Posts Tagged ‘Entitlements’

What The Media Talks About When You’re Not Looking

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Dr. David Samadi - Regulating Life

Just a short while ago, I was retrieving a fresh cup of coffee, and I happened to hear something on the television that caused me to do a double-take.  FoxNews was on and America’s New Headquarters had a contributor on to talk about obesity in America, and the fact that obesity and even the classification “overweight” seem to have plateaued in the country.  The doctor, from Mt. Sinai in New York, a David Samadi, was discussing the implications of the new study showing this plateau.  The thing that caught my attention was not so much the discussion of obesity, but what this idiotic doctor was prescribing:  He wants new taxes, for instance, a “soda tax,” and he wants to reduce the number of fast-food outlets in the country. Excuse me?  Physician, heal thyself! This is the nature of the stories even allegedly “conservative” news outlets like FoxNews cover when most of us aren’t watching, and it almost always leans in the direction of socialism.

Let me say from the outset that like many Americans, I could stand to eat Five Guys burgers somewhat less frequently, but let me also suggest that it is none of this doctor’s business what I eat or drink, where I eat it or drink it, and most of all whether I am taxed for so doing.  Samadi’s view seems to be that he can issue prescriptions for three-hundred-million people, never having examined more than a few hands-full of them.  More, since he has no such authority or power or the ability to control, he exhorts government to do so on behalf of his preferred prescription for people the vast majority of whom he has never met, never mind examined or treated.  What sort of collectivized thinking permits this arrogant [expletive deleted] to sit there in a television studio and proclaim to all that he has the answers for your life, but that he needs government’s power to coerce and to tax in order to implement them?

There is something wicked about the minds of those who view their fellow men as cattle, to be poked and prodded and driven in a direction that they may not themselves wish to go.  It is born of a mindset that does not respect first and foremost the lives and rights of individual people. These people are those who I term “regulators,” who wish to regulate all persons in a given society of which they are members to conform to their view of what is right for all people.  Mayor Bloomberg’s various bans on salt or saturated fats in cooking oils are just two examples, but it is the mindset of a tyrant that is troubling in all of this.  I don’t need Mayor Bloomberg, Michelle Obama, or Dr. Samadi telling me what to eat, when to eat it, or whether I ought to have access to it at all.  It’s simply not their concern.  Or is it?

Now we arrive at the meat of this issue, because there is much more than burgers at stake here.  What is under examination is not whether they have the authority to control us, but how they derive such authority in the first place.  The answer is simple: They rely upon the faulty claims of the notion of “the public health.”  You may have noticed that they always portray this as a “public health crisis,” and as an “epidemic,” but this is a lie, and their authority in the matter only arises because of health-care, and the fact that government is the biggest player in that segment of the market.  They have routinely positioned the matter in such a way that they can make the claim that by virtue of governmental expenditures in this field, it therefore becomes an issue of public imperative.  Worse, by allowing their colossal medical expenditures and controls to grow out of all bounds, you have permitted them to enter this field, and thereby exert control over your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and evening snack besides.  More damaging still is the fact that the government is now the largest food provider on the planet. Again, I remind you: We have permitted this.

Here’s a basic rule of nature, and of civilization that the statists know and are now turning in their favor: If you are the provider of a thing, you can decide when to provide it, how to provide, how much of it to provide, and under what conditions you’ll provide it.  For instance, if I invite you to my home for a meal, since I am providing it, it is my natural right to determine all the particulars.  If you provide me a service without compensation, it is clear that I have no ethical or moral claim with respect to the manner in which you provide it. Only paying customers have any say-so in the matter.  The old adage “beggars can’t be choosers” should immediately leap into one’s mind.  That simple old adage merely paid homage to that which is self-evident, and yet it is this same concept that has been bent and twisted into the service of the state’s aggressive aggregation of power.  The strategy has been to blur the lines. Let’s see if we can reconstruct the approach.

First, we create simultaneously programs to:

  • Provide food to the poor
  • Provide health-care to the poor
  • Provide “health insurance” to the elderly

Do you see how this has mutated?  The idle poor are fed, but they are fed rations excessive for a person at hard labor, and we wonder why there is obesity? We then provide these same people health-care, and we wonder why there is a “public health crisis?”  Add to this that we simultaneous have a system of health “insurance” for our elderly that further obscures the difference between paying and non-paying, and at the other end of the spectrum, we now have federal food programs in schools, as the manner by which federal funds are dispersed and control exercised.

