Saturday, January 30, 2010

Interesting insights into Obama, ideology and State of the Union Address.

Peggy Noonan wrote an interesting piece on President Obama's state of the union speech. She was Reagan's speechwriter and therefore have an interesting perspective on it's content.

She said the speech was OK, but nothing special.
President Obama's speech was not a pivot, a lunge or a plunge. It was a little of this and a little of that, a groping toward a place where the president might successfully stand. It was well written and performed with élan. The president will get some bounce from it, and the bounce will go away. Speeches are not magic, and this one did not rescue him from his political predicament, but it did allow him to live to fight another day. In that narrow way it was a success. But divisions may already have hardened. In our current media and political environment, it is a terrible thing to make a bad impression in your first year.
At the heart of the speech was a contradiction.

The central fact of the speech was the contradiction at its heart. It repeatedly asserted that Washington is the answer to everything. At the same time it painted a picture of Washington as a sick and broken place. It was a speech that argued against itself: You need us to heal you. Don't trust us, we think of no one but ourselves.

The people are good but need guidance—from Washington. The middle class is anxious, and its fears can be soothed—by Washington. Washington can "make sure consumers . . . have the information they need to make financial decisions." Washington must "make investments," "create" jobs, increase "production" and "efficiency."

At the same time Washington is a place "where every day is Election Day," where all is a "perpetual campaign" and the great sport is to "embarrass your opponents" and lob "schoolyard taunts."

Why would anyone have faith in that thing to help anyone do anything?

I thought she also had some interesting insights into Obama gleamed from a Republican member of Congress. Her friend said that Obama won't, can't move to the center because he's an ideologue. He's committed to his agenda right or wrong, whether people are behind him or not.

As the TV cameras panned the chamber, I saw a friendly acquaintance of the president, a Republican who bears him no animus. Why, I asked him later, did the president not move decisively to the political center?

Because he is more "intellectually honest" than that, he said. "I don't think he can do a Bill Clinton pivot, because he's not a pragmatist, he's an ideologue. He's a community organizer. He mixes the discrimination he felt as a young man with the hardship so many feel in this country, and he wants to change it and the way to change that is government programs and not opportunity."

He also told Noonan the big problem is spending. Democrats don't get it and Republicans are only a little bit better than Democrats on this issue.

The great issue, this friendly critic added, is debt. The public knows this; Congress and the White House do not. "To me the Republicans are as rotten as the Democrats" in terms of spending. "Almost."

"I hope we have big changes in 2010," the friend said. Only significant loss will force the president to focus on spending. "To heal our country we need to get the arrogance out of the White House and the elitists out of the Congress. We need tough love. We need a real adult in the White House because we don't have adults in the Congress."

Given who's in power and their mindset, I think we're headed for greater economic difficulties. Tough and tougher times are still ahead of us. The President and Congress aren't willing to change course, so we'll keep heading down the path of more government spending and more debt and the resulting economic dislocations and problems.

As Noonan's friend suggests, everybody is at fault, but Obama and the Democrat Congress will take us in the wrong direction faster.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Looks like there will be a homosexual marriage push at the Minnesota state legislature this year.

As a Minnesota Independent newsblog article points out there will likely be a push for homosexual marriage in the upcoming Minnesota legislative session. Senator Marty, the chief sponsor of the bill in the state Senate and candidate for governor, is both a firm believer in homosexual marriage and I'm sure interested in gaining the support of the gay community. They're a significant DFL party constituency.

Senator Marty's goal is to get the bill passed out of the committee though he doesn't expect it to necessarily pass the legislature.
“I’d like to have a hearing and a vote — assuming we have the votes– to begin moving the bill through the process,” he said. “Attitudes are rapidly changing, and by having a thoughtful discussion in committee, I think we can assist in that effort.”
I think a hearing would both give the issue a higher profile in the state and help make it a campaign issue in the fall; especially since all the DFL candidates for governor are pro-homosexual marriage.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The source of our STD, teen pregnancy problem for some is abstinence. Abstinence?!

It was reported that HIV cases are up sharply in Minnesota and teen pregnancies are rising nationally for the first time in 10 years. What will be the response of sex education elites? I'm sure there will be a call for more condoms and placing blame on the abstinence message.

These responses are merely a continuation of the failed sexuality messages coming out of the 60s sexual revolution. The ideology driving that revolution keeps chugging along as does the fallout, e.g. abortion, disease, out of wedlock births and in some instances death. That's because the ideology is based on the notion that sex is recreational sport. And the goal of public policy responses is merely to mitigate the negative consequences rather than truly eliminate them.

Abstinence until marriage, if universally practiced, would basically eliminate the disease, death and out of wedlock birth problems. Yet pro-condom advocates dismiss common sense in an effort to justify their ideological commitment to the sexual revolution.

