Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama Policies That Scare Me

Much scares me about how America will change under an Obama administration.

Politicians typically hide their more extreme policy plans until after the election, but here are some of his already-announced proposals that I believe will be bad for the nation:

1. Obama’s proposal to make it much easier to unionize, for example, no secret ballot required. So, a union organizer could come to your home and twist your arm into signing. If 51% of a workplace’s workers sign, it’s unionized.

Unionization yields a net negative to the country. Just think of our leading unionized industries:

· Auto -- Massive layoffs resulting in many long-term unemployed people. We’ve ceded industry leadership to foreign automakers.

· Steel -- Also brought to its knees, many steel workers having lost their jobs.

· Teachers -- Tenure after just two years, which they retain for life even if quite burned out and educating kids poorly.

· Government, notorious for inefficiency.

I don't want to expand that to the rest of the nation.

2. Obama's advocacy of "The Dream Act," which would allow illegals to attend our most prestigious public colleges (e.g., UCLA, Berkeley, Michigan) and at in-state rates.

Because of many colleges' reverse-discrimination admission policies, The Dream Act would mean that many legal residents with A grades and high SAT scores would be rejected from those colleges, even if they're willing to pay the very high out-of-state tuition, while illegal immigrants with B grades and low scores would be admitted, paying in-state tuition and usually receiving financial aid and scholarships so they end up paying much less than that.

That is not just unfair but also deprives some of our best and brightest from access to our top colleges, where they're more likely to fully develop their potential, and thus be better able to address society's problems.

3. The $150 billion that Obama wants to spend on alternative energy. Those will be sloppy seconds: the investments that the private sector wouldn't have made on its own. (Remember the ethanol boondoogle?) Yet Obama wants to force the ever-more-strapped taxpayer to fund yet more risky schemes.

4. Obama's proposal to spend yet more on education so, for example, all students are able to go to college.

On first blush, like most politician soundbites, that sounds good, but as I've written, for example, in my article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, America's Most Overrated Product: The Bachelor's Degree, we already send too many students to college. Digging yet deeper into the high school barrel will cause colleges to further dumb-down instruction and will discourage not-academically-oriented high school graduates from pursuing post-high-school options that are more likely to lead to their career and life success:

· apprenticeships

· short-term career-training programs at community colleges

· learning entrepreneurship at the elbow of a successful small businessperson

· and yes, even the military, which has been a launchpad to a good life for many not-academically-oriented people.

5. Obama’s promise of a path to citizenship for the U.S.’s 12 million illegal immigrants. As many people have written, the social costs will be enormous, especially when the unskilled laborers’ bodies break down and thus, uneducated and often speaking poor English, are likely to become expensive wards of the state.

But even before that, the unprecedentedly large uncontrolled immigrant population, with its high crime rate, health care needs, education needs, birth rate, and low-taxpaying rate, promises to be devastating to the U.S.

And Obama’s policies, in fact, are likely to be even more extreme. As I asserted earlier, like most politicians, Obama won’t be as centrist as his campaign implies. That is especially likely in Obama's case because he will have a liberal, possibly filibuster-proof Congress, an adoring media to promulgate his positions, and because he has had substantive formative relationships with hard leftists. I'm not mainly talking here about William Ayres or Rashid Khalidi, with whom Obama seems to have had a limited relationship. I'm more worried that:

  • The Obama campaign's official blogger is Sam Graham-Felson, who, for example, in 2006, wrote, in the magazine Socialist Viewpoint, an article supportive of the leftist French rioters. (Remember the pictures of rioters burning cars?)
  • Obama's and his family's mentor for two decades and campaign advisor until the media reported it, was radical theologian Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who repeatedly gave anti-white, I hate-America sermons including the famous "God Damn America" sermon. (Just because that is old news doesn't make it invalid news.)
  • During his formative years, Obama was mentored by Communist party member Frank Marshall Davis.
  • Obama co-founded and his wife was on the board of Public Allies, which despite its moderate-sounding mission statement, in practice appears to have been quite an anti-male, anti-white, anti-capitalist organization.
  • His integrity is suspect. He promises to listen to all sides, yet all his advisors are left of center, he was quite involved with felon Tony Rezko, and he promised to limit his campaign's spending, but when he figured he could raise more money than McCain, he reneged on that promise.
  • The nonpartisan National Journal ranked Obama America's #1 most liberal senator, more liberal even than the socialist senator, Bernie Sanders.
All this scares me because I believe--although no one can be sure--that cautiously regulated capitalism is, long-term, the approach most likely to bring the most good to the most people, and ironically, that a big leftist government is, long-term, likely to lead to increased poverty and pain.

