Welfare State

Over the past decade, California has made a number of significant reforms to its criminal justice system that not only made important steps toward turning around a deeply troubled prison system but retained voters’ support on the 2020 ballot. Now the state is implementing a set of reforms to its juvenile justice system that, while low‐​profile, are set to replace California’s historically flawed state Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

The plan to close DJJ reflects two important realities: California imprisons fewer juveniles than before, and the cost of incarcerating those who remain is unsustainable (almost $300,000 per person). There are causes for not only optimism about the reforms, but to think that they could be a model for other states.

As Governor Newsom’s original proposal noted, juvenile detention facilities at the county level have more than enough space to accommodate offenders currently held in state facilities, and housing offenders in county facilities allows them more access to their families and home communities, who can be important resources in the rehabilitation process. DJJ, on the other hand, has a higher recidivism rate than California’s adult prison system does, and has failed to eliminate perennial reports of abuses.

Governor Newsom and the legislature took the first steps toward closing DJJ in last year’s legislative session, passing SB 823, and added further details this year with SB 92. These bills started the process of zeroing out DJJ’s population by barring it from accepting most new inmates after July 1, 2021, and transferring any remaining inmates to their home counties by July 1, 2023. SB 823 would also create a Juvenile Justice Realignment Block Grant program to fund county‐​level services for the children who would have otherwise been wards of DJJ. Alongside the Juvenile Justice Block Grant, SB 823 created the Office of Youth and Community Restoration (OYCR) to collect data from counties and use this data to identify best practices and policy recommendations.

California’s plan to close DJJ includes several provisions that will help ensure that the reforms amount to an improvement rather than an exercise in bureaucratic buck‐​passing:

  • Collecting data to evaluate counties’ performance
  • Providing a resource with best practices so counties know what works
  • Ensuring accountability and maintaining oversight through the block grant program

SB 823 established new data collection requirements and the requirement to make data publicly available online. This system will collect, compile, and publish data from California’s 58 counties, which is necessary for transparency and for outside researchers and watchdogs to understand and constructively critique the new system. Too often, California’s 58 county governments collect or store important data separately, making it hard for citizens to understand how — and how well — their government is working. One example of this is data about the recidivism rate for county juvenile justice programs, which (in contrast to DJJ’s statistics) are decentralized and hard to find.

The data collection requirement could also enable counties to experiment with new, innovative models that could prove to be a significant improvement over existing systems. San Francisco is one such example, with its plan to close its juvenile detention facility and replace it with home‐​like rehabilitative centers. If San Francisco’s experiment is a success, and admittedly, there is no guarantee that it will, this reform should be adopted by other counties.

California’s juvenile justice reforms also include an important potential incentive for counties to adopt best practices compiled by the state and work toward improving their systems. The new Juvenile Justice Block Grant takes roughly the amount of money spent on DJJ and provides it to counties toward their spending on juvenile offenders who would previously have been sent to DJJ. Notably, this makes realignment budget‐​neutral relative to the previous system. The block grant program, in exchange for providing additional funding to counties, imposes additional reporting requirements, and requires counties to provide their plans for using the funds, with these plans published by OYCR. To ensure that the block grant money is spent responsibly, California should condition funding on counties’ juvenile justice systems being adequate, instead of turning approval and funding into a formality as in other policy areas. California policymakers have not only the opportunity but the duty to incentivize counties to adopt evidence‐​based practices to improve outcomes for youths in the justice system, as well as to collect the data from which to derive these best practices.

There are, of course, reasons for optimism about California’s juvenile justice reforms to remain measured. This is not the first time that California transferred responsibilities from a scandal‐​ridden state agency to its 58 counties. In large part due to a 1991 reform law, California transferred the responsibility for providing mental health services from the state level to the counties. At the least, this parallel should inspire great care in the plan for juvenile justice realignment: mental health realignment was flawed in many ways, and California’s mental health system has serious shortcomings.

