Tag Archives: republicans

Faulty Logic in the CRNC Report

Following the Republican Party’s generally lousy national election performance in 2012, many GOP officials, politicians, and pundits offered various explanations for the defeat, and advice on how the Party could fare better in future contests. One predominant sentiment which has emerged from this introspection was that the Party should grow its tent by reaching out to constituencies who have traditionally not voted for Republican candidates, such as women, minorities, and youth. This sentiment was most visible in two reports issued by two prominent Republican organizations: First, the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” from the Republican National Committee (RNC), prescribed some ways to “modernize the Party” and “appeal to more people.” The second report, “Grand Old Party for A Brand New Generation,” a product of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC), outlined several youth-centered Party reforms. It is the latter of the two which is of concern here.

The CRNC’s report uses responses from two surveys and several focus groups to gauge youth voter opinion on a variety of issues. While the report outlines a few intelligent improvements, much of its interpretation of survey data and consequent recommendations contain some notable flaws. One area of the report which raises particular concern is the section on “Reinventing the Brand.” Here, the CRNC uses survey responses to recommend a winning “narrative” for the Republican Party to adopt when reaching out to youth voters. Survey respondents were given a list of broad statements and were asked whether a candidate making those statements would be more or less likely to receive their vote.

CRNC Survey

The CRNC then goes on to conclude that Republican candidates should pursue a messaging strategy more closely attuned with the three most popular statements listed, while focusing less on the bottom four; the underlying premise for this conclusion being that young voters are really conservatives deep down, and would vote for conservative Republican candidates if not for the Party’s lackluster branding. Ergo, a shift in branding would allegedly cast a more positive light on the Republican Party and attract hesitant youth voters. A more nuanced examination of these responses, however, reveals dire implications for any Republican trying to construct a youth-oriented campaign.

The three top-polling statements are exceptionally vague—they are merely goals which any competent political philosophy should be expected to achieve (e.g., “economic growth,” “tackling tough, long term problems,” and “providing opportunity”). The four lower-ranked statements do not outline vague goals, but rather lay out particular methods—a means to achieve those goals.

For conservatives, those concepts are inextricably linked: Liberty, limited government, American values, and constitutionalism are viewed as necessary tools to achieve the surveyed youngsters’ purported goals of economic growth and opportunity. If respondents were truly conservative, then we would expect all the given narrative statements to poll at roughly similar levels. This is not what we see, however: The respondents seem mysteriously unable to perceive the connection between conservatism and the economic growth and opportunity which they so desire. Which seems more likely, then? That the Republican Party’s struggles with regard to young voters are caused by deficiencies with the GOP’s brand, or that young voters simply reject conservative principles?

The CRNC has apparently decided in favor of the former option; they believe that bettering the brand is the magic bullet that will turn around the GOP’s dismal electoral prospects. Admittedly, this may work for a short time. Even so, it would be a hollow victory, because such a strategy can only win by deceiving young voters: As the CRNC’s own survey data indicates, a candidate who champions conservatism is not more likely to garner young peoples’ votes than a candidate who speaks in vague platitudes. The CRNC’s rebranding strategy must invariably trick youngsters into believing that when Republicans wish to “focus on creating jobs and economic growth,” they intend to do so by means other than policies based on conservative principles. Ultimately, though, youngsters would catch on, the lie would crumble, and Republicans would be back to square one.

This conundrum persists, however, only so long as Republicans wish to remain conservative. The path of least resistance, and truly the more honest approach to the rebranding strategy, would be simply to abandon conservatism. This is not outside the realm of possibility, as we have seen in the Congressional debates on immigration reform, the debt ceiling, and the budget; and in the RNC’s negligence and undermining of conservative candidates in Republican primaries, to list a few examples.

If the Republican Party wishes to garner more of the youth vote and also remain conservative while doing so, then the CRNC’s rebranding strategy will not work—youngsters are simply not conservative enough.

It is nevertheless imperative that Republicans attract new, young members to the Party, since winning elections and enacting conservative policies will be exceedingly difficult without them. However, this means more than just reconstructing the image and brand of the Republican Party. It will require no less than a widespread shift in the intellectual disposition of young voters. The CRNC’s recommendations with regard to social media platforms have some merit on this regard, but social media is only a part of what must comprise a large-scale, grassroots information campaign. Each and every conservative must reach out to his/her peers and introduce them to the conservative message.

If the RNC/CRNC were really concerned with winning elections, they would refocus their energy on this endeavor, instead of trying to cut slices from an ever-shrinking electoral pie.

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Republicans Bungle the Government Shutdown

I have heard many of my friends on the right suggest that the Tea Party has destroyed GOP credibility through the obstinacy of certain far-right senators and congressmen during the government shutdown and debt ceiling battle. Based on my own observations of the ordeal, this analysis just doesn’t sit right with me.

