The view from 10,000 feet – March 2017 edition

All too frequently missing from contemporary thinking is the right context. Beginning from misplaced or even incorrect premises will not lead to the best conclusion. Inaccurate terminology and misleading metaphors and synecdoche usually lead to misplaced emphasis and much foolishness. This often is deliberate on the part of politicos and journalists eager to sway opinion.

The higher the airplane, the larger the extent of land one can see. This metaphor can stand for providing a proper context. I propose to offer commentary from 10,000 feet – as high as I can attain without Icarus-like hubris. The conspectus from 30,000 feet is for those who have spent a lifetime pondering the permanent things. I propose to do this at irregular intervals treating several topics concisely without numbers, notes, or hyperlinks. A hat tip to the great Thomas Sowell, who called his columns like this Random Thoughts.

One. Words matter. The current health-care bill, known as AHCA,  is not about health care. It is about insurance. In a twisted instance of synecdoche insurance is used to represent the medical industry generally and one’s ability to receive proper care. If the debate were about health care generally, the debate would center on:

  • Increasing the supply of physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants
  • Reforming the FDA so that new miracle drugs come to market sooner and at lower cost
  • Removing government regulation so that a truly competitive marketplace can minimize cost and deliver better service
  • Ways to prevent mass disruption as government steps out of the medical business – perhaps starting with incentives for insurers to provide inexpensive catastrophic insurance for all
  • Bringing transparency in pricing so that aspirin in a hospital is not billed at hundreds of dollars and people can make choices informed by price
  • Equalizing the individual and group insurance markets by eliminating the deductibility of employer-provided health insurance and reducing income taxes to compensate

The health-care bill is principally about reforming the individual health insurance market and Medicaid. It only slows down the deplorable trend of shifting insurance from the state level to the Federal. Avik Roy warns us that eliminating the ObamaCare surtaxes on the “rich” will open Republicans to withering Democrat attacks in 2018. Senator Cotton that unless the replacement legislation lowers the costs of premiums and deductibles Democrat attacks will hit home.

Two. The current health-care bill must be limited in scope, otherwise the Senate parliamentarian will not permit it to be voted on via budget reconciliation rules. Senator Cruz reminds us that since ObamaCare was passed by the Senate through reconciliation, so can its repeal and replacement. He also states what should be obvious, that the Senate Parliamentarian has an advisory status only. Her opinion can be overridden by the Presiding Officer, Vice President Pence. This is a lame excuse to justify a pusillanimous bill.

I suspect that many House Republicans are not as opposed to big government ‘solutions’ as those of us in fly-over country. Representative Ryan in particular is very squishy on amnesty and has a wonky interest in making big government more efficient, not necessarily smaller.

Three. Two examples of manipulation via synecdoche. Arts funding. In the debate about Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the arts, journalists and commentators love to wave their magic tongues and pronounce that since funding for defense is so large surely we can afford a tiny fraction of that amount for “the arts.” But “the arts” stands for all the myriad tiny expenditures that together amount to a whale-sized chunk of Federal spending. Government programs are the closest things to immortality. (Pres. Reagan)

Prevailing wage is another notable example. A group claiming to represent veterans is airing advertisements urging the state not to repeal its prevailing wage laws. These laws significantly increase the cost of labor in construction and harm state and local governments and school districts.It represents a transfer of money from taxpayers to a favored interest group. The pitch is that since veterans in construction jobs benefit, we should support prevailing wage laws. Unmentioned are the veterans working for companies that cannot compete for contracts requiring prevailing wage and veterans who are taxpayers. Using one small group to represent the whole would be a non-starter with an engaged, literate public.

Four. In defense of Steve King. In a widely condemned tweet, Representative King wrote:

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” — Representative Steve King in a tweet, speaking truth to power.

Wilders is the Dutch candidate for Prime Minister who does not believe that Muslim immigrants will assimilate into Dutch society. He is widely characterized as “far right,” although he is a conventional leftist in most other respects. King was almost universally reviled for making these two uncontroversial points:

We should preserve our American culture, largely based on Christian and postChristian values brought to our shores by immigrants first from Great Britain and then from Continental Europe. Some alien cultures – notably those based on Islam ­ are inimical to our values and culture. This is particularly apparent in first- and second-generation Muslims.

Many countries with advanced economies are facing demographic suicide via depopulation, with birth rates below –sometimes far below –  the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman of child-bearing age. Some countries, like Germany, Japan, and Italy are near a crisis point, when the demands placed on the welfare state by an increasing elderly population will far outstrip the ability of an ever shrinking number of workers to pay for them. Stagnant economies result. Both Holland and Germany have imported large numbers of Muslims “guest workers” to supplement the workforce. This has not worked out well.

Five. It is not a ban and the travel and refugee pause is about religion. Andy McCarthy reminds us not to kid ourselves. The purpose of these bans, pauses, and vettings is to prevent actual and potential jihadis from entering the country. Jihadis belong to a branch or sect of Islam. Singling them out is of course a religious test, just as would be laws affecting only Methodists. Let’s also not kid ourselves about ‘diversity’ and ‘discrimination.’ Blindly worshipping these concepts is dangerous. Diversity among people sharing a common culture and language can be a great force for unity. Otherwise diversity creates division and strife. Discrimination is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you believe that any and all distinctions are evil.

Six. Collusion with the Russians. Are we talking about Obama telling Medvedev that he would have more flexibility after the election? Or Hillary Clinton approving the deal benefiting a Clinton Foundation  donor and selling 20% of our uranium to the Russians? Or John Podesta’s links to Rusnano, a Russian government company founded by Vlad Putin?  

Troglo  (L. H. Kevil)

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