Thursday, June 10, 2010

Time For A Change

I have been writing this blog since October of 2006. In that time, I have had some readers come and go. I have also had a core group of readers that have stayed with me. I have always dreamed of taking this blog off of Blogger and moving it to it's own website. That dream has now come true. I am moving Political Friends to Political Friends Blog. The new url is simply http://politicalfriendsblog.com . In about a week, I will install code to automatically redirect anyone from this site to the new website. You may also see a few changes to the new blog over the coming week as I get feedback on it and as readers comment.

Take a minute and stop by the new blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Friday, June 04, 2010

My Interview with Gerry Purcell (Part IV)

In this segment, I wanted to explore two issues I found about Mr. Purcell that caused me some concern. Mr. Purcell has campaigned on lowering health and auto insurance costs for Georgians. I get a little nervous when conservatives start promising to lower insurance costs. Also, Mr. Purcell has campaigned on making Europe pay "their fair share" in research and development costs on new drugs. Again, whenever a politician wants someone else to pay "their fair share" I start to worry. I would soon find some very interesting answer.



I asked Mr. Purcell, specifically, how he would lower insurance costs for Georgians. He has campaigned very heavy on this issue, and it's one of the first things you notice if you go to his Facebook page. I thought his answer was very interesting. Discussing health care, Mr. Purcell pointed out that while we are fighting to repeal Obamacare, we should simultaneously look for ways to improve health care. He called this method "Fight and Fix". Gerry Purcell is a proponent of allowing insurance companies the ability to sell across interstate borders. However, he believes the insurance commissioner should have the right to audit any company selling insurance in their state, even if that company is located out of state. "We set up a compact of four or five southern states, we tell the Federal government to stay out of it, we got it," he stated. He pointed out that we currently do this with long term care and other types of insurance. He also pointed out that Alabama, one of our neighbors, has cheaper insurance. Why? They have lower taxes on health care, and fewer mandates. Mr. Purcell gave an example of a tax in Georgia that drives up our health care costs. It's the health care tax, it runs 4.75%, and 99% of Georgians don't know it's there. Mr. Purcell stated that if he is elected, he will work to have all embedded taxes clearly shown to the consumer.



Another way to lower our insurance costs would be to allow businesses and smaller groups to pool together. Mr. Purcell pointed out that, "if you're a small business with 25 employees and you compare your rates to a business with 2500 employees you start out with a 20% punishment. You could be the healthiest group of 25 people in America; your rates are still going to be 20% higher right off the bat than the 2500 group." Gerry Purcell also told me that more transparency might help drive costs down. Most people have no idea what a doctor's or hospital visit really costs. Health savings accounts are great way for people to save for their insurance costs, and for them to see exactly what a doctor's visit costs.



In researching Gerry Purcell, I discovered that he has called for, when speaking of healthcare research and development, a "… bold trade policy to address the inequities, especially with the European Commission, Canada, and other nations who can afford to pay their fair share of research and development costs."


I asked him how would this work and how could he possibly force foreign governments to pay their fair share? Mr. Purcell quickly admitted that he couldn't do it by himself, that to fix this really required Congressional action. However, he pointed out something I had never considered: Insurance Commissioners actually have an interesting amount of power on a national level. He pointed out that Insurance Commissioners are considered experts in their field, and that many legislators really don't understand insurance. As such, an insurance commissioner can have a real impact on a national insurance discussion.



He then pointed out that over the last year there has been a lot of misinformation in the healthcare debate. One of the error's is when people compare healthcare costs in Europe to those in the United States. One of the reasons this is an apples vs. oranges comparison is that the U.S. heavily subsidizes Europe's health care. Mr. Purcell went on:



"I will give you an example: the last eight or nine blockbuster drugs came out of the United States and so the problem is that we pay. We use about 35% of the world's pharmaceuticals, which is high, but we pay for 60% plus of them. There are 29 industrial nations in the world, and it's time they pay their fair share. It's time that the President of the United States looks at Europe and says, "We're not subsidizing your healthcare costs anymore."



But what would this look like? How would we enforce such a thing? While it wouldn't be easy, or painless, we could do it very effectively with the correct trade policies. Mr. Purcell argues that we need to talk to our trade partners and explain it's time for a fair and free trade agreement. We won't continue to pay for their healthcare anymore.



In the next installment, I ask Mr. Purcell to look into the future and predict the challenges that our next Insurance Commissioner might face.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Road to Greece?

We are almost at the point where the rubber meets the road. One of the rules of life that everyone should memorize is: Actions have Consequences. President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Reid pushed and fought and arm twisted to pass Obamacare. As our economy has continued to suffer, and as jobs have disappeared, the Democrats in Washington have continued to spend money as if the Washington Monument was loaded with cash.