First, is it a certainty that the shutdown will hurt the GOP politically? Sure, as the litany of national polls seem to suggest, the public does not view the GOP favorably, and most blame Republicans for the shutdown. However, as Nate Silver pointed out in a recent article, the importance of most issues and current events quickly diminishes in the public eye:

Remember Syria? The fiscal cliff? Benghazi? The IRS scandal? The collapse of immigration reform? All of these were hyped as game-changing political moments by the news media, just as so many stories were during the election last year. In each case, the public’s interest quickly waned once the news cycle turned over to another story. Most political stories have a fairly short half-life and won’t turn out to be as consequential as they seem at the time.

Also, there is no evidence that Republicans suffered from the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns either. In fact, Republicans gained Senate seats in the 1996 election, and retained their majority in the House. This occurred even though President Clinton’s approval ratings were rising (though, as Silver points out, Clinton’s climb in approval may have been part of a long-term trend anyway).

Even if we grant, however, that Republicans will not be significantly hurt in 2014 by the most recent shutdown, the GOP moderates/establishment types may still assert that the particular position of the Tea Party during the shutdown was ultimately untenable, and that there was nothing to be gained from dragging America through a government shutdown. In answering this claim, it should be first broken down into two parts.

First, was the Tea Party’s position during the shutdown truly untenable? From a philosophical perspective, it was certainly not: Virtually all Republicans agree that Obamacare is an abomination which will deprive Americans of their freedoms and hard-earned wealth, and that it should be stopped. That said, was the position untenable from a political/electoral standpoint? The consensus among moderate/establishment Republicans appears to be that it was, but what is their evidence for that claim, besides the fact that the GOP eventually did cave and pass the Democrats’ continuing budget resolution? I have not yet come across any such evidence. It is, of course, easy to fail at something if you do not try.

I don’t own a crystal ball, but maybe the shutdown battle could have ended differently. Perhaps it would have been possible to win this fight if the Republicans were unified in an effort to block Obamacare. It is true that the media and their incessant polling put a disproportionate amount pressure on conservatives, but the media are never going to side with conservatives. If Republicans are doomed to be ruled guilty in the court of public opinion, it is better that they be so having stood on principle, because it is those conservative principles that this country so desperately needs right now. The national debt just screamed past $17 trillion, and Obamacare will only add to that while destroying jobs. America needs relief now, not later. There is no time to worry about public relations, image, and re-election.

The moderate/establishment wing of the GOP would consider this poor political strategy, but the vile, relentless attacks on Tea Party Republicans by their moderate counterparts were themselves poor political strategy for two reasons: First, they completely undermined the Tea Party’s position from the beginning by demonstrating to Obama and the Democrats that the Republican Party did not have the resolve to challenge them. It’s like playing poker and telling your opponent from the outset that you will fold regardless of how much they bet—a guaranteed losing strategy. Second, the resultant implosion of the GOP’s bargaining stance gave the impression that the Tea Party’s opposition to funding Obamacare was never a principled endeavor, because who would go to such trouble—shuttering the government and bringing the country to the edge of a so-called “default”—just to retreat and abandon their principles, unless their claims about the detriments of Obamacare and the soaring national debt were mere exaggeration to begin with? Such an impression will hamper efforts by the Tea Party, or anyone else, to implement conservative reforms well into the future.

Was the position of the Tea Party untenable? Maybe. But there is one (non-)strategy that was a guaranteed loser: the one put forth by the moderate/establishment Republicans. We don’t need a crystal ball to know that. In actuality, it was their tactics which have done most to harm GOP credibility, not the Tea Party’s.

Looking back, the Tea Party’s strategy was not without potential gains. At best, the Tea Party might have successfully defunded Obamacare. Even though they did not succeed in that regard, they have brought national attention to the the train-wreck that is the new health care law. Hopefully their efforts will lend courage to other like-minded Republicans to stand and fight in future battles.

Now look closer at the strategy put forth by the moderate/establishment GOP—which is not really a strategy at all, but rather a veiled retreat: They say that we should “let Obamacare implode,” that its implementation has proven so outrageously bungled that the American people will quickly comprehend the law’s shortcomings and reject it. This assertion is mere fantasy, and it carries absolutely no weight with me for two reasons. First, the leftist media in this country will never allow any narrative to develop which does not favor Obamacare, and those who are ignorant of its problems shall remain so. As we now see, the mainstream media have already started parroting the White House’s assurances about the soundness of Healthcare.gov and the Affordable Care Act as a whole.

And just what does it mean to say that the Obamacare rollout is going badly? Our best points of comparison are the other giant federal transfer programs and their rollouts (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, AFDC, TANF, SCHIP, food stamps, et cetera, et cetera). Their initial implementations may have been smoother, but the programs themselves were, by their very nature, unsustainable from day one. Unfortunately, if history has shown us anything consistently, it is not that the inefficiencies of government programs create the political will for reform—in fact, just the opposite is true: Every new transfer program creates an entrenched electoral constituency made up of financial beneficiaries, making it virtually impossible to repeal or even make the most marginal reforms of those programs. Moderate/establishment Republicans should know this, so exactly what do they expect to gain by allowing Obamacare to “implode?” I thought the whole point of reforming and/or repealing these programs was to prevent this! Our main assumption has always been that the implosion of the welfare state (which is literally running on borrowed time) will spell the implosion of the United States’ fiscal integrity, the American economy, and American society generally. There is no political victory to be reaped from that, so what are the Republicans waiting for?

