Mike Kueber's Blog

January 15, 2013

Chicken hawks of the Senate

Dana Milbank from the Washington Post used his column today to defend Chuck Hagel from concern expressed by three Republican senators:

  • In Vietnam in 1968, two separate mine explosions left Chuck Hagel with shrapnel in his chest and burns on his face and arms.  This is not a man who is going to shrink from a fight with the chicken hawks of the Senate.”

According to Milbank, “Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) called Hagel’s record ‘extremely concerning.’ Sen. David Vitter (La.) said Hagel’s confirmation ‘would send exactly the wrong message.’ Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said Hagel’s views send ‘the worst possible signal.’  Neither Cornyn nor Vitter lists military service in his biography. Graham was an Air Force lawyer.”

Hypocritically, Milbank has the gall to accuse Senator Lindsey Graham (born 1955) of being a chicken hawk despite his six years of active-duty service and subsequent Guard service (albeit as a mere lawyer).  Senator Vitter (born 1961) graduated from college in 1983, and I’m not sure what war Milbank thinks Vitter should have volunteered for. 

Senator Cornyn (born 1952) does own a history that is consistent with most of the college kids of his time.  As indicated in a detailed on-line article, Cornyn appears to have used a student deferment to avoid service during the Vietnam War. 

I have always found the term “chicken hawk” to be childish and disgusting – childish in calling someone “chicken” and disgusting in suggesting that only veterans can favor taking military action.  Should we call John Kerry a killer dove for fighting in Vietnam and then later opposing the war?  Should President Obama be called a chicken dove for declining to serve in the military and then later opposing most military action?  (I might be sensitive to the term because I consider “chicken” to be a fighting term and because I actively avoided Vietnam service in the early 70s.)

I have an idea – how about saying that only people who have served have the right to call someone else a chicken hawk.  That would eliminate Maureen Dowd of the NY Times, who loves to use the term.  It would also eliminate Dana Milbank (born 1968), who was going to Yale and in the secret society of Skull & Bones when Bush-41 was sending American kids into harm’s way.

Milbank’s column elicited 2472 comments, most of them favorable.  Dowd’s columns routinely provoke the same sort of cynical responses.  I see San Antonio’s recently elected congressman, Joaquin Castro do the same thing on his Facebook page.  Seems they have decided that their popularity depends on rousing the rabble.  That’s sad.

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November 22, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:11 pm
Tags: ,

Just when I was about to give up on Washington D.C. for its inability to deal with its fiscal mess, I heard a moderate Republican enter the fray with a promising solution.

Senator John Cornyn, from San Antonio, suggested during a TV interview that Congress should take another look at the Simpson-Bowles proposal.  He reminded listeners that the proposal had earned bipartisan support (11-7) back in December 2010, but President Obama refused to endorse it because it hadn’t earned the super-majority status of 12-4 that he had arbitrarily insisted on.  (Where was that super-status requirement when we needed it – i.e., ObamaCare?)  Cornyn said that if President Obama were to endorse Simpson-Bowles now, it would provide cover for congressional Democrats to support it.

I don’t understand that last piece of rationale by Cornyn because it was unified opposition of all three congressional Republicans that blocked the proposal from gaining super-majority status.  Nevertheless, if the Senate passed Simpson-Bowles, I would bet a dime to a doughnut that congressional Republicans would do the same.  Were they to reject Simpson-Bowles, I suspect the Republican congressmen who were swept into office in 2010 would be peremptorily swept out of office in 2012.

All of this militates in favor of getting my name on the Republican primary ballot for the 23rd Congressional District because I suspect my congressman would be one of the last to vote in favor of Simpson-Bowles, and I can’t think of a better issue for me to campaign on.

April 21, 2011

Health-care rationing, price controls, and IPAB

This morning, I visited my orthopedic doctor to receive the first of five weekly injections of hyalgan that are intended to improve my arthritic knee.  I’ve tried glucosamine chondroitin, but the functioning of my knee continues to deteriorate. 

