pace. I think we will not see the defeat of this evil until there has been much, much bloodshed.

  • Alphatron, our country has taken a step that cannot be retraced.

    Well, there’s always the “amend the constitution” thing to limit the Fed’s ability to tax.

  • Foxfier, well that would work only with an electorate that couldn’t possibly have elected the current POTUS. I don’t see any realistic solution outside of civil war.

  • Between the fraud, the protest no-votes and the disappointment that they still have bills, O might be a fluke.

    We’ve been in worse states. Giving up is giving in.

  • Don, Hope you feel better soon!

    Alphatron,

    This Supreme Court decision can ultimately be used to implement forced family planning similar to China’s.

    I agree that this is a lousy decision, but in a sense this is what is already being done, but in reverse. Due to the child tax credit, I pay $5000 less in taxes because I have five kids. Now, I think that’s a perfectly fair way to make up for the fact that parents are performing a valuable service to the state and absorbing a lot of social costs, but the anti-kid folks flip this around and complain that the government is charging them extra taxes for not having had kids.

    While there’s a psychological difference between taxing people for not doing something and giving people a tax credit for doing something, the incentive isn’t hugely different. (Where I think the ruling really stinks is that is basically makes up this gloss, the law clearly wasn’t written as a tax in the traditional sense, it was written to force people to buy health insurance.)

  • Thanks for the good wishes. I am now functional again. Full post to follow on the decision.

  • This is the equivalent of a “Dhimi” tax.
    Obama’s a muslim isn’t he?

    Great to hear you’re feeling better, Don.

  • “While there’s a psychological difference between taxing people for not doing something and giving people a tax credit for doing something, the incentive isn’t hugely different. ”

    I think I would disagree. A $1000 per kid tax credit is not going to affect my family decision-making, the same way that a mortgage interest deduction is not going to affect my home purchase decisions. I’m either ready for such steps or I’m not. Lowering my taxes a little because I do something I was going to do anyway is icing on the cake; in choosing not to do these things, I do not spend what those who get the credit do, and ulitmately I get to choose because I have my reasons: I don’t want to be a father or I don’t want the responsibility of home ownership. So the math is a wash and I still make my own decisions.

    However, a $1,000 tax on not requiring my kids to attend the State-mandated classes that all schools must teach on how there is no sin, all sexuality is fine and our Friend the State is our sole benefactor will have me howling. That’s a hypothetical, to be sure, but it’s not outlandish when one considers what’s already being promulgated in the indoctrination halls. The point is that I have no choice here. I have to do one of three painful things: betray my moral constitution, pay money I can’t afford or become a prisoner of the State. Forcing me into behaviors I object to on all levels by means of extortion is every kind of evil.

    This doesn’t even touch the aspect of how the State can now tax the Church into oblivion by charging her for the continued ability to obey her conscience.

    The difference is more than psychological, methinks.

  • Sometimes I just feel so defeated, but then the thought came to me: didn’t Our Lord say that when I am weak, is when He is strong? That means we must let go and trust Him completely because no matter how dark things appear, and it will get worse, He’s ultimately in control and will bring about an eventual purification. My prayer is: “Almighty God, Merciful Father, please restore us to your grace, rebuild us in your image, let America fulfill her destiny – the reason you called her into being. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, Our Lord. Amen. Our Lady of America, pray for us!”

    Don, for kidney stones, I’ve used Chanca Piedra. It’s a herbal formula from South America that can be purchased in a Health Food Store. You put about 5-10 drops in an 8oz glass of water, twice a day and it takes away the pain and breaks up the stone so it can pass. I hope you feel better soon – I know what you’re going through!

  • According to Roberts’ logic (which, again, I want to emphasize, I don’t agree with) in order for the “tax” argument to work rather than the “penalty” argument, the tax has to be lower than the cost of the behavior avoided. Thus, there could only be a tax for not sending your kid to public sex ed classes if the tax was lower than the cost of the class — which if it’s a public school would be $0.

    Look, I agree that it’s a ridiculous piece of reasoning, I just don’t think it leaves us notably more open to tyranny than we were before. This isn’t going to “turn us into China”, it’s just a lousy decision. And hopefully one that we can overturn come the fall by kicking Obama out of office.

  • Agreed. Some of you need to get a grip.

    We need to win both houses by super-majorities and the presidency in order to repel Obamacare.

    No. We need for a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate to have the sense to get rid of rancid parliamentary rules, among them the abuse of holds and the filibuster. Of course, they won’t.

  • I don’t think Romney would be effective in overturning Obamatax. One of his economic advisers is Greg Mankiw, an economics professor at Harvard. Mosey on over and take a look (http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/) at how similar Mankiw’s logic was back in 2007 to this Court’s and the very close similarity to Romney’s Health Care Plan in Massachusetts.

    I was in need of medical care in Sweden during a visit in the early 80s and was lucky to be able to avail myself of a free medical clinic. Certainly no frills and comfy upholstered chairs in the packed waiting room, but the medical care seemed to be adequate for my needs. Our populace won’t like the downgrade of facilities and the long wait if it truly comes to that here, but I think we should be more concerned and focused with religious freedom at this point.

  • PM Hope you will feel better soon, Don.
    Have heard good things about blueberries (to add to Mary’s idea) from someone who could understand the discomfort, but this day is different … . Blueberries and cranberries aid in the removal of e-coli that adheres to the kidneys like barnacles. The kidney stone is an aggregate of uric acid, which may be reduced to particles like sand and passed, by sonic waves, while the patient sits in a specially prepared bath of water. The continued use of parsely, blueberries and cranberries are more enjoyable than the bath. Celery reduces the uric acid in the joints called gout. I am sure you are appraised of all this but I had to say it. I am sorry you are sick.

  • W.K. Aiken. I see Father Larry Richards on Living Right with Dr. Ray Guarendi, a show on EWTN. Prayer always gives us more time, if we ask for it. The good will die with the bad. May it not come to that.

  • DarwinCatholic:

    “While there’s a psychological difference between taxing people for not doing something and giving people a tax credit for doing something, the incentive isn’t hugely different.”

    Actually, I see a huge difference. When a tax credit is given, it serves to reduce the taxes one owes. The child tax credit has been written to give people money if their tax liability is reduced to less than zero. I have eight children, and so I turn around and use it to pay the very regressive taxes that exist in my state. At any rate, the cost of that subsidy is spread over the entire population, and to future generations through the issuance of federal debt. No one person is on the hook for it. Furthermore, by the monetization of our national debt, the recipient also ends up paying for it through higher prices that result from the weakening of our currency. There are also tax credits for a number of other things such as electric vehicles. The government says, “you pay less and we might kick in a little extra.” I disagree with this on principal. The government shouldn’t be cutting me a check for my children. It’s insulting.

    When an activity is taxed, however, that individual bears the full brunt of it. It’s not spread out among the rest of the population. If the government decides to tax someone $50,000 for not using birth control, that individual had better cough up the cash or their wages will be garnished, their assets seized, and they could potentially end up in jail if it’s judged to be tax evasion. If they decide to give a tax credit for up to 2 children, and tax someone $100,000 for each extra child after the second, it’s the same. Pay up, or else. This is actually how they do it in China. They call it the “social maintenance fee.” This article at http://www.economist.com/node/21557369 explains how it works.

    It states “The fine for having extra children is known as the “social maintenance fee”. Mr He estimates the government has collected over 2 trillion yuan ($314 billion) in such fees since 1980. Failure to pay means the second “black” child cannot obtain a household-registration document, or hukou, which brings with it basic rights such as education. The amount of the fine varies from place to place. A husband and wife in Shanghai will each pay 110,000 yuan ($17,300), three times the city’s average annual post-tax income, for a second child. The fine increases with income. The rich can shell out millions.”

    This sounds strikingly similar to enforcement of the individual mandate for health insurance.

  • Would you describe an annual levy on uncultivated land as a tax or a penalty?

  • Well… As the smoke clears I would like to share mho.

    0.01: If the supreme court had said it was unvalid, the left would have blamed it on the partishanship of the court. Every liberal, and independant would think that they are the victim because partisans impede “progress”. The gloating on the right would be a powerful force of encouragement for these leftists to do everything they can to win this election. Now however, they think they’re flying high, when in reality the people who voted for him are now seeing the arrogance and the straightforward decieving they are submitted too. That creates much needed repugnance on the people who otherwise would have voted for him. The brilliancy of the Supreme Court assuring that people know it is a Tax, and the excerpt that refers to the fact that the Supreme Court is not there to help the ignorance of the voters who put such a leftist in power is a clear rallying call for people to wake up. An awakening that would not have happened in another way.

  • 0.02: what if in catholic prayer….it was revealed…. that the only thing that could stop his re-election was to make that decision, and word it so to give Romney the much needed ammunition. Look at how riled up people are now… that translates into votes. One has to welcome the overconfidence of the Democrats right now…

  • “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” Mt 10:16

  • Furthermore, when the contraception mandate lawsuits make their way to a supreme court decision, no one can say that it was made in deeply flawed partisan court. People’s eyes would awake to the fact that the only ones that can fight the liberal march to perdition will be the Catholic Church. All ye conservatives, join the only ones who can fight the gates of hell—and prevail!

Thanks For Proving Our Point

Friday, March 2, AD 2012

Rush Limbaugh is famous for “demonstrating absurdity by being absurd.”  His satire works because it usually exposes the ridiculousness of the thing being satired.  Unfortunately for Missouri Democrat Stacey Newman, she doesn’t quite understand that satire doesn’t really work when it highlights your side’s stupidity.

A Missouri House member frustrated with recent legislative debates over birth control and reproductive health is proposing to restrict vasectomies.

Legislation sponsored by Democrat Stacey Newman would allow vasectomies only when necessary to protect a man from serious injury or death. Vasectomies would have to be performed in a hospital, ambulatory surgery center or health facility licensed by the state Department of Health and Senior Services.

The Missouri House last week approved a resolution objecting to the federal health care law and a requirement that most employers or insurers cover contraceptives.

Newman, who’s from St. Louis County, says that such issues affect women the most. She says men also must make family planning decisions.

This is priceless, and for a number of reasons, but three spring immediately to mind.

On the obvious level this doesn’t work because her bill doesn’t mirror the debate that is taking place.  Just about no person is actually seeking to ban contraceptives; rather we are simply fighting attempts to mandate that all employers grant insurance coverage for contraceptives, even when they have moral objections to contraception.  So it fails on a literal level.

Second, to the extent that there would be people interested in restricting access to birth control for moral reasons, they almost certainly would also support a ban on vasectomies.  Guess what Ms. Newman, the Catholic Church is no keener on vasectomies than it is on artificial birth control.  So if you were hoping to shame people into dropping their opposition to birth control, they would only hop aboard your bandwagon.  So that’s your second fail.

Finally, the legislation itself highlights the fundamental problem with the HHS mandate.  Leaving aside the issue of religious liberty, what is disturbing about the mandate is that the federal government is decreeing what is and, by logical extension, what is not to be covered by health insurance.  Who is the government to dictate to insurers what they cover?  A government big and powerful enough to make these decisions is certainly powerful enough to restrict access to certain procedures.  So by introducing this bill, you’re actually proving the fundamental point that opponents of the HHS mandate specifically, and Obamacare in general, have been making.  Yet another fail for you.  But your failure is our success, so thanks.

Continue reading...

3 Responses to Thanks For Proving Our Point

  • It’s not just stupid. It’s dishonest. It’s distraction.

    But, this is the same as the stunt pulled off by to Miss Flake of GU Law and the Dem Lib Trashocracy.

    From JammyWearingFool/Gateway Pundit:

    “I put that in quotes because in the beginning she was described as a Georgetown law student. It was then revealed that prior to attending Georgetown she was an active women’s right advocate. In one of her first interviews she is quoted as talking about how she reviewed Georgetown’s insurance policy prior to committing to attend, and seeing that it didn’t cover contraceptive services, she decided to attend with the express purpose of battling this policy. During this time, she was described as a 23-year-old coed. Magically, at the same time Congress is debating the forced coverage of contraception, she appears and is even brought to Capitol Hill to testify. This morning, in an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show, it was revealed that she is 30 years old, NOT the 23 that had been reported all along.

    In other words, folks, you are being played. She has been an activist all along and the Dems were just waiting for the appropriate time to play her.”

    “Unreal. This was all just a big dishonest Democrat ploy to take the attention off of Barack Obama’s assault on religious freedom.”

    Liberals or liberty. You cannot have both.

  • It is my understanding that vasectomies, since they are a medical procedure without a lobby group to protect it (unlike abortion), are already performed under good medical conditions. I mean, I’ve never heard of a back alley vasectomy and I don’t think anyone has ever successfully pulled off an exposee of the deplorable conditions under with they (supposedly) occur. Such conditions probably don’t exist. I also think it was fairly common practice for the surgeon who was performing the vasectomy to get the wife’s permission, at least until recently. I’ve heard that several times.

  • Pingback: SATURDAY EXTRA: U.S. CULTURE WARS | ThePulp.it

Thoughts on Health Care as a Right

Friday, November 19, AD 2010

As MJ posted yesterday, Pope Benedict was in the news this week in regards to health care this week. A couple things struck me as interesting about this article, and the debate that immediately sprang up around it here.

1. It’s Not All About US Politics

It’s not often that those in the Commonweal and National Catholic Reporter set get to rub their political opponents noses in something and play the, “You’re not a very good Catholic, are you?” game, so it’s hardly surprising if there’s been a bit of crowing in some circles. However, as is often the case, I think it’s a mistake to see this as primarily relating to recent US political struggles, much though Catholic Democrats would like to imagine that the pope is admonishing the USCCB for not supporting ObamaCare. Indeed, the pope’s sentiments should be rather castening to those of us in the developed world:

Continue reading...

41 Responses to Thoughts on Health Care as a Right

  • I think the distinction between the different types of right is useful. If it hadn’t been poisoned by how it is used in this country, the word entitlement is perhaps a better term than right. I.e., I have the right to do X, I am entitled to Y by the society I live in (whether by the government, churches, etc.).

    I also agree that this is not, nor should not be looked at as a chastisement of the current health care bill (I object to the term ObamaCare for two reasons, 1. it was written substantially by congress, and 2. large parts of it were based on Republican ideas for Health Care reform from the 1990s). Certainly, the Pope made clear that the right extended to unborn as well (Which was the key reason the Bishops opposed it.

    I do however, think that at least some of the Pope’s talk can and should be applied to the United States. In particular I object to your characterization of the Health Care debate in this country as being about “an insurance policy which absolutely guarantees that no matter what ails him, he will never have to pay more than he can comfortably afford out of pocket for state-of-the-art care”. I don’t know your personal history, but based on this statement, I can only conclude that you have never faced a major medical bill. Even something as basic as the birth of a child can cost $10,000 or more — even if there are no complications. Even with insurance (Which normally will pay 80% after the deductible… which would be applied both to mother and child), the bill can easily hit $3000.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but $3000 is beyond what I would consider comfortably affordable… particularly if it was for a medical emergency which is harder to plan for than the birth of a child. And remember this is with insurance. As the sole income earner of a young family, a $10,000 (pretty much the minimum I expect for a hospital stay without insurance) bill would exhaust my rainy day fund (You might think I should have saved more… but I invite you to find space in my budget to save more than I do), and require that I did into retirement and/or college savings.

    Of course, anything really serious, and the bill will run into the many tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars (without insurance).

    To give a little example.

    My brother, who also happens now to be a priest, has lived in England for almost 20 years now. Before he entered the seminary, he was working in the sort of temporary job that doesn’t pay much, and in this country is unlikely to come with insurance. He found a lump. In this country, he may have put off going to get it checked out because of how much it would have cost; that decision would have cost him his life. The lump was cancer, and the English Medical system saved his life. I know the English “Socialized Medicine” is not a popular idea in the United States (by either the left or the right), but it not only saved my brother’s life, it saved the life of a future priest. Even if he had gotten it checked out in this country, he would have ended up deeply in debt (and likely taken out the savings of my parents, myself, and my other brother as we tried to help him as much as we could have!).

    Obtaining adequate health care is an issue in the United States, just as much as it is in the third world. Yes, the United States has better health care available, but in both, making it affordable to all is the basic challenge. I don’t know if going to a socialist approach to medicine is the answer (Though frankly, at the rate our society is aging, a large proportion of our population is already in a socialist system or soon will be), but I do know the current system is broken. We pay far more for health care than anyone else in the world, and yet many of our outcomes are worse than the rest of the industrialized world (which do have socialized medicine).

  • DarwinCatholic – I really enjoyed reading both your and MJ’s post/comments. I had a good laugh about the need on waiting for Pope Weigel’s analysis. That my friend is the best line of the day if not of the entire week. I need to re-read both posts so this entire dialog sinks in a little deeper. Truth be told I am a Hillbilly Thomist therefore I have more questions than a statement.

    Is health care a moral matter? Is the view of the Church or the Holy Father on this secular topic infallible? Can good Catholics disagree and still be faithful Catholics? What about the autonomy of the temporal order as it relates to this topic? Health care, at least the prudent application of it, falls in the role of the laity. To be sure we can agree to disagree at that juncture. I am not attempting to be herectical here either and that’s why I am asking questions.

  • Darwin,

    “Perhaps rather more central to the pope’s thoughts than these issues of American politics is the plight of people in the developing world who can’t get basic medicines and treatments which would cost only a few dollars per life saved.”

    You know, I don’t doubt this, but that makes the statements even LESS realistic. How on Earth can you declare a universal, inalienable right to a scarce resource! If it is scarce then not everyone can have it and anyone who does have it can lose it; if it isn’t scarce than no one needs to have a right to it.

    Here is ONE area I think the Pope and many libertarians can agree on – modify or get rid of intellectual property rights! It’s through that nonsense that more efficient producers in the third world have been barred from making cheap medicine because first world behemoths own the patents. We don’t need to declare more inalienable rights – we need to strip certain entities of the “right” to be rent-seeking parasites.

    And yes, there is a difference between active and passive rights. The language of natural law, of classical liberalism and of Pope Leo XIII had been active – you have a right to DO something, not necessarily to have something. Social democrats, American liberals, and I guess the modern Church now uses passive rights; you have the right to have something given to you. You have the right to some good or service.

    The only good or service that I think we recognize as a right – according to our Anglo-American heritage anyway – is to an attorney if we are arrested. And even that’s been problematic time and again. Public defenders are severely overworked, innocent people slip through the cracks because they didn’t get a good defense, state budgets can’t afford to lighten the load by hiring new people; yet everyone has a constitutional right and to counsel.

    Declaring things a right doesn’t help get them to people who need them. It creates a mess of problems instead. We should focus on abolishing the real obstacles between the world’s poor and the medical treatments they need – rent-seeking parasitism from the first world and a lack of respect for property rights and markets in the third world. The WTO has little to do with free trade; its regulations are a part of the problem too.

    http://mises.org/daily/1380

    I finally “get it.” Glad it happened before I turned 30.

  • Is health care a moral matter?

    Well, it has a deep moral dimension insofar as the Church teaches it is a basic right. It’s hard to deny that when the Church says it is derived (i.e., entailed by) the right to life and it describes the right as “basic” and “inalienable.” You are definitely correct that there is much prudential judgment involved in determining how best to fulfill that right. The moral dimension involves the obligation to fulfill and protect the right rather than the mode of fulfillment and protection.

    The Catholic view on rights is that they are BOTH negative/passive and active. They entail prohibitions and moral obligations of fulfillment.

    Is the view of the Church or the Holy Father on this secular topic infallible?

    Probably. The teaching was not issued via an exercise of extraordinary infallibility, but it’s hard to imagine the Church being wrong about a statement about a basic inalienable right. I see this very much along the same lines as the authority of the Church’s teaching on contraception.

    Supposing the Church is not infallible on this matter (i.e., the Church may be in error on a matter of basic human rights), it would still be an authoritative teaching. After all, infallible teaching and binding teaching are not extensionally equivalent (Lumen Gentium 25; First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ 3).

    Can good Catholics disagree and still be faithful Catholics?

    Probably not, since they would be challenging a moral teaching issued in a papal encyclical and continually affirmed by subsequent popes and bishops. This would not be the same as, say, challenging Leo XIII on the role that women are most suited by nature to fulfill.

    The Church’s doctrine of rights [iura] goes back at least to St. Isidore, and finds its fullest and most lucid formulations in Aquinas (which is why CST picked up Aquinas’ view). On this view, moral obligations toward others are derived from a set of basic, inalienable rights, so it would be odd to think that a Catholic can knowingly reject the Church’s position on a source of moral obligation and still be a “good Catholic.” I would say that those who deny that there is a right to access to adequate health care are either woefully ill-informed about the Catholic tradition on right (and reject the teaching on account of pride in one’s own learning and misunderstanding) or they are disposed to challenge the authority of the Church on moral matters. In either case, it’s hard for me to think of such a Catholic as a “good Catholic.”

  • You know there’s quite an irony here.

    I’ve been hearing from MJ since the beginning of this Locke debate that there is this really important difference between Locke and Aquinas – the position they take on the source of good; is it independent of God, or is it God’s will? I don’t think it has one darned thing to do with our debate, but I will say this: it is interesting to me that people who seem to me to be taking the position that we shouldn’t obey God’s will just because it’s God’s will are the first to argue that we should obey the Church’s teaching just because it’s the Church’s teaching.

    What happened to reason? What happened to “reasonableness” as this wonderful criteria for determining what we ought to do? What happened to declaring obedience to the will of a higher authority as “voluntarism”? All of this was at least implied in our discussions.

    I think this is a problem of language more than anything else. I think everyone with a conscience wants everyone who needs health care to have access to it. But I also think it is short-sighted to declare a tangible and scarce good an inalienable, universal right. That has implications that no society can prepare to meet.

    I’m sorry you don’t consider some of us “good Catholics.” But I would have been considered a bad one a long time ago for going to Latin Mass by the same people who shifted away from Leo’s understanding social teaching to this modern view. So I’ll just add one more thing to the list.

  • …Could he mean “right” the same way that my daughter has a “right” to me mothering her? It’s the right thing to do kind of “right”….

    Argh, English!

  • it is interesting to me that people who seem to me to be taking the position that we shouldn’t obey God’s will just because it’s God’s will are the first to argue that we should obey the Church’s teaching just because it’s the Church’s teaching.

    Did I say where I stand on the intellectualist/voluntarist debate? I have not counted myself publicly in either camp. All I have said is that this debate has enormous implications for the nature of rights and how they are to be understood, which is one of the main reasons Locke and Aquinas disagree on the nature of value, rights, and, more specifically, the right to property.

    But I also think it is short-sighted to declare a tangible and scarce good an inalienable, universal right. That has implications that no society can prepare to meet.

    So you are, after all, accusing Pope Benedict XVI, his predecessors Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, of “short-sightedness.” And, naturally, you do not suffer from such short-sightedness since you know better than to think that access to adequate health care is a right.

    As for scarcity, to my knowledge, there have been physicians dating back to the earliest civilizations. It appears you are confusing the difference between a right to something and the historically contingent availability of that something. Indeed, you are not the short-sighted one. Perhaps we can blame the Ludwig Von Mises Institute or Acton Institute for not having the answer you need for this.

    I have a right to life, which puts moral obligations on others in the form of prohibitions against killing and doing injury as well as positive duties to fulfilling that right. Now, imagine I am drowning in a lake and someone walks by. Do they not have a moral obligation to save me if they can? On the Church’s view, yes. But suppose now that there is no one to save me. It’s just me drowning in the lake. Do I suddenly have no right to life since there is such a scarcity of people available to save me? Of course not. The same is true in the case of all basic rights on the Church’s view. Wide availability of means for fulfillment is not a necessary condition for a basic right on the Church’s view. Incidentally, the same is true of libertarian negative rights; no informed libertarian would say that scarcity of means is an indication that there is no basic inalienable right.

    To help you with this, imagine another case. Suppose there is a time period in the world when virtually all the food has been consumed, material resources have been depleted and rendered unusable, and the earth is so polluted that we have no hope of growing crops or tending livestock anytime soon. Would this mean that, since there would be such a scarcity of private property, a tangible and scare good, a libertarian would say that there is not an inalienable right to private property? OF course not. Again, scarcity of means of fulfillment has no bearing whether there is a inalienable right.

    The place where you would need to argue against Pope Benedict XVI is where he derives the right to access to adequate health care from the right to life. That’s where the Pope is doing the work. Focusing on scarcity is a dead-end for the one wants to bring a case against the Pope’s “short-sightedness.”

  • I don’t so much want to argue with the right’s origins – I’ll accept that such a right exists if the Church really says so. What I cannot accept or understand are the utterly empty definitions provided by the Pope and other Bishops.

    The right is contentless. “Health care” can mean so many different things.

  • MJ,

    “So you are, after all, accusing Pope Benedict XVI, his predecessors Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, of “short-sightedness.”

    If they are saying what I think they are saying – but I’m not even 100% sure about that.

    “Perhaps we can blame the Ludwig Von Mises Institute or Acton Institute for not having the answer you need for this.”

    What insulting garbage. It’s sad you can’t argue without this. Pitiful.

    “I have a right to life, which puts moral obligations on others in the form of prohibitions against killing and doing injury as well as positive duties to fulfilling that right”

    That’s not all the right does, first of all. The right to property is a corollary of OUR obligation to preserve ourselves and others. But this does not mean a right to any particular thing, any scarce commodity. It is a right to obtain what need to live from nature by our labor or from the property of another through theft. But as RC points out, you may have a right to steal bread in order to live, but you don’t have a right to have bread continually supplied to you if you can support yourself through labor. It’s for extreme cases only.

    “But suppose now that there is no one to save me. It’s just me drowning in the lake. Do I suddenly have no right to life since there is such a scarcity of people available to save me? Of course not.”

    It’s you who obviously doesn’t understand what scarcity means. Let me put it to you this way: if by some magic health care wasn’t a scarce resource – meaning it could be produced in abundance to satisfy all demand – and we could declare it a positive right, you wouldn’t lose that right because for some reason it couldn’t be supplied to you. But no tangible good that is the product of human labor and subject to economic laws will ever be able to satisfy all demand. So to declare that EVERYONE has a positive right to it is short-sighted if there’s no way everyone can actually have it.

    The word “access” is perhaps where we are getting lost; theoretically everyone has as much a right to “access” health care where it is available, just as everyone has a right to the fruits of their labor and what they can obtain by exchanging those fruits for another thing. But to say it is a positive, universal, inalienable right almost always leads to the conclusion that someone or something must provide that thing for everyone. “Access” isn’t a scarce resource, fair enough. But the actual thing being accessed is.

    I suppose as long as we keep that in mind, no one has to disagree with what the Pope said. But no one EVER disputed “access” in the sense that people have a right to a service they can make a legitimate exchange for. So either this is saying nothing new at all, or it is saying something profoundly new.

    “Would this mean that, since there would be such a scarcity of private property, a tangible and scare good, a libertarian would say that there is not an inalienable right to private property? OF course not.”

    So then the Pope is agreeing with the libertarian view of rights? Ok, sounds good to me. There is an inalienable right to property, including health care, which you have to exchange your property in order to get, but not a positive one. When you combine those two, on the other hand, you get the argument that it is immoral for a person NOT to have health care, even if they have the right to “access” it but can’t because they can make no legitimate exchange. That’s how I see it.

