Dan Brown’s Inferno: A Coming Global Crisis?

Light summer reading

    Population Graph from "Inferno" by Dan Brown

Population Graph from “Inferno” by Dan Brown

In his latest book, Inferno, author Dan Brown explores a world where past symbols and artifacts from Dante Alighieri’s Italy, and his famous work The Divine Comedy, become the vehicle to unravel a diabolical and deadly plot of a modern day bio-terrorist. I originally grabbed this book because we were coming to the close of summer and I just finished working on a series of articles about the current issues of our healthcare system that will be appearing later this fall. Frankly, I was looking for a diversion from the complicated world of healthcare reform and Obamacare. I wanted a respite, a brief mindless romp in Dan Brown’s always entertaining world. Having read much of his prior work, I was confident that Mr. Brown would not let me down.

I found this work characteristically suspenseful, interesting, thought provoking and fun to read till I got to the following section which, in the story, lays the groundwork for the epic conflict between the antagonist, Bertrand Zobrist , a world renowned biochemist and leading geneticist and the protagonist, Elizabeth Sinskey, M.D. Continue reading

Orange Countey Register says, “Women’s deaths from painkillers ‘an epidemic'”: But, its nothing new!

Screenshot (4)To read the original article click here!

The rising rate of addiction for women in America seems at first blush a historically startling event. But its not! America has had a long, long history of dancing with the devils of hard drug addictions.

While the article calls these rates historically the highest, they factually are not. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the addiction rate to cocaine, Continue reading

Women & Addiction: History replayed!

Drug Addiction in Women Article

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/07/02/drug-overdose-deaths-women/2483169/

Ever since Samuel Hopkins Adams first exposed the evils of the patent medicine industry, in 1905 in a series of articles published in Colliers Weekly, it has been ‘patently’ clear that women have often historically been the prime target for the sale of prescriptive and Continue reading

Does fear of death cause our irrational drive to unlimited healthcare?

Recently I have been wondering how we have arrived at the point where our desire for unfettered, and unlimited access to health care is rapidly outstripping our ability to pay for the care we desire. Our understanding of our supposed healthcare system is so specious that the myths of our expectations far outweigh the reality of the system we think we have to deliver it. In fact, we have built an entire culture of props and supports around patently false beliefs that underscore everything we expect and require from healthcare. To a great extent we are obsessed in Continue reading

Charles Blahous Channels Wilbur Mills: Warns states to not expand MediCaid!

Charles Blahous, Medicaid Trustee warns state to NOT expand MedicAid

Charles Blahous, Medicaid Trustee warns state to NOT expand Medicaid (image by Charles Blahous)

In an excellent article, Charles Blahous, one of Medicare’s Trustees, warns states of the dangers of the expansion of Medicaid.  He makes many of the same arguments that I have been making for quite a while, his warning, as a Medicare Trustee, may finally cut through the background noise and get some people to actually pay attention.  You can read the full Report by Mr. Blahous here: http://mercatus.org/sites/default/files/Blahous_MedicaidExpansion_v1.pdf

Mr. Blahous reminds me of Wilbur Mills who Continue reading

The problem with “The Chart”

This morning as I did my news walk, I came across this article talking about the most important chart in American politics.  And as you can imagine it caught my eye. I find charts and graphs to be either extremely informative or extremely deceptive. Seldom is there a middle-ground.  Often the deceptive charts are constructed specifically for that purpose. It is seldom a surprise to find such charts in an article about politics.

This chart was one of the exceptions that prove the rule.  But not in the way you might imagine.  “The Chart” is deceptive, but I do not believe it is purposeful in its deceit.  Why not, you may ask?  Because the story it is trying to communicate would be stronger if the authors actually new the truth behind the problem.  But, like so much today, the surface suffices to make an argument.  The other details make the argument more difficult to communicate as the story can get Continue reading

Coca Cola Superbowl Ad stirs cries of racism

Coke ad stirs controversy, but this article takes the argument from the sublime to the rediculous

Coke ad stirs controversy, but this article takes it from sublime to ridiculous (click to read article)

Having heard of the controversy over the Super Bowl ad by Coca Cola the past few days, this morning I was captured by the above article.  I expected it to be along a similar vein of remarks showing how Coke was insensitive to Arabs and painting them in a bad light.  When I first heard this argument on the TV news, I was looking for the Association of Los Vegas Showgirls to show up any minute and complain, followed by the African American Cowboy Association, National Hispanic Cowboys,  etc…

What stopped me in my tracks was not the casual assertion of racism due to insensitive stereotyping in the pursuit of parody that I was Continue reading

Eye of the Beholder: Me and my Arrow!

Eye of the Beholder

Eye of the Beholder

It was Lew Wallace (1827-1905) who said, “Beauty is altogether in the eye of the beholder.”

Since I began getting involved in Washington, DC with the debate over healthcare reform a number of years ago, I have wondered more and more about how we have arrived at such a place that every issue, every decision, every need is met with such partisan, fractional, divisive and inflammatory rhetoric. Today it seems that there are no discussions on any issue that doesn’t revert to, “they said this, and what they really mean, is that.”  Or, you can hear a statement from one side or the other to the effect that, “It’s clear that their agenda is to do X, Y or Z to harm us.” Any, and all, of these statements amount to “doodly squat” as Granny Hawkins would say! – a prize to anyone who knows this reference — without using the internet!

Spin is not a new concept

Nothing related to any issue facing our national interest today is devoid of some spin to gain advantage on some other tangential issue–related or not.  Not to pick on any one side, or the other, but how often do we now hear the phrase, unfortunately most recently attributed to Rahm Emmanuel, “never let a serious crisis go to waste.”  Or to be fair, the statement by Senator McConnell that the prime goal of republicans is to defeat the president. If you think Mr. Emmanuel or Mr. McConnell are the first to utter these kinds of ideas, that they meant them completely literally, or that it is not a practice by each side of the political aisle, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I am willing to sell you; if you can convince me you deserve it!

If you think hyper-partisanship and gridlock are new I again encourage readers to go to Google Books and look up some of the old papers from the late 1800s and early 1900s and read what was going on then. There are surprising similarities.

Agenda based legislation now the norm

During the drive for healthcare reform there were a series of changes to the goals of the legislation that occurred as the process spread to one committee after another.  Senator Kennedy began the current process of healthcare reform in the wake of the disastrous attempt during the Clinton administration.  The bill that he authored just prior to his death was the result of his long-term attempt to find some legislation that would be acceptable to people on both sides and improve the healthcare system.  The HELP bill, while clearly not likely to have conservatives jump up and proclaim it a triumph of modern legislation, was still a bill that he clearly had worked hard on to find areas of support from his political opponents and an honest attempt  to find methods to improve the healthcare system. Continue reading

History and Evolution of Healthcare in America now released

Status

The History and Evolution of Healthcare in America is now released. Click here or on the image to order your advance copy today!

You can order your very own personalized copy here.

NEWS!!! Now available at great prices from Amazon.com

and Barnes and Noble.com

Here is what others are saying!

From the beginning of mankind, health and health issues have played a major role in life, but the issues and care have evolved enormously from the time when the first settlers set foot in America to the present. In The History and Evolution of Healthcare in America, author Thomas W. Loker provides a historical perspective on the state of healthcare and offers fresh views on changes to Obamacare.

Insightful and thorough, The History and Evolution of Healthcare in America offers a look at

  • what healthcare was like at the birth of the nation;
  • how the practice of providing healthcare has changed for both caregivers and receivers;
  • why the process has become so corrupt and expensive;
  • what needs to happen to provide both choice and effective and efficient care for all;
  • where we need to most focus efforts to get the biggest change;
  • what is needed to get control over this out-of-control situation.

Loker narrates a journey through the history of American healthcare—where we’ve been, how we arrived where we are today, and determine where we might need to go tomorrow. The history illustrates how parts of the problem have been solved in the past and helps us understand what might be necessary to solve our remaining problems in the future.

I long for a Citizen Politician

Where have all the good men gone?

As I watch the current primary political spectacle, and await, with more than a modicum of trepidation, the coming presidential election of 2012, I long for the emergence of a “citizen politician” like those that founded, what once was, this great nation.  Where have they gone?  What has happened to our national values, that we no longer can produce such remarkable and dedicated individuals?  Have we so corrupted the elegant system, designed by the framers, that we simply cannot find those truly fit to serve the nation, instead of serving their own, or some subgroups desires and wishes.  Has the process been so corrupted that the simple citizens we most desire, and who would best serve, will not stand up to our current infinite scrutiny, or will not run because they do not want such public ablation of their character? We once had a collection of people, who felt that it was either their destiny, or their obligation, to serve their neighbors to build a better life for all, and to develop systems to assure that character, integrity, and nobles oblige, were the justifications for their fitness.

Recently, I have wondered, what were the characteristics that defined this group of remarkable men, those who risked and sacrificed so much to build this nation? Over the past year I have read a number of biographies of our founding fathers; men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin.  Each in its own way revealed bits of what united these men in such a grand and ambitious undertaking.  In another way, it has led me to wonder if we still have the tools in place to create others like these men, or if the circumstances of our modern world, our changed mores, faith, family, values, and education system have been altered so profoundly that we no longer build the necessary combinations of character, strength, conviction, patriotism, and dedication to generate leaders with a sense of purpose, responsibility, and faith in something grander than themselves with unshakeable and selfless commitment to their country and fellow citizens.  I guess the real question is, are we lost?

Our First President

George Washington was a complicated and interesting man.  All of us, who have studied history in modern schools, have read about Washington as the father of our nation, but the image of Washington that I learned in school both understates his contribution to the birth of this nation and fills our head with minor and false facts (like the story of the cherry tree) that do not provide a true measure of the man. To the continental colonists at the end of the revolution, George Washington, was more than any other, the father of this nation.

As the country was being forged, Washington, and many others just like him, felt a profound sense of duty to the rest of Americans to fight to the death against tyranny and eventually to build a great form of government to perpetually protect the nation’s people from the resurgence of tyranny from both abroad and within.  Today, we often hear as to what the framers felt was the role of faith and God in the creation, prosperity, and future of our nation.  Today, in our modern world of agenda based spin, we hear polar opposite views.  On the one hand, it is stated that the founders believed there is no role for religion in government.  Religion was not to have any part in the governance of the nation. And at the fringe, there are those that profess that it is a violation of the constitution to even allow and discussion, mention, or intimation of religion in any public venue, action, or event.  On another hand, we hear that religion is a clear part of our government, and became the basis for the governing system we chose. Further, at the fringe of this side, we hear that this, or that, religious view was inculcated into the constitution to promote this or that moral value.  Like everything else today, the truth is much more complicated than a sound-bite, and lies somewhere, nuanced, in the middle of the argument.

President Washington felt that National Policy needed to be rooted in private morality, which relied on “the eternal rules of order and right . . . ordained by heaven itself.” It was in consideration of the grand opportunity wrested by the sacrifice of the American people, through the providential victory of the revolution against England, that Washington’s held the view that this opportunity was granted by the unknown machinations of an almighty God. Washington wrote, “The sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly and considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

Washington and many of the other founders were big believers in the hands of some higher power guiding them to their destiny.  They also felt that only good and just men could reap the benefit of these grants from some higher power.  They believed in strength, justice, and the power of courage and conviction.  They were humanists, who felt it was their duty to help the downtrodden and the weak.  But, we should not confuse this humanistic view with their additional view that people were also individually responsible for their own destiny and lot in life.  As an example, Washington also wrote,

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity; religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

Washington also wrote,

“Let no one go hungry away . . . provided it does not encourage in them idleness.”

The New Constitution

In 1787, as the continental congress was meeting to establish the foundation for a new and necessary form of government to control this new nation, there was significant controversy.  Read either of the recent biographies of George Washington, Washington, by Ron Chernow, or of John and Abigail Adams, First Family, by Joseph Ellis and you will see that the current level of histrionics, division, diatribe, and intrigue are nothing new.  Further, most of America had no knowledge of what was transpiring inside the State House in Philadelphia, in 1787, or what kind of government was being developed by the men who had assembled to compose our new nation.  The mystery was so complete that after the vote by the members of the congress in approval of the new constitution, Benjamin Franklin reportedly was approached by Elizabeth Powell as he left the State House.  When she saw Franklin, she is reported to have inquired as to what form of government had been produced by the members inside the convention.  Franklin responded, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it!”

Like politics today, this new constitution was not immediately revered by all.

George Mason, a friend of George Washington, declared that the new form of government “. . . would end either, in a monarchy, or a tyrannical aristocracy.”

Looking at the current state of America and its politics I think many would argue it has met Mason’s fate. It just depends on which side of the political spectrum one is, as to whether or not it is now ended as monarchy or tyrannical aristocracy—Occupy Anywhere anyone?

Citizen Politicians

I think we need to find a way to alter the current political selection process, and fundamentally eliminate the position of professional politician from our culture and revert to the original concept of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  The “by the people” part was not designed to be rule by a professional political class as we are today.  Just what was the concept of citizen politicians at the time of the founding?

Many of the founders regarded any open interest in power as unbecoming of a gentleman. As a result, people like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson preferred to be drawn reluctantly from private life by the irresistible summons of public service.  Ron Chernow writes in his book, Washington, “George Washington felt even to say the word, president, or to merely broach the topic, even in the strictest confidence with friends would seem to betray some secret craving for the office on his part.” Chernow reports that Washington confessed his quandary to Alexander Hamilton in a letter where he said,

“For situated as I am, I could hardly bring the question into the slightest discussion, or ask an opinion, even in the most confidential manner, without betraying, in my judgment, some impropriety of conduct.”

John Adams and most of the founding presidents, all felt that nobles oblige, should be the guiding sentiment for their service.  As such, they did not believe that a candidate should campaign for the office.  They felt that people should be elected because their prior contributions and actions were so remarkable, as to render the populace unable to see any another as capable of assuming and performing in the office. As such, it was the fact that they had to go and actively campaign for such a position of power innately under-scored their lack of suitability for the job in the first place.

The solemn and grave nature of properly taking this almighty gift of independence and effectively creating and implementing a new government, worthy of the people who had sacrificed so much for this opportunity, led James Madison to create a strong metaphor for Washington to use to captivate the populace.  Madison wrote,

“. . . to be shipwrecked in sight of the port would be the severest of all possible aggravations to our misery.”

Meaning, that after we had collectively sacrificed so much, cut our ties to England, and now were left with such difficulty and strife if we fail to provide a just form of government for the people would just be the worst sort of failure and pain.  Madison’s view was predicated on the sacrifices and misery suffered by the new Americans in 1787.  How much more has been sacrificed and suffered in this quest to live up to our potential, and love of country and its promise in the past 225 years? Are our current politicians living up to the sacrifice of those who have gone before?

Nobles Oblige Often Led to Financial Hardship and Ruin.

For most of the first 152 years, elected public service was a significant economic burden. Many left political office with their business and personal financial interests in significant disarray.  These individuals accepted the service to their nation as a patriotic duty or to establish a historical place for their family name.  As an example, at the time Washington became our first president, his prior service in obligation to the needs of his forming country had left is estate on the edge of financial ruin.  As he was being elected president, he was left with no choice but to put his extensive land holdings in Ohio up for sale and to seek a loan of 500 pounds from Captain Richard Conway of Alexandria Va. Shortly after he made this initial request, he had to ask for an additional 100 pounds from Conway, to defray the cost of moving to New York and the cost of lodging so he could assume the new presidency.  So committed to the service to his nation, Washington still felt it was his duty, as he had throughout the Revolutionary war, to forgo any salary. Despite his dire fiscal situation, Washington informed congress of his intent.  Luckily for Washington, congress insisted that he accept his salary, so in some small measure, the fiscal burden was somewhat ameliorated.  Once again, when Washington left office, his personal fortunes had continued to suffer as a result of the demands of service to his country.