Why Mitt Romney Lost the Election

2012 was supposed to be a comeback year for conservatives. The expansion of the Tea Party Movement, a long and tumultuous Republican primary season, and a glut of campaign spending in the wake of Citizens United v. FEC were all supposed to culminate in a GOP take-back of the White House. By almost all accounts, though, the night of November 6th turned dark for conservative republicanism. Where did it all go wrong?

Conservatives had good reason to be optimistic: the abject failure of Barack Obama’s economic policies is no secret. Obama has presided over the slowest post-recession recovery in United States history. The unemployment rate is an embarrassing 7.9 percent–higher than when the president took office. Household income in the United States is lower now than it was during the Bush recession. The number of Americans in the workforce is at a 30-year low. GDP has been growing at a paltry 2 percent.

How could Americans be so enamored with the president, given his abysmal record? How could an able challenger such as Mitt Romney not be able to clinch victory?

One possible answer is that President Obama enjoyed a substantial incumbency advantage. It is a well documented phenomenon that incumbent politicians enjoy advantages in both name recognition and fundraising. These benefits are most pronounced in state and local elections, where incumbents often end up serving several consecutive terms. In presidential elections, however, name recognition and fundraising efforts are usually so great for each candidate that incumbency advantages are nearly erased, and a few incumbent presidents have been defeated during the last 40 years.

Some conservative writers, as well as leftist pundits trying to portray the conservative movement as defeated and dejected, have explained this outcome through shifting demographics. They claim that the left is the new “silent majority” in this country, and that so many people have been captivated by the promises of big government and the welfare state that any politician praising a culture of individual sovereignty and personal responsibility simply cannot win. This doesn’t seem entirely plausible, though: Mitt Romney garnered almost half of the popular vote, and conservatism consistently polls as the nation’s most popular ideological faction. Also, John McCain received around a million more votes in 2008 than Romney did in 2012. Those voters didn’t all vanish into thin air, and it’s hard to believe they would vote for Barack Obama’s re-election.

I do not think the reason for Romney’s loss last Tuesday can be traced to external phenomena such as those aforementioned. Rather, it stems from his own qualities as a candidate and politician. To illustrate this point, let us look at another election between an incumbent Democrat president and a Republican challenger during a period of great economic stress.

The year of 1980 and the election between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan share many parallels with today. Like Barack Obama, Carter had served to the American people what Reagan called an “altogether indigestible economic stew: one part inflation, one part high unemployment, one part recession, one part runaway taxes, one part deficit spending, seasoned with an energy crisis.” In some ways, the economic malaise of 1980 was worse than that of today; in some ways it was not as bad. Regardless, Reagan was able to defeat Carter in a landslide of not only the electoral college vote, but the popular vote as well.

With such striking similarities between 1980 and 2012, a difference in election results ultimately boils down to a difference between candidates. One striking difference we see between Ronald Reagan and Mitt Romney is in their particular style of politicking.

Ronald Reagan told a story to the American people. It wasn’t an anecdote or a parable–the kinds of stories for which Reagan is most famous. Rather, it was a narrative, one built around an ideal. It was not an espousal of principles, but of values. Reagan told a story of the self-sufficient man, a man independent and free to pursue his own happiness. It was a story about what life could be like without government interference. Ronald Reagan’s metaphor of a “shining city upon a hill” encapsulated his vision of a society in which mutual cooperation, and not force, cultivated the progress of civilization.

Mitt Romney’s strategy during the election of 2012 was very different. Romney saw the similarities between 1980 and 2012, and incorrectly assumed that the sheer ineptitude of his opponent would be enough to sway voters to his side. To him, it followed that anything he did during the campaign to draw attention away from his opponent and toward himself would be inherently detrimental. As a result, Romney avoided putting forth his own ideas and principles, and used vague terms like “American Dream,” “freedom,” and “hard work,” which evoke warm emotions of patriotism within an audience.

We must remember that Mitt Romney was running for President of the United States. Anyone seeking that office must hold some fundamental views on the role of government. On one hand, Ronald Reagan’s narrative allowed voters to connect his governing principles with a moral endgame: voters were able to see the necessity of small, limited government in reaching that “shining city upon a hill.” On the other hand, Romney’s rhetorical slogans offered nothing on that regard.

Why didn’t Mitt Romney emulate Ronald Reagan’s approach to the campaign? Because he couldn’t. Romney doesn’t believe in the principles of small government. Instead of hypothesizing about how life could be better with less government intrusion in our lives, he instead tried to tell us how life could be better if only it was Mitt Romney directing the intrusion instead of Barack Obama. To Romney, the amount of government we have is not the issue–instead, who’s in charge is what really matters. In other words, big government is acceptable as long as it is exercised properly.