    So to be clear, its this view I am calling short-sighted. I’m not even sure that is the pope’s view, because it was you and not he who said “positive right.”

  • Lets look at an example to illustrate my point: the right to counsel. It is one of the few – it may be the only, in fact – positive rights in our entire theory of rights in the Anglo-American tradition. Everyone has the right to have a lawyer appointed to them if they are arrested and charged with a crime.

    In practice, we’ve seen individual states’ public defenders offices come to the point of bankruptcy and collapse; overburdened defenders get spread out among too many clients, innocent people going to jail because their defender was taxed to the limit, and the modern notion of the right to due process could be put in jeopardy if we continue along this path.

    I don’t know what constitutional implications a fiscal impossibility of providing free counsel to all would entail, but it is clear that the mentality that issues forth from declaring something to be a positive right is that the government has to provide it. And that’s the short-sightedness of which I speak, since it ends up actually depriving people in some cases of their rights. Same with broken down national healthcare systems.

    These are, in other words, economic questions. They are technical problems that cannot be resolved with decrees.

  • Just a small quibble here, Joe. A couple times now you’ve written something like this: “But as RC points out, you may have a right to steal bread in order to live, but you don’t have a right to have bread continually supplied to you if you can support yourself through labor.”

    It’s technically incorrect to describe a man who takes bread from another in this situation as “stealing” or “thieving” the bread. His particular condition, combined with the universal destination of property, entail that in such situations there is no stealing at all. (Aquinas’ and Leo’s position is not that in some instances stealing is morally legitimated; it is that in some cases the taking of another’s property isn’t stealing at all.)

  • WJ,

    It is a quibble. I get your point, but what are we supposed to call the act? “Appropriation by means other than labor?” Distinctions need to be made because of the different circumstances. And it helps if we can sum them up in one word. There is labor, and there is…. what? Taking?

  • “Justice in health care should be a priority of governments and international institutions”

    If health care is dependent upon the UN, I predict the return of Theodoric of York:

    http://www.myspace.com/video/vid/23497313

  • If access to health care is indeed an inalienable human right, then our first priority ought to be doing what we can to get health care to the people MOST in need of it — that is, the Third World peoples who die from treatable conditions and diseases. There are, of course, many people already working on this via medical missions, etc.

    One thing people who are in a position to help (i.e. medical R&D people, physicians themselves, pharma companies, etc.) absolutely cannot do is turn our backs on people like the children dying of cholera in Haiti on the grounds that it’s not our problem, or on the Rushian grounds that we “already gave” to help these people through our taxes. Nor should we, needless to say, be stocking Third World clinics with condoms when they could really use antibiotics, vaccines, and reasonably up to date medical and surgical equipment.

    What I hear the pope saying is that the right of the least of our brothers and sisters not to die or be disabled for life due to easily preventable diseases is a universal, i.e., Catholic, concern. With those needs in mind, I’d say fixing the imperfect but still basically functional healthcare system in the U.S. and Europe might be a bit lower on the priority scale.

  • It is regrettable that the Pope used the term “right” in relation to a person’s ability to obtain health care. Health care cannot be a basic human right because it requires the actions of at least one other person – the rights we have from God are individual, not collective. We all have a moral obligation to ensure that everyone in our society has adequate health care, housing and food – but moral obligations are strictly voluntary. Everyone is perfectly free to be a rat bastard about such things – though, of course, there will come a time when the real Judge will ask for an accounting. I ascribe the use of such terminology as “right” in relation to health care to the Pope’s European background, where such things as government health care are so entirely embedded in society that only deep and long thought on the matter by an European would allow a different conclusion.

    The truth is that the more government provides, the more anti-life government becomes – because the ultimate business of government is not human needs, but power and wealth. If our governments could be staffed entirely by saints, we would have a different circumstance and could safely turn over all decisions to them – but as we simply won’t get that, our only safety in the long run – the only way to have a society of life rather than a Culture of Death – is to strictly limit government’s roll in our lives.

    Now, that being said, there is quite a lot government can do to help ensure that people have basic health care, housing and food – but the best means of doing this is to simply use a surplus in one area to help a dearth in others, and to allow local groups – especially those attached to the Church and other religious bodies – to distribute what is needed to those who are in need (what this boils down to is that wealthy areas like New York would provide things for poor areas like Detroit…but rather than having a person in New York decide what to do, it would be people in Detroit making the call).

    People need help, but government must be limited – if we fail to help or allow government to get too large, we have failed in our moral duty. Striking a balance is what is necessary, and that is what I read in the Pope’s statement.

  • I was too quick to imply that the Pope was short-sighted. It was what I was absolutely certain that every Catholic socialist was going to get out of it that I was reacting to.

  • Maryland Bill,

    In particular I object to your characterization of the Health Care debate in this country as being about “an insurance policy which absolutely guarantees that no matter what ails him, he will never have to pay more than he can comfortably afford out of pocket for state-of-the-art care”. I don’t know your personal history, but based on this statement, I can only conclude that you have never faced a major medical bill. Even something as basic as the birth of a child can cost $10,000 or more — even if there are no complications. Even with insurance (Which normally will pay 80% after the deductible… which would be applied both to mother and child), the bill can easily hit $3000.

    As it happens, I’ve paid for the birth of five children over the last seven years — the first two via insurance (with one of those dreaded HMOs, Kaiser, the cost out of pocket was $500 total) and other three out of pocket via a midwife because our insurance didn’t cover midwifery. We’re not rich, so this was certainly a financial difficulty. But given that food, shelter and medical care are the three major expenses necessary to keep body and soul together in this world, I don’t think it’s necessarily inappropriate that paying for health care be similar in cost to paying for life’s other necessities. I certainly agree as to the necessity of insurance to cover truly catastrophic expenses, such as the experiences our family has had with cancer, in which insurance came very much in handy. But at the same time I think that an excessive reliance on insurance for normal expenses (and I’d consider a normal birth to be a normal expense) is one of the things which has allowed the cost of health care to become so absurd.

    Most of the world would find it almost impossible to imagine getting the level of care that Americans get from a normal HMO — I don’t think we should be shocked at the idea of having to give up some of our wealth (again, rather staggering from a global point of view) in return. There are certainly advantages in certain cases to a system such as that of the UK — but there are also very clear reasons why it is that one’s life expectancy with heart disease or cancer under their system is lower than one’s life expectancy under the US system, individual examples not withstanding.

    So while I certainly think that there are things which could be done better in the US system, I don’t think that we have something so obscenely impossible or expensive that we’re entitled to get worked up about our “rights” being denied.

    Joe,

    How on Earth can you declare a universal, inalienable right to a scarce resource! If it is scarce then not everyone can have it and anyone who does have it can lose it; if it isn’t scarce than no one needs to have a right to it.

    Well, primarily because I don’t think that by calling something an inalienable right the pope means that it must be provided “free” to everyone or that it magically shows up on its own. (That would indeed be pretty silly.) The Pope also talks about a right to food and water and shelter at times — but no one imagines that these are provided without work or without pay, and in all but the most backward and desperately poor countries, they are not generally distributed by the government. They’re produced and paid for by most people on their own, and provided by society to the few who are not able to get their own or receive help from more immediate institutions such as family, church, clan, etc. I would assume the his discussion of health care is in the same area.

    MJ,

    Maybe I’m off, but it seems to me that talking about “inalienable rights” is at best an attempt to translate Church moral teaching into the terms of secular modern discussion (of a European variety, in this case) so I guess I’m unclear what it would mean to say that the Church teaches infallibly that something is or is not a basic human right. It seems more like this is a case of the pope saying something which has been understood by Catholics for a very long time in a new and less clear fashion in an attempt to fit it in with the terminology which modern people normally use.

  • Perhaps this would help clarify thing: It seems to me that one of the basic moral issues at play in the Terri Shaivo case was the refusal of her husband to provide her with the food and water to which she had a basic human right.

    This doesn’t mean that everyone has a right to unlimited free food, but the human person cannot live without food and water, and thus it is (in that use of the term) a basic right. That she was denied this right was clearly wrong (and resulted in her death.)

  • Darwin,

    “Well, primarily because I don’t think that by calling something an inalienable right the pope means that it must be provided “free” to everyone or that it magically shows up on its own. ”

    If it doesn’t mean that, then no one has ever disagreed with this sentiment, from the most radical anarcho-libertarians to the most statist-socialists. I don’t even see why it needs to be said. “Inalienable” means you can’t give it away or have it taken from you; you cannot “alienate” it.

    But if its something you have to make a legitimate exchange for – if it isn’t free, like the right to counsel (“if you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you”) – then it IS alienable. You can buy it and you can sell it.

    It’s just like saying you have a right to what you can afford, what you can make a legitimate exchange for. That means I have as much a right to health care as I do a new video game or anything else that isn’t blatantly immoral or harmful to the common good (like hard drugs or child porn). No one can rightfully deny me access to Best Buy, and absolutely no one is arguing that people who have the means to afford health care could or should ever be denied it.

    You see, what commies and social democrats mean when they say everyone has a right “access” to health care is that it has to be made available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay. What libertarians mean is that society should look for ways to lower costs so that more people can afford it, and it usually involves getting rid of regulation and bureaucracy. This is an economic problem and a technical problem. Everyone wants everyone to have access to health care. But everyone disagrees on how to provide it. So this statement – the way you’ve presented it in your last comment – is meaningless.

  • “Did you think that money was Heaven sent?”

    I am abjectly uninformed and rapidly approaching senility (Thank God!).

    It appears . . . We all have repented of our sins; gone to Confession; done penance; amended our lives; and through GOOD WORKS glorify Almighty God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior (True God and True Man) in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor for ever and ever. We are all daily praying the Rosary and contemplatng/meditating on the Mysteries of our Redemption . . .

    I am probably wrong.

    Anyhow, Bastiat, “The state is that fictional thing wherein everyone lives off of everyone else.” Or, something like that.

  • It is regrettable that the Pope used the term “right” in relation to a person’s ability to obtain health care. Health care cannot be a basic human right because it requires the actions of at least one other person – the rights we have from God are individual, not collective.

    This is not quite right. While a right is, indeed, something held by an individual, a right entails obligations for others (on this point, Joe and I are in full agreement, though he uses the term “corollary” for that relation while I use “entailment”). Aquinas’ discussion of rights is embedded in his Treatise on Prudence and Justice. Justice, he says, is a virtue that always involves interpersonal relationships. Rights, which are a key aspect of justice, therefore always involve interpersonal relationships. To use your words, a right, indeed, “requires the actions of at least one other person.” It makes no sense to speak of rights or justice without also speaking of the actions required by others to protect, respect, or fulfill that right.

  • “It makes no sense to speak of rights or justice without also speaking of the actions required by others to protect, respect, or fulfill that right.”

    I might add to that, “…to the extent possible in a fallen world without violating other rights.”

    That I think would fully encompass CST.

  • Joe,

    If it doesn’t mean that, then no one has ever disagreed with this sentiment, from the most radical anarcho-libertarians to the most statist-socialists. I don’t even see why it needs to be said. “Inalienable” means you can’t give it away or have it taken from you; you cannot “alienate” it.

    But if its something you have to make a legitimate exchange for – if it isn’t free, like the right to counsel (“if you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you”) – then it IS alienable. You can buy it and you can sell it.

    It’s just like saying you have a right to what you can afford, what you can make a legitimate exchange for. That means I have as much a right to health care as I do a new video game or anything else that isn’t blatantly immoral or harmful to the common good (like hard drugs or child porn).

    Honestly, I’m not sure what’s meant by inalienable in this case — among other things I’d be curious to know what words the pope actually used, as I imagine he didn’t write in English. But in your response here it seems to me that there must be some middle ground between a something being always and everywhere free, and something being a good which is sought via exchange which it’s not anyone else’s concern whether you have or not.

    Let’s start with food, and posit that there is something or other called a right to food. It seems to me that this does mean that if I live in a community and I have plenty of food and fungible resources, and there are also people in the community who, for whatever reason, are unable to get sufficient food to stay alive and basically healthy, this becomes my problem. This is because nourishment and water and basic human necessities to which people have a “right” in some sense.

    Now, at the same time, I don’t think that admitting this means in any way that no one should ever have to pay for food or drink. Indeed, I think clearly people should pay for food and drink pretty much all of the time — in all circumstances except those in which it’s virtually impossible for them to provide for themselves. And what is provided to them by others does not necessarily have to be top notch — it may be the duty of society to make sure that those who lack get a basic amount of bread and meat and dairy and drinking water — but that doesn’t mean they owe them filet mignon or artisan breads or imported wines or even soda. Things which are luxuries beyond the level of necessity are things one clearly needs to get for oneself. Nor, I think, is there any necessity that some sort of social dole give everyone “basic food” when most people are much happier getting their own better food with their own earnings.

    Now, on the other hand, if someone comes to me and says, “There are some poor people in your community who don’t have the money to buy Tour Of Duty 5 at Best Buy,” I may or may not decide that this is something that I want to personally help out with, but it’s clearly not something to which anyone has a “right” in this sense. If someone comes by saying he wants to set up a government program to provide everyone with video games, I’m well within my moral rights to tell him to sod off.

    Now, I think the thing that becomes problematic when you figure out what to do in this regard with health care is that in this day and age it is possible to do so much in regards to health care if one is willing to spend nearly unlimited amounts of money. It seems to me that there are good and realistic ways to see that everyone in society has access to the sort of basic medical treatments which make our life expectancy so much higher today than it was 100 years ago without breaking the budget in any way — while leaving most people responsible for paying for most or all of their care. Just as we don’t feel that we need to have everyone get food stamps, I don’t see that we need to have everyone in some sort of government health care system. And I think that the attempts to put everyone into one are mostly a cynical power play cloaked in progressive language — a program which everyone relies on gives you a lot more power than one that only helps the truly needy.

    But at the same time, no one (including the Church) seems to have managed to come up with a very clear idea of what we do in a situation in which there are almost always additional medical treatments available which have at least some small chance of making a condition better — but the cost is so high that it is clearly impossible to provide such a level of care to everyone.

  • If it isn’t clear, then the Church shouldn’t be making such pronouncements. It doesn’t help to say that everyone “has a right to access health care”, because the word “access” can mean different things.

    Does it mean no one can deny you access? If so, then I agree, and so does virtually everyone else. There are some people who would deny even emergency care to illegal immigrants, but that’s a radical position. Everyone has a right to “access” that which they need to live.

    The question is how one “accesses” this thing. Do they have to make an exchange for it, or do they have it provided for them? Well I think we agree that people who can pay, should. And if we can bring down costs, more people will then have access. But that’s unacceptable to social democrats, who don’t trust the market, and who conflate the absence of the technical means to provide everyone with a thing with the absence of a WILL to do it.

    Supply and demand works; command economies don’t. But no system can provide everything that everyone needs to live; that is why the right to these things is an individual right that follows from a law that all individuals (and not societies) are bound to obey – the law of self-preservation. Our right to property is nothing more than a corollary of our obligation to live.

    If given the chance, technology + markets will deliver to people who demand them the goods and services that they need. Get rid of the rent-seeking conglomerates, modify patent laws so that some company can’t buy a patent on cheap medicines and never use it or allow anyone else to, get rid of any protections or subsidies that hinder the flow of medical goods and services, let people who have the ability and the will to mass-produce them deliver them to those who have need of them. That’s how you will have the most people have the most access, and that’s what we want.

    But if it means they have to have these things provided for them, free of charge, then this is totally destructive to the common good. National healthcare was a luxury of Europe’s post-war arrangement with the US. We rebuilt their shattered society with the Marshall Plan, we shouldered the vast majority of their defense needs, and they had extra resources to play around with. That deal is over. Add to that the fact that their collapsed birth rates mean that fewer and fewer people put into the system than take from it. The fiscal burdens of these programs are unsustainable in the long run.

    Statism doesn’t work. And that’s part of what makes it immoral. If it did work would still be immoral if it violated man’s natural rights. But it doesn’t work, partially because it does violate his rights. It attempts to do by sheer force what is better done by initiative and mutual cooperation. It is artificial, invasive, reactionary, narrowly focused and economically calamitous.

  • A couple of hard sayings which should be put into the discussion:
    Our Lord: “The poor will always be with you”.
    St. Paul: “Who does not work will not eat”.

    It has always seemed to me that discussions about charity fail to realize that charity is a personal virtue. No amount of government aid will replace the virtuousness of charity, which is to say, our obligation.

    There is a reason why Death Panels were included [and will always be included] in such as the latest legislation. It is a question of money. What limits are to be imposed on the expenses of treatment?

  • MJ,

    Which is why I put it as “regrettable” rather than “wrong”. In moral terms, if I came across you starving in the snow, you would have a right to expect that I, as a moral person, would pull you out of it and give you at least sufficient to prevent death. But you have no right to compel me to do so – even God doesn’t take that office; its purely voluntary.

    Far too many things are classed as rights in our modern society, and very mistakenly. Our entire world view is deformed by a series of lies which have been presented with such force and persistence that hardly any one is willing to challenge the underlying lies. In order for us to come to correct conclusions, the underlying data must be correct – to speak of a fundamental right to health care plays too well in to the hands of those who wish to compel us to do things which are going to be counter-productive.

    Remember, right now the Church is battling those who would use the health care law to compel Catholic hospitals to provide abortion and birth control. If health care is a right, then abortion is a right – so goes the thinking of the Culture of Death. Great care needs to be taken that we on the side of life provide no hand hold for the Culture of Death.

  • A couple of hard sayings which should be put into the discussion:
    Our Lord: “The poor will always be with you”.
    St. Paul: “Who does not work will not eat”.

    Context, context, context.

    Christ said this to Judas (John 12), who objected to costly perfumed oil being used on Jesus just before the Last Supper. Judas objected that the oil could be sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus, knowing that Judas did not care for the poor, told him that the poor will always be there for ministry, but that Jesus would not always be with them. The insinuation is that even if oil had not been used on Jesus, Judas would never care about giving money to the poor. The context of this line is Jesus’ preparation for his death. It surely has nothing to do with saying that there must be poor
    among us or that there will always be poor people.

    St. Paul (2 Thess 3) is admonishing the Christians at Thessaloniki to avoid being busy bodies and involving themselves in others affairs. The ones who “refuse to work” are the ones who are acting disorderly, involving themselves in the affairs of others rather than being willing to”work quietly and to eat their own food.” Paul tells the Thessalonians to “shun” these individuals and not to keep table with them (recall that St. Paul is insistent throughout his letters that Christians should not share table with those who mock the faith or live immoral lives). For Paul, a Jewish Christian, sharing meals was an intimate affair reserved for family. In the context of faith, that would be the brethern in Christ. What Paul certainly is not making is a statement about labor, wages, and food supplies.

    It has always seemed to me that discussions about charity fail to realize that charity is a personal virtue. No amount of government aid will replace the virtuousness of charity, which is to say, our obligation.

    Bear in mind that Aquinas, whose treatment of justice was adopted by the Church, treats Charity and Justice separately. The latter treatment involves the basic rights of individuals and the moral obligations that fulfill/respect those rights. On Aquinas’ and the Church’s view, fulfilling/respecting the basic rights of individuals is a matter of justice primarily, and society is charged with solving those co-ordination problems that violate these rights. As Christians, we are called to go above beyond this minimum, which would be by why of charity.

    There is a reason why Death Panels were included [and will always be included] in such as the latest legislation. It is a question of money. What limits are to be imposed on the expenses of treatment?

    If a “Death Panel” is that panel of persons who determines whether or not to allocate monetary resources for medical treatment, then “Death Panels” are not a problem with “the latest legislation.” On your view, my health insurance carrier has got its own “Death Panel” that decides how much and to whom monetary resources will be distributed. The “who pays” question is tricky one that plaques private and public health care systems.

  • But you have no right to compel me to do so – even God doesn’t take that office; its purely voluntary.

    If by “compel” you mean “force,” then you’re right: God probably won’t causally force you to perform your duty. But neither would a government that legally obligates you to discharge your duty. One thing is probably certain: God and/or the government will punish you for not discharging your duty. So really, your point here is irrelevant when it comes to determining what rights individuals have and which moral obligations are entailed by those rights.

    Far too many things are classed as rights in our modern society, and very mistakenly.

    Agreed. But what criteria are we to use to determine what are rights and what are not rights? I think the Church, who is the leading authority on moral questions, provides good criteria.

    In order for us to come to correct conclusions, the underlying data must be correct – to speak of a fundamental right to health care plays too well in to the hands of those who wish to compel us to do things which are going to be counter-productive.

    But this certainly would not mean that such a right does not exist. This is a lot like Joe’s point on scarcity; scarcity of means and possible misinterpretations are irrelevant as to whether or not there is a right to something. Rights, since they are part of our nature and necessarily flow from the value of our nature, are prior to any contingent events in the world, such as scarcity of means or government coercion.

    If health care is a right, then abortion is a right – so goes the thinking of the Culture of Death. Great care needs to be taken that we on the side of life provide no hand hold for the Culture of Death.

    Agreed. Yet, part of taking “great care” is speaking the truth about human nature and value. Downplaying or disavowing an inalienable right would not be proclaiming the truth about human dignity.

  • MJ,

    “Rights, since they are part of our nature and necessarily flow from the value of our nature, are prior to any contingent events in the world, such as scarcity of means or government coercion.”

    Let’s just cut the crap.

    If “right to access” means obligation to make affordable to all, then we are obliged to consider scarcity; it has a direct bearing on whether or not any number of people can actually access that to which they have a right.

    If “right to access” means obligation to provide for all regardless of cost, then we’ve entered la-la land and are insisting upon the impossible.

    It costs governments and societies NOTHING to recognize natural rights, and a little more to protect them, and that is why scarcity doesn’t apply to them. My right to property isn’t contingent upon the availability of property, but it doesn’t oblige the government to provide me with it. In Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII says that it would be good if governments would find ways to encourage more widespread property ownership. But nowhere does he say that the right to property entails a societal or governmental obligation to provide everyone with property. It only means that you have a claim to what is RIGHTFULLY yours – that which you earn by your labor, or in extreme cases, you take from another without their consent.

    The same with healthcare. If an “inalienable right” to healthcare does not oblige governments to provide it – as it would appear to do if it is also a “positive right” – then I agree, there is an inalienable right to health care that could just as well be subsumed under the right to private property. There would be no need to single out health care as a specific right.

    And if we find that people are without it in large numbers, and we want to rectify that situation – which is clearly what the pope wants, and what we all want – then it is the naming of it or unnaming of it as a right that is irrelevant, while its scarcity is of the utmost relevance.

  • If “right to access” means obligation to make affordable to all, then we are obliged to consider scarcity; it has a direct bearing on whether or not any number of people can actually access that to which they have a right.

    I don’t think the “obligation” is specified as “make affordable to all.” Rather, access to health care could be instantiated in many different ways. You are correct that one particular instantiation (e.g., affordable health care) would then take into account scarcity. But it is not true that scarcity need to be considered when discussing the right itself, whose corresponding obligations might have several instantiations, some of which would not involve scarcity.

  • Ok. Let me just ask: which “instantiations” would not involve scarcity?

  • Ok. Let me just ask: which “instantiations” would not involve scarcity?

    Like when we consider the putative right to private property, we admit that there is scarcity of all material goods and, consequently, the arts that make use of those material goods (e.g., manufacturing, medicine), insofar as matter is finite and limited. But I think you and I agree that this necessary scarcity is not what you are focusing on, since it would provide the same dilemma for a putative right to private property (and, note well, I am not thinking of a right to any specific thing, like that piece of baguette or that Toyota Corolla).

    The putative right to private property is a general, unspecified right whose fulfillment can come by why of prohibition of acts that violate it (when it is considered as a negative/passive right) or by way of some positive act (when it is considered as an active right). The putative right needs some content, which is to say that the individual does not exercise this general right until the individual takes into possession some material thing (let’s leave aside for now things like “intellectual property”). That material thing would be an instantiation of private property. Whatever that material things is, say, a blue Honda VTX1800, is a specification of that instantiation. The act by which you acquired the VTX, say, by purchasing it, would be a particular instantiation of a positive action whereby you exercise your right. The regime of private property and the market in the United States would be specific instantiations of fulfilling/protecting your right to private property in general, and the possession of your VTX specifically.

    You do not have a right to a blue Honda VTX1800. You have a putative right to private property, and the possession of the VTX would be an instantiation of that. The regime of private property in the U.S. would be an instantiation of an act of protecting/fulfilling your right. VTX1800 is a scarce good–there just aren’t enough produced to go around to everyone who wants them. Further, our regime of private property operates by and large on money and credit, and these are themselves scarce and limited. So, again, there is no individual right to a Honda VTX1800, but there is, on your view, an individual right to private property in a general, non-specific sense. Now, the regime of private property in the US is one many different imaginable instantiations of measures to protect/fulfill your right to private property, and this regime is a contingent, historical arrangement. Further, that Honda VTX1800 is a contingent, historical product. Neither it nor the US regime of private property are necessary, whereas your putative right to private property, like every historical human being’s putative right to private property, is, you would grant, a necessary aspect of being human. The scarcity of Honda VTX1800s or any specified thing has no bearing on your general right to private property, just as whether there is a coordinated market system for exchange like the one in the U.S. has no bearing on your general right to private property. Your right is prior to specific things and regimes that protect it. We can imagine other instantiations of the exercise of your putative right, the way it is protected/fulfilled, and the system in which these actions take place.

    Now move to health care. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we agree that there is an individual right to access to adequate health care. So you have an individual right to health care, and that right is a general right. You have no more right to a specified treatment, such as a CAT scan, than you do to a specified thing like a Honda VTX1800. Like the right to private property, you do not have a right to any specific medical product or treatment. The exercise of your right to health care, like in the case of the putative right to private property, takes place historically within contingent arrangements, techniques, and products. Now, the fact that health care in, say, the U.S. today, is market-based, privatized, and rendered by way of money or credit is purely contingent. Health care in the U.S. (like in the U.S. regime of private property) is embedded in a purely contingent system, and within that system money and credit are scarce and limited. Moreover, the specific advanced technologies that are used are themselves scare and limited. But who says that health care can only be instantiated in such ways? We can imagine arrangements for health care that do not look like this, and we can find real, historical arrangements that did not look like this. The scarcity that you and I are talking about is not built-in to a general notion of health care. Surely we can think of alternative means of health care that do not utilize the same arrangements, treatments, and tools as, say, Westernized health systems do, and we can imagine exchange systems that are not arranged in the same way as that in which U.S. health care is embedded. Adequate health care ranges in its instantiations from, say alternative medicine to the business model of health care. If you want me to say that CAT scan machines and hospitals are scarce, then you got it. They’re scarce. But what has this contingent fact to do with a right to access to adequate health care that is general and necessarily flows from the right to life?

    By “health care” we should not focus on any one historical instantiation of a health care system and how access to it is given. By “adequate” we should not think that this means entitlement to every single state-of-the-art treatment, technique, and rehabilitation there is.

    Now, going back to instantiations, if the current health care system in the U.S. is so arranged that it has created scarcity of services, instruments, etc., then it is, indeed, a special challenge for it to meet the right to access to adequate health care. But the scarcity issues is a problem of that specific instantiation of health care, not a problem for the right that is prior to any concrete arrangement.