The Coming Storm

As I look at this year’s presidential primary election, and listen to both sides of the debates, I wonder if we have, in Madison’s words, been left shipwrecked in sight of our port.  I find myself more and more longing for a Washington, an Adams, a Jefferson, a Madison, a Monroe, a Jackson, or a Lincoln to emerge.  I yearn for some citizen politician, motivated by their love of country, their own nobles oblige, some sense of destiny to arise from the depths and steer us from the fate of the looming rocky shore. I desire the rise of a true citizen politician, one who feels it is unbecoming of the character of a gentleman to seek power or political office.  I know there are those who believe that in this larger and more expansive world, politicians must campaign actively and very extensively and obtrusively be in our face to gain election. I wonder, is this really and sadly the case?

We have had a few this political cycle whose names have been floated for office, individuals apparently not overtly seeking election—people like: Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio.  Each of them to date has rebuffed the invitation to lead their party in this election for various reasons.  Despite their apparent reticence, there are some who are still actively interested in wresting them as candidates to the national stage.  Despite their resistance, feigned or real, sadly, they are also firmly entrenched as members of the professional political class.  Where are the real citizen politicians?  The ones who would be dragged to this lofty, powerful perch as a result of their sense of duty and obligation?  Can we not find some method to identify them and bring them to the national attention without the need for a popularity contest composed of little more than national character assassination? Though I do which this is not the case, perhaps it is simply a pipe dream to believe once again we have and can find such men.

I now most fervently hope that we will not soon be laying plans for all of our children to be reading Daniel Defoe’s, 1919 work, Robinson Caruso, as our new national survival guide!

Delusional Ravings of a Lunatic Mind receives good reviews!

Praise for the Delusional Ravings of a Lunatic Mind

“Outstanding reasoning. I was surprised to find out you weren’t a lawyer in the middle of the text. It is chock full of interesting insights and observations.”
–Kyle Becker, Author and Publisher of Rogue Government Blog

“Wow, You have too much common sense!.”
–James P. Finn, Author and Publisher of Thought Continue reading

David Brook’s Take on the Progressive Era is Right On

Teddy Roosevelt(R) the Progressive Candidate

David Brooks wrote a great article comparing today’s America with that of the progressive era called, “Midlife Crisis Economics“.  In it, Mr. Brooks provides a very cogent analysis of the fallacy in comparing initiatives from the progressive era with those of today.  He notes that the current administration, long enamored with comparisons to the New Deal era, has now realized that this period comparison has led to many false paths and much political baggage and is now promulgating  comparison to the Progressive Era.  Mr. Brooks very capably points out why these analogies are also in error.  I will not rewrite Mr. Brooks article as I encourage you to click the title above and read his more than capable work. However, I would like to discuss this seemingly current trend in a much broader context. While the current administration may have taken the historical analogy as justification for current actions to a new and perhaps much more dangerous level; this is more likely the culmination of a long term trend in seeking justification for a continually failing set of policies.  While it is very easy to bash democrats for this at this point in time because they are the party of the current occupant of the White House, this is in no way just a one party problem.  Both sides of our professional political class have tried to capture the glory days of their bygone eras as rhetoric to stir the masses to their cause in this current period. The main problem, as Mr. Brooks points out so well in his article, is the times have changed and along with the times; the character of our country, underlying economy, and issues that we are solving for have also changed.  Further, the entirety of our government has morphed into that of a professional political class.

I don’t know about you but I am sick to death of the phrase, “the greatest financial crisis since the great depression!”

At the height of the progressive era, a republican, Teddy Roosevelt, was the spur in the rump of the American Horse.  The ideals of progressive-ism were targeting specific sets of problems and solutions using a specific and timely set of tools and actions. If you look forward to the period of “the Great Depression” you find the same thing. The methods that were chosen to try to solve the problems under F. D. Roosevelt’s reign were also specific and timely.  One of the biggest laughs I get out of discussions about the current economic or health care crisis is when modernists begin to espouse what F.D.R.’s position would be.  Since I have spent quite a bit of time on the issues of healthcare I will point to one example. Over the past couple of years, as the debate for “universal healthcare” centered on a national governmental healthcare system, so called “single-payer” system, one pundit after another, and in some cases supposedly well respected congressmen and women, have said this is what F.D.R wanted.  Well that is just so much–what was it the ‘Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf called it?  Oh Yeah, Bovine Scatology!  Franklin D. Roosevelt was fully and distinctly anti socialist and anti communist.  While he proposed many programs that historically we now see in some kind of socialist light, in almost every case what he was advocating for and what we have now are not comparable.  Some of the recognizable  stalwarts, like Social Security, he advocated for but as  temporary solutions. In the area of healthcare, the distinctions are even more stark.  Roosevelt was not solving for the problems we have today.  In fact, it is likely that from his historical perspective he would marvel at how well our current system has improved over the problems he faced in the provision of healthcare to the country.  During this period, the big problems were access to care, and the quality of the care being provided.  While cities could economically support hospitals and therefore provided good places for doctors to congregate, conduct research and solve the needs of the populace, rural areas could not. The profession of physician and doctor had merged into one, hospitals had become vitally necessary for most of them to practice comprehensive quality care and they were expensive to build and maintain. During Teddy Roosevelt’s era physicians could finally charge for services rendered at hospitals. Rural hospitals were few and far between and the few that did exist were often staffed with the substandard physicians who could not get hired in the cities or in other more egregious cases–outright charlatans.    Compounding the problem was that cash and money payment in rural communities was still not a wide spread practice. Both as a result of custom, and the depression, cash was not a favored form of transaction in rural communities. Many people simply did not have cash or ready access to it. Many still bartered for goods and services.  It was nearly impossible to construct a hospital, fund its expenses, and attract good physicians to an economy where cash played an often secondary role. F.D.R. was solving for access to quality healthcare in rural communities. He failed to get his proposed solutions through congress in his second New Deal legislation before his death.  It was Harry Trueman who finally got the Hill Burton Act passed that stimulated the construction of rural hospitals and helped increase the quality and availability of care in these under-served areas.  It is very easy to say, as Michael Jackson did in his song, “They Don’t Really Care About Us” ‘that if Roosevelt was livin’ he wouldn’t let this be, No No No….’ But it is probably just not true.  In the song, Jackson is referring to racism, but even in this area, historians point out that Roosevelt was not quite the staunch humanist we now perceive him to be; and in fact contemporaneously was repeatedly accused of being racist. In the end, it is never a good idea to believe that historical figures would immediately support any of the solutions we propose today. Often, they would marvel at what we have achieved and find ridiculous some of the ideas our politicians now choose to rail about. From racism to healthcare, from the economy to poverty, historical figures would probably strongly suggest we appreciate a bit more of what we have.  They would be lost in a world where political correctness gets parsed to which words are used to reference a problem.  They would be horrified at the areas we are allocating so much of our money–spending huge amounts to support politically correct causes while allowing many other real problems to get under-funded or unfunded. None of these historical progressives believed in debt, nor in the deference to those who lack personal responsibility.  While our historical figures were long on helping the downtrodden and the helpless, they had no patience for the avaricious nor the clueless.

“Don’t pee on my leg and tell me its raining!”

We should look to history to review the things that were tried and whether or not they succeeded. But the blanket application of those historical fixes and the dishonest misrepresentation of the issues and the solutions from then to today are dangerous and duplicitous.  We need more than this kind of behavior from all of our politicians today.  Perhaps, we need to get rid of the professional political class we know have and go back to the very same type of citizen politician who they now wish us to say they emulate. We need leaders that can propose solutions!  We need leaders that have learned the lessons from history and can apply those lessons to the problems we face today and help us come to the hard realizations we need to make in order to pull ourselves back to a viable path.  We need those who can both tell us the truth and apply the learning not just rehash the historical solution because as both Mr. Brooks and Bob Dylan said,

“The times they are a changin”

What we all need to focus our attention on is eliminating (please pardon the crude analogy–but I think it applies) any political party or professional politician, who simply “pees on our leg and tell us its raining!”

234 Years Ago: Patriotism revisited

Christmas dinner 1777 was a horrible affair for one of our countries greatest patriots. Not because the fare for himself and his military family consisted of a frugal collation of mutton, potatoes, cabbage and crusts of bread accompanied by poor water. Nor was it simply the incessant grumbling of the officers due to the shortage of any liquor. Washington’s horror was due to desperate and hideous state of his men.

His Continental army was quite truly shattering from the cold and lack of provisions. Remarking that its soldiers more properly resembled a hoard of unkempt beggars, Dr. Albigence Waldo of Connecticut wrote,

Dec. 14th ., Prisoners & Deserters are continually coming in. The Army who have been surprisingly healthy hitherto, now begin to grow sickly from the continued fatigues they have suffered this Campaign. Yet they still show spirit of Alacrity & Contentment not to be expected frown so young Troops. I am Sick, discontented, and out of humour. Poor food, hard lodging, Cold Weather, fatigue, Nasty Cloaths, nasty Cookery, Vomit half my time, smoak’d out of my senses, the Devil’s in’t, I can’t Endure it, Why are we sent here to starve and freeze, What sweet Felicities have I left at home;, A charming Wife , pretty Children, Good Beds, good food, good Cookery, all agreeable, all harmonious. Here, all Confusion, smoke Cold, hunger & filthyness, A pox on my bad luck. Here comes a bowl of beef soup, full of burnt leaves and dirt, sickish enough to make a hector spue,, away with it Boys, I’ll live like the Chameleon upon Air. Poh ! Poh ! crys Patience within me, you talk like a fool. Your being sick Covers your mind with a Melanchollic Gloom, which makes every thing about you appear gloomy. See the poor Soldier, when in health , with what chearfullness he meets his foes and encounters every hardship, if barefoot, he labours thro’ the Mud & Cold with a Song in his mouth extolling War & Washington, if his food be bad, he eats it notwithstanding with seeming content, blesses God for a good Stomach , and Whis[t]les it into digestion. But harkee Patience, a moment, There comes a Soldier His bare feet are seen thro’ his worn out Shoes , his legs nearly naked from the tatter’d remains of an only pair of stockings, his Breeches not sufficient to cover his Nakedness, his Shirt hanging in Strings, his hair disheveled, his face meagre, his whole appearance pictures a person forsaken & discouraged. He comes, and crys with an air of wretchedness & dispair — I am Sick, my feet lame , my legs are sore, my body cover’d with this tormenting Itch, my Cloaths are worn out, my Constitution is broken, my former Activity is exhausted by fatigue, hunger & Cold, I fail fast I shall soon be no more ! and all the reward I shall get will be, ” Poor Will is dead.” .

But it was not just the misery of his soldiers and their lack of provisions. Washington was abhorrent of the lack of dignity provided for his men. Many were almost completely naked and some were often simply without any clothes at all resorting to straw and blankets for whatever cover they had. What made this abuse more blisteringly intolerable was the selfishness of the citizenry. Many seemed to value their purse much higher than freedom or patriotic commitment. When he established his winter fort at Valley Forge he had correctly understood that the surrounding countryside was rich with provisions. What he had not counted on was that the local farmers would hide their crops and animals and also sell them for cash to the British encamped in Philadelphia.

Sitting in this sorry state, surrounded by the complicity of man, General Washington, our rising revolutionary leader, found in his patriotic heart the ability to write the following…

“We must take the passions of men as nature has given them… I do not mean to exclude altogether the idea of patriotism. I know it exists, and I know it has done much in the present contest. But I will venture to assert, that a great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward.”

So as we prepare for our own Christmas of 2011, should we not cast our eyes back at the time of the founding of out country. and seek the character of a man who rose with his peers to reject the injustices done to them by the organized government of the few professional politicians. Those on that far island, who in attempting to rule a nation found that a rag tag, under-provisioned, unprofessional gaggle or patriots could overthrow their invincible might and jettison the shackles of subjugation for the lofty air of freedom!

While it may seem recently we have been robbed of our glorious history, it is still there for all of us to see if we choose to look. We may try to hide these feats in fancy rhetoric, and partisan diatribe but in the end we will once again unite in a desperate cause to rise above the crush of abstract ideals for a pragmatic recognition that our reality and existence is rooted in tolerance and personal responsibility. That their are times when it is not the loudest cacophony that must be heard by our leaders but the providential voice of what is right and just must rise to the decision. That all of our power comes from a united people. And in every clash through history we have found a leader who can deny self interest in favor of self sacrifice–a leader who knows that the right decision may not be the most popular one, or the most convenient. We have always found leaders that have accepted the burden of the citizen politician–who have led–not prospered–and in the end it is they who have helped us create something great. This was because, in the end the power did not flow from them–but through them and they recognized that it was the power of the people and divine providence that gave them the wisdom to both yield it and then give it up when it was time to do so.

So let us all look back at the Christmas in Valley Forge in 1777 and remember that it was not one man, but one idea that united us in this endeavor, and that patriots are never born of convenience!

Time for something new: How about WE?

This article could also be titled…. “If the Occupy movement wants an argument that will resonate, and work — this is an idea!”

America has had a kind heart

America historically has had a kind heart.  In the past, when friends and neighbors were in need we have risen as one to help each other.  We are a nation that was founded on the belief that with tolerance for opposing ideas, and being united in a common cause, we could rise from the oppression of our rulers in a foreign land and take control of our own destiny.Thomas Paine was enlisted to help unite the people in this view and he coined the phrase, “an island cannot rule a nation!”. While at the time of the American Revolution there was not 100% unity in the desire for separation—or even universal agreement that separation from England was a good and economically viable idea. In the end, our founding fathers strung together enough of an argument that if we remained true to the ideals established in our Declaration of Independence and if we crafted the proper covenants of governance as later codified in our Constitution of the United States and if we practiced tolerance for each others separate and distinct; needs, wants, desires, and religious beliefs we could not only survive but perhaps thrive; and in so doing become a model for a new method of common governance—a constitutional republic—a very separate and distinct system from a historical democracy.

As a nation, in effect we made a promise to ourselves to believe in our own future, to be vigilant in the preparation of our government for the succeeding generations, and to develop within the constraints of our new found republic rules and regulations to promote various individual freedoms — earned based on our own personal and collective responsibilities. In the era of the citizen politician, this system has worked remarkably well. However, as we are by our nature, human, and as such subject to our own failings, we have made mistakes.  These mistakes, often in the form of ill-conceived and poorly framed decisions to solve the pressing problems of the various historic periods, have often changed our understandings, altered our perspective or removed the need to maintain our own personal responsibility for our life and our own decisions.

In the 1930’s we began a series of what at the time appeared innocuous decisions that fundamentally altered who we are and how we think of ourselves and Americans. It is my belief, that in each case the decisions were made for valid reasons. But in the nature of the deliberations at the time, we were faced with the age old dilemma: the conflict between practical pragmatism and ideological morality.  As we began once again to find some prosperity, we have more and more consistently chosen the moral side of the equation. And who can really argue with such choices?

The rise of the full time professional political class

In the days of the citizen politician, when congressional and executive service to the country was part time, and in the end those that served gained little and gave much, decisions tended to become more tempered with pragmatism because the laws passed more directly and immediately affected our legislators just as they did the rest of the citizenry.  As we moved through the 1930’s and 1940’s short term decisions to extend the period of congressional duty to more of a full time period set us on a path to the development of a full time legislative role and later to the establishment of the professional politician.  As this role changed, not only did we end up with full time politicians, we ended up with what now is a legislature full of professional politicians—a Full Time Professional Political Class.  A new level of American who’s class gives them exemption from many laws but more importantly that by gaining election into this elite class become, by and large, exempt from the pressures of life that affect the rest of the “normal” people. The prize of elected office is now exemption.

As I have discussed in earlier articles, the currency of this class is votes and the goods exchanged are now our own hard won assets, taken by the professional political class to equalize the injustices, both real and perceived of those not of the professional political class.  Whether the flow is from the wealthy few to the “huddled masses” or from the masses back to the wealth few to stimulate programs to fund the huddled masses, in this zero sum game we are continuing to lose economically.