Going the "more condoms" route merely encourages the underlying, unhealthy behaviors which are the source of the problem. (And this doesn't even address the emotional, "spiritual" damage resulting from premarital sex.)

What's lost in this debate is the true purpose of sex. The natural law and Christian understanding of sex is it's designed for procreation and bonding a man and a woman in a lifelong marital relationship. Certainly sex is pleasurable but that's not the ultimate goal of sex. It's a byproduct of it's proper use. In fact studies show people who are in marital relationship have the most enjoyable sex lives. Maybe that has something to do with love and commitment which goes beyond just the act of having sex. I think so.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Public trusts FOX News more than other networks.

An interesting poll was released by Public Policy Polling on registered voters' views of the major TV news networks. Do people trust or distrust them?

FOX News came out on top. 49% trust them. 10 percentage points out more than any other news network. 37% of voters don't trust them.

CNN was next highest with 39%. 41% don't trust them.

Among the major networks, NBC was highest. 35% said they trusted them. 44% did not trust them. 32% for CBS and 31% for ABC. CBS and ABC were not trusted by 46% of voters.

These results tell me people don't trust the TV news networks. They tend to support those who share their perspective on issues and the world. Every news broadcast has some inherent bias based on the worldview of the person(s) putting it together. People decide what to report and how to report it based on their worldview. It can't be avoided to some degree. That's not to say the goal shouldn't be fair and balanced reporting but bias is inevitable. People increasingly realize that.

I also think people are realizing that the networks, with the exception of FOX, have a liberal bias which is to the left of the general public. FOX is closer to where the general populace is at and certainly not to the far right; otherwise it's trust and mistrust numbers would be higher.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Democrat leaders in Congress put health care on hold.

As a result of the Brown election in Massachusetts, Democrat leaders in Congress are putting health care on hold. According the New York Times,
With no clear path forward on major health care legislation, Democratic leaders in Congress effectively slammed the brakes on President Obama’s top domestic priority on Tuesday, saying that they no longer felt pressure to move quickly on a health bill after eight months of setting deadlines and missing them.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, deflected questions about health care. “We’re not on health care now,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about it in the past.” He added, “There is no rush,” and noted that Congress still had most of this year to work on the health bills passed in 2009 by the Senate and the House.

Mr. Reid said that he and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, were working to map out a way to complete a health care overhaul in coming months. “There are a number of options being discussed,” Mr. Reid said, emphasizing “procedural aspects” of the issue.

At the same time, two centrist Democratic senators who are up for re-election this year, Blanche L. Lincoln of Arkansas and Evan Bayh of Indiana, said that they would resist efforts to muscle through a health care bill using a parliamentary tactic called budget reconciliation, which seemed to be the simplest way to advance the measure.

The White House has said in recent days that it would support that approach.

Some Democrats said that they did not expect any action on health care legislation until late February at earliest, perhaps after Congress returns from a weeklong recess. But the Democrats stand to lose momentum, and every day closer to the November election that the issue remains unresolved may reduce the chances of passing a far-reaching bill.

The gear-shift by Democrats underscored how the health care effort had been derailed by the Republican victory in the Massachusetts special election last week, which effectively denied Democrats the 60th vote they need to be sure of overcoming a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Originally, Mr. Reid wanted to finish a bill early last August.

Considering all the time and political capital put into health care up to this point, there's nothing to show for it but a lot of significant frustration. I suspect this will only further demoralize President Obama's most ardent supporters.

Monday, January 25, 2010

To raise taxes or not to raise taxes, that is the question.

The Star Tribune ran a story Sunday entitled, "Governor's race is all about taxes. Minnesota's budget budget picture is so bleak that some candidates are already discussing tax increases". The big issue in the governor's race and the elephant in the room is whether or not to raise taxes to close an expected $5.4 billion budget deficit in the next biennium.
Talk of tax increases can sink a gubernatorial candidate during good times.

These are not good times.

That's why the message that major DFL candidates are offering recession-weary Minnesota voters seems so unlikely: We must raise taxes, because cuts alone can't do it.

GOP candidates say the state must manage without taxes, or risk further economic malaise.

The painful solution may end up somewhere in between. Minnesota faces a $5.4 billion shortfall through 2013, which amounts to a staggering $1,038 for every man, woman and child if nothing else changed.

Of course, Representative Tom Rukavina says anybody who says they will not raise taxes is either a liar or stupid.

"Anybody saying you can do it with cuts -- on either side of the aisle -- is a liar or stupid," said state Rep. Tom Rukavina, a DFL candidate for governor.

But even assuming Democrats are willing to go 50/50 tax increases and spending cuts, that's still a $2,000 tax increase on a family of four. Those are big bucks.

