I’m Closing Gitmo!

It seemed that the White House doors had barely closed behind him, before Obama was claiming that Gitmo would be shut down, and the military tribunals halted.  There was an immediacy to the reporting that had me questioning, “What are we going to do with the detainees?”  I firmly believe that most, and probably all, of the prisoners there have been put there for a good reason, and that they would be trying to harm the U.S. and its citizens if they were not sitting in Gitmo.

It took one day before I saw another story that said (and I paraphrase), “Gitmo was definitely going to be closed…, by the end of the year.”  Nice, business as usual.

I see a good strategy in this for the Obama camp.  Throw a bone to your supporters claiming to be following up quickly on promises, and then begin to stall the process.  It’s a win-win.  You get to have your supporters actually believe that you are doing what you said you would do, while at the same time not doing it  And in this case you are able to continue to keep America safe from bad guys.  I don’t think we even need to speculate about what would happen to Obama politically if one of the detainees were released, and then was later confirmed to be involved in an attack on the U.S. or its citizens.

The ‘throw them a hollow bone’ ploy seems pretty sound as a political strategy.  It’s hard to find any holes in it.  A year from now when Gitmo is still open, Obama can sympathetically say that he too “does not want this horrible place to stay open”, and that they are shutting it down as quickly as possible.  Then he will say how unfortunate it is that it has to remain open for the time being, and by doing so, will by himself another year.

This idea works for almost anything.  Try this one.  Day one: “I have ordered the removal of all U.S. troops from Iraq.”  Day two:  “A schedule is now in place for the removal of all U.S. troops from the Iraqi theatre.  The joint chiefs have now been tasked to come up with a feasible removal plan for all U.S. troops in Iraq.  This, of course, will be gradual and will be accelerated or slowed down as we monitor the stability within the region.”  Wow.  This stuff sounds great.  Why, I think Obama could even increase the size of the force while appeasing his supporters.  Try this one.  Day one: “I have ordered the removal of all U.S. troops from Iraq.”  Day two:  “In order to facilitate the orderly withdrawal of our troops from the Iraqi theatre, and to promote the continued stability of the democratically elected Iraqi government, we will be committing 60,000 additional support personnel to the region for the next twelve months to augment the withdrawal efforts.”  This stuff almost writes itself!

I’m depressed now.

Government Health Scare

A friend sent an article to me this morning that talked about the three candidates and their ideas on health-care reform.  Generally, I believe that the less government intrusion there is, the better, but in this instance America’s politics have wandered into an area where I feel there is need for reform.  The problem is that I do not believe any of the candidates has a serious or good idea for reforming this problem.

Both of the Democratic candidates prefer some sort of all-inclusive government sponsored plan, while McCain’s plan prefers to remove the business incentive from the current system, ostensibly allowing businesses to pay people more in actual salary and allowing individuals more freedom and power when choosing a health plan.  I don’t see any of these plans as viable, or well thought out. 

I really would like to see a non-profit insurance company established.  Of course, you would have to pay the people who work there, but it seems to me that a group of people or businesses could come together and establish an insurance company that takes only enough to pay its medical bills and operating expenses.  It makes sense, and is the purest example of the original purpose of insurance, to get people to pool their money together, so that if something bad happens to one of them, the corporate body of funds covers the expense. 

Originally, insurance companies were created as a profit venture, but the problem came when this idea was taken to its logical conclusion (which is where it is now).  I believe there is a moral issue at work here.  These companies lose sight of their true purpose, pooling individuals’ money to protect against catastrophe, and begin to look at profits as their main objective.  In this scenario, the motivation is to get medical costs up, to justify raising premiums and to keep from paying as many claims as possible so that profits will be as high as possible.  It’s a problem when you take a person’s money for “health insurance,” and then make it one of your company’s stated goals to get and keep as much of that money as you can by refusing to pay or by making achieving payment so difficult that people give up. 

So why doesn’t someone start a non-profit insurance company?  Because, state laws are highly protective of insurance companies’ interests.  Texas has many state laws that protect the insurance industry.  For example, you cannot take an insurance company to court for not paying your medical bills.  I want to make it clear that I am not talking about tort reform.  That is another issue for another discussion.

My main point is this: why do we need a middle-man?  If the point of insurance is to band your money together, and to make sure that everyone is covered by the contributions of the whole, then there is no need to pay a for-profit company to do this for you.  What could happen, is that a large (and I mean large- the larger the better) group of individuals could set up an insurance company in this fashion to work in their best interests, not the interests of a group of stock holders (the insured would be the stock holders).  In truth, the insurance company has little to offer, except to be a place to pool money and weed out fraud.  They are no different than a stock broker who bundles your money with that of other people and helps you buy into a fund.  The difference is that the stock broker is not trying to figure out a way to keep your money for himself (except for fixed transaction fees).  When you want to sell a stock, you sell, the broker collects a few bucks, and you are done.  In contrast, when you have a serious health problem, many insurance companies will do all they can to make the pay-out difficult.

And as we have seen, with the growth of technology and the information age, there is really no need for a stock broker these days you can do it yourself on-line for even less.  The same technology could be used to help bring people’s money together to insure themselves.  This is the kind of leverage that could also effect medical prices in a good way for those choosing to insure themselves this way.

For me, the political solutions presented by both parties are no more serious than their current ideas for solving the “big oil” problem.  All the Republican idea does is to remove the onus from businesses to help provide health-care.  I do not believe for a second that businesses will raise employee salaries commensurate with the money that they will be saving on health-care.  The businesses will rely on the fact that most people do not associate the business cost of benefits with their salaries.  Most people are worried about their take-home-pay.  Good jobs will still have to provide health-care benefits in order to get good employees, and smaller businesses and lesser desired jobs (see burger flipper), will be effectively cut off from insured health-care coverage.

The worst part is that the Republican plan does nothing to deal with rising health-care costs.  It insinuates that allowing people to control their own medical benefits will cause competition and drive prices down.  But, that is not where the problem is, the problem is between the insurance companies and the medical companies.  I personally find it hard to believe that a company, such as Home Depot, cannot use the leverage of its thousands of employees to get access to decently priced insurance.  And, if a company that pools this many people together cannot get it done, I am sure that these people as individuals will have no chance.

The Democrat proposal is just as bad.  Any time government steps in and decides to simply cover the costs associated with an industry, the entities in that industry begin to salivate.  If you want to see medical costs go out of control, just allow the government to pay the bills.  In the end, the insurance and medical companies will reap record profits, and our taxes will soar in order to pay for it.

The only people benefited by McCain’s idea are businesses who carry insurance, and the only people benefited by the Dems’ ideas are the insurance companies, medical companies and themselves (politicians).  No surprises