For the last seventy or eighty years these decisions have appeared to work, with little or few consequences.  I have discussed a number of these points in prior articles and will not rehash these decisions here.  I expect my readers are capable of doing their own research and forming their own opinions.  What I will remind you of, is that as the underlying dynamic of our political system changed and this new class rose, often those short term legislative solution, affected to solve the immediate problems of any given period, became permanent sales pitches to sell these often short term programs as now permanent gains for the huddled masses in exchange for votes.

The Political Class is broken

Unfortunately though, today the professional political class, like the people they are supposed to serve, are stuck! Our political system is stalled! As a result, WE are stymied! That’s right, it seems we as a nation are at an impasse, spinning in circles and getting nowhere.  Yes, it seems we are trying to pry open a door that just won’t open.

The evidence of this, of course, shows in the inability of Congress to come to resolution in order to solve things like universal health care crisis, the financial crisis, the economic crisis, the immigration crisis, the jobs crisis, the energy crisis, the stock market crisis—the list can go on and on…. Any solution is long overdue.

Though it can often appear that the powers-that-be in Washington are making an attempt to provide such solutions, the historical record of real fixes and real reform is just not there. That’s right, if WE read and listen to the daily news, WE realize that what Washington has on the table ultimately will not, and cannot, work.

Washington has had many opportunities for the past 80 years to design and pass legislation that would fix our problem, they just can’t get the job done.  They can’t because we are asking them to fix something that is simply not in their purview to fix.  WE seem to keep asking them to fix the problems created by our own lack of personal responsibility and accountability.  We want the government to make it so that no matter what we do they must take care of us—make it all better.

I asked you a couple of paragraphs ago, “Who can really argue with such choices?”.  From a moralistic standpoint who really wants to argue against providing care for all who need it?  Or, who wants to argue in support of not helping people about to become homeless?  No one, in either the huddled masses (both the 99% and the 1%) class or the professional political class (all the rest) wants to make these arguments!  Despite the truth that no one is out to harm a fellow human being, isn’t it nice that we constantly beat this drum about how so-and-so wants to harm the other guy? In our hearts we know this is true but we allow these surrogates of others to beat this drum until some of us start to believe it. Who was it that said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it!”? Oh yea, it was attributed to Joseph Goebbels, although it is more likely a misquote of Adolf Hitler’s big lie passage in Mein Kampf.  One of the big issues today is that our Professional Political Class will not, in fact they can not, make such an argument.  The checks and balances that govern their existence prohibit them from making this argument. Their livelihoods are predicated on them NOT making such arguments. We have built a political system where they get compensated, quite handsomely, for promising to give us stuff for nothing-in effect lying to us.

Two minds but one heart

While I believe we all truly have one caring heart. I would submit, with no real evidence, that we as a species are of two sociological, perhaps genetic, minds on this issue.  About one half of the species sides on the moral and the other half sides on the pragmatic.  One side sees the argument as moral and cannot fathom any decision that would go along with sustaining the emotional pain of watching a neighbor fail.  The other side sees the problem as a survival issue, economic or otherwise.

Today, no one disputes there are millions in need in America, and more so in the world as a whole.  Seeing our governments inability to solve America’s problems is downright frustrating when you consider we are a nation that can mobilize in an instant to help people all over the world—like in Haiti or Sri Lanka—or how about the help we’ve given to various villages and communities in Bosnia, Bangladesh—or the impoverished countries in Africa. If we can do that then why can’t we take care of our own? Why can’t we help those who need, and most certainly deserve, to be treated with consideration and priority when it comes to physical and mental health and well being? While we should try to help the world, I for one would like to concentrate first on our own neighbors; as their suffering has a much more direct bearing on our own needs, wants and responsibilities.  I also subscribe to the belief that if I give someone in need $1.00 they get $1.00.  If I give it to the government the needy net about $0.35.  These are not my numbers but the governments in various forms.

We need an Answer

We need an answer. But to get one, we need momentum. And, to create momentum, I believe that if each one of us did a part—if we mobilize, all of us, pushed in our own individual way—we might very well force the door to solutions open, even if we do so only a little at a time.

I guess you could say that my philosophy toward solving the healthcare issue, and most of the other issues we face as a nation, can best be summed up in the words of that ever-popular Michael Jackson hit, Man in the Mirror, in which he and his co-writers Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard, stated, “…I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways/no message could have been any clearer/ if you want to make the world a better place/take a look at yourself/and then make a change…”  In other words, it starts with each of us taking responsibility for both ourselves and our neighbors and a closer look at what every one of us can do to effect change.

While I was at Ramsell, I started a non-profit called the WE Movement.  In creating the WE Movement I believed that we could all do something, each of us to help Washington get the job done. While I was working on healthcare reform in Washington I learned a few things  about how our professional political class try to make sausage.  Having grown up in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, I know a thing or two about making sausage and Washington DC knows nothing about making sausage.  I would submit to you that we would be much better of in the long run if we went back to the days of part time citizen politicians, many of whom could be real sausage makers and we would find that our government would be much improved. If not improved, at least our daily diet of bad news would taste a bit better!

Let’s talk about health care for a minute.

We have learned that we in the United States are a generous people—all of us, whether we are Republican, Democrat, Independent—conservative or progressive. We also have learned that the majority of us wish that all people could and should have access to the health care they need.

Sadly, we have also learned that the scope of healthcare we want everyone to have is simply unattainable—the economic cost for it well beyond what we can provide—or more importantly—what we are willing to allocate to pay for it.  It is not an issue of taking money here to pay for it there.  It is an economic issues in that the more we pay for care to workers the less competitive we become in the world stage.

I have come to be of the mind that there are two very important universal truths that have emerged from this recent health care bill proposal:

  1. We can’t afford what we want (and need) and,
  2. the prevailing atmosphere of “Us” vs. “Them” has been a recurring theme and extremely corrosive to the ideals we have set.

For example, the goal of Universal Healthcare was to include:

  • Affordable coverage for 100% of all Americans
  • A mandated minimum standard of care
  • Access to all, regardless of illness, state of disease or pre-existing condition
  • Reduction of the overall cost of care to all Americans
  • The elimination of “care disparity”
  • And assurance of coverage for the underserved

All good ideas; lofty goals, yes, but A) we can’t afford this “vision” package because the implementation and subsidy costs alone total $1.55 trillion, and only 155 million people are getting paychecks out of the 338 million Americans who need them, and B) under the suggested guidelines, the cost of care for individuals will rise between $1000 a year to $3000 a year.

Next, it seems we’re faced with an “Us” versus “them” mentality: For example, coverage for 96% of Americans is requested (although 94% were already covered before the proposed legislation). The actual goal was to provide coverage for the uninsured or under-insured. And, the 2% additionally insured breaks out like this:

  • O.8 percent are between 18 and 29 years old
  • 0.4 percent are elderly—those that previously were not enrolled in Medicare
  • The dilemma is where this leaves the uninsured and under-insured

The problem is that the minimum mandates for care were watered down; changes were made geared to garner support from AMA, AARP, Unions, and others such as the Medicare Advantage program which was effectively curtailed to get AARP support. Also, the cost to the nation will rise significantly; the curve does not bend down under full utilization, however. And, also the ideal to eliminate disparity has resulted in restrictions of options for “them” that can afford it, not an increase in options for the “us” that cannot.  In other words, it’s as though this bill has pitted two groups against one another rather than providing a plan that works for the good of the whole. The end result: we’re getting nowhere. As I said, we are stuck, stalled, stymied…the situation has created a sense of inertia precluding us from moving forward in any direction.

Here are some other statistics that need to be understood and made known:

  • Medicare and Medicaid account for 1.3 trillion in health care spending this year
  • Total health care spending in 2010 exceeded $2.8 trillion. Interestingly, some studies have shown that as much as 39% is lost to waste, defined as “duplication of services” and “unnecessary services.”  Other studies tell us that as much as 20% is lost to fraud and abuse.
  • Ultimately, estimates suggest that over $800-billion per year is lost due to waste, fraud, errors and inefficiencies.

So, you may be asking: What can we do about it?

I believe that a simple form of coordination of care and benefits across all available sources will save at least 10% of the total cost of healthcare, and by eliminating duplication of services we can provide increased capacity within the existing networks.  Yes, it is possible, and what a way to begin to open that door!  And it is not simply in healthcare where these benefits can be attained.  It will work in virtually any area where those that have a re providing benefits to those that need.

It is staggering as we try to comprehend that $800-billion dollars in waste exists in the healthcare system across the United States today. What do you think is happening in other segments of government run programs?

Can you imagine what we could do with that amount of money if it were available for health care purposes—if we put this money to better use? And it’s not just the money that we can put to better use; it is the resources as well.  If we eliminate duplicate visits and other services we will free up resources to treat the others who wait in lines.

This is just one way to begin to solve the problem—better appropriation of resources and the spending of funds that are currently available. I believe there are a number of other ways to begin to solve the health care plan dilemma and we must because, just like you, most of us are out of patience with those who wish to make the health care issue, and all the others, a political playground. I think we can all agree that we are fed up as we stand by and wait for a resolution to a problem that is really quite solvable.

WE need to eliminate the “them” versus “us” mentality. We need a platform for those who wish to help each other—to be able to quickly and easily find those in need.  We need a method to filter the truly helpless from the clueless; or worse from the charlatans who simply want to get everything for nothing. Washington can play a key role, an appropriate role, in helping to develop such a system.  A virtual place for people to post what they are willing to provide so they can be matched with those in need. This becomes a “them” and “us” –that culminates in a “WE” solution.

I believe there are many others just like us who are willing to participate, and help each other in the collective crises we face if we can be assured that the needy are appropriately vetted.  Lets face it our government has a horrible track record in this regard.  Their own data shows that Medicaid and Medicare provide only about 35 cents on every dollar to care and we know that there is between a 15 and 20% rate of fraud in the system. Regardless of the percentage due to inefficiency this is at least a 50% improvement just in duplication and reduction of systemic fraud which we know from history the government just can’t do. We need a public private partnership to provide the core system.  Fortunately there are many choices.  Social networking is not far from being able to provide an effective infrastructure. Companies like LinkedIn and Facebook, already have flexible platforms.  MySpace not only has the platform but could rebuild their suffering brand by providing such a valuable option.  Of course there is also Google +, offerings from Microsoft, and many others.  It need not be just one provider.  Why not something in each and every infrastructure?

Webster defines “them” as “a group of people other than the speaker or people addressed.”

Webster also defines “us” in a similar fashion: “another person or other people.”

Presently, the mood in Washington is one of pitting “us” against “them.”
But the word, and collective consciousness we must all adopt in order to find resolution to the health care crisis, is “WE.”

Webster defines “we” as “you and I and others;”

It is all inclusive and that’s exactly how we must all be thinking in order to solve this health care  problem—with a “WE” mind-set. And, we need to tell Washington that this is where we stand as a nation.

For lack of a better analogy: If the Occupy Movement wants to find a message perhaps they need to become more about the WE and less about the 99% vs. the 1%. The truth is that this is not where the problem lies. It was basic grass-roots campaigns that grew rapidly in the 60’s when thousands took to the streets to put pressure on those in Washington who could not agree on how and when to end the Vietnam “war.” But this outcry spanned the classes and with a small exception did not pit one economic segment against the other as a way to curry favor in the majority. Clearly it has been shown that voices who cry out in unison with a unified, consistent, effective message  combined with an obtainable goal shared in every city, township and state can be very effective.  The speakers need also to be in every industry, economic strata, and profession—every company and corporation—and they need to gather and be heard. They cannot be disruptive nor divisive.

Our constitutional republic was set up so that our leaders would make the proper and just decisions for the good of the country as a whole.  The framers know that if we were only a “democracy” that in the end the system would fail.  That the mass of people would in the end vote more for laws that provide to their own benefit regardless of the overall bad effect to the nation.  The point of the constitutional republic was to set up our representatives so that they would be able to make the best decisions with little consequence and the bad decision would provide no gain.  In the past 80 years we have gone a long way to destroying that subtlety.  Historically, the concepts of fairness and equality for all did not equate to unequal burden nor benefit for anyone.  Today the entire concept of fairness and equality is conditionalized first on who has what.

WE need to take these messages to Washington.  We need to make it clear to our elected leaders what we think the effective role truly is for government.  To do that, we need to agree ourselves.  Abraham Lincoln said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand”.   Does anyone today doubt that we are a divided nation?  Even within our political parties we are divided.  I submit that it is no longer our politics that divide us; it is a much more simple philosophic divide.  We seem to be a nation of thirds.  One third morally driven (termed liberal), one third pragmatically driven (termed conservative), and one third combining the best (or worst—depending on your point of view) of both. Lincoln would likely be horrified.

When addressing the most fundamental rights—those of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the authors of The Declaration of Independence started that document with the words “WE the people….” They went on to write: “…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…” I am not advocating its abolition.  I am advocating we recoup our original national character.

I think we need to invite all of us— the collective WE—those young and old; well and ill; others within the healthcare and other business communities—to speak out—and to help the government find a way to solve these problems.

No one should be asking for money to do this. Existing infrastructures should be encouraged to build the support tools in their existing systems. Others should be determining what they can provide to tie into these support tools.  The government should be encouraging us all to do this, to adopt this philosophy and to establish some standards and guidelines to facilitate the private sector to participate right along with our part time citizen politicians in constructing a viable solution that works. To date, we have people saying, “We are fed up.” We are in need of a healthcare, financial help, economic recovery, jobs etc. initiative that works for the good of the ‘governed’. And, “We are tired of the bickering in Washington.”

Occupy, or any other organizations, should all hope to collect a groundswell of support—one that makes a powerful collective statement and an impact on Washington, one that will cause those in charge to listen to alternatives as to how to approach and conquer these dilemmas and also as a means to utilize such virtual matching and help systems free of charge to serve others who are less fortunate.

In the words of Stevie Wonder, those who decided to unite as WE should be determined to “… keep on tryin’/till WE reach the highest ground.”

What do you think?” Do you know anyone who has something to offer? Do you know someone in need of something?  Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a place to go match one with the other? Some place were the helpless can be identified, and the clueless and the fraudulent can be identified and filtered out.   I am not proposing the Government take the role of the determinant of who and who is not eligible.  I am proposing the government take the role of encouraging, promoting and defining the standards, that then allow private industry to combine their systems to help and put such determinations in the hands of the people offering the help.  I don’t mean we should get rid of our safety nets; but we should change the cost structures to a more efficient system and get the government at least partially out of picking winners and losers.  The  collective WE can identify the helpless, and work in virtual teams-virtual villages, to help each and everyone in need.  Virtually coordinating our efforts around the one person in need–placing them in the center of the world that is teaming up to help them.  This is the solution.  This virtual teaming approach will reduce, and perhaps in many cases, eliminate the waste due to duplication of efforts and could go a long way to identifying and reducing fraud and abuse.

In the end my message is–this is all up to WE.  We can continue to delude ourselves that the government can provide this effectively and efficiently but 80 years of history says otherwise.  So is it us–as in the US government as our collective surrogate,  or WE–as in all of us as individuals, that is best suited to do this?

That decision is yours regardless, the only difference is whether or not we all accept the individual responsibility– the duty–to do it or we push it off to the collective others.

U.S. District Court of Appeals “Reaches” for the answer to the purchase mandate

Click to open DC Appeals Court Ruliing

Yep, I Probably Need to Get  a Life!

