State Lawmakers Debate States’ Rights

Since the recent Federal Universal Healthcare Legislation has been made into quasi-law, state governments have been taking a stand for their constituents arguing that it is unconstitutional to force citizens to pay a penalty for refusing to participate in the federal health-care program. This includes states that Barack Obama both won and lost in the last presidential election.

Could it be that the Democrats that voted against the bill but weren’t given a backdoor deal are feeling a little bitter that their fellow representatives got something that they didn’t? Or could it be that the tide has largely turned against universal health care since it has been rushed through the House behind closed doors?

Whatever their reason, if the state governments can hold out against the federal government it is a victory for the freedom to choose, the rights of the individual and a victory for small government in general. It is also a victory for politicians actually listening to those whom they represent.

But perhaps the biggest reason for my home state of Michigan to oppose this bill is the negative economic impact it will ultimately have. We are already suffering from a staggering 14 percent unemployment rate. What is the first thing businesses do when expenses go up? Cut down on other expenses. This usually results in employee layoffs and hiring freezes. Historically small and medium businesses have been the power house for job creation and job growth. When the big industries fail, small and medium businesses keep communities together. We have experienced this with the automotive industry and have yet to rebound.

Yet this bill is aimed specifically at small and medium businesses. Not only will they face a tax that they cannot afford; it will increase as they try to hire more employees. When you punish businesses for hiring more people, they generally stop… hiring people! Ultimately unemployment gets worse (14 percent is already above the national average).

So now it makes sense why my Attorney General Mike Cox and dozens of his colleagues from other states are fighting back. Apparently (hopefully), he understands this principle. The question is; why is our governor attempting to stop him?

Jennifer Granholm, who has done little more than increase the size of the state government to “increase jobs” and has repeatedly worked against tax credits for businesses (except for the entertainment industry), believes he “wasn’t representing her or Michigan citizens who would benefit from the law.” Apparently we wouldn’t benefit from the freedom to refute our government. Or maybe she is just a little too focused on the first part of that sentence, and is worried about losing her influence with the commander-in-chief; after all she can’t be reelected next term.

Individual Run Health Insurance

Responsibility is a necessary component of our existence. If we value something (anything), we will have to take care of it. If you own a car you need to make sure it receives regular oil changes and other maintenance. Yet people seem to be more proactive about inanimate objects like their car then they are about their own bodies and health.

If you want to get something fixed on your car, you probably take it someplace to get repaired. You might also get multiple quotes on getting it repaired. You talk to friends and family about a good repair shop. And ultimately you make a decision based on all of these factors. What’s wrong with doing the same thing for your health?

Those of us with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) already do this, but when we call a doctor’s office (before going) and ask how much an office visit costs, most people are thrown aback. They get confused and ask, “Do you have health insurance?” We say “Yes, it is an HSA, but we still have to pay out of pocket up to a certain amount, and we want to get the best value possible.” Most of them (when they look for it) actually have this information. And most clinics are pretty inexpensive. The last clinic I went to was $90 plus a $20 prescription for a generic. Upon arriving at the office they actually asked me before doing any tests because they know that as the consumer I don’t want to be charged unnecessarily. And when the doctor only talked to me for fifteen minutes, I didn’t expect to see a charge for a two-hour consultation.

Well, unfortunately if health-care legislation goes through, you won’t have the freedom to shop around at all. The government will charge you a percentage of your income to cover everyone’s insurance costs. That $90 visit is looking pretty good when compared to two or even 5 percent pulled out of your income. The only doctors you will be able to choose from will be selected by the government. And even if you can find a decent one, the best doctors will have closed down to find other, more profitable careers (or will have moved to freer countries).

HSAs are one of the only steps in the direction toward individual responsibility. I’m surprised that there isn’t more discussion about consumer driven health-care initiatives in the health-care debate. Consumer driven plans mean that the consumer has the authority, not the government. It also means that people have to take responsibility for their own and their family’s health. It means that if they are irresponsible there will be serious repercussions, which in itself should be their primary motivator. If the government’s doctors are worse than our current physicians (and they will be), you are essentially putting yourself, your family and literally everyone you know at a higher health risk.

But universal health care sounds pretty good, right? The names they throw around cast government run health care in a positive and almost otopian light: everyone gets health care. It is universal. Health care is a human right and the government is going to make sure you get it. People think that they are getting something for nothing, that this universal health care is a kind of free perk for being an American citizen. But we will pay for the health care in the form of higher taxes on our employers, income, property and purchases.

If our employers are taxed more, they will pay us less. When a business has to pay effectively 120 percent of your wage (which they currently do) and you only take home 80 percent of it (which is also currently the case), there is a 40 percent gap that goes to Uncle Sam. This gap will widen as the size of government increases. They have to get their money from somewhere and 40 percent turns into 50 percent, 60 percent and so on. On top of that, you get taxed on your purchases (sales tax) and your property if you own any (property tax). We have seen how effective the government is at running things (they aren’t), yet people seem to be okay with adding another “health care” tax to businesses and individuals that will give the government more work to do.

Then there are the extremists who say that health care is a human right. I would argue that we have the right to the pursuit of health care and health in general. Because the truth is, ideology doesn’t mean much to Mother Nature. Cancer, viruses and bacteria don’t discriminate, to say otherwise is delusional. And probably the best reason to prevent this from going through? The politicians that are debating this important issue won’t even be affected by it. You better believe they will continue to get the best health care on the public’s dime. They will certainly include special exceptions that allow them to get superior health care while the rest of us plebeians are stuck with a bureaucratic nightmare.

