Mike Kueber's Blog

December 25, 2012

Sunday Book Review #93 – Barack Obama by David Maraniss

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 5:10 pm
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To all those conservatives who complain that Barack Obama has never been properly vetted, this 571-page tome by an acclaimed biographer will surely disappoint.  David Maraniss has previously written thorough biographies about Bill Clinton and Vince Lombardi, but he decided that this book would not be a traditional biography – “It begins long before Obama was born and ends before he entered politics.”  Instead of providing his readers with encyclopedic information about Obama’s life, Maraniss attempts to describe the influences – nature and nurture – that formed the man who currently presides over America.

In the introduction, Maraniss refers to Faulkner’s saying that, “The past is never dead.  It’s not even the past.”  This saying reflects the two cornerstones to Obama’s life – (1) he is forever trying to come to terms with the brilliant, irresponsible father who abandoned his mother and him; and (2) he has a detached, observational nature that he inherited from his unconventional, anthropologist mother.

The most fascinating aspect of the book occurs when Maraniss points out inaccuracies in Obama’s memoir, Dreams from my Father.  Although Maraniss considers the book “unusually insightful,” he declares that it is clearly “not history and autobiography, and should not be read as a rigorously factual account”:

  • The themes of the book control character and chronology.  Time and again the narrative accentuates characters drawn from black acquaintances who played lesser roles in his real life but could be used to advance a line of thought, while leaving out or distorting the actions of friends who happen to be white.”

After skimming this book (there is no way that I could devote 571 pages of reading to a single subject), I have more depth of understanding about Obama’s parents and grandparents, but my impressions of them and the President are remarkably unchanged.  Progressives will find evidence in the book that Obama is brilliant, charismatic, post-partisan, idealistic, and cosmopolitan.  Conservatives will find him to be un-American, cold-hearted, cynical, and opportunistic.

My conclusion – he is what he appears to be.

September 7, 2012

Thoughts on President Obama’s speech at the Democratic convention

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:05 am
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  As I listened to President Obama’s speech, I compared it to Mayor Castro’s and concluded that they shared a desire for government to create more opportunity for advancement.  But then I realized that they were making another one of their typical “straw man” arguments – i.e., attacking a position that no one else is defending.  Neither Mitt Romney nor the Republican Party opposes the creation of more opportunity, the question is how do you do that.  As Brit Hume later noted, Obama applied the same rhetorical device when he falsely stated that Republicans wanted government to (a) do virtually nothing, and (b) turn Social Security over to Wall Street.  Republicans are not saying that.   

President Obama has been known to plagiarize from MA senate candidate Elizabeth Warren in the past – i.e., she first used the “you didn’t build that” line – and he did it again tonight.  Last night, Warren repeatedly talked in favor of a “level playing field” and against a “rigged game.”  Tonight, Obama talked about “… the heart of America’s story: the promise that hard work will pay off; that responsibility will be rewarded; that everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules – from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, DC.”

Probably the most interesting paragraph in President Obama’s speech was the following:

  • We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.”

The paragraph begins with conservative thoughts, and then shifts radically liberal with another straw-man argument.  Who wants bailouts for banks that break the rules?  If the banks broke the rules, then the Obama administration should be prosecuting them.  Furthermore, why is the GM bailout something to crow about while the bank bailout is a pox?  As with the Castro speech, the Obama speech contains statements that make no sense on paper, but sound good in a convention hall. 

And finally, President Obama apparently learned his lesson about the brouhaha over the absence of God from the Democratic platform.  To avoid a similar criticism with this speech, Obama refers at different times to Providence, God, and the Creator.

At the beginning of his speech, President Obama declared that this election “will be a choice between two different paths for America; a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.”  As the speech progressed, Obama made it clear that his vision was for higher taxes and a bigger government that was more proactive in creating opportunity, and he suggested that Mitt Romney and the Republicans envisioned lower taxes and smaller government.

In the realm of political speeches, that is a pretty accurate description of the choice facing America.


