Obamacare Insurance Cancellation: Welcome to the #ObamaNation

Welcome to the ObamaNation where we know better than you!

Welcome to the ObamaNation where we know better than you!

The cancellation letters people are now receiving for their earlier choice based plans– you know the ones that President Obama said they could keep, PERIOD–out of courtesy and perfect declaration should open with this line,

“Welcome to the #ObamaNation where we know better than you!”

Those of us who have warned of these effects under the law, and a number of other predictable negative outcomes that are only beginning to show up, have been called fear mongers, and haters. The shouted counter argument becomes a diatribe of how this law is going to be so great. How it will provide insurance for so much less cost. How it will lower the cost to the nation and the individuals. How you will get whatever you want and have to pay almost nothing for it! Continue reading

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The President’s Plan and the Story of Sam!

Uncle Sam's Pickle

Uncle Sam’s Pickle

The President’s Plan

In the State of the Union speech last evening, the president said many things.  He offered a real plethora, yes a plethora, of programs, benefits, stimulus, taxes, and other things that he believes will improve the lot of Americans–at least some Americans. Many were struck thoughout his speech by the breadth and depth of the things the president wants to spend money on.  He offered programs for immigrants, college students, environmentalists, women, minorities, the elderly, the sick, the middle class, teachers, the unions, the poor, the underserved, the military and just about every Continue reading

Debunking The Clinton Budget Surplus Myth

By now most Americans have heard that our national economy is in deep trouble.  With increasing frequency, articles are appearing discussing the steadily accumulating massive debt, the looming insolvency of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the inability of our congressional leaders to rein in spending, an increase in pending bankruptcies of many municipalities and perhaps soon some states, and the overall impact of this crisis on our own personal finance and lifestyle.  Yet for most of us, it seems completely abstract—more like a dream. Many simply ignore the facts, believing it will just go away.  After all, we have Continue reading

Medicare-Medicaid: A Chicken in Every Pot

“. . . I think we’ve got you something that we won’t only run on in ’66, but we’ll run on from hereafter!” - Wilbur Mills to President Johnson on Medicare in 1965.

As Congressman Wilbur Mills commented to President Lyndon Johnson, in a taped private conversation in 1965, he was encapsulating the primary benefit that the democrats of the day felt they would gain from the Medicaid and Medicare extension to the Social Security Act of 1935, and the primary reason that President Johnson and his team pushed so hard for the reform to include new entitlement programs for the elderly, the disaffected, and disillusioned.

The Historical Perspective

Wilbur Daigh Mills, democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was considered, by many, to be the only person in Congress who truly understood the actuarial basis of Social Security, and was recognized as the Congress’s primary tax expert.  At the start of the war on poverty in 1964, Mills had serious concerns as to the affordability of the existing Social Security Act of 1935 for the nation, let alone any extension of the current benefits to include what was then viewed as a health care “safety-net” for the underserved and the elderly.

Mills did not believe that the nation’s tax system could fund the liability of Medicare.  In his paper, “The Origins of Medicare,” published in 1999, Robert B. Helms writes,

Even in the face of strong political pressure from other Democrats, Mills had been so consistent in his opposition to adding a medical benefit to Social Security that many suspected him of being sympathetic to the AMA’s socialized medicine arguments. He used his detailed knowledge of Social Security to question both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations’ cost estimates and to point out that estimating future medical costs was a much more difficult task than estimating the future costs of a cash benefit.

In a 1964 speech, Mills said: “In practical terms, this meant that if the hospital insurance system which would be created by the bill was to remain sound, the taxable wage base would have to be increased by $150 each year. Clearly, this would be a case of the tail wagging the dog.” (The taxable wage base increased an average of $46 per year from 1959 to 1964)

In that same speech, he pointed out that hospital costs were increasing at a rate of 6.7 percent, while average earnings were increasing at only 4 percent (1955 – 1963), and that he saw no reason to assume that the situation would change. His support for the final version of Medicare in 1965 was apparently due to the effects of Democratic gains in the House in the elections of 1964, President Johnson’s personal appeals for support, and the many technical changes that he was personally able to insert into the bill during its various stages of development.

