Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Conservatives Flip-Flop On Individual Mandate Out Of Political Expediency

So let me see if I have this straight.  The principle most offensive to the TPM ultra-conservative types is the individual mandate.  It is the idea that the government would require an American citizen to buy something she might not want to buy.  I suspect most find the regulation of insurance company atrocities, such as dropping coverage when a person becomes sick, denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and charging higher premiums for women, somewhat acceptable.  It is the mandate that they hate.  HATE.

But what we are learning now is that conservatives almost universally supported the individual mandate as a sensible free-market alternative to the Clinton health care reform.  In fact, conservatives thought up the idea in the 70s and supported it for decades.  Mormon conservative hero and potential frontrunner in the 2012 Republican primary Mitt Romney passed an individual mandate as governor in Massachusetts and had this to say about it:  "We can't have as a nation 40 million people — or, in my state, half a million — saying, 'I don't have insurance, and if I get sick, I want someone else to pay.'"

Friday, March 26, 2010

On David Foster Wallace and Leadership

I'm requiring that all readers of this blog love the late writer David Foster Wallace.  If you can read through his essays in Harper's and the commencement speech he gave Kenyon College, and not want to go on and read his books, Infinite Jest in particular, you probably need to humble yourself and open your heart.  I'm not going to blaspheme and give you Moroni's promise here, but let me just say that I think the pure in heart will love his writing.  I know it's trendy to love DFW's writing right now, so sue me.  I love it.

So I was surprised that I had missed his article in Rolling Stone back in 2000 when he followed the McCain campaign around for a week.  He spends the last section of the article about leadership, which he defines as:
A real leader is somebody who, because of his own particular power and charisma and example, is able to inspire people, with "inspire" being used here in a serious and non-cliché way. A real leader can somehow get us to do certain things that deep down we think are good and want to be able to do but usually can't get ourselves to do on our own.
He then makes the point that we are less susceptible to real leadership today, as compared to JFK's presidency:
True, JFK's audience was more "innocent" than we are: Vietnam hadn't happened yet, or Watergate, or the Savings and Loan scandal, etc. But there's also something else. The science of sales and marketing was still in its drooling infancy in 1961 when Kennedy was saying "Ask not..." The young people he inspired had not been skillfully marketed to all their lives. They knew nothing of Spin. They were not totally, terribly familiar with salesmen.
          . . .
But if you're subjected to enough great salesmen and salespitches and marketing concepts for long enough — like from your earliest Saturday-morning cartoons, let's say — it is only a matter of time before you start believing deep down that everything is sales and marketing, and that whenever somebody seems like they care about you or about some noble idea or cause, that person is a salesman and really ultimately doesn't give a [I'll edit this, it is a Mormon blog, so use your imagination] about you or some cause but really just wants something for himself.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Faltering Africa

I read an article about the state of war in Africa and have been rolling it around in my head for the last few days.  Sometimes you read something about the world which just slaps you in the face, and this was one of those times for me.

I tend to be an optimist on both a micro and macro level.  Many would call this naivete or willful delusion, but I consider it asset.  I believe that things will work out okay for me personally during difficult times (my wife might say this causes me to be less proactive than I should be, and maybe she's right), and I believe that the world is actually doing okay.  Sure there are problems, big ugly problems, but there are also a lot of good people doing their best to solve those problems.

We live in a world that has less slavery than ever before, less racism and sexism, more tolerance and understanding.  Mass communication has allowed us to perceive and react to inhumanities worldwide where before they would go unnoticed.  For every war or earthquake there are aid groups like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders who rush in to help improve the situation.  And, of course, our church and many others donate hundreds of millions of dollars worth of supplies and volunteer time every year to help the disadvantaged.  For every instance of cruelty in the world I look for and see equal instances of charity.

But, man, Africa.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another one Bites the Dust

Okay, another one is misleading. What I should say is "The first one bites the dust."

Arizona has become the first State to eliminate it's children's health insurance program (CHIP or SCHIP). The state legislature cited budget shortfalls and a "fiscal crisis" led to the decision to eliminate the program that served "38,000 children living in families with incomes between 100% and 200% of the federal poverty level ($22,000 to $44,000 for a family of four)."

As with other states using a similar program (i.e. Utah), states only pay about 35% of the cost needed for coverage, while the other 65% comes from the federal government. To me, one of the most interesting comments came from the Governor:

"As an Arizonan, as a mother, and as a person who feels great compassion for the vulnerable and less fortunate," she said, "it is only with great reluctance that I advocate a number of deep reductions in funding. . . . As governor, I have a duty to preserve State government's fiscal integrity and to ensure Arizona's long-term health."

I see contradictions throughout this statement. How does compassion for the vulnerable and less fortunate lead to cutting programs that help the vulnerable and less fortunate? Does Arizona's long-term health only include fiscal health and not physical health?

I hope for a land were people talk-the-talk, and then walk-the-walk. Maybe it's my "socialist" heart coming out, but I hope that other States don't follow the "responsible" move just made by Arizona.

Monday, March 15, 2010

When One Party Rule Goes From Uncomfortable to Appalling

Appalling: adj., inspiring horror, dismay, or disgust.

Utah State House Majority Leader Kevin Garn getting into a hot tub naked with a 15 year old when he was 30 is appalling.  Paying this woman $150,000 to keep quiet about it so as not to ruin his political career is appalling.  Expecting the public to believe that nothing else happened between them is appalling ($150,000 for just sitting there?  Hmmmm).  Only confessing 25 years later when the story was about to become public anyway is appalling.  It is made more appalling that he is a member of the church and an elected leader of our state.  This is all appalling.  The story inspires me to horror, dismay, and disgust.

Perhaps the most appalling thing, though, is that when he finished making his speech at the end of the legislative session on the floor of the state House, he received a standing ovation from his fellow legislators.  They congratulated him on being so brave and coming clean.    And if you are masochistic enough to read the comment section of the Deseret News story I linked above, you will find the vast majority of commenters applauding his courage and eviscerating that poor girl.  I feel like we are living in some bizzaro world where up is down, dark is light, courage is cowardice, and right is wrong.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sure, Let's Keep Talking About Health Care Reform

As the Democrats in Congress and Pres. Obama renew their efforts to pass health care reform, I thought I'd take the cue and go over the case one more time.  I know it is overkill, but overkill is the true spirit of blogging.

We have an unmistakable health care problem in America.  Most everyone can agree with that (except the wealthy).  There are about 47 million Americans without health insurance, and about 10 million children, most of whom want health insurance but either can't afford it or have been denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition (which can range from big problems like heart disease to something menial like heartburn).

Even if you are lucky enough to have health insurance the picture is not pleasant.  Premiums are rising at four times the rate of inflation and wages, and have doubled over the past ten years (has your earning capacity doubled in the past ten years?).  Insurance companies are also notorious for avoiding paying out for ostensibly covered procedures based on any technicality they can find, or for no reason at all.