The problem is up to now the hope was the economy would strengthen and there wouldn't need to be tax increases. Or more likely, we've built in structural deficits resulting from built in spending increases unsustainable with our current tax base. Now with the financial crisis and deep recession the problem has only worsened.

I think fundamentally government is too big and doing too many things. From the bureaucratic nature of public education and public universities to skyrocketing health care costs, we've been living beyond our means. Government needs to do things differently. And of course necessity is the mother of invention.

I wonder if the public isn't ready for a return to simpler and smaller government. We'll certainly see how it plays out in the governor's race and in the next several years at the legislature.

Friday, January 22, 2010

They just don't get it. Blinded by ideology - Obama, Pelosi, Dean, etc.

It's been interesting reading all the post election analysis of the Scott Brown senatorial victory in Massachusetts. Most of the mainstream media and voices have recognized it as a referendum on health care and the Obama Administration and Democratic-controlled Congress.

I thought initially Obama, Pelosi and the rest would get it and back off. Attempt to be bipartisan in some shape or form. I don't see that happening now; they're too driven by ideology. They believe the Massachusetts election results are actually a green light for pushing harder.

Charles Krauthammer points out people were concerned about the health care issue . However, Obama argued their anger of the people was actually what got him elected and therefore he's still on the right side of the electorate.
On Jan. 14, five days before the Massachusetts special election, President Obama was in full bring-it-on mode as he rallied House Democrats behind his health care reform. "If Republicans want to campaign against what we've done by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over American families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have."

The bravado lasted three days. When Obama campaigned in Boston on Jan. 17 for Obamacare supporter Martha Coakley, not once did he mention the health care bill. When your candidate is sinking, you don't throw her a millstone.

After Coakley's defeat, Obama pretended that the real cause was a generalized anger and frustration "not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years, but what's happened over the last eight years."

Let's get this straight: The antipathy to George W. Bush is so enduring and powerful that ... it just elected a Republican senator in Massachusetts? Why, the man is omnipotent.

There's even a delusional aspect to their thinking. They are interpreting events based on what fits in with their ideology.

And the Democrats are delusional: Scott Brown won by running against Obama not Bush. He won by brilliantly nationalizing the race, running hard against the Obama agenda, most notably Obamacare. Killing it was his No. 1 campaign promise.

Bull's-eye. An astonishing 56 percent of Massachusetts voters, according to Rasmussen, called health care their top issue. In a Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates poll, 78 percent of Brown voters said their vote was intended to stop Obamacare. Only a quarter of all voters in the Rasmussen poll cited the economy as their top issue, nicely refuting the Democratic view that Massachusetts was just the usual anti-incumbent resentment you expect in bad economic times.

Brown ran on a very specific, very clear agenda. Stop health care. Don't Mirandize terrorists. Don't raise taxes; cut them. And no more secret backroom deals with special interests.

Congressional democrats and their allies still don't get it.

The reason both wings of American liberalism -- congressional and mainstream media -- were so surprised at the force of anti-Democratic sentiment is that they'd spent Obama's first year either ignoring or disdaining the clear early signs of resistance: the tea-party movement of the spring and the town-hall meetings of the summer. With characteristic condescension, they contemptuously dismissed the protests as the mere excrescences of a redneck, retrograde, probably racist rabble.

You would think lefties could discern a proletarian vanguard when they see one. Yet they kept denying the reality of the rising opposition to Obama's social democratic agenda when summer turned to fall and Virginia and New Jersey turned Republican in the year's two gubernatorial elections.

The evidence was unmistakable: Independents, who in 2008 had elected Obama, swung massively against the Democrats: dropping 16 points in Virginia, 21 in New Jersey. On Tuesday, it was even worse: Independents, who had gone 2-to-1 Republican in Virginia and New Jersey, now went 3-to-1 Republican in hyper-blue Massachusetts. Nor was this an expression of the more agitated elements who vote in obscure low-turnout elections. The turnout on Tuesday was the highest for any nonpresidential Massachusetts election in 20 years.

Democratic cocooners will tell themselves that Coakley was a terrible candidate who even managed to diss Curt Schilling. True, Brown had Schilling. But Coakley had Obama. When the bloody sock beats the presidential seal -- of a man who had them swooning only a year ago -- something is going on beyond personality.

That something is substance -- political ideas and legislative agendas. Democrats, if they wish, can write off their Massachusetts humiliation to high unemployment, to Coakley or, the current favorite among sophisticates, to generalized anger. That implies an inchoate, unthinking lashing-out at whoever happens to be in power -- even at your liberal betters who are forcing on you an agenda that you can't even see is in your own interest.

Democrats must so rationalize, otherwise they must take democracy seriously, and ask themselves: If the people really don't want it, could they possibly have a point?