April 6, 2012

President Obama and Augusta National (The Masters)

Filed under: Culture,Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:57 am
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Conservative talk shows are in an uproar over President Obama’s suggestion that Augusta National should end its current practice of admitting only men to the club.  Although that suggestion may seem unimpeachable, talk-radio maven Michael Savage made a good point – if President Obama believes that women should be able to join a private club that is entitled to make its own membership decisions, why doesn’t he make an analogous decision with respect to a club that he actually has some responsibility for – i.e., the people who are granted the privilege to play golf without President Obama.  Savage’s implication is that President Obama rarely granted such privilege to females, but I have searched the internet and have not found any information relating to the gender of his golfing partners.

Personally, I would vigorously support the admission of women to a private club that I belonged to.  That is the sort of diversity that seems mutually beneficial to everybody.  In fact, I would be suspicious of any group that wants to exclude women from membership.  But I think it is hypocritical for President Obama to posture over an issue that is none of his business while his personal conduct suggests that he is as Neanderthal as the members of Augusta National.     

Incidentally, women can play golf at Augusta National, but only at the invitation of one of its 300 members.  They cannot become members themselves.

April 5, 2012

Nikki Haley is not ready for primetime

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:47 am
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South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was on Don Imus’s talk show yesterday morning to promote her new book titled Can’t Is Not an Option.  At the end of the Imus interview, Haley took a Sherman-esque position regarding the vice-presidency, saying that she had promised the voters of South Carolina that she would complete the job they elected her to do. 

Haley’s position vis-à-vis the vice-presidency seems just as strong as that other Southern prodigy Marco Rubio.  I suspected that both are taking this principled position because they realize that Mitt Romney would not consider selecting someone so unqualified.  Unlike John McCain, Mitt Romney plans to be a solid decision-maker who doesn’t gamble on long-shots like Sarah Palin.

Although Nikki Haley is more qualified than Sarah Palin to be vice president, the difference is not great.  Haley is only 40-years old, and only spent four years in the South Carolina House of Representatives before being elected governor less than two years ago.  She has enormous charisma and a compelling life story, but she needs at least four more years of seasoning, and possibly a couple years in the U.S. Senate, like Democratic wunderkind Barack Obama.

October 7, 2011

An open letter to Jeff Kessler of the Washington Post

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:34 pm
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Jeff Kessler is a so-called fact-checker at the liberal Washington Post.  His job is to identify politicians who misstate verifiable facts.  In doing this work, Jeff promises to be dispassionate and nonpartisan.  Based on Kessler’s recent hatchet-job on Mitt Romney, I would have to give him a failing grade in both regards.

Kessler’s job on Romney becomes even more objectionable when you consider that his analysis was first reported in February.    I guess Kessler and the Washington Post are going to keep repeating their opinion as long as Romney keeps repeating his, but don’t call it nonpartisan.

I was hopeful that discerning Post readers would have pointed out to Kessler and the Post the error of their ways, but my experience with readers of the liberal NY Times is that the readers have drunk as much Kool-Aid as the paper and its writers, and this is true of the Post, too.  The Post readers had a problem with Romney, but not with Kessler and the Post. 

Giving them the benefit of a doubt, I expressed my opposition to Kessler and the Post through the following comments:

  • Glenn, the Post‘s guiding principles indicate that (a) this is fact-checking, not an opinion-checking operation, and (b) we will strive to be dispassionate and non-partisan.  But your opinion about Romney’s assertions clearly are mere opinion, and just as clearly partisan.  Or do you deny that you are an Obama partisan?
  • Regarding the exceptionalism issue, you attempt to create some context, but in doing so, you fail to explain what Obama meant by his dominant, leading statement – i.e., yes, I believe America is exceptional, but I understand that the Brits and Greeks feel the same way about their nation-states.  Although it is subjective to characterize that statement as derisive, it is just as subjective and partisan to characterize it as “not derisive in the least.”
  • Regarding the apology tour, I understand that Obama did not use the term “apology,” but he did concede to the French that  America “has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” toward Europe.  Most people with a modest amount of common sense would conclude that statement to be an apology.  But you go even further – i.e., you charge that someone is engaging in major-league lying if her concludes that statement to be an apology.
  • I understand your partisan opinion, but don’t claim to be a dispassionate fact-checker.

August 22, 2011

Who will win the Republican nomination, and will he defeat Obama?