Whether you agree with these policies or not, the policies of the Democrat controlled congress has come with a price tag. The Tea Parties have argued that President Obama and Congress are taxing our children and our grandchildren. We have word now that the reality may be worse: our children and grandchildren may not have the jobs to get taxed. Dick Morris writing yesterday says:

Meanwhile, the nation watches nervously as the same policies Obama has brought to our nation are failing badly and publicly in Europe. When Moody’s announces that it is considering downgrading bonds issued by the government of the United States of America, we find ourselves, suddenly, in deep trouble. We have had deficits before. But never have they so freaked investors that a ratings agency considered lowering its opinion of our solvency. Not since Alexander Hamilton assumed the states’ Revolutionary War debt has America’s willingness and ability to meet its financial obligations been as seriously questioned.


And the truth begins to dawn on all of us: Obama has no more idea how to work his way out of the economic mess into which his policies have plunged us than he does about how to clean up the oil spill that is destroying our southern coastline.


If our bonds are being downgraded, then we can see the road to Greece from here. A combination of lowered credit, mounting debt in the form of Social Security and Medicare, with a good, strong helping of national health care puts us on a path towards Greece. As we rush to implement national health care, Canada is looking for a way out of it. Canada has discovered what the Tea Parties have said for months now: Free health care is very expensive. We have two choices. We can continue down this road. We may even have some good times, but at some point, we will have to pay the bill for this. When that happens, we will be in the same place Greece is today.


Or we can get off this road. We can realize that a national health care system will cost money. We can stop trying to cut our own throats and start using all the energy at our fingertips: oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal. You name it, we use it. At some point we have to make a decision: Will we continue to be the world's Superpower, or will we follow Greece?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lt. John William Finn (U.S. Navy ) 1909 - 2010

If you have ever seen a World War II movie about Pearl Harbor, you have probably seen the following scene during the attack. As Japanese planes strafe Pearl, a lone man runs out to a machine gun and starts firing at the Japanese. That lone man was Lt. John Finn. His Congressional Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:

For extraordinary heroism distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, on 7 December 1941, Lt. Finn promptly secured and manned a .50-caliber machinegun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machinegun strafing fire. Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy's fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.


Lt. Finn died at the age of 100 this week. Admiral Chester Nimitz presented Lt. Finn with the Medal of Honor on September 15, 1942. When presenting the medal, Admiral Nimitz said that Lt. Finn, like many of those who serve out nation, never intended to be a hero. He just did his duty.

Admiral Nimitz would probably say the same thing of all of our hero's who have died serving our nation. I hope you have a good Memorial Day, and thank you to all the soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Interview with Gerry Purcell (Part III)

This is the third part of my interview with Gerry Purcell. Mr. Purcell is running for Insurance Commissioner for the State of Georgia. In the previous two posts, I gave a little background on who Mr. Purcell is and why he's qualified for this job. This time we talked about the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), global warming, and how to prevent the federal government from intruding in our health insurance.


The National Association of Insurance Commissioners.


In researching Mr. Purcell, I came across the NAIC. This is an organization made up of the insurance commissioners from all 50 states. During our interview, Mr. Purcell pointed out that 36 of the states appoint their insurance commissioners. Georgia is in the minority in that we elect the Insurance Commissioner. Because of that, it's questionable how much this organization reflects the public, or what the voters in the 50 states want. Originally, this group did not have the power to force states to do anything. They could only make recommendations to the states. Mr. Purcell told me that changed under Obamacare. He said that Obamacare, "…nullifies, I think inappropriately, and perhaps illegally, the McCarran-Ferguson Act. " This act, "…basically establishes that states have control over their own insurance markets." With a federal health care system, this goes out the window. "Now you have this new, monstrous, insurance bill that invades and intrudes into that legislative authority that has been established for years, "he said. Mr. Purcell did warn what Obamcare would become a "full employment act" for lawyers because of the number of challenges that will be mounted on both sides of the aisle. There will be,"…dozens, if not hundreds {of lawsuits}, suing for the determination of the appropriateness of the legislative mandate, the nullification of McCarran-Ferguson, and the constitutionality of a non-governmental entity giving direction to a state." The last part of the comment brought us back to the NAIC.