We now know that Chairman Mills’ skepticism was justified: In 1964, the administration projected that Medicare, in 1990, would cost about $12 billion in 26 years (which included an allowance for inflation); the actual cost was $110 billion. We may not know until the year 2025 if today’s actuaries are any more accurate than those in 1964 in making twenty-six-year projections, but at least the current crew is leaving no stone unturned to tell everyone who will listen that the Medicare Part A trust fund does not meet their standards for short-term or long-term actuarial soundness.

Despite Mills’ dire warnings, and his correct calculation that the wage base would have to increase by 300% each year over the existing rate to afford this new entitlement, Johnson felt he was swept in with a clear mandate from the people due to his landslide victory in the 1964 election. So, to help drive increases in the Democratic Party majority in congress, he made the push for Medicare one of his primary platform goals. Johnson was so focused on getting Medicare pushed through congress, he was willing to leverage anyone, and everyone, with every tool he had at his disposal to get this divisive legislation approved. The following transcript, of a taped meeting with his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, in the first days after the election, is quite telling.

Johnson: “They are bogged down. The House had nothing this week-all god-damn week. You and Moyers and Larry O’Brien have got to get something for them. And the Senate had nothing . . .  So we just wasted three weeks . . .  Now we are here in the first week in March, and we have just got to get these things passed . . .  The ones that I’m really interested in . . .  one of them is education, one of them is Medicare, and one of them is Appalachia . . .  I think the medical care will go through like a dose of salt through a widow-woman . . .  You’ve got to look each week and say, what is the Senate doing in Committee this week and when will they be through, what is the House doing . . .  You’ve got to be running into these guys in the halls, and going over and having a drink with them in the evenings . . .  I want that program carried. I’ll put every Cabinet officer behind you, I’ll put every banker behind you, I’ll put every organization that I can deliver behind you . . .  I’ll put the labor unions behind you.

Johnson’s election didn’t just change the Democratic Congress’s advantage over Republicans; it also changed Mills’ political view. Seeing the writing on the wall, Mills made another speech where he announced, “I can support a payroll tax for financing health benefits just as I have supported a payroll tax for cash benefits (meaning social security).”
Thus, began what has been termed by many as the greatest Ponzi scheme to ever be foisted on the American people. With Mills’ support, the measure passed. There were still several hurdles to overcome, but in the end, Johnson got the legislation he wanted, regardless of the consequences. On March 23, 1965, Johnson’s Oval Office taping system records the call he has been waiting for from Wilbur Cohen (architect of much of Social Security and Medicare), Wilbur Mills (Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee), Carl Albert (Democratic Majority Leader) and John McCormack (Speaker of the House) telling him the bill has just passed out of the Ways and Means Committee. It is the first time Johnson finds out what Cohen has just actually agreed to in Johnson’s name: (Listen to the Johnson Tapes on-Line)