Filed under: Issues,Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:17 pm
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I have always prided myself on having an abundance of common sense and good judgment.  Because of these presumed qualities, I believed I could make a living betting on two of my life’s interests – sports and politics – if only I weren’t so squeamish about betting money.

Last year, however, I entered an NFL football pool and was disabused of the notion that I am good at predicting the winner of an NFL football game.  Not only did I lose to the Vegas line, I lost to the local yokels in the pool.

I think most of us have outsized egos about our predictive skills because we tend to remember the few upsets that we successfully predicted and forget about the many upsets that we unsuccessfully predicted.  (That reminds me of the economic indicators that predicted eleven of the last six recessions.)

My involvement in NFL predictions last year confirmed my judgment that the Vegas line is generally more accurate than  our local yokels or TV’s “talking heads.”  Sure, there are a few (about 10%) who beat the line over the course of a season, but almost never two seasons in a row.  It’s amazing that talking heads, with their additional information and access, can’t do better than local yokels, but I suspect that most of the talking heads don’t have a lot of common sense or good judgment.  They do, however, put a lot of emotion in their picks because “talk is cheap,” they have “no skin in the game,” and they don’t have to “put their money where their mouth is.”

Which brings me to the title of this post – who will win the Republican nomination, and will he defeat Obama?  The media is often accused of horse-race reporting on presidential elections – i.e., reporting on who is winning instead of focusing on the substantive issues – but they are handicapped (pun intended) in their horse-race reporting because there is no official handicapping (betting line), and instead have to rely exclusively on talking heads to tell us who is winning.

Well, I was mistaken about an official betting line.  Betting on political elections is legal in some countries, including Ireland, and there is an Irish website called Intrade that reveals the current odds.  As of today:

  • Rick Perry – 36%
  • Mitt Romney – 30%
  • Sarah Palin – 8%
  • Michelle Bachmann – 6%
  • Jon Huntsman – 5%
  • Paul Ryan – 5%
  • Ron Paul – 4%

Fascinating stuff – so instead of a first tier of Perry, Romney, and Bachmann, the first tier is clearly Perry and Romney.  BTW – second tier Rich Santorum is .3%, behind third tier Herman Cain at .5%.  I am surprised that the smart money is on Perry, which suggests that I think Romney will win because my heart wants him to win.

In the presidential election, Intrade sees it as:

  • Obama – 50%
  • Rick Perry – 18%
  • Mitt Romney – 13%
  • Sarah Palin – 5%
  • Hillary Clinton – 4%

I am very disappointed that Romney has only about a one in ten chance of winning.

Also fascinating is the subject of the Republican VP candidate, which is almost never discussed seriously in the media:

  • Marco Rubio – 31%
  • John Thune – 6%
  • Sarah Palin – 6%
  • Jon Huntsman – 5%
  • Chris Christie – 5%
  • Michele Bachmann – 5%
  • Bob McDonnell – 5%
  • Rick Perry – 4%
  • Mike Huckabee – 4%
  • Tim Pawlenty – 4%

Marco Rubio has strongly declared that he will not accept the VP nomination, but the smart money is betting that he will not
decline it if offered.  He probably has more charisma than anyone in the Republican field, but his qualifications are only about as strong as Obama’s when he ran for president, which means he is not experienced enough for the VP nomination.

Regarding control of the House and Senate, Intrade gives the Republicans a 60% chance of retaining control of the House, but a 75% chance of taking control of the Senate.  That doesn’t make sense except for the fact that a disproportionate number of Democratic seats in the Senate are up for election in 2012.

Ignorance was bliss – now I’m worried that Perry will win the nomination and then have to argue against evolution and global warming in the general election.


July 4, 2011

Thin resumes

Filed under: Media,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 3:37 am
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Last week, my conservative drinking buddy KB became almost apoplectic when I told him some Michele Bachmann facts that I had gleaned from her profile in Rolling Stone magazine.  He thinks Michele figuratively walks on water, and he doesn’t want to know any facts that don’t mesh with that image.  As far as he is concerned, she is one of the best qualified candidates for President ever.  And don’t get him going on Barack Obama’s thin resume.