By exercising control over the disbursement of these commodities and services, the government is essentially putting itself in the position of the provider, and therefore has become the “chooser,” with all the beneficiaries effectively having been rendered “beggars.”  Those of us who are paying for this are the real providers, and yet we are now told it is a matter of “human rights” that we do this provisioning. Obamacare is simply the latest in this chain, but it’s hardly the only “improvement” to the system that has been foisted upon us in recent years, with the Bush Medicare Prescription Drugs program added to the mix.

With the government now being the largest payer in the health-care market, you can expect that it will naturally displace market imperatives in the delivery of health-care goods and services, and it will necessarily prioritize that delivery(death panels, for instance,) while reaching into unrelated markets to regulate those things that it will make the case as having some influence over the costs to government.

This then leads to the grotesque spectacle of Dr. Samadi appearing on FoxNews telling us what we can eat, where we can procure it, and what taxes we ought to pay along the way, as the whole miserable assembly comes lurching into plain sight.  You can be told what you can eat because you will [eventually] rely upon government to pay for your health-care.  The market can be told what it may provide, and how, because the government has an interest in reducing its costs.  The tax-payer can be told to shut up about it, since it’s virtually established as some sort of irreducible premise that every person ought to be somehow entitled to that which does not pour from the heavens, but must be obtained by human effort.  As you can therefore see, it is inevitable that government has now used this to become a dictator in every important facet of our lives, and all because somewhere along the march from our founding to present, we permitted them to make our needs the means to its ends.

When you consider that this is the sort of thing that is discussed on allegedly conservative media when most of the country isn’t watching, it ought to alert you to the underlying premises of the discussions in media many more of us witness.  What we should note is that in most every media outlet, there is a sort of inherent reverence for the state, and for the under-girding foundational constructs of collectivism, and we ought to be very careful not to ignore that these media outlets are fundamentally in favor of it, almost all of them, and widely across the board. It’s easy to dismiss this sort of news story as simple time-fillers on a weekend with no ongoing crisis-bound event on which to report, but I think we should be careful to see that is also a sign of what lies behind the blaring headlines, and it is key to understanding why the country continues to be dragged ceaselessly leftward.

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National Defense Faces Severe Cuts

Monday, November 7th, 2011

A Scalpel or a Sword?

As you will may remember from the Debt Ceiling debacle in early August, the deal then worked out has some automatic triggers.  If the Super Committee created by the legislation fails to produce sufficient spending cuts, those triggers will kick in and cuts will be forced upon Congress.  The biggest target of these cuts is the defense budget, and as the New York Times is reporting,  it’s Leon Panetta who is now considering what those cuts will be.  This is one of the most despicable parts of our current budget morass, and it’s astonishing that nobody much seems to notice:  One of the few legitimate functions of government is the national defense, and yet among all the things to be cut, defense will be hit the most deeply.  I have no problem with an examination of the necessities of our defense spending, but I’m also aware that while government spends money on all sorts of things for which it has no actual constitutional authority, defense is clearly one of the budget categories for which the federal government exists.  In part, this is the result of the can-kicking in which Boehner and House Republicans joined by making their deal with the devil in August, but it’s also the built-in result of generations of governmental growth in other areas of expenditure.

Defense spending now stands at approximately $700 billion.   That’s an astonishing number that is as large as the entire federal budget just thirty years ago.  Part of that number owes to our engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the actual baseline spending for defense being $530 billion.  That’s still an incredible amount of money, but it is only $130 billion(yes, “only”) more than the defense budget at the height of the Reagan administration, but in inflation-adjusted dollars, it’s actually less.  Defense constitutes the largest single line-item in the discretionary portion of the budget, but the entitlements, in the non-discretionary budget, have begun to dwarf the spending on defense.  Social Security is a larger program, and Medicare and Medicaid together exceed the total defense spending.  It should seem odd to Americans that programs for which there is no clear constitutional authorization are considered “non-discretionary,” while programs that are most definitely among the legitimate roles of our federal government are considered “discretionary.”

What this means is that we don’t have a choice on a year-to-year basis about those items in the non-discretionary budget.  We are going to spend to support them, because previous legislation has mandated it.  Discretionary budget items are those that are adjusted on an annual basis, and not necessarily tied to previous legislation.  You can look at it this way for simplicity’s sake:  Non-discretionary spending is comprised of entitlement programs.  Discretionary spending is comprised of everything else.  In our federal budget, non-discretionary spending is roughly twice the size of discretionary spending.