This has been the mantra of the so-called “moderate” wing of the Republican party for the last 80 years. Their idea that government need not be small in order to be efficient leads to a very peculiar campaigning/governing style. To paraphrase, their message to American voters has generally been, “Vote for us, and we won’t get rid of big government, but we’ll do it more efficiently than the left.”

This message makes it exceedingly difficult to win elections. The mechanics of big government require pandering, and an engagement in identity politics. Democrats have always been better at this than Republicans because they have always been willing to go further–further with the welfare state, further with redistribution of wealth, and further with affirmative action. When the Republican alternative to pandering is “pandering lite,” it provides no visible contrast for the electorate. Their “smaller government” is often mistaken for “small government,” even though it is essentially still big government. This makes it increasingly difficult for true conservative candidates to get elected: as increasing numbers of Republicans govern like Democrats, and as their version of big government inevitably fails, the failures of big government are with ever more frequency painted as failures of small government, simply because those failures occur when the person in power has an (R) after their name instead of a (D). In reality we haven’t had a small government for many years, regardless of our leaders’ party affiliations.

Yet what is the response to this election from the pundits and moderates in the Republican party? It is that we must double-down on the pandering, that we conservatives must compromise more of our principles in order to gain votes, and that the era of small government is over.

Looking at the election of 1980, however, it appears to me that, when presented with a clear and marked choice between liberty and big government, people overwhelmingly choose liberty. Ronald Reagan understood that, and he wasn’t afraid to advocate for liberty as a candidate or as President. It is with this knowledge, and an eye turned toward the future, that I ask, why don’t we try a little less Romney, and a little more Reagan?

Big-Tent Republicans Strike Again

The 2012 presidential campaign is in full swing. In the midst of the Republican primaries, tensions are high as the divide between conservatives and establishment Republicans grows more visible. On one hand, we have a tall, slick politician who has held, and notwithstanding his numerous flip-flops, continues to hold moderate-to-left views on many issues. On the other hand, we have a number of candidates who, while not very polished or refined, hold with conviction many conservative positions. All the candidates share one opinion, however: the country cannot withstand a second term with Barack Obama as president, for it would mark an irreparable decline in America’s strength, prosperity, and character. How to prevent this is the main matter of contention in the race.

When speaking with some of my friends in the conservative movement, they seem to advocate what is commonly referred to as “Big-Tent Republicanism”. That is, they are Republicans predominantly concerned with the electability of a candidate over that candidate’s ideology. They view attracting new people to the party as critical in order to bolster its electoral power. They believe that in order to do this, we must nominate only moderate candidates, as to not alienate these potential voters.

The Republican establishment has effectively, and deviously, crafted a choice for the Republican electorate between ideology and electability. They say conservatism is not enough in style to win a general election, and defeating Barack Obama is not a guarantee. We must therefore nominate someone centrist enough to garner the independent vote. But what if this rationale was mere fallacy? What if we were being forced to make a false choice between equally electable candidates? I fear this is the case, and that just as the country cannot sustain an extended Obama presidency, it cannot tolerate the nomination of an establishment Republican candidate to challenge him.

This election is easily the most important election in at least the last eighty years. Barack Obama’s tax-and-spend fiscal policies and his inconsistent, timid, apologetic foreign policies are destroying this country’s economy and making us less safe in an increasingly dangerous world. It is for this reason, not in spite of it, that we must elect a strong, principled conservative who can create a sharp contrast with Barack Obama, not only in campaigning, but in governing.

National republicans for the last eighty years, save Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, have campaigned with the sole purpose getting elected. They run on a centrist platform, speaking in vague generalities in order to sound intelligent without saying anything potentially offensive. Then, if and when they are elected to office, they govern in a similar fashion, striking deals with the other side in order to appear amiable, and compromising their principles when the other side does not. What have we Republicans received in return for these efforts? A powerful and intrusive government, a growing welfare state and dependent class, and a national political culture that increasingly views conservatism as something foreign, uncompassionate, and extreme, even though it is, and has always been, this country’s largest ideological faction.

If the last eighty years have taught us anything, it’s this one simple fact: it’s not good enough to simply win an election. Every election in which the victor is just another moderate, establishment Republican who only wishes to nibble around the edges of our national problems destroys the potency of the Republican Party, and causes voters at large to lose confidence conservatism, even though they experience only a watered-down version of it. This has to stop. The party is becoming increasingly divided, and the country is suffering.

The establishment Republican mantra of voting for politicians over principles has failed. How we became so engrossed in this idea is beyond me, but we must re-adopt the mentality that we vote for principles above all else—that is the reason we vote in the first place. If principles were unimportant, democracy would not exist. We elect politicians into power only to wield our principles, because power is not an end, but a means to an end.