Juvenile justice realignment, on the other hand, has a number of provisions that allay some of the concerns about parallels with mental health realignment. After mental health realignment, despite some measure of legislative tinkering, the reform program strayed from its intended goals. After California voters approved a new tax that provided a designated funding stream for mental health services, a state audit found that county mental health agencies had poor processes for spending the funding, and that they received insufficient oversight from the state. In juvenile justice, on the other hand, the state is maintaining the capacity for oversight through OCYR, and a capacity to hold counties accountable, through the juvenile justice block grant authorized by the legislature instead of mandated by a ballot initiative.

It’s also necessary to give DJJ credit where it is due: leading up to the Covid pandemic, DJJ made reforms intended to shift the facilities to a more rehabilitative model, taking Missouri’s juvenile justice system as an example. These reforms provided a degree of momentum in the right direction, and California can maintain this momentum at the county level by putting its Missouri Model plan in writing, and providing it to counties as a recommendation. Of course, as noted above, San Francisco has its own plan for shifting to a more rehabilitative model, as does Los Angeles (although Los Angeles’ plan has already encountered problems). But the shift from state to county‐​level responsibility for serious or violent juvenile offenders must continue the progress that DJJ appeared to be making, however limited.

Some of the causes for caution are more structurally ingrained than a realignment plan, however detailed, can address. In some ways, California’s county governments are designed in a way that makes them susceptible to poor governance. Counties (with the combined city and county of San Francisco being the only notable exception) are governed by Boards of Supervisors, who are, in general, lower‐​profile than mayors, but farther removed than city council members. Without a centralized authority or comprehensible separation of powers at the county level, voters can have trouble understanding who to blame for poor management — a major obstacle when deciding whether to throw out lousy elected officials.

This governance problem with California’s county governments underlines the importance of a robust state‐​level source of oversight to spur transparency and good management. But it would be, to some extent, naive to expect proper oversight: the only guarantee of decent government management is an active, educated bloc of voters who care deeply about the issues and hold elected officials accountable. Coincidentally, voters are paying more attention to criminal justice — and considering more drastic reforms — than they have before. While the center of today’s criminal justice reform movement is policing, the movement can expand its impact by demanding a new focus on rehabilitation, or at least good management, at county juvenile justice agencies.

Admittedly, transferring responsibility from the state to counties has a checkered history, but California has an opportunity to change that, and this set of reforms has meaningful details designed to avoid possible pitfalls. The stakes are high not only for the 800 young people locked up by the Division of Juvenile Justice, but for California’s adult prison system and the nation’s emerging prison abolition movement: these new reforms are too important to get wrong.

Safety Net: The Goal Should Be Minimizing the Number of Dependents

This post is about a situation where the correct public policy approach should be obvious to everyone, but the perverse incentives of government as usual push in exactly the wrong direction.

The issue is how many people should receive benefits, and in what amounts, from government “safety net” programs. From all I can find, there appears to be near-universal support for at least some level of government “safety net” for the poor. After all, no one wants to see fellow citizens starving for lack of food, or dying for lack of medical attention to a curable health condition, and so forth. And can we really count on private charity to fully provide for all the situations of genuine need among the population? Thus the result: Although the details vary greatly, every country with an advanced economy has an extensive system of “need”-based distributions of benefits to those designated as needy. But how many and which people should receive benefits, and how much?

In practice, the number of beneficiaries and level of generosity of a social safety net are inherently unstable. As soon as such a safety net comes into existence, there must inevitably be a line drawn between those who qualify for the benefits and distributions and those who do not. There will always be some elements of arbitrariness in the line-drawing; and the difference in “neediness” between the least-needy person who qualifies for benefits and the most-needy person who does not qualify may be so small as to be imperceptible. So shouldn’t the benefits then be expanded to include the next guy up the ladder? And how about the next guy after that?

