27 March 2010

Bomb Patterns and Social Justice

“Bomb patters?” General Peckham repeated, twinkling with self-satisfied good humor. “A bomb pattern is a term I dreamed up just several weeks ago. It means nothing, but you’d be surprised at how rapidly it’s caught on. Why, I’ve got all sorts of people convinced I think it’s important for the bombs to explode close together and make a neat aerial photograph. There’s one colonel in Pianosa who’s hardly concerned any more with whether he hits the target or not.”
                                  - Joseph Heller, Catch-22

For good or for ill, I’ve attempted sporadically to find a sound definition for the term social justice. I have failed. And then just several days ago, I read the above portion of Catch-22 and realized that searching for a definition would be chasing the wind. There is no definition; it is some mushy bit of diction used to justify whatever might need to be justified at the moment, and it’s only apparent application involved political power and exercising a “victim” class so as to gain and/or maintain political power.

Yet, just as Peckham’s bomb pattern idea found devotees quickly, social justice has its own political following – or perhaps it is one of the tools of choice for one political party and flirted with by the other (under the heading of “compassion”). Take the recent passage of health care insurance “reform.” The public has been told varying reasons that the type of reform Democrats pushed through was required, including endless stories of special cases where some bit or piece – or the whole lot – of the health care machinery failed someone. This is the perfect situation where social justice is applicable. Never mind that bad things happen to people, that no human being is healthy forever, or that as imperfect beings, humans make mistakes. The victim of the deleterious health care system must have justice, social justice. Thus, the overhaul and extended regulation is justified; a tighter bomb pattern is achieved. Equality of outcome. At least that’s how it may look from on high by the experts who have begun to administer the program will perceive it. Perhaps we’ll be hearing about the number of lives “created or saved” under the “reform” at some point around 2016. The aerial photo of health care, in other words, will be appealing.

Indeed, the bombs in the health care “solution” may land very close together in the near future. But equality does not mean quality, just as precision does not mean accuracy. A very precise bowler can knock down the number ten pin only on a regular basis, but a professional career is not in that person’s future unless accuracy is improved. I would argue that equality of outcome, which is at least superficially the goal of social justice, is an attempt to create more precise outcomes for everyone. If every shot is off-target in exactly the same way, then equality has been achieved. Not that this precision will make health care better. Nor will it make people happier if the outcomes of health “care” are, to put it euphemistically, undesirable. One might argue that one technique, universally applied, does not account for the natural diversity of people, communities, and particularities. An equally applied solution which makes matters worse over time does not tend to make folks feel good about being equal. It might even make them rightly distrustful of those in power who precisely and firmly believe that they know better.

23 March 2010

Bigger Things at Work Indeed

In his most recent post on National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg disputes the claim that the latest health insurance reform bill – law – will cause “massive improvements in American life expectancy,” according to Nick Kristof. Mr. Goldberg refutes this argument on several points, and finally states that when it comes to individual longevity, “there are bigger things at work.” Bigger things indeed.

One of the reasons why supporters are probably hesitant to discuss these bigger things at work is that they defy human control. For instance, Mr. Goldberg runs through a list of life expectancy rates in his post. Not only does it matter what one’s racial heritage is when it comes to life expectancy, it also matter where one lives geographically – even given roughly the same racial background in comparative groups. How would the federal government, or any human institution, deal with a group which is a “victim” of lower life expectancy? Deport them to another location? Genetically alter them? Mr. Goldberg argues that more health care is not and will not be the difference maker. Indeed, one wonders if there is a realistic difference maker.

If there is not a realistic difference maker – not even bank-breaking equity of health coverage, if not health care – then the idea of equality of outcome is shown for what it is: a well-intentioned yet futile hallucination. It is the denial, explicit or otherwise, of the recognition of things greater than man and his machinations which allows those who advocate such things as the panacea of universal health insurance to believe – to be true believers, in an Eric Hoffer way – in man’s ability to deliver equality of outcome. At the moment, the true believers in equality of outcome are winning the cultural tug-or-war. Those of us who believe in bigger things need to set in for the long-haul intellectual pull in order to affect a shift in thinking.