I am certain defense can be trimmed without hampering the nation’s immediate defenses, but I am less certain that over the long run, we can maintain a force capable of deterring and repelling enemies around the globe.  Even in the midst of a deep recession, we are having difficulties with recruiting and retention of military personnel.  This is because just like any other large organization, most of the defense budget is actually spent on salaries and benefits for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. In precisely the same way that the CEO of a large corporation will make cuts to employees first, mainly because it’s the biggest single operational cost, the Defense Department suffers from the same basic problem: Service-members cost a great deal, and a good deal more than their already pathetic pay and benefits represent.  Training costs are phenomenal, and the costs of supporting units in the field are huge.

Many will suggest, naively, that we simply “buy a few less $400 toilet seats.”  While that makes for a good laugh line, the reality is that the defense budget has finally managed to clean up most of those sorts of egregious expenditures over the last decade or so, largely because the Defense Department has had no choice.  Still, there are matters that should be examined, like the billions of dollars simply missing, and other problems with big-ticket line items.  Nevertheless, in our dangerous world, there is an ever-escalating competition between us and our would-be and real enemies, where high technology will be contribute directly to reducing the number of flag-draped caskets that arrive at Andrews AFB during each future engagement.  This sobering recognition is among the reasons that any such spending cuts in the military budget must be accomplished as some might say, “not with a machete, but with a scalpel.”  We must be certain that whatever cuts we make do not leave us naked to attacks, and that when we do engage in warfare,  our troops are given every advantage we can provide to win with minimal losses.

One of the areas in which Secretary Panetta is looking for cuts to defense is in the area of medical and other benefits, in addition to gross payroll.   That’s a mistake.  We already have difficulties attracting people to serve in the military, and this too can have a dramatic affect on morale, and readiness.  In truth, to make the level of cuts they’re intending, nearly $200 billion annually, we’re going to be forced to withdraw from virtually all overseas engagements and forward locations.  This poses another danger, inasmuch as we may be slower to respond to crises around the globe, and we may be less able to react when things go awry in one theater of operations or another.  We can ill-afford to be caught short again, because the direction of global terrorism is marching toward weapons of mass destruction.  The 9/11 attacks of 2001 were just a sample of the sort of mayhem the terrorists around the globe are going to be able to create, and this says nothing of our strategic adversaries such as Russia, China, and several others.

This impending doom for the DoD makes plain the problem with our current budgetary priorities.  We are spending far too heavily on entitlement programs of every description, and it will no begin to affect our nation’s defenses.  There are those who argue that the military should be cut, but they don’t think in terms of scalpels or even machetes, but guillotines.  This short-sighted approach is surely destined to create a situation in which we will face increased vulnerabilities on some fronts, and escalating troubles with recruitment and retention.  Our fighting forces deserve the best equipment and training we can afford, but now the question is:  What can we afford?  The answer to this question is likely to be unsatisfactory, because too many politicians derive too much support by virtue of entitlement spending, and while the argument could be made that there is a certain element of the same thing with the defense budget where it comes down to large bases and projects, it’s also true that they aren’t so concerned about the costs in morale and readiness for ordinary soldiers.  What the American people must begin to recognize is that we’ve blown our budget not so much by virtue of military spending, but because we’ve over-extended our social spending to such a degree that it is now squeezing out defense.  There’s something terribly wrong in our thinking when we look at military spending as “discretionary” but Medicaid as “non-discretionary.”  What is our government here to do, after all?  Now we’ve been reduced to the near inevitability that a big-government liberal, Leon Panetta, is going to be hacking away at our nation’s defenses.  We should all be worried at this prospect.

The Coming Wars

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Liberty or Tyranny?

For my conservative and Tea Party brethren, there must now be an acknowledgment that the immediate future looks quite grim.  We have a country in some stage of collapse, though I contend that like a free-falling elevator, the rate at which it’s falling may not be entirely apparent to its occupants until it hits the ground.  As this situation worsens, we must consider what’s ahead, how we’ll stop it if we can, and salvage it if we’re able.  For the country to be restored, we’ll be compelled to adopt a more proactive stance, because it’s probably going to get messy.  We face the greater war for our culture and our country, but before we can wage that one to a successful conclusion, we will need to win the opening skirmish.