An even worse problem than the fineness of the necessary distinctions is the arbitrariness. No matter how carefully eligibility criteria may be crafted, I submit that there will inevitably be many less needy people who qualify for and receive government safety-net benefits, while objectively more needy people fail to qualify. As one obvious example, some people with no income or significant assets at all may nonetheless be able to draw on substantial family resources (from parents, siblings, children, or more distant relatives) in times of need, while others may have just enough income or assets to fail to qualify but no family back-up of any kind. I personally know multiple twenty-somethings with well-off parents who nevertheless qualify for and use the Medicaid and food stamp programs. You probably do too. Hey, nobody said that parental income is part of the eligibility criteria!

Back in 2017 I had a post about downtown Manhattan City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, who at the time of her election lived in subsidized “affordable” housing (via a federal housing voucher), even though her husband was the son of a partner of the law firm of Cravath, Swain & Moore — average per partner income of over $3 million per year. When caught, Rivera and the husband did not slink away in shame, but rather aggressively claimed that they had done nothing wrong — they had reported their “income” (including a substantial write-off for the husband’s business) accurately in the year in which they qualified for the voucher. Rivera remains as a sttting City Councilwoman today.

Let’s compare how families deal with lack of independence among members, to how governments deal with the same issue:

-Families. Nearly all families deal at various times with the issue of transitioning members, generally offspring, from being dependent on family support to being independent and on their own. Sometimes the transition happens without need for much of a push from the parents, and other times a big push may be in order. But essentially all parents that I have known (and almost all of my friends of my generation have gone through this) have made it a priority to encourage and cajole and help the kids to become independent. I have observed every sort of technique being deployed, for example: gradually reduce and ultimately eliminate direct financial support; demand that the kid get a job; cut off payment for the cell phone; demand rent for continuing to live in the family house or, in the end, throw the kid out of the house; make the kid take care of the dog and the plants; put the kid to work for a family business; etc., etc. These techniques and others may ultimately fail, particularly in the case of children with some kind of serious mental or physical disability. Still, I have never observed a family where developing independence of the kids was not at least an important goal.

-Government “safety net.” The issue is essentially the same, and the goal should be the same. But instead, in the real world, the dynamic is the exact opposite. Here are three factors that come into play:

– The safety net programs are run by bureaucracies, and the fundamental imperative of every bureaucracy is to grow the bureaucracy. In the case of safety net programs, growing the bureaucracy means increasing the number of clients of the programs, rather than decreasing them. The bureaucrats are happy to sign up new beneficiaries, and it is no part of their priorities to try to move beneficiaries off the program and into independence.

– Potential beneficiaries realize that the bureaucracies are soft touches, and quickly learn how to present themselves to qualify for handouts. Where mom and dad would not be fooled for a minute, the bureaucrats are eager for more clients and only too happy to help create and maintain dependency.

– And then there are the elected officials in the legislative and executive branches. Many to most of them recognize the beneficiaries of handout programs as bought votes who will remain loyal to the incumbents as long the the programs and the benefit streams are maintained. This is clearly a fundamental strategy of the Democratic Party, although I would not say that Republicans are innocent on the issue.

And thus we come to the current blunderbuss Democrat “budget reconciliation” bill, stuffed with new and expanded “need”-based distributions to expand the “safety net,” from child care payments and tax credits, to higher education subsidies, to expanded Medicaid, to more home health services, and on and on. (Nobody even knows everything that is included.). The whole idea is a massive increase in the numbers of people relying on a government handout.

In general, the pushback to this bill from Republicans has been that all this is wildly expensive and unaffordable, and will be extremely destructive of the economy. All of that I agree with. But the much bigger issue is the transformation of the basic relationship between the people and the government into a situation where many more, and probably most people will expect to be taking government handouts and support that they don’t really need and could very easily live without. Who looks on this as a good thing? Shouldn’t the goal be to have as many people as possible develop the ability to live independently, without government support? It’s terrible for people to live on government handouts. It saps the spirit. Who would want it?