    A bigger, related question is: Where do we find the notion of right, be it in Aquinas, Locke, or any major rights thinker, involving scarcity? In other words, do any of these thinkers say anything implicitly or explicitly about scarcity of means of fulfillment being a defeasor of rights claims?

  • MJ,

    “The scarcity of Honda VTX1800s or any specified thing has no bearing on your general right to private property”

    Right. That’s exactly what I said in the last post:

    “My right to property isn’t contingent upon the availability of property, but it doesn’t oblige the government to provide me with it.”

    All the right to private property entails is that I have a right to that which I produce by my labor, and to things produced by the labor of others by legitimate exchange under normal circumstances, and “theft” under extreme circumstances, and that the government has an obligation to protect my property and to not prosecute me when I break the civil law against theft in order to fulfill my natural obligation to live.

    No one can produce health care solely by their own labor. They either have to exchange for it, receive it as a free gift, or steal it (or have someone steal it for them). Which of these a person has a right to do depends entirely upon their circumstances. A person who isn’t dying and who isn’t living below subsistence level has no right to petition the government to steal from others to provide them with it, or accept what amounts to stolen property.

    All I want to know is, and all I care about is, what this “right to access health care” obligates or does not obligate government to do, whether it obligates it to plunder from the rich to give to the poor, or whether it obligates it to stop catering to special interests and allow the market to work. The right has to have some implication for the actions of government, which is charged with the protection of natural rights.

    But to say health care is a POSITIVE right creates in the minds of many a government obligation to provide it to everyone, in the same way everyone has a right to a lawyer (and that doesn’t work either). It means someone’s gotta give it.

    This doesn’t work because healthcare is a scarce resource, and because it is wrong to so grossly violate property rights. Scarcity matters IF it is a government obligation to provide health care for everyone, if that is what this right entails. And it matters still regardless of whether we are talking about CAT scans or tongue depressors – they all have costs, they are not infinite. It matters whether the scheme is a “Western” one or a Chinese one, since no treatments are going to be made without scarce resources unless they involve nothing but prayer. Acupuncture needles have costs as surely as MRI’s, and even they can’t be distributed without cost.

    The bottom line is this: Government obligation to provide + scarcity = bloated budgets, deficits, more borrowing, more inflation, fiscal instability, rationed care, decline in quality, and so on. To maintain a universal, inalienable, positive “right” to health care in such an environment, under such a mandate, is to invite social calamity.

    But if we agree that the inalienable right to health care doesn’t mean that the government is obliged to provide it, then I suppose we have no disagreement.

    But if it doesn’t mean that, then I don’t even see why it needs to be declared a right. It can be subsumed under general property rights. Where there is a demand, people will use their property rights to produce a supply and earn a profit.

    Think about it this way: the natural right to property doesn’t mean that the government has an obligation to provide everyone with property (if it did then we would have to consider its scarcity – and none of the great thinkers considered scarcity because they didn’t understand the right to property as entailing a government obligation to provide it), but it DOES mean that the government has an obligation under the social contract to PROTECT it.

    Now if health care is a natural, inalienable right, that would mean that governments are obliged to protect it too. How would they do this? What would this look like, assuming that protection does not = providing? Nothing more than protecting your right to make a legitimate exchange of the product of your labor for health care goods and services, or to receive emergency care if you are in danger of death regardless of your ability to pay. And no one contests this or denies it, or at least few do (and those that do aren’t going to be writing policy any time soon). It protects this right in the same way and for the same reason it protects your right to any other good or service.

    So what purpose does isolating and singling-out health care serve? If we want to prioritize health care because it is a right and people don’t have it, a government mandate isn’t going to deliver, even though people assume that this is what the right entails. If the goal is to get as many people health care as possible, then we don’t need to declare it a right, we just need to make its production and distribution more efficient.

    And it seems to me that is the goal of these declarations – to impress upon people the urgency of the problem, which wasn’t even considered in the past. All of the sudden this inalienable right to this specific thing springs up?

    You bring up the example of the medieval doctor – everyone had a right to access his limited time and resources. Ok. Well everyone has a right to access any doctor today. So nothing’s changed there. But that medieval doctor was supported by his lord. Today’s doctors aren’t. They sink or swim on their own, unless the government is paying for them. But unless we want medical care to sink back down to medieval standards, we’d better figure out a way to get off that.

    The real problem is that we now live in a society in which some people have adequate and more than adequate health care, while others go without. But rather than seeing the glass as half-full and encouraging the process by which it came to be so, social democrats see it as half-empty and want to arrest that process, which they think can’t fill the glass. That’s what it comes down to.

    And now we come to this:

    “Neither it nor the US regime of private property are necessary”

    That’s what you said. And I accept that, only because I don’t even think that the US has an acceptable “regime of private property” entirely in accord with our natural rights. It’s just not as grossly in violation of them, yet, as the EU or Canada is.

    But the pope, I realize, is speaking to a world audience. And in some places “right to” means “right to have someone give it to me for nothing”, whereas in other places it means “right to acquire it through my labor.” I’ve spent a lot of time around socialists, and a lot of time around libertarians. I know what those words mean to them.

    So what are we talking about?

  • Let me go at it from yet another perspective.

    There is a natural right that places an obligation on others to provide something for someone else: children have a natural right to the property of their parents. Parents have an obligation to provide for their children. They don’t just protect their child’s right to provide for themselves as the government does for adults; the have to actually provide FOR them.

    So unless the government is to become our mother and our father – which is the goal of all commies and pinkos – then this obligation can’t exist under natural law.

  • Why would you need to define a right to health care if all it means is that no one can stop you from accessing it?

    Are some people denied adequate health care by something other than a lack of resources and money?

  • “Are some people denied adequate health care by something other than a lack of resources and money?”

    Well, aren’t residents of some Third World countries denied health care (as well as food, water, shelter, and a means to make a living) by the action or inaction of their corrupt and oppressive governments?

  • Why would you need to define a right to health care if all it means is that no one can stop you from accessing it?

    Wait, there are places doing that– I seem to remember some fairly high profile ones where children deemed terminal wouldn’t be released into their family’s custody, but they wouldn’t be treated, either.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were policies in place to forbid even basic treatment of some folks, since we are in the same world where the Church had to point out that “offer water to drink” isn’t medical treatment.

  • Good point Foxfier. Elaine, too.

    Maybe the Pope is talking to these issues?

  • The reason why medical expenditures are through the roof is because of federal mandates to begin with. Get the government out of our medical care is essential to a free market system. That and the 10th Amendment never gave government the authority to regulate in such matters.

    Want costs to go down? Get rid of unconstitutional government intervention.

  • Though limited resources may play a role in providing a right and thus limiting what can be done. From the Pope:

    “Because an individual’s health is a “precious asset” to society as well as to himself, governments and other agencies should seek to protect it by “dedicating the equipment, resources and energy so that the greatest number of people can have access.”

    Note the Pope does not say that “all people” have access but rather the “greatest number.” This is quite consistent with CST and not just because the Pope said it here. This is clearly an aspect of CST. CST is not a utopian project where “inalienable right” necessarily translates into “must be provided.” CST takes into account human, economic and political realities including limits in human knowledge, redistributive efforts and resources. CST accepts that provision of rights will not necessarily be universal even if the right applies to all.

  • I think there are several take home messages. First, that there are numerous principles of CST. Understanding those principles in their totality is difficult and at times not clearly defined even by the Church. That doesn’t mean we don’t seek to apply them but that Catholics may disagree on their application.

    Principles like subsidiarity and solidarity are cornerstones of CST. They are supplemented by principles such as the right to private property and the preferential option for the poor. Neither of the latter two are absolute in that property and the preferential option for the poor must be in accord with the common good. If these goods threaten the good of others then there can be reasonable limits placed. (Thus another reason why rights in the Church, which do not appear to generally be absolute but for the most part limited by one factor or another, do not necessarily have to be met in all circumstances.)

    Part of CST is that govt. does have a role in regulating these issues but that these matters, as a matter of solidarity and not just subsidiarity, may be met by more primary institutions such as family, local bodies etc. That the teachings of the Church are not themselves a “third way” in the world but rather are the principles to guide the laity in forming the world is itself a core principle of CST. As such, Catholics may disagree on the particular policies and still be good Catholics.

    All this, even if Locke is inconsistent with CST. 🙂

Obama Approves Assassination of Citizen

Thursday, April 8, AD 2010

When Catholics justified their decision to vote for Obama, they did so on two grounds: healthcare and foreign policy. The premise was Obama would actually save lives through healthcare and through his more peaceful foreign policy, thus outweighing the damage he would do through his promotion of abortion.

I never found that premise convincing. Not only did I think they underestimated the damage abortion does, but I also believed that they were ignoring what Barack Obama was actually promoting in his foreign policy. To make a long story short, I think most people assumed that since Obama was a Democrat who had opposed the war in Iraq that he would be the opposite of Bush when in truth their positions are very similar.

Since taking office, Obama has largely followed the lead of his predecessor. However today news is coming out that he has surpassed his predecessor in circumventing due process: Obama has authorized the CIA to kill a US citizen believed to be involved in terrorism (H/t Vox Nova).

The idea that an American citizen can be killed without a trial outside of battle is a troubling one, regardless of whether you voted for Obama or not. The death penalty is something that should be used only rarely (if at all-I’m w/ the bishops that it’s not good in modern America), and if used then used in the context of a trial. The rights of trial are not merely procedural technicalities but safeguards designed to protect the dignity of life: that is, regardless of what someone has done, freedom & human life itself are so precious that we take it away only after a deliberate and careful process.

To take away human life outside of self-defense is a power no one, including the President, possesses. One will hope that the media will publish this and emphasize it so that public pressure will dissuade Obama from taking this course of action. Unfortunately, one has to doubt that that hope will be realized.

Continue reading...

63 Responses to Obama Approves Assassination of Citizen

  • Oh, but surely the president deserves the benefit of the doubt! He has “more information” than we do! And he should be allowed to do anything to save american lives!

    At least, this is the defense you people made of Bush. Now you’re criticizing Obama on the same grounds?

    Of course, much of Obama’s foreign policy is sheer evil, just like Bush’s. But do forgive me if I find your opposition of it laughable, considering you defended Bush’s policies. Your concerns ring hollow.

  • An interesting debate on this topic taking place on National Review Online:

    http://corner.nationalreview.com/

    I found this comment by Jonah Goldberg interesting:

    “Re: Assassinating Awlaki [Jonah Goldberg]

    Just my quick two cents: I think this is a good and fine debate to have, but it’s worth considering that one reason we’re having it is that the White House wants us to. As Steve Hayes noted last night on Special Report, the news that we would be targeting Awlaki was leaked months ago, around the time of the Christmas bomber. It was releaked this week, perhaps to counterbalance the news that the White House is considering removing references to Islamic extremism in its national security strategy.”

  • The Catholic Anarchist’s response to the news that the man he voted for is willing to have the CIA assassinate an American citizen is to rant against Bush and his supporters. I am shocked, shocked!

  • I will have to let the others included in the group of “you people” answer for themselves, whoever “you people” is meant to address.

    However, I think you need to show me where I defended Bush’s policies. To my knowledge I have never done so on a blog. While I was very much a neocon in 2004, as I learned about Church teaching in college I came to oppose Bush’s foreign policy in regards to the war in Iraq, treatment of prisoners, etc. I don’t believe I have ever blogged supporting Bush’s actions, so I presume your accusation against me is nothing more than reasoning by stereotype & generalizations rather than any substantial basis.

    But of course, I digress. Whether or not my concern is has ill motives does change the fact that what I’m saying is true. I’m the one who voted against the man who’s trying to assassinate American citizens and you’re the one who voted for him.

    Donald:

    That is an interesting idea. Obama’s pretty good about getting the media to follow along; I wonder what the strategy is.

    And you are more than welcome to continue to post clips from Casablanca on any post I write. In fact, this post is surely deficient for lacking clips from that classic movie.

  • One of my rules of life Michael is that there are few things that cannot be made better by a Casablanca reference!

  • To quote my mom:
    “Life is technicalities.”

    I have no problem with murderers being targeted for death, I object to this one being killed without a trial to revoke his citizenship. (on the basis of having declared war on the US, if this is the youtube fellow I seem to remember)

    (Ed note-No profanity, even if merely abbreviated.)

  • I have no problem with murders being targeted for death

    Typical view of The American Catholic.

    (Ed-I changed your quote of him to what I changed him to say without the language).

  • Foxfier:

    They still retain human dignity and ought not to be killed, regardless of what they have done, unless self-defense requires it. There is no reason this man should not be “merely” imprisoned.

    MI:

    You really need to stop arguing by association.

  • You really need to stop arguing by association.

    And you should take your own advice, methinks.

  • MD-
    Sure there is: we can’t do it, and trying to will make for a nice big pile of dead bodies. Failure to act has already resulted in innocent deaths– in part because this unspeakable has been able to be at war with a nation without even losing his citizenship of that nation.

  • Foxfier:

    Do you have any evidence of someone who has died b/c the United States was trying to capture this man rather than assassinate him?

    MI:

    This thread is not about my decision to blog for TAC so please stop submitting comments in that regard. Needless to say, I do not agree with everything my co-bloggers or the commenters say. In fact, I accepted the invitation to discuss those differences.

    Furthermore, as one of your co-bloggers has just mentioned some support for Obama’s decision at your blog, you should check your own house.

  • Question:

    What’s the standard?

    What I mean is, under what circumstances may the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States authorize armed force against an enemy person?

    Obviously we don’t try all enemy soldiers in American courts prior to bombing their positions.

    On the other hand, obviously the President shouldn’t be able to declare any given Person X somewhere in the world to be an enemy and have him shot.

    Somewhere between those two extremes is a line, which can be demarcated on the basis of moral principles.

    What’s the standard?

    I notice that the article brought up whether the target was on a battlefield. In this war, what battlefield would that be? A Paris nightclub? An apartment in Beirut? A city street pretty much anywhere?

    It seems more pertinent to me to ask whether the subject is armed…but once the Nazis bedded down for the night, they weren’t armed. Yet I suppose we were perfectly willing to bomb the Nazi barracks, and I don’t suppose that was unjustified.

    What then?

    Perhaps the concern is whether the man is an American citizen? Hmm. The only way that seems pertinent to me is that, if we can capture him, we should try him for treason instead of locking him up until end-of-hostilities as an unlawful combatant. I mean, if we’re talking about a matter of human rights, and not just the particular privileges of citizenship.

    I don’t mean to make absurd comparisons here. Of course I see the difference between blowing up a guy’s house in Kentucky and blowing up a Nazi barracks.

    But I want to see the standards and criteria for authorizing force spelled out in plain language. It seems to me that doing this allows those standards to be evaluated dispassionately.

    So: Those of you who think the CIA hit isn’t okay: What’s the least alteration in the situation required to make it okay? Those of you who think it’s fine: What alteration would make it beyond the pale?

    Where’s the line? What’s the standard?

  • God Bless America! I just want everyone to know how much I love my country.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q65KZIqay4E&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

    If this doesn’t make you cry, you’ve got the devil in your soul.

    (Ed-note: This is not an actual comment from Iafrate but a joke played on him)

  • I for one find this development troubling on several levels. This is very much in line with the previous administration’s foreign policy, but it goes a step further.

  • Yes, the thing that Obama defenders seem to be missing out on this topic is that by ordering the killing without trial of an American citizen, Obama is taking a step which the Bush administration explicitly declined to do. (And rightly, I would argue.)

    Ordering any kind of assassination is troubling from a moral and a legal point of view, and it is (I think) with good reason that US law has generally forayed this. Setting the precedent of ordering the assassination of a US citizen (even on suspicion of terrorist involvement) without trial essentially means that Obama is claiming the authority to order the death of any person, at any time, for any reason.

    That’s not something one wants any authority to claim. (And someone who imagines this is “the same” as having the authority to order military action is either ignorant or duplicious.)

  • I just wanted to make sure you all saw this, so here it is again.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q65KZIqay4E&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

    Why, I love this song so much that I may never post anything else here again.

    (Ed-note: this is not an actual comment of Iafrate but a joke played on him.)

  • First, will whoever it is that is manipulating Michael I’s posts stop?

    Second, Michael D: did you read the updates on the link? Already the discussions are open.

    Third, Darwin, are you so sure?

    http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/usnews/politics/2856-cia-has-program-to-assassinate-us-citizens

  • Only American citizens deserve human dignity?

    I’m not really worked up over this one way or the other, maybe because I don’t see any other president doing any differently, but I do find it somewhat disturbing that some believe killing Americans is somehow less immoral than killing non-Americans.

  • Would you be worked up about it if Bush did do so?

  • Restrainedradical

    For me, the issue is that this is another step away from human rights; I agree with you that assassination is wrong, whether or not an American. However, there has always been a sense that Americans are given more rights and protections – rights and protections I think which should be extended outside of America, but instead, we see the rights and protections being eliminated, to make everyone equal.

  • Henry,

    Is this the WaPo article – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/26/AR2010012604239.html?hpid=topnews&sid=ST2010012700394 – with this correction:

    “Correction to This Article
    The article referred incorrectly to the presence of U.S. citizens on a CIA list of people the agency seeks to kill or capture. After The Post’s report was published, a source said that a statement the source made about the CIA list was misunderstood.”

  • The posts attributed to Iafrate are simply wrong. I disagree with the guy on a lot of things and I wouldn’t exactly consider him the most considerate and thoughtful person around the blogosphere, but while I appreciate the humor of it, it’s just wrong and makes you all look bad.

    It’s your blog to do with as you see fit. I’ve voiced my opinion in the past that I don’t think you should moderate even the worst of his comments because most people can see them for what they are. They’re a true reflection of what he stands for and his character. Posting comments under his name that he clearly didn’t write shameful and even worse than the way the other blog refuses to post comments that challenge the fallacies and unwarranted assertions offered.

    I would remove the comments, apologize, and promise to not do anything like this in the future. Common decency dictates that, and your regular readers deserve better (at least this regular reader thinks he deserves better).

  • Michael’s posts are faked?

  • Jonathan

    A couple things. If you read beyond that, there is still the assertion of Americans being targets, just the CIA source is wrong. Second, there are other articles and discussions on the CIA affair– not just that one article. So, it is possible they were wrong, but as I said on the VN post, there are all kinds of indications which the Bush administration favored such actions and did them — even if we cannot prove it, I suspect this is not new, a creation ex nihilo, but an open admission to what was once not open. That is my intuition. Even if I am wrong there, there is nonetheless evidence which, though not proof, shows why one can suspect it is the case — and again, the line beyond what you quote is indicative of that, too.

    Still, Obama is bad for doing this. But to believe it is new… and the Bush team opposed such an idea? Read Cheney.

  • The posts attributed to Iafrate are simply wrong.

    Agreed RL. Completely classless. Michael’s a troll on this blog, no question about it. And anyone familiar with his writings will recognize the joke. But editing comments that way is a basic violation of blogging etiquette (as is the delete-all-dissent (DAD) policy at VN from some writers) and it shouldn’t happen. Apologies are owed to Michael I.

  • I generally approve of what Obama is doing here. I can see the other side but I think he is solid COnst grounds here.

  • If it was found in WWII tha there were in a army camp numbers of Japanes Americans that had returned to Japan to fight could we bomb it or since it they are citizens would we have to send in the FBI to arrest them

  • “The death penalty is something that should be used only rarely (if at all-I’m w/ the bishops that it’s not good in modern America), and if used then used in the context of a trial. The rights of trial are not merely procedural technicalities but safeguards designed to protect the dignity of life: that is, regardless of what someone has done, freedom & human life itself are so precious that we take it away only after a deliberate and careful process.”

    I think calling this the Death penalty , while a good way to try to put this in the Civil Context , is largely incorrect.

    We currently have an young American Citizen from Mobile Alabama that is in Somilia (at least was) creatingterror and destruction in his for work for AQ. In his spare time he sends out videos urging all to the join the war against the United States

    Woull targeting him be the death sentence or would it be valid military exercise?

  • I woke up this morning to the altered comments. As they’ve been discussed, I don’t think it’s fair to delete them but for the sake of avoiding any confusion I have added a note to both comments making it clear that the content was not of Iafrate’s doing. As I didn’t do the editing, I think that’s all I can do other than to promise that there will be no further editing of comments in my threads other than modifying inappropriate language. I apologize for the editing that took place and am trying to rectify it as best I can.

    If there’s anything else MI would like me to do (or anyone has suggestions for me to do), please let me know.

  • Jh:

    I’m thinking about it, but let me ask you a question: what is the difference between an assassination and a “valid military exercise?” That is, is it always permissible for another country to execute kill orders for the leaders of the opposition? If say Robert E. Lee had been shot in the back during the Civil War by a Union sniper, is that morally acceptable as a “valid military exercise?”

  • Michael D:

    Actually, there is a real-life example you can use: the targeted shooting down of Japanese Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto’s plane while on an inspection tour. Yamamoto’s plane route was discovered because we had cracked the Japanese military code. The attack was authorized by President Roosevelt:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isoroku_Yamamoto#Death

  • Michael There would be nothing wrong for a Union Sharpshooter to shoot General lee in the back

    Union and Confederate sharpshooters were shooting Officers all the time

  • Jh:

    My example was poor. Let be more specific-General Lee is sitting 300 miles from a battlefield visiting with his family. He sits down to the dinner table with one of his kids on his knees. At that moment, the Union sharpshooter fires. Or we can play with the example of a regular private, sitting at home with his family.

    I think we would agree that a sharpshooter in the heat of battle is justified in aiming at officers-it causes confusion and makes victory more likely, not to mention it is battle. One can further argue that when one is conducting military missions, like the example Price gave, one can expect to be attacked and so is permissible.

    I don’t think that however we can argue that a participant in war is subject to be killed at all times regardless of whether or not they are involved in the war. A soldier on leave is not a target.

    What makes the problem fuzzy w/ Obama’s decision however is trying to decide what constitutes a battlefield here. I’m not prepared to say that the decision to be a terrorist constitutes a continuous act of war. I think the US has the right to seize him arrest and use force to do, including the force necessary to defend the soldier’s lives. I’m not prepared to say that if they find him unarmed & alone they can kill him.

  • Michael D:

    A soldier on leave is not a target.

    Exactly. It is more than this, but this is the heart of the issue — for a war to be just, there are all kinds of rules for war; among them is how one finds targets (which goes with the question, is the soldier acting as a soldier, or outside of that domain). To approve of assassination in this instance is to extend the domain of the battle and the domain of what is and is not soldiering, both of which are troubling.

  • Of course the classic example is Adolph Hitler. Even before we were at war with Hitler I would have had no problem, moral or otherwise, with anyone assassinating Hitler after he came to power in Germany. The question gets much murkier when we are dealing with smaller fry in service to evil.

  • I don’t think that however we can argue that a participant in war is subject to be killed at all times regardless of whether or not they are involved in the war. A soldier on leave is not a target.

    I may be wrong on this, but I’m not aware of any restriction on killing enemy soldiers who aren’t on the battlefield or on leave or whatever. Nor is it clear what the moral difference would be.

  • If there’s anything else MI would like me to do (or anyone has suggestions for me to do), please let me know.

    Whoever did it should personally and publicly apologize.

  • I may be wrong on this, but I’m not aware of any restriction on killing enemy soldiers who aren’t on the battlefield or on leave or whatever.

    You are wrong. The church condemns the killing of non-combatants.

  • BA

    Actually, just war theory discusses the status of soldiers, and makes sure that they must be, when engaged, combatants; military necessity and proportionality are a part of the ways this is addressed in classical terms. The soldiers can be captured, but if they have given up fighting, they can’t be killed as if they were still fighting. And if they are, for example, off the battlefield, they are no longer fighting.

  • BA

    BTW, this is why we can’t just take out wounded soldiers or prisoners of war; just because they are soldiers does not mean they fit the status of combatants, they can lose that status in various ways.

  • Actually, just war theory discusses the status of soldiers, and makes sure that they must be, when engaged, combatants; military necessity and proportionality are a part of the ways this is addressed in classical terms. The soldiers can be captured, but if they have given up fighting, they can’t be killed as if they were still fighting. And if they are, for example, off the battlefield, they are no longer fighting.

    I agree with all of this except the last sentence. I’ve never seen any discussion of Just War stating that you can’t kill enemy soldiers when they are “off the battlefield,” whatever that means.

  • BA

    Just gave you an example where this debate actually exists in the tradition — naked soldiers taking a bath. And if you agree that prisoners of war or wounded soldiers cannot be taken out indiscriminately, why? What makes them no longer free game, if they are still soldiers?

  • BTW, this is why we can’t just take out wounded soldiers or prisoners of war; just because they are soldiers does not mean they fit the status of combatants, they can lose that status in various ways.

    Soldiers who are captured or wounded are *incapable* of fighting, and thus have traditionally been protected as noncombatants. That’s a far cry from someone who is capable of fighting, and who isn’t doing so at the moment only because he’s not aware of your presence.

  • Just because they are wounded or captured does not mean they are incapable of fighting; many wounded people get up and fight, and many people who are captured struggle for release. They might be less capable, but so is someone who is not on the battlefield, without any weapons of any kind. Capture them, if you wish. Assassinate when they don’t possess a threat? What?!

  • You are wrong. The church condemns the killing of non-combatants.

    Well sure. But an enemy soldier is a combatant.

  • Just gave you an example where this debate actually exists in the tradition — naked soldiers taking a bath.

    Larry May (the author you cite) argues that you shouldn’t kill a naked soldier but says that this is not a matter of justice but humaneness, and admits that his position is not the standard one. The only source he cites discussing the issue, Walzer, treats it as obvious that killing the naked soldier is permitted.

  • Just because they are wounded or captured does not mean they are incapable of fighting; many wounded people get up and fight, and many people who are captured struggle for release.

    Right, and if a wounded soldier picks up a gun and starts shooting or an enemy soldier tries to escape then they lose the protection of noncombatant status. Do you not agree with that?

  • BA:

    The point of the article is that it is an issue of concern and debate within the framework of just war discussions. And humanness and mercy is within the context of just war discussions (see Augustine). More importantly, your answer “and if they pick up a gun and starts shooting” goes back to the naked soldier point. They are not with a gun, not shooting. Remember, one aspect of just war theory is response must be just — which goes with the humanness issue of the article but he didn’t put it in that context — that is, if you can capture without killing, that is what is expected.

  • “if you can capture without killing, that is what is expected.”

    In the case of al Qaeda-style terrorism, the likelihood of a Khalid Sheikh Mohammed arrest scenario is probably low. More likely the “combatants” will go out like the Madrid train bombing cell.

    This is what is so vexing about jihadist terrorism; it exists in limbo somewhere lower in intensity than conventional warfare, but significantly more intense than organized crime. The Catholic moral philosopher has his work cut out for him. What is the battlefield, and who are the combatants? Is a UAV-fired missile strike legitimately called assassination, or is it just the regular course of this type of warfare? I’ve seen this stuff argued back and forth in comboxes ’til everyone is blue in the face, but I haven’t found a good treatment of the subject from a Catholic perspective.

  • Well sure. But an enemy soldier is a combatant.

    No, not always. I saw a Marine havin’ lunch at the Pizza Hut the other day. Is he a legitimate target?

  • I saw a Marine havin’ lunch at the Pizza Hut the other day. Is he a legitimate target?