"If you lose Massachusetts and that's not a wake-up call," said moderate -- and sentient -- Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, "there's no hope of waking up."

I say: Let them sleep.

This delusional thinking was taken to an extreme by Howard Dean who said on Hardball with Chris Matthews said the election of Scott Brown should be interpreted as a vote in support of the health care bill's in Congress. Even liberal Matthews couldn't believe it. It may be partly spin by Dean, but I wonder if he actually believes what he is saying.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Freedom. Liberty. More religion means less government.

One of the themes coming out of the Massachusetts vote and the mood of the country is massive government programs will mean less freedom and liberty. While people are frustrated with the economy, I think people are also concerned with the expansion of the state, government. I support these sentiments but am ultimately concerned it will only be a short term reaction unless something deeper happens in the life our nation and state. There needs to be a revival of religious sentiments and belief to keep down the size of government and preserve freedom and liberty.

As Professor Bradley writes:
If more and more men are abandoning the religious communities that have provided solid moral formation for thousands of years, we should not be surprised by an increase in the explosion of demand for morally reprehensible products as well as the family breakdown that follows closely behind. With consciences formed by utility, pragmatism, and sensuality, instead of virtue, we should expect to find a culture with even more women subjected to the dehumanization of strip clubs, more misogynistic rap music, more adultery and divorce, more broken sexuality, more fatherlessness, more corruption in government and business, more individualism, and more loneliness.

Alexis de Tocqueville cautioned in his 1835 reflections on Democracy in America, that the pursuit of liberty without religion hurts society because it “tends to isolate [people] from one another, to concentrate every man's attention upon himself; and it lays open the soul to an inordinate love of material gratification.” In fact, Tocqueville says, “the main business of religions is to purify, control, and restrain that excessive and exclusive taste for well-being which men acquire in times of equality.” Religion makes us other-regarding.

As social problems mount, there will invariably be calls for more government. Only problem is this approach isn't very viable as we go deeper and deeper into debt as a nation. Government lacks the ability to throw money at social problems. Hopefully, this will result in individuals, churches, and communities being more engaged in addressing social issues in our own backyards.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Health care bill and abortion, a major roadblock.

There's talk about possibly jamming through the US House the Senate health care bill. That way it doesn't need to be brought up in the Senate again. But with the strong repudiation of the push for the health care bill evidenced by the upset win of Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race, I think it's unlikely.

Not only because Democrats are skittish on the bill in general but also because it contains funding for abortion and that will only increase opposition. Democrat Congressman Bart Stupak says 10 to 12 Democrats who voted for the House bill have said they will vote against a bill coming from the Senate if it pays for abortions. That's just what the Senate bill does.

Though some democrats deny the Senate bill does cover abortion, I think this is disingenuous at best. In fact very liberal Senator Barbara Boxer of California said the bill does cover abortion. She is reported by the McClatchy News Service as saying it's
only an ‘accounting procedure’ that will not restrict abortion coverage.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The most "dangerous" conservative in America?

There is an interesting profile piece, "The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker" on Robert George in the New York Times. He's a jurisprudence professor at Princeton University. He's a very bright guy who is also very concerned about the culture, sanctity of life and marriage. He's also a mover and shaker in the intellectual and cultural world.
At the center of the event was Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker. Dressed in his usual uniform of three-piece suit, New College, Oxford cuff links and rimless glasses­, George convened the meeting with a note of thanks and a reminder of its purpose. Alarmed at the liberal takeover of Washington and an apparent leadership vacuum among the Christian right, the group had come together to warn the country’s secular powers that the culture wars had not ended. As a starting point, George had drafted a 4,700-word manifesto that promised resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same-sex marriage.

...He has parlayed a 13th-century Catholic philosophy into real political influence. Glenn Beck, the Fox News talker and a big George fan, likes to introduce him as “one of the biggest brains in America,” or, on one broadcast, “Superman of the Earth.” Karl Rove told me he considers George a rising star on the right and a leading voice in persuading President George W. Bush to restrict embryonic stem-cell research. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told me he numbers George among the most-talked-about thinkers in conservative legal circles. And Newt Gingrich called him “an important and growing influence” on the conservative movement, especially on matters like abortion and marriage.

“If there really is a vast right-wing conspiracy,” the conservative Catholic journal Crisis concluded a few years ago, “its leaders probably meet in George’s kitchen.”

I think he might well be one of the most "dangerous" conservatives, because ultimately the battle in our culture is a battle over ideas - good and bad ideas. He's definitely one of the leading conservative intellectuals who also has an ability to popularize and turn ideas into action.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King, "Letter from Birmingham Jail", and "law of God"

Today is the Martin Luther King holiday and one of his best known writings is "Letter from Birmingham Jail." In it he took to task clergy there who refused to take a stand against segregation. What he powerfully articulated was the notion that there is a moral law higher than man's law. That in fact man's law must be judged in light of this higher moral law or God's law. He also cites Augustine as saying "An unjust law is no law at all."

