Saturday, September 18, 2004

What would an idiot do?

Recently, Theresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Presidential candidate John F. Kerry, told us that we must be idiots if we don't support her husband's health plan. The plan, in short, offers a variety of government subsidies to offset healthcare costs for workers and employers. The program seeks to help those 45 million Americans who don't have health insurance, and thus, little or no access to health care. This is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed. However, in light of Mrs. Kerry's remarks, after a quick look at the history of government subsidies and programs for health care one might wonder what kind of idiot would support Kerry's plan.

Major government involvement in health care began with our socialist Medicare and Medicaid programs set up to "help the vulnerable". These initiatives, which begun during LBJ's failed "Great Society" subsidized health coverage for the elderly and poor respectively. As with any other situation in which specific groups are given services without seeing the direct cost of what they are consuming, prices went up for people who were not in the targeted groups. This concept in economic terms, is called a shortage - a simple concept that Congress routinely ignores.

The poor and elderly used and overused (wasted) their subsidized medical care, leaving less medical care for people who were neither poor nor elderly. The lack of supply due to overusage combined with an increase in demand due to subsidization, drove up healthcare prices for anyone who wasn't eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Thus, thanks to the government, many people were punished by having to pay for Medicare and Medicaid both through taxes and with higher health care costs - all for the crime of not being in a targeted special-interest group. An idiot couldn't have drawn up a worse scenario - until Congress reconvened.

As the aforementioned government programs caused health care costs to skyrocket, the gang on Capitol Hill cooked up another disaster to "solve" the crisis they started. The solution was them, of course. This time, the government decided to provide people with more health care by forcing them into HMOs with the 1973 HMO Act. This act hid the true costs of health care from an even larger group of people - virtually all employees in medium to large-sized companies - who now, instead of paying directly out of their pockets for health services, paid an HMO in advance for subsidized services. The act predictably drove up prices for people not in HMOs. Meanwhile, since the government act attached health care to employment, those who were out of work were hit hard, finding themselves facing astronomical prices with no health insurance to help foot the bill. Idiots indeed.

Now, as the costs are starting to catch up with HMOs, making them increasingly expensive and unaffordable for employed and unemployed alike, millions are left without access to health care. Average Americans are wondering, or should be wondering, how health care became so unaffordable. Such things don't occur in a vacuum, there is always a cause. In this case, that cause is government involvement which has caused nothing but harmful distortions from which we all suffer. Unfortunately, the disasterous consequences of government involvement in health care have been used by politicians such as John Kerry as justification to unleash more of the same. This course of action is a stupid attempt to defy logic.

A horrendous cycle has been started by Washington and Americans are caught in the middle of it. We are unecessarily paying arms and legs for our health care. Meanwhile, the health care barons in D.C. who have been more like a weapon of mass destruction than any true help regarding health care, receive plush health insurance plans for themselves and their families at our expense. This notwithstanding, the solution, thankfully, is pretty simple. Eliminate the problem - Congress' benevolence.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Disturbing, but expected

Demonstrations against terror were the order of the day in Russia in response to the recent atrocity in the North Ossetian city of Beslan. In watching footage of the demonstration, I noticed a sign with a disturbing, but expected message: "A Strong State Means Security".

Maybe they should tell that to the tens of millions who were killed by strong states during the last century. Or they could tell it specifically to the millions killed by the "strong state" within Russia's own borders during Soviet Rule. If they're feeling statist enough, they could even tell that to the over 200,000 civilians killed by the strong state during each of the two Chechen Wars (massacres). The thought of it is disturbing.

On the other hand, it does feel kinda nice to be reminded that other countries have brainwashed statists too, just like we have here in America. There are other people in the world who ignore the causes of terror and promote policies that will only increase it. After all, terrorists just hate us for our freedom... they must attack Russians for their freedom also. It has nothing to do with governments' meddling in the affairs of other nations, occupying countries, or bombing cities flat.

Why would any self-respecting third-worlder want to fight against that?

Friday, September 03, 2004

Terror In Russia

The recent tragic events in Russia have induced a predictable reaction from the Bush administration. President Bush automatically linked the attacks to the US war against terror, thus linking the situation in Chechnya to the Wahhabist-Islamic terror that struck the US. This paints the Chechens as virtually the same as Islamic fundamentalists who attacked the US. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Chechens themselves are actually quite secular, and as far as Islamic practice goes, they are closer to Sufism than the fundamentalist Wahhabism of groups like al Qaida. There are infiltrators from Arab countries who have come to "help" them in their struggle against Moscow, but these characters, not a few of whom were involved in this last atrocity, are late-comers to a conflict that has been going on since 1830. This is a conflict in which Chechens have a legitimate beef with Russia.

Russian rule (rule from Moscow or St. Petersburg) has been tormenting the Chechens for some time now. Russian rule subjugated these people, declared war on their way of life, and at one point, ethnically cleansed them for rising up against Soviet rule.

For that reason, and many others, Chechens wanted at least some autonomy, and possibly independence from Moscow after the fall of Soviet rule. But Moscow couldn't bear any further erosion of their power, so they invaded and got their collective arse kicked by a comparatively tiny force of Chechen rebels. The Russian did, however, manage to destroy much of Chechnya in the process.

However, after having their forces bludgeoned by guerrilla warfare, the Russians decided to make peace and pull out. The peace lasted until a suspicous bombing of apartments in Moscow and incursions into Russia by the Chechen rebel leader, Shamil Basayev (who, by the way, is a product of Russia's criminal invasion in 1994). While the incursions into Russian territory were carried out by Chechens, the bombings were blamed on the Chechens with little evidence presented. This gave Moscow an excuse to go back in there and reassert their power, laying waste to the Chechen capital of Grozny and murdering untold numbers of Chechens and Russians. Such an extension of the conflict has brought along more infiltration of international terrorists and caused more suffering for Chechens and Russians alike. A prime example of the desparation on the part of the Chechens is the prominence of female terrorists in the attacks - many of whom allegedly have had husbands and brothers killed, or were themselves raped by Russian troops. These are people who have had everything they'd ever had destroyed, and, accordingly, they look in one direction for the source of their troubles - Moscow.

There are indeed Wahhabis in Chechnya now, thanks to Russian bombs. But don't let that cloud the reality of the entire situation down there. Many fighters in their original movement detest the Wahhabis who want to impose their form of fundamentalist Islam on Chechens, a secular people, who do not want Wahhabism. Nevertheless, Chechens are being falsely accused of aiding groups such as al Qaida and the Taliban, due to the abundance of ignorance of the situation in the Caucasus. So, the reality, in fact, is cloudy itself. Nevertheless, it is clear that simply grouping Chechnya in completely with Wahhabi groups such as al Qaida would be a mistake.

Surprise, surprise - Iraq likely to break up

Analysts from a London think tank are saying what many observers (myself included) have been saying all along - there is little chance of Iraq coming out of this war as one consolidated unit. There are three major groups in the country that do not trust each other, and for good reason. They have little confidence that one of the other groups, while in power, will respect the rights of individuals of other groups whether it be ethnic or religious. For instance, anyone who believes that the Kurds, after having been tormented by Arab rule from Baghdad for many years, will willingly delegate significant power to Baghdad, must be smoking dem tweeds. Pretty mush the same goes for the Shia Arabs in southern Iraq. This is something that the US government should have known all along before going into that artificial, Mid-Eastern nation claiming that they could create a "free, democratic Iraq".