Francis Menton

It’s Free

One of the most misused words in the English language is “free,” as in “it’s free.” Whether it’s the free samples of stuff at Costco, or the free pens and refrigerator magnets they give away at your local bank or car dealership, or the free hip replacement your mother-in-law just received, we use the term freely, so to speak, without ever considering it’s true meaning.

When we say “it’s free,” what we really mean is that someone else is paying for it—voluntarily or involuntarily. And this is a very important distinction. Because one is morally defensible, while the other is not. One involves a clear violation of private property rights, enshrined in the Seventh Commandment, while the other does not. The Seventh Commandment states, “Thou Shalt Not Steal Thy Neighbor’s Goods.” This is the clearest affirmation of private property rights ever handed down. By The Man Himself. And it’s etched in stone. You can’t take someone else’s things, period. And just because you take something from someone and turn around and give it to someone you believe is deserving doesn’t justify it either. The Seventh Commandment is everything the Good Lord ever had to say about “social justice,”–about what is mine and what is thine.

The free samples of some new pineapple/anchovy salsa being handed out by the nice ladies in latex gloves at Costco are not really free. They are either being paid for by Costco, or the company that makes those dreadful concoctions. So while Costco is erroneously saying, “Try these free samples,” what they really should be saying is, “Try one of these dreadful concoctions that we or the producer are paying for.” The same with the pens and refrigerator magnets at your local bank or car dealership. And the customers are likewise incorrect when they proudly tell their spouses, “These pens were free, Honey.”

So, while the merchants and customers are misusing the word free in these examples, if only because it’s convenient; the actions in both cases are not immoral. Neither action involves breaking the Seventh Commandment nor anyone’s private property rights. Both the salsa and the pens and refrigerator magnets are owned by the parties giving them away. The owners can dispose of them as they wish. But, in any event, they are not free. Someone had to pay for them.

In the case of your mother-in-law’s hip replacement, however, it is neither free nor morally acquired. The new hip wasn’t free; it was clearly paid for by somebody else, in this case the taxpayer. And it was not morally acquired, since it involved a breach of the Seventh Commandment and private property rights. The money to pay for her new hip came out of her neighbor’s pocket, the very party the Seventh Commandment (and the United States Constitution) was designed to protect. The money to pay for the hip was taken from her neighbor by a third party, an intermediary we customarily call the government. Third Party intervention, however, does not legitimize the violation of the Seventh Commandment nor the very private property rights protected by the Seventh Commandment. If a highwayman robs you at gun-point and tells you they are going to give all your money to the needy, it doesn’t make it right. It’s still a violation of that pesky Seventh Commandment.

Both the hip replacement and the act of that thoughtful highwayman involve a breach of the Seventh Commandment and the private property rights protected by the Seventh Commandment. In either case, the ends do not justify the means. Nor is the hip replacement free. But if you ask your mother-in-law how much she had to pay for the hip replacement, she would in all likelihood and without a second thought say, “It was free.” What she really should have said was, “My neighbor paid for it, and they didn’t even ask him for permission.”

So the next time you’re about to casually say, “It’s free,” think again. Because, rightly or wrongly, it really means somebody else is paying for it.

The Artful Dilettante

Great Quote

A very good case can be made, on moral as well as economic grounds, for a system in which the individual is required to stand on his own feet, not to lean on the state for handouts. Character, resourcefulness, capacity are formed and developed in struggle with obstacles, not in waiting passively for benefits from outside.   William Henry Chamberlin

The Real Scandal of the Spending

Last week Congress passed a massive coronavirus relief and omnibus spending bill. President Trump threatened to veto the bill, saying he wants an increase in the amount for “stimulus” checks authorized by the bill from 600 dollars to 2,000 dollars. The checks are designed to help those harmed by the lockdowns. President Trump also demanded a cut in some of the wasteful spending contained in the bill, such as the ten million dollars for gender programs in Pakistan.

At the 11th hour, however, President Trump signed the bill.