Mills: We wound up, and I got instructions, we’ll introduce the bill at noon tomorrow, and will report it at 12:15 . . .  I think, we’ve got you something that we won’t only run on in ‘66 but we’ll run on from here after.
Johnson: Wonderful. Thank you, Wilbur.
Mills: Now here is Wilbur Cohen.
Johnson: When you going to take it up?
Mills: We could have it on late next week, if not, early the following week.
Johnson: For God sakes, let’s get it before Easter.
Mills: Oh, there’s no doubt about that.
Johnson: . . . I sure do congratulate you on getting this one out . . .  I congratulate you and thank you.
Cohen: I think it’s a great bill Mr. President.
Johnson: Is that right?
Cohen: Yes sir. I think you got not only everything that you wanted, but we got a lot more . . .  It’s a real comprehensive bill.
Johnson: How much does it cost our budget over what we estimated?
Cohen: Well, it would be, I would say, around $450 million more than what you estimated for the net cost of this supplementary program.
Johnson: What do they do under that? How is that handled? Explain that to me again, over and above the King-Anderson, this supplementary that you stole from Byrnes.
Cohen: Well, generally speaking, it’s physician’s services.
Johnson: Physicians. All right, now my doctor that I go out and he pumps my stomach out to see if I’ve got any ulcers, is that physicians?
Cohen: That’s right.
Johnson: Any medical services that are M.D. services?
Cohen: Any M.D. services.
Johnson: Does he charge what he wants to?
Cohen: No, he can’t quite charge what he wants to because this has been put in a separate fund and what the Secretary of HEW would have to do is make some kind of agreement with somebody like Blue Shield, let’s say, and it would be their responsibility . . .  that they would regulate the fees paid to the doctor. What he tried to do was make sure the government wasn’t regulating the fees directly . . .  the bill provides that the doctor can only charge the reasonable charges, but this intermediary, the Blue Shield, would have to do all the policing so that the government wouldn’t have its long hand . . .
Johnson: That’s good. Now what does it do for you the patient, on doctors. It says you can have doctor’s bills paid up to what extent or how much? Is there any limit?
Cohen: The individual patient has to pay the first $50 deductible, then he’s got to pay 20 percent . . .  of everything after that . . .
Johnson: That keeps your hypochondriacs out?
Cohen: That will keep the hypochondriacs out. At the same time, for most of the people it will provide the overwhelming portion of their physician’s costs.
Johnson: Yes sir, and that’s something nearly everyone could endure. They could borrow that much, or their folks could get them that much to pay their part . . .  I think that’s wonderful. Now remember this, nine out of ten things I get in trouble on is because they lay around. Tell the Speaker, and Wilbur, to please, get a rule just the moment they can . . .  That damn near killed my education bill, letting it lay around. It stinks. It’s just like a dead cat on the door. When a Committee reports it, you better either bury that cat or get it some life.

In the end, Medicare and Medicaid became the law of the land. And, as can now know, Mills was correct to have his doubts about the actuarial basis of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security when the bill was passed in 1965. But, like the Social Security Act of 1935, the 1965 Act was not an ending, but a beginning of a perpetual series of expansions of the benefits provided by these programs.

It is now painfully clear that Wilbur Mills was correct in his initial assumptions about both the solvency of the original Social Security Act of 1935 and its unprecedented expansion in the 1965 amendment that pushed through for significantly political reasons by President Johnson.  Mills estimates of what would be required in real taxable earnings gains in order to fund this “safety net” were eerily prescient. By 1974, the failure of the GDP to support the nation’s expenses for these entitlements, and the accumulating trade deficit, had placed the country in a significant cash shortage with few means of escape.

President Richard Nixon took us off the gold-standard, and by the late 1980s the significant, arbitrary increases in the currency had elevated almost everyone’s wage base to where they began to feel prosperous once again.  But, the costs were just being temporarily outpaced by the injection of this new currency, the day of reckoning was still coming and finally hit with a vengeance in 2009. It is now starting to become clear that the feeling of prosperity we all experienced was not the reality of our economy just the benefit of more baseless cash.

The Modern Perspective

Enter a few days ago our current President, Barack Obama. In the past few days, it is clear to me that the president still believes what Wilbur Mills told President Johnson in 1965.  He clearly believes that he should be able to run on the entitlements of Medicare and Medicaid to secure the votes for this free stuff, just like President Johnson.  The concept of “a chicken in every pot,” i.e. votes for free stuff, was not as much the hallmark of the Democratic Party prior to President Johnson.

Although President Franklin D. Roosevelt leveraged these ideals to help the country rise out of the Great Depression and prepare for WWII, and Herbert Hoover is often credited with the phrase; “A Chicken in Every Pot” is a quotation that is perhaps one of the most mis-attributed in American political history. Variously assigned to each of four presidents serving in the years between 1920 and 1936, it is most often associated with Herbert Hoover. In fact, the phrase has its origins in seventeenth century France; Henry IV reputedly wished that each of his peasants would enjoy “a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” Although Hoover never uttered the phrase, the Republican Party did use it in a 1928 campaign advertisement touting a period of “Republican prosperity” that had provided a “chicken in every pot—and a car in every backyard, to boot.” You see, we need to understand that political duplicity is not a democratic or republican affectation; it is a politician’s con.

