Sunday, January 28, 2007

Health care Issues Challenge Conservatives

The conservative movement has long been based upon the belief that market forces create the best of circumstances for all people when left free to flourish. In most cases, I believe fully in that principle.

Yet, that premise is based upon the idea that people make rational economic decisions in each and ever choice they make. Health care, however, seems to be a place where rational decisions are not made.

Think on this example. Suppose your father, mother, son or daughter was lying in a hospital and fighting for their lives. Then suppose some hospital staffer walks up to you and says, “Sign this.” You will not sit there and think rationally about the market forces. You will sign whatever is put in front of you, in hopes that your loved ones get the care that they need.

I learned about that firsthand five years ago when my father was critically injured in an automobile accident, and I was the first relative at the hospital. I would have agreed to anything. If someone had told me, “you will owe one million dollars with 50% interest,” I would have agreed to it. I relearned that lesson again recently, when one of my best friends was diagnosed with liver cancer. I would sign any note, or any obligation, that would give him a longer lease on life. I know his wife and parents would as well.

Deciding whether or not to agree to the fees for one’s health care or one’s loved one’s health care is not like shopping for a shirt and deciding Wal-Mart has the best price. It is just not rational to expect that human beings will act rationally in choosing health care. They want what will save lives, and the costs are damned.

There are cold souls out there who realize that and take advantage of it. Not so long ago in our country, the medical profession was based upon serving others. The vast majority of hospitals at one time were charitable in nature and non profit. The local doctor was a man or woman who was respected for the care they gave, not because they wanted to get rich.

That is not so today. Hospitals, medical insurance companies, and yes, even the doctors. want the big money. The ever shrinking manufacturing base of this country has created an economy based upon service industries, the most profitable among them being health care. Hospitals that were once filled with doctors and nurses who wanted to serve first and a handful of administrators, have now become administrative monsters. Those administrative monsters are coupled with big insurance companies, where a clerk decides, based on some manual created by another clerical person, what healthcare treatment one should receive.

It is the biggest problem facing conservatism today, and the issue that Democrats, with all their faults, can score huge political points upon against Republicans. More and more, it seems the average, hardworking Joe Sixpack who would otherwise vote Republican without a thought faces some sort of healthcare nightmare. Perhaps it is with himself. Perhaps it is with a friend who can not get the care any human being should have because his health insurance provider decided otherwise. But, the problem is out there, lurking as a big shadow over the conservative movement.

As one man told me recently, he could, “live with gays getting married,” if someone would make sure his wife could get proper treatments for her cancer.

Such is the irrational nature of health care economics. People will give up almost anything, including their money, their principles, and their dignity, just to have a shot at getting good health care. It is virtually impossible to make a rational choice in such matters. Just imagine if oxygen was something we had to buy.

That makes health care the issue that haunts conservatives, especially us Christian conservatives, who believe in the teachings of Christ about taking care of the poor, the weak and the elderly.

As such, health care might prove to be the albatross around the Republican neck in the upcoming Presidential election and primaries in South Carolina. As the costs and business bureaucracy continues to grow, health care is quickly becoming the domestic crisis of our time.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Ware Shoals: My childhood home rattled

The last time Ware Shoals, SC, made the national news was when the old textile burned in a big fire. The site was deemed a national environmental cleanup site, and the entire mill since then has been torn down.

I mention that mill because my own father was an engineer who worked in that mill back in the early 1970s. When I was a toddler, my family lived in Ware Shoals.

My insurance agent and my dentist are still in Ware Shoals. My family moved to Honea Path, where my father went on to manage a mill there, and I to Columbia, but I have stayed loyal to our dentist and our insurance agent. The reason is simple, I don't like dentists, but I like mine from Ware Shoals. I don't trust insurance agents, but I trust mine from Ware Shoals. I even like the Ware Shoals football coaching staff, whose head coach was my childhood best friend, and one of his assistants was one of my best friends in high school.

Imagine the shock I felt at learning about the recent beer-sex-whatever scandal from the tiny town. The headlines have gripped the state and even made national news networks.

Ware Shoals is a town barely holding on to existence. Its cotton mill economy is almost a generation past. What Ware Shoals did have was a simple essence of pride. Now, with this most recent scandal, even that appears to be gone.

I feel bad for the people of Ware Shoals. Far too many of them will be painted with the broad brush of public opinion that they do not deserve because of the stupid and immoral acts of a few.

If anything, the Ware Shoals situation might lend some credence to the idea that we should consilidate school districts and not take for granted that more local control means better control.

It is a mess. A sad one for a town struggling to still define itself. I feel sorry for the majority of the residents of Ware Shoals who are good people. They don't deserve another blow to their lives this scandal is sure to bring them.