President Trump’s veto threat came after many people complained that a 600 dollars one-time payment was insufficient, and that the payment could be higher if Congress cut spending on militarism, foreign aid, and corporate handouts.

The text of the 5,593-page bill was made available hours before the votes in the House and Senate. Representatives and senators were told the bill had to pass immediately or else government would shut down around Christmas. This does not excuse voting for the bill. Congress should have refused to vote for this bill until members had time to read it. Those who voted “yes” should not get away with claiming the bill needed to be passed before members could read it.

While it is understandable that many are outraged over the way this bill was rushed through, the real outrage is that the rushed passage of omnibus bills has become a yearly Christmas tradition on Capitol Hill. These spending bills are always full of outrageous special interest giveaways. This practice denies the average member of Congress a meaningful role in carrying out one of Congress’ two most significant constitutional duties — funding the government. Congress long ago abandoned its other main constitutional responsibility — declaring war.

Whether 600 dollars or 2,000 dollars, a one-time stimulus payment is hardly adequate compensation for the suffering the government lockdowns have inflicted on the American people. Stimulus checks will not reopen closed small businesses or stop increases in domestic violence and substance abuse. A government check will not restore educational and development opportunities denied to children stuck at home struggling with “virtual education.” A one-time check will not compensate workers for the health problems developed due to having to wear a mask for eight hours a day. The only just solution is to end the lockdowns, and never again allow overblown fears to justify shutting down the economy.

Funding the government via massive omnibus bills drafted in secret and rushed into law concentrates power in the hands of a select few representatives and senators. It also gives the president excessive influence over the appropriations process. This is exactly the opposite of what the Framers intended when they gave Congress power over government spending.

This situation is the inevitable result of a government that tries to maintain the fiction that republican institutions are compatible with a welfare-warfare leviathan. Congress will continue to indulge this delusion until the system collapses. This collapse will likely be brought on by a collapse in the dollar’s value.

The combination of the high-profile coronavirus bill with this year’s omnibus spending bill has brought new attention to Congress’ practice of funding the government via massive, unread appropriations bills. Hopefully, the anger people are expressing, instead of just disappearing once people receive their checks, will strengthen the movement to return to free markets and limited constitutional government. Liberty is a far better option than descent into economic chaos and totalitarianism.

Ron Paul

Who is to Blame for Black Poverty ?

We’re all familiar with the cycle of poverty in Black urban neighborhoods that Democrat politicians have run for decades. Everybody assumes it’s because Democrats are so wedded to their policies, they keep throwing good money after bad. Maybe that’s not the problem, though. Maybe Black Democrat politicians don’t want to help these areas, and the citizens in those areas don’t actually want to be helped. 

“Diversity” and “inclusion” are two of the most often heard buzzwords in our lives these days, with a heavy helping coming from the media, of course.  Tucker Carlson addressed the subject very well recently in an opinion piece where he discussed diversity versus the meritocracy, using Biden’s recently-announced cabinet selections to make his case. The evident theme for Joe Biden’s picks has nothing to do with whether his picks are actually qualified for their postings. Rather, that must check off the appropriate victim identity group box: female, Black, Hispanic, gay, trans, or (Jackpot!) a combination of two or more, where being a black Hispanic lesbian is the pinnacle of the victim hierarchy.  

In particular, I noted in the public remarks made by soon-to-be repeat offender against our economy, Janet Yellen, that a big part of her focus as Fed Chair is to address economic inequality, wage inequality, food insecurity, poverty — all seemingly benevolent causes until you peel back the onion just slightly and realize that she’s not talking about these things in the scope of helping everyone, regardless of race.  No, she’s specifically talking about “communities of color.”  Just so we’re clear, a group of people is going to receive different (preferential) treatment based solely on the color of their skin.  I’m pretty sure that’s called racism.

Yellen goes on to say that she also wants to provide more opportunities for people of color, because, she says in so many words, these opportunities are denied to people of color. She specifically states that opportunities are denied, so I must ask the question: Who exactly is doing the denying?  