The Presidential nomination cannot be allowed to go to a useless, tepid, weak candidate who will not pursue the restoration of the country with full vigor. We should consider this primary like an instructive field training exercise, whereby we will polish our skills and extend our endurance, because the other engagements will demand it. As I detailed yesterday, there can really be one candidate among all those under consideration who is able to take on this difficult duty and hope to prevail.

One of the problems in this political season is with us.  We’ve largely failed to understand the larger trends and the clear signals of impending danger those trends are transmitting.  People have compared this coming season to 1980, noting its significance  is greater than all the election years from them until now.  This is an error.  A few have even remarked, myself one or twice, that his is more like 1932, but this is also wrong.  It’s much more substantial than that, and I need your undivided attention in considering it fully.  The coming election year is most like 1860, and we’re facing a different sort of war to stop a different sort of slavery, and to restore the freedom that had prevailed in most of the years since.  I am going to say it more bluntly, because it needs to be said: We are near the tipping point into some sort of civil war.

You may now pause, and wish to ask if I might have blown a gasket, but ladies and gentlemen, we must admit what is true.  We now have a government that issues more money to citizens(and some non-citizens) in some form of direct payment than it annually collects in revenues.  Those same people are dissatisfied with the amount, and demand still more.  Roughly 65% of the Federal government’s expenditures go to some sort of redistributive or entitlement program.  That includes agricultural subsidies, and most corporate welfare, but does not include the amount we’ve handed out in bail-outs on a one-time basis due to some supposed crisis or other.  At the same time, we know that government is borrowing roughly 40% of what it spends. This means only 60% of its expenditures are covered by revenues.  Let me ask once more: Do you not see a problem with this?  Again, you are confronted with a stark reality: We now expend more on entitlements to individuals than we now collect.  These same beneficiaries now scream that it isn’t enough, and are beginning to threaten civil unrest in thinly veiled words.

Whether violence erupts before or after the elections, there will be at least some domestic strife.  Leftist groups now openly agitate for “Days of Rage.”  Consider what message this is meant to deliver.  You don’t pay enough, they argue , and whether through threats or violence, they intend to have whatever they want and demand.  Need I clarify this further? You say, “but Mark, surely they can see you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.”  I’m telling you that they’re willing to settle for turnip soup.  You can try to rationalize it in any manner you wish, and try to comfort yourself with the notion that these people wouldn’t eat the goose that lays the golden egg.  I’m telling you flatly that they’ll happily pluck and roast the engine of capitalism because they have been convinced that they’re entitled to do so.  Who convinced them?  You did.

You convinced them because in every previous challenge, in the name of “getting along,” or “being compassionate,” you have wavered and relented in the face of their demands.  With the creation of each additional program over the last century or so, you’ve said to them that their unlimited wishes will be met.  Has it never bothered you that people who claim to seek help due to a desperate need now make their requests in the form of a demand?  Finally, and perhaps a bit too late, you’re onto them.  That’s what the Tea Party really is: It’s born of the recognition that it’s time to begin saying “No.”  Your problem is that they’re no longer accustomed to being told “No.”  Why would they be otherwise?  You have acceded to all previous demands.  We have arrived fully in the age of moral cannibalism, and what now threatens our future is the real thing in all its terrifying forms.

This civil war will not be defined so much by geography as by ethical orientation, but in truth, if we examine the last civil war, the lines merely happened to coincide with geography, but it too was about legal and moral considerations.  What defined the last war was a notion about the right of states as sovereigns, irrespective the underlying issues, and the object was the ultimate power of the Federal government.  Everything that has happened since is an outgrowth of the resolved issue of Federal supremacy over the states, but as was inevitable, once the states were almost fully subdued, all that remained was to then control local governments and ultimately, individuals. Rather than having a tiered system, wherein most citizens seldom deal directly with the federal or even state establishments, we have grown all levels of government in such a thoroughly entangled manner, with power over individual citizens being routinely exercised at all levels that rather than resembling the orderly layered cake our founders conceived, our governments now resemble a stew.  It is now nearly impossible to discern the individual parts without some effort to separate them.  If we are to repair our country, we’ll be forced to begin rebuilding our layer cake, each layer with its own distinctive flavor and function.  As it is, we now have federal authorities wishing to impose Commercial Drivers’ Licenses on farmers on their own property. We have local officials intervening in other matters, like the right to keep and bear arms, where their authority to restrict rights guaranteed under the federal constitution ought to be negligible.  The more you turn this over in your head, and the more thoroughly you grasp what has been done, it becomes clear that whatever layer of government you ought to be engaging in a particular matter, if at all, they are becoming one uniform mass from top to bottom.  We are becoming the Soviet Union.