After receiving the injection, I stopped at HEB to buy some groceries and noticed an 80-year-old guy slowly walking to the store.  Although I feel slight discomfort in my arthritic knee when I walk, I can still move at a normal pace and thus walked by the old guy like he was standing still. 

The old guy reminded me of the limited functionality that will be afflicting me in a few years.  My conservative 62-year-old friend Kevin has an arthritic knee a little worse than mine, and he is considering a knee replacement.  His doctor has warned him, though, to make the decision in the next couple years while he still has USAA’s health insurance for retirees because his ability to have the surgery done under Medicare after he become 65-years old is not assured.

I thought Kevin’s doctor might be “crying wolf,” but an article in the NY Times yesterday reported that the Obama administration is attempting the expand the power of the 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which was created by ObamaCare to reduce the rate of growth in the cost of Medicare. 

IPAB replaces the current Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), which makes recommendations (often regarding reimbursement rates) that Congress is free to accept, but usually ignores.  By contrast, IPAB recommendations will automatically become effective unless Congress overrules the recommendations. 

Currently, IPAB is specifically prohibited from making any recommendation to ration health care, and although President Obama didn’t mention what additional powers he wanted for IPAB, Republicans and some Democrats have decided not only against expanding the powers of IPAB, but in favor of eliminating IPAB.  They claim that IPAB “would usurp Congressional spending power over one of the government’s most important and expensive social programs.”

GOP budget guru Paul Ryan led the way by demagoguing the issue, calling it “a rationing board” and declaring that the board would “impose more price controls and more limitations on providers, which will end up cutting services to seniors.”  Texas Senator John Cornyn more accurately said the president’s proposal “punts difficult decisions on health spending to an unelected, unaccountable board of bureaucrats.”

But the Republicans are not acting alone.  Three prominent Democrats have weighed-in:

  • Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz, a Pennsylvania Democrat prominent on health care issues, said: “It’s our constitutional duty, as members of Congress, to take responsibility for Medicare and not turn decisions over to a board. Abdicating this responsibility, whether to insurance companies or to an unelected commission, undermines our ability to represent our constituents, including seniors and the disabled.”
  • Representative Pete Stark, a California Democrat on the Way & Means Subcommittee on Health, said: “Why have legislators?” He suggested that expanding the power of the board could be as bad as giving vouchers to Medicare beneficiaries to buy private insurance. “In theory at least, you could set the vouchers at an adequate level.  But, in its effort to limit the growth of Medicare spending, the board is likely to set inadequate payment rates for health care providers, which could endanger patient care.”
  • Nevada Representative Shelley Berkley said she wanted to repeal the Medicare board. “I have great faith that this administration can put together a strong, independent and knowledgeable board,”  but she said she had less confidence in future administrations.

Despite Paul Ryan’s protestations about rationing, the main concern, as noted by Representative Stark,  is that the Board will reduce the reimbursement rates to medical providers to unacceptable levels.  Although that would not be rationing, it would be a typical liberal response that does nothing to solve the underlying problem of risings costs.  Price controls don’t work.

The other concern, as articulated by Senator Cornyn, is that IPAB implies that, because our elected officials are incapable of making tough decisions, Americans are better served by having those decisions made by an unelected bureaucracy appointed by the president.  That may be President Obama’s vision of a new and improved America, but it isn’t mine.  To paraphrase Wm. F. Buckley, I would would rather be governed by the first 500 names in the San Antonio phone book than by 500 wise men selected by Barack Obama.

August 31, 2010

E-Verify in Arizona

Despite the vitriol surrounding the illegal-immigration issue in America, most people agree that illegal immigration needs to be stopped.  Unfortunately, many liberals think the only way to stop illegal immigration is to open our borders to nearly unlimited immigration (either permanent status or work visas).  Whereas, conservatives think that more border security can and should make our border impenetrable.  I think neither is correct.  The key to stopping illegal immigration is, not only to strengthen our border security, but also to reduce the incentive for illegal immigration and to apprehend and deport those who sneak themselves through our border security. 