If we look at the largest areas of concentration of Black people, which would be the large urban centers of New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, and Detroit, just to name a few (and I’m not even crossing the Mississippi!), those areas presumably contain large numbers of black-owned businesses or at least Black people who would like to start a business . . .  you know, they’d like to, but they’re being denied the opportunity.  (I think we all know the subtext when someone is saying that “people of color” are being allegedly mistreated, the alleged mistreatment is at the hands of Evil White Conservatives.)

So, again, who is doing this denying?  All of the major cities that I just listed, and dozens more just like them across the country, have been run for decades by Democrat mayors and city councils, with assistance from Democrat Congressmen on both a state and federal level.  One must therefore assume that these same people in charge are also very influential regarding who receives economic opportunities or assistance, right?  Thus, this horrible denying is being done, in fact, by the very people now crying about the fact that the denying is happening!

As usual, it takes mental gymnastics on an Olympic level to reconcile leftist thinking.  Democrats have had control of these cities for decades and what have their policies brought their “people of color?”  Misery, poverty, violence, and addiction.  Obama and Biden had eight years, with two of those eight having the benefit of both houses of Congress on their side, but they didn’t come up with any miracle salve to soothe the troubles of the inner cities.  What on earth would lead us to believe that this will be any different under Biden and Harris?  

Or is it more practical and pragmatic if we believe that, via Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is the correct one: These so-called leaders in Democrat-run enclaves have no real interest in helping their constituents pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty.  For decades, Democrats have had their faithful Black voters right where they want them; namely, poor and dependent on the government. We give you stuff, you vote for us. That’s the unspoken agreement.  But when a true leader finally comes around who has a plan and the political will to do something to help these communities — like Kimberly Klacik in the Baltimore Congressional district formerly ruled by the late Elijah Cummings — she receives a paltry 28% of the vote.  Now the always useless 10-year Congressional veteran Kweisi Mfume has Cummings’s old job and somehow those precious opportunities are still being denied.

I’ve already established solid evidence that Democrat politicians — even and especially Black Democrat politicians — have little to no interest in helping their Black constituents.  But there is another side to that coin. The evidence seems to show that Black people themselves appear to not want to be helped.  One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.  So, are Black voters in these areas insane?  They keep voting for the likes of Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxine Waters, and Kweisi Mfume, but expect these serial grifters to suddenly start working for them. 

In my eyes, that puts the blame squarely on both parties, the politicians and the voters who keep sending them back to their offices.  Is it because the way things stand now, those voters are cozily wrapped up in their blanket of victimhood?  Is it so comfy in there receiving their government subsistence handouts that they can’t be bothered to get out and do something about it?  Is the alternative to this abusive, co-dependent relationship — personal responsibility, hard work, and entrepreneurialism — just too difficult to face?  

My prediction for all of these cities that I’ve mentioned, and any other Democrat-run major cities around the country, is that if a Biden/Harris ticket sets up shop in the White House, in four years’ time those cities will look much the same as they do now, except with four more years’ worth of decay, addiction, and violent crime.  But those citizens can comfort themselves that they still have someone else to blame for their problems. 

H.P. Smith, American Thinker

VIDEO: Woman Finds Out She’s Approved for Welfare

VIDEO: Woman Finds Out She’s Approved for Welfare
Political Insider

Commentary:  This video says it all.  As I noted in yesterday’s post, there was a time when being on public assistance, like getting pregnant out of wedlock or going into rehab, was a source of embarrassment, or at least kept under wraps.  And being on public assistance was a only a short-term fix, a temporary waystation till you put your life back together after losing a job or suffering a personal setback.

This is no temporary situation.  This woman will be on the public dole till she reaches room temperature.  She’ll spend her days watching soaps and eating bon-bons.

This woman is the face of the Culture of  Dependency.  The poster child of what we have become.