Remember that politicians derive their power from us. If we elect conservative politicians, then the principles they hold are given mandate by our votes. On the other hand, if we elect candidates who lack conservative principles, how can we reasonably expect them to serve us? Moderate politicians have no more of a mandate to advocate conservative policies than do leftist politicians. We would be just as well-off electing nobody at all, because moderation is not a principle. Moderation is something you do to a principle—it is the cession of principle. Consider then our purpose in voting during this primary campaign season: it is not simply to have people occupy space in government; it is to save our country. I don’t want moderates and independents to vote for our candidates for the same reason I don’t want leftists to vote for our candidates: a vote for a candidate who sacrifices his/her principles is no better than a vote for the person with whom you disagree.

This election needs to focus on ideas. The nominee of the Republican Party is only as electable in the general election as we make him. How can a candidate who conservatives feel the need to hold their nose while voting for be considered more electable than a principled candidate who draws enthusiastic conservatives to the polls in droves? Isn’t it just as difficult to guarantee that conservatives actually go the polls and vote for a lukewarm candidate as it is to guarantee that Barack Obama will lose the election? The Big-Tent Republicans certainly aren’t counting on it—they think they have conservatives backed into a corner, that they can trade one conservative vote for two or more independent votes. But what makes them think they can even count on their candidate mobilizing the grassroots support needed to actually get their cherished moderates and independents to the polls? Lastly, how can we hope to win the battle of ideas when the candidate we’re supposed to support doesn’t embody our own values? How can we effectively persuade independent voters to vote for someone whom we know in our hearts and minds is just the lesser of two evils?

There is only one way to save our country, and it is not to elect gasbag, empty-suit politicians who only want to trim around the edges and maintain the status quo. Conservatism is the only philosophy capable of restoring this country, and so we must vote not for politicians, but for conservatism. We don’t need to moderate our principles to get votes—we need to spread them, to educate people about them, so that our principles can be given electoral force. Empty votes may win elections, but they won’t win the future.

A Piece on Health Care “Reform”

Here we have the champion issue of the Democrat Party, the Holy Grail of leftism, President Obama’s “Waterloo;” it is the quintessential form of federal government control over the lives of Americans in a modern world. This issue has recently been the centerpiece of mainstream, left-wing reporting, and every day we hear the latest propaganda supporting the so-called “healthcare reform” proposals circulating within congress. This is a large topic, so I will break the left’s arguments down in to its components of philosophy, and statistical rationale.

The ideological foundation for this debate is the question “Is health care a right?” The Democrat Party’s proposals rely on an affirmative answer, but in taking a closer look beyond its emotional appeal, we find that the question must first be broken down into two more basic questions: (1) What is health care? (2) What is a right?

Most people seem to have a good concept of what health care is. When patients are administered medicine, they are receiving a tangible good. When a patient visits a doctor or nurse, they are receiving the tangible services of those professionals. Regardless of what the particular good or service is, health care is something that professionals in the field own and provide at a cost to themselves.

Defining a right is a little bit trickier. The conservative perspective holds that a right is a product of natural law; natural law is based on morality, and morality is based on human nature. Still, the concept of rights seem nebulous and intangible, so it’s best to start with its most basic characteristics. Most people would agree that in order for something to be a right, it must be inalienable from an individual, undeniable to them by both other individuals and by government. If rights are inalienable from individuals, then the rights of one individual necessarily cannot contradict the rights of another. Given these stipulations, let us consider the example of health care.

If health care is declared a right, then the rights of those without health care must necessarily contradict the rights of those with health care. If I walk into a hospital and demand treatment, claiming it as my right, I am actually claiming as my right the service of whoever provides the treatment–if they are unable to refuse, it would render the health care provider a slave. Because this would contradict the rights of the health care provider, health care cannot be a right. The same is true for all other goods and services, such as food, clothing, and housing. These things are produced by individuals at a cost to themselves.

Rights are not something that can be granted or confiscated by government, but goods and services are. In its endeavor to provide health care for all, government has fostered a sense of entitlement in people that causes them to view goods and services as a right. The irony is that the government’s reforms aren’t even focused on health care, but rather health insurance coverage. Health insurance coverage is a promise, and nothing more. Promises are something the government has an abundance of.

I also want to address the left’s use of the word “reform.” Its adoption for this context is no accident, though the way they use it is dishonest. There are two types of large scale change: Reform and Revolution. Edmund Burke, known as the founder of modern conservatism, knew from his observations on the French Revolution and the surrounding time periods what the characteristics and effects are of each. Change through reform is a healthy practice to amend and refine current systems which are believed to be effective, but inefficient. Change through revolution (also referred to sometimes as change through innovation) radically alters a system to the point of being unrecognizable (or does away with a system altogether), based either on the assumption that the current system is horribly inadequate, or that the new system will be so wonderful that continuation of the current system in any way is unacceptable. The two types of change are mutually exclusive, with reformation producing results opposite to those of revolution, which often have unintended consequences, and as Burke put, “A spirit of reformation is never more consistent with itself than when it refuses to be rendered the means of destruction.” The healthcare proposals originating in the U.S. House and Senate are not reform. They are a complete short circuit and doing-away-with of the current healthcare system of America, including its positive aspects. It is revolution, and if implemented, will be disastrous.