The past few days, I decided I really needed, no I really-really needed,  to read the opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling on the case of:

SUSAN SEVEN-SKY, ALSO KNOWN AS SUSAN SEVENSKY, ET AL.,
APPELLANTS
v.
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., ET AL.,
APPELLEES”

Appeal from the United States District Court
for the District of Columbia
(No. 1:10-cv-00950)

The court decided this case on November 8, 2011.  And from new reports you would think that the case made clear that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was in fact constitutional and would lend credence to a affirmative finding of the validity of the law and purchase mandate by the U.S. Supreme Court soon.  Like most, media revelations, or more precisely-media invectives, reading this case neither answers the question of the constitutionality of the purchase mandate nor makes clear a constitutional argument that it will be affirmed by the Supreme Court.  Actually, for me it bolsters the base arguments not only on why it should not be upheld by the Supreme Court, but also why the underlying supporting rulings of prior cases like Wickhard v. Filburn and Miles v. Park need to be reassessed.  To see a background on these cases you can read my article on the Health Care Mandate and the Commerce Clause.

The truth be told, I had some very minor surgery and during recovery needed something to read!

Overall this is a relatively short ruling – just 103 pages – including the majority and minority (dissenting) opinions. I would advise all to read it, (click here to read the ruling) particularly the dissenting opinion even though the base argument for the dissent has little to do with constitutionality of the mandate.  Much of the concurring majority opinions are centered on the ability of the courts to hear this case at this time due to the Anti-Injunction Act.  In reading the concurring majority opinions I was repeatedly struck by the lengths they were willing to go in defiance of what I see as common sense; by ignoring, assuming or obfuscating the issues to arrive at their decision. The majority of their argument is centered on the Anti-Injunction Act, with little argument given to the principal issue of the constitutionality under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. The basis for the dissent is that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear this case at this time.  What is interesting in reading the dissent, written by Justice Kavanaugh, is the apparent length Justices Silberman and Edwards are willing to reach to ignore the argument that they do not have  jurisdiction and timeliness to even hear this case.  While I am hopeful this case should be heard at the soonest possible date by the U.S. Supreme Court, the argument by Kavanaugh is clear, concise, and compelling on the law and its prohibitive effect.  His argument, which I found both persuasive and full of common sense, is that due to the Anti-Injunction Act, the judicial branch is barred from hearing such a case until after there is an enforcement action.  Justice Kavanaugh cites:

Enacted in 1867, the Anti-Injunction Act, with a few exceptions, denies courts jurisdiction over pre-enforcement suits that would restrain “the assessment or collection of any tax.” 26 U.S.C. § 7421(a). The Supreme Court has strictly interpreted that Act as a firm bulwark against premature judicial interference with tax assessment and collection. As the Court has stressed time and again, although the Act may seem an inconvenient technicality in the context of a particular case, it is essential to the overall system of orderly and prompt federal tax administration.

Under the Anti-Injunction Act, a taxpayer seeking to challenge a tax law must first pay the disputed tax and then bring a refund suit, at which time the courts will consider the taxpayer’s legal arguments. Or a taxpayer may raise legal arguments in defending against an IRS enforcement action. But a taxpayer may not bring a pre-enforcement suit. In this case, the individual mandate takes effect in 2014, so taxpayers without health insurance must start paying tax penalties on their tax returns in 2015. The Anti-Injunction Act means, therefore, that a suit challenging the individual mandate cannot be entertained until 2015, unless Congress acts before then to exempt these suits from the Act.

The Anti-Injunction Act applies here because plaintiffs’ pre-enforcement suit, if successful, would prevent the IRS from assessing or collecting tax penalties from citizens who do not have health insurance. To be sure, the Affordable Care Act labels its exaction for failure to have health insurance as a tax “penalty” and not as a “tax.” But the Anti-Injunction Act still applies. That’s because the Affordable Care Act requires that the tax penalty for failure to maintain health insurance “be assessed and collected in the same manner as an assessable penalty under subchapter B of chapter 68” of the Tax Code. 26 U.S.C. § 5000A(g)(1). And penalties under subchapter B of chapter 68 in turn must “be assessed and collected in the same manner as taxes.” 26 U.S.C. § 6671(a) (emphasis added). It follows from those two provisions, taken together, that these Affordable Care Act penalties must be assessed and collected “in the same manner as taxes.”

Readers should also note that in contravention to the arguments or the majority opinion, the Federal Government themselves, in numerous early challenges, cited that, despite the language in the PPACA calling the assessment a penalty it was for all purposes a tax. And as my grandfather, a respected country circuit court judge used to say, “Once the animals are out of the barn, it does no good to close the door!”  So while I have been of the opinion it would be best for the Supreme Court to settle this issue, it appears to me that Justice Kavanaugh is correct and the Anti-Injunction Act clearly denies the courts the ability to hear this case until sometime in 2014 or 2015.

Ramifications and Unintended Consequences

The ramifications of the constitutionality of the purchase mandate stretch way beyond health care and should be seen as the proverbial “slippery slope” for concerned people on both the right and the left of the political spectrum.  Just like everything else the government does, an affirmation of the constitutionality of the purchase mandate will have the potential for many unintended consequences.  Justice Kavanaugh, in his dissenting argument, notes;

“But the Commerce Clause issue is extremely difficult and rife with significant and potentially unforeseen implications for the Nation and the Judiciary. Cf. Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One, 129 S. Ct. at 2513.

To uphold the Affordable Care Act’s mandatory purchase requirement under the Commerce Clause, we would have to uphold a law that is unprecedented on the federal level in American history. That fact alone counsels the Judiciary to exercise great caution. See United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 580, 583 (1995) (Kennedy, J., concurring) (“The statute before us upsets the federal balance to a degree that renders it an unconstitutional assertion of the commerce power, and our intervention is required. . . .”

If upheld, the exercise of power contemplated under the PPACA purchase mandate would not be clearly confined to health care.  Under the theory argued by the Government, the Government could impose imprisonment or other criminal punishment on citizens who do not have health insurance.  This is far beyond the taxing authority apparently granted in the language of the PPACA.  The PPACA has language restricting the IRS’s ability to use all of the same measures it has claim to under the U.S. Tax code.  But in oral arguments, the Government freely acknowledged further penalties and impositions by the Government beyond the limitations imposed on the IRS as the primary enforcement authority.

Once such actions are taken to enforce the right of the government to mandate the purchase of insurance under this theory, there is little to stop the government to extend such rights beyond health care to include other things like mandating the purchase of retirement accounts, housing, college savings other insurance, etc.  If fact Justice Kavanaugh opines;

“…there seems no good reason its theory would not ultimately extend as well to mandatory purchases of retirement accounts, housing accounts, college savings accounts, disaster insurance, disability insurance, and life insurance, for example. We should hesitate to unnecessarily decide a case that could usher in a significant expansion of congressional authority with no obvious principled limit.”

Once Again Back to the Commerce Clause

There were two primary point of challenges to PPACA by appellants:

Appellants, four United States citizens and federal taxpayers, seek declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent various U.S. Government officials and agencies from  enforcing the minimum essential coverage provisions. They argue that the mandate exceeds Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause and substantially burdens appellants Susan Seven-Sky’s and Charles Edward Lee’s religious exercise, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Since I am not a lawyer and must rely on my “every-person’s” common sense approach, the concept of being forced to purchase insurance is a step too far for me when it comes to the argument that it restricts religious freedom.  I am sure there are those that will quote me chapter and verse as to why this is a religious issue but unfortunately I don’t see it, and neither did any of the courts so far.  The prime argument has been, and remains, the authority of the Federal Government to regulate, nee mandate, the purchase of health insurance and to assess a penalty/tax if you don’t purchase insurance.

Clearly, congress has taxing authority under the constitution.  This undisputed fact is why at the outset of these challenges the Government argued that despite the word penalty’s use in the PPACA, it was for all intents and purposes a tax.  But, while that argument perceptibly granted them authority, it raised the questions related to if you can be assessed a tax for NOT doing something.  Further, it creates the problem of judicial authority at this time if this is a tax under the Anti-Injunction Act. It is interesting to note that the Government no longer is arguing so vociferously that this is in fact a tax.

Having exhausted my preamble, I will now turn my discussion to the issue of the Commerce Clause and the rights under the constitution of the federal government to regulate commercial activities of individuals within or between states.  To me this is both the main crux of the argument related to the purchase mandate and the center point of what I think is one of the most heinous and or ingenious – depending on your point of view – extensions of federal authority over the past 100 years.

The concurring majority bases their opinion of the Governments right to regulate commerce on precedent rulings beginning with a ruling where the court decided in 1945 that the Government had the right to seize and destroy a farmers wheat crop because it was in excess of the acreage the farmer was allowed to plant under the National Recover Act (NRA).  The fact that the farmer in question intended it for his own use on his farm and the wheat was not for sale, nor the fact that he likely would not have purchased wheat on the open market from out of state sources-but would more likely have bartered for it from another local instate source-did not sway the decision that this transaction affected interstate commerce and as such was now subject to federal authority. This landmark case, Wickard v. Filburn, and my feelings about this ruling are adequately described in Health Care Mandate and the Commerce Clause so I will not rehash them further here.  If you are not familiar with this history you should be.  Suffice to say, I believe the extension of the government’s regulatory authority as upheld in Wickard v. Filburn are much more than simply problematic.  The ruling endemic in the Wickard case needs a fresh review.  That said, I also think that there are many other problems in using even the logic of Wickard v. Filburn in upholding the insurance mandate.

Unlike Wheat – Health Care is Not Even Remotely Interstate.

While the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1945, stretched the fabric of imagination in tying personal wheat growing to an interstate commerce act subject to federal jurisdiction, health care is even more of a step too far.  Representative Melvin Watt (D), North Carolina during a House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing in the early part of 2011 on the need for Health Care/Malpractice Tort Reform commented that he was a strong advocate of states rights, and that in his entire life he had never seen an example of where the provision of medical services, health care, went across state lines.  He further said, he knew of no instance where a hospital existed simultaneously in two states, and that health care was so specifically regulated in each state as to make the provision of health insurance across state lines so problematic that it was in effect impossible.  He continued, that health care was clearly an issue relegated to the states and not subject the federal encroachment under the Commerce Clause and therefore the subject of federal tort reform over this issue, he felt, was out of order and beyond the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee.  This seemed like a very good argument to me at the time and still does.  Perhaps Representative Watt should write an amici curiae to the US Supreme Court on this specific topic.

In fact, in my opinion,  Rep. Watt is correct in almost all regards.  During the debate over the PPACA, it became clear that most of the country did not want a national health care option despite the best advocacy, efforts, and in some cases, obfuscation by many in congress.  A review of health care in America, shows that health care is, in fact, a state by state regulated industry.  Many, if not most, insurance providers have specific offices within each and every state to deal with the specific regulations, policy requirements, demographics, and actuarial within the state.  While one can buy policies from companies whose main headquarters may be outside of the state of residence of the purchaser, they can’t buy a generic policy that does not conform to the regulations of the state of residence of the purchaser.

So, even if Wickard is based on sound constitutional principals, health care is clearly not wheat.  While the case was made that wheat was a national commodity, and there was a national commodity market for wheat sales, and that poor Filburn by growing his own wheat and not buying it on the open market was affecting demand and therefore the national price of wheat; the same cannot be said for health care.  To amplify this argument, even the federal government through CMS recognizes at least the regional vagaries of the health care market by providing various rates for reimbursement of services based on geographic location.  There are numerous points of authority that will show that health care is, unlike almost every other industry you can think of, a state based economic system.  Again unlike wheat, affecting the sale or cost of a health care product or service in one state has little to no effect on any other state.  It is also likely true that the cost of care in San Francisco has little to no effect on care in Oakland let alone Petaluma, Sacramento, or Los Angeles.

Clearly, there is a national market for pharmaceuticals and medical devices but again each state regulates these items quite closely.  What a pharmacist pays for a specific drug in one state or region is so different for other states or regions that whole businesses like Foxmeyer Health have sprung up over the years to play games of arbitrage between local pricing variance for pharmaceuticals.  In my “every person’s” common sense approach health care is one clear example of a non-national market.

The consenting majority make the point that,

“… Because virtually everyone will, at some point, need health services, no one is truly  inactive, and the health services market is inextricably intertwined with health insurance. Congress found that those who do not purchase health insurance, and instead self-insure, almost inevitably take health care services they cannot afford. Hospitals, by virtue of federal law and professional obligation, provide these services, and as a result, $43 billion in annual costs are shifted to the insured, through higher premiums. That, in turn, makes health insurance less affordable and increases the total number of uninsured.”

While, this argument may be true, and then again it may not be true either, for this to have some form of sway the $43 billion would need to be a cost to all the federal taxpayers would it not?  Not state taxpayers under state regulations because that would not be interstate would it?  For this to be truly a national issue, the $43 billion would have to be almost exclusively a federal cost.  My reason is that since each state offers medicaid under their own authority and their own programs-and even President Obama has specifically referred to Medicaid as state programs-if private health care is also state specific how can this cost shift be a national issue.

One may argue that, Medicare is a national program, and they may also argue that the federal government subsidizes Medicaid at the state level.  But states remit money to the federal government, some of which they receive back, so I question the true source of the funding.  Someone should look at the  funds flow to determine, if possible, if the sources are local or federal.

Lets further assume that the Federal Government provides some funding to state medicaid systems, reimbursements/stimulus to hospitals, to offset uninsured care mandated by the federal government, and other federal governmental programs created by the federal government to subsidize the costs of the poor and the uninsured.  I don’t think it flows logically or constitutionally that this is now interstate commerce just because the federal government voluntarily created a program to provide money to citizens funded by taxpayers and that the costs that are shifted by the under-served drain on these funds makes it is now a national market.  If that is the case, then any time the government wants to take over an industry or regulate something we do, they will just decide to subsidize it and then claim it is now subject to the Commerce Clause and they can regulate it.  Does anyone really believe this is what the founders intended?

It is also good to note that the consenting opinion states that;

“The Government concedes the novelty of the mandate and the lack of any doctrinal limiting principles; indeed, at oral argument, the Government could not identify any mandate to purchase a product or service in interstate commerce that would be unconstitutional, at least under the Commerce Clause.”

So, even the Government acknowledges that his is tantamount to a preemptive right if it is upheld, but they basically then say, Trust Us  – heath care is so unique we would not think of doing this anywhere else!  I am sure the founders would never have contemplated that Mr. Filburn would have had his crops burned by the federal government only because he chose NOT to purchase wheat on the open market thereby maintaining the price the federal government deemed important.

The Majority opinion goes on to analyze the text of the Commerce Clause itself, including a contemporaneous definition from the Dictionary of the English Language of 1773;

“We look first to the text of the Constitution. Article I, § 8, cl. 3, states: “The Congress shall  have Power . . . To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several  States, and with the Indian Tribes.” (emphasis added). At the time the Constitution was fashioned, to “regulate” meant, as it does now, “[t]o adjust by rule or method,” as well as  “[t]o direct.” To “direct,” in turn, included “[t]o prescribe certain measure[s]; to mark out a certain course,” and “[t]o order; to command.” In other words, to  “regulate”  can mean to require action, and nothing in the definition appears to limit that power only to those already active in relation to an interstate market. Nor was the term “commerce”  limited to only existing commerce.”

The last line of this extract, again for me is one of the steps too far.  How can you come to the conclusion that the framers in 1787contemplated regulating commerce that was not in existence therefor justifying the argument that you could regulate a non-action? To my simple mind this is word parsing and wordsmithing in the extreme.

The majority go on in their logic strained argument to state that the distinction between interstate and local commerce has been largely eroded and they cite the case U.S. v. Lopez as an example. This case was the “Gun Free School Zones Case” and much of the argument of that case was backward dependent on our old friend Wickard v. Filburn.

Since the concurring majority justices endeavor to find the original meaning and intent of the framers related to the Commerce Clause, perhaps they should weigh if the framers would approve of the federal government, in effect usurping the power of the states by creating national entitlement programs funded by federal tax collections, then using the argument that the lack of purchase of some good or service by the public was inordinately increasing the reliance on these programs and therefore costing the government, and hence the national taxpayers, more money and therefore it was an interstate commerce issue and effectively then subject to total federal control!  I do not see Thomas Jefferson, or even John Adams buying the argument that the Government can voluntarily create a program – that it could also cancel at any time if it got too costly – and then use this argument to claim further encroachment into state and personal rights under the very clauses they constructed to significantly and specifically limit the authority of the federal government and put those un-enumerated powers specifically in the hands of the states.

