Biblical and Constitutional Politics

Eventful Three Weeks in Politics

Part Two

By Gary F. Zeolla

 

This article is continued from Eventful Three Weeks in Politics Part One.

 

Trump’s Budget

 

      The Trump administration released its budget proposal on Thursday (3/16/17). The following paragraph is a good summary of the budget (all bolding in quotes added):

 

      Trump wants to spend more money on transportation, homeland security, and the military, so he has to cut other stuff. The result has been called antediluvian in many quarters, but you don’t need to go back quite that far in history. In fact, with this budget, Trump is not even seeking a return to the (lightly fictionalized) laissez-faire ideology of the nineteenth century, or the version often attributed to modern libertarians. What he is doing is reframing the focus of government: away from people abroad and towards people at home, largely away from blue-state concerns and towards red-state ones. And he is trimming back, though far from eliminating, the post-1960s attempt, sadly as-yet-unsuccessful, to micromanage poverty out of existence (Bloomberg. Trump’s Budget Asks the Right Questions for Conservatives).

 

      Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney presented an overview of the budget and answered reporter’s questions in a press conference that afternoon. He emphasized that the budget reflects promises Trump made during the campaign. Trump promised to build up the military, while reducing foreign funding and to cut waste and programs domestically that are not working. He also promised to return more governmental activities to the states.

      Mick emphasized that the US is in debt. We have been and continue to borrow money from China. Consequently, before you complain about an item being cut, you must ask “Is it worth borrowing money from China to fund it?”

      For instance, many are upset about foreign funding being cut. But think about it, would you borrow money so as to have money to loan or give to a friend? If not, then why do you think the government should do so? And in regards to programs domestically that people are upset about being cut, would you borrow money so that you could donate it to charity? If not, then why should the government do so?

      More specifically, two items that will have funding cut altogether will be Public Broadcasting (NPR) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). To that, I said good. If their programming is as important as some claim, then let it compete in the market place with other forms of entertainment and information. If it cannot compete, then it is not worthwhile. That is how a capitalistic society works.

      But liberals are really upset as both NPR and NEA promote liberal ideas, and liberals know liberal ideas cannot compete in the marketplace. That is why MSNBC has such dismal ratings it barely appears on the radar, and that is why liberal talk shows have miniscule audiences in comparison to conservative talk shows like those of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

      But most of all, it is not the job of the government to take money from its citizens to fund any political viewpoint, be it liberal or conservative. If the liberals want these forms of “art” to continue to exist, then let them support them, and stop forcing me, a conservative, to do so.

      However, a couple of social programs that will be cut really raised the irk of the media at the press conference and since then, namely Meals on Wheels and afterschool education programs. I gather the latter are for students who are falling behind in school.

      In regards to Meals on Wheels, my uncle and his wife used to help out with it, and one of my neighbors currently does, so I am somewhat family with it. And it does sound like a worthwhile program. But here is the rub—it is not a federal program. It is a state by state program. It is just that many states have chosen to fund it by using part of the money they get from the federal government via the Community Development Block Grant, which will be abolished with the proposed budget.

      But several points are worth noting. The first is the following:

 

      President Trump’s proposed cuts to the popular “Meals on Wheels” program have prompted dire warnings -- but they appear to ignore the fact that only a fraction of the program’s budget comes from the government.

      A glance at the program’s 2015 financial statement shows the program brought in just over $7.5 million in funding that year, mainly from corporate and foundation grants making up $5.15 million. Government grants made up just $248,347 of the funding – or 3.3 percent of total funds (Fox News. Despite outrage over cuts, federal funds are fraction of Meals on Wheels budget).

 

      Second, again, the US government is $20 trillion in debt. If we continue to spend in the manner that we are, we will go belly up eventually. And again, in order fund deficit spending, we are borrowing from China. Therefore, again, I ask: would you go into debt to have money to donate to your favorite charity?

      More to the point, if you the reader are so concerned about Meals on Wheels, here is a link to the donation page on Meal on Wheel’s website. Whip out your credit card and max it out with a donation to them. What? You’re not willing to do that? Then why do you think the federal movement should do so? The point is, only a fool would go into debt over his head to donate to a charity, no matter how worthwhile it is. And the same goes for the federal government.

      However, it is not foolish for individuals to donate reasonable amounts to charity. In fact, that is how charities should be funded, by voluntary support by individuals or voluntary contributions by corporations. And charities that feed the hungry and visit the lonely are doing the work of the Lord (Matt 25:44-46). As such, Christians should support such organizations. So yes, go back to that link to Meals on Wheels donation page and make a donation. Even better, set up a monthly automatic payment from your checking account. Just allot for it in your budget.