As for the people in the heart of the Ware Shoals scandal, I hope justice is allowed to take its course.

But, all of this is sad, so sad. As for me, I will think of Ware Shoals as a town with some good river fishing, and one helluva a football coach, not a town with too hot for themselves cheerleaders, cheerleading coaches, and the like.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Governor's Speech, Sheheen's response, etc

The Governor gave a pretty stocked speech on Wednesday night. It was nothing unexpected. In fact, after reading one of Strom Thurmond's state of the state addresses recently, I could not help but see the common issue of government restructuring. It seems every Governor wants the Governor to have more say.

The most interesting part of the Governor's speech was his proposal about school districts. The Governor seems to want each county be be a school district upon itself. Part of me says "hooray for that." For that idea would lead to less overhead in administration. With only 46 county offices, the overhead for administration would surely go down if properly executed. One thing that makes me think about that is that perhaps the most successful school district in the state, Lexington-Richland District Five, is composed of the suburban region of Columbia that straddles the two counties. But, when weighing the success of the Lexington Richland District 5 against the failure of so much of the state to actually get money to the classroom, Sanford's idea of one county school districts is appealing. At this point, I will go for any idea that will reduce the fiscal monster that is education administrative spending.

Then there is the Democratic response. Vincent Sheheen went to law school with me. If I am not mistaken, he finished at the very top of our class. I remember him as one of the smartest and most decent of my fellow law students. To me there is no doubt he is a smart and decent man. I might disagree with him on some issues, but I have tremendous respect for him. By choosing him, the Democrats gave us a glimpse into their future plans. Sheheen is the nephew of former long time House Speaker Robert Sheheen and represents a middle of the political spectrum senate district in Kershaw County. Sheheen should be someone considered for the Democrats in the 2010 Governor's race. That said, Sheheen's speech drug on a bit, and it appeared that even he lost some enthusiasm for it. My guess it was written by the party and he just read it, and as it went on and on, it tired him out as much as the folks listening. But, don't let that speech mislead you, Sheheen is a player in the Democratic party and will be big time player for them in the next few years.

Another thing to note was the responses to the Governor's address. Senator McConnell and Speaker Harrell did the expected. Others used the word "wonderful" far too much for my liking. All in all, it was as expected. The Governor gave his agenda, with few new twists, such as the county school district plan, and the legislators responded with hopes he would work with him. We did learn, however, that the Democrats have decided to shift to the young guard. By choosing Sheheen, they moved away from the old gang of Moore and Land and the like.

Just my random thoughts. What do you think?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

It had to be a daunting task to face. A pastor of a medium sized church in the heart of the South faced a life controlled by big local and state government. That government was so big it told that pastor where he, and those like him, could eat, swim, work, take a sip from a water fountain, use the bathroom, and use public transportation. That big local and state government was powerful, with the police powers and the political majority behind it.

Yet, that pastor decided that he would not longer accept the big government telling him what he could do with this life. He yearned to be free. He yearned for all people to be free to do the simplest of things. Things all of us, white and black, take for granted today. (I say white and black, because at the time the Pastor made his stand, whites who dared to associate with, eat with, or work with blacks too closely were chastised severely and even arrested. )

People often think of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech. I think of the pastor in Montgomery. That pastor would take on big local and state government by leading a bus boycott of Montgomery city buses. For his efforts, his home would be bombed, and he would be arrested on some trumped up charge.

Yet, the pastor would not yield. He would go on to fight for freedom and call for unity. King would go on to create the Southern Christian Leadership Council and would become a civil rights icon.

But, it all started with a pastor who had enough of big local and state government telling him where he could go, where he could eat, where he could swim and the like. It took tremendous courage, both moral and physical. King had a wife and children. King had a church to worry about. He had every excuse not to take the risk of taking on the big local and state government intrusion. So many men and women, before and after him, have opted to not take the risk. But, King did.

While some of today’s so called “civil rights” leaders seem to be little more than poverty pimps who rush in for the cameras and for the checks from some business they are protesting against, King should never be confused with them.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of tremendous courage. He was a man who changed America for the better, and allowed the South to finally come out of the pain of the Civil War by embracing its entire people to be part of the Southern economy that has boomed since King’s acts brought its entire people into the fold.