It should be noted that in this case the Appellants did not argue that Health Care and Health insurance are uniquely state concerns, but this has been argued successfully in other challenges to the PPACA.

Another frightening theory proffered in the majority opinion is based on this quote;

“Appellants’ view that an individual cannot be subject to Commerce Clause regulation absent voluntary, affirmative acts that enter him or her into, or affect, the interstate market expresses a concern for individual liberty that seems more redolent of Due Process Clause arguments. But it has no foundation in the Commerce Clause. The shift to the “substantial effects” doctrine in the early twentieth century recognized the reality that national economic problems are often the result of millions of individuals engaging in behavior that, in isolation, is seemingly unrelated to interstate commerce. See Lopez, 514 U.S. at 555-56.”

Once again this is predominately based on the original Wickard ruling and its extension under Lopez.  If it stays true and the opinion as proffered by the majority stands, there is nothing that stops federal intervention in anything we do or do not do.  I suppose they could argue that they can force us to drink alcohol to excess, then to drive – so the police can stop us, give us tickets, charge us with DUI, pay fines, take remedial classes, and then pay to retake a drivers test because in each case it was stimulating a national economy or it was helping defer the costs of dealing with the problems that were being born by the government, hence the taxpayer, hence it is all an interstate commerce issue under the Commerce Clause. And if we refuse to drink and drive, by extension we are not consuming the services in the interstate market and therefore affecting the prices of those goods and services and the resulting loss of market will cause an increase in the subsidies to those industries by the government, hence a drain on the taxpayer, hence interstate commerce and therefore properly regulated under the Commerce Clause.

My Conclusion

I think that the underlying case law here starting with Wickard v. Filburn, through U.S. v Lopez and other Commerce Clause related rulings dependent on Wickard up to today need to be reviewed.  I doubt this will happen absent a constitutional congress and an amendment to affect the vagaries purposely attributed by the Judicial Branch as justifications to expand federal reach.

I think that we need to focus our arguments in three additional areas:

  1. That health care, and the provision of services thereof, is and are not an interstate market system nor should they be.
  2. Someone needs to raise the constitutional question if the federal government can create programs that effect national markets and then use that effect to justify expanded reach under the Constitution.  If the answer to this is affirmative then this could be the biggest slippery slope of all.
  3. Was the ruling in Wickard v. Filburn correct?  And If not how can this ruling be challenged outside of the question of the Insurance Purchase Mandate.

Like everything else, I want you to ask your own questions and not rely on my opinions?  I do not know that I am correct.  What I do know is I have to read these things myself and attempt to understand them and then do what I think is right.  In effect, I need to be a Mugwump.

FIX THE ECONOMY NOW, but don’t touch mine: Too late its already gone!

Shrinking Dollar

A Sorry State

We, America, are in a sorry state. This appears, on the surface, to be something with which most people agree. But the surface can be quite deceiving. Pierce the flesh of America’s electoral body and you start to see massive disagreement as to what is needed. Most importantly, and currently very concerning, is that everyone feels the solution involves steps to be taken by the other guys – you know, those who are not in OUR group! You know – The O T H E R guys; the non-white, non-black, non-Hispanic, non-immigrant, non-migrant, non-middle class, non-union, non-civil servant, non-farmer, non-medical professional, non-patient, non-majority, non-minority, non-lawyer, non-judiciary, non-legislative, non-administrative, non-professional, non-politician, non-unemployed, non-under-employed, non-employed, non-disabled, non-enabled, non-educated, non-uneducated, non-tolerant, non-intolerant, non-poor, non-rich, non-government, non-private sector… you know the Other Guys! – The ones whose fault all this is!!!

You know – everyone other than us! All those (whispered) other people, who have (caused the problem) (profited at our expense) (stolen our money) (spent too much) (worked too little) (think they are smarter than us) (are uneducated and lazy) (expect too much) (do too little) Circle the correct answer(s).

Also disturbing is that we are allowing our professional political class to drive, not only our debate, but out thinking as well. All you need to do is read the news and you will be fed the continuous supply of sound bite, talking points so you yourself can help frame what needs to be done to make the OTHER guys do their fair share. And of course, these talking points – these would be mantras for us to recite each day ad infinitum until they become ingrained in our psyche and we think nothing else – are not just in conflict with each other, they are diabolically and diametrically opposed. They are crafted to foment the most discontent and the most innate conflict. This is what our political process has become. Led my our professional political class; stirring up a minority to a feverish pitch so the bulk of the country will become afraid, or simply exhausted and in the end capitulate with what ever patch, or band-aid, the politicians decide to apply.

Community activists know that the way you get big gains for minority positions is to frighten or exhaust the bulk of the population. You see activists understand that most people don’t really care about much beyond their own day to day lives and basic existence. They know that when the average person feels threatened, or if the story gets annoying and tiresome – in the end they will just want their leaders to make it go away. They just don’t want to hear it anymore! This process is not about the right solution – it is about any solution that delivers me peacefully back to my mythical happy life. And you know what? It has worked every single time! It is all predicated on the right rhetoric -the right mantras.

The Current Mantras

  • We need to cut pensions costs We need better retirement benefits
  • We need higher wages We need lower manufacturing costs
  • We need more high paying jobs We need more labor jobs
  • We need universal health care We need low cost health care We need more free health care
  • We need to help people keep their homes We need to have the market sort itself out
  • We need to lower health insurance cost We need better insurance benefits
  • We need to stimulate the housing market We need the banks to lend more
  • We need to raise housing prices We need more affordable housing
  • We need more money We need less federal debt
  • We need more social assistance programs We need to lower government debt
  • We need a higher minimum wage We need competitive prices
  • We need to eliminate illegal immigration We need more cheap labor
  • We need to get the top 1% to pay more We need the top 1% to spend more
  • We need to lower government spending We need more government spending
  • We need more charitable giving we need to raise taxes and eliminate charitable deductions
  • The poor are getting poorer The rich are getting richer
  • The middle class is suffering We all need to sacrifice

Debunking the Myths

Most of the mantras in the list imply that fixing or making a change in one of these areas will repair what is wrong and remand us once again to the peaceful day-to-day happiness (even if it is just an illusion) that we all desire. While, depending on your personal political profile of course, all of these mantras appear reasonable, there is one underlying problem with each and every one of them. There is a set of fundamental myths that needs to be debunked. In debunking these myths, we give rise to the lies that are inherent in these supposed solutions.

To understand these fundamental myths we need to take a look at some assumptions.

Assumption 1

The poor are getting poorer! Who are the poor? We often use the term under-served, interchangeably with the term poor. Historically, we really have not wanted to clearly define the poor for a whole host of reasons. Defining a problem, or a segment of a problem, is not politically attractive. Well defined problems either yield impossible solutions, or easy solutions, and make it difficult for redefinition on the fly without political consequence. For a family to be described as poor and eligible for social programs the must fall within the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or some multiple of the FPL.

The FPL for a family of four for the year 2011 ranges from $22,350 in the 48 contiguous states, to $25,710 in Hawaii and $27,940 in Alaska. Seems simple enough doesn’t it? well like most things governmental, its really not. So if the poor are those who earn less than, lets say $25,000 to keep it simple, than all aid for the poor would be for this group of people. About 18.79% of the U.S. population earned less than the FPL in 2010. This equates to about 58,332,000 people. But the provision of social programs is not targeted just at the poor. They are in fact often predicate on 200%, 300% even 350% of FPL for eligibility for some state and federal program eligibility. So most programs eligibility starts at $50,000.00 in income to as much as $85,000 in some cases. This in turn equates to almost 79.8% of the population according to the latest census data.

Now in reality, not all of the population draw programs support at 350% of the FPL. Only a smaller amount of programs offer eligibility at that level. The number today falls at about 50% of the population of the U.S. is eligible for federal and state program subsidies and currently takes advantage of these programs. Either alarming, or relieving, depending on your point of view, this 50% is getting slightly more than 1/2 of their annual income from programs and/or subsidies provided by the federal government. 84.1 million people (27.1% of the population) earned under $50,000 per year (200% of FPL). Together they earned in aggregate $1,591,640,000 of the U.S. total personal income economy of $4.915 trillion in 2009 – about 32%. So 32% of the money earned went to the lower 27% of the population and about 1/2 of their earnings came from money paid directly or indirectly by the federal government that came from taxes paid by the rest of the tax payers.

The biggest assumption of all with this segment of the population is that they are suffering more than they have in the past. While it is true the poor in America earn significantly less than much of the rest of the population, they also have the largest amount of eligibility for programs to offset what they don’t or won’t earn. In realty, while they earn less in real income, they have at least as much if not more in discretionary spending income because few if any of their needs go unmet. They receive a wide availability of care options, both Medicare, Medicaid and state based, as well as other federal and state programs for housing, mental health, addiction, job counseling and training, as well as numerous faith based and institutional charity programs as well as philanthropic programs. This is not to say it is pleasant to be poor. Simply to point out that the “poor” have a large array of services that are making up for what they actually do or do not earn. It is better to be poor in America than in much of the rest of the world.

Assumption 2

The Poor are the Under-served, is the core of assumption number 2. Anyone who has spent time working or volunteering in the areas of public health will quickly tell you that the under-served are not the poor we classically think of. The poor in America, as we discussed in the last assumption, are neither under-served, nor are they un-served. The bulk of the under-served are people earning between $50,000 and $110,000 per year. They have jobs, pay some taxes, send their kids to school, pay their rent sometimes late, or have a home, likely upside down in equity, and perhaps bordering on, or in default. Historically, they are two person family earners, and one of them has recently lost their job, increasingly one of their adult children is still living at home and has earnings insufficient to support independence, are still on their parents insurance, and one of the family members has a chronic illness.

The under-served are “working poor.” They don’t make enough to pay for all that they need and want. They make, or have made short term decisions regarding purchases, vacations, and or investments, that have come back to haunt them. If they have a chronic illness, they are making weekly, sometimes daily decisions between the proper treatment, or medication, and food, education, housing or clothing for their family. Often, health related costs are playing second priority, as a result their illness is getting worse, or in the worst case scenario, the untreated disease, bacteriological or virus infection is not becoming more resistant to the medication due to improper treatment levels – a potential public health hazard.

The under-served in America are squarely in the middle class. There is typically only one small incidental difference between basic prosperity and tragedy. A loss of one income, a chronic illness, a catastrophic accident, an unplanned pregnancy in inopportune bit of extravagance. Even without one of these incidental differences, the middle class are finding they have less and less discretionary income. More and more, even with raises, company healthcare, bonuses and perks, they just have not been getting ahead. They are earning more but are also more and more at risk.

The 29.6 million (about 9.55% of the population) under-served (a majority of the middle class) earned a total of $2.282 trillion (46.4%) of the personal income in the U.S. They earn on average $76,650.00 per year.

Assumption 2 is one of the main tell-tails to one of the major fundamental problems that if we do not come to grips with, will be the undoing of our economy, society, and ourselves.

Assumption 3

The rich are getting richer on the back of the middle class and the poor. Said another way the 1% are taking, through inappropriate or ill-gotten means, what is rightfully the 99%’s. Clearly the rich have taken in much more cash in the past 40 years. But when you look at the percentages they have gained it is not really a significant difference, as a percentage, than in previous years. But first let’s take a look at the top 1% and find out how they stack up against the rest of the population. The top 1% (about 3.9 million people) earn on average 275,000 per year. The total combined earnings for the top 1% equals $850 billion per year or about 16.5% of the combined total. Conversely the 99% earned a total of $4.103 trillion or about 83.5% of the combined earnings.

Clearly there is disparity, but I was surprised to see that the disparity was not quite as large as I expected it to be given the rhetoric. As Dianna Dooley, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services for the State of California, said in one of her first public meetings after assuming office in 2011, “We all need to understand that disparity will exist.” Ms. Dooley was making the point that we cannot legislate away disparity. Disparity does not exist simply because of ill treatment or lack of opportunity. Sometimes disparity exists because people have made choices to not do certain things, not work, not get an education, not apply for available services. What percentage of the U.S. population does this characteristic apply to? It is had to say statistically because the census data does not measure motivations. We can use some numbers from a Thompson Reuters report in 2009 on the national health cares spend and we will find that about 20% of the monies spent go to people that have made such choices. I can’t say whether or not this is a valid measure for the economy as a whole. If I had to hazard a guess based on my life’s observations, I would think this is a reasonable estimate.

It does not seem to hold true that the rich are statistically getting richer, nor are the poor getting poorer. Both segments are getting more and more currency each year. The problem is not the amount of money they are receiving it is in the real value of the money they have. This is another clue as to the major fundamental problem, we will discuss shortly.

Assumption 4

We have had up until recently a vibrant economy, America has been very prosperous, and if not for the actions of this political party or their policy (depending on your political affiliations it is always the other party and their policies), all would be just fine. Said another way, when so-and-so was the President (again, depending on your political affiliations it is always the other party and their policies) everything was just fine!

In my last article Republicans & Democrats: Division destroys WE, I outlined a series of events since 1935 that have had major impacts on the current state of our economy. It was not meant to be all inclusive. In fact, I have heard from a number of readers who have suggested numerous other events, legislation, decisions, policies and actions that they also feel should be included. I prepared this article to point out that it was not one parties policies that have brought us to the precipice. It has been both parties. In effect it has been us, our decisions, our demands for more of this and that, and it has been our willingness to accept a gradual migration from the citizen politician, envisioned by or founding fathers to a professional political class whose rule we embrace today.

Those of us who learned American history after 1937 have been indoctrinated with the belief of “American Exceptional-ism.” As President Franklin Roosevelt prepared America to enter the war he needed to break the back of the isolationist tendencies we have developed after WWI. Part of the method to do this was building pride, patriotism and the belief that America was innately exceptional. As a result the history that was taught after 1937 was quite different from the history we would have learned before. I have advocated in earlier articles using Google Books, and searching for history tomes written before 1900. There as I was writing, “The History and Evolution of Health Care in America” I found a very different recollection of America than the one I carried in my head.

America has had a long history of economic trials and tribulations. Almost immediately upon the signing of the armistice at the end of the American revolution, the United States went from waging physical war to suffering under an economic war waged by England, France, Germany and other European nations and banking interests. By 1800 the American dollar had dropped to worth about 48 cents. It was the War of 1812 and our decisions to temporarily drop the international gold standard that allowed us at the end of the war to reset the dollars value when we went back on this standard. We dropped out of the gold standard a number of times based on the excuse of War all the way through World War I.

The first time we did not drop off the gold standard as a result of war was World War II when the Federal Reserve refused Presidents Roosevelt request to do so. FDR’s first request came at the beginning of the depression and also was refused. Some economists believe this single action is what caused the great depression, others simply believe it increased the severity. As a quick note, it was not the the Stock Market Crash of 1929 that caused the depression but the great dust bowl and drought. The stock market had recovered much of its losses within 4 months. Once again our history, post 1937 often seems to not reflect the realities of the past.

If we go back and take a good look at our real history, with the exception of the benefit we gained from the massive amount of gold reserves we accumulated during World War II, the real source of our prosperity into the mid 1960’s, America’s economy has not been as stellar a performer as we have been lead to believe.

The Dirty Truth

There is a fundamental problem with our economy. It is truly fundamental in every sense of the word. And although is not “Fun” you are guaranteed to feel both brain dead “Duh” and “Mental” if you try to understand it.

We believe that we have had a robust and growing economy though most of our lives. Even at the current limits of human life span most of Americans were born after 1928. Most of us have come of age after World War II. And almost all of us working today were born after 1950. We have for the most part lived through what we believe is the hay-day of America’s economic history. And our perception is false!