21 March 2010

Some Good that May Come of “Reform”

As the House gets ready to pass – or at least I expect it to pass – what is referred to as health care insurance reform, I have had a bit of a time finding some reason to be optimistic. I am firmly against the federal government enlarging itself in just about any way that impacts every citizen’s life. I am especially against reform that is an embodiment of Orwellian doublethink. Health care insurance reform claims to reduce the deficit by spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 trillion – that’s one million squared. And never mind the IRS doing periodic checks of each individual’s health insurance coverage. That isn’t a government takeover; it is considered oversight. Oversight over individual citizens, watching their health insurance status on a consistent basis. Perhaps as a cost saving measure, we can just install telescreens for the periodic insurance checks.

Yes, indeed, I need a reason for optimism. And so it is my hope that the backlash from this government intrusion into where it has no business being at all will be deep and long lasting. My hope is that by forcing the pendulum so far to the side of big government that the statists – liberal Democrats and abettors of all political persuasions – will, through overreaching, propel the opponents of big government to office. (Please note that I did not say Republicans – big government is a bipartisan affair.)

My hope is that this backlash will begin in 2010. It would do a great deal of good if a large number of small, limited government minded folks were elected to the House and Senate. And I’m not talking those who want to limit or eliminate earmarks and pork. While those are laudatory goals, they are small potatoes in my book. What is $50 million for a (insert random government project here) compared to the $46.8 billion spent this year on the Department of Education or even the $1.15 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service? Those are big pork projects.

And even those would be small potatoes in a realm of multi-trillion dollar holes like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. While the current health care insurance reform claims to save the latter two – through cuts in funding, another bit of doublethink – it seems to me that making a program larger does not automatically make it more viable. Thus, it would be prudent for the group which I hope begins its crusade on Capitol Hill to begin reducing benefits and, to a great extent, eliminating these programs. The rough road ahead will be in keeping these programs afloat financially for those who are already getting benefits and who are unable - in a real sense, from either age or serious disability – to function otherwise.

Of course, this is all in a way a very self-interested push on my part. I already realize that I will not see a dime from Social Security when I reach whatever retirement age is set by government. Social Security is already empty; there’s no money in it. So why would there be in, say, thirty years? Why would I expect Medicare to be anywhere near solvent once I reach enrollment age? To think that either will be around is delusional.

Better to face reality now, go through a painful shift of benefits and reductions, and get on with life. It would be far better than living the lie that somehow our developing nanny state can shelter and coddle us through life. Like so many lies, the longer they have to be maintained, the bigger they become. Better to fully and wholly accept the truth, drop the pretense of big government, and return to something closer to individual responsibility – and thus individual liberty. I hope and pray that the first proclamations of this goal are made today and the first steps toward this goal are taken this November.

20 March 2010

My Saturday 2¢ on the Health Care Takeover

As I sit and watch the House Rules Committee, I wonder how it is that lawmakers have the time and energy to create a 2200 page piece of legislation. I’m convinced that they, in fact, do no craft the legislation which they vote on. The 2200 pages would probably resemble a poorly made jigsaw puzzle dumped on a table whose corner pieces have to be accepted as a matter of trust based on the word of the majority legislators who have never – and perhaps will never – see the puzzle fully put together. No one knows, really knows, the short, medium, and long-term implications of this government monstrosity, be it takeover or over-regulation or stepping stone to single-payer. Like Victor Frankenstein’s monster, once it wakes up and makes its way in the world, these 2200 pages will have long legs.

Briefly on the language used. Folks with pre-existing conditions are now “allowed” to have health insurance? Some of the language used in the committee, especially when speakers wax personal, gets far less than precise. Thankfully, there isn’t a great amount of personal anecdote.

Yet, the sob story must at some point happen, I suppose. There is a Mr. Cardoza on at the moment go on and on about his personal stories on health care. He is, by his own statement, a Democrat. While his stories may be accurate or heart-wrenching, if I hear the phrase “health care for all Americans” or “now is the time to get this done”, I think I’ll throw something. Perhaps up. Like global warming / climate change (GWCC), the debate has been deemed over by the very same people who drone on about individual stories and circumstances.

Funny how those who drone on about individual stories and circumstances tend to be the same ones who want to have a universal solution to health insurance “reform”. It’s the same for education “reform” and cap-and-tax. One size must fit all – all of those unique, individual experiences and circumstances. That is the truth of government control of health care, or education, or industry. You pick.

Four hawks just drifted by my window in a counterclockwise loop, and from my left. Good thing that I’m not an ancient Greek; I think that might make for an ominous omen. The committee time ends with a personal story of insurance coverage denial. While these stories may be touching, governing through emotion is a prescription for tragedy.

