Ever since these bailouts happened two years ago Bernie has actually said some things with which I agree. I find it hard to admit and I would never actually vote for him, but if he could be successful in ending the corporate welfare that he decries that would be okay by me. If he has to use Republican help to get it done, all the better (bizarre, but better).


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The GOP is now governed by utopians who abhor “socialism” and who contend that free markets are the sole answer to social and economic difficulties.All utopias are corruptible.

via All utopias are corruptible: Rutland Herald Online.

I may be fairly new to public discourse in politics, but I find it more than a little strange that the word, Utopian, is used to describe the GOP.  True, the GOP champions a free market economy. True, many GOP members think that a free market would accelerate growth and alleviate so-called economic, or social, injustices. However, a cursory study of free market thinkers like Thomas Sowell (Basic Economics 3rd Ed: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy) will reveal to the careful reader that proponents of the free market economy know and accept that nothing in this world is perfect and that it is precisely because of this view of the world that the GOP would champion a free market economy as the best answer to that imperfection.

A free market is best positioned to respond to the problems of poverty, hunger, and disaster because its design allows the flow of resources to go where they are most needed without the yoke of regulation slowing down the process.  Light regulation at best is what the conservative GOP member believes the role of the government should be. The GOP, or at least its rank-and-file, is about keeping the market as free as possible so that individuals can choose their paths according to their own free will with little or no interference from the government (or state). What has happened under both Republican and Democrat controlled governments in the United States over the last 50 plus years would hardly be a testament to the promotion of free markets, but there could be very little argument that the Republicans are a more likely champion of the free market than the Democrats.

The letter writer’s view of the GOP as somehow Utopian is informative, most likely, of where he gets his information. It is certainly possible, given the constant vilification of Republicans and their ideas, that a casual consumer of the news would believe the party of the GOP to be Utopian in its zeal to promote the free market. What seems to be absent in the analysis of the GOP is the perspective of conservative thinkers like Sowell, Walter Williams, or Dennis Prager (to name just a very few). None of these men is a shill for the GOP and they would likely be the first to let you know when elected officials began to stray from the objective of promoting a free market. Additionally, as a casual observer of politics (albeit definitely on the conservative side of the spectrum), I have noticed that the diversity of ideas for governing seem to be on the Republican side of the aisle rather than the Democrat side of the aisle (most notably on immigration reform from a few years back).

On one point, the letter writer and I can agree and I wish he would apply the scrutiny to the Democrat party: All utopias are corruptible. No statement could be more true and more timely in the wake of massive government intervention in health care, the auto and banking industries, and the college student loan industry. The Democrats believe that the state is the panacea (or at least the vehicle for the antidote) for the world’s ills and most Democrats subscribe to this vision of government as a Utopia. Again, most GOP members recognize the truth that the world is an imperfect place filled with imperfect people. We won’t run from this truth. Rather, we choose to accept it and apply the best possible systems for dealing with an imperfect human race. In this case, the free market.

In his townhall meeting today (watched on the internet thanks to Foxnews and this amazing thing called the Internet), President Obama praises the efficiency – a regular outcome of free market operations – of the Mayo clinic and how they provide top quality care at a lower cost to the consumer.  Meanwhile, he plans on pushing through a system of health care run by heavy (handed) government regulations.

Next, he tells me not to be scared by the naysayers who are arguing that this health care reform will be a system run by the government.

He is cleverly selling his plans for health care by arguing that something has to be done.  Note the tone of emergency as though putting off government action on health care would result in catastrophic problems.  Meanwhile he denigrates any opposing view points simply because they don’t offer something done by the government.  It seems that he really believes that government is the only entity, or force, for good in this world and that the only way we will get anything done is by way of government intervention.

I for one don’t buy it, and I hope there is a way that I can convince you, my faithful half dozen readers, not to buy into it either.  The only thing I hope the government does is get out of the health care business altogether.  Protect citizens from criminals (including those that would take advantage of consumers in the health care industry) and leave the rest to consumers and providers.

On Friday there was an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Steven Burd, the CEO of Safeway.  In it he declares:

While comprehensive health-care reform needs to address a number of other key issues, we believe that personal responsibility and financial incentives are the path to a healthier America.

It is not only refreshing to see that some business leaders think outside the box on health-care issues but it is especially refreshing to see that Mr. Burd’s thinking outside the box involved a free-market approach to finding answers.  In a free market you can’t remain static for very long or your likely to lose money and Burd suggested:

As a self-insured employer, Safeway designed just such a plan in 2005 and has made continuous improvements each year.

I have pondered something like this for a while and I am sure I am not the only citizen of the United States to do so.  The comparison to, even the modeling after, the automobile insurance industry is also something that I discussed with my dentist father-in-law a few years ago.  What would it take to insure people in a manner that encouraged personal responsibility via healthy habits and rewarded that behavior accordingly?

Without having researched the obstacles to such reform, it seems to me that there is one big (generic) problem to implementing a health care reform like this plan (that has kept Safeway’s health insurance costs from rising over the last four years while the rest of the country has had an average of a 38% increase in costs): Government.

Government “meddling” in the health-care world via Medicare and Medicaid has distorted the ability of real reform-minded individuals and companies from making any inroads to meaningful changes.  When you insure a large group of the population free of charge (to the insured, at least) via Medicare and you artificially set reimbursement rates to providers that are below market value then you have a system that cannot sustain itself (where are my “sustainable lifestyle” peeps now?).  As more people join the rolls of the “no-cost-to-the-individual” insurance of Medicare, the health-care providers are either forced to accept those patients at lower reimbursement rates or dump them all because there is no financial incentive to provide care for them.

It has been my experience that government regulation, and not the “evil” insurance companies, are to blame for most of the problems and waste found in the health-care industry.  Insurance companies have a host of factors to look at when they insure an individual and his family, but it appears to this average consumer that it is the factor of government regulation that causes the most problems for the company.  Of course, the insurance company is left holding the ball when all is said and done so it usually appears to the insured that their insurance company is the one that raked them over the coals.

I may not have all the answers to a workable health-care solution, but I can at least identify the problem.  End government interference in health-care and let the power of the individuals operating in a free market begin to find a genuine solution.

So, both campaigns are playing the ‘guilt-by-association’ card with their opponent.  McCain’s tack is a little more obvious: Obama hangs out with unrepentant terrorists and America haters.  Obama’s is a little more subtle: McCain hangs out with the well-to-do and those unsympathetic to the poor and downtrodden.  Thanks to the campaigns of both candidates we find ourselves, once again, considering who do I like rather than whose candidacy has the best ideas for governance.

Now, that being said, it isn’t unimportant who the candidates ally themesleves with.  Depending on the depth of that relationship an association can play an important role in shaping the candidate’s thinking on many issues that would play out in the White House if elected.  It makes sense for McCain to tie Obama to Ayers and others because it may give voters some insight into how Obama thinks.  How a candidate thinks should be important to consider when voting for the President of the United States.  For Obama, his attack on McCain may not be quite as effective.  It makes sense for Obama to alienate voters from some one who can’t identify with their station in life, but it doesn’t necessarily give the voter any insight into how the candidate thinks.

Either way, personality politics is relatively useless in determining what kind of governing a candidate will execute once in office.  I am not the most informed voter out there, but neither am I ignorant of the race for president and some of the various subtexts accompanying the major stories.  I don’t pretend to know the details of how each candidate would govern, but here is my (simplified) summary:

Obama: centralized planning by the government

McCain: free-market approach by the government

It would be refreshing if we could discuss the differences between those two approaches to governance rather than who is cooler or braver.