Allan C. Brownfeld
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review and a contributing editor to such publications as Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Is It Irrational to Be Concerned about the Plight of the Elderly and Disabled under a Rationed Health-Care System?
There are many problems with the health care program now being considered by the Congress. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) judges that the legislation in the House would cut the uninsured to 17 million in 2019, from 46 million in 2007. But the cost would be $1 trillion over the decade. Of that, $239 billion would be added to the budget deficit. In 2019, the last year of the projection, the cumulative shortfall would be $65 billion.
Economist Paul Samuelson, author of The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath, notes that:
Assuming that the deficit rises 4 percent a year, the cumulative shortfall in the second decade would total about $800 billion. The president . . . offers the illusion of reform while perpetuating the status quo of four decades.
Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, posed the following question to Douglas Elmendorf, head of the CBO:
From what you have seen from the product of the committees that have reported, do you see a successful effort being mounted to bend the long-term cost curve?
Mr. Elmendorf replied:
No, Mr. Chairman. In the legislation that has been reported we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of health spending by a significant amount. And on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health-care costs. . . . The cost curve is being raised.
The plans now being considered would do the opposite of what President Obama has suggested. They would increase spending, not restrain it. The notion of rushing through a program of this magnitude without careful debate and analysis, which was the president's initial hope, has now been widely rejected.
Aside from the question of cost, however, is the even more important moral question of whether the government program being proposed would involve the rationing of health care, and how elderly and disabled Americans might fare under such a regime.
The heated town-hall meetings which have recently been seen -- with vigorous opponents often appearing interested in disrupting the meetings rather than raising important questions -- have produced an equally disquieting reaction for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) who, in an article in USA Today, referred to protests against the health care plan as "un-American." And some charges, such as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's charge that the proposed legislation involves the creation of "death panels" to determine who will live and who will die, tend to overstate their case.
Still, there are legitimate questions to be asked about the rationing of health care and about the fear of euthanasia as an approach to be considered as a means of cutting costs.
This fear is not irrational. Writing in The New York Times Magazine, Professor Peter Singer of Princeton University entitles his article, "Why We Must Ration Health Care." He points out that President Obama has urged his supporters to avoid using the term "rationing" for fear of evoking a hostile response. Professor Singer has no such reticence.
Governments implicitly place a dollar value on a human life when they decide how much is to be spent on health care programs and how much on other public goods. . . . The task of health care bureaucrats is . . . to get the best value for the resources they have been allocated. . . . As a first take, we might say that the good achieved by health care is the number of lives saved. But that is too crude. The death of a teenager is a greater tragedy than the death of an 85-year-old, and this should be reflected in our priorities. We can accommodate that difference by calculating the number of life-years saved, rather than simply the number of lives saved. If a teenager can be expected to live another 70 years, saving her life counts as a gain of 70 life-years, whereas if a person of 85 can be expected to live another 5 years, then saving the 85-year-old will count as a gain of only 5 life-years. That suggests that saving one teenager is the equivalent of saving 14 85-year-olds.
Referring to the notion of a quality-adjusted-life-year (QALY), Singer describes:
. . . a year with quadriplegia is valued at only half as much as a year without it, then a treatment that extends the lives of people without disabilities will be seen as providing twice the value of one that extends, for a similar period, the lives of quadriplegics.
Cited with apparent disdain for his naivete, is Rabbi Daniel Zemel of Washington, D.C. who was asked by a Washington Post reporter what he thought about federal agencies putting a dollar value on human life. The rabbi cited a Jewish teaching explaining that if you put one human life on one side of a scale, and you put the rest of the world on the other side, the scale is balanced equally. This, perhaps, is precisely what those who resist health care rationing think.
In a April 28 New York Times interview, the president spoke of having government guide a "very difficult democratic conversation" about "those toward the end of their lives who are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total of the health care bill out here."
Presidential health care adviser Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and chairman of the Department of Bioethics at the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health, has argued that independent government boards should decide policy on end-of-life care. He also defended rationing care more strictly for older people because "allocation (of medical care) by age is not invidious discrimination."
In this light, House Republicans have warned against draft section 1233 of the House Democratic health care bill as an area of deep concern. It provides for seniors, every five years, to be provided "advance care planning consultation" [". . . if desired. . ."] for "end-of-life services." House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) warn that the provision "may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia."
Ezekiel Emanuel goes so far as to say that it will be necessary to change the way doctors think about their patients. Doctors, he said, take the Hippocratic Oath ("first do no harm") too seriously, "as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost of effects on others." (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 18, 2008). Emanuel says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are . . . prevented from being or becoming participating citizens" (Hastings Center Report, Nov. -- Dec. 1996).