While we had significant prosperity after World War II, it was largely the result of the cash and carry policies that FDR put in place with western Europe for the sale of war materials by America. FDR enacted two major policies; lend-lease, and cash and carry. Under Cash and Carry, much of what we sold to the allies was paid for in gold. By the end of the war America held in Fort Knox a majority of the gold in the world. I have seen estimates of as high as 82% of the world’s gold. After the war and as we moved into the 1950s America was booming and we had a large amount of room to expand the amount of currency in circulation since we had most of the gold. But by the 1960s, our policy of allowing other countries to redeem U.S. Dollars in gold had seen our reserves significantly depleted as most of our Allies, England, France and Germany had systematically redeemed their dollars for our gold. By the mid 60s we again were having problems maintaining enough currency to support the perception of our growing economy.

By 1972 President Nixon had a cash problem. We did not have enough currency in circulation for the government to continue to pay its bills, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as pay for the war in Vietnam, and the ongoing cost of the cold war with the soviets. As a result, the Federal Reserve advised the President to remove the American Dollar from the gold standard. In doing so we gained the ability to create more currency to fund the cash needs of the government and the nation. But, there was still a problem.

While the elimination of the gold standard, did free the economy from the physical limits of the gold standard, it did not free the banks, where new currency, actually is created, from the limitations of the fractional reserve banking system. Banks under our form of banking can create ten dollars of currency for every dollar of assets (or debt) they have of record. While this was far better than the practical physical limit we had on the gold standard, the growth of debt by the government and obligations under federal programs, defense, logistics and entitlements were growing much faster than the asset base. Debt, the other method to grow the amount of currency became the main method.

Money Supply vs Trade Imbalance and Federal Spending

In 1972, America had, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve Banks, about $500 billion of currency in circulation. Currency, prior to this period had grown on a fairly steady low growth rate from the $73.7 billion in circulation in 1940. While the rate of new money in circulation increased from 1940 to 1972 increased over the prior years the growth was still predicated on the tie back to the gold standard and as such most of the growth was real in relation to the bulk of the world currency and tied directly to the asset base of the U.S. In other words it was mostly real economic growth.

From right after 1972 to about 1986 the growth in currency supply was driven by increases in credit card debt and the ability of the Federal Reserve and banks to leverage that debt growth with new money at the rate of ten to one. You will also see from the above chart that we were steadily increasing both federal spending and accumulating losses due to the ongoing trade imbalance. The main restriction on the growth of new money was the fact that the bulk of the main debt in the U.S. (mortgage debt) was in the hands of S&Ls and other non-banks. You can see from the chart as the S&L’s failed as a result of the changes in rules for realizing asset values, like the mark to market rules, and the banks gained control of these mortgages – and the underlying ability to leverage them at ten to one, much more currency came into existence. Of course as the currency materializes the federal spending increases as well. By the time we get to 2010 we have increased the amount of currency from the meager $500 billion in circulation in 1927 to over $15 trillion in 2009, a thirty times increase. One simply needs to ask themselves did we really increase the values of all the assets of the U.S. thirty times since 1972? I don’t see how!

And of course by 2009 we have also accumulated a combined debt based on federal spending and the steadily accumulating trade deficit of over $11 trillion. Even harder to imagine a thirty-fold gain in relative net worth of America isn’t it?

So where did this new money go?

As I discussed in a previous article entitled, President Obama’s Speech: Critical Question Continued, this new money was disproportionately spent in the areas of federal program spending and housing costs. The effect this has had on our economy has been catastrophic. If you look at the chart in the prior section, the amount of spending has almost equaled the new money created. An interesting statistical note is if you look at a simple projection of what our economy would be today if we had stayed on the Gold Standard it would be about a $5 1/2 trillion economy instead of $15 trillion or more as we currently see it. This could just be a statistical coincidence, I will leave it to the professional economists to explain this – although when they do I seldom trust them.

So one of the fundamental problems is that our economy is simply not worth the paper we have printed to count it. We have significantly overvalued our economy, alnong with much of the rest of western Europe. If everyone in the world did this the same way it would be irrelevant. But China and Russia, among a few smaller others, have not banked this way. While we like to complain that China is “manipulating their currency” the truth is they simply are allowing their currency to stand at its value and are not increasing the amount of their currency and thereby artificially inflating salaries or benefits in the country. As a result, China, and many others cost significantly less to make stuff for the rest of the world.

You see what we have been lead to believe about our prosperity over the past 30 years has been an artifice, a mere contrivance. While we have all felt like we were getting richer, and our elected officials have been telling us to spend more, and borrow more on credit, and how we should all buy houses. The reality is what they were doing is getting us to go further and further into debt to provide fuel to the fire of our own economic destruction. So while our borrowing, spending and mortgage debt allowed them to increase the amount of money in circulation, the new money had no more value. It was all a facade.

This brings me to the current argument of the 99% against the 1%. The reality is, it is not the 1% who have done anything to take the value from the 99%. I think we effectively debunked most of that myth in the prior sections. The real issues effect the middle class the most. The poor and the rich have been effected exactly the same but they have not felt the effect the same as the middle class – the under-served.

The reason the middle-class have been so devastated is a result of the following two points. First, the rich have larger amounts of discretionary monies. These are monies that are not consumed by the cost of basic day to day living. The rich also have more savings and a larger portion of their earnings come from investment. Therefore when the purchasing power of their dollars falls they have a lot more drop to go before the true value falls below this basic day to day cost level, even at their higher costs as a result of more lavish life styles. In other words, they are not taking more they just don’t show the effects because they are not yet felt.

Second, the poor, as we discussed before, get at least half of their income from the federal government, so as the value of the dollar drops, the government is just printing more money and providing more benefits to the poor in America. The source for the spending is only in part taxes. So while it is clear that even if you took 100% of the earnings from the top 1% it would not even put a small dent in the economic issues we face, and taxing the rich politically sounds really good, in the end it is not solving the problem.

Taxes are neither the problem nor the solution. The problem is we have simply created at least twenty times more currency that we have real value in the economy. And as such the middle class, equaling 19.2% of the population, 59.8 million people, are feeling the crunch. Our professional political class, with the best of intentions at every singe step, have gotten them to take on debt they could not afford, buy homes they could not afford, hire employees companies could not afford, pay salaries we cant afford, provide free stuff, that we can afford, and purchase products and services that we can’t afford. They have built a national economic system that is predicated on federal subsidies – through the creation of more valueless dollars – to lull us into a false sense of security.

Americans today, cost too much, spend too much, borrow too much, expect too much and often work and produce too little per capita relative to the rest of the world economy. We speak of creating more jobs, but then we focus them in areas that do not bring our nations strategic value. Yes paying people to fix decaying infrastructure is necessary, but it is not the same creation of new value as when FDR created the WPA in the 1930s. Having an entire nation of college graduates makes us all warm and fuzzy and makes us feel really superior to countries like Mexico, and Singapore, but they have cheap labor and less per capita expense for laborers. As a result their goods cost less and we buy much more than we sell as a nation from these nations.

We make all our companies provide tremendous benefits for being an American employee but these also increase the cost of the development of goods and services and price our products out of the world economic market. We tout our abilities as the innovators of the world, yet the profits from innovation are dwarfed by the profits from the manufacturing of the products we have innovated. And now other countries are surpassing us as innovators. Their education systems are producing superior students because not everyone goes to college. Some are tracked for labor, some skilled labor, and only a few go to college – often American colleges. We have no labor pool to speak of and we have invested way too much in many of those that end up in labor related jobs because we sent them to college only to find there were no jobs for their level of education. Further, there is an argument that we have weakened the quality of an American college education because so much of our dollars are spread across so many.

Yes, overall we are in a very sad state. I am not an economist – just an individual who has asked some questions and tried to find my own answers. Are my answers the right ones? – the only ones? Perhaps not! But for me they have begun a path – so I can draw my own conclusions. I do know this! Until we address some of these fundamental questions, most particularly the big one of our highly inflated economic values, we will continue our decline, and likely will continue to seek solace by letting our professional political class print more money and lull us back to sleep.

It is time to wake up from our 40 year dream of profligate prosperity and face reality. The concept that the other guys need to sacrifice but not me is a false one. The sad part is we already have sacrificed. Our prosperity is already gone. The only thing left is the counting! Oh yea, and class warfare, revolution and destruction if that is what we really want?

What do you want?

Republicans & Democrats: Division destroys WE

This article is in response to a recent letter to the editor in my local paper.  In this letter entitled, ” GOP debt”, the writer makes his point that the U.S. debt is the Republican’s fault – that most of the debt incurred has happened under their watch, as a result of their programs.  He blames the current problems of America and its economy on thirty years of their dominance over Washington DC.  This article is not intended to challenge any of his assertions, or to attack the credibility of any of his arguments.  Fundamentally, it will not make any difference whether or not, he is correct as to who was actually controlling our government during the past 30 years.  The end point would have been the same.

Instead, I think it is time for all of us to take a hard look at a timeline for the past 76 years.  I have assembled a brief one here.  This is not meant to be inclusive of every single event, nor could it, as many would debate the events themselves.  I also have not intended this to try, by the volume or magnitude of events for either side, to lead anyone to the conclusion that one side is more at fault than the other – although I am sure some who read this will still complain of bias and that intent.

WE is us – We the People.  Not Republican, Not Democrat – neither liberal nor conservative.  It is simply WE.  Unless, or until, WE again congregate as one in purpose, we all will lose!

I have simply taken my own personal stroll through history and picked the particular events I felt were important, pivotal, in our long and involved – often entangled process – to arrive at the door of what may be America’s economic collapse.  We are at this doorway as a result of numerous decisions and actions.  We have made many many decisions in this period.  Most of the decisions were originally contemplated to fix contemporaneous problems of the day.  In this time we have developed a nasty habit of enacting short term programs with an intention to replace the programs with other solutions later, only to have the replacement step get lost along the way as we allowed the growth of a professional political class and the virtual elimination of the citizen politician on which the country was founded.

I don’t know if a professional politician is better for us in the long run than a citizen politician.  I can see advantages on either side.  History and the electorate soon will make that determination.  I do believe that at each step, for the most part, the politicians were attempting to fix the problem in a way they thought was best both for the country as a whole, their constituency, and their own re-electability.  While I can idealize a desire for so much more in the decisions of my representative, I must concede and accept the nature of humanity after all in this process.  It becomes my responsibility to elect the best person in support of the best solution. In effect to be a Mugwump.

In the end, it makes little difference.  Until we truly understand the mechanisms and fundamentals of our current situation – and correct them, we will continue to glide through the open door of disaster – slipping at some point into the empty maw of the economic abyss.

A Time-Line of Key Events

  • 1935: Social Security Act – Franklin Roosevelt (D)
  • 1965: Extension to Social Security Act (Medicare & Medicaid) – Lyndon Johnson (D)
  • 1972: Elimination of the Gold Standard – Richard Nixon (R)
  • 1974: Equal Credit Opportunity Act – Stimulates credit purchases – Gerald Ford (R)
  • 1977: Community Reinvestment Act – Jimmy Carter (D)
  • 1980: Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act – Jimmy Carter (D)
  • 1981: Initial Application of the Mark to Market Rule – Ronald Regan (R)
  • 1985: Home State Savings Bank begins to fail – Ronald Regan (R)
  • 1986: Tax Reform Act – Ronald Regan (R)
  • 1995: End of S&L Collapse – Assets sold to Banks – RTC cost $87.9 Billion – Bill Clinton (D)
  • 1995: National Homeownership Strategy Announced – Bill Clinton (D)
  • 1999: Fannie Mae eases the credit requirements to encourage banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is not good enough to qualify for conventional loans.
    The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act repeals the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 – Bill Clinton (D)
  • 2000: Lenders originating $160 billion worth of subprime, up from $40 billion in 1994. Fannie Mae buys $600 million of subprime mortgages, primarily on a flow basis. Freddie Mac, in that same year, purchases $18.6 billion worth of subprime loans, mostly Alt A and A- mortgages. Freddie Mac guarantees another $7.7 billion worth of subprime mortgages in structured transactions.
    Credit Suisse develops the first mortgage-backed Derivative (CDO).
    Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 declares credit default swaps (and other derivatives) to be unregulated, banning the SEC, Fed, CTFC, state insurance companies, and others from meaningful oversight. – Bill Clinton (D)
  • 2003: Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan lowers Federal Reserve’s key interest rate to 1%, the lowest in 45 years – George W. Bush (R)
  • 2008: Global Financial Crisis Begins – Feds Take over Fannie Mae Freddie Mac and guarantee $6trillion of mortgages, Fed Reserve Lends $85 Billion to AIG, $700 Billion TARP Program goes into effect, Fed lends $1.3 Trillion to companies outside financial sector – $900 Billion loans to banks and buys $540 billion in short term mutual find debt – Fed Loans 133 Billion to foreign banks, Fed pledges $800 Billion more to buy mortgage bonds from Fannie and Freddie – George W. Bush (R)
  • 2009: Fed increases support of AIG by $182.5 Billion, U.S. Government supports various Auto Manufacturers with $34 billion bailout package, Fed Injects approximately $2 trillion into the economy in new currency under term Quantitative Easing. – Barack Obama (D)
  • 2010: Federal Reserve continues injecting money into market under quantitative easing of $1.5 trillion, Banks begin to repay Govt. Loans, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is passed – Barack Obama (D)

Whats The Point

When I was contemplating writing this article, I had thought I would explain the relevance of each of the events I have listed.  In the end, I decided it is not up to me to tell you what to think.  It is your right, your privilege, and your obligation to find that out for yourself.  Should any of you wish to ask my opinion, or to tell me what you think, you may feel free to post in the comment section.  I will tell you my thoughts and conclusions and of course listen to your point of view.  Perhaps along with the others who read here we can continue to refine and get closer to a solution – get closer to WE.

The aforementioned timeline is by no means each and every issue that has drawn us into the potential collapse of our economy that we face today.  What is evident from even this brief review, is that the bad decisions were all short term fixes to solve contemporaneous imminent problems of the day – they span all parties and administrations.

My Conclusion

Our economic problems are neither Republican nor Democrat, they are only American.  We have done this to ourselves.  Only if we are united in this purpose, can truly fix them!

My Request of You

I ask each of you, who are kind enough to read my writings, to please circulate this to others if you feel it is valuable.  I believe we can all make a difference if we come together.  I know I can’t do it alone.  I ask you, my readers, to help at least get others to consider that there is something here bigger than ourselves and our politics.

America Awakens: 1905 the beginning of the end for patent medicines.

America’s Great Awakening!

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
– John Donne

Adams vs. Cheney: The end of the patent medicine era

I find Donne’s quote very interesting – applicable to the work – the ultimate effect of which, Samuel Hopkins Adams had on the issue of quack medicine and the ill effects of patent medicine manufacturers and their nostrums. Prior to Adams revealing series, the Proprietary Association – the cartel of patent medicine manufacturers – was one of the most powerful cartels in America.  While today we think of the Sherman Act of 1890 as an anti-trust act targeting companies like Standard Oil, one of the primary objectives of this legislation was the Proprietary Association.  As a testament to their power, the first use of the Sherman Act did not occur for ten years after its passing and then it was in the Miles vs. Park case.  In this case, Miles, was Dr. Miles founder of what we now know as Miles Laboratories.  Even with this, and other legislation the power of the Proprietary Association was so great nothing changed.  Even the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, did little to diminish the sale of their noxious and often deadly elixirs.

The Proprietary Association controlled most of the newspapers of the day.  It was the rise of the periodical magazine that began to provide a voice free of the censorship of the Association to people like Adams that provided the vehicle of change.  And it took the courage of Adams, and others like him to report the truth that began to wake up the country, particularly the women of America, to the dangers of their medications.