      If not Meals on Wheels, then support your local food bank. Here in the Pittsburgh area there is the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. You can donate to it here. Of course, there are similar food banks throughout the country. Find the one that serves your area and donate not just your money but your time. That is how such charitable organizations should be funded and operated, not by government coercion.

      Third, if there is to be government coercion, it should be by individual states, not by the federal government. A “one size fits all” approach does not work for feeding the hungry. What might work here in PA might not work in California. For that matter, what might work in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia might not work in rural PA. That is why food banks operate on a country by county basis, and so should government funded food support. The closer the program gets to the individual the better.

      The point is, the ending of federal funding for Meals on Wheels is not the end of Meals on Wheels. In fact, donations to Meals on Wheels have surged since Trump’s proposed budget was released (Fortune. Meals on Wheels Sees Donations Surge After President Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts. http://fortune.com/2017/03/18/meals-on-wheels-trump-budget-cut/). That is good and should easily make up for miniscule 3% of their budget that comes (indirectly) from the federal government. Moreover, my local Meals on Wheels programs do not depend on federal funding at all, so they will not be affected:

 

      The Trump administration's proposed 2018 federal budget will not affect several Meals on Wheels programs in the Alle-Kiski Valley because they do not rely on federal funding….

      Meals on Wheels America, the nationwide umbrella organization, receives only 3 percent of its funding from the government — and that’s to run the National Research Center on Nutrition and Aging….

      Orris said the lack of government assistance has actually been a benefit for her program. “If we had to go by federal funding, and didn’t get the donations and stuff, we wouldn't be here,” she said.

      Like Kinloch, Highlands Area Meals on Wheels in Harrison, Vandergrift Area Meals on Wheels, Apollo Meals on Wheels and Puckety United Presbyterian Church Meals on Wheels in Lower Burrell rely on client pay and donations to operate (Valley News Dispatch. Alle-Kiski Valley Meals on Wheels programs won't feel effects of federal budget cuts).

 

      As for afterschool education programs, a point the Budget Director emphasized was that any program that is not working would be cut and that included this program. But of course, since then, there have been cries that it does work. The problem is how one measures “works.”

      I am not sure exactly what program is being referred to, so I cannot comment if it works or not. But Head Start is a similar program that receives federal funding, and it also should be on the chopping block as there is little evidence it works. Here are a couple of articles in this regard: US News. Report: Scant Scientific Evidence for Head Start Programs’ Effectiveness  and Does Head Start Work? Two Perspectives based on Psychology.

      But what neither of these articles address is the long-term effectiveness. By that I mean, I have seen in the past studies that show that yes, students who were enrolled in Head Start do better than those who were not when they are tested on the first day of kindergarten. But test them again on the last day of first grade, and there is no difference.

      The point is, yes, a child who has attended Head Start has learned the basic need of school to sit still in a chair for a period of time. Therefore, they do better than children who have not had to do so. But after the adjustment to school, any advantages of Head Start disappear. As such, it is just an expensive form of child care that the federal government should not fund.

      Incidentally, the best line from the previous articles is “In other words, no matter how much our government spends, there is no practical way to give our nation’s lower income children an equal playing field because no two-year preschool can make up for inferior parenting.” And that is an issue I have addressed before (see under “The Most Commendable Aspect of Obama’s Presidency” at January 2017 Commentaries).

      Finally, before starting the press conference, Mick called out the New York Times (NYT) for their report on his personal situation. The NYT had reported that he had “17-year-old triplet daughters.” Mick said, “My 17-year-old daughter would be happy if that had happened, but my two 17-year-old sons were not happy about the report.” The NYT is so unreliable, they cannot even get people’s genders correct. But then, the NYT probably goes along with the pervasive idea today that gender is fluid, so they probably think it really doesn’t matter.

 

Nashville Rally

 

      I only caught the end of Trump’s rally in Nashville, TN. But what I heard sounded really good. As always, Trump knows how to make a speech and rile up a crowd. But if that translates into enough support for his policies to get them passed remains to be seen.

 

American Health Care Act

 

      I’ve mentioned before about how incompetent it is for the Republicans in Congress to have been calling for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Acts (ACA, aka Obamacare) for years without having a replacement plan ready, and they still don’t! And the American Health Care Act (AHCA) they are putting forth has been called “Obamacare light” or “Obamacare 2.0.” Although the best name is probably “Ryancare” as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is the main architect of the legislation.

      But whatever it is called, from what I have heard, there really is very little difference between the ACA and the AHCA. However, it depends on whom you listen to. Conservative Senator Rand Paul claims the two are just about the same, while Paul Ryan claims they are totally different. Sean Hannity has had both on his radio show, and it is dizzying listening to one then the other. They contradict each other on every point on what the AHCA contains and does not contain.