Deciding who is denied care at the end of life -- or at other times -- should not be dependent on government cost controls. Clearly, it is not irrational to be concerned about the plight of the elderly and disabled under a rationed health-care system many seem to be promoting. The more we know about these plans, the less likely Americans will be to embrace them.
The Case of Henry Louis Gates: Resisting the Reality of Our Increasingly Egalitarian Society -- and Celebrating an Early Conservative Who Has Always Put "Country above Color"
The much-discussed incident in which Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested for disorderly conduct after a 911 call to the police reported an apparent break-in at his Cambridge, Massachusetts, home has led many observers to tell us that the idea of a "post-racial" society is a myth and that racism is, indeed, alive and well.
The facts of the case aside -- the charges have been dropped and both Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, have been to the White House to visit with President Obama, who, while admitting he did not know the facts of the case, nevertheless charged that the police had acted "stupidly" -- the reaction is instructive.
Most observers, reviewing the facts calmly, find that while both Gates and Crowley may have over-reacted, no racism was involved. When he entered the house, Crowley, who has taught a class in racial profiling for five years at the Lowell Police Academy (whose director called him a good role model) and who was hand-picked by a black police commissioner, made no reference to race whatever. From what we know, it was Gates who introduced the subject.
Many prominent black Americans have used this case to tell us that the election of President Obama aside, racism is alive and well in our society. Using a highly ambiguous case in which race seems to have played no part, they have made light of the tremendous progress we have made in race relations.
Thus, Lawrence Bobo, a professor of the social sciences at Harvard, declared:
Ain't nothing post-racial about the United States of America. . . . If Skip (Gates) can be arrested on his front porch, there but for the grace of God goes every other black man in America. . . . It should be enough to end all this post-racial hogwash.
Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick, who is black, described Gates' experience as "Every black man's nightmare." Christopher Edley, Jr., the dean of the University of California at Berkeley Law School, who is also black, said the Gates incident should dispel the "rosy hopefulness" of Mr. Obama's election "in case anybody needed more evidence that we're not beyond race."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson declared that the Gates incident:
. . . is a stark example that racial profiling knows no boundaries of class, status, neighborhood, or reputation. . . . There can be no "post-racial" America when such glaring racial disparities and incidents of race profiling continue to permeate all facets of society.
Even after the White House meeting between Gates and Crowley, a number of black commentators continued to urge that Gates sue the Cambridge police department. Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy wrote:
Now that our "national debate" on race has ended with beer in the Rose Garden, let's get serious. If Harvard professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates believes that he has been subject to false arrest, racial profiling, harassment and public humiliation . . . then he should press his grievance in a court of law. Or he should apologize for taking too lightly a police practice that sends thousands of African Americans and Hispanics to jail each year on trumped-up charges of "disorderly conduct." . . . Gates must press his case. We need to hear the wheels of justice grinding away at the hearsay, rumors, and myths that have characterized so much of the recent discussion about racism in America.
There has, it seems, been a refusal to understand what really occurred in Cambridge because it serves the political agenda of those promoting lawsuits and the notion of widespread racial profiling. Thomas E. Fiedler, dean of the Boston University College of Communication, declared that:
Initial reports of an event can be seriously inaccurate. Almost everything we thought we knew -- a racist neighbor, a biased cop, a kindly professor victimized for his color, a president known for his calculating responses -- turns out to be wrong.
It appears that many of those who refuse to recognize the dramatic progress we have made in race relations will use the most flimsy excuse -- such as the Gates case -- to declare that America is a "racist" society.
In reality, the facts of racial progress speak for themselves. Not only do we now have a black president, Attorney General, and Ambassador to the United Nations -- to name only a few prominent office-holders -- but this is nothing new. In the Bush administration, we had two black secretaries of state. This is not to say that residual racism does not exist, and that there is not progress yet to be made. It is to say that it is unseemly to promote the idea that ours is a hate-filled society. Some people, it seems, cannot take "Yes" for an answer.
Comedian and actor Bill Cosby said he is worried about the direction the conversation is headed and urged people "who don't know" the facts in a particular case to take a step back and refrain for commenting, and extrapolating an isolated and ambiguous incident into an example of continuing racism.
Fortunately, many black Americans refuse to engage in this racial game which Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and others have been playing for may years. One of the outstanding black spokesmen for a color-blind society, in which an individual would be judged on the basis of his or her merits, and not on the basis of race, is J. A. (Jay) Parker.