But here we are once again, and even though President Obama is not uttering this phrase, it is clear that this is what he sees as his ticket to re-election.  Perhaps I am too cynical, but reading transcripts of committee hearings on what became the Affordable Care Act, listening to our congressional leadership saying things about the legislation like, “this is the path to a federal single payer system,” or “we need to pass it so we can see what’s in it,” and other equally ludicrous statements, and listening to the political agendas so blatantly expressed in the Johnson, or Nixon, tapes can do that to a person!

Based on my own experience, and backed up by the historical record all the way back to Mr. Mills, it is clear that the current system simply cannot work.  Frankly, and I don’t think I am telling anything out of school, none of our elected officials think it can work either.  They are currently almost evenly split between the “we know it can’t work and we need to fix it crowd,” and the “We know it can’t work but we can run on it again, and again, and again… crowd.” Regardless, to everyone it should now be clear that it can’t work.

So, it is astounding to me that the President of the United States, Barack Obama, now stands before the American people and making a reverse Robin Hood argument declares that the other party, Republicans, in this case, those evil people, want to take everything you have away and give it to the rich!  And what is more astounding is he says this is not class warfare!  People seriously can’t believe that such a bald faced lie can be true, can they? I have met many of our congressional leaders; republican and democrat.  I have not met one that was not concerned about all Americans.

To make a statement that one political party is dedicated to the destruction of poor and helpless people is beyond unconscionable it is simply irresponsible.  And it would be equally irresponsible for similar invectives to come from the other side as well.  We are in a significant national, social and economic crisis.  If our leaders do not get serious about solving the problems then we need to get new leadership.  If all we have left when someone talks of hard choices is to damn them as a pawn for the rich, then I do not see how we will survive.

As we move beyond this primary election cycle toward the presidential election, we need to elect a leader that will realize that he can’t promise America that there will not be a chicken in every pot.  You see Mr. Obama; the chickens have finally come home to roost!

(for those of you who may be interested in more on this issue, it is discussed in more detail in my upcoming book, “The History and Evolution of Healthcare in America,” go to my website at www.loker.com and sign up to receive notice of its release.)

Fair Shot, Fair Share, Fair Play: Is life really fair?

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub: For in that sleep of death what dreams may come...

(Readers Note, this is not a short discussion!)

So who ever said life should be fair?  It seems of late (this campaign season) that all I am hearing everywhere is about fairness.  Somewhere, somehow, I must have missed some proclamation.  There must have been some fundamental shift of the polls, or a radical discovery somewhere deep in the cosmos, because I have been operating for all of my life under the safe and secure knowledge that life was not fair—never was!

In my youth, when academics governed my acquisition of knowledge and much of my existence, before life stepped in and modified the theory with practical experience, I studied, chemistry, biology, physics, and other natural sciences. In all my studies in the natural sciences ,I have seen nothing anywhere that tells me life is fair.  Nowhere have I seen any natural system that is predicated on fairness.  I also had an interest in philosophy and religion, and took some classes in these subjects and in my life have read much more in these areas. With the exception of only rare occasions, and those typically only in discussion of the pursuit of an ideal, no religion seems to espouse the theory of the innate fairness of the universe nor in us a people. So I am perplexed how this “Fairness” thing has now become a reality without me hearing about it.