      But one thing I am sure of, Ann Coulter made the best comment about health care I have heard on Sean’s show. She said, that for at least 90% of the people the law should simply say, “There shall be a free market in healthcare.” That is it. One sentence. Then for the less than 10% that cannot afford health care there should be a government solution.

      In other words, the best plan would be for the government to get out of the way and to let insurance companies compete, and that includes across state lines. Then people could vote with their dollars which is the best plan for them. That would solve the health care crisis for the vast majority of people.

      Personally, I think the best approach would be to encourage (not require!)  everyone to purchase a catastrophic plan. This would be a plan with a very large deductible, along the lines of $5,000-10,000 to cover the person if he or she has a heart attack, gets diagnosed with cancer, is involved in a serious car accident, or the like. Then there should be available personal health care saving accounts. These would allow people to save money tax free, that can then only be used for normal health care. The ideal would be to save at least as much as one’s deductible. And as the savings levels increases so can the deductible, resulting in lower premiums and further saving the consumer money.

      Another idea would be health care co-ops. Sean has been pushing this idea on his radio and TV shows, so I will refer the reader to his shows for details.

      But the point is there are sound free market solutions that require an element of individual responsibility, which is the American and Biblical way. But the liberals’ “The government will take care of you” approach is not. And the AHCA still has the latter mindset rather than the former, to the shame of the establishment Republicans in Congress.

 

The CBO on the AHCA

 

      Although I don’t much care for the AHCA, I don’t like to hear misinformation being propagated about it, and that is what the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has done. As Sean Spicer has pointed out repeatedly, the CBO was way off on its estimates of how many people would be covered under Obamacare. The CBO estimate put it at 26 million people, while the actual number today is 10.4 million, with a million more to lose their insurance in the next year. And Sean Hannity has indicated that the CBO underestimated the cost of Obamacare by $115 billion.

      As such, the CBO does not have a good track record on estimating the costs and coverage of health care, so their estimates on the AHCA cannot be trusted. Nevertheless, their claims are:

 

      CBO and JCT [Joint Committee on Taxation] estimate that enacting the legislation would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017-2026 period. That total consists of $323 billion in on-budget savings and $13 billion in off-budget savings. Outlays would be reduced by $1.2 trillion over the period, and revenues would be reduced by $0.9 trillion….

      CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law (Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate. American Health care Act).

 

      Paul Ryan and other AHCA advocates claim the cost savings estimate is way too low as it does not take into account that there is a three-stage process to the legislation, and the CBO is only taking into account the first stage. They also claim that the coverage estimate is misleading as it does not take into account that many people will chose to not purchase coverage.

      Remember, the ACA includes a mandate that all Americans must have health insurance, while the AHCA does not. Consequently, there will be many people who will chose to cease their health insurance. Although I think that is foolish, Americans should have the right to be fools.

      However, this is where one aspect of the AHCA makes no sense. It includes the provision of the ACA that health insurers cannot deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. But if you include that requirement without the individual mandate, it sets up an untenable situation. People will just wait until they get sick to get coverage and then have that illness covered. That would be like waiting until the day after you total your car to get car insurance, then expecting the insurance company to reimburse you for the cost of a new car. No car insurance company could remain solvent with such a requirement, and neither can a health insurance company.

      There needs to be some kind of waiting period to get full coverage or other provision to keep people from waiting until they are say diagnosed with cancer to get coverage. If they can do so, insurance companies will go broke paying out massive outlays to people who never paid into the system and without others who are not get sick also paying into the system. That is how insurance works. The well help pay for the care of the sick.

 

Helping Hillary

 

      Former DNC Chair Donna Brazile has just admitted that she fed the topics to be discussed before town hall meetings to Hillary Clinton but not to Bernie Sanders. She had denied such several times previously. Bernie supporters should be outraged but not shocked. It was clear as the primary proceeded that Hillary was foreordained to win, no matter what Bernie did. But this is just one more example of how corrupt the DNC is, emphasized by the fact that Donna is still vice-head of the DNC.

 

Conclusion

 

      As I said, it has been an eventual three weeks in politics and much is sure to happen soon. I will try to keep up with commenting thereupon as I feel the urge to do so.

 

Postscript

 

            Although this article wasn’t posted until March 21, it was written by the end of the day Sunday, March 19, 2017. But the next day (the first day of spring) was a huge day in politics, with several events happening. I recorded Fox News all day long and am still reviewing what I recorded. I also want to hear other’s comments and see how some things play out before commenting. But for now, I will conclude this article. See First Week of Spring Politics for my article on these issues.

Eventful Three Weeks in Politics - Part Two. Copyright 2017 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was posted on this website March 21, 2017.

Articles     2017 Articles

Alphabetical List of Pages     Contact Information

Text Search     Biblical and Constitutional Politics