    No, but then he’s not an enemy soldier either.

  • No, but then he’s not an enemy soldier either.

    Not to his fellow lunchtime buffet diners, no…

  • This is a fascinating discussion. With regards to these latest posts, though, how plausible would it be that an individual Marine would be targeted for an attack?

    For the purposes of the analogy, it might be better to consider a high-ranking officer, someone who has been promoted off the battlefield but nonetheless plays a major role in directing operations–say, a member of the joint chiefs of staff, or the enemy organization’s equivalent.

    When and when would not that individual be a legitimate military target?

  • And what about civilian commanders like a head of state? What about president-elects who have no power yet but certainly will unless stopped?

  • Pingback: Blog Comment Policy and Conflict « The American Catholic
  • Has anyone yet proposed a standard for what constitutes a combatant who may be legitimately targeted?

    I mean, IF…

    1. He has participated in attacks, or the planning of attacks, against the U.S.; and,

    2. He declares himself to be at war against the U.S.; and,

    3. It is not feasible to capture him;

    THEN, if he’s in a cabin or compound by himself, is it okay to blow the place up with a Hellfire missile?

    Under what circumstances is it not okay?

  • * crickets chirping *

  • The way I understand it is that in war one does not directly aim to kill but rather one aims to stop an unjust agression. Such is the case with self-defense also. Not clear at this point but some argue this is how the Church has moved captial punishment – from punishment to defense of society. Thus the moral object (perhaps) is the use of force to render an attacker impotent and not killing of the attacker. That consequence may be forsee under double effect but again is not directly intended.
    Can such an argument be used here? There is a person who is in fact, if not at that moment at some point in the past and probably in the future, involved in attacks on the US. Can we apply the above reasoning. It seems hard to make the argument that one is not directly intending the killing of a specific person in this situation. Perhaps an argument can be made that it isn’t and is licit. Perhaps, if as noted above capital punishment is not direct killing, one can apply the principle of the state executing a person to defend society.
    Then it would seem clear the guilt of the individual would need to be clearly established. In that case one would need to argue that a finding by the President on secretly held information would suffice. Does the Church say that determinations of guilt must be public and/or judicially based?

  • Phillip:

    I don’t know of any direct Church teaching on that point.

    Unless there is some passage of which I am unaware which says otherwise, I expect that the rule is a matter of the morality of individual action, initially, with social and corporate action envisioned as an outgrowth and an organization of the former. It is to the individual act that universal and objective moral laws are directly applied; the corporate organization of a nation’s laws is reflective of this individual obligation indirectly, showing forth the moral pattern at higher levels of organization in a fashion similar to the way a fractal pattern is repeated at larger scales.

    If so, then a need for determinations of guilt to be public and judicial in character is not a primary moral obligation but an outgrowth of that which is healthy for society; namely, the rule of law and the need that society’s judgments in matters of life and death be carried out in “daylight” and with great deliberation whenever possible.

    That, of course, is healthy for society. But note the caveat “whenever possible.” It is not always possible.

    The law, as it ought, provides for instances in which a man defends his family or even his property by armed force against an intruder “in the gravest extreme”; that is, when the need to stop the criminal attack is now and the soonest intervention by police is ten minutes hence. If Person Y comes storming into Person X’s house in the middle of the night, and Person X stops the invasion with a firearm, thus killing Person Y in the process, no crime is committed. (Provided there’s no disparity of force, that Person X didn’t chase Person Y while Y is fleeing the scene, and so on.) The normal orderly intervention of society was not possible in this instance.

    So too there may be — in fact, certainly are occasions when a trial and a civilian conviction and incarceration are impossible responses to an attack. Military initiative is therefore required instead. I don’t think anyone denies this; the question is how to write our laws in such a way as to (1.) adequately anticipate this need and allow for it under the law, so that the rule of law is not visibly violated every time one of these exceptional cases arises, and (2.) write the law in such a way that it does not allow the unscrupulous, incautious, or confused to exercise military initiative in instances where a capture and trial are plausible.

    Writing the law to meet those two goals in a fashion sufficient to satisfy all observers is impossible. Satisfying most observers is extremely tricky even if some of them weren’t biased towards finding fault. In an adversarial political system, in which half the observers are finding fault wherever possible in order to win the next election, you probably won’t even be able to satisfy a majority of observers.

    Which is why I wasn’t surprised when, in response to my two requests that someone propose a standard or even lay out where they thought the lines should fall, I got the blog equivalent of chirping crickets. (Even among this usually quite vocal crowd!)

    Now in a sense that request isn’t quite fair of me. Or, if the request is fair, it isn’t quite fair that I should waggle my finger at everybody for not proposing a standard. After all, I haven’t proposed one, either!

    But I’m making a larger point; namely, that criticism of a president for “going too far” in this area of policy is meaningless unless one has a standard by which one may judge he has gone too far. Without the standard, how does one know if he has gone too far?

    We have here a crowd of folks some of whom gave G.W.Bush quite a tongue-lashing for the laxity with which he carried out policies in this area. Later, a slightly different crowd with (tho’ with some overlap) gave Obama equally nasty language for doing basically what Bush did, or perhaps a bit more.

    Now one would guess from all these loud pronouncements of fire and brimstone against both presidents that every poster here has in mind a standard of what is and isn’t appropriate target-selection, which (1.) he knows to be the correct standard, (2.) can articulate, (3.) can defend against other proposed standards, and (4.) which one or both presidents have violated.

    But I suspect very few if any of the posters here really do have a well-defined standard in mind. At least I haven’t heard one articulated. And I myself am having difficulty coming up with one, so I suspect others are as well.

    But why, then, are folks giving Bush and Obama a lot of grief, if they can’t even say for sure that either man is operating outside the correct moral standards for this area of policy-making?

    I suspect it’s for two reasons: (1.) We have a gut feeling that this targeted assassination (what a choice of words: why is it considered assassination, I wonder, rather than an attack or assault?) is going too far; and, (2.) Even if it isn’t, we’re aware that a precedent granting the president power to do this sort of thing is dangerous when wielded by a man without a well-formed conscience.

    Now item (2.) is entirely logical, and if we all opposed this policy on the basis of avoiding the precedent, I would not complain of holes in our argument.

    But it seems to me that some folks are composing their criticism in such a way as to imply that Bushama have violated a standard of policy-making which everyone ought to know and which Bushama has no excuse for not knowing and following. It seems to me that they’re making this implication, without actually articulating the standard, because in reality they don’t have a clue exactly what the standard is.

    And, as I said before, I’m not sure what it should be, either.

    But let’s face up to it. On Argument 2 (dangerous precedent) we can articulate exactly what the problem is. But on Argument 1 (violation of an objective moral standard) all we have is gut feeling. And I don’t think it’s very just to blame Bushama for not having the same gut feeling as we, and following it.

  • R.C,

    I think your points are well made. There is certainly a tendency to think politically and it affects both sides of the house. I think this is showing up now on this issue. I think it has been more prominent on the torture issue. I have asked plenty of times some very vociferous opponents of torture what licit interrogation looks like and gotten no answer. I think the terrorism piece makes traditional assessments more difficult and need to be looked at dispassionately. But this is perhaps a reflection on the current state of American politics.

  • The danger in this case, and many other cases, in this thing we used to call the “global war on terror” is this- we become too accustomed to the demonization effect that creating a special kind of warfare always produces.
    Because the Muslim jihadists who cloak their cause for war in their faith make us uncomfortable, we decide that they are terrorists, rather than merely being unlawful combatants engaged in combat against a signatory nation to the various Geneva Accords. When we have to make them special because they are non-standard enemies, we commit ourselves to mental, legal, and geo-political gymnastics that always seem to produce bad results and bad decisions.
    The no-good, non-state, illicit Muslim jihadi swine declared, through action, war upon the United States (a signatory to the Geneva Accords).
    Congrtess should have declared war upon them and their supporters wherever they may be found- what they did, was authorize the POTUS to take whatever military action necessary to bring them to heel.
    In this case, the POTUS had, and still has, the legitmate authority over the armed forces of the US to prosecute the war as necessary (in compliance, where understood, with international standards for war).
    What you describe here, and what is not particularly new, is the POTUS ordering civilian (non-military) security and intelligence personnel to take lethal actions in cases where such authority is suspect at best. If the military commander assigned to the area of responsibility locates, targets, develops and strikes said scuzzy individual into non-existence, so be it. But where and when will end the POTUS’ authority to issue “kill” orders against “terrorists” at his own discretion, apparently independent of his authority as commander in chief? Certainly not at the conclusion of hostilities. Unable to even formulate a strategy to defeat global jihad without conducting all-out war, the Pentagon has adopted the capstone military concept of “persistent conflict.” Do not look for the conflict to ever end, nor for the military to seek victory.
    At water’s adge? That famous dividing line for domsetic politics is now long gone politically, as well as operationally. The new administration has been most vocal first in extending to domestic political enemies the moniker of “potential terorrists” and in declaing that home grown extremism (worded to appear to account for MAJ Hasan, in reality the wording more closely fits previous warnings about Tax Tea Partiers) is a gfreater threat than Al-qaida.

    In my opinion, the lout is an absolutely valid target. So kill him in combat, not as a covert operation of clandestine intelligence services.

The Myth of Tolerance by Our Intellectual Superiors

Tuesday, March 30, AD 2010

With the vilification that the political left has done to the right, we Catholics also suffer from the same abuse.  Take point in fact that U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spokesperson Sister Mary Ann Walsh demonized Pro-Life Catholics by regurgitating uncorroborated reports of racism against ObamaCare proponents and attributed them to Pro-Life Catholics with her blog entry.

Such blatant disregard for facts in order to advance your personal agenda has become the norm in the mainstream media as well.  The Media Research Center has provided the following synopsis to clarify this point:

Update I (4:12pm CST): Prominent Republican Gets Actual Death Threat, NYT Suddenly Drops Concern Over Threatening.  To read the entire story by Clay Waters of NewsBusters click here.

Update II (4:21pm CST): A video was tracked down showing Representative John Lewis of Georgia, whom Sister Mary Ann Walsh referenced in her blog post showing absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any racial epithets being thrown around.  Again, the uncorroborated evidence that Sister Mary Ann Walsh referenced is a fabricated lie and she willfully used this to smear Pro-Lifers in her less than charitable blog posting.

The video is here:

Update III (6:26pm CST): Representative John Lewis of Georgia, the very man who lied that there were racist remarks yelled at him at the Tea Party protests is known to be very hyperbolic himself.  Jeff Poor of NewsBusters recounts the time back in 1995 how Representaive Lewis defamed Republicans by painting them as ‘Nazis‘.

Representative Lewis has shown himself to be nothing more than a political hack that lashes out when he doesn’t get his way.

Continue reading...

30 Responses to The Myth of Tolerance by Our Intellectual Superiors

  • Take point in fact that U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spokesperson Sister Mary Ann Walsh demonized Pro-Life Catholics by regurgitating uncorroborated reports of racism against ObamaCare proponents and attributed them to Pro-Life Catholics with her blog entry.

    –How is the “regurgitating uncorrobarated reports”? She says that “Anonymous messages are being left on voicemails – I even got one from a nun, for goodness sake.”

  • Jim,

    She connected the alleged racism at the Tea Party protests to Pro-Life Catholics and went into the whole melodrama of Rep. Lewis experiencing the same verbal abuse during the civil rights era.

  • Here’s what she wrote in the first four paragraphs, Tito. She doesn’t even mention “Pro-Life Catholics” anywhere in her post. Yes, she is referring to opponents of the legislation, but surely there are people out there who opposed the legislation for other reasons. Am I missing something?

    The heat in the aftermath of passage of health care reform reveals the depth of feeling among those for and against the landmark bill that affects all Americans. Such heat, however, cannot justify the verbal and physical violence that has ensued.

    If we needed health care because of the crisis affecting the sick, especially the weakest among us, we need even more a move toward civility, if not for our own betterment then at least for the betterment of our children.

    Politics has become a kind of blood sport. News junkies over the weekend heard reports of crowds shouting racist remarks and individuals spitting at African American lawmakers, including John Lewis, who suffered violence years ago when he marched for Civil Rights. Surely he – and all of us – has a right to expect that that chapter of despicable, racist violence long over.

    We’ve seen reports of homes and offices of lawmakers vandalized and heard of death threats. Anonymous messages are being left on voicemails – I even got one from a nun, for goodness sake. If that isn’t proof that we’ve gone astray I don’t know what is.

  • Jim,

    Yes, she is referring to opponents of the legislation [ie, Pro-Life Catholics], but surely there are people out there who opposed the legislation for other reasons. Am I missing something?

    Yes there are other people who oppose health care for other reasons, but the number one issue was abortion, which in even in the end the USCCB came down against ObamaCare because of this issue.

    The heat you are referring to is the anger out there that ObamaCare passed without the people’s consent nor with any bipartisanship.

    Though it is exactly the racism that Sister Walsh is referring to, which there is no proof hence the ‘uncorroborated’ remark, which she paints Pro-Life Catholics with.

  • She refers to “reports”. She does not say that those things happened. And go to other websites. Many–probably most–of the people who oppose ObamaCare do so because of things not connected to abortion.

    I, for one, am still not convinced that ObamaCare does fund abortion–except for allowing for the possibility of abortion at Indian reservations and community health care centers, which are minor matters in my view. Can you or Don prove that Obama does fund abortions beyond those?

  • Jim,

    I don’t doubt that such voicemails are occurring, what I am pointing out is the example that Sister Walsh specifically uses to drive her point of demonizing pro-life Catholics by painting them with the same brush as a ‘racists’.

    As to your point about abortion being paid for by ObamaCare, that is for another thread, not this one which you are hijacking.

    I will delete anymore of your comments that do not deal with Sister Walsh’s demonizing of Pro-Life Catholics.

  • And Tito, I sincerely doubt that what she did technically qualifies as “demonizing” anyone by mentioning “reports”. I also sincerely doubt that the majority of the opposition was because of the abortion issue, if you read some of the polls. Please link to a poll which shows that the majority of the opposition was because of that issue.

    I’ll wait for you and Don to start a post on the issue of what ObamaCare does and doesn’t cover.

  • I find it HI-larious that these establishment liberals, Catholic or secular, are now eminently concerned with the disposition of the protesters.

    Oh how far we have fallen from the teach-ins, smoke-outs, and campus occupations of the 1960s. Then it was all legitimate, it was all just, it was the young people making their voices heard.

    This sister is not the first left-leaning Catholic I have heard denouncing the internet as a medium of communication, invoking “anonymity”, and obviously desiring a return to the more easily controlled, less free, and less accountable print media.

    Wherever freedom thrives in communication as opposed to government control, conservative points of view also thrive – the vast majority of them NOT steeped in “racism”, but in firm if not always charitable rejections of the leftist agenda.

    Of course, these people believe it is more uncharitable to call them names than it is to force people to buy private health insurance at gun point.

  • Jim,

    People opposed this bill for many different reasons. But the majority of Catholic opposition was primarily about abortion and the vast majority of heat any Catholic supporters of the health care bill are taking is b/c of their unwillingness to put life first. I’m disturbed by your statement that you believe a billion taxpayer dollars (for starters) being funnelled into CHC’s w/out any Hyde Amendment protections is a “minor” issue. The vast majority of Americans, pro-choice and pro-life alike, do not believe taxpayers should be subsidizing or funding abortion in any way. This is a dramatic increase right now and it sets up a restriction free tool for federally funded abortions in the future. That is not a minor change in federal policy. Catholics who deny this or treat it as a non-issue need to seriously revisit the teachings of the Church on the primacy of protecting human life. It’s not something that can be put aside let alone hindered in accomplishing something else you happen to like.

    I’m sorry – I know this is further getting off topic. Feel free to delete.

  • That was the most selective reading and least charitable interpretation of Sister Mary Ann’s post possible.

  • Of course the good Sister’s claim that some members of Congress may have been spit on may also be an uncharitable claim.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/28/congressman-spit-on-by-te_n_516300.html

  • RR,

    As your “selective” reading into Church teaching that forces others against their free will to pay for health insurance.

  • Jim,

    If she was sincere she wouldn’t haven’t chosen the uncorroborated racist reports for her straw man.

  • Yeah, I heard Sister Mary Ann smokes ganja in the sacristy before Mass. I heard it. I heard it I did.

  • As Catholics, real Catholics and not liberals playing catholics, we are not to engage in gossip and hearsay. On those grounds alone, she’s off.

    As for the ‘racism’, I was there and I didn’t see anyone spit, attack or yell any racist slurs. Although one Senior Citizen did call Barney Frank a gay commie – however, I don’t know why anyone would denounce that – it is true and Barney appears to be proud of it.

    The pro-Constitution anti THIS health care reform bill group outside the Capitol on that dark day was multi-ethnic and included black Americans. In fact one black man running for Congress led all of us in prayer and the funding of baby killing was the overwhelming objection along with fiscal soundness, because we can’t afford this mess. KILL THE BILL was chanted and so was BABY KILLERS during the meeting of the rules (or lack thereof) committee.

    For her to address racism with no evidence and spread it as truth, even if it is merely implied, is unCatholic, wrong and typical of all of those poor, misguided people who are progressives before they are Catholic. Before you go yelling that the rest of us are conservative before we are Catholic – be aware that those are the same things. To be Catholic is to be conservative in the strictest sense and that does not mean Right Wing or Republican. It means one who sticks to the old ways of right reason, natural law and morality and our ancient Faith.

    To be a progressive Catholic is to insist that revelation did not end with the death of the last Apostle and that the Church needs to get more hip instead of sticking to what Christ taught us 2,000 years ago and still teaches those of us who ask Him and not some excommunicated religious or government bureaucrat.

    The Sister may be well-intentioned, she may be confused, she may be working for Satan – either way – she’s wrong.

  • Oh for crying out loud. Just last week pro-lifers were praising Sr. Mary Ann Walsh to the skies for her succinct explanation of how Obamacare funds abortion and why this was not acceptable. She stepped up to the plate at precisely the moment when other “nuns” were trying to sow confusion.

    Now all of a sudden, she’s a tool of Satan because she repeated second hand reports from “news junkies”?

    It’s one thing to be “intolerant” of blatantly pro-abortion “Catholics” like the Lying Worthless Political Hack, who never met an abortion she didn’t like, or of the “nuns” who went out of their way to defy the bishops on the very question of abortion funding. But please, give Sr. Mary Ann SOME credit for calling out the real “tools of Satan” who were hard at work last week.

  • Elaine,

    I only stated she is demonizing Pro-Lifers, not that she is a tool of Satan.

    I’m sure Satan would disagree with you here.

  • I used that hyperbole in a series of descriptions and I stated that I don’t know which one (implying, ‘if any’) apply to her, but that no matter the outcome of her disposition – she is wrong – no racism occurred, no evidence of racism has been presented, taken as a whole Tea Party supporters are not racist. She was engaged in either gossip or hearsay – neither sin befits a Catholic, clergy, lay or religious.

    I am not casting stones, I am merely stating that on this issue she is wrong. My post was also directed at progressive Catholics who may or may not have posted in this thread, who desire to disparage Catholics of a more conservative stripe like St. Paul or Pope Benedict XVI.

    I also never said ‘tool’ – I said ‘working for’ – which is probably true of all us at one time or another, on one issue or another, in one aspect or another – thank God for the Sacrament of Penance.

  • Elaine,

    I think the biggest problem with Sister Mary Ann is that she passes on things that have been “heard” as fact. It seems these things are false. As such she is passing on what are in essence lies. Sister Mary Ann was brave in pointing out the flaws of the nuns sowing confusion about health care. Now she is sowing confusion.

    Its okay to critque her.

  • I read Sr. Walsh’s post and was so crushed by it that I responded back with 2 comments. So far, she has not posted them yet. My guess is she is selective in posting comments from readers.

    It is a shame that USCCB treats us like children who don’t know how to read legislative language or who do not understand inferred language or double speak.

    Plus, the claims she made about racism are unsubstantiated. One can only assume she came to that end by watching MSNBC or CNN. These two channels have been pushing that story. Yet, nobody mentions that Rep. Jackson and his father, Rev. Jackson had a video camera and were recording every step along the way. There were also TV crews all over recording the historic event. Where–pray tell, is the evidence of somebody being spat on or being denigrated in any other way?

    We are being forced into buying a “good” or a “commodity” that we don’t want and an insensible group of people are saying that we should focus on civility. Was the process of the administration and their congress civil in any respect?

    Good minded Catholics fell into that trap in 2008 because they thought it would be a nice thing to vote Obama into office because he held such promise and we just couldn’t possibly rule him out because a fringe group says he’s Socialist. Let’s be civil and give the man a chance. Well, here we are 2 years later and our Bishops are applauding the bill silently and hoping that the language that includes abortion can be taken out. Really? Tell that to the very people who’ve been risking their jobs and livelihood to fight against Roe V Wade for almost 40 years.

    The problem with the subsidiarity ideal is not that it has been tried & found wanting but that it has not yet been tried.

  • oh..and there was a black gentleman who was left hospitalized after an attack by SEIU thugs who were bused in to a townhall meeting. Nobody covered that…Sr. Walsh didn’t write a blog post on that…but yet, it was recorded on video and is floating around on youtube!

  • I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that *SOME* opponents of the health care bill / tea party folks have dabbled in racism. Yesterday I was invited to join a Facebook group opposing Obamacare, and their photo section included:

    An image of the president in front of the White House with a comment, “Hey, who’s the monkey on our porch?”

    A photoshopped image of the presidential limo with huge rims added.

    A sign reading “Welcome to Kenya, Birthplace of Barack Hussein Obama.”

    If this kind of crap is online, I wouldn’t be surprised if it has also cropped up at Tea Party rallies.

  • JohnH,

    So you have evidence of any racial epithets throw Representative John Lewis’ way during the ObamaCare vote?

    Or you’re just “sharing”.

  • But was the Congressman spit on?

  • I didn’t see anyone spit at him, but to be fair, it is difficult to tell by the grainy video.

  • True enough. Hard to tell but does not look like it.

    Also some on the racism of the Obama Administration:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/01/the_obama_administrations_ramp.html

  • Tito: I’m just saying that based on my own experience with some of the extreme elements on the fringes of the anti-Obamacare movement, accusations of racist epithets do not seem unlikely.

    And, BTW, I am not trying to say that only the right-wing can get ugly at political rallies. I have personally been spat on and physically assaulted at a pro-life march before, and it wasn’t by Tea Partiers.

  • How is welcoming people to Kenya racist? Maybe he was born in Kenya. His ancestors on his father’s side do come from Kenya. Being from Kenya may be a fact, it my be incorrect, it may just merely be conjecture – but pointing it out isn’t racist. The president is half African, that is a fact – nothing racist about pointing out that his father was in fact an African, just as his mother was in fact a white American. Where’s the racism?

    The monkey on the porch statement could be racist; however, it could just as easily be a reference to Darwinism. Don’t Progressives, like the president, assert that human beings are just talking monkeys. I think they are wrong, but who am I to judge.

    Again, to be clear, sure there are racists in American and they are all idiots. Most belong on the left side of the equation, even when they are allegedly from the right. The simple fact is that liberals/progressives/fascists/collectivists are inherently racist because they seek to divide people into groups. Traditionalists/conservatives prefer to see everyone as a unique, unrepeatable individual and we Christians are called to respect the dignity of each of God’s children because each one is infinitely valuable in His eyes.

    Furthermore, being against Obama because he is half-black is utterly stupid – he should be despised because he is all red – Commie red – that is an ideology and being against it and those who practice and promote Communism, is not racist – it is just prudent.

    I saw and met no racists, no spitting and heard no racial slurs. Could that have occurred? Sure it could have. But to bring it up, as conjecture or fact, with absolutely no evidence or indication of it, is simply a smear tactic right out of Alinsky’s playbook (you know the one he dedicated to the first revolutionary – Lucifer).

  • The monkey on the porch statement could be racist; however, it could just as easily be a reference to Darwinism. Don’t Progressives, like the president, assert that human beings are just talking monkeys. I think they are wrong, but who am I to judge.

    Wow. You’ve either got to be joking or willfully obtuse.

  • JohnH,

    Perhaps sarcasm doesn’t translate well on the Internet. I was merely trying to point out the ridiculous mindset of Progressives Darwinists and for that matter racists too.

Health Insurance and Abortion

Friday, February 19, AD 2010

It seems often the case that a heated political debate causes people to suddenly focus on issues which had previously been essentially ignored. One recent example of this in Catholic circles has been the way in which the debate over the Stupak Amendment to the House health care reform bill suddenly focused scrutiny on the question of abortion coverage in health care insurance.

To recap briefly: From the beginning, one of the concerns that many pro-lifers had expressed about “government health care” was that it would result in government funding for abortion. As the various reform bills coalesced, it became clear that no “government health care” per se would be offered, but rather an exchange on which private health insurance plans which fit specific government-set criteria would be offered. Given this situation, pro-lifers (and in particular, pro-life Democrats, who clearly had the prime say here since Republicans were unlikely to support the bill either way since they saw its overall structure as detrimental to the common good) insisted that one of the stipulations for the private health insurance policies offered via the exchange (and qualified for government subsidy for lower and middle-income Americans) be that the plan not cover abortions.

Pro-choice Democrats of course hated this provision. Some progressive Catholics also seemed eager to explain why the bill would be just fine even without Stupak, doubtless in order to avoid a situation in which pro-life advocates (backed by the bishops) successfully made the case to conservative Democrats that supporting a bill without language similar to the Stupak amendment was unacceptable for Catholics and other pro-lifers. The primary argument that surfaced was, “Most private insurance policies already cover abortion, so even without Stupak’s language, the status quo does not change. More people just get health care, and that’s good, right?”

Continue reading...

25 Responses to Health Insurance and Abortion

  • Sounds good to me.

  • If the information about which private health insurance plans do and do not cover abortion would be a great help. For a start prolifers could offere incentives to drop insurance coverage of abortion by voting with their wallet.

  • As pregnancy is 99% a self-inflicted condition, it is unclear why the insurance companies should pay for it.

    Or as Senator Barbara Boxer once asked “since when is pregnancy a disease?”.

  • This is a great post. And it would be a very good thing if the more traditional, beltway type professional pro-lifers were able to work together with more politically liberal progressive pro-lifers on an issue which could unite them in a common purpose, rather than putting them at policy loggerheads, as often seems to happen.

  • I agree with Gabriel. Insurance is about the sharing of *risks* that cannot be managed individually.

  • Not sure I’d call my little girl a self-inflicted condition— her father might object, for starters– but it’s covered by insurance due to the hideously wide range of things that can go wrong, as a way to make sure the insurance company gets a relatively healthy new customer and, on a practical level, because even if they pay zero just having an insurance company takes off a huge chunk of the cost.

    Kit would have cost some $40,000 if billed to my husband and I directly; we literally have statements that read “charge- 1,500; negotiated price, $25” and such. As most folks can’t go by cash-only medical providers, service like this is our only option.

    That won’t be changed until health insurance, whichever section you believe causes this insane charge imbalance.
    *glares at Medicare and Medicaid’s billing practices*

  • I agree with Foxfier that pregnancy is never a solely self-inflicted condition. It is also a totally necessary condition for the survival of mankind. The costs of even routine pregnancies are high and without insurance coverage would bankrupt quite a few parents to be.