Parker has had a distinguished career. He has been a radio talk show host, a leader in Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), an active opponent of the spread of Marxism in Africa as a leader in the American African Affairs Association, and the founder and president of the Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, which has for many years urged the creation of a genuinely color-blind society and argued that the free enterprise system was the best path for racial progress.
In 1980 Parker was named to head President Ronald Reagan's transition team at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (this writer was a member of that team, and has been a close associate of Jay Parker for many years). Its final report declared that:
The goal of all Americans of good will should be the creation of a society that is both color-blind and committed to economic growth and advancement. A system of racial quotas and classifications in a declining economy is the prescription for intergroup tensions and social dislocation. It violates our basic principles of individual freedom and our hope for continuing progress.
During the Reagan years Parker worked with the U.S. Information Agency to help project a more accurate view of America, and with Attorney General Edwin Meese III on a special committee to work on the problem of missing and exploited children. He also worked with the Defense Department as a member of the Army Science Board.
One of Jay's most important contributions has been his dedication to such respected charities as the Salvation Army, the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, and Goodwill Industries, each of which he has served in a leadership role. He believes in putting his belief in individualism into action because "problems in America can only truly be fixed by individuals convincing individuals, one at a time, how to behave properly."
A new book, Courage to Put Country Above Color, about the life of Jay Parker has been written by David W. Tyson and is available free to readers. (Those who would like to receive a copy should write to the The Lincoln Review Letter, P.O. Box 254, 10315 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls, VA 22066-2415).
In the foreword, former Attorney General Meese writes that:
Jay Parker was an influential leader who joined with President Ronald Reagan and me to help ensure the enactment of the Reagan Revolution. . . . As a result of Jay's efforts, America began to step away from the Carter administration's reliance on racial quotas and move toward President Reagan's vision of a truly color-blind society.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is quoted as saying: "Jay is the most principled person I have met in Washington. . . . I know that I wouldn't be on the court if I had not met Jay Parker.
When this writer spoke at a dinner honoring Jay on his 70th birthday, I quoted a line of Whoopie Goldberg's. When Goldberg expressed her interest in a Hollywood career, one of her friends tried to discourage her, telling her that, "You know you're black." Goldberg responded: "I won't mention it." This was a clear expression of Jay's Philosophy.
When we discuss the state of race relations in America, it is important to remember that the voices of those who promote the idea that racism is alive and well and widespread -- as in the reaction to Henry Louis Gates case in Massachusetts -- are not the only black voices to be heard. Others, such as Jay Parker, have devoted their lives to making our country a genuinely free, open, and inclusive society. In great measure, it is they who have succeeded.
"Cash for Clunkers": A Dangerous Precedent of Government Intervention in the Economy
The so-called "cash for clunkers" program was off to such a fast start that its $1 billion allotment was gone in just one week of operation. Congress quickly allocated another $2 billion before leaving for its August recess.
Democrats claimed that his program is a great success, while Republicans argued that because the program ran out of money so quickly, this proves that government cannot run a health-care system.
What the program really proved, argued The Wall Street Journal, "is that Americans aren't stupid and will let some other taxpayers buy them a free lunch if given the chance."
The program, argued the Journal, is good for people who own an older car or truck but were not sure they had the cash to trade it in for something new. Now, they get a taxpayer subsidy of up to $4,500, which on some models can be 25 percent of the purchase price. Therefore, "It's hardly surprising that Peter is willing to use a donation from his neighbor Paul, midwifed by Uncle Sugar, to class up his driveway."
In the end, however, it is bad economics and sets a dangerous precedent for the future. In The Journal's view:
The subsidy won't add to net national wealth, since it merely transfers money to one taxpayer's pocket from someone else's, and merely pays that taxpayer to destroy a perfectly serviceable asset in return for something he might have bought anyway. By this logic, everyone should burn the sofa and dining room set and refurnish the homestead every couple of years. . . . Since money is no object, let's give everyone a $4,500 voucher for other consumer goods. Let's have taxpayers subsidize the purchase of kitchen appliances, women's clothing . . . and new fishing boats.
The cash for clunkers program is more about rewarding two politically powerful industries -- automakers and auto dealers -- than about promoting energy efficiency or stimulating the economy.
As a way to improve mileage, the program makes little sense. Individuals qualify for a $3,500 credit with trade-ins that net just four additional miles per gallon. With ten additional miles per gallon, they receive $4,500. For light trucks and SUVs, the numbers are even smaller: two and five. All trade-ins must get 18 miles per gallon or worse and the program provides no incentive to buy any cars getting greater than 28 miles per gallon -- perhaps because this is a segment of the market in which the foreign automakers are strong.