What does it mean to be fair?

fair 1 (fâr)

adj. fair·er, fair·est

  1. Of pleasing appearance, especially because of a pure or fresh quality; comely.
    1. Light in color, especially blond: fair hair.
    2. Of light complexion: fair skin.
  2. Free of clouds or storms; clear and sunny: fair skies.
  3. Free of blemishes or stains; clean and pure: one’s fair name.
  4. Promising; likely: We’re in a fair way to succeed.
    1. Having or exhibiting a disposition that is free of favoritism or bias; impartial: a fair mediator.
    2. Just to all parties; equitable: a compromise that is fair to both factions.
  5. Being in accordance with relative merit or significance: She wanted to receive her fair share of the proceeds.
  6. Consistent with rules, logic, or ethics: a fair tactic.
  7. Moderately good; acceptable or satisfactory: gave only a fair performance of the play; in fair health.
  8. Superficially true or appealing; specious: Don’t trust his fair promises.
  9. Lawful to hunt or attack: fair game.
  10. Archaic Free of all obstacles.

adv.

  1. In a proper or legal manner: playing fair.
  2. Directly; straight: a blow caught fair in the stomach.

tr.v. faired, fair·ing, fairs

To join (pieces) so as to be smooth, even, or regular: faired the aircraft’s wing into the fuselage.

Archaic:

  1. A beautiful or beloved woman. (Old English fæger “morally pure, unblemished” – late 12c.)

Like most abstract concepts, even the definition of fairness depends on your point of view and the subject matter. The thefreedictionary.com definition at the left shows that fair has many meanings in many contexts.  It also shows that the original form of the word specifically related only to a beautiful or beloved woman.  Like the word cute, which originally meant bow-legged, our concept of fair has changed much over time. So if we can’t count on the definition, what is fairness?

What is it?

So, what is fairness anyway and why all of the sudden do we expect it? Why do we think we have a right to it? Why, given thousands of years of history to the contrary, do we think we can get it even if we wanted it in the first place? And, do we really want fairness for all or do we just want fairness for ourselves? Is fairness a real thing or just some perception, some passing fancy on which we are now pinning our hopes of ending our own struggles for survival? If fairness is really a perception, is it not then that life is innately unfair?

Why do we think  fairness is real?

To me, the idea of fairness as an attainable concept seems to be something that comes in the night to people that move from struggling for their day to day existence, to some level of affluence.  Those who believe in fairness seem to arrive at this belief either from their success or their failure to succeed.  Lest you think I am being duplicitous, let me explain further.

Some of those that arrive at the concept of fairness due to their success, seem to me to be those who have achieved some level of affluence in excess of what they expected they were due; based largely on the effort they put in to achieve their success.  In other words, they now have some level of personal guilt over what they now have.  Some, instead of embarking on a direct philanthropic effort to help others, decide that the method of their success was not fair and now want to change something to make it such for everyone.  But those changes actually make it unfair for others who are doing the same thing to be successful and remove their opportunity to achieve parity, replacing it with granted (not achieved parity)

Others arrive at the concept of fairness based on their failure to achieve and compete in some way.  In an effort to justify the failure of achievement, they seek analysis as to the outside circumstances that caused the fault.  In any analysis like this they will find casuations outside their control.  In no way am I trying to say that these causes are not real.  They very well may be real and have had a real effect. The end point, whether the cause is real or imagined, is the same. Convinced that it is simply a matter of abject fairness, people seek some form of redress in order to gain a different outcome. Regardless, the end is the same. An inherently arbitrary equalization system results.

The politics of calculation?

I have heard a number of times, likely based more on anecdotal evidence, that the country is divided 50/50.  Perhaps it is true the 50% of us would respond that we believe life should be expected to be fair and the other 50% would respond, it is not fair and we should not expect it to be so.  Politically this would appear a non sequitur.  Why then has history shown that the political promise of fairness is so successful?  Because, like most things political, when you look beneath the surface, the obvious, you will find the intrinsic value to the politician on selling the promise of fairness and equality.