  • Getting in a car wreck is a self inflicted condition. The at fault party is given total liability for the actions he could have prevented in the ideal scenario. It is still insurance.

    When people speak of not insuring self-caused events, they are talking about the principle of moral hazard. In auto insurance, the idea is that people drive more recklessly if they are insured. In health care, the idea is that people seek ‘unneeded’ care because they don’t bear a burden. With the large expense centers in health care like heart disease and cancer, the only generally agreed upon unneeded care that the patient is competent to seek himself is an extra screening. Of course, the patient could choose to forgo regular screenings, and we’d see that as a bad thing, even though we’d see a reduction in cost.

  • I’m unclear whether Gabriel is making the argument:

    a) Pregnancy is the natural result of intercourse and so asking for your insurance to get you out of the “surprise” with an abortion is inappropriate or

    b) No pregnancy related expenses should be covered by insurance, since becoming pregnant in the first place is “optional”.

    I have some sympathy with the former approach, though I think it’s much wiser to make the moral than the utilitarian argument here since if one wants to get seriously utilitarian abortion is cheaper than childbirth.

    In regards to the latter — As my wife and I are currently going through the third round of paying out of pocket for a midwife deliver rather than going with the more expensive (but more troublesome) insurance paid hospital approach, I can see certain virtues towards a less insurance-heavy approach to childbirth. However, I don’t in the end think it’s a very good approach to take given anything like our current health insurance regime. Health insurance as it exists in the real world here and now does not take into account whether your medical predicament was predictable. (Say, whether bad eating habits over decades leads to expensive-to-treat strokes or heart attacks.) It simply deals with whether procedures are necessary to your health. (In regards to which, childbirth is necessary, while lasik or breast augmentation isn’t.) And whether expenses are large, which delivery at a hospital certainly is.

    Given that, there’s no practical justification for insurance not covering pregnancy related expenses — and as pro-lifers I think it should be pretty clear to us that insurance companies specifically excluding pregnancy expenses would be a very serious negative.

  • Darwin,
    I agree with you completely. I would add that the reason our health care system is in a mess is because we are using a risk sharing system (insurance) inappropriately. A four party payment system (employer pays insurer who pays provider to service a decision-making user) cannot be economically efficient. Insurance is only sensible when trying to spread unacceptable financial risks. Now, when we have a cold or flu, a simple doctor’s visit has insurance implications. That is not sensible. I would address pregnancy and child birth, but don’t have the time.

  • I’m not sure where you are finding the impossibility. There is nothing intrinsic about complex systems that causes inefficiencies. The opposite is actually the case. As bureaucracies become more complex, the cost of a standard transaction goes down. For a basic office visit, the administrative cost on the claim is, if I remember correctly, is less than what VISA and Mastercard charge. While the specifics are always dependent, generally it is better to move one’s costs to fixed from on demand. It allows for such things as specialization.

    Health insurance as it exists in the real world here and now does not take into account whether your medical predicament was predictable.
    That is simply wrong. There is no retroactive analysis, but there is a reason you give your medical history, give your height and weight, and your blood pressure. If you have a group plan, you might not have gotten into that much detail, because there isn’t the need for as much specificity with large numbers.

    It simply deals with whether procedures are necessary to your health.
    Yes, when you are coverage includes reasonable medical expenses, your plan seeks to verify that they are reasonable. People in insurance do not care if an expense is rare. They actually hate those. The only thing insurance companies care about is if an expense is predictable. That is how rates are determined. If we have three pools of a thousand people, there will not be enough variation in the number of office visits those three pools have over a year to make a real difference in rates. The ideal insurance function is a converging function where as n increases it approaches s.

  • M.Z.,
    The inefficiency is not a function of complexity. It is a function of the remoteness between the payor and the user. This is a feature of almost any insurance, and it distorts incentives and behavior. Health insurance is worse than most because a fourth party , the employer, is implicated.

  • MZ,

    I think we might be talking slightly at cross purposes. My point is not that insurance companies pay no attention to how behaviors are likely to affect your health, but rather that once they have insured someone they are not able to decide whether or not to treat a condition based on whether it was the person’s “fault” in some sense.

    Thus, for instance, a some health insurance applications ask if you drive a motorcycle, and may take that into account in your rates, but they’re not allowed to refuse to treat your injuries if you have a motorcycle accident on the theory that it’s an optional and high risk behavior.

  • If the contract excluded coverage from injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident, they would be excluded if the contract specified them. Many states proscribe insurance companies from excluding ordinary activities. If you have your health plan doc in front of you, you should see a section titled “Exclusions and Limitations of Coverage,” or something to that affect. I must confess though of being unaware of anyone claiming that Americans have higher health care costs because they participate to a greater extent in health risking activities.

    Mike Petrik,
    I recognize a moral hazard argument when I see one. The major premise of such an argument is that a person receiving a benefit would not seek that benefit were it not present. With national parks we do not see people widely exploiting them to their detriment despite not directly paying for them. My problem is that you seem to believe that the hazard is widespread and costly and therefore leading to inefficiency. I do not believe the numbers support the argument.

  • With national parks we do not see people widely exploiting them to their detriment despite not directly paying for them.

    I’m afraid you’re quite wrong at that– it just doesn’t get as much attention. I’ve got pictures here of what’s left after some folks exploited a park for “enjoyment.”

  • If the contract excluded coverage from injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident, they would be excluded if the contract specified them. Many states proscribe insurance companies from excluding ordinary activities. If you have your health plan doc in front of you, you should see a section titled “Exclusions and Limitations of Coverage,” or something to that affect.

    Um, well, yes. But I’m not sure how that relates to my point in response to Gabriel, which was that excluding pregnancy care from insurance as a general practice was neither in keeping with the general way insurance works in the US nor a good idea.

    I think you and I are basically in agreement on that, aren’t we?

    I must confess though of being unaware of anyone claiming that Americans have higher health care costs because they participate to a greater extent in health risking activities.

    I’ve heard people argue that Americans have a lower life expectancy and poorer health care outcomes as a result of higher rates of violence, auto accidents, and unhealthy living — but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone argue that’s a major source of our higher health care expenses.

    Not sure how we got on the topic though…

  • I’ve never understood why health insurance providers aren’t friendlier towards midwife care as it would cut down their costs considerably. Are they not covering it at all now? All my midwife-managed births were covered, though on occasion I had to do a little educating to get bills paid.

  • I think it depends, cminor; my dad’s masseuse is a registered midwife, but she often has to work in a hospital because of the risks.

    Getting gov’t less involved in hospitals might be a good idea– I know that Sacred Heart in Spokane just got permission, after five years, to add five maternity beds to their design. They’d asked for 15.

  • They’re willing to pay for midwife services in a hospital or some birthing centers, but not for a homebirth midwife — which as you say is odd because the ~2.5k cost is much less than they pay for a hospital delivery.

    After dealing with hospitals the first couple time MrsD was tired of that routine, and our babies tend to come so fast that staying put it much more reassuring. It’s expensive, but paid over seven months it’s doable.

  • MZ,
    I don’t know what “numbers” you’re talking about, but if you think that people would make the same medical decisions (e.g., opt for the same number of MRIs and CT scans) if they were using their own money then we just disagree. Both doctors and patients are influenced by the fact that the patient has little financial interest in selecting options. I find it hard to believe that there are “numbers” that can demonstrate otherwise. Many common medical decisions involve lifestyle considerations. For instance many knee and hip replacements are elective in the sense that a relatively normal life can often continue without them. The decision to have these procedures is often influenced by the degree to which the patient will not bear the cost. People do make decisions based on costs and benefits, and the costs they weigh are only their own.

  • Foxfier,

    Child abuse isn’t evidence that parents don’t generally love their children. Certainly there instances of abuse and destruction of public resources as there are of private ones.

    Petrik,
    I’m more interested in decisions that are in their best interests. The RAND Institute has found that people will choose less care when they have to directly pay for it. The same study showed that they did not discriminate between needed care and unneeded care.

    Doctors do have an interest in not ordering more and unnecessary tests. It is called the insurance exclusion for charges that are not reasonable and customary. Good luck to the doctor recovering a claim denied for U&C. Such isn’t to claim that greater efficiencies couldn’t be wrung.

    I hope you are never a candidate to have a knee or hip replacement. This is of course another area that isn’t breaking the medical system.

  • MZ-
    you’re assuming that what I posted pictures of was out of the norm, rather than just a very visual example of the norm.
    Check out Chief Joe’s grave some time– if you can find it, in all the trash. Talk to the folks who do upkeep on state campgrounds. Look at a park that hasn’t had grounds keepers on it recently. For fun, look at how much of it is only a few steps from an empty garbage can.
    There’s a reason that I tend to defend pigs when folks say that humans are pigs– pigs are clean if they’re given a chance.

    Shoot, go on one of the bike trails– you’ll find piles of human fecal matter in the middle of the trail, and I wish I was joking.

  • Well, also, a lot of national and state parks either aren’t free or are free but only allow a certain number of people into the park each day. Unless society has massively reformed from my boy scout days, the parts of national parks that people could actually get near without at least an hour or two of hiking tended to be rather threadbare. (And the bloody Sierra Club with their mules carrying supplies for Yosemite “hikers” who had too much money and didn’t want to carry their own food made the trails pretty foul for those of us doing real back packing.)

    Doctors do have an interest in not ordering more and unnecessary tests. It is called the insurance exclusion for charges that are not reasonable and customary. Good luck to the doctor recovering a claim denied for U&C. Such isn’t to claim that greater efficiencies couldn’t be wrung.

    True, but there’s a wide range of what doctors can get away within the range of what is “necessary” and “customary”. Obama, at least, certainly seemed to think in a number of his early talks on cost control that doctors are incented to defer towards extra care — and the studies on how salaried doctors prescribe less care for equal outcomes also suggest there’s some sort of effect going on there.

  • With national parks we do not see people widely exploiting them to their detriment despite not directly paying for them.

    People abuse the commons, which is why use of the commons is regulated.

  • They’re willing to pay for midwife services in a hospital or some birthing centers, but not for a homebirth midwife — which as you say is odd because the ~2.5k cost is much less than they pay for a hospital delivery.

    Can’t believe I didn’t remember this before– at least in Washington state, the insurance company really wants to minimize even the most out-there risks for the baby because the baby MUST be covered by the mother’s insurance for something like a month after birth.

21 Responses to Public Health Care for Thee, But Not for Me

  • How’s that “free” health care working out for you canucks… eh?

  • Tito,
    He is going to have to pay for this surgery, which we all know is scandalous given that it is a human right. In Canada, it would be free! Now, it is true that he might be dead before it is available, but at least he would be entitled to full coverage and treated equally with other Canadians, which is only a matter of human dignity. In the US some people might not have the resources to access such surgery, and yet we allow the privileged rich to benefit from a quality of care not available to others. Justice requires equality! Human beings must be accorded equal treatment, except for congress critters who are more human than others and therefore more equal.

  • Mike,

    So the Canadian system works just fine just as long as they don’t die waiting for it?

  • Mike, you have a wit as dry as the Sahara! Bravo!

  • Call me late to the party.

    Being naive has its drawbacks, but at least I can laugh at myself!

  • Tito,
    That is where you and I differ. And I try never to laugh at myself — that would be piling on. 😉
    Cheers,
    Mike

  • http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/waitlist/cardiac.html

    Facts about wait time for Canaddian cardiac patients are shown on link above for anyone interested in the facts.

  • Anon,

    Just read those “facts” and it states that half of the patients are taken immediately.

    That means that other half wait. Not to mention it doesn’t state the number that die waiting.

    The average waiting times is just under five weeks.

    Nope, just like the premier of Newfoundland, I’ll take American health care ANY DAY OF THE WEEK (without waiting) over the Canuckian Peoples Republic of Northern New England.

  • I guess the Newfie Premier is coming to the US for his surgery just because he likes to travel, eh Anonymous?

  • “Dr. Robert Roberts, University of Ottawa Heart Institute president, told CTV News Channel’s Power Play that there are no wait times for cardiac surgery in Canada.
    “Canada . . . gives superb (cardiac) care,” he said. “Our statistics for complications in surgery are comprisable to the very best in the U.S.”

  • Anon,

    No wait times yet the link you posted show’s a wait time average of just under five (5) weeks.

    Like Donald said, so why is it that the Premier of Newfoundland decides to pay out of pocket for surgery in the U.S.?

    Facts normally stumpy liberals and their socialist comrades so I can understand your befuddlement.

    And if you’re going to post at least post your name.

  • Why does my posting make you so angry? So..O.K. I am a Lutheran and do tend to be more liberal than most conservative Lutherans here in the Midwest..but such anger for posting a couple of dueling Canadian facts is a bit reactive. Well..I’m off to see what the Baptists blogs are like.
    Just call me
    The Duke of Dubuque

  • Anon,

    Angry?

    By repeating what your link says makes us “angry”?

  • No one is angry with you Anonymous. You simply refused to attempt to explain why the Newfie premier is coming to the US for heart surgery if everything is hunky dory with cardiac surgery in public care in Canada.

  • Apparently the procedure that the good Premier is needing here in the United States isn’t available in Canada… anywhere!

    When you take away the incentive to advance medical technology you get atrophy in the system.

    Hence why many Canadians cross the border for many medical procedures and prescriptions.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/editorials/oh_no_canada_lRaE7XngBCNxVFz6y7fnuL

    Enjoy!

  • http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/759116–u-s-bloggers-weigh-in-on-danny-williams-surgery

    Just adding this article to the mix. It is fun to read the comment section.
    Good Day!

    Duke

  • Uninsured U.S. heart patients do not receive heart transplants but are 25% of donors for them according to this ABC News article.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=1514702

  • Pingback: “This was my heart, my choice and my health.” « The American Catholic
  • Pingback: RSS agregator » Blog Archive » This was my heart, my choice and my health
  • “You simply refused to attempt to explain why the Newfie premier is coming to the US for heart surgery if everything is hunky dory with cardiac surgery in public care in Canada.”

    Note, not needed, wanted. Does you insurance cover surgery you want but do not need?

    He did need surgery, and he could have gotten surgery, but the particular technique he wanted leaves a smaller scar. That he could not get in his province, and most Canadian doctors do not recommend it.

    “No wait times yet the link you posted show’s a wait time average of just under five (5) weeks.”

    It shows an *average* of just under 5 weeks for *hospitals*. Several doctors have wait times of less than a week, yet one has a wait time of 11 weeks? Why would anyone wait 11 weeks when he could have the surgery in less than one week? Could it be people wait longer for the best doctor?

    Are all doctors in the US the best doctor? Are all the children above average?

    Some hospitals have a nearly 5 week wait, one less than 2 weeks. Funny that the hospital with the longer wait has the doctors with the longer wait time. Maybe they are just the best?

    Ah, and the median wait is 3.3 weeks, not 5.

  • “He did need surgery, and he could have gotten surgery, but the particular technique he wanted leaves a smaller scar. That he could not get in his province, and most Canadian doctors do not recommend it.”

    Actually Williams said that his doctors recommended that he have the surgery outside of the province. He also made this statement that indicates that wait times for treatment was a factor “I would’ve been criticized if I had stayed in Canada and had been perceived as jumping a line or a wait list .… I accept that. That’s public life,” he said.”

    As for wait times, here is a list from the provincial government of Ontario regarding wait times for various types of surgery.

    http://www.health.gov.on.ca/transformation/wait_times/providers/wt_pro_mn.html

Senator Nelson Sells Out Unborn, Health Care Bill Heads to Vote

Saturday, December 19, AD 2009

(Updates at the bottom of this article.)

Harry Reid was able to make huge concessions to the state of Nebraska and bought Senator Ben Nelson’s vote a la Mary Landrieu.  The vote seems headed to the floor with all 60 votes secured to impose on American’s draconian laws that would hike insurance rates and begin the downward slope towards European style socialism.

Nelson secured full federal funding for his state to expand Medicaid coverage to all individuals below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Other states must pay a small portion of the additional cost. He won concessions for qualifying nonprofit insurers and for Medigap providers from a new insurance tax. He also was able to roll back cuts to health savings accounts.

What’s in the bill that I’m aware of?  I’ve broken down the Washington Post article almost verbatim below:

Continue reading...

29 Responses to Senator Nelson Sells Out Unborn, Health Care Bill Heads to Vote

  • Senator Nelson said this, this morning:

    “Let me be clear. This cloture vote is based on the full understanding that there will be a limited conference between the Senate and the House.

    If there are material changes in that conference report different from this bill that adversely affect the agreement, I reserve the right to vote against the next cloture vote.

    Let me repeat it: I reserve the right to vote against the next cloture vote if there are material changes to this agreement in the conference report. And I will vote against it if that is the case.”

    I am not thrilled with his decision. I am happy that his mailbox is full and so is Senator Casey’s. But this is not a done deal. The legislation has to be reconciled — the slightest appeasement of liberals in the House can kill this thing in the Senate. Better yet, the abortion language is not going to fly well in the House. The first go round there were 64 Democrats to vote for the Stupak amendment and at the end of the day with 39 Democrats voting “NO”. To see this thing fail, there needs to be merely 2 upset Democrats to vote the other way.

    This isn’t over.

    Moreover, I am not surprised. Recent stories in the press suggest that Senator Nelson was being threatened. Maybe they were true. Maybe they weren’t.

    Either way, hopefully this will not succeed.

  • Eric,

    I think you’re absolutely right on this. I think Stupak and the pro-life Dems in the House will hold the line on this.

  • Let’s see. The Democrats, if they can pass this stripped down bill through the Senate, still have to convince the House Dems to scrap their much more ambitious bill. Then there will be a huge fight over the Stupak amendment.

    If this bill passes it will then not be fully implemented until 2014, coincidentally, I am sure, two years after the Presidential election of 2012.

    I do have to hand it to the Dems if they pass this for doing what I considered impossible. They have crafted a bill which is opposed by a majority of the American people, liberal Democrats and virtually all Republicans. They have all the signals known to political man flashing red and saying that this is a one way ticket to a crushing defeat in 2010. Passage of this bill will depress liberal Democrats, the base of the Democrat party, unify and inflame Republicans, and cause Independents to desert the party of the donkey en masse. Never has a political party in my lifetime labored so strenuously to implement a policy that guarantees them an extended vacation in the political wilderness. Democrats have nothing on Lemmings at the moment when it comes to survival instict.

  • I am actually more surprised that Lieberman is voting “Yes.”

    Actually I am shocked they killed the public option.

    ALL THIS POLITICAL AMNESIA DRIVES ME CRAZY!

    We have Republicans defending Medicare (since when?!) and Democrats supporting insurance companies offering national plans that do not have to adhere to state laws (what the…?)

    Our Congressmen need to have their heads examined.

  • Wait…how do they expect to get a bill without a public option through the House?

  • lol Eric, good question. You already have some Dems who pledged to vote it down if abortion funding was scrapped… imagine what they will do with no public option!?

    This whole thing is going to fall apart.

  • I’m trying to understand the bill. So states will able to prohibit subsidized plans from covering abortion. In those states that will allow abortion coverage, individuals will be able to purchase abortion coverage on top of their regular coverage.

    If that’s right, I don’t see what’s so objectionable. Sure, it’s not as good as barring coverage altogether but this is not bad. Those who want abortion coverage will have to pay extra for it. In practice, few would buy the supplemental abortion insurance.

  • I am not sure if that’s how it works. I read something a moment ago suggesting people would have to send two checks — one for abortion coverage, the other for the whole policy. I think it is still account gymnastics.

    I am not sure.

  • So it depends on whether it’ll be the individual’s choice or the insurer’s choice. If the individual gets to choose whether to send that abortion check, this bill isn’t so bad. If everyone has to pay the same premium and the insurers segregate it, that’s unacceptable.

    Need more clarity.

  • Any reaction from the USCCB on this one???

  • Your blog managed to list on google search for reaction to the health care debate.

    As an Irish Catholic who use to be republican, its always distressing to encounter members of holy church who have been utterly beguiled by the evangelical right, I pray for such folks.

    While the issue of abortion is a serious moral lapse in our society, the lies and deception of the GOP and evangelicals pose a more serious danger to both the republic and freedom of faith.

    Pettifogging health care as an element of the debate over abortion is rank hypocrisy and not worthy of big or little C catholicism.

    One can only hope other Catholics who have followed the disciples of the lie into the modern GOP tent will like Paul have their eyes opened to the reality they adhere to a political theology crafted by the Father of lies and promoted by his agents in the GOP.

  • Republicans as agents of Satan? Mr. Keller, it is never a good idea to blog drunk.

  • Mr. Keller would appear to be Gerald L. Campbell’s doppelganger.

  • When I stop Chuckling, Mr. McClarey I assure both lucidity and habitual tea tootling, Nor did I offer implication all republicans serve as agents of the diabolical any more than all members of the German Army were responsible for the Holocaust,

    Art Deco’s reference to Campbell is pithy oh so pithy still I wish you both a merry Christmas

  • Well Mr. Keller, now we have Republicans compared to members of the Wehrmacht and the Holocaust. As I have said to some of my clients when they have committed some felony or misdemeanor sober, “I would prefer that you would at least have had the small excuse that you did this drunk”. And the merriest of Christmases to you.

  • Last one Donald, may I call you Donald? I’m in Phoenix and have to get ready as I prefer Saturday mass, Clients, felony? are you an attorney Don?

    Funny if you are as I find it difficult to distinguish between modern republican leaders and lawyers, both have the tendency when they lack points of authority or a cogent argument to pound the table and besmirch the character of the opposing advocate.

    Please trust me when I say unlike politicians, I will accuse directly when the occasion calls for it.

    Oh I hear the GOP has invited the John Birch society back into the fold, yea that will help.

    Really I try to treat all people as individuals worthy of respect but every time I hear Glen Beck or Sister Sarah Palin speak I think of Forest Gump, White trash is as White trash does, yea that’s going to cost a few hail Mary’s but it had to be said but at least the Merry Christmas was sincere

  • “both have the tendency when they lack points of authority or a cogent argument to pound the table and besmirch the character of the opposing advocate.”

    I am an attorney. The legal saw you are recalling is that when the facts are against you, you argue the law, when the law is against you, you argue the facts, and when both are against you, you pound the table and abuse your opponent. Mr. Keller, as you called Republicans agents of Satan and compared them to members of the Wehrmacht during the Holocaust I would suggest that it is you who have been pounding the table. Of course we also have your charming White Trash reference.

    As for the John Birch society, I can imagine few organizations with less significance for the Republican party. Back in the Fifties William F. Buckley wrote them out of the conservative movement after they accused Ike of being a Communist. Their influence on the conservative movement and the Republican party has been nil since then.

  • Yeah, it’s Campbell.

  • Oh, and Campbell’s referring to CPAC (not the GOP, but who needs facts when you have a hatchet?) having the Birchers as one of their many sponsors. They also have a gay lobbying group as a sponsor this year, so I wonder how he’d process that.

  • Well Mr. Keller or Gerald Campbell or whoever you are, I’ve deleted your last comment since it was an attempt to hijack this thread as part of your effort to convince people that Republicans are evil incarnate. Due to the content of your posts I am also banning you from this blog. Mere invective simply leads to futile combox feuds and we try to avoid that on this blog.

  • “Passage of this bill will depress liberal Democrats, the base of the Democrat party, unify and inflame Republicans, and cause Independents to desert the party of the donkey en masse.”

    I hope so, Don, but I wouldn’t count on it; never underestimate the ability of the GOP (particularly in Illinois, but this is true elsewhere also) to snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory.

  • In Illinois Elaine I grant you, although even here I think the Republicans will gain two house seats and make take the Senate seat. As for the rest of the country, I think the Democrats are in worse shape than they were in going into the 1994 elections when the Republicans took Congress

  • This will go-down in history as but a Pyhrric victory where political costs outweigh the benefits to the Democrats… if people weren’t pissed at the power-drunk Dems before, they likely are now…

    These tools like Nelson will soon regret the day they did this for Obama, he’ll pull all these fools right-over the abyss with him… and the coming GOP majority will rescind it anyway…

  • At this stage there will be a bill with features somewhere between the House and Senate bills. Illinois will see the Dems pick up Kirk’s seat, the GOP pick up one, and even odds for the pro-choice Republican senate candidate beating the Dem.

  • I see the GOP in Illinois picking up Halvorson’s seat, Bean’s seat and Foster’s seat. They will probably lose Kirk’s seat. I think they have a decent chance of picking up Hare’s seat also. Kirk is a pro-abort which is why I oppose him in the primary and will not vote for him in the general election.

  • Eric Brown writes Saturday, December 19, 2009:
    “Our Congressmen need to have their heads examined”.

    I am at a loss to understand that a college education has failed to make an impression. A simple review of the behavior of Congress throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries would demonstrate that these behaviors are par for the course.

    Senator Nelson was bribed. So also was Senator Landrieu. What’s new about the behavior of “our only professional criminal class”?

    I suggest that we make a point of asking our senators if they voted for this “compromise” [lege sell-out. Think Munich] what they got for it for their states.

  • It is curious to consider that this bill scheduled to be signed on the day of the Holy Innocents:
    “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

  • Very well said Gabriel for something so tragic and sad.

Senator Nelson Shoots Down Latest Compromise on Health Care Bill

Thursday, December 17, AD 2009

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska said ‘no-go’ on the most recent health care bill that Harry Reid and the Democrats have compiled.  This most likely will derail President Obama’s efforts to have a Senate health care bill done by Christmas.

“As it is, without modifications, the language concerning abortion is not sufficient,”

Continue reading...

5 Responses to Senator Nelson Shoots Down Latest Compromise on Health Care Bill

  • Pingback: “Not to be outdone by Lieberman, Nelson demands more anti-choice language in Senate Bill” and related posts « Twitter
  • The rumor regarding Offutt Air Force Base being threatened with closure is almost certainly wrong. It was first reported by political gossip columnists who are not always reliable.

    The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission process required by federal law takes years to complete and requires Congressional approval of any proposed list of base closings in full on a straight up or down vote.

    No military base can be closed on the orders of the POTUS alone. Even if Obama tried to start a new BRAC Commission today and get Offutt AFB placed on the closure list he would probably be long out of office before any decision was made. If Sen. Nelson says this rumor is not true I would take his word for it.

  • Actually, I need to correct my previous post.

    The BRAC process is normally initiated by either the Department of Defense or (in the most recent BRAC round in 2005) by Congress itself. The actual process of appointing the commission, visiting bases proposed for closure, making recommendations, etc. usually takes 1 to 2 years. If the POTUS approves a final list of BRAC recommendations, then Congress must either accept or reject the list in its entirety. Then the actual process of carrying out any closures on the list can take up to 5 years longer.

    My point remains, though, that the POTUS cannot unilaterally decide to close ANY military facility. If a new BRAC process were started tomorrow, it would take until at least the end of 2011 or early 2012 to get a list of proposed closures. Even the small to medium size facility closures on past BRAC lists have been controversial; an attempt to close a facility as huge and strategically significant as Offutt AFB (home of the Strategic Air Command) would be a political disaster of Biblical proportions.

  • All that being said… the bottom line is that Sen. Nelson is under tremendous pressure from the White House and from fellow Dems to change his vote, and he does urgently need our prayers and support.