Medicare: Socialism’s Sacred Cow by Michael J. Hurd + commentary

“Ben [Carson] wants to knock out Medicare,” said Donald Trump. “I heard that over the weekend. He wants to abolish Medicare. Abolishing Medicare, I don’t think you’ll get away with that one. It’s actually a program that’s worked. It’s a program that some people love, actually.” [Newsmax.com 10-27-15]

Actually, Carson does not propose abolishing Medicare. According to DailyCaller.com, he says he would not end Medicare and would use health savings accounts, which would eliminate “the need for people to be dependent on government programs.” Carson wants to “provide people with an alternative” that he describes as “so much better than anything else,” but added he doesn’t plan on ending Medicare completely.

Carson is under fire not for suggesting that we should privatize and phase out Medicare — which we should — but merely for hinting that we might provide an alternative to the coercive, government-run program. He’s under fire not just from Democrats, but from fellow Republicans, particularly Ohio Governor John Kasich and apparent front runner for the nomination, Donald Trump.

Is Trump right? Is Medicare popular and, if so, does that automatically make it morally right and fiscally sustainable?

Can’t a majority be wrong? And if they are, isn’t it the job of a leader — in politics, or anywhere else — to educate that majority as to why they’re wrong, and what the consequences of their errors are? Even if that means losing an election in one case (Republicans already lose anyway, even when they win), might it not become an advantage a few years down the road, when they’re shown to be right?

Medicare is a single-payer, socialized insurance plan for those 65 years and older. Back in 1965, Congress would have passed a single-payer plan for everyone, if they thought they had the votes. Even in 2010, Obama and the Democratic Congress would have passed a single payer plan, if they thought they had the votes. (Obamacare was the next best thing).

What nobody seems willing to examine — not even Ben Carson, who’s at least willing to slightly hint at it — is whether single-payer insurance is ever morally right, for seniors or for anyone?

Medicare is a coercive government monopoly. It’s even more communistic and socialistic than, say, public schools. With public schools, you can opt out. Granted, private schools are more expensive and in shorter supply than they otherwise would be, because government dominates the market with federally funded public schools. But it’s not against the law to send your child to a private school, or even home school, in many cases.

Not so with Medicare. With Medicare, once you turn 65, you’re on Medicare, like it or not. You have no right to purchase an alternative plan in the marketplace (or to have planned on one years before), because there is no marketplace, and it’s against the law. While there are “Medigap” plans (Medicare secondary insurance) available through quasi-private insurance companies, most people do not understand that those plans follow the rules of Medicare and the government, not the market. In other words, if your doctor or health provider does not participate with Medicare, then your secondary “Medigap” insurance will not cover that provider, either. And all the rules, edicts, regulations that apply to Medicare likewise apply to the secondary insurance.

Medicare is a monopoly. It’s a coercive, one-size-fits-all single-payer system. If Republicans running for President will not acknowledge this, then I don’t know who will. It’s a fact, all the same.

Is Medicare popular? Well, of course it is. People have no other choice. But “popularity” implies a willingness to choose one option over all others. If there are fifty restaurants in a town, one or two restaurants might draw 60 or even 75 percent of the diners. We’d call those restaurants the most popular, with good reason. Medicare is, according to the law of the land, the only option for seniors in health insurance. By what stretch do you call that popular, or say that people “love” it?

It’s reasonable to assume that most people on Medicare would not want the plug pulled on it overnight. I don’t know of anyone who’s proposing that. The only rational and just way to handle the problem is to phase Medicare out. Put young people on notice there will be no Medicare program for them, because there most certainly will not be anyway, given the fiscal unsustainability that its morally wrong and coercive approach creates. Unless the U.S. economy can find a way to sustain debts and deficits too high for economists or computers to calculate, or tax rates so high that the economy will grind to a complete halt, Medicare (like Social Security) cannot go on forever.

Debate should be open to how best, or in what way, start privatizing Medicare and all of health care in America. Until or unless we get to that point, no discussion of the subject makes any moral or economic sense. Even flailing about Obamacare does not address the core issue. If you want to privatize health care in America, you’ve got to take on Medicare.