Of the 50% that say they believe in life’s innate fairness, it is much more likely that regardless of what is said in the polls, only about 20% believe fervently that life can be fair and the remaining 30% say it because they think that such a concept will lead them to additional attainment. This 30% neither truly believe life is fair nor do they really want fairness.  What they want is to get part of that the others, who have been lucky enough, worked hard enough, or were unscrupulous enough to get more than they have.  Whether they earned them, or not, is not part of the equation.  The basic nature of this thought is based on the fact that life is not fair, they got more because it was not fair and only with some intervention that arbitrarily shifts the unfairness in my direction will I get the appearance of it being fair.  And it is the appearance, not real fairness that is the politician’s key.

Political fairness, historically, has not equaled equality.

Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.
-Oscar Wilde

Most of the great philosophers debated the issue of fairness, and likewise debated the issues of equality.  Up until more recently the two issues were not intertwined.  For instance, Solon, was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet from 638 BC – 558 BC. Justice, for Solon, was not an arithmetical equality: giving equal shares to all alike irrespective of merit, which represents the democratic concept of distributive justice, but it was equity or fairness based on difference: giving shares proportionate to the merit of those who receive them. The same ideas of political order, leadership, and justice can be found in Plato’s dialogues.

For Plato, like Solon, the starting point for the inquiry about the best political order was the fact of social diversity and conflicting interests, which involve the danger of civil strife. The political community consisted of different parts or social classes, such as the noble, the rich, and the poor, each representing different values, interests, and claims to rule.

In Plato’s great work, Republic, he describes four virtues that are the characteristics of a good political society: justice, wisdom, moderation, and courage. Plato described justice as the equity or fairness that grants each social group its due and ensures that each “does one’s own work.”

Wikipedia cites Fairness and Justice are often confused.

According to most contemporary theories of justice, justice is overwhelmingly important: John Rawls claims that “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.” Justice can be thought of as distinct from and more fundamental than benevolence, charity, mercy, generosity or compassion. Justice has traditionally been associated with concepts of fate, reincarnation or Divine Providence, i.e. with a life in accordance with the cosmic plan. The association of justice with fairness has thus been historically and culturally rare and is perhaps chiefly a modern innovation [in western societies].

Studies at UCLA in 2008 have indicated that reactions to fairness are “wired” into the brain and that, “Fairness is activating the same part of the brain that responds to food in rats… This is consistent with the notion that being treated fairly satisfies a basic need”. Research conducted in 2003 at Emory University, Georgia, USA, involving Capuchin Monkeys demonstrated that other cooperative animals also possess such a sense and that “inequity aversion may not be uniquely human” indicating that ideas of fairness and justice may be instinctual in nature.

So why drive to get what we know is naturally unobtainable?

For many, the base concept of fairness is a diversion, a mere bauble, a trinket to dangle in the eyes of those that want it to be true, and something that can even be sold to those that don’t. It’s a dream for sale!

Assume for a minute the country really is one-half believers in innate fairness and the other half cynics.  From a political perspective, the hopeful believe in the dream and will buy it at almost any cost with their votes.  The cynics don’t believe it but, some of the cynics recognize that the dream provides a sociologically and politically correct way to justify getting more from someone else. The concept of fairness fosters the action of redistribution or reallocation because those that believe life should be fair will support the program of accommodation.Some Cynics correctly calculate that they will receive a gain. What they have been unable to attain by a survival of the fittest process, they can now get through the believers voluntary capitulation to a government imposed re-equalization fueled by their guilt.  This proceed adds relative value or assets to what the Cynics naturally received through competing in the “unfair” manner.  The process is now innately and hypocritically even more unfair because these Cynics are receiving “fairness” based on an unfairness to others resulting from a concept they do not believe in the first place.

This is now so ingrained in our political mind that right or wrong,  fairness has now become the watchword and income redistribution the measure!

But is life really fair?

Bill Gates said: “Life is not fair; get used to it.”

This is an interesting question, and perhaps it is the most important one to answer before we embark on yet another generation of programs geared to seeking government equalization for perceived unfairness.  One thing we need to consider is that much of our history and knowledge rules against the concept that life is, or could be, fair.

Theory of Evolution sides against life as fair!