  • Elaine,

    Thanks for clarifying the situation concerning the base closure. I posted the updated link that showed Senator Nelson debunking this, but as you said, he is under a tremendous amount of pressure and the left-wing zealots will do every evil thing imaginable to get their baby killing legislation in the ‘health care’ bill.

$100 Million: Enough to Buy Landrieu Vote

Sunday, November 22, AD 2009

Democrat Party Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana cast her vote for Harry Reid’s health care bill and became the biggest purchased vote in American legislative history.  She sold her vote for a cool $100 million in order to begin debate on the anti-life health care bill.

As of 24 hours ago Senator Landrieu was still wavering on whether to vote for the health care bill.  But in a dark smoke filled room away from the lights and cameras of the media a deal had been struck which bought the senators vote.  Surprising considering President Obama promised an open and lively debate throughout the entire process and he has failed miserably in delivering on this promise.

Lies, corruption, and blatant disregard for the American people, in this instance, the people of Louisiana was in full display as Senator Landrieu cast bought vote for the health care bill.  She was so brazen about selling out her soul for money the U.S. government does not have that she proudly declared, “And it’s not a $100 million fix. It’s a $300 million fix.”  Bragging that she was bought for $300 million.  Some have called it the great new Louisiana Purchase.

Continue reading...

26 Responses to $100 Million: Enough to Buy Landrieu Vote

  • Tito, she didn’t vote for the health care bill itself, she voted on a “cloture” motion to begin DEBATING it, which is not necessarily the same thing. While it might be logical to assume that anyone who voted for the cloture motion is in favor of the bill itself, that could change at any time, especially if they start getting flak from their constituents.

    You criticize Obama for not delivering the “open and lively debate” he promised; well, isn’t this exactly what we’re going to get with this cloture motion having passed?

  • “she sold her vote against the wishes of the Louisiana people for an outrageous $300 million.”

    Am I missing something? I thought she got $300 million for Louisiana out of it.

  • and she got $300 million for her vote, not $100,000!
    Where in the ten commandments does it say that one can sell integrity if the price is high enough? Or is an honest politician a contradiction of terms? It’s said that the average payment in the house for a vote for health care destruction was $150 million. My how 30 pieces of silver has escalated.
    Yes this was a ‘start debate’ vote but historically,
    97% of bills getting through this hurdle, get passed!
    I’m amazed at how quickly the Democrats have been able to destroy the country we love.

  • To Elaine Krewer,

    I don’t want an open and lively debate on the health care bill. I want it defeated along with Barack Hussein Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Joe Biden and every other liberal politician who legitimatizes (1) experiments on unborn babies for “medical research”, (2) extraction of the brains of unborn babies as a “right to choose”, (3) murder of the aged and infirm as some sort of “death with dignity”, (4) sanctification of sodomy as a “human right”, and (5) all the other madness they extoll as “human rights”.

    One does NOT debate with the satanic legions of hell. One prays for their utter, total and complete defeat.

  • Paul, I’d rather it had never even been debated either, and were I one of Landrieu’s constituents I’d be disappointed in her decision as well.

    However, the fact remains, this was NOT a vote on the bill itself and it’s premature to portray it as such. Even if historically 97 percent of bills advanced to this stage pass, there’s still that other 3 percent.

    Needless to say, this bill is probably in the top 3 percent (or less) of most controversial bills ever and as such has a higher chance of still being defeated. Also, opening debate allows amendments to be offered, including pro-life amendments. Plus the Senate and House versions of the bill would still have to be reconciled in conference committee and voted on again. So this is NOT a done deal yet.

  • At the risk of sounding like an apologist…

    How is this payment for a vote different than the regular pork projects that constituents readily, and greedily, accept from their representatives? As a Pennsylvanian, I consider Rep. Murtha to be an embarrassment. He specifically called us racists and ignorant hicks and yet, he retained his seat. Why, because he continues to “bring home the bacon.”

    Frankly, We the People are getting EXACTLY what we deserve in our legislators because we are the ultimate recipients of what is, in essence, bribery. I think we, and the people of LA, have given up the right to claim righteous indignation at the high price paid for this vote. Or, to steal a Casablanca quote: “I am shocked! Shocked! To discover gambling is going on!”… Or something like that.

  • he retained his seat. Why, because he continues to “bring home the bacon.”

    I think that would be of interest to local politicos and for people in favored constituency groups, not to the general public. I think you will find that general public demobilization, not authentic public admiration, accounts for the degree to which incumbents are impregnable. Advertising costs for electoral contests are prohibitive. Also, Congressional districts in densely populated areas are either fairly uniform on certain variables or are seriously gerrymandered. The practical route to removal of the representative is a party primary, something which (I submit) seldom happens unless you alienate identifiable party factions or irritate some individual who can self-finance a run for Congress. An additional problem you have (where I live) is the culture of the press corps. They are often in the pocket of the legislator, and treat him boosterishly as an ‘area man’. Chaps like John Murtha get re-elected (by and large) because the self-selected class of people involved in electoral politics do not generate alternatives.

  • Biographical information on Landrieu indicates that she is 54 years hold, has drawn salaries from political office since she was 24, and has (apparently) had no other occupation since she was 32. She is a cut above Barney Frank, a 69 year old man who has held office since he was 28 and whose antecedent employment history consisted of the sort of part-time and seasonal positions you hold while a student. Still, she is a recognizable type. Jerry Springer explained his departure from electoral politics in Cincinnatti as follows, “if you’re doing this to put bread on the table, you’ll say anything.”

  • First let me make the point that Landrieu is not up for relection 2010. She just got put back into office last years. So while she is feeling heat the fact that 5 years is lifetime in politics is mitigating some of the influence of the people of the State. WHich to be honest is how the Founders intended it I guess

    I was not pleased with this vote but as much as I have opposed Landrieu I don’t find her corrupt. The fact that she received something for the State in exchange for her vote does not strike me as corrupt. Though if I was her I would have held out for more!!

    How she got in again (this is her third term) is a whole different story. She had a tough race 7 years ago. Her Repubican opponent this time ( a former well liked Democrat) ran a horrible race that many were not expecting. Still the race was closer than expected.

    How Mary Landrieu will vote on this at the end is well up in the air. She is pretty cozy with Insurance companies that has made the left very mad at her.

    One factor that might influence her is how her actions affect her brother Mitch Landrieu. Current Lt Governor of Louisiana. Mitch has gained some popularity after being defeated for Mayor of New Orelans (Lt Governor is a nice job not much controversy) He has his eyes on the Governor mansion after Jindal leaves. So that factor might be in play too

  • Though if I was her I would have held out for more!!

    BAH! Can we please give the state and local governments a standard subsidy based on per capita income and population, let them build their own frigging public works, and put federal facilities where they serve to best perform institutional missions? The last reason in the world you want a military base at locus x is to make advertising fodder for Congressman Suckupthecash.

  • Elaine,

    She did sell out her vote.

    She could have easily defeated the bill without it having to be debated on the floor.

    As far as President Obama’s promise of open view of the process, he has failed miserably. None of the behind the door negotiations were on C-SPAN as he claimed would happen.

  • “Can we please give the state and local governments a standard subsidy based on per capita income and population”

    That was my first thought but then I thought, “why give any money to the states and local governments?” Give it to individuals based on individual income and family size. Any state or local projects can be financed by state or local taxes.

  • Give it to individuals based on individual income and family size. Any state or local projects can be financed by state or local taxes.

    State-to-state variation in per capita income in considerable, with Mississippi’s about half that of Connecticut. A program of income redistribution necessary to counteract that would require the assessment and disbursement of ~22% of personal income each year. (Social Security implicates the assessment and disbursement of 5%, btw). The marginal tax rates necessary for such a project of equalization would make for a decidedly anemic economy, I would think. The ratio of state-and-local expenditure to domestic product is 0.17, so the necessary assessment and disbursement would be smaller. When I last checked, intergovernmental transfers amounted to about 3% of domestic product. You would not have to increase these much, just repartition them and remove the conditionality.

  • Art Deco, I read your reply four times and I’m still not sure I’m understanding you correctly. I’m not advocating complete income equalization between the states (which I imagine your idea of state subsidizing wouldn’t do either), just some redistribution.

  • Voting for the cloture motion IS voting for the bill. If Democrats vote it down after the fillibuster-proof, 30 hours MAXIMUM “debate” that will follow, a lot of people will die of shock — me included. There is not going to be a debate. There will be the usual bunch of speeches and then they will pass it because they can.

  • I know it is standard but where do the Constitution, the Ten Commandments or Church Teaching set up politicians to go to Washington to steal as much from everyone who does not live in your state?

    It seems wrong to me, don’t you think?

    I also think that giving scandal to Catholics isn’t helpful. If I was Christian and not Catholic I would see the behaviour of Landrieu, Pelosi, Biden and the rest of the devil’s rejects as a great reason to levy the label, “whore of Babylon” against the Church. Is that ignorant? Of course it is. But is it any more ignorant than being a pro-gay, pro-murder, pro-socialist Catholic?

  • How is it stealing to secure more funding for Medicaid, a program the helps poor people to buy health care?

    That’s as absurd as the notion that voting to allow debate renders one amoral. Where do you people get the idea that hyperbole is effective? It makes you look like nuts (this being the charitable explanation that you aren’t actually nuts). Thank goodness for some people with common sense like Elaine and jh.

  • Zak: “How is it stealing to secure more funding for Medicaid, a program the helps poor people to buy health care?”

    When one is coerced by threat of force to part with private property that is theft, no matter the reason. We can argue about the degree, context, etc. But is still theft.

    Now if Medicaid was actually a program to help the poor have access to health care it may not be so bad. But it isn’t. Medicaid is self-perpetuating bureacracy designed to increase its constituency by making and keeping people dependent on it for access to basic, necessary services (including Family Planning). It is the modern day plantation and seeks to increase power by making more slaves. Do not confuse stated intentions with practical results.

    Setting that aside, Let us assume that Medicaid is good for the poor of Louisianna. How is it just to acquire $100mil, which we don’t have, to purchase the cooperation of a Senator in order to legislate the murder of the pre-born? The poor we will always have with us, the preborn we won’t especially if we are forcibly caused to pay for their deaths. Maybe that is how we solve the problem of the poor – kill them before they are born! Does that make sense?

  • http://forthegreaterglory.blogspot.com/2009/11/louisiana-purchase.html

    And yes, she comes up for election in 2014 next. Sen. Vitter from LA is up in 2010 and he will probably be re-elected, unfortunately.

  • American Knight, have you ever, once, found a doctor of the church or a pope who has condemned taxation as theft? And what is your interpretation of Christ’s teaching about “rendering unto Caesar” which was given in the context of a discussion of taxation.

    It is not yet determined whether the healthcare legislation will include any funding for abortion, so voting to allow debate isn’t legislating the murder of the unborn.

    Regarding whether Medicare makes people slaves, I do think it’s an imprudent, if not absurd, means of argument. Here – “we’ll pay your son’s doctor’s bill when he has the flu so you don’t have to choose between that and food” doesn’t sound quite the same as “pick cotton in the field and if you don’t pick enough I will whip you.” There are certainly major flaws in the welfare state, but a slave plantation it is not.

  • Zak,

    Taxation is a pretty general term. What kind of tax are we talking about? Income taxes are not beneficial in any way shape or form and they constitute a confiscation of wealth from the aggregate economy. People’s wages are income to the worker; however, they are an expense to the producer who pays those incomes. By taxing what is effectively, at a macro-level, an expense the government is stealing from the commonwealth of America. Taking that which does not belong to you is stealing, especially when it is illegal and without consent. Hence any type of income tax on the earnings of a natural person is not a revenue tax but rather an additional expense, hence a burden, on the aggregate wealth. Payroll taxes are especially pejorative because they raise the tax burden on the poor far more than anyone else and along with mandatory minimum wage laws create most of the unemployment for the least skilled, usually the poor and undereducated.

    Federal money units fund Medicaid. These units are fabricated dollar units in the form of notes (debt) owed to the private, illegal Federal Reserve by the US Treasury on behalf of the people of the USA without our consent. The servicing of that debt is income taxes on natural persons (currently over 66% of income tax revenue and headed to 100% very soon). Therefore, it is a confiscation of the aggregate wealth of America in order to service a usurious debt burden based on nothing other than paper (or digital ledger entries).

    While Medicaid allegedly provides for the poor, it is burdened with fraud and self-serving bureaucratic costs. It distorts the natural price system creating over production and service in some areas while creating shortages in others. The former attracts fraud and the latter raises costs and reduces service to the poor. Additionally, each dollar unit fabricated out of thin air dilutes the dollar value and raises the costs, which is a more severe burden on the poor.

    By creating this unethical program and couching it in terms that are appealing to social justice the perpetrators of this fraud are robbing all Americans and doing the most damage to the least advantaged while making them think they are providing a benefit for them. This is unethical and immoral on so many grounds.

    Adding to this crime, we now have an additional $300 million burden to secure the vote to proceed on a bill that includes the murder of the most innocent and vulnerable Americans. How much will it cost to bribe her to vote for the bill proper? It is also horrible that this bribe bought the vote of a Catholic Senator. Did she vote for the bill? No. No one has. Did she vote to discuss, which is an implicit vote for the bill? Yes. Does the bill include murder? Yes. Does the removal of the abortion-funding make this bill better? Yes, in that it will not be directly killing babies; but that does not make it good. It only makes the bill less bad and since abortion is one of the highest sins of our culture and our government, it is first on the list. Do not think the fact that the removal of abortion-funding has prominence means that this bill is not offensive to Catholic teaching in many other areas. It is a horrible bill that creates an apparatus for a secular (often hostile to Christians) government to have control over a large part of our economy and considerable if not total control over our lives.

    To think that a government run by sinners and not only sinners but secular progressive sinners hostile to Christ, His Church and His people will use the power it has for our benefit is naïve at best and more than likely delusional.

    Government has a specific and necessary function and it needs to be funded by taxes to perform those functions. Providing health care and taxing the incomes of natural persons does not fall under the legitimate authority of government and most certainly it does not fall under the authority of our government as established by the Constitution of 1789, properly amended.

    Christ did tell us to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but He also warned us not to render to Caesar what is God’s. Our health and our lives belong to God and not to Caesar.

  • BTW – Zak, you have an incorrect view of what a slave plantation was like. Sure some slaves were physically abused and wipped and raped, etc. Horrible.

    But that is a small percentage of slave owners who treated their slaves that way. Most slave owners considered their slaves as their property and a key factor in the plantation’s prodcutive capacity. So physical abuse would be the same as a farmer starving his ox or modern day farmer taking a sledge hammer to his tractor.

    Slaves where actually physically rather well off becuase they were beasts of burden. Ratehr than most slaves suffering physical abuse what they were suffering was abuse of their human dignity.

    People on Medicaid, food stamps and other government welfare programs are suffering the same abuse to their human dignity.

    In fact one could say that African slaves suffered less attack on their dignity than the victims of the modern welfare state becuase at least the African slaves knew they were slaves. Also, since the slavery was more personal, human emotion often got the better of the master’s household. Some slaves were taught to read and write, some were offered a portion of the land to grow their own crops and even sell them. No social worker affords modern-day welfare-slaves that dignity. Some slaveowners even insisted that their slaves be taught the Christian faith – imagine a government worker reading Scripture to a Medicaid recipeint. Gimme a break.

    Before anyone jumps on me for being a racist: I am Southern and I am also an immigrant to the Southland (by the Grace of God) from the lands that Christ walked so I am not exactly white and to my knowledge my family hasn’t owned any African slaves in the last couple of centuries if ever.

    I am also not stating that ante-bellum African slavery was dignified. I am not. It was horrible. I am merely saying it is less bad than the modern day welfare-state slavery of blacks and North and South American Indians and poor whites.

    My plantation analogy still stands. The difference is the plantation is nationwide and the master is the secular progressive government and the slaves are all sorts of different colors.

  • one could say that African slaves suffered less attack on their dignity than the victims of the modern welfare state

    I haven’t been taking American Knight seriously for a while now but this just blew my mind.

    Before anyone jumps on me for being a racist: I am Southern and I am also an immigrant to the Southland (by the Grace of God) from the lands that Christ walked so I am not exactly white and to my knowledge my family hasn’t owned any African slaves in the last couple of centuries if ever.

    Yes, because what determines whether you’re racist is your location, complexion, and whether your ancestors owned slaves.

  • All,

    Be very careful in what you say in the commboxes.

    You’ve been duly warned.

    I don’t take PC-speak from anyone, especially on my post.

  • rr,

    “I haven’t been taking American Knight seriously for a while now but this just blew my mind.”

    Coming from you that is probably a compliment; however, I have taken your posts seriously – otherwise why should I bother responding? If we are searching for truth and debating how our Catholic faith informs our political and cultural involvement we should all take each other seriously. That comment is more a reflection on you than it is on me.

    I share my views here becuase I want to know if I can defend them or if they have flaws. You and I may not agree on practical methods, but I would hope that we agree that we are called to inform our minds and actions with orthodox Catholic teaching. Unless a moderator, whose guest I am on here, tells my that I am out of line then I would appreciate it if you would respond sensibly to my posts, especially those you disagree with, or kindly ignore them.

    “because what determines whether you’re racist is your location, complexion, and whether your ancestors owned slaves.”

    No it doesn’t. But I post on here anonymously so I very few actually know me. I though some generic information may help move the focus on to the veracity of the argument instead of an attack on ‘a typcal southern racist descendant of slave owners’ approach. I feared that small-minded people may decide the post was racism directed at blacks because labeling anything that offends egalitarian political thought racist is a common and easy distraction. I actaully expcted better from you. You won’t dissappoint me again.

  • Pingback: Senator Nelson Sells Out Unborn, Health Care Bill Heads to Vote « The American Catholic

Bishops Call Reid Health Care Bill Worst of the Bunch

Friday, November 20, AD 2009

Extremist Democrats and liberals are hailing Harry Reid’s Health Care bill as a victory for pro-abortion activists.  Though the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called it “completely unacceptable“.

…Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the bishops’ conference Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said Reid’s “is actually the worst bill we’ve seen so far on the life issues.”

He called it “completely unacceptable,” adding that “to say this reflects current law is ridiculous.”

Continue reading...

7 Responses to Bishops Call Reid Health Care Bill Worst of the Bunch

  • I have always been pro-life and frankly, this bill is really scary.

  • Well this is what you get when you support a party that has abortion, gay Marrage and stem cell research as part of their party plank…Is it not Polosi is Catholic?,,Kennedy’s all Catholic…Yep.. This is the same group that voted to limit tax deductibility of donations to the church…Their only church is the church of government

  • It’s not over yet! If the bill goes back to the House without pro-life provisions, I am going to have a little faith in the pro-life Dems to hold the line and kill the bill. They said they would.

    It only passed last time by 5 votes in the house. Surely there at least 6 Stupak Democrats who will switch their votes if federal funding for abortion is back in.

    And for those who hate the whole bill, 40 progressive Dems say they will vote against it if abortion funding ISN’T in – so either way, this thing could be dead.

  • Joe,

    From my understanding, Rep. Cao of Louisiana only voted for the bill after he saw that it couldn’t be defeated. So in theory you’ll only need four votes to switch.

  • Precisely. The bill barely survived the House because the Stupak language superseded the Capps amendment.

    We should also be conscious of the fact that the Senate operates differently than the House. We aren’t going to have a closed rule amendment. Moreover, I do not think Nelson would vote for final cloture to vote on a final legislation that had less-than-acceptable language on abortion. Reid has absolutely no room for margin of error. I think the Democrats will have to sacrifice the Planned Parenthood wishlist to some extent in order to pass something.

    It must be said that I think much of the conference speculation is missing the mark. In conference, yes, there is no reason to keep the legislation as is. In fact, in conference the entire health care bill can fundamentally be re-written with no regard to any amendments that passed or the original provisions of the bills. However that is not going to be the case with health care. Say that pro-life provisions pass in the House and in the Senate as well. The Democrats will find it incredibly difficult to strip that language at conference. A brand new bill that is markedly different than the originals will likely fail in one or bother chambers. A bill that reverses the abortion language in one or both chambers will fail in one or both chambers. The Stupak amendment clearly took the bill over the top. It will die in the House without it. Less than acceptable language on abortion will surely not allow the final conference bill to reach cloture in the Senate. Perhaps I have too much faith in Senator Nelson, but I cannot see how he will not hold out. He is incredibly consistent and principled on this issue. I will not blindly trust such a hope, but I have every reason to have this hope.

    Moreover, an incredibly liberal “robust” public option that leaves out opt-out and opt-in clauses is sure to die in the Senate. So again, the theorists speculating that this is a game of “bait” and “switch” — give in to the pro-life Congressmen to win their votes and then remove it, give in to the more moderate members and “water down” to the public option to win their votes only to switch it blatantly and manifestly in conference is absurd.

    After conference there are no amendments. It is a closed-rule vote entirely in both chambers. The moderate and pro-life Democrats will be needed again, to motion to vote on the legislation and to vote for the final legislation. I don’t think it reasonable to conclude that a hyper-liberal bill will come flying out of conference because in what world could it possibly pass?

    If anything, the Senate legislation will have the greater influence. The final conference legislation must conceivably be able to pass in the Senate which is a much more difficult task — in that, it must gain 60 votes before it only needs 51.

  • Pingback: Senate Democrats at odds over health care bill (AP) « NewsDropper.com

Healthcare & Subsidiarity: Two Interpretations

Thursday, October 29, AD 2009

I’ve been thinking a bit about the principle of subsidiarity recently as it relates to health care reform. To provide some context, here is the Catechism on subsidiarity:

1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”7

1885 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order.

Despite the rancor which sometimes surrounds the health care debate in the Catholic blogosphere, it seems to me that the basic issue is different prudential judgments regarding the application of the principle of subsidiarity. I’m a bit torn between two ways to apply subsidiarity in this particular circumstance, and so I thought it might be worthwhile to explore the different positions as I understand them. 

Continue reading...

15 Responses to Healthcare & Subsidiarity: Two Interpretations

  • If we’re going to have to have some sort of socialized health care, why not offer vouchers to state governments. There the state legislators can deal with socialized medicine better and more effectively than the federal government.

    Granted it’s still the government, but at least each state will have different levels of socialized health care that they wish.

    For example, Massachusetts and Hawaii have something similar to what House Speaker Pelosi want to offer. Why not instead of creating one huge bureaucracy, just offer vouchers for state governments that have some sort of statewide health care system.

  • John Henry,

    Your division of the two positions are well taken and are roughly on the mark. But I think they are a bit oversimplified — or rather, I think the ‘Position 2’ is not as accurate as ‘Position 1’. The former is precisely on point; I hold Position 2 and that is not how I would describe it (or how I think most people who hold that position would describe it).

    Now I’m not saying that Catholics or anyone else must hold my view (and I hope they would extend me the same charity).

    This is how I put it when I discussed it previously:

    The principle of subsidiarity requires that social goods be met by the most local and most efficient means. This means, hypothetically speaking, if the government and private sector can both do the same task with equal efficiency in regard to one matter, it is most prudent to allow the private sector to do it and allocate government resources and energy elsewhere. But if the most local medium cannot accomplish this task, then a higher authority is obligated to offer assistance. It is a morally preferable that given the availability of health care in contemporary society, everyone should be able to both afford and receive quality health care. The private sector alone has not been able to meet this task. The cost of caring for the sick (which includes pregnant women) are so much greater than for those who are less sickly that insurance companies have strong incentives to find ways to insure only the healthy—basically, pricing the sick out of the market. As a result, it is arguably valid for the government to seek to carefully de-incentivize this.

    So far from being a rejection of subsidiarity, it is applying it appropriately to the situation. Subsidiarity is a hard principle to reconcile with solidarity and I think at times we end up with one at the expense of the others.

    So the natural question becomes this: what is ‘socialization’ and ‘collectivism’?

    I think the lack of a clear, concrete definition makes this subject to debate — no matter how tempted we are to impose a definition for the Magisterium.

    One might run into a problem with other guidelines laid out in the Catechism:

    “In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men,” (2402).

    “Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good,” (2406).

    My basic point here — and this is not a blanket endorsement of mainstream Democratic proposals to health care, on the contrary — is that solidary and subsidiarity seem to be at war in contemporary political discourse.

    Now if ‘collectivism’ and ‘socialization’ means a movement toward statist socio-economic policies then most certainly the principle of subsidiarity opposes this tendency firmly.

    But…

    I have become weary of appeals to subsidiarity because I find some Catholics’ understanding of the principle to be problematic in that it evolves into a totally libertarian, social Darwinistic perspective. Historically not far removed from the rise of communism and socialism, government intervention (perhaps rightly) is regarded with suspicion.

    The turning point, which I think is not at all Catholic, is when any social interest or collective good that is not totally privatized is suspicious. In some ways (and I cannot go into much detail here), but I find this thinking to be deeply rooted in legal positivist absolutism and social contract theory. In other words, it is the abandonment of ‘ought’ — I have no duties or obligations with my money unless I (as a free and autonomous person) say so. Taxation is hardly legitimate; it is “government theft” — using my money without my permission or explicit sanction from the social contract, which I must agree to.

    This tendency, from this perspective, travels into the question of collective responsibilities and interests (as well as personal ones) in regard to health care.

    I’m not sure if all of this thinking can be reconciled with the Church’s teaching. Certainly an argument can be made by what the mainstream of Democrats proposals being put forth.

    Good post Henry.

  • Tito,

    Yours is a good question. I’ll write the legislation and you go began to lobby other Congressmen to vote with us.

  • I tend toward position 1; however, I think if we are confining this to subsidiarity then the current proposals are in clear violation. Government has a history of and a tendency to ruin the things it states to do. Far too often the results are practically opposite of the stated intentions. Why should we think this would be different?

    Additionally, we already have socialized health care and it is a disaster so how can we think that growing it and centralizing it more will result in anything other than an increase in the magnitude and quantity of the problems.

    Subsidiarity as federalism allows 50 sovereign jurisdictions to compete with one another, copy the positive, and eliminate the negative. One single decision maker leaves nothing with which to compare the benefits and the pitfalls.

    This does not rule out government’s role even at the federal level because it may have to negotiate concerns between the states, provided they cannot work them out themselves.

    For example, Maryland allows abortion in the state provided health plans and mandates that private carriers offer abortion in their plans. Virginia forbids abortion. What is to stop Virginians from crossing the border to procure abortions? If Maryland and Virginia cannot resolve this problem then it would fall to the federal government. Of course, that does not mean that the VA/MD decision should apply to Illinois and Wisconsin. [This can be any other issue, abortion came to mind because John Henry said don’t think about pink elephants so all I can think about is pink elephants]

    As for position number two: The fact that medical care is a right because it can acutely address the health of the human person does not mean that ALL medical or ALL health care is a right. Nevertheless, a minimum level should be provided to everyone who CANNOT provide it for themselves. This does not mean that the medical care, health care, medical insurance, etc. of those who CAN provide for themselves should be interfered with. If the free market is at the disposal of those individuals, which will be the majority, is working well, then it must be left alone. General tax revenue, not necessarily income tax, will be adequate for providing the care for the truly indigent who are not cared for by charities. This is reserved for the truly poor (through no fault of their own) and the uninsurable (through no fault of their own). This will be a small minority of the citizenry of the USA.