I suggested to KB that both Obama and Bachmann had extraordinarily thin resumes prior to running for President and that they had somehow hoodwinked the media into romanticizing their lightweight pre-political careers.

According to myth, Barack Obama was a community organizer before getting into politics.  In fact, he worked as a community organizer for three years before law school.  After getting his law degree in 1991, Obama went to work as a teacher at the University of Chicago and as a civil-rights lawyer for a top-dollar law firm in Chicago.  Six years later in 1997, he became an IL state senator.  The sound of civil-right lawyer, law-school professor doesn’t have the same cachet as community organizer.

According to myth, Michele Bachmann was a tax lawyer before getting into politics.  In fact, she graduated from law school and went to work for the IRS for five years (1988-1993), following which time she decided to become a stay-at-home mother for her four, soon to be five kids, plus caring for 23 foster kids (teen-age girls with eating disorders; no more than three at a time).  In 2000, Bachmann became a MN state senator and in 2006 was elected to Congress.  The professional-mom title doesn’t afford the same gravitas as tax lawyer.

Michele Bachmann worked a few years as an entry-level IRS lawyer and hasn’t practiced law for almost 20 years.  To characterize her as a tax lawyer is highly misleading.  Barack Obama worked three years as a community organizer before he went to law school.  To characterize him as a community organizer is highly misleading.  I don’t know whether to blame the media or credit the candidate’s PR people for this travesty of reporting.

Just as my conservative drinking buddy KB had worn me down for disparaging Michele Bachmann, he showed his magnanimity by suggesting to me that the next great thing in the Republican Party – Florida Senator Marco Rubio – was still too green to run for President because his resume was as thin as Obama’s was when he ran for President.

To keep the argument going, I became the devil’s advocate and suggested that Rubio in 2011 is less qualified than Obama was in 2007.  What do the facts reveal?

  • Rubio graduated from law school in 1996, practiced law and served as a city commissioner for West Miami in the late 90s, was elected to the FL House in 2000, became Speaker of the House in 2006, and in 2010 was elected to the U.S. Senate.
  • Obama graduated from law school in 1991, practiced law and taught for six years, and became as a state senator for eight years before becoming a U.S. senator.  After two years as a U.S. senator, he started running for President.

All things considered, their thin presidential resumes are remarkably similar.  Obama had two more years of experience in the U.S. Senate, but Rubio had significant leadership experience in the Florida House.  Therefore, I concede that KB is correct in saying that Rubio, although underqualified for serious consideration for President, is just as qualified in 2011 as Obama was in 2007.

July 3, 2011

Term limits for the U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Constitution provides that federal judges receive lifetime appointments.  Through the years, this provision has been deemed appropriate and necessary to prevent politics from improperly influencing judicial decisions.  Of late, however, the Court has been afflicted with justices who come early and stay late, resulting in a sclerotic bench.  Because Presidents want to maximize their influence for many years into the future, they limit their search to middle-aged judges who are expected to stay on the bench into their 70s and 80s.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who is currently 78-years old, has indicated that she plans to stay on the Court for several more years.  This is perplexing liberals, who are beginning to fear that President Obama will not win a second term and that conservative
Mitt Romney will ultimately replace Ginsberg with a conservative jurist who will reverse Roe v. Wade.

Politics aside, I think America would be better served if Supreme Court justices served a single ten-year term (like the FBI Director) and then moved onto something else in life.  A single term would continue to enable them to serve without undue political influence and it would remove the incentive for Presidents to focus on young prospective justices and would prevent justices like Ginsberg from hanging around too long.

This goes on my list of useful changes to the Constitution.

June 29, 2011

The U.S. Constitution – does it still matter?

The title of this posting was a question posed on the cover of Time magazine this week.  Fortunately, only the first few paragraphs are available on-line.

No, that was not a typo.  I said “fortunately” because the article was so poorly written that its author could have been a college kid submitting a
term paper.  The author was, in fact, Richard Stengel, the managing editor of Time magazine, which probably explains how such a sophomoric article found its way into Time magazine.  Either his editors were too cowed to do their job or Stengel haughtily rejected their help.