If this all seems a bit too overly dramatic to you, consider the increasingly frequent instances of local governments gone berserk  with power, with such things as requiring business licenses of children who wish to set up lemonade stands.  There shouldn’t be an American alive who doesn’t get a sick feeling in the pit of the stomach at the mere thought.  That some sort of ridiculously power-hungry government officials who would even think to enforce such a thing should cause you no shortage of concern.  No, we mustn’t allow our children to experiment in capitalism.  No, we mustn’t let them experience a capitalism limited only by the extent of their own dedication and imagination.  Do you see what this does to our culture, at is simplest, most innocent root? It corrupts it with cynicism about an honest day’s work or entrepreneurship and instills submission to the arbitrary demands of government officials, no matter how unreasonable.  I now ask you: Isn’t this what we have permitted ourselves to become?

I can already imagine the critiques of my leftist counterparts, who will in shrill tones denounce and dismiss what I have said, in the main because they know it to be true.  Somehow, like every vanguard of statist “intellectuals” in history, the current crop also believes they will somehow be held harmless and immune, but in truth, once those of us who stand for liberty are displaced, what these self-defrauding useful idiots will discover is that we had been the only thing protecting them, too.

Now, considering this as your actual situation, and armed with this knowledge, what are you to do?  Will you flee?  Submit?  What will be your course?   For my part, I will fight.  For now, we may expect to fight as we are, in politics, and words, but there may yet come a time when more will be required.  To defend this Republic, I will give all if need be.  My oath didn’t end with my term of service, and I don’t know of any statute of limitation upon it.  I know most of you feel likewise.  Let us work now with extra fervor within the political process in the sincere effort to avert the worst of it.

Part of our problem, nationally, but particularly as conservatives and Republicans, exists in the realm of what we called “enemy identification” when I was in the Army.  If you don’t know who to fight, it’s damned-well difficult to prevail.  The simplest answer must be that we must oppose any who wish to further trample our constitution, or otherwise negate its guarantees.  We must also demand a stoppage to the inclusion of false guarantees it never contained, but have been increasingly discovered there nonetheless.

We must arise for the task before us, and it is a solemn and difficult chore in the best of times.  We must restore our governments, all of them, to their proper limited roles.  Some number of our fellow Americans are going to resist a restoration because it means that so much of what they’ve come to demand by right will no longer be, and this is the first point of conflict, and the threat of that moment will be the probable impetus to a change in the terms of this struggle from the political to the violent.  The question is again laid before us: What sort of nation shall we be?  What sort of freedom do you seek?  What is a right?

We’ve been building to this for a very long time.  The resolution will likely be as sudden in a historical sense as it is likely to be final.  Will we continue as a Republic, restoring our liberties, or will we be fundamentally transformed into something even worse than we’ve already become?  Ayn Rand once admonished us through the fictional character of John Galt in the book Atlas Shrugged that no nation could continue indefinitely as half property and half loot.  Look around you.  What have we become?  As we live out the worst of that novel, and seem poised to go to a still more ignominious end, I’m asking you to consider arresting its decline while there’s still time.  It may be that I’m no different from those in the book who thought it could be saved when it couldn’t, but I suspect we’ve still enough people who know the lessons of history well enough to avoid repeating them.

If that’s so, then let us embark on this first campaign, not to wrest control yet from our statist adversaries of the left, but of their complicit collaborators who would claim our friendship on our side.  We must settle on a candidate who will be able to bring them back into the fold, without making further compromise to them.  Then we can begin to gear ourselves up for the larger struggle.  Mark Levin had it right when he titled his book Liberty and Tyranny.  Those are now the distinct choices.  There has been only one individual of national prominence who has stated this basic thesis consistently, in many contexts and forms for the last three years or more.  None have said it more succinctly or plainly.  In 2012, we will have Barack Obama on their side of this argument, and we will have Sarah Palin on ours, if we’re wise.  There turns the conflict.  There will be determined the course of our nation.  Will we restore our nation, or slide over the precipice into historical insignificance?  Will we emerge as a nation aimed back in the direction of liberty, or will we follow the path of tyranny?  The choice is yours, and the time to make it is running out.