A few technical details about HSAs: With an HSA, you still have a private health insurance plan called a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), but instead of a deductible, coinsurance and copays you just have a flat deductible. Meaning every year the maximum you ever pay out of pocket is that deductible. It is simple and it gives the consumer the power.

The HSA is really a second component, even though everyone always talks about HSAs as an all inclusive thing. It is literally a special kind of savings account that you have to apply for after you have a HDHP. All of the money you put into the HSA is tax deductible but you can only use the money for health related expenses. And you are limited as to how much you can deposit per year. But you can also use the money to make investments for retirement and the interest accumulates tax free!

The Fallacies of Nuclear Power

Nuclear power plants currently generate over 20 percent of the power in the United States. In other countries, like France, they power upward of 80 percent. There have been 884 coal mining related deaths since 1980 in the United States alone. Even wind turbines cause more deaths than the nuclear power industry, amounting to a total of sixty deaths (PDF) since the 1970s.

In one case you have an industry that is guaranteed to cause death and severely lower the life expectancy of those involved. In the second, you have an alternative technology with a large number of accidental deaths. Third, you have a proven technology with a solid history of little to no problems and much fewer deaths. You do, however, have a word that can also be associated with powerful weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear as a word tends to scare people. We think of bomb drills and nuclear holocaust. But it’s really just a word like any other. Nuclear power need not be feared like the red death!

This quote is from Greenpeace’s website. I decided to break up the summary against nuclear power into section to better analyze it:

Despite what the nuclear industry tells us, building enough nuclear power stations to make a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would cost trillions of dollars

Building a nuclear power plant costs more than building a wind farm or a collection of solar panels, but the ratio of wattage output of a plant isn’t comparable on a per watt basis. Where did they get “trillions of dollars”? I’m at a loss about where to begin with that one. And besides, the implementation of nuclear power plants will decrease the need for old fossil fuel burning plants that output tremendous amounts of greenhouse gases. I personally could care less about greenhouse gas emissions, but since they do I’m surprised they forgot to mention that.

Create tens of thousands of tons of lethal high level radioactive waste […]

If disposed of properly, Mother Nature and radioactive half life do all the work for us. You just need a place to put the waste.

I personally think we should launch it into space, but a more cost effective solution would be to use a massive mountain in a desert where you don’t have to worry about water runoff or a nearby population. In fact, such a site already exists, Yucca Mountain, although the project has recently been shut down. Which makes no sense considering instead of being stored in the best possible location, it will now be stored in higher risk locations, but I digress.

[…] contribute to further proliferation of nuclear weapons materials, and result in a Chernobyl-scale accident once every decade.

The plants in operation today aren’t even remotely in the same class as the plant in Chernobyl, at least in the United States. And that is including the oldest plants in operation! And since they have been in operation for forty years (that would be four decades for all you non math folk), and there hasn’t been one Chernobyl scale accident, I would have to disagree.

For Three Mile Island fans, there were no casualties and the radiation amounted to that of an X-Ray you would receive at the doctor’s. Did I already mention that if these organizations had left the industry alone, we wouldn’t have any older plants to deal with anyway? And we would already be off of foreign oil and fossil fuels? And our air would be cleaner?

Perhaps most significantly, it will squander the resources necessary to implement meaningful climate change solutions.

By resources I assume they mean money? I don’t understand that logic at all, considering it will be more expensive to create the same amount of energy with wind and solar, not to mention the existing loss in tax revenue due to the tax credits that have existed for quite some time.

That said, I’m not against other technologies. In fact I love technology and new ideas. I love entrepreneurship. I do’’t love intangible promises from new technologies. Sure, a breakthrough could happen in solar and wind power that makes them the clear choice. But the same could happen in nuclear or even coal power too! In the short term, I would place my money on nuclear and get us off of reliance of foreign oil, something that inherently undermines our position in all things foreign policy and affects us in a tangible way every day.

The Decline of States’ Rights

With a population of over three hundred million people and an increasingly diverse set of principles and opinions, the United States has a growth problem.

The Founding Fathers predicted this issue and emphasized the importance of local governments. Their logic: that people with similar principles will congregate in similar areas. As members of the overall country, the process is made simple and requires no special passport or application. Smaller communities can take a stand on issues of importance and make an exception for their jurisdiction.

The individual state, as originally intended as the largest of these communities, has now been subverted by an even larger national one. We are increasingly merging into the United State as opposed to a collection of United States. Just saying the “United State” sends 1984 chills down my spine.

Here’s the problem; the federal government is growing. Just look at the latest bailout bill, national health-care legislation or TARP funds. It doesn’t end there either; just a few days ago another smaller $15 billion dollar billion “jobs bill” was passed.

Do you believe in socialized medicine? You have a right to that belief, but why forces it on every other state instead of making it a priority in your own? Massachusetts attempted health-care reform and it didn’t work out too well. But they have a much better chance of successfully overhauling their system because they have a population of 6.5 million compared to three hundred million. Do you trust the government to efficiently run a project of that size?

Then there is the issue of majority opinion. Even if they manage a 51 percent majority consensus on an issue like health care (which is impossible), wouldn’t you rather have a larger percentage? If every state had a different health-care initiative, people could rally more successfully for what they want. Why not take it a step further and bring it down to counties and cities. There would be less need to compromise on crucial issues and more chance of a higher ratio of majority acceptance. And best of all, your opinion and your voice are (literally) much more likely to be heard and appreciated.

Look at your local proposals for the last few years; individual states and communities can actually make decisions with greater than a 60 percent popular vote! How likely is that on the national scale? In the local scenario you would have the freedom to go or move to another city, county or state if you really cared enough about certain issues. And you wouldn’t have to change your citizenship.