I am blogging about the article because it raised an important topic – i.e., the relevance of the U.S. Constitution toward four transcendent issues in America:

  1. Making war as applied to Libya
  2. Defaulting on the national debt
  3. Interstate commerce as applied to ObamaCare
  4. Birthright citizenship

Making war

The first issue revolves around the War Powers Resolution.  The Resolution, which became law in 1973, was designed to prevent another Vietnam and end the string of undeclared wars since WWII.  It allows the president to initiate military action without a declaration of war, but requires the military action to cease if Congress doesn’t give its approval within 60 days.  This seems like a very reasonable accommodation of (a) modern exigencies and (b) the Constitutional provision, “The Congress shall have power… to declare war.

The Resolution was passed despite a presidential veto, and every president has asserted that it is unconstitutional because it infringes on his constitutional power to “be commander in chief.”  But President Obama is the first president to engage in an extended military action (Libya) without obtaining Congressional approval.

Stengel’s take on this issue – he mildly chides President Obama for ignoring the following position staked out by candidate Obama: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”  And he lamely excuses Obama because, “since 1973, Presidents have at best paid lip service to the resolution.”  The excuse is lame because, although previous presidents have claimed that the resolution was unconstitutional, they nevertheless complied with it, including George W. Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stengel complains that our Founders created this problem by drafting provisions that are conflicting.  That is hogwash.  If this issue ever gets
before the Supreme Court, they will certainly be able to reconcile the Congress’s power to declare war with the President’s power to be the commander in chief.  Without explanation, Stengel concludes this section by saying, “this matter will not end up in the Supreme Court.  Congress does not really want the responsibility of deciding whether to send troops to places like Libya.  It just doesn’t want the President to do so in a way that makes it look superfluous and impotent.

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer recently addressed the application of the War Powers Resolution to the military action in Libya.  Unlike Stengel, he provided an explanation for why the courts haven’t resolved this issue – “Moreover, the judiciary, which under our
system is the ultimate arbiter of constitutionality, has consistently refused to adjudicate this ‘political question’ (to quote one appellate court judge) and thus resolve with finality the separation-of-powers dispute between the other two co-equal branches

Like Krauthammer, I think the War Powers Resolution was a reasonable reconciliation of the constitutional provisions.  It reminds me of the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion, in which the Supreme Court balanced the privacy interests of women against the public interest in protecting the life of a fetus.  That is the type of public-policy decision, however, that should be made by legislatures, not the courts.  I wish President Obama would do what all previous Presidents have done – respect the law.

Debt ceiling

My conservative drinking friend thinks that the Founding Fathers had no idea that Congress would become such a profligate spender and, if they had, they would have included a balanced-budget provision in the Constitution.  In fact, however, the Founding Fathers knew that America had incurred huge debt during the Revolutionary War and they specifically approved the practice in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution – “The Congress shall have power … to borrow money on the credit of the United States.”

Regarding the possibility of default because on Congress’s failure to raise the debt limit, Stengel makes a suggestion that I haven’t previously heard – i.e., that the Constitution doesn’t allow government to default on its debt.  His suggestion is based on Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which reads, “The validity of the public debt of the United States… shall not be questioned.”  The Amendment, which was passed shortly after the Civil War, was intended to affirm the Union’s Civil War debt while repudiating all Confederate debt.

According to Stengel, if Congress refuses to increase the debt ceiling, President Obama would be constitutionally authorized to take extraordinary measures such as ordering “the Treasury to produce binding debt instruments … sell assets, furlough workers, freeze checks.”  I have never heard of this possible scenario, and during President Obama’s press conference today, he did not refer to it when he was asked about the possibility of default.  Let’s hope that this doomsday scenario never occurs.

Interstate commerce

The U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.  During law school, I learned that the Supreme Court has interpreted this provision extremely liberally, once holding that the provision authorizes the federal government to regulate a farmer who is growing grain for his own consumption.  In recent years, however, there has been push-back by constitutional conservatives against this expansive interpretation on the basis of the 10th Amendment, which says that all powers not expressly granted to Congress shall be reserved to the states, and with respect to ObamaCare, several federal judges have bought this argument.