Medicare’s fiscal unsustainability (freely acknowledged by the government, including Obama’s own Treasury Department) is not the worst thing about it. The worst thing about it is that it’s forced. It prevents people from freely acting as they otherwise would. Why are proponents of Medicare, Donald Trump included, so afraid of a free market, or even an alternative market as Ben Carson suggests we might need? If Medicare is as beloved and as great as they assume, nobody will ever opt out of it. Of course, even if we established health savings accounts for seniors as Carson proposes, it’s still not a fair competition, because government would still have the upper hand with its federally funded (albeit bankrupt) programs. Yet nobody can tolerate even this much competition with the government in health care, not even the vast majority of Republicans. It’s pathetic.

Donald Trump is supposed to be such a smart businessman, and so willing to speak his mind. Both of these things may be true. But his comment that Medicare is popular and beloved by seniors is laughable. If the government passed a law that people may buy only one kind of car — same size, color and model for everyone — would you call that brand and style of car popular? Even though that’s the only one they’re permitted to buy or own?

That’s exactly what Donald Trump and other Republicans are saying.

Without any meaningful or principled opposition to Medicare, Republicans are dead in the water on health care. We might as well have the Democrats in charge. These are their programs, and if socialism is morally justified in health care, then socialism is morally justified potentially anywhere. If Republicans really opposed socialism in principle, they’d be willing to take on or at least question the sacred cow of Medicare.—Michael J. Hurd, drhurd.com

Medicare: The Mother of All Generational Larceny by The Artful Dilettante

Medicare is the Big Enchilada, the mother of all generational larceny. Like most federal entitlement programs, Medicare is financed through long-term debt. In other words, the cost of every hip replacement, knee replacement, open-heart surgery, kidney replacement, indeed most eldercare, will be borne by our children and grandchildren, the young and unborn. Talk about taxation without representation. We older Americans love to talk about how much we love and spoil our progeny. We brag about their report cards and athletic prowess, and shower them with money and gifts well beyond anything they’ve done to deserve it. Yet we have no guilt, no mercy, and give not a second thought to them when it comes to passing along the costs of our old age onto them. Because of us, they will inherent a debt they will struggle and suffer their whole lives to pay. Our legacy is nothing less than making them slaves to debt. We all want to live to be 100 as long as someone else is footing the bill, bearing the consequences. Try asking an elderly person, “Who paid for your hip replacement?” and they’ll likely respond, “It was free,” or “The government paid for it.” Their response should accurately be, “My neighbor paid for it, and they didn’t even ask for his permission.” Or, “My newborn grandchild will be paying for it her whole life, and I don’t even care,” or how about, “My kids are paying for it. It’s part of their inheritance.” So don’t go around shouting from the rooftops how much you love and spoil your grandchildren. As long as you are mortgaging their future, you’re just blowing smoke. And making a lot of Wall Street bankers very happy.

 

 

It’s Free

One of the most misused words in the English language is “free,” as in “it’s free.” Whether it’s the free samples of stuff at Costco, or the free pens and refrigerator magnets they give away at your local bank or car dealership, or the free hip replacement your mother-in-law just received, we use the term freely, so to speak, without ever considering it’s true meaning.  When we say “it’s free,” what we really mean is that someone else is paying for it—voluntarily or involuntarily.  And this is a very important distinction. Because one is morally defensible, while the other is not.  One involves a clear violation of private property rights, enshrined in the Seventh Commandment, while the other does not.  The Seventh Commandment states, “Thou Shalt Not Steal Thy Neighbor’s Goods.” This is the clearest affirmation of private property rights ever handed down.  By The Man Himself.  And it’s etched in stone.  You can’t take someone else’s things, period. And just because you take something from someone and turn around and give it to someone you believe is deserving doesn’t justify it either. The Seventh Commandment is everything the Good Lord ever had to say about “social justice,”–about what is mine and what is thine. Continue reading