A Narrow Stretch of Common Ground

I don’t read Sally Kohn’s work much. She and I are diametrical opposites, ideologically speaking, and usually when I do see something she’s written, it’s eyeroll-inducing.  (I’m sure she’d say the same about me if I had a recognizable byline.)  Nonetheless, she posted a piece today which caught my attention not for its objectionability, but for its recognition that conservatives are people, too.

I talked about it on our show tonight, noting that, while I’m not ready to break out the peace pipe and start singing Kumbaya, I found her realization (and her acknowledgment of it) pleasantly surprising.  Getting ideological opponents to see you as human and decent and…likable is no small thing. It opens up the possibility of constructive dialogue. Though it doesn’t guarantee it, it’s a damn sight more likely to lead to it than rhetorical bomb-throwing. There’s a flip side to that, as well. When you see another as an individual, rather than a label — when you recognize they’re more than just their team logo — you’re far more likely to approach them with decency, too. And, in turn, far more likely to be heard. 

“Who cares?” some will think. Well, I care. Because, to put it in the simplest of terms, it comes down to hearts and minds. You can’t implement the ideals you believe are most effective/helpful/beneficial without winning elections. You can’t win elections without garnering votes. You can’t garner votes without persuading voters. You can’t persuade voters by calling them ignorant morons or hateful bigots.  If your ideas derive from common sense and promote universally appealing concepts like liberty — they’ll resonate. But not if you’ve already been tuned out.  

So, I applaud Ms. Kohn for her commentary today. It may just a narrow stretch of common ground we found. But it’s a start. 

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Q with a View – The Radio Show!

 A little late in posting this here, but for those of my readers who don’t already know, my good friend Josh Gillespie has hung up his broadcasting cleats — for the time being, anyway — and handed the Tuesday night 9pm Eastern time slot over to yours truly.   So now, “Q with a View” – the radio show – is a thing.  We’ve aired three episodes thus far — and had some great guests, including Brad Essex of The Essex Blog and Red State, Cecilia S. Johnson of Hood Cons & Duane Lester of The Missouri Torch and All American Blogger.  

I aim to be writing more here shortly, but in the interim, if you’re interested in listening to previous shows, be sure to check them out here:

 

Q with a View – Episode 1 – The Debut! – 1-7-14

Q with a View – Episode 2 – Guests: Brad Essex & Cecilia S. Johnson – 1-14-14

Q with a View – Episode 3 – Guest: Duane Lester – 1-21-14

I *think* these will also be available on iTunes at some point – working on that.  Anyway, give a listen when you can, please!

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No Such Thing As a Free BCP

Earlier today, @TheDemocrats – “the official Twitter account of the Democratic Party”  - tweeted the following:  “Before #Obamacare, women spent up to $600 a year on birth control. That’s equal to 9 tanks of gas.”  Included with this tweet was a snazzy purple graphic with the same language, and “Women deserve preventive health care coverage,” underneath.  I’ll confess, it touched a nerve.  I responded with this: “And *poof* — it’s now magically free!!! Y’all are so amazing!!! #FreeStuffForEveryone”.

No, I’m not mad that all health insurance plans must now cover the cost of birth control — I’m no fan of much of anything being government mandated, but that ‘s a philosophical quibble for another day.  Nor am I mad that some employers who have religious/conscientious objections to providing health care coverage which includes birth control are being forced to litigate the issue via the courts.  I mean – these are things that irk me, but they aren’t the impetus for this post.

What I’m mad about is this:  The Democrats, with that tweet, imply that Obamacare has somehow now rendered birth control “free.”  This exposes and/or plays to a very basic misunderstanding of economics which serves as the underpinning for most of the liberal agenda, at least in the fiscal arena.  Perhaps what makes me most mad about it is that I bought into it for so many years. 

We’ve all  heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  I heard it — and even understood it — back when my ears were still liberal.  I just didn’t give it much thought.  But it perfectly sums up the economic reality that one simply cannot get something for nothing. Always, there is a trade off of some sort.  Just as the cost for the food provided with a “free lunch,” is offset by a higher drink price, the cost of “free” birth control must be offset in some fashion.  Any business, be it a restaurant or a pharmacy, must profit in order to live. Income must exceed expense.  That does not — can not – happen when one’s product is simply doled out for free.