Since the theory of evolution (according to the extreme right-wing conservatives) is a liberal theory, you would think that it might provide some basis for the concept that life is fair.  Darwin’s theory, even the modern modified form of it, is predicated on the main concept of survival of the fittest.  Those that do not survive, fail to reproduce as much as others more capable and therefore over time the advantageous characteristics of the fittest survive, and the disadvantageous characteristics of the rest of the species die out.  Clearly this is not a very fair system to those that don’t make it to the next evolutionary step now is it?

Creation Theory sides against life as fair!

So if evolutionary theory is a bastion tenant of the left, let us look at the extreme left-wing view of what is a bastion tenant of conservatives—Creationism.  Once again, this theory also does not support the concept of life as fair. Let us just look at one point of many.  As God dropped the innocent Adam and Eve into the Garden of Eden, he set up one thing that they could not do.  They could not eat the apple.  Now is that fair?  Eve didn’t think so!  The non-biblical theory of creation is rife with the inherent conflicts and accomplishments that brought man forward from historic to modern times.  It was man’s ambition, effort, and conquests that defines his steps to modernity.  No where in this theory is the concept of fairness used to illustrate mankind’s gains. In fact in many of the illustrations it was mans innate unfairness that gave one group an advantage over the other.

Big Bang theory sides against life as fair!

OK lets look to pure science. According to the Big Bang Theory, the universe began, perhaps after a great cyclic gravitational contraction, with a large explosion.  Everything that existed prior to the explosion was destroyed and released anew as pure energy.  As the universe cooled all the various forms of matter formed according to what we know of the laws of physics, and the chaos of the explosion became replaced with some relative and random order. So according to this theory you have a massive destruction of something that gradually re-consolidates into something else.  Clearly, this was not very fair for that which got destroyed now was it?

I guess it could be called the ultimate in income redistribution!

No government process yields fairness

The United States, by all external accounts, has one of the fairest judicial processes in the world.  Hundreds of thousands of pages of rules and laws have been written and established with fair justice as the principal goal.  Yet, look at the O.J. Simpson trial, or more recently, the Casey Anthony Trial.  Ask most Americans if the outcome was fair and they will tell you that both of them got away with murder.  Clearly, our own experience shows us that life is not fair and no government can provide fairness.

In an odd way, the system itself recognizes life is not, nor ever will be, fair.  Our form of justice is not as much about fairness as it is equalization of injustices, both perceived and real, by the transfer of some value or asset from the defendant to the plaintiff.  Even things that are clearly recognized as accidental, now include compensation for the victim as part of the “fairness” concept of justice.  In the early 1800s through the mid-1900s, liability for damage due to death from addictive patent medicines rested in the hands of the person who purchased it and chose to take it.  If you used a piece of equipment in the 1840s or 1850s and you lost a finger—well, its a shame you lost the finger, stuff happens you know!

Today, for some, by no means all, such events become a life changing payday.  Our concept of fairness has evolved much over the last century or so.

Point of View

Fairness is clearly just a point of view. The concept means different things to different people, at different times, and in different circumstances.

Aurthur Brook, the president of the American Enterprise Institute,  defines fairness this way:

We are not a perfect opportunity society in the United States. But if we want to approach that ideal, we must define fairness as meritocracy, embrace a system that rewards merit, and work tirelessly for true equal opportunity. The system that makes this possible, of course, is free enterprise. When I work harder or longer hours in the free-enterprise system, I am generally paid more than if I work less in the same job. Investments in my education translate into market rewards. Clever ideas usually garner more rewards than bad ones, as judged not by a politburo, but by citizens in the marketplace.

Others define fairness on some system of compensation for perceived, or real, inequality.  But in such calculations, one persons fairness is another person’s unfairness.

While the goal of Affirmative Action is to offer incentives, subsidies, and other compensating systems to change the future results in favor of those who were viewed to have been historically treated unfairly, what is fair for the recipient is now unfair for some, if not many, of those who now do not get the benefit.  If such systems are compensation for past unfairness, at what point does the balancing cross over to real unfairness in the other direction?  What system is in place to measure and determine the point for the balancing re-equalization to stop?  Initially, such systems may appear fair but they are not universally fair.