Incentives 

Currently, there are at least four major incentives for illegal immigration:

  1. Jobs;
  2. Free public education;
  3. Free medical care; and
  4. Birthright citizenship.

Jobs

Congress and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have attempted to reduce employment opportunities for illegal immigrants by creating a database called E-Verify that employers can check to determine whether an employee or potential employee is a legal resident of America.  Although the federal government has made use of the database voluntary, several states have enacted laws requiring employers to use E-Verify.  One of those states is Arizona.

In 2007, Arizona enacted its Legal Arizona Workers Act, which requires employers to check E-Verify before hiring an individual.  Although federal law (the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986) prohibits employers from knowingly employing illegal immigrants, it does not require them to use E-Verify.  Not surprisingly, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano challenged the constitutionality of Arizona’s E-Verify law (CPLC v. Napolitano), just as she has done with the HB 1070, and the legal rationale is the same – i.e., the federal law is supreme and pre-empts any state legislation on this issue.  However, unlike HB 1070, a federal district judge has upheld the constitutionality of AZ’s E-Verify requirement and that ruling has been upheld by the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeal.  On June 26, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the matter – now styled as U.S.  Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria

Legal commentators have suggested that, although AZ’s HB 1070 has received much more publicity, the E-Verify case may be more important because it is much further along in the review process and a Supreme Court decision will likely provide much guidance to the state legislatures that are attempting to craft legislation that attacks illegal immigration without being subject to preemption by the federal government.  A decision is due before June 2011.    

Free public education

I have previously addressed in my blog the incentive created by free public education for illegal immigrants.  (See “Bad law – stuck on stupid”; June 25, 2010.)  A Supreme Court decision in 1982 – Plyler v. Doe – required Texas to provide free education to illegal immigrants, and that decision can be reversed either by the Court recognizing that its reasoning is no longer appropriate or by Congress declaring that public education for illegal immigrants is contrary to sound immigration policy.

Free medical care and birthright citizenship

Although free, high-quality medical care is an incentive for illegal immigration, it would be contrary to American values to deny emergency care to anyone, even if that person has illegally entered America to have her baby in America.  But there is absolutely no persuasive argument for granting American citizenship to that baby.  Of course, the best interests of the child would be to receive citizenship, but America can’t be responsible for the best interests all of the children of the world.  Unfortunately, Texas politicians seem to be standing in the way of clarifying the 14th Amendment.  Maverick Senator Lindsay Graham from South Carolina has bravely proposed hearings on clarifying the 14th Amendment, but Texas Senator John Cornyn recently reversed his prior support for these hearings after meeting with some South Texas politicians. 

Detecting and deporting illegal immigrants

Eliminating incentives for illegal immigration will cause a lot of self-deportation, as even liberals concede that illegal immigration has diminished because of the recession in America.  But the elimination of incentives needs to be supplemented by detection and deportation.  In the past few years, there have developed many pockets of protection for illegal immigrants – so-called sanctuary cities.  Illegal immigrants in those cities have no fear of detection by local authorities because those authorities are expressly prohibited from reporting illegal immigrants to federal authorities.  Some argue that Houston and San Antonio are sanctuary cities because of their “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies.  

Arizona’s HB 1070 is essentially an anti-sanctuary law and is the most robust attempt by a political entity to detect illegal immigrants.  But the law is being challenged by the federal government, and even worse, there are recent news reports that the Obama administration has virtually ceased deportation of illegal immigrants unless they are caught violating criminal laws.  Thus, even if local officials detect illegal immigrants, the federal government may decline to deport them. 

If HB 1070 is upheld, the continued refusal of the President to enforce our nation’s immigration law could result in a constitutional crisis or even impeachment.