The Problem According to the Left

Dearth of Insurance Coverage

By now, there’s no doubt you’ve heard the figure thrown around by Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and several media pundits that there are at least 47 million uninsured Americans in this country. According to them, there is a crisis in the United States of such magnitude that you wouldn’t be able to walk down the street without seeing uninsured Americans sprawled out on the sidewalk, or spilling out of emergency rooms. They would have you believe that unless a great, new, federal government insurance agency is created, there will be a profusion of sickness, injury, and death in America for which we would all share blame.

The first problem with this is that I don’t see uninsured Americans sprawled out on the street. I assume this is because I live a very sheltered life, but still, one must be at least a little bit skeptical. 47 million Americans is over 15 percent of the current United States population, so one would think that this crisis would have been all over the news for years up to this point. 47 million uninsured Americans don’t just appear over night, but I seem to recall only hearing about this figure during the 2008 election as one of the Democrat Party’s talking points, so where did this figure come from? It turns out, the figure originates from the 2006 U.S. Census Report. As with most statistics, these require more than a face-value appraisal. In his book, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, Mark Levin digs deep into the report and points out a few problems with the Democrats’ conclusions:

“In 2006, the Census Bureau reported that there were 46.6 million people without health insurance. About 9.5 million were not United States citizens. Another 17 million lived in households with incomes exceeding $50,000 a year and could, presumably, purchase their own health care coverage. Eighteen million of the 46.6 million uninsured were between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four, most of whom were in good health and not necessarily in need of health-care coverage or chose not to purchase it. Moreover, only 30 percent of the nonelderly population who became uninsured in a given year remained uninsured for more than twelve months. Almost 50 percent regained their health coverage within four months. The 47 million “uninsured” figure used by Pelosi and others is widely inaccurate.”

The existence of 10-15 million truly uninsured people is no small problem, but when we honestly consider all the facets of the data, we must seriously question the exigency of overhauling our entire health care system. The coverage of non-citizens and people who, for whatever reason, abstain from purchasing health insurance, all in hopes of helping a small percentage of truly disadvantaged Americans, is not wise, and we must give fair examination to less drastic policy alternatives.

The Insurance Companies

How did this problem start? If and when one accepts the “47-million-uninsured-Americans” figure as accurate (ignoring the facts mentioned earlier), one must wonder where all these uninsured Americans came from and how they got to be in their current situation. The talking heads on the left, including politicians such as Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, seem to have decided upon private insurance companies as the culprit. They constantly re-iterate the horror stories of how people cannot acquire health insurance through their employer, or how skyrocketing health insurance premiums are preventing individuals and employers from purchasing a policy or prescription drugs, or how they are denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, etc. The fact is that some of these stories have some elements of truth to them, and there are a few cases in which people more or less fall “victim” to these situations. The health insurance system in this country is far from perfect, and it could stand to be reformed in many ways.

However, this leaves out an important aspect of the debate, and fails to explain the behavior of the insurance companies other than through words like, greed, malevolence, and selfishness. The purpose of health insurance is not to act as a buffer zone for the entirety of a population. As much as it pains some people to hear, it was never designed to provide for all people and cover all medical conditions. The way all insurance works is that the participants pool against risk–in this case, the risk of sickness or injury. When an individual requires treatment for some affliction, the insurance company is required by contract to pay out the premiums it collects according to a payment schedule. We are most familiar with such schedules through car and home insurance. When accidents occur, certain damages are covered, whereas others are not. Even compensation for similar damages may vary depending on other circumstances, such as who was at fault.

There is a big difference with health insurance, however, in that participants are not always pooling against risk. Since the advent of health insurance, the coverage of most insurance plans has grown to grotesque proportions to the point that insurance companies are no longer insuring only against risk–regular check-ups and procedures, weight-loss surgeries, and prescription drugs are but a few of the litany of covered treatments today (this is the main reason health care costs are so high). Given this overabundance of coverage, it would not make sense for a healthy person to participate, because instead of paying only for the unlikely, occasional, catastrophic illness or injury–which health insurance was originally designed to cover–their premiums would instead be going to pay for the near constant claims of people looking to fund their own lifestyle. The system would basically become a transfer payment. As a result, we have 18 million young people who wisely choose not to buy health insurance.

Given the lack of premiums from healthy people to subsidize perpetually sick people, insurance companies have to be discriminatory in deciding whom to cover. An insurance company would go broke if it had to provide for every single sick person or every pre-existing condition because there simply are not enough healthy people to pay for them all, and this would ultimately defeat the purpose of having health insurance in the first place. This is the sad, ultimate truth about the current health insurance system, and although it is sometimes a painful truth, it is the only way the insurance system can function to provide for the truly needy.