    It is a far greater mistake to provide care for all at the expense of some because that is unsustainable and eventually no one will have any medical care whatsoever. As for doing something as opposed to doing nothing: Agreed. However, that something should be to remove the restrictions on the truly enterprising medical, health and insurance providers and to stop rewarding the rent-seeking corporations that used the government to impose these restrictions in the first place. Additionally without addressing the monopoly of the Federal Reserve and their perpetual inflation of the money supply as well as the trial lawyers, all other efforts to ‘fix’ health care are irrelevant.

  • I want to add that Tito directly points out an overlooked distinction that I think could have been the real compromise on this issue — in America, there is not just a federal government, there are 50 state governments that are indeed more local.

    We use the term ‘government’ but I sense we’re often alluding to the federal government.

  • Eric,

    I’d be more than happy to work with you on this. Shoot, I’ll even register as a Democrat, so you and I can both be marginalized for our fervent faith together!

  • Tito and Eric,

    Good points. It is equally important to note that we also have county and local governments. The governing authority closest to the indigent that need to be served is going to be more personal and less beaurcratic, therefore more effective.

    Additionally, local charities and charitable individuals would have more opportunity to fill the gap and probably even leave the governments out of it.

    At the federal level government is far more prone to end up serving itself with little to no recourse for the people at large. Centralization tends to oligarchy.

  • American Knight,

    And then states can decide to pass the money down to county governments or issue refunds to their state citizens.

    On another note, AK, time for you to put up a pic. Those modernist-abstract gravatars do you no justice.

  • Isn’t it important to note here the word “cannot”? Not “will not” or “are not,” but “cannot” is important to subsidiarity. Most states offer some sort of insurance to the unemployed / underemployed (I know this…my children are on it…).

    Of course, this question seems to turn on a matter of semantics. If one insists that the issue is “everyone has federal insurance” than ipso facto, no state can possibly meet the demands. On the other hand, many states do insure the needy, and many uninsured could afford their own health care, which seems to meet the demands of subsidiarity nicely.

  • Why stop at the state level? Give the vouchers to the individuals.

  • Jonathan,

    Excellent point. Like my earlier comment, Massachusetts and Hawaii already offer something like this to some degree.

    RestrainedRadical,

    That would be my favorite, send the vouchers directly to the individuals.

  • John/Tito

    Reading a little deeper nay help this discussion.

    The section on Subsidiarity runs from 1881 to 1885 and the COMPENDIUM
    OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH, chapter IV section four has a more detailed discussion.

    185. Subsidiarity is among the most constant and characteristic directives of the Church’s social doctrine and has been present since the first great social encyclical. It is impossible to promote the dignity of the person without showing concern for the family, groups, associations, local territorial realities; in short, for that aggregate of economic, social, cultural, sports-oriented, recreational, professional and political expressions to which people spontaneously give life and which make it possible for them to achieve effective social growth.

    Snip

    186. The necessity of defending and promoting the original expressions of social life is emphasized by the Church in the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, in which the principle of subsidiarity is indicated as Nb>a most important principle of “social philosophy”.

    Snip

    On the basis of this principle, all societies of a superior order must adopt attitudes of help (“subsidium”) — therefore of support, promotion, development — with respect to lower-order societies.

    Subsidiarity, understood in the positive sense as economic, institutional or juridical assistance offered to lesser social entities, entails a corresponding series of negative implications that require the State to refrain from anything that would de facto restrict the existential space of the smaller essential cells of society. Their initiative, freedom and responsibility must not be supplanted.

    Bold text emphasis is mine.

    I think the principle of subsidiarity says a little more than saying if the lower unit can do it better it should be done at the lower level and the reverse for the higher level. Intermediate social institutions often have the right to their own decision making and operation. The fact that the higher level of society may not agree with the decisions is irrelevant, unless the problems caused rise to the level of harming the common good.

    The principle of subsidiary is rooted in the need to protect human dignity, an institution that is to large, and with out effective intermediate levels makes the individual to an anonymous cog that has no dignity. The larger unit may in an economic sense be more efficient, but if locating a funciton there tends to harm human dignity the less efficient lower level would be preferred. A good example is that while the Pope is the head of the church the bishops have authority in their own right and the Pope should not intervene in the internal operations of their diocese under normal circumstances no matter how much he disagrees. I think we all know of seveal dioceses where the ocal bishops prunential decisions scream of stupidity, but in fact the bishop, was acting in good faith with in the confines of the faith.

    When considering the common good the Churches Social teaching is that the common good protects the individual, even the least individual. Many secular people using the term see it as meaning abanding the least individual for the more efficient operation of society. Thus some secualar persons see abortion as promoting the common good by getting rid of marginal individuals. But their language is often reminiscent of Catholic teaching if one is not listening carefully, though they are often (unknowingly) promoting the opposite.

    I think that the principle of subsidiarity requires a substantial level of evidece that, not mearly health care can be run on a national level, and run more economic efficientcy at the national level but than othe levels but that it provides for individuls and their doctors to make good health care decions on the indivudual basis. I find the case lacking.

    It seems to me, that even in the doubtful case that all the claims for National Health care could be met, it would de facto restrict the existential space of the smaller essential cells of society to effectivly provide healt care to individuals.

  • There are several important prudential arguments as to why National Health Care is not a good choice from a Subsidiarity position.

    Economy of scale. Consolidating operations of any type can produce an economy of scale that allows for more efficient and effective operation. But sooner or later you reach a point of diminishing returns where the additional consolidation starts reducing efficiency and effectiveness. It seems to that part of the problem with health care is that the current organizations providing it are long past the point of diminishing returns. Further consolidation would only increase the inefficiency and effectiveness of heath care delivery.

    Predatory pricing. Monopolies engage in predatory pricing unless there something to stop them. This is often because the normal pressures on an organization push the monopoly in that direction, rather than a premeditated sense of greed. Part of the high cost of heath care that parts of the health care system are limited or quasi monopolies. Moving heath care into a monopoly can only increase this effect. Government regulation can often restrict monopolies but when the government is the operator of the monopoly the regulator and the operator are the same and the regulator function loses. No necessarily greed, just the effect of thousands of decisions responding to normal operatons.

    Living wage. The proposal will move about 20% of the economy into the governmental sector. The government gets money by taxes, even if they are called something else. Yes paying taxes is a duty, but those who levy the taxes have duties to insure they are just and do not cause harm, certainly they should not be so high as to reduce wages to the point that they are no longer a living wage. How this is to be prevented does not seem to be a major item of discussion or consideration by supporters. But a shift of this size could easily do this or cause other distortions not consistent with Catholic social teaching.

    Human dignity. R.J. Rummel, Professor Emeritus of the University of Hawaii, is one of the worlds experts on mass murder (not just genocide) by governments. His conclusion of alife time of study is that the single predictor of government committed mass is the unchallenged ability to do it. This has nothing to do with ideology, if the ability is there sooner or later it will happen. A national health care system will give that kind of unchallenged authority to the government. Not that people set out to do that, or the establishment of “death panels,” but dening care, providing poorer care of even providing fatal drugs will be an easy solution to many day to day problems. Any one who could challenge these decisions is appointed by the same people making the decisions and under the same pressures. Even if things to not rise to the level that Dr. Rommel’s theory would predict, decisions contary to the human dignity of the patients will become more and more common.
    See his power Kills website and his book Death by Government

  • Hank, excellent comments. I was especially struck by the last part of your post.

    Earlier this week, I came across this post at Belmont Club. Now, that is a secular (albeit conservative) blog and I have no idea if the author, Richard Fernandez, is a believing Christian or not. And the blog post was about the rise of the BNP in the UK, not healthcare. Nonetheless, I think this comment connects to the points you have made:

    For as long as man imagined himself to be sacred and accountable to the Creator he stood at the center of polity. The state was there to serve him and not the reverse. Today he has lost that central place and is no more or less than a collection of curiously animated chemical substances with a market value of less then fifty dollars which the state has deigned to keep alive until some bureaucratic panel decides it is too expensive to do so. Just as Global Warming can be understood at one level as an attempt to bring nature into the purview of politics, it is impossible to understand the Left’s fixation with abortion except as a sacramental affirmation of the state’s power over man. The strident insistence on abortion on demand goes way beyond any conceivable need to prevent backroom abortions, or even an affirmation of a woman’s right to choose. It is really an absolute display of the power of politics over life. Abortion’s principal utility is as a stake driven through the heart of the notion of human sacredness, which once performed, ought to prevent its revival entirely.

    That is why I wonder about left-leaning Catholics who seem to assume that a large nanny state will happily co-exist with religion. The larger the state gets, the more it will view religious groups not as valuable co-partners, but as threats to the state’s authority. Forget the Bible and the Pope – the government will tell you what is right and wrong.

  • Pingback: Round Up – November 3, 2009 « Restrained Radical

It's Just Legislation

Tuesday, September 22, AD 2009

Having a number of fairly liberal friends and acquaintances, it struck me recently how many blog posts and facebook updates I’d seen lately that began, “I was just watching one of the anti-health-reform protests and I’m just so angry right now.”

I get that many on the progressive side are very, very excited about whichever of the major proposals in the congress at this point ends up being the chosen one by Obama (despite the fact that none of them actually get that close to being what progressives have wanted in regards to health care reform for all these years), if only because they’re very excited to see Obama succeed at whatever he tries. But it strikes me that there’s a difference in how people think about the state and about legislation at play here as well. Thinking back, I can’t recall any example of a piece of legislation on any topic that I was so excited about that it made me angry to see people out protesting against it. Sure, there have been a few things that I’ve strongly supported (like the marriage amendment ballot initiative in California; the national partial birth abortion ban, etc.) or strongly opposed. But there’s nothing I found myself so worked up about that I felt it necessary to watch the protests for or against and then get furious that there were opponents out there — whether their sentiments were fair and honest or not.

My thinking would tend to be, “Hey, it’s just legislation. We win or we lose.” But then, that springs from a basic assumption that things will not change very much from the status quo, that the government will work no miracles for us or against us, and that on a day to day basis the government basically is and should be invisible to us. That seems to be a set of assumptions which many on the more progressive side of the political realm do not share.

Continue reading...

21 Responses to It's Just Legislation

  • That struck me at first too. I think on reflection, though, that the reasons it is upsetting are fairly clear:

    1) Liberals had/have very high hopes for Obama; and they’ve had to wait 15 years for someone to try health care reform again after the HillaryCare debacle.

    2) If health care reform fails, it will be damaging for him and for the political party they support.

    3) In addition to wanting Democrats to succeed, they (like everyone else) think the U.S. health care system is in desperate need of reform, and believe that this particular legislation is the best way to fix it.

    4) Much of the criticism of the legislation – as with the opposition to any legislation – is based on fear-mongering and distortions.

    Put all these together, and it seems like the good Democrats are trying to do a good thing for the country, but the evil Republicans working for evil purposes are harming the country by lying to it. If I shared a few more of those premises, I’d be upset also.

  • JH,
    is based on fear-mongering and distortions.

    or is it based on reasonable expectations of what government bureaucrats will do based on observation and deduction?

    I think the point being made here is very interesting. I feel disdain the gay activists, tree-huggers and animal rights activists, but not anything approaching anger (except when they go beyond protesting to terrorism). I am angry at private business who take MY MONEY and spend it on liberal causes, or when the government does it, but if people want to invest their own time and money into such nonsense, let it be.

  • Speaking from the progressive side, I can’t say I’m very excited or angry at the current situation. However, the snippet above struck me:

    ” … on a day to day basis the government basically is and should be invisible to us …”

    … as being very much akin to the attitude of bullies, or worse, criminals. “Don’t watch us too closely,” accompanied by an Eddie Haskell grin.

    My concern is that when government (aka the law) looks the other way, the rich and powerful have free reign to do as they wish. The small government meme is pretty much a non-starter for Republicans. They actually like Big Gov when it keeps the gravy running to the corporate train station. The main thing I’m looking for (and don’t expect to see it from the Dems) is an end to corporate lawlessness.

  • … as being very much akin to the attitude of bullies, or worse, criminals. “Don’t watch us too closely,” accompanied by an Eddie Haskell grin.

    Todd, the key phrase was ‘on a day to day basis’. Now, on a day to day basis, you are more than likely (in a metropolitan area) to catch sight of postmen, cops, firemen, street cleaners, garbage collectors, ploughmen, men in manholes, or city parks and forestry employees. It is rather excessively literal-minded to infer that these folk are those to which he was referring. None of the foregoing are going to protect you from Citibank or Texaco, by the way..

    My concern is that when government (aka the law) looks the other way, the rich and powerful have free reign to do as they wish. The small government meme is pretty much a non-starter for Republicans. They actually like Big Gov when it keeps the gravy running to the corporate train station.

    Barney Frank and Robert Rubin are Democrats.

  • I think the invisibility of government concept is more akin to a good referee. While keeping the game fair and within the rules, you shouldn’t really notice he’s there. In other words, he shouldn’t become a deciding factor in the game.

  • … as being very much akin to the attitude of bullies, or worse, criminals. “Don’t watch us too closely,” accompanied by an Eddie Haskell grin.

    My concern is that when government (aka the law) looks the other way, the rich and powerful have free reign to do as they wish.

    See, I guess my thought is: the government is pretty much run by the rich and the powerful, so when we go in the direction of letting the government run more things, it’s unlikely to result in the rich and the powerful being reigned in very much. Sure, they may take out a few of their own who cross the lines, but overall the government will look out for those that run it. And the fact that we can vote doesn’t change the fact there’s an aristocracy of sorts that actually ends up holding office and running things — whichever party wins out.

    So I have very little expectation that a larger government will serve to reign in the excesses of large companies. Big business and big government get along too well. But government is very, very good at making life hard for ordinary people and especially small businesses. Trying to start and run a small side-business is an incredible education into how difficult and intrusive government can be in ways that do very little to increase the safety of the “little guy”.

    Rather than relying on one party or the other to magically change that dynamic, I’d rather the government keep its brief as small as possible.

  • it seems to me that “small government” can actually be effective at keeping big business from illegal behavior. I’ll take a state or county prosecutor who must go to his constituents for re-election over an appointed federal prosecutor who serves at the whim of political interests in Washington.

  • Agreed, Matt. I wouldn’t see the “small government” approach as meaning “big companies get away with whatever they want” so much as:

    – Get rid of all subsidies.
    – A simple tax code and tarrif code (or ideally, simply free trade — real free trade, not 200 page “free trade” agreements)
    – A clear and fairly simple law code
    – Rigorous enforcement of that code

    I’d tend to see that as, in the end, being much more able to protect the “little guy” than a faith that a subsidy here, a tax break here, an extra tax there, and lots of regulators running around all over will somehow result in an optimal result — when the only people who can hire enough lawyers and consultants to understand it all at that point are the largest entities.

    But then, that’s what makes me fairly conservative…

  • “- Get rid of all subsidies.
    – A simple tax code and tarrif code (or ideally, simply free trade — real free trade, not 200 page “free trade” agreements)
    – A clear and fairly simple law code
    – Rigorous enforcement of that code”

    A nice list. Too bad American conservatives, as a whole, and especially Republicans, don’t believe in any of this. It’s really a matter of favoritism, and it happens both federally and locally.

    It gets back to the point about “just legislation.” It would be nice to see it. I share the skepticism that major party politics are in favor of any sort of change, be it abortion legislation, insurance reform, or whatnot.

  • Be I not mistaken, but I believe that reports are that Wall Street donates more to the Democratic Party than to the Republican.

    This echoes George Steinbrenner explanation of why he donated to the Dems: “They’re better for business”.

  • Gabriel,

    I believe that is true. One big contributor to the Dems was Bernie Maddoff:

    http://spectator.org/archives/2009/01/05/de-funder-of-the-left

  • See, I guess my thought is: the government is pretty much run by the rich and the powerful,

    Some years ago, I read an essay by a political scientist deconstructing a book by Ralph Nader, Who Runs Congress. The conclusion of said academic: “Congress runs Congress”, just in ways Mr. Nader does not like.

    I think you will find if you research matters that the generically wealthy are not notably influential, except perhaps in fairly restricted spheres. Institutions and organized constituencies have influence, and they are motivated to acquire it in part because of extant state intervention in their sectors. That would be the casino banks, to be sure, but also the United Auto Workers, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Association of Retired Persons, and (on the local level) the real estate business. The shnooks that run Citigroup are big rich; the remainder are not.

    I also suspect that you will discover that much of the trouble you have with commercial law and regulation is the result of accretion, inattention, and incompetence. With reference to another of our threads, legislators who cannot be bothered to come up with intelligent alternatives to ‘three-strikes’ laws (a simple problem) likely are unwilling to put the effort into a more intricate exercise of scraping the barnacles off the federal or state commercial code (as amended by regulation and case law). I had an instructor many years ago much enamored of public choice theory who maintained that William Proxmire was nearly alone in Congress in concerning himself with the actual implementation of policy by federal agencies, the rest of them figuring there was nothing in it for them.

    A nice list. Too bad American conservatives, as a whole, and especially Republicans, don’t believe in any of this. It’s really a matter of favoritism, and it happens both federally and locally.

    Todd, I think you will look in vain for literature in economics journals or in opinion magazines making the case for business subsidies. You might find it in the business press, but not elsewhere. As for legislators, politicians are politicians. They commonly, though not universally, fellate constituency groups. The notion that this is a peculiarly partisan phenomenon cannot be taken seriously. Ask yourself who stood athwart history yelling STOP! to efforts to reform the accounting and improve the capitalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or who has been among those impeding debt-for-equity swaps to recapitalize the megabanks. His name is Barney Frank and he runs the House Banking Committee.

  • Art Deco,

    Good point. A more precise formulation would be that influence is predominatly had by those who have a strong interest in the outcome and who have the time to make their wishes heard. Doubly so if they contol either money or large numbers of votes — or better yet, both.

    This certainly means that anyone who is rich or powerful can get a good hearing if they want to, but unions and interest groups also get a lot of play. Though in a sense, I’d argue that ability pretty much defines you as “powerfu” even if not “rich”.

    I guess what it seems to me is that since our government has its finger in so many pies, legislators really have very little time to investigate any given topic, so they tend to listen to whoever is willing to sit down with them and explain to them how things ought to be — especially if its also someone who supports them with votes or money.

  • Art, I’m not sure exactly for what you’re making your case. I think I’ve already stated my opinion that politicians being owned is non-partisan, generally speaking.

    Getting back to DC’s original point, it’s largely why my spectatorship of the current political cycle is without excitement or anger. I confess that when corporations get nervous about legislation, that’s usually a good marker. There’s also the entertainment value to see so-called “values” conservatives wring their hands, and get caught up in a degree of hypocrisy. That’s pretty much the most I can wring out of current events. What about y’all?

  • Well, Todd, I am occasionally reminded that politicians are not the only poseurs in this world.

  • I confess that when corporations get nervous about legislation, that’s usually a good marker.

    I’m not sure why seeing a particular group of corporations “nervous” about legislation would necessarily be a good thing. Corporations survive and thrive via a Smithian self-interest — that is, a self interest which is only fulfilled through fulfilling the self interest of others. It’s possible this alleged nervousness would indicate that, in the case of health care reform, insurance companies are in danger of making lower profits. But then, as I wrote about a while ago, insurance companies are not really making profits which are all that high in the first place. If they’re concerned that their revenues will be going down rather than their profit margins, that would almost certainly be an indication that people would be getting less health care overall — as would, for instance, be the case with getting rid of the MediCare Advantage program, as the Administration wants to do.

    Now, some would clearly consider that to be a good thing. The administration is obviously convinced that the “extra” benefits people are getting through MediCare Advantage are not actually of great benefit to the seniors getting them (or else are things they can afford to pay for on their own) but clearly it’s stuff that the seniors themselves are rather attached to. And so in the end, it’s they who are rather more nervous than the corporation.

    There’s also the entertainment value to see so-called “values” conservatives wring their hands, and get caught up in a degree of hypocrisy.

    I’m not really clear here the hypocrisy comes in. “Values voters” who are conservative don’t generally trust the government to do things well, and they particularly don’t trust politicians who are big fans of abortion and euthanasia, so I’m not really sure why it’s inconsistent of them not to trust the party of abortion and euthanasia to reform the health care industry in a way that would in any way be good for the population.

  • “I’m not sure why seeing a particular group of corporations “nervous” about legislation would necessarily be a good thing.”

    It’s an anti-narcissism thing. Corporations often have interests at odds from the good of society.

    “I’m not really clear here the hypocrisy comes in.”

    Neither major political party is sufficiently pro-life, assuming one includes issues like torture in one’s firmament of conception to natural death.

  • Corporations often have interests at odds from the good of society.

    And yet corporations only succeed in existing by providing some sizeable number of people with something that they want or need. Indeed, one could well argue that they are much more directly at the mercy of the people’s will than government is.

    Neither major political party is sufficiently pro-life, assuming one includes issues like torture in one’s firmament of conception to natural death.

    Given that Obama has made virtually no changes on “issues like torture” from the status quo of Bush’s second term, I’m not clear how this is decisive, much less relevant to the health care debate.

  • I find this discussion very interesting. I think we are all in some kind of a fog, caught between the Republican’ts and the Demoncrats. Is there really a difference? I know Republican’ts are pro-Life, right? I don’t believe that. I think they pay life lip-service. I am not saying ALL R or ALL D are that way, I am talking about the party in general.

    This is not Right vs. Left, this is a hallucination. It is Right vs. Wrong and both of them are often wrong. The fact is that all American’s should be conservative and none should be Republican or Democrat in their current incarnations. Why? Because the founding of this nation is inherently conservative, despite the fact that the founders can be described as liberals (in the classical form). This is true because the Constitution is supposed to be the Supreme Law of the land and it has respect for The Supreme Law’s of God (this is good even for secular humanists because they can only survive in a nation based on Christian law). We all should want to CONSERVE the Constitution and run government within those CONSERVATIVE parameters. Of course this means most of the actions of government for the last 100 years for BOTH parties would be illicit. This is true because neither party is conservative although the elephants have brief moments of clarity and then slip back into their old habits of being Democrats from 40 years ago.

    If, in fact, we were all Constitutionally conservative, then we can all make the statement that it is ‘just a piece of legislation’, which would do something within the enumerated parameters of the Constitution. We can then trust that the delegates would only be able to exercise their limited authority on issues that would be virtually invisible to all of us because our state an commonwealth laws would be more relevant, declaration of war excluded. If Congress set the weight of our money and the immoral, usurious, so-called Federal Reserve cartel didn’t exist then funding for BIG government would be severely curtailed and conservative thrift would rule, which facilitates a more moral rule. The Constitution is designed to create a free-trade zone within the borders of the USA, ensure republican government, set standards of weight, money, etc. and settle disputes that may arise between the states (preferably without invading any of them). Those would be ‘just pieces of legislation’ and they would also be more likely to be Just.

    A Constitutional Republic with sound money and a Christian-moral base would not be the welfare/warfare giant it is today. The truly poor would be raised up, instead of kept as an excuse for larger welfare departments while they are socially engineered to be slaves. The corpratist interests would have to be effective in order to survive in a competitive environment; rather than securing welfare for the corporations from the government largesse and controlling the government in a sick, incestuous relationship. Wars would need to actually be just and when war is declared it would be expedient and necessary to win and win quickly with superior numbers to reduce damage, cost and loss of lives.

    The constant bickering between so-called liberals/progressives and so-called conservatives is only about the methods and intent of the pre-determined outcome which is simply MORE government. And we are all happy with it when it is AGREEING with us and ANGRY when it isn’t. The truth is it isn’t good either way in its current form and seeks only to make us the DIVIDED states of America. We all need to reach back to our authentic CONSERVATIVE roots and return this country to the place she belongs. Bastion and beacon of human liberty so men are free to seek salvation or perdition.

  • DarwinCatholic writes Tuesday, September 22, 2009 A.D.
    “My concern is that when government (aka the law) looks the other way, the rich and powerful have free rein to do as they wish.
    See, I guess my thought is: the government is pretty much run by the rich and the powerful, so when we go in the direction of letting the government run more things, it’s unlikely to result in the rich and the powerful being reigned in very much. Sure, they may take out a few of their own who cross the lines, but overall the government will look out for those that run it. And the fact that we can vote doesn’t change the fact there’s an aristocracy of sorts that actually ends up holding office and running things — whichever party wins out”.

    The subject was thoroughly and repeatedly discussed by GKC. He referred to the plutocrats, a group that came to have the power in England in the early 19th Century. It is pretty much the same in the U.S. today.

    I note simply in passing that corporations [actually executives, who run the corporations despite the stockholders and their “representatives”, the board of directors] are not particularly the villains. They are part and parcelof the U.S. polity.

  • The problem we are discussing is exactly what the genius of the Founding Fathers was seeking to prevent.

    By expanding government well beyond the Constitutional parameters and delegating power that the Constitution forbids to be delegated – control of the money supply – to a private corporation, we have distorted what American government is supposed to be.

    We have created a powerful monster that is a highly desirous prize to secure power and wealth and lord it over everyone else. A small cabal of unscrupulous and arrogant individuals now have the ability to control the fate of millions of people and trillions of units of money, which consolidates the power and the wealth.

    These are the ideological descendants of the same group that did it in France and Germany and Britian beginning centuries ago. Only now they are more bold and powerful.

    This Republic was made for a moral and religious people precisely because without that strong moral backbone for the governed it is inevitable that government will be used for sinister purposes and sadly it is by the consent of the governed. The elite insiders have illegally blended government and industry in a fascist concoction, but not enough people are on the take — yet. Once the receivers of government wealth transfers exceed the producers it is game over. We need not go there.

    We need to return to limited, consitutional government and federalism (subsidiarity). Once the Constitution is restored, then the power of the oligarchy will vanish. Sadly, this is something that Republicans and Democrats and everyone in between should agree on. Yet, we bicker becuase we like the power when our guy or our party is seemingly in control of the machine. This is a false illusion. The real control is always hidden. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, just tear at each other’s throats to be the winners and have your inneffectual idiot stand as figurehead next. Mmm . . . what’s in this Kool-Aid?

Who Says No

Thursday, August 20, AD 2009

People at various points in the ideological spectrum have pointed out it’s a little odd to see conservatives objecting to the idea of the government deciding what medical procedures ought not to be covered, when they’re apparently okay with insurance companies deciding what procedures ought not be covered, or with people not being able to afford procedures because they lack good insurance. However, it strikes me this difference may actually make a fair amount of sense, both for some pragmatic reasons and some emotional/ideological ones.

Continue reading...

6 Responses to Who Says No

  • Mark Steyn:

    http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YmI3YzBjMTI4NDVjMjViMThjM2VhMzQwYjY4YjdkODE=

    Right now, if I want a hip replacement, it’s between me and my doctor; the government does not have a seat at the table. The minute it does, my hip’s needs are subordinate to national hip policy, which in turn is subordinate to macro budgetary considerations.

    ***
    You’re accepting that the state has jurisdiction over your hip, and your knee, and your prostate and everything else. And once you accept that proposition the fellows who get to make the “ruling” are, ultimately, a death panel. Usually, they call it something nicer — literally, like Britain’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

    ***
    After my weekend column recounted the experience of a recent British visitor of mine, I received an e-mail from a gentleman in Glasgow who cannot get an x-ray for his back — because he has no sovereignty over his back. His back is merely part of the overall mass of Scottish backs, to which a government budget has been allocated, but alas one which does not run to x-rays.