Editorially, The New York Post notes that:
As economic stimulus, the program is bogus. . . . The money allocated is enough to generate about 250,000 trade-ins. While that may seem like a lot, about 200,000 would have happened anyway, industry experts say. If taxpayers are spending $1 billion for about 50,000 additional car purchases, that comes to about $20,000 per car. In theory, the first $1 billion clears out all the people who would have traded in anyway, so any additional money could be more stimulative to the economy. That may be so. But if the best that can be said for spending another billion or two is that it won't be wasted like the first billion, it makes for a pretty weak argument.
Perhaps most destructive is the provision that the clunkers subsidy is distributed only when the old cars are destroyed. Thus, a billion dollars or more will be spent to destroy automobiles that might well be sold to those of limited income in need of cars.
Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) declares that:
. . . cash for clunkers is a perfect example of why government should not get into the business of running businesses. It just doesn't work. Unintended consequences abound. . . . It seems a little suspicious to use taxpayer dollars to prop up the now government-owned car industry, which was purchased with 80 billion of your tax dollars. . . . Temporary programs become permanently entrenched interests, and the public good becomes servant to a favored constituency.
In Inhofe's view, this program:
. . . might be the most regressive program Congress has ever enacted. Millionaires can get a few thousand dollars knocked off the price of a new car as long as the price tag is less than $45,000. Meanwhile, there are thousands of Americans who, despite the government incentive, cannot afford a new car. These Americans must shop the market for used cars. Unfortunately for them in order to save face on producing any environmental benefits under the program, traded-in cars must be scrapped. This reduces supply in the used-car and used-parts markets, thereby increasing prices.
It is not only free market advocates and critics of the Obama administration which find the cash for clunkers program objectionable. The Washington Post, usually a supporter of Obama administration initiatives, noted that:
Stimulating the economy through more government spending and tax cuts is a much-disputed idea. But at least a tax cut or an increase in unemployment benefits puts money into the hands of consumers generally and lets them decide how to spend it, rather than having the government choose which sectors of the economy will benefit. "Cash for clunkers," by contrast, redistributes demand, as between cars and other goods, or between various models of cars. Car-repair shops, parts stores and used-car dealers suffer.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) predicted that:
Within a few weeks, we will see that this process was abused by speculators and people who took advantage of what is basically a huge government subsidy of corporations they already own.
Business has shown us once again that its interest is not in free enterprise and free markets -- but in profits, however obtained. Thus, the Cash-for-Clunkers program was not only enthusiastically supported by the automakers and the National Automobile Dealers Association but also by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- in the midst of its "Campaign for Free Enterprise" -- and the National Association Manufacturers.
The philosophy embodied in this program is the opposite of what we have always known as the free market. Where will it end? "I hope one of my colleagues will propose cash for golf clubs," suggested Senator John McCain. "I've had many calls from people who have old golf clubs, and they'd like to have some cash for them." Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) asked, "Why not dishwashers? Why not washing machines? Why not boats? Why not RVs?"
Sadly, when it comes to getting something for nothing with taxpayer dollars, everyone seems to line up. Both the Obama Administration and the business community, it appears, are co-conspirators in this effort. It sets a dangerous precedent for the future. *
"The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible." --George Burns
We would like to thank the following people for their generous contributions to this journal (from 7/15/09 to 9/10/09): Bud & Carol Belz, Ronald Benson, James B. Black, Robert P. Bringer, Robert Day, Joseph R. De Vitto, Robert M. Ducey, Richard A. Edstrom, Nicholas Falco, Joseph C. Firey, T. A. Francis, Reuben M. Freitas, Donald G. Galow, Lee E. Goewey, Nancy Goodman, Thomas E. Heatley, Burleigh Jacobs, O. Guy & Marylyn Johnson, Louise H. Jones, Mary A. Kelley, Gloria Knoblauch, Reuben A. Larson, Donald G. Lee, Alan Lee, Herbert London, Angus MacDonald, Francis P. Markoe, Curtis Dean Mason, Stanley C. McDonald, Matthew McLain, Roberta R. McQuade, Delbert H. Meyer, David P. & Barbara R. Mitchel, Walter M. Moede, John Nickolaus, Lester C. O'Quinn, Donald J. Povejsil, Mark & Beth Richter, Kathryn Hubbard Rominski, Richard P. Schonland, William A. Shipley, Joseph M. Simonet, Thomas E. Snee, Clifford W. Stone, Dennis Sullivan, Michael S. Swisher, Alan Rufus Waters, Eugene & Diane Watson, Eric B. Wilson, Piers Woodriff.