I found that the NAIC had recently gotten into trouble because they had "asked" states to provide data on "climate related risks". They also stated that the states should have the ability to mandate insurance companies provide "climate related risks" data. I asked Mr. Purcell if he was elected, would he require insurance companies provide information on "climate related risks", would he ask they provide it, or would he drop the issue entirely? Mr. Purcell stated that he was the first candidate in the race to release a statement about this. When he first heard about this NAIC mandate, he made a call to John Oxendine's office asking them to drop this requirement, and then to the NAIC. He wanted to know under what authority the NAIC could make this a mandate to the states. When he spoke with the NAIC they stated it was actually "voluntary" and not a mandate. One of Mr. Purcell's concerns was the cost of this mandate. He estimated that the reporting would cost insurance companies millions of dollars. Further, that cost would be passed onto the consumer, and he didn't want to see insurance rates increased without any benefit to the consumer. Mr. Purcell said the only reason he could think that the NAIC would want data on "climate related risks" is to help generate support for a Cap and Trade bill. That shouldn't be the purpose of an insurance committee


How do you challenge Obamacare?


I asked Mr. Purcell if he would support a tenth amendment challenge to Obamacare. His response was very interesting:



"The tenth amendment is en vogue right now in Republican circles. Let me zero in on what that means to me. The question for me is: Does the federal government have the right, both legally and morally, to bankrupt the State of Georgia, and I say they don't. I say they don't and then you trigger the tenth amendment to exercise your push back on that."



Mr. Purcell is convinced that Obamacare will bankrupt Georgia. He points out that Obamacare will cost Georgia alone $1 Billion a year in today's dollars just in Medicaid. The federal government will fund this for the first couple of years. After that, they are going to stop funding it but require Georgians pick up the tab. Mr. Purcell estimates this could be as early as 2014 or 2015. By then, this will cost some $5 to $6 Billion. Mr. Purcell pointed out that Georgia had to balance its budget using $2 Billion in stimulus funds this year. Imagine trying to balance our state's budget without that money, but with an additional $6 Billion in expenses.



Next installment....


Next time, I ask Mr. Purcell how he would lower auto and health insurance costs for Georgians, and why he supports forcing Europe to pay their fair share of research costs for new drugs.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Are We Cowards on Race...or Just Plain Stupid?

The topic for this story comes from a reader, Pack04. He sent me this link for a story from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. For the complete story, refer to the link, but here are the highlights:

  • Catherine Ariemma is a teacher at a high school in north Georgia. She has been honored by both the community and the state for her dedication to her students and her profession.

  • Mrs. Ariemma was working with her advanced placement history students on a film project discussing racism.

  • Last Thursday, she had four students dress in Klu Klux Klan robes and walk through a portion of the school. She did not intend them to be anywhere near students, but forgot some students were eating lunch at the time of the filming.

  • Some students, including senior Cody Rider, were offended and complained to their parents. Their parents complained.

  • Activist Rev. Markel Hutchins was called to the town to, according to the AJC, quell,"...what seemed to be growing frustration among Dahlonega's small African American community."

  • Mrs. Ariemma has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. According to the AJC, "{School Superintendent}Moye said Ariemma has never been reprimanded for missteps and that she has always been an "outstanding" teacher. But he said he could not ignore this incident." The school system attorney is interviewing students to determine "what happened".

  • During a conversation with the School Superintendent, "...Hutchins asked the superintendent that a meeting be convened between the mayor and police chief to address Cody’s safety, as well as planning a diversity sensitivity training for the city, school staff and sheriff deputies."



These are the facts as reported by the AJC. The last one I find particularly depressing and humorous at the same time. Apparently senior Cody Rider is fearful the schools actors may come after him. The only threat of violence from the story is actually Mr. Rider threatening the actors.


In the story, Mrs. Ariemma said she was trying to do a film project with the students discussing racism, and that she couldn't do that without discussing the Klan. To do otherwise would be to condone their behavior. I think she's right. Can you imagine if a documentary on racism came out of a North Georgia school and the Klan wasn't mentioned in it at all?


I do think Mrs. Ariemma should have used non school hours to do her filming. But that is the worst thing I can see charging her with: poor logistics. She was trying to educate her students about racism, not lynch a student. However, because she used a different method, and because there is an Atlanta activist that needs more money, she may be fired. Not only that, but the county may have to spend money sending city staff, school staff, and sheriff's deputies into sensitivity training. The article didn't say how anyone from the city or the sheriff's office was involved in the original incident, but perhaps the AJC forgot to include that. The AJC also neglected to mention any similar incidents that might show how this was anything other than an isolated case. Finally, the AJC didn't mention this, but I wonder if the Rev. Hutchins plans on selling his services to the city to conduct the sensitivity training.


Eric Holder said we are a nation of cowards when it comes to race. I am starting to wonder if he's correct. There was no racism of any sort mentioned in the AJC story. Yet, a good teacher may lose her job, and a racial activist may make a good some of money from the city. I don't think either of these teaches the children of this particular high school anything about racism. It may teach them that political correctness could cost you your job, even if you are innocent.