I got in late and only watched the last two hours. Thanks to Fox News for streaming the feed online. Good to see Rep. Ryan and Rep. Sessions making their cases – neither of which, as I recall, revolved around emotive responses. I only wish that Rep. Hensarling would have been in the committee room as well. Tomorrow is another day, and perhaps the first day of the fight to repeal the mess which our Congress and our president are foisting upon the electorate.

18 March 2010

Having a Voice or Being Counted – Census Misconception


On Monday, I watched some local school children - probably in middle school - spout clearly scripted lines about the census.  The children were urging all to fill out their census forms so that their "voices will be heard".  By filling out these forms, the middle-schoolers assured their audience that filling out a census form is a way to be "active" in a civic manner.

Obviously, these kids were basically parroting lines given to them by those who have an interest in pushing the census as a politic activity rather than a head count.  But there's an important underlying message here.  By relegating one's political voice to the simple act of being counted, a great amount of individual gradation is pushed aside.  I either stand up or I do not, and I do so without asking questions; my comment is contained within the act of standing or sitting.  It would seem that being counted is enough; being counted is the important thing.  This is especially true when it comes to government largesse.  This is reflected in the other prominent message in various census commercials is that one's voice - being counted - is vital for getting more government funds into one's community.  Thus being counted is worth money, taxpayer money.  Other taxpayers' money.

The implied link, though perhaps a bit tenuous, is that political voice ought to be linked to government largesse.  Stand up and be counted so that the "proper" amount of money is pushed toward one's locality.  Refuse to be counted and it costs money.  It's binary; it defies nuance.  And what's more, it takes very little thought.  Indeed, many political questions and issues seem to be boiled down to either / or choices.  Universal health insurance reform or the status quo - never mind the middle ground.  Belief in anthropomorphic global warming / climate change or contentment with destroying the planet.  Ever-increasing federal money and levels of intrusion into local schools or giving up children.  All posed as loaded either / or questions with the "preferred" answer clear.

Perhaps it would make more sense to ask serious questions whether or not money should be spent at all - a nearly unthinkable question given current and recent leadership at the federal level.  But regardless of individual job security, just how much government do we not need?  Antithetical to much current political thinking to be sure, and surely has no place in the minds of many of the political elite, especially when many Americans' answers would cost government jobs in heaps.  Avoiding questions with more than two answers ensures shallow thought and increases the permanence of ever-growing government.

16 March 2010

Health Insurance Entitlement Reform and My Broken Teeth

In an attempt to get back to writing in this blog - something that has not happened in about six months - I've taken a week off of work. This happens to coincide with spring break and the last, last, final, penultimate push for health care insurance entitlement "reform". The former is, in fact, the reason I've taken off of work; the latter is a running joke. A running joke, that is, until it actually happens.

If health care insurance entitlement "reform" passes in one of its current Democratic forms, then I may actually have to find a new job, as I do not expect that the insurance currently offered by my employer will survive. And I would really like to have health insurance, and insurance that I can generally count on, for that matter. I've had experience with the minimalism of government run (or influenced) health care, and as I sit and write today, I experience the long-term results.

While in the Army, I had some dental issues. My teeth were not very healthy. However, as the dental care structure at my base was stretched thin, my problems were not bad enough to qualify me for a dentist's chair on base. I was, in no small way, told that I was healthy enough. As a 20-year old, bullet-proof young soldier, I did not take matters into my own hands - which I absolutely should have done. Indeed, it took me another three years to do that.

When I did finally address my dental issue, it had ballooned into sixteen fillings - literal trenches in all of my molars. The wicked irony is that I had to get the dental work done so that I could pass a commissioning physical and re-join the military. What I should have done, indeed, what I should have been told to do (as a 20-year old private) is to take care of it myself, on my dime, and on my time. However, I bought into the "you're in the military, they'll take care of it" myth. And now, as the silver fillings put into my mouth some fifteen years ago literally split my molars, I am painfully aware of the wrongheadedness of relying on government agencies to take care of such personal matters as health care.

I do not relay this story for sympathy; I do not want my Representative to tell my story on the floor of the House. This small story is a cautionary tale, and one which I will certainly tell my students. Take care of yourself and your family. Indeed, force yourself to take care of yourself and your family. No one else should, and abdicating this responsibility to the government ensures that no one will.