... One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

What's a modern day application of this principle? The best example is efforts to redefine marriage and force members of society to affirm and support homosexual marriage. Why? Because homosexual marriage directly violates God's law or the moral law as stated by King.

Such a comment will no doubt infuriate gay activists. But one has to ask what is the basis for homosexual marriage except as a creation of man. I'm waiting for logic and sound reasoning which goes beyond statements like "justice requires it", "fairness demands it", "it's a basic human right that two men and two women be able to marry" and explains the basis for such assertions of justice, fairness and human rights. If one believes society's ultimately decide what's just, fair and a basic human right then we're left with no basis to argue against Hitler's Nazi Germany, because that's what that society decided at that time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Moral Leadership in the Obama's White House?

Here's a blogpost about President Obama's director of OMB, Peter Orszag. Apparently, he became engaged to ABC financial reporter only a few weeks after his former girlfriend, Claire Milonas, gave birth to their child.

Here's part of the New York Times account of the story.

Likewise, some in the Milonas camp suggest that Mr. Orszag had promised to marry her, but then met Ms. Golodryga; the Orszag people say that Ms. Milonas wanted to get married, but Peter did not, at least to Claire.

“We were in a committed relationship until the spring of 2009,” Mr. Orszag and Ms. Milonas said in a joint statement Wednesday (spurred by the Post article). “In November, Claire gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Although we are no longer together, we are both thrilled she is happy and healthy, and we would hope that everyone would respect their privacy.”

What I found so postmodern and self centered about Orszag and his former girlfriend is that while they're no longer together they're both thrilled that she's happy. No mention of the child's prospects for happiness.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Massive marriage penalty in health care bills -- word is starting to get out.

A recent Wall Street Journal story points out there's a massive marriage penalty in the health care bills in Congress. This is has been brought up before but not given any national attention.
Some married couples would pay thousands of dollars more for the same health insurance coverage as unmarried people living together, under the health insurance overhaul plan pending in Congress.

The built-in "marriage penalty" in both House and Senate healthcare bills has received scant attention. But for scores of low-income and middle-income couples, it could mean a hike of $2,000 or more in annual insurance premiums the moment they say "I do."

The disparity comes about in part because subsidies for purchasing health insurance under the plan from congressional Democrats are pegged to federal poverty guidelines. That has the effect of limiting subsidies for married couples with a combined income, compared to if the individuals are single.

People who get their health insurance through an employer wouldn't be affected. Only people that buy subsidized insurance through new exchanges set up by the legislation stand to be impacted. About 17 million people would receive such subsidies in 2016 under the House plan, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Those numbers mean millions of potential marriages could be affected.

The bills cap the annual amount people making less than 400% of the federal poverty level must pay for health insurance premiums, ranging from 1.5% of income for the poorest to 11% at the top end, under the House plan.

For an unmarried couple with income of $25,000 each, combined premiums would be capped at $3,076 per year, under the House bill. If the couple gets married, with a combined income of $50,000, their annual premium cap jumps to $5,160 -- a "penalty" of $2,084. Those figures were included in a memo prepared by House Republican staff.

The disparity is slightly smaller in the Senate version of health-care legislation, chiefly because premium subsidies in the House bill are more targeted towards low-wage earners.

Under the Senate bill, a couple with $50,000 combined income would pay $3,450 in annual premiums if unmarried, and $5,100 if married -- a difference of $1,650.

Republicans say the effect on married couples whose combined income makes them ineligible for subsidies is even greater -- up to $5,000 or more -- but that is more difficult to measure because it includes assumptions about the price of insurance policies.

What I find revealing is the response of a Democratic staffer. Basically, the issue of marriage isn't that important compared to other issues.

Democratic staff who helped to write the bill confirmed the existence of the penalty, but said it cannot be remedied without creating other inequities.

For instance, they said making the subsidies neutral towards marriage would lead to a married couple with only one bread-winner getting a more generous subsidy than a single parent at the same income-level.

"The Finance Committee, along with other committees in the Senate, took pains to craft the most equitable overall structure possible, and that's what we have here," said a Democratic Senate Finance Committee aide.

In any progressive system of taxes or benefits, there are trade-offs between how well-targeted a subsidy is and how equitable it is, said Stacy Dickert-Conlin, an economics professor at Michigan State University.