The cost of a “free” lunch is made up for in one of two ways: 1) It is included in the cost of other items sold; or 2) it is covered in the price of paying customers’ meals.  Likewise, the cost of “free” birth control is either made up for by higher prices for other drugs or by higher insurance premiums.  Or both.  

Strangely enough, when birth control pills suddenly became “free” under my employer’s health insurance plan, our insurance premiums also increased.  This is where the proponents of “free” birth control point out that it was the evil insurer’s choice to increase premiums.  Why, yes, yes it was.  While some might find it shocking that a business, understanding basic economics, opted to offset the provision of a “free” product, by charging more for another, I don’t.  And neither should anyone else who understands that the lack of profit creates an existential crisis for any business.  

If you choose to use birth control, you are choosing to use a product.  That product costs money.  It costs money to develop, it costs money to make, it costs money to ship, and it costs money to sell.  Interestingly enough, these days, many types of birth control pills can be obtained at your local pharmacy for as little as $9 a pack. If that’s still too much for you to afford, your local Planned Parenthood will typically provide them based on a sliding scale.  For you to just expect it to be handed to you for “free,” demonstrates a troubling level of ignorance and/or selfishness.

I’ll confess I feel right silly at the moment, explaining such a basic concept.  Anyone who actually reads this already gets it.  But the mentality which that tweet from The Democrats perpetuates is the same mentality that blithely ignores economic realities and forges ahead with policies which do damage to our economy on both a micro and macro level.  And it ticks me off!

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The Libertarian Streak is Strong with This One

Upon recent reflection, I’ve come to the realization that, since 1980, I’ve been in opposition to our Commander in Chief for all but nine of those years.  (And even that’s being generous.)  By “in opposition” I mean either I didn’t vote for said office holder, or found myself becoming increasingly disenchanted with same to the point of disagreeing with his policies more often than agreeing with them.  If one were to do the math on that, one might wonder how that could be, given that a Democrat has held the office for thirteen of those years, and a Republican for twenty of them.  Well, that’s because my views have evolved over the years, and the opposition hasn’t strictly been along party lines.  In truth, I do believe I’m an anti-authoritarian.  Especially in the economic and social realm.  I’ve taken to describing myself as “Fiscally conservative, socially moderate, with libertarian leanings.”  I’m beginning to think that’s too wordy, and the leanings are no longer just that.  

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Get Real

This started out as a Facebook post sharing Dana Loesch’s collection of “real stories” from people who have found themselves negatively impacted by Obamacare.  It tied into a discussion I was having yesterday, and my intended one or two sentence comment expanded.  So, here, in somewhat more permanent fashion, are some of my most recent thoughts re: Obamacare:

Yesterday, a friend related to me how a family member was helped by the provision in the ACA which allowed for people to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans up to age 26. That’s a real story of someone who benefited from it, and points to the need, in some instances, for there to be that sort of option available, so it should not be discounted. I know of another individual who benefited from the pre-existing condition facet. Pre-existing conditions MUST be reasonably and fairly addressed. 

On the other hand, many others are relating their own stories of how they have been negatively affected by the ACA. I know my own rates have gone up substantially in the past 3 years (as has my deductible) and, due to costs, I had to remove my daughter from the company plan and purchase a separate policy for her, which has also increased significantly, and which I’m desperately hoping won’t be done-in by the implementation of this Act. All around, we see stories of companies cutting back hours and holding off on hiring in anticipation of it. Many of its key provisions have been gutted for the time being by the President himself via Executive Order. Many of its prior supporters have sought exemptions from it. And Congress, which was in such an infernal hurry to pass the damn thing “so we can know what’s in it,” has effectively wrangled an exemption for itself. (See, e.g., Loren Heal’s recent article re: the Congressional exemption.)