Stengel’s legal defense of ObamaCare includes several glaring faults:

  1. He fails to mention the 10th Amendment.
  2. He notes that government can compel us to buy car insurance, but fails to recognize the important distinction that car insurance is compelled under a state’s police powers, not the federal government’s power over interstate commerce.
  3. He says it’s silly to argue that health care – which accounts for 17% of the U.S. economy – doesn’t involve interstate commerce, but fails to recognize that conservatives are arguing that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, not the entire law.

Birthright citizenship

The principle objective of the post-Civil War 14th Amendment was to grant citizenship to former slaves.  It reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.”  The problem with that wording is that it creates so-called birthright citizenship, i.e., if you are physically born in
the United States, you’re a citizen.  The United States is one of the few countries in the world that grants birthright citizenship.

Birthright citizenship has become extremely problematic in America because there are millions of illegal immigrants who are having babies, so-called “anchor babies.”  The anchor babies are American citizens entitled to a vast array of welfare and can eventually, as adults, sponsor their parents into the United States.  Until then, however, their parents are entitled to little more than deportation.

Stengel concedes that Congress was not thinking about illegal immigration when it drafted the 14th Amendment, but he gives short shrift to the argument from constitutional conservatives that the Amendment doesn’t apply to illegal immigrants because of the term, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”  Stengel haughtily asserts without explanation that “this argument doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.”  I have reviewed the judicial precedent on this issue, and there is nothing definitive.

Stengel also concedes that birthright citizenship makes no sense, yet he asserts, “There are liberals and conservatives alike who oppose changing
birthright citizenship
It’s seen as a core American value.”  That is hogwash.  I don’t know of a single well-known conservative who endorses birthright citizenship.  If there were, why didn’t Stengel name the person?

Ultimately Stengel concludes that resolving the birthright-citizenship issue will not resolve the bigger issue of illegal immigration.  For that, he recommends a carrot-and-stick approach.  The carrot is to make immigration easier and to give a path to citizenship to undocumented young people who go to college or join the military.  The stick is workplace enforcement and better enforcement.

Stengel concludes his article by quoting Judge Learned Hand, one of the greatest non-Supreme Court jurists in American history, who said the following in a speech during WWII:

  • “I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much on our constitutions, upon laws and upon courts.  Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.”

Stengel rephrased this sentiment by warning, “The Constitution does not protect our spirit of liberty; our spirit of liberty protects the Constitution.  The Constitution serves the nation; the nation does not serve the Constitution.  That’s what the framers would say.”

Sounds like Stengel is not a constitutional conservative.  Rather, he sees the Constitution as a living document that “is more a guardrail for our society than a traffic cop…. a st of principles, not a code of laws.”  I think the framers wanted the Constitution to live and grow through amendments, not through the liberal thinking of arrogant jurists.

If the Constitution is construed to provide citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants, the Constitution should be amended.  If the Constitution is construed to empower the federal government to force individuals to buy health insurance, the Constitution should be amended.  If the Supreme Court determines that the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional, then it should reconcile the Congressional power to declare war with the Presidential power as commander in chief.  And finally, if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, the Supreme Court will decide whether the President has extraordinary powers to avoid default.

The U.S. Constitution is not as dysfunctional as liberals like to think.

June 28, 2011

Exploding medical costs because of unlimited coverage

Do you wonder why health-insurance premiums are going up so fast?  President Obama likes to blame the insurance industry.  Two recent newspaper articles, however, suggest that there are other systemic intractable causes:

  1. An article in the NY Times today reports that there are three promising new drugs that can help a man with late-stage prostate cancer live an additional six
    months – i.e., his life expectancy can be increased from 18 months to 24 months.  The problem is that the drug therapy could cost as much as $500,000 over the course of treatment.  Of the potential patients, 80% are on Medicare, and although Medicare is running out of money, the article reports that the expensive treatment will probably be covered.
  2. An article in the NY Daily News last week reported that New York had become the 26th state to require “that health insurance cover the screening, diagnosis, and
    treatment of autism spectrum disorders.  Such coverage would include toddler screenings, speech, physical and occupational therapy – and behavioral treatment.”

Sarah Palin warned about Death Panels and Republicans rail against rationing, but there is no way to get medical costs under control unless we start limiting coverage.  America can’t afford unlimited coverage.


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