The Solution As They See It

Nationwide Private Insurance Mandates

Here’s what the Democrat politicians plan to do about the problem: Because they believe the insurance companies to be acting out of greed, selfishness, and discrimination, denying coverage purposefully because it would diminish their profits, they intend to solve this problem by punishing the insurance companies in a variety of ways. First and foremost, they intend to use the law to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions in individual insurance markets. The problem with this proposal is not hard to understand. I just explained why insurance companies do not cover all people and conditions, and to force them to do so would be to force them out of business. Besides, the federal legislation HIPAA which was passed in 1996 already mandates insurance companies to sell coverage for groups such as businesses regardless of the health of its employees. They also wish to prevent insurance companies from dropping coverage of those who become sick, but this problem is pretty much imaginary, as HIPAA already prevents this for groups as well as individuals, and no business in their right mind would charge for a product and not deliver the goods. They would go out of business in an instant. They also plan to prevent insurance companies from “watering down” plans and paying only for a limited supply of drugs and medical procedures. Although I actually believe this to be a noble endeavor, I also believe an insurance company that did this would not last long in a free market, and it is because of current federal law that these companies are able to perform such practices and still retain consumers, but I’ll address this subject later. They also intend to disallow “arbitrary cap[s]” on coverage after certain time periods. Again, in a free market, this would not occur, and it is because of federal law that this problem occurs, though it even sounds preposterous in itself. They also want to limit how much a person can be charged for “out-of-pocket expenses,” which I’ll assume to mean co-pays for medicine, check-ups, and non-covered expenses. This has less to do with insurance coverage (although it does revisit the problem of forcing coverage for everyone) than it does with simple economics. You cannot limit the price of those health services and medical supplies through law without causing vast, negative repercussions for the companies and clinics that provide those commodities.

Public Health Insurance Entity

Here is the tricky part of the Democrat plans in congress: The “public option,” as the politicians evasively describe it. It has had many names over the months and been talked about by many people. It has been called names like “government co-op,” “public option,” “health insurance exchange,” “universal healthcare,” oh, and don’t forget “Hillary-Care.” As much as the left wants to deny it, they are all means to the same end: socialized medicine. Every name, every government plan described, takes the power of health insurance away from the private sector, and gives it to a government entity. Here’s what will happen: The government plan, if it doesn’t immediately become the only insurance provider by law, will gradually become this. It may start out as a “government co-op,” or a “health insurance exchange,” both of which are designed to compete with the private companies in the free market. Eventually, the private companies will go out of business, as they will not be limitlessly funded by the federal or state governments, and they will not be able to compete with something that is. This is simple economics. Anyone who says that people may retain their private coverage in this newly created, government monopolized environment with no negative consequences are simply lying. If the government does not immediately force people to sign on to the government plan, then those people who retain their private coverage will see dramatically increasing premiums, and soon their plan and their company will cease to exist.

But what will this new government insurance entity look like, and how will life change with it? Most likely the newly created entity will be a bureaucratic agency, far away in the distant realm of Washington D.C. It will be large, of course, and inefficient as most bureaucratic agencies are, and it will be expensive to run. Many people have listened to the president’s rhetoric, and come away thinking such a system would be benevolent, down to earth, and even cost effective. The biggest misconception today, however, is that the government can actually provide healthcare for us at all. The government does not produce anything; it only rearranges things. The politicians will say they have achieved “healthcare for all,” but what does that really mean? When you go to the doctor for a checkup, you’re not getting the insurance you bought. You’re getting the tangible services of another human being. When you buy and use a pharmaceutical drug, it’s not the health insurance that makes you healthier, it’s the tangible effect of medicine. Of course the government will provide free health insurance coverage to all people in America (including illegal immigrants), but what will we really be getting? The only thing the government can deal with is money–your taxpayer money: You will be using it to buy health insurance once again, only this time there won’t be any private insurance companies to blame for lack of care. There will only be the government. You won’t be paying for your own health insurance, nor will you be paying for the insurance of a group of people associated with a private business. No, this time, you will be paying for the insurance of everyone, whether they be sick or well, whether they pay taxes or not. The government will not discriminate in providing coverage. Everyone will get it, but only a few will pay for it. If you are healthy and don’t feel the need to buy insurance, that’s too bad. You have to pay taxes, and taxes are not a selective matter.

Now, it’s bad enough having to pay for the care of others in a totally cost-ineffective system, but what if you’re sick? The proponents of government run healthcare tout the excellent quality of socialized medicine. But what happens when the only window you have to obtaining state of the art healthcare is a cost-ineffective system? As the number of people who would require healthcare treatment by law would increase exponentially, and as healthcare costs continue to rise due to inflation, the government will inevitably be forced to ration care. This is where the “death panels” you hear about come in to play. The left-wing media uses that term to mock the opponents of socialized medicine, but when there is only so much healthcare to go around, and too many people to be treated, someone is going to be neglected. The bureaucracy, in its unending quest to be cost effective will have to start cutting healthcare options from the plan until costs can be met. This means the people with the most expensive ailments will be neglected first: People with heart conditions, trauma disorders, cancer patients, mental disorders, asthma patients, etc. These are the people that the far off bureaucratic agency in Washington D.C.—with no regard for the thoughts of the patient, the doctor, or the spirit of life that each patient holds—will cut first. These are what the “death panels” are for. They are to decide who is the most inefficient; who has the least bang for the buck. It doesn’t stop there, though. Coverage will continue to deteriorate until there truly are millions of people (most of them being senior citizens and the disabled) without healthcare in America. When there is no one else to blame but the government, it will be too late. Private insurance will be long gone, the deficit will have ballooned, and millions will have suffered.