"You might like to have it be progressive, equitable and marriage-neutral. But you have to decide what your goals are, because you can't accomplish all three," she said.
Some say the marriage penalty won't effect people's decision to get married or not. I think that's ridiculous if you're looking at a person scraping to get by and looking at paying several thousand dollars more each year and be married versus living together and receiving free government health care insurance subsidies.

Ms. Dickert-Conlin said that isn't borne out by research in the area.

"Most of the literature says that people do not make decisions about whether or not to get married based on" government benefits, she said.

Welfare had an enormous anti-marriage impact as reflected in the enormous out of wedlock birth rates among those who were on welfare. Why get married, unless you have deep religious or moral convictions, if it's going to cost you a lot of money. The effects of secularization has diminished those convictions among more and more Americans.

Again this shows the anti-marriage bias of elites who believe marriage is unimportant for ideological reasons and/or fail to understand the enormous importance it plays in a society - from every perspective. As I've said before, as marriage goes so goes society.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Examples from Star Tribune stories make case for limited government.

A couple of stories in Tuesday's Star Tribune highlight the problems inherent in having government doing things it isn't capable of doing.

The first article is entitled, "Has Stimulus Money Been a Bust for Unemployment?" The subtitle is "As Congress eyes 2nd stimulus, experts question bottom line of the first one."

The AP analyzed the $21 billion spent on transportation projects and concluded it didn't make much of a difference. One economist interviewed:
Even within the construction industry, which stood to benefit most from transportation money, the AP's analysis found there was nearly no connection between stimulus money and the number of construction workers hired or fired since Congress passed the recovery program. The effect was so small, one economist compared it to trying to move the Empire State Building by pushing against it.

"As a policy tool for creating jobs, this doesn't seem to have much bite," said Emory University economist Thomas Smith, who supported the stimulus and reviewed AP's analysis. "In terms of creating jobs, it doesn't seem like it's created very many. It may well be employing lots of people but those two things are very different."

Despite the disconnect, Congress is moving quickly to give Obama the additional road money he requested.
The problem is the notion that government is a good job creator rather than realizing that private businesses are much better at addressing the needs and expectations of the people in society. In addition, government is very inefficient. It gets less out of a dollar than businesses which are more careful how they spend their money.

The second story is a little bit closer to home. Titled "Panel looks after its own for Legacy funds", it looks at the activities of the Minnesota arts panel which divvies up money from the Legacy Amendment sales tax monies. The amendment was added to the state constitution a couple of years ago.

More than half of the organizations represented on an arts panel crafting guidelines for who will share in more than $1 billion from the Legacy Amendment sales tax have already received money -- and they hope to get more.

No conflict-of-interest rules govern the panel, which does not make specific funding recommendations on how to divvy the proceeds of the state's Legacy sales-tax hike, which is dedicated exclusively to the environment, clean water, arts/cultural heritage and parks and trails.

The amendment was a bad idea from the start. It was basically a backdoor way to raise taxes for environmental and arts programs. There's less accountability because the state panel members aren't elected or accountable to the public. And having government involved in the process politicizes the determination of which arts projects and groups receive the money. Let the public decide who receives their monies through their charitable donations.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Tiger Woods needs Christ" -- Brit Hume

The sparks flew when Brit Hume recently said that Tiger Woods needs the redemption and forgiveness that only Jesus Christ can give. Hume, who was formerly a commentator on FOX News and before that a reporter for ABC News, made those comments during a FOX round table discussion of Tiger's infidelity problems.

Here's a follow up to his comments on the O'Reilly Factor.

I absolutely agree with Brit. Tiger's problems are, as all of ours are, ultimately questions of the heart. And that's where ultimately only Christ offers help.

There are those who will angrily denounce these comments as narrow minded and bigoted but that's to be expected in our relativist cultural mindset, where the only one who is wrong is the one who says there is truth we can know. (Even though those who express such sentiments are implicitly saying their views are the truth. That's known as inconsistency at best and at worse hypocrisy.)

Hopefully, Tiger will realize that there are much more important things in life than golfing and material success. Paramount is the condition of one's soul where one will spend eternity.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Abortion issue concern for evangelical leaders.

During the 2008 elections, there was some debate over what should be the top priority issues for evangelicals. Some liberal evangelicals said too much attention was given to abortion. More should be given to the environment, poverty and other social issues. A new survey by the National Association of Evangelicals says abortion is still the top issue for evangelical pastors and leaders - as well it should be.
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals.

The board includes the heads of Christian denominations, pastors and representatives of a wide array of evangelical organizations that include missions groups, colleges and universities, and book and literature publishers.

The poll found abortion in a three-way tie for the top issue along with moral relativism and mistreatment of others.

“While there were some responses that specified secularization, homosexuality, pornography and other concerns, they were not at the top of the list,” Leith Anderson, president of the NAE, told today. "The top three reflected a majority of responses and were themselves almost a three-way tie.”