While King was a civil rights leader, one should also give him some credit for something most of King’s followers might not easily agree to. King helped to bring about the end of the big government mentality of the South: for he took on the big government that dictated to people how they could conduct themselves in the everyday aspects of life.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a champion of freedom, for all of us. It is fitting we have holiday in his honor, especially here in the South. For Dr. King was the catalyst that took us out of the backwards big government idea of two economies and two peoples. Dr. King made all of us better with his courage to stand for freedom for people to just live their lives without government dictating how they should live at the most basic levels.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Demint's endorsement of Romney will be no shocker and other primary thoughts

One of the biggest political yawn stories of this new year will be when Senator Jim DeMint endorses Mitt Romney for President. While those who are casual observers of politics in the Palmetto State might see the endorsement as some sort of coup for Romney, it should come as no surprise.

Many of the people at the highest levels involved with the Romney effort were involved in DeMint's campaign for the Senate. This is merely the case of politicos reaching out and getting one of the guys they worked for to help out the guy they are working for now.

Don't be shocked if Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers or Congressman Gresham Barrett joins DeMint in endorsing Romney during this Presidential campaign.

It is all about politicos calling favors from those they have helped before.

Romney is not alone in gaining such help. Henry McMaster's and Lindsey's Graham's endorsements of McCain fit nicely with the current status of their lead consultant in the race.

Such is how the game of politics is played, folks. Consultants and other politicos call favors for endorsements.

The real wild cards in the endorsement battle might be Governor Mark Sanford and Lt. Governor Andre Bauer. While it is true that Governor Sanford endorsed McCain for President in 2000, the Governor is not locked into the politico camps of the day in South Carolina. Lt. Governor Bauer and Treasurer Ravenel are in the Shealy camp, and time will tell if they will help out the folks who helped them out when Shealy's stand in the Presidential election comes to calling favors.

As for Governor Sanford, he could make all of this moot by tossing his hat in the Presidential ring. The rumor about that just seems to not die. A Sanford candidacy would likely take the spotlight off of South Carolina, as candidates would not waste time running against an incumbent Governor in his home state primary.

All that said, endorsements usually do not mean all that much in campaigns, other than the the effect they can have on fund raising. And, it appears that McCain has the SC fund raising bit locked up.

But, the media and other casual observers give weight to endorsements, and that's why you will see the favors called in the next few months.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Mr. Speaker, please grow some thicker skin

The New Year's Eve fireworks are over, but apparently the fireworks are just starting in the State House. Governor Mark Sanford, fresh off a big re-election, submitted his budget plan to the General Assembly, only to have House Speaker Bobby Harrell poo poo it offhand because of some language in the executive summary about Republican legislators not keeping their word in the last session to return extra money to the taxpayers. Harrell and some House leaders are up in arms over the language.

Well, I say to them, come on guys, this is big time politics, grow some thicker skin and get over it. Sure, the Governor and his people probably could have been more diplomatic in their approach. That is not news to anyone. This Governor has been hard headed about working and playing well with others since the start. But, the people re-elected him by a wide margin. They apparently like what they see.

Further, the Speaker of the South Carolina House, along with other House leaders should be big enough not take the political bait from some language in a document that was probably drafted by some staffer loaded up on cold pizza and warm soda. Those leaders should take a look at the details of the budget and agree or disagree upon it based upon the substance of the document.

There are some things in the Sanford budget that deserve some attention. For example, Sanford wants to cut the state income tax and raise the state tobacco tax. Further, he finds more money for more state troopers and addresses the increasingly unaffordable teacher retirement program. There are some things that makes one shake his head, such as the big increase in tourism marketing spending.

That said, the Speaker does the state a disservice by dismissing the governor's budget offhand because of some words in the summary. Who knew that grown men could be so easily offended and let their egos dictate their courses for the next legislative session?

Here is hoping the Speaker and the House leaders grow some thick political skin and put aside their egos and debate the merits and demerits of the Governor's budget on the issues, not their bruised political egos.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

upstate RINO Cindy Wilson up to her old acts again

Perhaps Anderson County Council member and RINO in chief for local politics in SC, Cindy Wilson just can not help herself. First, she voted against some measures that would have prevented tax increases two years ago. Second, she championed government money to be spent on some lawsuit against her nemisis, Anderson County administrator, Joey Preston. Now, last night, she cast a vote to make fellow RINO Bob Waldrep, the liberal of the Green Left of South Carolina, Chairman of Anderson County Council.

Wilson is supposingly the darling of the taxpayer group of Anderson County. But, in no other part of the state can you find such a RINO and big government liberal like Cindy Wilson getting support from the right. If she is not wanting big goverment to force landowners to accept her horse trail, she is wanting big government to pay her for personal grudges.

Wake up Anderson conservatives, your darling is a left wing liberal in disguise. RINO Cindy Wilson needs to be sent home in the next Republican primary. Her only interests are her own and big liberal local government's.