Most empires, for example, the Roman, Ottoman, and British, had relatively short hegemonies. I believe the U.S.'s is quickly ending and Obama will accelerate it, leading us into, long-term, an ever-lower standard of living.


Jeff Shore said...

Marty, Thanks for the continued insight that the Obama-adoring media is leaving out.

I'm curious about your opinion on something (and the opinion of your readers). The L.A. Times is reporting that they have a video of Barack Obama praising a PLO activist (at an event also attended by Bill Ayers), but that they refuse to release the video on the grounds of protecting their sources. John McCain contends that if the tables were turned, that video would have been released without hesitation.

I'm not a big McCain guy (although Obama scares the crap out of me), but I have to agree with his assertion on this point. Do you?

Marty Nemko said...

My intuition, Jeff, is that they would release it if McCain were there.

Yes, honorable media people do honor their promises to keep anonymous sources anonymous, but I've found, from having written for many major media and knowing many journalists, that certainly some of them allow (consciously or unconsciously) their biases to trump their journalistic ethics.

They feel (again, consciously or unconsciously) that their liberal positions are so correct that they let that trump ethical considerations. They act as though the ends justify the means.

Tim said...

I think journalists should seek to find and encourage the path to the truth. The ethical issue is muddy here... To release something knowing full well that its real meaning would get distorted in attempt to further one's campaign? It would not lead us closer to the truth in the hottest moment of a presidential election, that's for sure.

Marty Nemko said...

Yes, unethical people on the Left will distort in their direction. Unethical people on the Right will distort in their direction. But ultimately, the light of day is the best disinfectant.

Anonymous said...

If you read the LA Times piece about the event, which was written months ago, what you find is that Rashid Khalidi, professor and director of both the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Center for International Studies at the University of Chicago, now at Columbia, was leaving for his new job.

During his going-away party, Obama did not call him an evil vicious murdering thug, it's true. His remarks are described as having called for finding common ground between the Palestinians and Israelis; Obama spoke specifically of his friendship with Khalidi and his wife, and it's described like this:

'His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation -- a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table," but around "this entire world."'

The word 'praise' is used once in the article, and the context is Khalid speaking of Obama:

[Khalidi] lavished praise on Obama, telling the mostly Palestinian American crowd that the state senator deserved their help in winning a U.S. Senate seat. "You will not have a better senator under any circumstances," Khalidi said.

The background to the opinion is Khalidi's impression that because Obama has family in Indonesia and in Kenya he is more likely to directly apprehend the results of US policies on marginalized people throughout the world.

And while Marty can talk a lot about journalists and their biases, he has very strong views worth familiarizing yourself with, despite his generally neutral tone of voice; is a strong articulation of where he stands on one aspect of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

As far as I know, it was the extremely liberal media at the Huffington Post who broke what's probably been the second most damaging thing Obama's said during this campaign season, when he observed that many people in red counties use religiosity and the second amendment as litmus tests in national politics. ABC helped break the story about Reverend Wright, probably the most damaging story for Obama and it was extensively reported elsewhere (as was the remark about bitter people clinging to guns and religion.)

I have only seen the mainstream media refer once to McCain's membership in the board of the US branch of the World Anti-Communist league. By the time McCain joined the board, members of the WACL associated with Nixon's campaign had been asked to leave, after their overt fascist histories came to light. The WACL was formed after WWII as a way of dressing up fascists - many of whom actively fought for the Nazis and Japanese and actively participated in the European, Chinese and Korean genocides during the Second World War - and making them acceptable in some circles. By the time McCain was aboard, the WACL was largely funded by Rev. Moon and was heavily involved with sponsoring terrorism/freedom fighters in Latin America.

I have been very surprised that the mainstream media are unwilling to report on this aspect of McCain; even much of the 'liberal' media is avoiding bringing it up.

The chickens in the red counties have been voting for Colonel Saunders for decades now. No one is ready to tell them the Colonel is wearing a brown shirt. After a long march right, first in international affairs and then at home, culminating in not just going along with but egging on the grotesque arrogation of power to the executive branch under the Bush presidency, they still haven't gotten much ahead.

What's interesting (to me) is the horror dawning on the right: Obama is inheriting a presidency the right refashioned to have unparalleled power. They bought into Rove's dream of a permanent majority. In that scenario, streamlining the authority of the unitary executive Just Makes Sense.


Obama may even have a fillibuster-proof Senate. (And I do hope, if there is one, they'll have the good sense to modify the Senate rules and eliminate the fillibuster, or at least the silent, invisible style one curently permitted. You want to do that? You get broadcast on CSPAN reading a phone book, then.)