So, yeah. I oppose Obamacare. Always have and likely always will. Because I believe it causes more problems than it solves. That doesn’t mean I oppose ALL efforts at reform which would address issues like the ones mentioned in my initial paragraph, nor do I at all oppose efforts to reduce costs. But it sure would be nice to look for reasonable, workable ways to do so that aren’t so entangled with political agenda that they do nothing of the sort.

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My initial post drew some comments, so I want to include those here, as well:

From my Sister-in-Law, Susan Moore (yes, we have the same name) – “We’ve been self insured for 13 years and our health care premiums have gone up EVERY s i n g l e year from 10-28%! This year was one of the lowest increases, only 10%:( It’s nearly unbearable.”

My response thereto – “The hard part with employer-sponsored plans is being able to go back and trace the increases historically, but I know mine didn’t just start going up in 2010. What I do know is they went up enough that year for dependents that I had to take Riley off my plan and put her on her own. The problem with health insurance itself is that it creates an artificial layer which insulates the provider from normal market forces and, in my view, encourages inflated costs. Add employer-sponsored plans to the mix and that’s another layer between the end user and the provider. All of which increases costs. This is why I’d love to see a la carte and catastrophic-only plans become available.”

An article I ran across shortly thereafter - “Real health reform should allow people who are happy with their plans and doctors to keep them – not force them to pay for something the government believes is ‘better’ against their will. It should increase choice and competition, so consumers have better options. It should strengthen the doctor-patient relationship – not break it. It is time for Congress and the President to replace this law with genuine, bipartisan patient-centered reform.” (See more here.)

I’ll update with any additional comments or thoughts as they occur.  

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UPDATE:  Well, here we are, twenty days post D-Day with Obamacare.  My own personal experience with it (which one might expect to be nil, since both my daughter and I already HAD insurance — which we LIKED):  

Early last week, I received a letter from my daughter’s insurer advising that, due to the ACA, her current policy would no longer be available.  Her (my) options at this point are 1) to essentially re-up now for a policy which will provide the same coverage for the same premium (thankfully) through December, 2014, 2) do nothing and her current policy will expire in August, 2014, or 3) start shopping on the exchange now.  You’ll note that both options 1 and 2 have an end date.  At which point, one can only assume our ONLY option will be to….*drum roll* go shopping on the exchange.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, I received a letter from my own insurer advising of basically the same thing.  My firm is going to do the equivalent of Option 1 above, but then will have to….*drum roll* go shopping on the exchange before December, 2014.  

Here’s the interesting part of that — my firm employs less than 50 employees. Yet, because it opts to provide health insurance coverage to its employees (and because we need to be ACA compliant), is forced to be ACA compliant.  So…the firm’s options are to provide ACA compliant coverage or  no coverage at all. 

Now, it is entirely possible that when the time comes to “shop” for my daughter and for my firm to “shop” for its employees, the options available on the exchange will be even better than what we have now.  Truthfully, that’s more likely to be the case with my firm (which has a somewhat older and not particularly healthy employee pool) than with my daughter (who is young and healthy.)  I guess we’ll find out in another year or so.

Meanwhile, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,” has been demonstrated to be pure hogwash.  (Knock me over with a feather!) 

You’re a Bad Parent

Well, no, honestly, you probably aren’t.  And even if you are, I’m likely not in a position to be able to assess that from here.  But saying so got your attention, didn’t it?  I can only assume that was the primary goal of Slate writer Allison Benadikt when she published “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person” earlier today.  

I note with some interest she referred to it as “a manifesto” — a designation which, for me, always conjures the image of Karl Marx. Or Ted Kaczynski.   Aside from her reference, I’m not exactly certain just what’s so manifesto-y about the piece.  Admittedly, though, it is provocative.  In just a few paragraphs, she manages to throw out judgments sure to piss off:  Parents of kids who attend(ed) private school; parents of kids who attend(ed) public school; private school attendees and educators; public school attendees and educators; and just about anyone who’s ever entertained the notion of putting one’s family first, and/or who recoils at the notion of sacrificing same “for the common good.”  