Jeff Farmer of the Open Bible Churches in Des Moines, Iowa, talked about why he thinks abortion is the number one issue.

"The moral scandal of abortion tops my list…not because murder is worse than other moral evils, but because of the massive numbers of this killing field and intentionality of so many to put self-gratification, greed and political advantage above life itself," he said.

These views on abortion are confirmed by other national polls of evangelicals in general.

Polling data confirms the internal NAE survey and shows evangelicals are some of the most ardent pro-life advocates nationwide.

In December, a Quinnipiac University survey found 72 percent of Americans oppose paying for abortions with their tax dollars under the government-run health care bill in Congress.

But evangelicals opposed taxpayer funding of abortions on an even higher level at 93-6 percent opposed.

In September, the University of Akron conducted a more expansive poll that found progressives are much less pro-life on abortion than evangelicals.

Looking at the conservative Christians, most rejected the notion put forward by liberal Christians that religious people should shift their focus to new issues, such as the environment and poverty rather than focus on social issues, such as abortion.

Asked to rate their response on a scale of 1-7, with seven saying abortion should remain a priority and one a response agreeing with a shift, 49 percent of respondents gave a seven.

Another 14 percent gave a six and eight percent gave a five -- for a total of 71 percent of conservative Christians saying abortion should stay a top priority.

When comparing abortion on a list of eight political issues, evangelicals named abortion the most important by a substantial margin. On a scale of 1-5 with one as the most important, 83 percent of those surveyed gave it a 1 and 12 percent gave it a 2. only one percent of those polled said abortion is not important.

This isn't to say that people should be concerned with the environment and poverty. We definitely should be. But there is certainly a hierarchy of issues in terms of their moral significance. In my estimation, marriage is integrally linked to the life issue, because life issues from the bond of marriage. And as marriage breaks down we'll see even worse problems with abortion.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Where will homosexual marriage lead us? Polyamory. Polygamy.

An argument against homosexual marriage is it leads to, among other things, polygamy and polyamorous relationships. The usual retort is one is alarmist. A fear monger and so forth. Yet logically they're linked if marriage is defined by what the individual desires in terms of a sexual relationship and having the state sanction it.

Here's a story out of Boston, Mass. the first state to recognize homosexual marriage, albeit via the courts, which shows that argument is rooted in fact. It's entitled, "Loves new frontier" and discusses polyamorous relationships and organized efforts to promote recognition of polyamorous relationships.

Jay Sekora isn’t actively looking for an additional relationship, but he admits to occasionally checking a dating site to see who’s out there. Sekora’s girlfriend, Mare, who does not want her last name used here for professional reasons, said she is not pursuing anyone, either, but is “open and welcoming to what might come along.” In the three-plus years they have been together, a few other people have come along, like the woman whom Sekora, a 43-year-old systems administrator from Quincy, met online and dated briefly until she moved away. There was also a male-male couple that Mare and Sekora, who identifies as bisexual, dated for several months as a couple. Other than that, it has been the two of them. Well, sort of.

Through the lens of monogamy, this love connection may appear distorted, but that’s not how Sekora and Mare, who is 45, describe their lifestyle. Adherents call it responsible non-monogamy or polyamory, and the nontraditional practice is creeping out of the closet, making gay marriage feel somewhat last decade here in Massachusetts. What literally translates to “loving many,” polyamory (or poly, for short), a term coined around 1990, refers to consensual, romantic love with more than one person. Framing it in broad terms, Sekora, one of the three founders and acting administrator of the 500-person-strong group Poly Boston, says: “There’s monogamy where two people are exclusive. There’s cheating in which people are lying about being exclusive. And poly is everything else.”

Everything else with guidelines, that is, although those vary according to the agreed-upon needs and desires of the people in the relationships. After all, this isn’t swinging, in which a couple seeks out recreational sex. This isn’t even the free love of the ’60s and ’70s, characterized by psychedelic love-ins. And despite the shared “poly” prefix, this certainly isn’t the patriarchal, man-with-many-wives polygamy that has earned increased public attention with the HBO show Big Love. Polyamory has a decidedly feminist, free-spirited flavor, and these are real relationships with the full array of benefits and complexities -- plus a few more -- as the members of Poly Boston’s hypercommunicative, often erudite, and well-entwined community will explain.

Sounds like anything goes. And that's about right.