I will be particularly interested to see what happens with health care under an Obama presidency. Obama is plugged into health care policy at the point of care far more than most recent presidents have been. Michelle worked until recently for the U of C hospital, and she knows the value of community health centers. In a system where access to doctors is limited by a guild, the CHCs are an interesting alternative care model, particularly for seeing patients with chronic illness (eg diabetes, asthma) which need care but don't often require tip-to-toe reassessment, rediagnosis or ER admission if properly managed.

Fifteen years ago, the insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit health care industries told Americans that their health care needed to be managed by the folks who manage business. (And earlier this year, McCain recommended managing health care the way we manage the financial system. He was under the impression that creating artificial job bubbles was a sign of success.)

The chickens agreed. They listened to Colonel Rush, and they voted in Colonel Frist.

In the intervening fifteen years, about the only Federal movement we've seen has been the legislation creating medical savings accounts for those who can afford them. And Colonel Newt is demanding a vast investment in computers, rather than in people to treat patients. Patients are not widgets. Just saying.

Obama may have an office strong enough to oppose the business lobby, and may well ask: what have we achieved in the fifteen years since health care reform was shouted down? Is our access to treatment cheaper? Simpler? Are our medicines less expensive?

I just read a very interesting article in the UK press, on the subject of male longevity in Great Britain.

The UK health system is beginning to close the longevity gap between women and men.

This report is from the Daily Mail, which identifies as a conservative paper.

So, a single payer system - even the one favored by commentators in the US to beat on - is extending lifespans and starting to close the gender gap in longevity.

The US seems blind to Germany's healthcare system; in many ways, it's a far better model for the US than the UK: large immigrant population, large geographical area, big disparities in wealth and living conditions between the east and west, a Federal system of government with fairly strong states. There are a lot of different plans available, with state intervention coming at the level of heavy regulation of insurance costs and drug costs; the insurers are then the ones who keep hospital costs down.

And with all that, there are half again as many physicians in Germany per person as in the US, probably in large part because the German medical guild isn't able to limit the number of doctors as we tolerate the AMA doing here. Oh, and medical education is not funded out of pocket in Germany the way it often is here, so doctors don't have to plan on charging as much after they finish school.

The net investment in health care as a % of GDP in the US is 13.7%; it's 10.5% in Germany and 7% in the UK. So, why are we investing twice as much here, and not getting the benefit of either a genuinely managed system (Germany) or a single payor system (UK)?

I'm definining benefit here by two widely used measures: infant mortality and longevity. There's a remarkable map at based on data from the CIA world factbook and US Census data.

My POV tends to start by being informed that health care is a fundamental human right first and a field of profitable endeavor last, and that corporations are not human beings and should not have Constitutional rights. Quite a lot flows from that.

Marty Nemko said...

Dear Anonymous (of the previous comment),

I thank you richly for your meaty post. I particularly appreciate intelligent disagreement, and yours certainly qualifies.

It may surprise you though, that I do believe that basic health care is a right. I suspect however that the public sector would do an even worse job of providing it than the private.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for indulging the post.

As far as government not being able to do health care: governments clearly can. The UK, Germany, Canada - these are not perfect systems but all work better than ours does, and are far, far cheaper.

I think that healthcare costs can be contained better by national standards. Perhaps you'd be most comfortable with a German-style system. I think single payor actually has a lot to recommend it.

One important building block is to let more medical schools open up, and do something about tuition cost. My thinking: four years in a community that needs it, after med school and residency, being paid resident's wages. The balance of your salary deducted, pretaxes, and paid back to your med school to train more docs.

We have a vicious cycle right now: med school grads come out carrying as much as 200K in debt (4 years of a top-flight college, 4 years of med school, and many take on additional debt as residents.) They have to be paid well to service their loans. The way to keep the rates high is to keep the supply of doctors low.

We actually let the AMA decide how many doctors will be trained every year.

Conflict of interest, any one?

Marty Nemko said...

Thank you, most recent Anonymous, for yet another good post, adding much of value to the discussion. Innovative approach, too.

Dave said...

I have been in the UK for 8 years. There are good things and bad things about the UK's National Health Service.

BAD -- It's hit or miss with the doctors, and you can't choose your own doctor. So, many people are stuck with bad doctors. Waiting lists for CT scans are long, and it is common for blood tests to be scheduled 1 month in advance. Blood test results can take 2 to 3 weeks, depending on how busy the lab is. Waiting periods for emergency room visits can be 2 hours or longer.

GOOD -- I have always managed to book an appointment within 24hours. Also, absolutely no papers to be signed for general visits.

From where I stand, socialized health care is not the answer. It's even worse if you have serious health problems. I have heard of crowded wards and understaffed hospitals. It's a good thing I plan to leave England while I'm still young!

Marty Nemko said...

Socialized medicine would be even worse in the US, with its more challenging-to-care-for population.