    Government “panels” making “rulings” over your body: Acceptance of that concept is what counts.

  • After my weekend column recounted the experience of a recent British visitor of mine, I received an e-mail from a gentleman in Glasgow who cannot get an x-ray for his back — because he has no sovereignty over his back.

    See, I’m instinctively opposed to greater government involvement, but I can’t see it ever happening in America. X-rays aren’t that expensive, and he would always be able to buy an X-ray on his own dime. X-rays aren’t that expensive. It’s not a conservative principle to demand that government welfare programs pay for everything imaginable.

  • I’d say it is when the government program forecloses other options.

  • But I don’t see how a government program here could even conceivably prevent anybody from getting an X-ray on their own dime.

  • “People prefer making hard choices themselves — even if it’s not much of a “choice”. “”

    I hope this is true!

  • Bonus, if your insurance company sucks and you go buy something else, you don’t have to keep paying the old insurance company.

Catholic Health Care: Our Lady of Hope Clinic

Monday, August 3, AD 2009

As Catholics, and other Americans, continue the debate over national solutions to help the uninsured, Our Lady of Hope Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin is helping treat the uninsured one person at a time. Long time reader Steve Karlen is the development director for the clinic, which opened in April of this year. OLHC has a unique model, based on Dr. Kloess and Dr. Johnson’s desire to provide outstanding primary care through a structure designed in accordance with Catholic principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.

Like the increasingly popular private practice or closed practice model, OLHC accepts up to a set number of patients, which due to OLHC’s non profit model are called benefactors. The limit is set at 600, which has not yet been met, so the clinic is still accepting memberships. Benefactors receive unlimitted primary care through the clinic with no additional charges or co-pays beyond the annual benefactor fee — which is set at a 1200 dollars with various discounts which can apply for couples, children, or younger patients. (This pricing is comparable to other closed practice/concierge-style doctor’s offices.) Like a closed practice, benefactors can make same day appointments any time and have direct access to their doctors via phone and email. They are expected to carry insurance for specialist, prescription and hospital care — however benefactors can often save money overall on health care by switching to a high deductible plan for care not covered by the clinic.

Continue reading...

4 Responses to Catholic Health Care: Our Lady of Hope Clinic

  • Thank you so much for posting this article. We appreciate any opportunity to get the word out about this clinic–particularly as we just opened this spring. Anyone interested in supporting our efforts can do so from the PayPal icon in the lower-left corner of the Web site.

    If you’re interested in following us more closely, find us on Facebook by searching “Our Lady of Hope Clinic” and become a fan.

  • I think this is clearly a deeply Catholic response to the problems which many of those in our communities suffer, and I hope that more such clinics will follow the example of Our Lady of Hope and St. Luke’s.

    Indeed! That’s precisely the type of things we need to do to reform the system. I would argue that the largest factor in our needing health care reform is because we strayed from the subsidiarity/solidarity/charity/corporal works of mercy idea. Health insurance was a good idea and in keeping with subsidiarity, however the effect of it becoming a fringe benefit of employment and the costs being fueled and supported by employers transformed the industry and how we view health care for the worse. GovMed will only exacerbate the problem.

    Great work, Steve, and God bless you for your efforts to care for our brothers.

  • It sounds like very good work they do. I hope something similar appears in the Diocese of Arlington.

  • Yay!

    If this can get a lot of good word-of-mouth around, maybe even more will pop up….

Basing Victory on Failure

Monday, July 20, AD 2009

It is one of the interesting contradictions of politics that political factions sometimes rely on the problems they seek to eliminate for their existence. For instance, it has been widely noted that while it is generally part of the Democratic set of ideals to reduce economic disparity, while Republicans tend to be accepting of it, Democrats are most successfully elected in areas with high economic disparity and Republicans are most successfully elected in areas with economic homogeneity. One might imagine that this is because those who actually experience inequality see the folly of their actions and switch to become Democratic voters, and perhaps there’s some level of truth to this, but still it seems odd that the Democratic hold on a region strengthens as its inequality increases. In other words, they do better if their goal of creating a more egalitarian economy fails.

I was reminded of this reading an article this morning about a group of newly elected Democrats in the House who are from some of the nation’s wealthiest congressional districts. (Democrats now control 14 out of the 25 richest congressional districts in the country.) These congressmen are worried about a provision in the pending health care legislation which would fund much of the new spending with a tax increase of 1-5.4% on income groups making $350k/yr or more.

I don’t have an objection in principle to taxes that hit the rich harder than the poor. As was observed about the reasonableness of robbing banks (if one is going to be a robber): That’s where the money is.

Continue reading...

26 Responses to Basing Victory on Failure

  • “but still it seems odd that the Democratic hold on a region strengthens as its inequality increases. In other words, they do better if their goal of creating a more egalitarian economy fails.”

    About as odd, from another perspective, of doctors doing better when an epidemic breaks out.

  • It’s like the Republicans’ popularity rising whenever the U.S. gets struck by terrorism…even under the former’s watch.

  • My personal suspicion would be that the former is the explanation.

    Both.

  • But if the more doctors you got, the worse the epidemic became, might you after a while start to think that perhaps the doctors weren’t doing any good?

  • [I]t seems odd that the Democratic hold on a region strengthens as its inequality increases. In other words, they do better if their goal of creating a more egalitarian economy fails.

    I would tend to agree with Joe in not finding this quite so odd. MM pointed out a while back that Republicans tend to do better in states with higher rates of divorce, teen births, etc. I think you have the same phenomenon in both cases. Democrats say “elect me, and I’ll do something about the problem of economic inequality.” That’s likely to be an effective appeal if inequality seems like a problem to voters than if it doesn’t. Likewise, Republicans say “elect me, and I’ll do something about the decline in family values.” That appeal is more likely to resonate with voters if they think there has been such a decline and view it as a problem.

  • It’s like the Republicans’ popularity rising whenever the U.S. gets struck by terrorism…even under the former’s watch.

    Whenever? That would seem like a very small number of events to draw a trend from. Did Republicans gain support after the first World Trade Center bombing during the Clinton administration, or after the OKC bombing?

  • I’d certainly concede that to an extent, Joe & Blackadder. Though it seems to me that if one votes in Democratic local governments and representatives, and yet things still keep getting more and more unequal, one would have to start wondering after a while if the Democrats were actually good at reducing inequality or just good at appealing to both the rich and poor at the same time.

    It doesn’t seem like 30+ years of Democratic policies are able to help much in places like DC, Chicago, Detroit or New Orleans, but then, it may be that large cities in those regions are in bad shape for some unrelated reason.

    If it would help, I’ll consent to retract that side remark, since my main point was that funding all of Obama’s initiatives soley via taxes on the rich suggests both an intermittant revenue source and also a certain lack of faith on their part on the likelihood of their actually achieving greater income equality.

  • “Though it seems to me that if one votes in Democratic local governments and representatives, and yet things still keep getting more and more unequal, one would have to start wondering after a while if the Democrats were actually good at reducing inequality or just good at appealing to both the rich and poor at the same time.”

    Well, I am sympathetic to this point of view – Democrats have been, at least from the perspective of many leftists, been ‘moving to the right’ on economic issues for 30 years. The Bill Clinton years ushered in a “new” Democratic Party under the Democratic Leadership Council, and that is when much of this shift took place.

    Of course from a right-wing perspective, Democrats are still either socialists or close enough to. I think that’s a ridiculous assessment, having once belonged to a socialist organization myself – one that, like most other socialist groups, do nothing but complain about the Democrats (much in the same way, I might imagine, that people in the capital L Libertarian Party or Constitution Party complain about Republicans).

    “It doesn’t seem like 30+ years of Democratic policies are able to help much in places like DC, Chicago, Detroit or New Orleans, but then, it may be that large cities in those regions are in bad shape for some unrelated reason.”

    What did Democratic policies have to do without outsourcing, downsizing, ‘restructuring’ and all of the other processes that ushered in the disintegration of America’s manufacturing base that served as the economic backbone of these areas?

    Since I brought up socialism, I’ll paraphrase something Trotsky said about the Soviet economy – even good policies can’t turn manure into gold.

    “If it would help, I’ll consent to retract that side remark, since my main point was that funding all of Obama’s initiatives soley via taxes on the rich suggests both an intermittant revenue source and also a certain lack of faith on their part on the likelihood of their actually achieving greater income equality.”

    I also think this is a stretch, because few people narrow their vision of social equality to “income equality”. Wealth inequality or unequal living standards/conditions could be equalized – as they were in the past – by a transfer of wealth from the top to the bottom in the form of social programs without increasing anyone’s income.

    That said, I agree with you in substance – taxing the rich only isn’t a fair policy. Everyone needs to contribute to the common good. Those who have more, should contribute more and not complain about it. But even those who have less are obliged to contribute.

  • It doesn’t seem like 30+ years of Democratic policies are able to help much in places like DC, Chicago, Detroit or New Orleans,

    You can eliminate the “seem” when talking about New Orleans.

  • Oh, and there was not a complete collapse of our manufacturing base in those areas during this time…

  • “Democrats have been, at least from the perspective of many leftists, been ‘moving to the right’ on economic issues for 30 years.”

    That movement began to turn around with Howard Dean. With the ascent of Barack Obama, the far left of the party has the reigns.

    “What did Democratic policies have to do without outsourcing, downsizing, ‘restructuring’ and all of the other processes that ushered in the disintegration of America’s manufacturing base that served as the economic backbone of these areas?”

    These areas (DC, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans) were in rough shape before outsourcing etc. The recessions in the 70’s were brought on by a lack of competitiveness (as well as some oil shocks) from which certain economic sectors (automotive, to name one) still suffer. The policies you cite were reactions corporations took to deal with the situation, and which exacerbated the local economic impact. Perhaps the question should have been “what did unions and corporations have to do with the disintegration of the U.S. manufacturing base?”

    “Wealth inequality or unequal living standards/conditions could be equalized – as they were in the past – by a transfer of wealth from the top to the bottom in the form of social programs without increasing anyone’s income.”

    As the IRS will tell you, the receipt of goods or services in kind is an increase in income. (They get rather testy if you do not report such things.) If you are talking about public libraries, parks, etc. it is another matter.

    Re the topic of the post, it may be helpful to view the “greed” map at http://minoroutside.blogspot.com/2009/05/bible-belt-or-swath-of-sin.html and compare it to a electoral map (such as http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/map.html)

  • people go into business to make money not to take care of the so called “poor.” you take a large enough percentage of money from the rich business man and he will try to move his business elsewhere where he can make more money. you tie up his business so he can’t move it, he leaves it accepts the loss and takes whats left of his wealth elsewhere.

    and you’re suprised…

  • Oh, and there was not a complete collapse of our manufacturing base in those areas during this time…

    In some cases. I’m not sure DC every had much of a manufacturing base, did it?

    At the same time, one might ask: What exactly was it that caused those manufacturing base cities to double down on unionized manufacturing repeatedly, allowing cities further south like Atlanta, Nashville, and Houston to grab so much of the more diversified economic opportunities coming available?

    people go into business to make money not to take care of the so called “poor.” you take a large enough percentage of money from the rich business man and he will try to move his business elsewhere where he can make more money.

    I’m not sure if this is part of what you have in mind, but one of the things that will tend to drive people’s profit motive harder in a highly heterogeneous society is that people do not necessarily trust the political arbiters of the common good to dispose of their money as well as they would themselves. Someone who wants to hold onto his earnings is not necessarily planning to blow it all on lighting his Cuban cigars with $1000 bills. He may be wanting to use that money to start an additional business (which will provide jobs) or to fund some charitable cause, etc. A desire to control what happens with the money one earns is not necessarily “greed”.

  • “people go into business to make money not to take care of the so called “poor.””

    And people avoid libertarianism like the plague when those who identify with it speak this way. The “so-called poor” – as if they didn’t exist. “To make money” – as if that in itself were a worthy goal.

    Catholic social teaching may not presume to insist upon what economic policies must be in place, but it certainly can insist upon the values that are to guide individual behavior and attitudes.

    Yours are in need of a serious adjustment.

    For Darwin,

    “Someone who wants to hold onto his earnings is not necessarily planning to blow it all on lighting his Cuban cigars with $1000 bills.”

    No one said it is necessary. That it is even possible, however, while people are suffering is a sufficient reason for the community and for society, through its legitimate democratic institutions, to have some say over what happens to the wealth of society. No one’s “earnings” are entirely their own anyway – the production of all wealth is a social process, and in the final equation, all things belong to God.

  • That it is even possible, however, while people are suffering is a sufficient reason for the community and for society, through its legitimate democratic institutions, to have some say over what happens to the wealth of society.

    I’d agree that this is why it’s appropriate for the state to provide a certain minimum level of safety net. There are those out there who, left the opportunity to use their wealth for good, will do nothing. (On the bright side, when they go out and blow it on a $500k sports car instead, at least they end up providing employment to a bunch of people, though certainly not from the goodness of their hearts.)

    In this sense, I certainly wouldn’t support absolutism libertarianism. At the same time, though, I lean towards wanting to leave people as much room to do the right thing as possible. So I certainly wouldn’t support a leveling approach to taxation where one intentionally tries to take all the “extra” above a certain amount.

    For an analogy: Many parents do not perform their duties very well. I think it’s appropriate that the community have a means of stepping in which bad parenting hits catastrophic levels. But I don’t think it’s a good idea when the wider community tries to relieve parents of most of their responsibilities in order to assure that no bad parenting takes place.

    Now, I’d say that the right to private property is of lesser priority than the right of a parents to rear their own children, so I think there’s more latitude, but I do think that there’s a very big element of charity and humanity which is lost when people rely on the polis as the primary means of assuring that people help each other and refuse to leave anything to the true solidarity of human persons. Indeed, I worry that an excessive reliance on the state’s “safety net” can end up feeding into the cycle of individualism which weakens community ties.

  • “On the bright side, when they go out and blow it on a $500k sports car instead, at least they end up providing employment to a bunch of people”

    I don’t mean to be snotty with you, but I really dislike this point when it is made in the context of trying to justify freedom to the point of license (that isn’t what you did here but the logic is similar).

    Pimps provide jobs. Drug dealers provide jobs. The abortion industry employs thousands of people. So does the abortion lobby. Excessive consumption and a squandering of one’s personal wealth on obscene luxury items might be a degree below these evils, but only a degree. It is certainly not closer to the morally acceptable end of the spectrum.

    A lot of people who would draw the line at prostitution and drugs, or at abortion, wouldn’t draw it at the squandering of vast amounts of money on the production or purchase of goods and services that serve only the purpose of personal aggrandizement.

    That they would draw the line at all, however, means that they admit that not all job-creating activity is valid, that some of it is harmful to society, to the common good. If you accept it in one case, I don’t see why it can’t be accepted in another.

    I believe social harm is done when time, effort, natural resources and other vital commodities are used up in the pursuit not of happiness, but gluttony. It is an injustice to the people of the Earth who are struggling to get by, it makes a mockery of God through idolatry, it tramples over the Church’s understanding of the universal destination of goods.

    It weakens the bonds of solidarity, it creates envy in the lower classes and a sick desire to emulate greed and perversion at the lower levels of society, some of it understandable and all of it undesirable. That people wish to produce something, and others wish to buy it, cannot in themselves serve as justifications for the existence of certain goods and services. And everything the Church teaches about consumerism, the evils of excess and global imbalances, and the preferential option for the poor proclaims as much.

  • I don’t mean to be snotty with you, but I really dislike this point when it is made in the context of trying to justify freedom to the point of license (that isn’t what you did here but the logic is similar).

    Pimps provide jobs. Drug dealers provide jobs. The abortion industry employs thousands of people.

    While I don’t deny that greed and conspicuous consumption can be sins, I have a really hard time with the idea that simply producing a very high quality good, of the sort that could command a very high price, would be sinful.

    Is producing a Baldwin moral but doing so with a Steinway immoral? Is it moral to work for GM or Kia but immoral to work for Masarati or Bentley?

    The idea that it’s moral to do something like build a car, but immoral to do it really, really well just seems odd to me. And I suppose that I can’t necessarily see how it’s moral for GM workers to work on a couple dozen vehicles a day, but immoral for Lamborghini workers to spend months working on one vehicle. Does the world suffer for there being fewer vehicle that are well made instead of many cheap ones?

    Which is not to say that I’d ever feel right about spending $500k on a car. But it seems oddly utilitarian to condemn a mechanic or engineer to want to build the very best car possible, a true work of art. Heck, at that point would the Church’s critics be right to condemn it for having spent so much money on patronizing the arts over the centuries?

  • I think we’re getting some wires crossed here.

    There is no reason a worker can’t do the best job in the world on an affordable car.

    And I suppose it is true that a car can be a work of art.

    What makes today’s situation different than the era during which the Church heavily patronized the arts, however, is that we can, at least technically, come within striking distance of solving some of the worlds problems related to scarcity of necessities.

    In those days, it wouldn’t have been possible in spite of the best of intentions. And the Church had her priorities straight – she was, for over a thousand years, the chief support of the poor and the sick. Patronization of the arts never came at the expense of those social duties.

  • “It doesn’t seem like 30+ years of Democratic policies are able to help much in places like DC, Chicago, Detroit or New Orleans, but then, it may be that large cities in those regions are in bad shape for some unrelated reason.”

    What did Democratic policies have to do without outsourcing, downsizing, ‘restructuring’ and all of the other processes that ushered in the disintegration of America’s manufacturing base that served as the economic backbone of these areas?

    Speaking as a Louisiana Guy little of this had to do with the downfall of New Orleans that has been under Democratic rule since Reconstruction

  • “Why build a program on an income base you’re intent on destroying?”

    Politics. Democrats realize that imposing taxes on the middle class, as they used to do regularly prior to Reagan, would be political suicide. The problem with their current approach from a Democrat perspective is two fold however. First, a tax the rich strategy only simply doesn’t raise enough revenue from the uber rich. Second, more than a few of the uber rich are Democrats. Many of them are screaming mad now when they suddenly realize that Obama is targeting them. Nothing like a better than 50% effective tax rate to convert limousine liberals to taxophobic conservatives, or at least to ticked off liberals who aren’t going to dole out donations to the Democrats the next election cycle.

    The Washington Post has always been a faithful mirror of what most prosperous Democrats are thinking. This recent editorial describes their discontent well:

    “But there is no case to be made for the House Democratic majority’s proposal to fund health-care legislation through an ad hoc income tax surcharge for top-earning households. The new surtax would hit individual households earning $350,000 and above. It would start at 1 percent, bumping up to 1.5 percent at $500,000 in income and to 5.4 percent at $1 million. The new levy would begin in 2011 and is supposed to raise $540 billion over 10 years, about half the projected cost of health-care reform. The rest of the money would come from reduced spending on Medicare and Medicaid — though the surtax for the lower two categories would jump by a percentage point each in 2013 unless the Office of Management and Budget determines that the rest of the bill has saved more than $150 billion.

    The traditional argument against sharp increases in the marginal tax rates of a very narrow band of Americans is that it could distort their economic behavior — most likely by encouraging them to put more of their money into tax shelters as opposed to productive investments. This effect could be greatest in certain states, such as New York, where a higher federal rate would add to already substantial state income taxes. The deeper issue, though, is whether it is wise to pay for a far-reaching new federal social program by tapping a revenue source that would surely need to be tapped if and when Congress and the Obama administration get serious about the long-term federal deficit.

    That moment may be approaching faster than they would like. Even if Congress pulls off a budget-neutral expansion of health care, the gap between federal revenue and expenditures will reach 7 percent of gross domestic product in 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And that’s assuming that the economy returns to full employment between now and then. The long-term deficit is driven by the aging of the population as well as by growing health-care costs, both contributing to Social Security and Medicare expenses. There is simply no way to close the gap by taxing a handful of high earners. The House actions echo President Obama’s unrealistic campaign promise that he can build a larger, more progressive government while raising taxes on only the wealthiest.”

    Translation from Post Speak: “Hey Obama, tax those blue collars and hicks in fly over country and leave us wealthly liberals alone!” Obama’s election and the Democrats’ complete control of Congress are going to shatter quite a few illusions on the Left in this country, and the old tax the rich mantra is merely one of many.

  • Donald: I find it amazing that Obama told people before the election that he would raise taxes on the rich and now the rich Democrats who voted for him are dismayed because – he intends to raise taxes on the rich. As Glenn Reynolds says, “Who are the rubes?”

    More Americans will join the chorus of dismay as the Dems continue to redefine the meaning of the word “rich.”

  • Lots of socially liberal people voted for Obama without paying much attention to his economic agenda. Now they are and the howls will only increase as the economy sinks and taxes increase. Your quote from Instapundit is dead on Donna.

  • “Lots of socially liberal people voted for Obama without paying much attention to his economic agenda.”

    This is true.

    But the right didn’t pay much attention either, since they were constantly referring to it as “socialism”.

  • Well, Joe, it’s things like this that make me suspect our President is a bit further to the left than he let on during the campaign. He has named Van Jones as his “Green Czar.” And who is Van Jones? A LAPD officer posting at NRO online lets us know:

    “Jones was a co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a San Francisco–area organization that once focused exclusively on so-called social-justice issues but now sees the pot of gold at the end of the green-jobs rainbow. In a 2007 entry on the Huffington Post, Jones marked the 15th anniversary of the riots that followed the acquittal of the four LAPD officers accused of beating Rodney King. Attached to the post is an essay he wrote in those heady days of 1992, which includes this account of the genesis of his revolutionary ardor:

    Our rallying cry was for justice; our demand was that the System be changed!

    Yes, the Great Revolutionary Moment had at long last come. And the time, clearly, was ours!

    So we stole stuff.

    Y’know, stole stuff. Radios, tennis shoes. Well, not everybody, of course.

    The vast majority (me included) just marched around and chanted slogans. But some set trash cans on fire. And smashed in car windows. And some kids stoned a few passing cars pretty good.

    And stole stuff, like I said.”

    Well, Abbie Hoffman did say “Property is theft,” a guy who sees nothing with stealing stuff will now be heading a government organization. At least, unlike most pols, he’ll be upfront about his thievery.

  • The “tax the rich to feed the poor” mantra is terribly defective from a pragmatic point of view.

    I know that many who post here prefer to speak from a philosophical or religious point of view, but it sometimes seems as though there is a disconnect between those points and the pragmatic. There simply MUST be a practical application to great thoughts or such sentiments, however valid, are impotent.

    The President says that we should levy taxes against the rich in order to force them to contribute to the greater good. However, America has tried to lean its social programs on the “rich” before and it has failed each time because wealth allows a person to “sit this one out.”

    Those of us earning more than the poverty guidelines and less than, to choose a number, $200,000/year are fully and directly engaged in the economy. We derive an income that leaves little left over after paying bills. We are on a treadmill and we cannot get off. Don’s point above gets to this reality – that we are “stable” tax payers because we will continue to earn and pay at a predictable rate.

    Those earning less than the poverty guidelines are far less “engaged” in the economy in the sense that their earnings often fluctuate wildly from year to year and are almost always entirely exempt direct taxation. Even if one WANTED to levy taxes on the poor, the only way to reach them is through taxes on the goods and services that they use. Joe’s point about “taxing those who have the money” fits their situation nicely.

    However, those earning over a certain amount – and it may well be $350,000 – enjoy a flexibility that the others do not. As has been noted above, they can manipulate their income and assets to avoid significant taxation. They NEED little that they purchase or use. Their interests more easily transcend borders.

    It is a mistake to think that one can tax the income of the wealthy and end up with anything close to the amount the government forecasts because, once one reaches the point of earning that much or acquiring that much in assets, tax avoidance becomes the consuming task rather than growing wealth. This means that they will, as they did on a large scale in the 1930s and the 1980s in the United States, shield their wealth while waiting out the Progressives.

    It is a simple calculation: If I am going to be taxed on income earned through investment, I will not invest. I don’t have to. They can’t reach my assets as easily as my income so I will “wait them out.” They will eventually be crying for me to invest again and will free me from those constraints.

    And so we have; each and every time.

    Simply stated, whether or not it is right or just to tax the high earners in order to provide social programs for the low earners is less significant a debate than the effect of doing so. It is THIS discussion that neither the Administration, nor the Legislature, is engaged in.

    How one can write legislation of so far reaching a consequence without analyzing its effects is beyond me.

  • “How one can write legislation of so far reaching a consequence without analyzing its effects is beyond me.”

    Because most politicians are far better at speaking than thinking, and once one removes the “tax the rich” panacea, hard and unpopular choices must be made by the same glib politicians.

Will Health Care Reform Create (More) Health Care Shortages?

Wednesday, June 24, AD 2009

MSNBC recently did an interesting piece on the shortage of primary care practitioners, which has become particularly acute in rural and low-income areas. As a result, many older doctors feel that they cannot retire because there is no one to take their place:

There are not enough general care doctors to meet current needs, let alone the demands of some 46 million uninsured, who threaten to swamp the system.

Continue reading...

4 Responses to Will Health Care Reform Create (More) Health Care Shortages?

  • Will it reduce specialists. Yes. Will it reduce general practicioners. I suspect so also. It costs about 40 K a year for a medical school degree. Add to that cost of living and a med student comes out with a huge bill at the end of four years. Now add to that three to five years of residency at very low pay. If someone wants to specialize that may take another 2 – 4 years. That’s in a residency and fellowship that they may be working 80 – 100 hours per week. Many doctors are in the mid 30’s before they start to make that big paycheck. They now have to pay that back in the form of loans and interest on those loans. Cut their pay, it won’t make sense to do that work.

  • Does government run healthcare work?
    Do people in countries like Canada and Britian dislike their government run healthcare systems. Do they wish they were more like the US?

    In 2008 Harris conducted a poll of 10 industrialized countries to see what their people thought of their healthcare system

    Here are the results

    http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=927

  • Just one other thought for tonight. The average orthopedist works 34 days to cover his malpractice insurance costs. A OB/GYN may work up to 70 days. Part of the high cost of practice.

  • To norris hal:
    Note that the Harris survey (for the USA) was an online poll of 1,000 persons; meaning it’s a very unscientific poll. This recent CNN poll (http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/03/19/health.care.poll/index.html) claims that 80% of Americans are satisfied with the quality of the healthcare they receive. So putting the two polls together we conclude that Americans are satisfied but want a more, bigger and better. That would seem a cultural trait more than a real argument for changing the system.

    Polls should always be taken with a lot of caution -remember the election eve poll fiascos- because their results can be easily manipulated to reflect the biases of the pollsters. There are more scientific ways to measure the quality of healthcare with indicators such as patient wait time for surgery or patient cancer survival rates by most scientific measures the US comes on top (see http://www.freemarketcure.com/whynotgovhc.php).

    The big problem with our system is cost not quality. The tried and true way to lower cost is by increasing competition (even President Obama has made this argument). In our current system the Big Insurance cartel negotiates with the Big Medicine/Pharma cartel and the Big Government cartel (Medicaid/Medicare). To lower cost all that is required is to return the power of choice to the consumer. Have you noticed how Cosmetic Surgery cost have gone down (a recent radio ad in this market announces free lipo with the purchase of breast enhancement). The reason is that Cosmetic surgery is outside the cartel since it’s “not covered”. Government makes everything more expensive (ever heard of NASA); competition reduces prices.