What clearly spurred Adams on were his feelings of diminishment for the death of the people these nostrums had killed.  His investigations led to the discovery of various business practices, by and large unregulated at the time of inception, and the link between these various practices and their monopolistic power.  Adams exposed how the Proprietary Association was controlling its members, the resellers of the products, the distributors, state legislators, congressional legislation and ultimately the newspapers that the public was supposed to be relying on to keep commerce honest.  In the end, his series of seven articles was prophetic as they brought the public out of its stupor, both figuratively and literally.  In the words of Donne, Adams told the patent medicine men, “the bell tolls for thee!” and it surely did.

In October 7, 1905, Collier’s Weekly began printing a series of articles by Adams.  The series contained “A full explanation and exposure of patent medicine methods and the harm done to the public by this industry, founded mainly on fraud and poison. Results of the publicity given to these methods can be already seen in the steps recently taken by the National Government, some State Governments, and a few of the more reputable newspapers. The object of the series is to make the situation so familiar and thoroughly understood that there will be a speedy end to the worst aspects of the evil.” (Note: Read the reprinted version entitled The Great American Fraud available through Google Books.)

 The Red Clause

Cheney's Main Product

There were a significant number of revelations by Adams. He exposed the nature of what most of the formulations were made of.  He showed how they were based on the simple premise of addiction.  He illustrated the danger of these drugs and the hypocrisy of many who defended them.  He established clear connections between the various members of the cartel and showed how they conspired to maintain their control over the buying public.  Perhaps most importantly he disclosed the “legal” business practices that the cartel used to control the supposed “watchdogs” for the public good – the newspapers via the Red Clause.

Adams printed statements by Frank J. Cheney, the manufacturer of one of the most popular patent medicines of the day – Hall’s Catarrh Cure. Cheney was also one of the most powerful and successful of the nostrum purveyors.  Mr. Cheney, then president of the Proprietary Association, in addressing his fellow members as president at their annual meeting in 1899, made the following comment:

“We have had a good deal of difficulty in the last few years with the different legislatures of the different States…..I believe I have a plan whereby we will have no difficulty whatever with these people. I’ve used it in my business for two years and know it is a practical thing….I, inside of the last two years, have made contracts with between fifteen and sixteen thousand newspapers, and never had but one man refuse to sign the contract, and by saying to him that I could not sign a contract without this clause in it, he readily signed it….this is what I have had in every contract I make: ‘It is hereby agreed that should your State, or the United States Government, pass any law that would interfere with or restrict the sale of proprietary medicines, this contract shall become void….’ in the State of Illinois a few years ago they wanted to assess me $300.00. I thought I had a better plan than this, so I wrote to about forty papers and merely said: ‘Please look at your contract with me and take note that if this law passes you and I must stop doing business, and my contracts cease.’ The next week every one of them had an article….”

At the same meeting Dr. Frederick K. Humphries the maker of Pond’s Healing Cream (relabeled as Pond’s Cold Cream the product is still around today – but no longer healing) told the association that of “The twenty thousand newspapers of the United States make more money from advertising the proprietary medicines than do the proprietors of the medicines themselves….of their receipts (the manufacturers), one-third to one-half goes for advertising.”  Mr. Cheney further opined that the annual figure paid to newspapers in the U.S. exceeded twenty million dollars equating to more than one thousand dollars to each newspaper – a hefty sum in those days.  Cheney stated that he had contracts with over 14,000 newspapers at the time.  Finally, adding an almost sinister air, the record shows the Dr. Humphreys states,

“Will it not be now just as well to act on this, each and every one for himself instead of putting this on record?….I think the idea is a good one but really don’t think it had better go in our proceedings.”

Clearly intending they wanted to keep this secret.

Some revealing quotes and sections from Adams’ articles provide a very good idea how profound this series was.

The Following are some excerpted quotes from “The Great American Fraud”

Testimonial of a reader

The proprietor of a drug store in San Jose, Cal., writes to Collier’s as follows:

“I have a good customer, a married woman with five children, all under 10 years of age. When her last baby was born, about a year ago, the first thing she did was to order a bottle of Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, and every week another bottle was bought at first, until now a bottle is bought every third day. Why? Because the baby has become habituated to the drug. I am not well enough acquainted with the family to be able to say that the weaned children show any present abnormality of health due to the opium contained in the drug, but the after-effects of opium have been thus described.

Another instance, quite as startling, was that of a mother who gave large quantities of soothing syrup to two of her children in infancy; then, becoming convinced of its danger, abandoned its use. These children in middle life became neurotics, spirit and drug-takers. Three children born later and not given any drugs in early life grew up strong and healthy.

“I fear the children of the woman in question will all suffer for their mother’s ignorance, or worse, in later life, and have tried to do my duty by sending word to the mother of the harmful nature of the stuff, but without effect.

“P. S. How many neurotics, fiends and criminals may not ‘Mrs. Winslow’ be sponsor for?”

Adams comment on the
effect on the populace

Restrict the drug by the same safeguards when sold under a lying pretense as when it flies its true colors. Then, and then only, will our laws prevent the shameful trade that stupefies helpless babies and makes criminals of our voting men and harlots of our young women.

Adams quote on the responsibility
of the newspaper owners

Every intelligent newspaper publisher knows that the testimonials which he publishes are as deceptive as the advertising claims are false. Yet he salves his conscience with the fallacy that the moral responsibility is on the advertiser and the testimonial-giver. So it is, but the newspaper shares it. When an aroused public sentiment shall make our public men ashamed to lend themselves to this charlatanry, and shall enforce on the profession of journalism those standards of decency in the field of medical advertising which apply to other advertisers, the Proprietary Association of America will face a crisis more perilous than any threatened legislation. For printers’ ink is the very life-blood of the noxious trade.  Take from the nostrum vendors the means by which they influence the millions, and there will pass to the limbo of pricked bubbles a fraud whose flagrancy and impudence are of minor import compared to the cold-hearted greed with which it grinds out its profits from the sufferings of duped and eternally hopeful ignorance.

While Collier’s and Adams’ articles were not the first ones to raise the issue they were the ones that triggered the final effect.  The AMA had been distancing themselves from the Proprietary Association and patent medicines in the few previous years, yet their exposes and articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) did not have much effect since they were not widely read by the public. For a long time, JAMA was running ads for the very same patent medicines which made many physicians skeptical.

While the AMA had set up a committee to test the efficacy of the nostrums on the market, many physicians observed the medications that JAMA found as being ineffective were those from manufacturers that were not purchasing advertising space in JAMA.  Adams’ articles reached the broad public, and more importantly the women who were gaining power as a result of the Progressive Movement – Susan B. Anthony, and suffrage in particular – and it was this factor in conjunction with the legislative efforts that finally made the difference.  The bell had finally tolled – and loud enough so that the public had finally heard it.

Final Point

While Colliers and Adams had clearly rung the bell – the Proprietary Association also clearly still controlled the newspapers.  An article, written by Joel Blanc, appeared in 1905 written for the “Practical Druggist” periodical with the offensive title “The Niggers in the Wood Pile.” Like many others of the day, Mr. Blanc made a mighty attempt to play down the whole problem of the rising tide of concern about addiction and the problems with patent medicines.  They deemed it a big misunderstanding.  He further asserts the audacious stance of blaming the public’s concern against danger, injury and death as the responsibility of the true “fiends who are abusing these harmless medications.”  The title of the article was not simply an interesting pejorative of the day.  It was a part of an orchestrated campaign by the Proprietary Association to lay the problem caused by the “fiends” directly at the feet of freed slaves who he asserted were the true addicts.  While Mr. Blanc did not refer directly to the race excuse, other than in the title, he used this type of attack to attribute the problem to the lower class and disenfranchised.  The Proprietary Association and the targeting of minorities of any related issues had a long history in the patent medicine trade.  During this period, the blame not directed to simply the poor classes, it was now seen repeatedly in newspaper articles, often in the south, where it began to attribute the concern to rising violence and rape of “white” women by addicted “Negros” or in the West as an expected outcome due to the unscrupulous nature of “China-men.”  While society rejects this type of invective today, race based execration was all too common in this country’s sad history during this period which directly contributed to the distrust and disaffection between the races for many years.

Again I ask, if you enjoy this article, please comment!  A word or two makes it all worth while! – Tom

Pharmaceuticals in America: The Life and Death of a Patent Medicine King (1833 – 1960)

The Life and Death of a Patent Medicine King – Dr. Morse’s Indian Root Pills

There are those that believe the heyday of the Patent Medicine Men was over by 1930.  Still others believe that many of the leopards simply changed their spots. It is true that some of the original “cure-alls” live on today in various consumer products like Dr. Meyer’s

Original Brand of Pond's Cold Cream

Compound Extract of Tomato (now Catchup), Ponds Extracts (now Ponds Cold Cream,) Horehound Drops, Coca-Cola, Hires Root Beer, Dr. Pepper, 7-Up (originally called Lithiated Bib-Soda,) Listerine (at various times marketed as a floor cleaner, surgical antiseptic, cure for gonorrhea, and then successfully as cure for Halitosis(bad breath), and the Common Cold,) Halls Catarrh Cure (later Hall’s cough drops,) and many many others.  Further many of the companies, abandoned their “patent medicines” in favor of the new class of “ethical” pharmaceuticals that arose after the pure food and drug act of 1906. Even more damaging than the laws enacted by congress, were a series of articles in Colliers Weekly by Samuel Hopkins Adams that awoke America to the problems of these often deadly, always worthless concoctions that America was imbibing.

Many of the original members of the Proprietary Association, the rulers of the patent medicine kingdom, have disappeared from the pages of history.  That is not to say they do not still exist.  In fact, many of the major “Big Pharma” companies got their start in the heyday of Patent Medicines. If they did not produce patent medicines themselves – and few failed to capitalize on this lucrative trade from the mid 1800s through the 1930s – they provided raw materials to the purveyors of these noxious nostrums who made up a large portion of their incomes back in the day. It is no wonder that most of the major pharmaceutical manufacturers have purged their history of any mention of this era or these products.  The information is still there if you want to find it but it takes some serious digging.  Some great source for those so inclined, are the old periodicals available for free on Google Books.

Today, we fail to understand the lasting impact that this period and these manufacturers have had on our national psyche and our health care system today.  We have both many laws and numerous business practices that got their start either to help foster the sales of patent medicines or to curtail the influence of the Proprietary Association.  My book, “The History and Evolution of Health Care in America” among other things, explores in some detail the rise of this industry and its deleterious legacy on our current health care system.  Along the way I came upon an interesting story of the W.H. Comstock company, manufacturer of Dr. Morse’s Indian Root Pills.  In many ways this was the quintessential patent medicine manufacturer of the period.  The rest of this article will tell you a bit of the fascinating story of the W.H. Comstock company.

In northern New York there is the small, sleepy riverside town of Morristown.  Organized in 1871, few visitors even today to this picturesque location on the banks of the St. Lawrence River would suspect that it was home for over a century to one of the most famous and infamous purveyors of patent medicines of the late 19th and 20th centuries:  the W.H. Comstock factory, better known as the manufacturer of Dr. Morse’s Indian Root Pills.

Morristown was a quiet backwater before the Comstock brothers relocated their operations the 280 miles from New York City in 1867.  They moved, in part, to jettison some of their notoriety for a series of lawsuits between the family members in the business and many others in New York City.  Conversely, the village was a sleepy rural town whose main focus was dairy farming.  Lacking a powerful water flow at this part of the St. Lawrence it did not become a big haven for mills.  It did, however, at one point or another, develop a grist, carding and saw mill.  It was the arrival of the Comstock operation that spurred a significant period of growth in the town.

William. H Comstock (circa 1910)

What attracted the Comstock brothers was its isolation, its proximity to Canada, and similarly access to land immediately across the river.  It was also the perfect location for shipping. At the time of the relocation of the W.H. Comstock factory, the railroad was just beginning operations in the area, making travel back and forth to New York simple and convenient.  Comstock not only developed a factory in Morristown but developed a similar operation directly across the river in the Canadian town of Brockville.  It was this dual production and distribution system that helped the Comstock’s become one of the dominant players in the patent medicine game.

Like many in others in the same game, the Comstock’s were hard men in a hard business.  Founded by Edwin Comstock in 1833, along with numerous other brothers and sons their business evolved as a result of a number of questionable and contentious events in its early history.

The Comstock family came from a medical background and many of them were, or had worn the moniker of, physicians in their history.  More interestingly and likely very telling, is that the Comstock family home was in Connecticut only a few miles of the first American patent medicine, Lee’s “Bilious Pills.”  “Bilious Pills” both from Lee and many other imitators found such public and rapid success it certainly also had a profound impact on Edwin’s decision to venture forth in the same line of business.

Clearly, Edwin was not a novice when he established his business in 1833 in New York City.   As then early years progressed he would bring his brother Luscious into the business and also other brothers; Albert Lee, John Carlton, and George Wells.  He later introduced his son William Henry who ultimately succeeded him and who was the Comstock who brought the factory to Morristown.  Like many of the patent medicines of the day none of the Comstock’s products were patented but instead relied on the new trademark laws for protection.  Also like many others, they had numerous unscrupulous counterfeiters – the fakers were often members of their own family.

A great book for those who would like to learn more about the tortured history of the Comstock family along with the development of the patent medicine business might be obtained in the History of the Comstock Patent Medicine Business and Dr. Morse’s Indian Root Pills by Robert B. Shaw. (The book was published in 1916, and still available from Google Books.)

Comstock sold many more products other than the signature Root Pills. In 1854, Comstock & Company – then controlled by Lucius Comstock, listed nearly forty of its own preparations for sale, namely:

  1. Oldridge’s Balm of Columbia
  2. George’s Honduras Sarsaparilla
  3. East India Hair Dye, colors the hair and not the skin
  4. Acoustic Oil, for deafness
  5. Vermifuge
  6. Bartholomew’s Expectorant Syrup
  7. Carlton’s Specific Cure for Ringbone, Spavin and Wind-galls
  8. Dr. Sphon’s Head Ache Remedy
  9. Dr. Connol’s Gonorrhea Mixture
  10. Mother’s Relief
  11. Nipple Salve
  12. Roach and Bed Bug Bane
  13. Spread Plasters
  14. Judson’s Cherry and Lungwort
  15. Azor’s Turkish Balm, for the Toilet and Hair
  16. Carlton’s Condition Powder, for Horses and Cattle
  17. Connel’s Pain Extractor
  18. Western Indian Panaceas
  19. Hunter’s Pulmonary Balsam
  20. Linn’s Pills and Bitters
  21. Oil of Tannin, for Leather
  22. Nerve & Bone Liniment (Hewe’s)
  23. Nerve & Bone Liniment (Comstock’s)
  24. Indian Vegetable Elixir
  25. Hay’s Liniment for Piles
  26. Tooth Ache Drops
  27. Kline Tooth Drops
  28. Carlton’s Nerve and Bone Liniment, for Horses
  29. Condition Powders, for Horses
  30. Pain Killer
  31. Lin’s Spread Plasters
  32. Carlton’s Liniment for the Piles, warranted to cure
  33. Dr. Mc Nair’s Acoustic Oil, for Deafness
  34. Dr. Larzetti’s Acoustic Oil, for Deafness
  35. Salt Rheum Cure
  36. Azor’s Turkish Wine
  37. Dr. Larzetti’s Juno Cordial, or Procreative Elixir
  38. British Heave Powders

Because of its diverse inventory, Comstock became one of the major patent medicine companies during this period.  The manufacturer was also one of the pioneers of the Almanac as a sales tool. As Comstock began to develop its product line, the patent-medicine era was entering its golden years.  Robert Shaw states in his book, “Improved transportation, wider circulation of newspapers and periodicals, and cheaper and better bottles all enabled the manufacturers of the proprietary remedies to expand distribution—the enactment and enforcement of federal drug laws was still more than a generation in the future. So patent medicines flourished; in hundreds of cities and villages over the land enterprising self-proclaimed druggists devised a livelihood for themselves by mixing some powders into pills or bottling some secret elixir–normally containing a high alcoholic content or some other habit-forming element–created some kind of a legend about this concoction, and sold the nostrum as the infallible cure for a wide variety of human (and animal) ailments. And many conservative old ladies, each one of them a pillar of the church and an uncompromising foe of liquor, cherished their favorite remedies to provide comfort during the long winter evenings. But of these myriads of patent-medicine manufacturers, only a scant few achieved the size, the recognition, and wide distribution of Dr. Morse’s Indian Root Pills and the other leading Comstock remedies.”