Then there are always those proponents of socialized medicine that refer to the success of government plans in Britain, Canada, and other countries. I don’t understand exactly how they would define success, but if they mean substandard care, long waiting lines, and higher mortality rates than the U.S., then yes, I would say they’re successful as well. Here are a few examples of the many “success” stories coming out of those countries:

http://www.liberty-page.com/issues/healthcare/socialized.html

Even though we actually have the best healthcare system on the face of the Earth, and many people from other countries flock here because they are prevented from even purchasing privately state-of-the-art medical care, herds of drones on the left still rant about revolutionizing the healthcare system here. There are plenty of countries around the world with socialized medicine. If those countries are the wonderful utopias that they are purported to be, why don’t huge quantities of Americans flock to nations like Great Britain and Canada? Just leave here, and stop trying to ruin our system for generations to come. Here’s something for those who say that the healthcare system in terms of quality here in America is miserable:

http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba649

The Problem As We See It

Misguided Federal Regulation

As for the proponents of new federal laws and increased federal regulation to solve the problems with America’s healthcare system (mostly Democrats and soft Republicans), it seems that the 1996 law HIPAA would be at least mostly satisfying. It provides for nationwide guaranteed issuing of coverage in group/business cases, and guaranteed renewability of coverage for groups/businesses and individuals. But apparently this doesn’t go far enough, hence the need for government run healthcare, and the inevitable destruction of the private insurance market. What most people fail to realize is that the laws of HIPAA already existed in many of the states to varying degrees. For example, by the mid 1990’s, 36 states had laws requiring guaranteed issue, and 46 states had laws requiring guaranteed renewability. I would see this as another strength of federalism, as it should promote national competition and give insurance shoppers more choices when it comes purchasing affordable plans that work for them, no matter their geographical location. Unfortunately, many states also have laws and regulations restricting which policies can be bought where.

The Solution As We See It

Tax Credits

Offering federal tax credits to individuals and families would significantly reduce the number of uninsured United States citizens, with a decreased risk of illegal immigrants or anyone else less inclined to pay taxes getting a free ride. It would also increase insurance participant pools overall, offsetting the spikes in premiums due to expensive, pre-existing, or other specifically designated conditions.

National Insurance Market

As of now, the tangle of state and federal regulations prevent individuals from shopping for insurance across state lines. Some policies and packages are only available in certain geographical areas. Reconciling state regulation through federal law could open up a national insurance market, increasing competition, driving down prices, and increasing levels of customization among plans.

Block Grants

If federal subsidies for insurance are absolutely necessary, they should be issued through block grants that allow states to control how much money goes to individuals and companies, and not waste money when it’s not needed.

Tort Reform

One of the biggest factors in the rise of healthcare costs in the United States is a plethora of malpractice lawsuits against doctors, hospitals, clinics, and HMO’s. Most of these cases are frivolous. Some experts say that 10-15% of the increases in healthcare costs are due to frivolous lawsuits, and federal law needs to be changed to limit them.

Where are the Republicans?

Although the left-wing media would have you believe that all the Republicans in Congress are a bunch of stubborn naysayers who only oppose real healthcare reform because they hate the president and want him to fail, the Republicans between June and the present day actually have had three pieces of legislation introduced in Congress (all three of them combined are smaller than any of the Democrat bills, and add to the deficit much less as well). None of them are really going anywhere, and they likely won’t because the Democrats have the majority in Congress. At least the rapid push to ram the government run healthcare bills down the throats of the American People is being slowed by the Republicans (besides Olympia Snowe and a few others), right?

I guess what the debate boils down to is this: If you support a destroyed private health insurance market, a government run health leviathan, rationed care, “death panels,” a ballooned federal deficit, substandard quality of care, long waiting lines, coverage for illegal immigrants, and higher mortality rates all for the sake of 10-15 million long term uninsured who will end up worse off than now anyway, then the Democrat proposals fit your bill. But if you believe that the system we have here, albeit imperfect, is the greatest healthcare system on the face of the Earth, and can be made better in a low cost and efficient way, without endangering the lives and prosperity of Americans for generations to come, while preserving and streamlining federalism, and while preserving coverage and quality of care for the most people possible, then not only do the Democrat proposals need to be opposed, but the Republican proposals need to be championed.

We do not elect our representatives or our president to authorize a cost-benefit analysis on the lives of their constituents, the American People. We elect them to preserve our freedom to choose the best path for our own lives.