“With affairs, you get sex. With polyamory, you get breakfast,” says Cambridge sex therapist Gina Ogden, citing a well-known poly saying. Ogden is the author of The Return of Desire, in which she dedicates a chapter to affairs and polyamory. “Polyamory isn’t a lifestyle for everybody, any more than monogamy is for everybody,” she says. “Keeping one relationship vital is a lot of work, and if you start adding more relationships, it becomes more work.” Though common descriptors used for monogamy don’t easily apply to polyamory, there is a recognizable spectrum of how open these partnerships may be. On the closed end, you might have a couple in a primary relationship who will then have one or more secondary relationships that are structured to accommodate the primary one. There’s also polyfidelity, in which three or more people are exclusive with one another. On the open end, there might be chains of people where, for example, Sue is dating Bill and Bill is dating Karen and Karen is dating Jack, who is also dating Sue.

“I’m not sure there are as many ways to be poly as there are people who are poly, but it’s close,” says Thomas Amoroso, an emergency room doctor from Somerville and member of Poly Boston. Amoroso, 48, who identifies as straight, has been in a committed relationship for five years with a woman and man who live together within walking distance of his Somerville apartment. Amoroso is only sexual with the woman, who is sexual with each of the men separately, but they all consider the others life partners. “No one has said the words ‘Till death do us part,’ but I think that’s the intent,” Amoroso says. Divorced in 1999 after 15 years of marriage, Amoroso felt unable to express his affectionate nature in the confines of a monogamous relationship. When a woman he had just begun seeing revealed she was polyamorous, the concept, new to Amoroso, resonated. Amoroso and the woman stayed together for five years, while each sustained additional relationships, including -- for her -- one with Sekora that drew Sekora and Amoroso together in a close friendship that they still maintain. For Amoroso, being poly is less about sex than the authentic expression of caring for more than one person. “People tend to harp on the sexual component,” he says, “but the relationship component is just as important.

Truly anythings goes in our current postmodern, morally relativist milieu. The only problem is the consequences can't be avoided. Both in the damage done to children who are forced to be raised in these highly unstable, confusing arrangements. But also to individuals who never experience the wonder and stability of a faithful, loving man and woman relationship and experience the emotional scars and additional risk of exposure to STDs. Though most don't see it or want to think about it, the end result is social chaos. Homosexual marriage is simply the first step on the road to social anarchy. Again, history is repeating itself. And before most realize it, it's too late.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sign of things to come? Mayo stops treating some Medicare patients because government pays too little.

The Mayo Clinic in Arizona has stopped treating some Medicaid patients, because the government pays so little. I believe the Senate health care bill would cut hundreds of millions from government medical assistance programs, so we can expect more of the same.

According to Bloomberg news story:
The Mayo Clinic, praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little.

More than 3,000 patients eligible for Medicare, the government’s largest health-insurance program, will be forced to pay cash if they want to continue seeing their doctors at a Mayo family clinic in Glendale, northwest of Phoenix, said Michael Yardley, a Mayo spokesman. The decision, which Yardley called a two-year pilot project, won’t affect other Mayo facilities in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota.

Obama in June cited the nonprofit Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for offering “the highest quality care at costs well below the national norm.” Mayo’s move to drop Medicare patients may be copied by family doctors, some of whom have stopped accepting new patients from the program, said Lori Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, in a telephone interview yesterday.

“Many physicians have said, ‘I simply cannot afford to keep taking care of Medicare patients,’” said Heim, a family doctor who practices in Laurinburg, North Carolina. “If you truly know your business costs and you are losing money, it doesn’t make sense to do more of it.”

And Mayo has been losing money big time.

The Mayo organization had 3,700 staff physicians and scientists and treated 526,000 patients in 2008. It lost $840 million last year on Medicare, the government’s health program for the disabled and those 65 and older, Mayo spokeswoman Lynn Closway said.

Mayo’s hospital and four clinics in Arizona, including the Glendale facility, lost $120 million on Medicare patients last year, Yardley said. The program’s payments cover about 50 percent of the cost of treating elderly primary-care patients at the Glendale clinic, he said.

“We firmly believe that Medicare needs to be reformed,” Yardley said in a Dec. 23 e-mail. “It has been true for many years that Medicare payments no longer reflect the increasing cost of providing services for patients.”

Mayo will assess the financial effect of the decision in Glendale to drop Medicare patients “to see if it could have implications beyond Arizona,” he said.

And Mayo is not alone.

Nationwide, doctors made about 20 percent less for treating Medicare patients than they did caring for privately insured patients in 2007, a payment gap that has remained stable during the last decade, according to a March report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, a panel that advises Congress on Medicare issues. Congress last week postponed for two months a 21.5 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements for doctors.
What will be the liberal, big government response? More government control and regulation and the attendant rationing to manage costs rather than allowing the market and individuals to determine costs. Economics 101.

Again, the primary reason health care in the US is mess is misguided government involvement through promising massive health care programs without any consideration of the costs of those programs. Sure, government has a regulatory role to play but more as an umpire than one dictating how each player should play.