She also demonstrates that one of the (many) things she apparently failed to glean from her mediocre (which I think might be generous here) public school education was how to employ logic or persuasive rhetoric.  For instance, Benadikt asserts: “Reading Walt Whitman in ninth grade changed the way you see the world? Well, getting drunk before basketball games with kids who lived at the trailer park near my house did the same for me. In fact it’s part of the reason I feel so strongly about public schools.”  As I noted immediately upon reading her missive, “If I were trying to sell people on public school, I don’t think I’d use getting drunk in a trailer park before a game as a selling point.”  (Find me the parent who’d rather their child’s worldview be altered by alcohol than classic literature.)  Yet it’s one of the reasons she feels “so strongly about public schools.”  (Presumably, Benadikt not only considers underage drinking in suspect environs an essential life experience, but believes kids who attend private schools somehow insulated from such activities.)  

I find it puzzling that she simultaneously maintains that, though she went “to a terrible public school” — one without AP classes, reading requirements or soccer — she’s doing fine (and your kids will, too), and that we all face some sort of moral imperative to send our kids to public school and “endure” it “so that in 25 years there will be AP calculus for all.”  Well…wait…which is it?  Kids are just fine without AP classes?  Or all kids should have AP classes?  Public schools are crappy and can only improve if everyone attends them?  Or public schools are crappy, but crappy is just fine?  

While I do think she’s on the right track with her notion that those with skin in the game have more incentive to improve it, her whole argument rests on the premise that those who currently send their kids to private school somehow care more and will magically improve public schools with their presence and those who currently send their kids to public school are incapable of improving them or not invested in their kids’ education.   In my observation, the common denominator is parental involvement.  Though Benedikt almost seems to grasp this, it somehow escapes her that parents’ interest in their kids’ education and motivation to see them do well doesn’t hinge on their pocketbooks.  

She also fails to take into account that there are great public schools (and cruddy private schools.)  I happen to be the product of a great school district (one that offered AP classes, a great reading program and soccer), and am beyond happy that I’ve been able to send my daughter to school in that very same district.  I also have friends that attended not-so-great private schools and received a not-so-great education.  Interestingly enough, in comparing notes, I’ve found that our K-12 “life” experiences were nevertheless quite similar.   Funny how growing up in the same geographical area at around the same time works.

As Benedikt admits, she’s no education policy wonk.  One thing I absolutely do have to give her credit for, though: She sure knows how to drive traffic to a website.  

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Turning Wonderful into Ugly

I’ve lately been rather upset with myself for my lack of blogging.  I hit upon some inspiration, but then talk myself out of actually writing up something on it because I don’t have enough time, or I have other things that need tending to first.  Well, congratulations to Joan Walsh.  Her decision to take a happy, uplifting story and turn it into something dark and twisty has spurred me to take the last few minutes of my lunch hour and actually write something about it.

Though I’m rather loathe to link to it, I’m referring to this story.  I must acknowledge it was @JamesTaranto ‘s tweet which first drew my attention to it:

The first thing I noticed after my semi-reluctant click is that the headline of the piece doesn’t even match the actual URL.  The headline reads: “The Story Bigots Hate: Antoinette Tuffs Courage.”  The URL reads: “the_story_the_right_hates_antoinette_tuffs_courage.”  Yes.  You read that correctly.   Apparently, the original title of Walsh’s piece was “The Story The Right Hates….”  I suppose in Walsh’s world, “the right” and “bigots” are interchangeable.

The story itself highlights Ms. Tuff’s bravery and heroism in talking Michael Brandon Hill down as he initiated a shooting spree at Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Center in Decatur, GA, this past Tuesday.  That no one was shot or killed in this incident is nothing short of a miracle.   And Ms. Tuff’s story truly is inspiring.  She is to be lauded for this by all — perhaps most of all, Mr. Hill.

To take her story and attempt to twist it into a weapon to use against “the right” is despicable.  Are there actual bigots out there who might find offense in the notion of a black woman bravely saving the life of an armed white man?  If there are, I don’t know them.  Nor would I ever want to.  Those who would take a wonderful story such as this and turn it ugly to advance their own political agenda?  Yeah, they’re not real high on my list of folks I’d care to know either. 

God bless Antoinette Tuff.

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Credit: ABC News photo