Comstock took the lead as one of the main pioneers of the almanac -a sales brochure phenomenon of the day.  Almanacs were so popular and so mass produced that it was not uncommon for a person to walk into any drugstore and pick up three or four of them.  Some of these publications grew rapidly from just a few pages to over 64 pages by the mid 1800’s.

Stories published in the almanacs of the discovery of these nostrums, and also on the wrappers of the elixirs themselves, provided great reading and were the story-board commercial of their day.    Mr. Shaw relates in his book some examples of such inventive pitches,

Before 1900 the detailed story of the discovery of Dr. Morse’s pills was abridged to a brief summary, and during the 1920s this tale was abandoned altogether, until the end the principal ingredients were identified as natural herbs and roots used as a remedy by the Indians. In more recent years, the character and purpose of Dr. Morse’s pills also changed substantially. As recently as 1918, years after the passage of the Federal Food and Drug Act of 1906, they were still being recommended as a cure for:

  • Biliousness
  • Dyspepsia
  • Constipation
  • Sick Headache
  • Scrofula
  • Kidney Disease
  • Liver Complaint
  • Jaundice
  • Piles
  • Dysentery
  • Colds
  • Boils
  • Malarial Fever
  • Flatulency
  • Foul Breath
  • Eczema
  • Gravel
  • Worms
  • Female Complaints
  • Rheumatism
  • Neuralgia
  • La Grippe
  • Palpitation
  • Nervousness

Further, two entire pages in the almanac were devoted to explaining how, on the authority of “the celebrated Prof. La Roche of Paris,” appendicitis could be cured by the pills without a patient having to resort to the surgeon’s knife.

In another segment from the book, Mr. Shaw relays information mainly directed to the female health problems of the day.

THE GREAT FEMALE MEDICINE the almanac read:

The functional irregularities peculiar to the weaker sex, are invariably corrected without pain or inconvenience by the use of Judson’s Mountain Herb Pills. They are the safest and surest medicine for all the diseases incidental to females of all ages, and more especially so in this climate.

Ladies who wish to enjoy health should always have these Pills. No one who ever uses them once will ever allow herself to be without them. They remove all obstructions, purify the blood and give to the skin that beautiful, clear and healthful look so greatly admired in a beautiful and healthy woman. At certain periods these Pills are an indispensable companion. From one to four should be taken each day, until relief is obtained. A few doses occasionally, will keep the system healthy, and the blood so pure, that diseases cannot enter the body.

Watch any television show, listen to any radio broadcast or read any periodical or newspaper and one of the most prevalent areas of medicinal support will point to the area of sexual dysfunction.  Viagra and Cialis are boldly marketed for the treatment of men’s lack of “libido” or rigor in performance.   Only slightly more discreetly advertised are products for women related to dryness, libido enhancements or other more prurient pursuits.  While we think these issues are a modern connivance they are not. Again Mr. Shaw’s excellent history provides valuable insight to back up this assertion.  It reads:

Over on the Canadian side of the river, where another plant approximately the same size as the Morristown facilities was in operation, the Comstock Company had assimilated the Dr. Howard Medicine Co. Dr. Howard’s leading remedies were his Seven Spices for all Digestive Disorders and the Blood Builder for Brain and Body. The latter, in the form of pills, was prescribed as a positive cure for a wide array of ailments, but like many other patent medicines of the era, it was hinted that it had a particularly beneficial effect upon sexual vitality.

Over on the Canadian side of the river, where another plant approximately the same size as the Morristown facilities was in operation, the Comstock Company had assimilated the Dr. Howard Medicine Co. Dr. Howard’s leading remedies were his Seven Spices for all Digestive Disorders and the Blood Builder for Brain and Body. The latter, in the form of pills, was prescribed as a positive cure for a wide array of ailments, but like many other patent medicines of the era, it was hinted that it had a particularly beneficial effect upon sexual vitality.

They have an especial action (through the blood) upon the SEXUAL ORGANS of both Men and Women. It is a well-recognized fact that upon the healthy activity of the sexual apparatus depend the mental and physical well-being of every person come to adult years. It is that which gives the rosy blush to the cheek, and the soft light to the eye of the maiden. The elastic step, the ringing laugh, and the strong right arm of the youth, own the same mainspring. How soon do irregularities rob the face of color, the eye of brightness!

Everyone knows this. The blood becomes impoverished, the victim PALE. This pallor of the skin is often the outward mark of the trouble within. But to the sufferer there arise a host of symptoms, chiefest among which are loss of physical and nervous energy. Then Dr. Howard’s BLOOD BUILDER steps into the breach and holds the fort. The impoverished Blood is enriched. The shattered nervous forces are restored. Vigor returns. Youth is recalled. Decay routed. The bloom of health again mantles the faded cheek. Improvement follows a few days’ use of the pills; while permanent benefit and cure can only reasonably be expected when sufficient have been taken to enrich the Blood.

Before the Blood Builder pills were taken, all their users were advised to have their bowels thoroughly cleansed by a laxative medicine and, happily, the company also made an excellent preparation for this purpose–Dr. Howard’s Golden Grains. While the good doctor was modern enough–the circular quoted from was printed in the 1890s–to recognize the importance of the healthy activity of the sexual apparatus, such a suggestion should not be carried too far–so we find that the pills were also unrivaled for building up systems shattered by debauchery, excesses, self-abuse or disease. Along with the pills themselves was recommended a somewhat hardy regimen, including fresh air, adequate sleep, avoidance of lascivious thoughts, and bathing the private parts and buttocks twice daily in ice-cold water.

Certainly during the early days of the “Victorian” era these findings did not soften the ardor of the general populace who took to these remedies nor did the nature of these times force subtlety in the description of the cures available.  Today, the main findings we see pushed down our throats, very often literally, are cures for sexual dysfunction, “female problems,” constipation, the common cold or flu, mental stimulation, and my favorite compensating for loss of energy.  If one looks at the advertising for Comstock’s products one will see a historical mirror illustrating the sale of exactly the maladies and remedies for them, sometimes by the use of blunt and bold copy.  Most of the messages were communicated via the almanacs, product wrappers and newspapers. It would not be unlikely for all concerned about the evolution of health care to not wonder how much longer the patent medicine men would have held sway if radio and television had also been mediums to reach the gullible public. But then again, who is to say these purveyors of the quack and addictive have disappeared?

In a final section from the book, Mr. Shaw cites two other main points of interest during this period in which Comstock stands out as a solid illustrative member of the illustrious patent medicine industry; the use of testimonials in advertising its products and the lack of hard money in communities (important later relative to understanding the issues physicians faced in their practice in rural communities).  The use of testimonials was critical in the sale of these nostrums.  The experience of the everyday user was what rung most true to consumers, again just like today.  A great deal of newspaper ink was devoted to the publication of the merits of this nostrum or that elixir.  On rare occasions they showed up as advertisements.  More often than not, they also appeared as articles and letters to an editor.  Mr. Shaw summarizes these issues as follows.

Testimonials submitted voluntarily by happy users of the pills were always widely featured in the almanacs, newspaper adver-tisements, and handbills. Although the easy concoction of the stories about Dr. Morse and Dr. Cunard might suggest that there would have been no hesitation in fabricating these testimonials, it is probable that they were genuine; at least, many have survived in the letters scattered over the floor of the Indian Root Pill factory. In some cases one might feel that the testimonials were lacking in entire good faith, for many of them were submitted by dealers desiring lenient credit or other favors. Witness, for example, the enclosed letter from B. Mollohan of Mt. Pleasant, Webster County, West Va., on April 16, 1879.

Mollohan’s complaint about the shortage of money and the long delay in collecting many accounts reflected a condition that prevailed throughout the nineteenth century. Money was scarce, and the economy of many rural communities was still based largely on the barter system, so that it was very difficult for farmers to generate cash for store goods. Consequently, country storekeepers had to be generous in extending credit, and, in turn, manufacturers and jobbers had to be lenient in enforcing collection.

Contrary to popular perception, and in spite of many government regulations and actions taken by numerous associations to curtail the business of patent medicines, the W.H Comstock enterprise continued to thrive long after World War II.  The company reached its heyday shortly after World War I, but continued to sell many of its nostrums to retailers and distributors until March 31, 1960, when the last shipment of one-dozen boxes of pills was made to Gilman Brothers of Boston and two-dozen boxes to McKesson & Robbins of Mobile, Alabama on April 11 of that year. And with this final consignment – the factory closed its doors, concluding 93 years of continuous operation in the riverside village of Morristown.

In many ways W.H. Comstock is a true representative of the rise and decline of patent medicine manufacturers of the early 20th century.  I use the term decline as opposed to death.  It will be left up to the reader to determine if the patent medicine era has died or if the leopard has simply changed its spots. Later in this section, and in the others that follow, the reader will note that most of the companies are still with us, they have just changed their tactics or abandoned the “medicine” market for what is now referred to as “ethical pharmaceuticals” and/or the consumer product category.  Perhaps as a reader, you may come to the conclusion that “ethical” is a very flexible word when it comes to the acceptance and approval of pharmaceuticals.

After all, it took the FDA almost 100 years (1964) to finally get Warner – Lambert, the maker of Listerine – first formulated in 1879 – to finally stop improperly claiming in its advertizing that it was a cure for the common cold.

Please make a comment below if you like this brief history.  If so, I will be happy to include a few more in the next weeks as we prepare for the release of my new book!

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it! Well do we remember?

Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás 1863 - 1952

The title of this piece, a quote from George Santayana – a Spanish American philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, is a familiar refrain to all.  Most of us have heard this many times throughout our lives.  So much so, that I think many of us choose to ignore it as a tired and hackneyed phrase seemingly irrelevant in our modern and “enlightened” state of mind. Yet, this is one of those ‘old saws’ that continues to cut deeply into our collective bodies when we do fail to remember the lessons of the past. We need no more evidence than both our current economic condition and our political climate that we are in dire need of this lesson.

Yes, in fact we have all seen this before – many times – throughout our history.  Some of it we should know because we supposedly were taught it in school.  Some of it we don’t know because we were not taught it.  As we approached the mid-point of the last century we had a world conflagration and we had a good President that rightly knew he could not get our great nation united to fight yet another war unless we all recognized the exceptional nature of America and its people.  So with the best, temporary, intention we rewrote our history – American Exceptional-ism was born and our nation’s youth gained the will to enter World War II. Like most of FDR’s temporary government measures, this one too became permanent and we still experience both its consequence and benefit today.  One thing we should regret is an accurate view of our great history has been lost – along with the many lessons we should have learned.

If you would like to read some of the historical views of America’s history that were prevalent prior to 1935, Google Books has some reproduced on line.  They are a very interesting read with a significantly different and in come cases contemporaneous perspective as to who we believed our selves to be, what we were aspiring to become and where we honestly were at key points in our own evolution.  Here are some sources I recommend, with links on Google Books:

  1. The History of the United States of America by Henry William Elson: 1904
  2. The History of the United States of America by Henry Adams: 1889
  3. The History of the United States of America by Rev Charles Goodrich: 1823
  4. The History of the United States of America (an 8 volume set) by James Ford Rhodes completed in 1920

Having spent a lot of time reading this history as I was preparing to write, “The History and Evolution of Health Care in America,” I came quickly to realize that people back in the day really did know the key to prosperity and happiness! Although long under siege by both President Roosevelt – who initially stimulated the growth of Unions to foster job creation and later reconsidered his actions – and then President Truman in an attempt to reign in the Unions growing power, even the venerable Unions understood on which side their bread was buttered.

“When anybody preaches dis-unity – tries to pit one of us against the other through class warfare – race hatred or religious intolerance – you know that person seeks to rob us of our freedom and destroy our very lives!

And We Know What to do About Him!

The previous quote takes on a whole new relevance when you realize it was stated in a propaganda cartoon in 1948. Forwarded to me by Pam M., one of my oldest friends, the following cartoon is not only entertaining, it is quite prescient.  I hope you enjoy, “Make Mine Freedom”

Thanks Pam for this entertaining reminder of George Santayana’s very important life lesson!  I think it reinforces our collective need to be Mugwumps!

As always I look forward to your comments below.

Our Professional Political Class: An Island Cannot Rule a Continent!

Abigail and John Adams

Recently, I have been reading, “First Family,” by Joseph J. Ellis.  This book, based largely on the letters between John and Abigail Adams shared throughout their lifetimes from shortly after their first meeting, through the American Revolution and continuing into their later years, is an excellent reminder of the insidious nature of tyranny and the tendency of good men and women to accept the status quo regardless of its inherent hardships.

In one passage, I was reminded of something originally written by Thomas Paine,  writer of “Common Sense.”  I agree with Mr. Ellis who states that “Common Sense, was arguably one of the most influential pieces of journalism in American history.  Mr. Paine wrote:

“An island cannot rule a continent!”

Paine’s quote brought to my mind a question.  Is this not the insidious tyrannical situation that is causing our inherent hardships today?  Not from the island of Britain, and the isolated Parliament and King George III, noted by Paine, but the island of Washington DC and the isolated professional political class residing in less than the ideal temporary residence there.

At the beginning of the difficulties with England, John and Abigail Adams were firmly in the camp that reconciliation was not possible.  At the beginning of the first continental congress, John knew that their views were in the minority and considered radical by many of the other delegates.  In his letters to Abigail, it is clear he took the approach to move slowly with patience and tolerance, allowing circumstances to unfold while applying deft and delicate pressure to those who did not share his views.

The dominant view at the early stages of our revolutionary period was that of the moderates, willing to live with the status quo, who viewed England’s transgressions as misguided blunders by disconnected and uninformed policy makers in London and Whitehall.  In contrast, John and Abigail, and at the time a growing group of others, saw King George and Parliament’s  acts as purposeful  subjugation leading to enslavement.  The stark contrast of motives in the end became irrelevant as they yielded the same effect on the population of the colonies.  The effects of the punitive actions by King George, and the ever increasing subjugation of the prosperity of the colonies by England derived the same end point.  Quickly, the divide over the attribution of the motive was replaced by the pragmatic need to solve the problems.  In the end, the results, despite the motives, were the same.

Our nation was founded based on the recognition, as Paine so succinctly put it, that an island could not rule a continent.  It was not the motive that drew this conclusion. but the pragmatic recognition that disconnected, misinformed leadership – not tied to the lot and life of their constituents – could not govern but in the end could only enslave.  Adams, and the rest of the founding fathers, created Washington DC – not as a state – but as an island, an independent locus for our national seat of government giving no advantage to any state.  They felt this island could rule this continent because its leaders would be part-time citizen statesmen, fully connected by family and livelihood to their communities and constituents not as professional inhabitants of this particular island.

Today, few will argue that our full time professional politicians have evolved to a growing often disconnected, uninformed ruling class.  Their fortunes are no longer tied to their successful relationships and local community businesses.  Their current business model is based on votes tied to personal gains.  Increasingly, this full-time professional political class is now often exempted from the rules and laws they so freely and prolifically propagate on the rest of us.

John and his wife often wrote that it was not government that would affect the necessary changes but a united people.  Perhaps, like John and Abigail, we are again at destiny’s doorstep.  Maybe we should review the original decisions of the founding fathers and once again revise the controls on our government and elected leaders.  It is incumbent on all of us to find the changes necessary to again ensure the promise of America.

Perhaps it is time for us to remind ourselves and our leadership that,

An island cannot rule a continent!