Look to the movie “Unforgiven” when Hackman’s character says in his dying breath, “I’m building a house. I don’t deserve it.” and Clint’s character says, “Deserves got nothing to do with it.”

Universal fairness, in the end, is the concept that belies the concept of fairness in the first place.  What may seem fair for one set of people and one circumstance is seldom fair for others, or perhaps for all.  For the sake of argument, let us assume that Theory of Evolution is correct and the continued survival of a species is based on its continuing evolution through the mechanism of survival of the fittest.  If this is true, then our modern healthcare system—that is solving for all the inter-species competition and environmental damage that normally would be spelling death knells for individuals, or seriously impacting their ability to reproduce—is prohibiting this survival of the fittest process from taking place. Therefore, it might be argued, modern healthcare is not innately fair for the species as a whole.  It can also be argued that keeping people alive to an older and older age where their productivity for the benefit of the species becomes much less than what they consume is also innately unfair.  Yet, none of us as humans make this argument, or myriad others that could be made, because we believe we are a special species on this planet that feel and care for others of our own kind.  Now, we also even significantly express care about the other species as well, sometimes to our own fiscal detriment.  Is this well founded enlightenment or is it simply a long term strategy of our own species’ self destruction?

Fair Use, Fair Trade, Fair Employment, Fair Market Value, all use different fundamental concepts or measure of fairness. Often, in the end, fairness adds up to being the political concept of equal treatment for some based on the justifiable unequal treatment of others.

Conclusion

While I am going to be using the President in the following example, I see the same thing from the candidates on the other side of the aisle. Please do not draw the conclusion that I am only finding fault with President Obama. I n fact, I find fault with them all on this point!

For this election, President Obama is now decided to use the main theme (sound byte, talking point, mantra – you pick it) of Fair Shot, Fair Share, Fair Play.  In these moments he contra-poses the hope of fair with the negative of things like the mortgage foreclosure crisis or the stock market collapse, or the “greed” of wall street and the rich corporations.  Without stating it directly, first he imparts the message that we should expect fairness and it can, in fact, be attained.  Secondly, he is building the image that only he is fair and anything else is not fair.  He makes the statement that everyone should be able to buy a home but does not discuss whether or not they should have the requirement to afford the home in the first place.  If they can’t get the loan, for whatever reason then the lender is not fair.  If they buy the home and now the lender wants to collect or repossess the home than the lender is not fair. He uses terms like unscrupulous in these cases to paint a broad picture.

Clearly, some lenders are unscrupulous, just as some people seeking loans are also unscrupulous.  But being a lender does not directly equate to being unscrupulous any more than being a borrower automatically equates to deadbeat.  While one side can quote statistics to show how all the lenders did such-and-so to be unfair to home buyers, conversely the national statistics on upside mortgages and home mortgage defaults leads one to draw the conclusion that a large part of borrowers are deadbeats.  Neither of those assumptions are of course true.

Framing the argument for his re-election in such a lopsided way is indirectly and in some cases directly, instilling in the public that they have a right to own a home regardless.  If they, you know those unscrupulous people, don’t loan you the money or you can’t pay it back it is they, the unscrupulous, that are unfair…

The President in a recent video discussing fairness said, “Congress cannot end the year taking money out of the pockets of working Americans.”  But, in the end, that is what all government fairness programs really do.  They do not provide fairness, they provide unequal treatment for some to provide equal treatment for others, usually based on a specious and arbitrary determination.  When it is the result of a political issue then it is simply unequal treatment for the group that is the numerically the smaller group of voters for the benefit of the larger voting block. This is why our founding fathers were so adamant that we became a republic, not a democracy!

In the President’s case, perhaps it is that he simply believes his system is fair because the Working Americans he favors deserve more fairness that all the rest of us.

As Hamlet said, “…Therein lies the rub: for in that sleep of death we know not what dreams may come…”

But then again, maybe we do!

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