We Conservatives Will Not Take Away Your Precious Contraception

All along, the Obama campaign has been trying to frighten women away from Mitt Romney by claiming that he will take away a woman’s “right to control her body.” This ad – which, to my very great annoyance, has been played in Virginia – is one example. A speech Obama delivered at a campaign stop in Colorado is another. In the latter, Obama claims that conservative health care policies would leave decisions regarding female reproductive health care in the hands of employers, insurance companies and politicians. But of course, as in all things, he is wrong.

First point: Insurance companies and employers may indeed have inordinate power over each American’s health care decisions at the present time — but that is precisely because of our third-party dominated system. If employers didn’t have to be health care providers – if, instead, they could just give their employees pre-tax dollars to purchase their own health care in the individual market – the issues of employer control and lack of portability would go away. (And by the way, Catholic employers would no longer have to worry about violating the creeds of the Church; according to the Church’s principles of moral philosophy, they would not be held responsible for what their employees might do with their health care stipends because those consequences are unpredictable.) Likewise, if patients had more opportunity to work directly with their doctors instead of going through their insurance companies, the power of those insurance companies would also diminish.

The question is, does Obama’s approach to health care policy come close to this genuine solution? H-E-double-hockey-sticks no. Instead, ACA doubles down on the failed policies of the past. It still requires employers to be health care providers. It still hands power to the insurance companies. It simply adds another layer of bureaucracy and regulations in a futile attempt to control the perverse incentives that plague our health care institutions. It does nothing to actually remove those incentives.

Obama feels the contraception mandate is necessary to prevent employers and health insurance companies from denying coverage for the birth control pill — but Obama’s policies embrace the system that made this a potential problem in the first place. Conservative health care policy, on the other hand, is designed to give the power back to the patient. If patients were in control of their health care dollars (via an HSA or something of that sort), then they – and only they – could decide what to spend their money on. On the basic things, they could completely bypass the bureaucracy — and the supply side of the market would respond by – gasp! – advertising prices to attract more customers and developing new ways to keep said prices appealing. And no — this isn’t just theory. This is what’s already happening in the fields of cosmetic and Lasik surgery.

Second point: There are many birth control options out there that are wholly affordable. Except for the initial class, charting methods are free. The condom is either free or dirt cheap and can be found at any local drug store or student health center. Generic Ortho Tri-Cyclen is available for $9 a month at Walmart. And finally, there are patient assistance programs available for the pricier birth control methods. Bottom line, there is no birth control access problem. There is, instead, an education problem; people simply don’t know that there are cheaper options out there because certain folks have a vested interest in keeping us helpless.

Final point: I would like to invite all the ladies out there to consider the possibility that handing a girl the birth control pill is not the same thing as providing holistic health care. Because in reality, the pill is merely convenient. The birth control pill does nothing to address the emotional consequences of our post-modern sexual landscape and only covers up the hormonal imbalances that result in many female complaints. Its existence also encourages a persistent ignorance regarding how our bodies actually work. Personally, I believe women deserve something better. They deserve a shot at genuine cures; they don’t deserve to be brushed aside by an expedient “panacea.”

But hey — if you, as a woman, like being dependent on a paternalistic government, vote for Obama. I won’t stop you. I do reserve the right, however, to question your commitment to authentic feminism.

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Another Quick Reply to the Roanoke Argument

I know: I’m obsessing. But leftists really think they’ve hit upon a genius line of reasoning here, and they need to be told ad infinitum that they are wrong.

This time around, I’m going to use moral philosophy to refute the Roanoke argument. Alas, I can’t claim that the theme of this post is a Stephanie original; I’m actually pulling these ideas from a recent article Ismael Hernandez wrote in the Catholic Crisis Magazine. However, I’m going to try to simplify Hernandez’ argument as much as possible so that anyone can understand it.

Consider the following situation: Tom works at an auto parts store. On a typical business day, he sells a woman a bottle of antifreeze. Unfortunately, said woman has a nefarious goal in mind: She plans to poison her husband by mixing the antifreeze into his favorite jello. Days later, Tom reads in the paper that a neighbor has died unexpectedly, and the local Dr. G has found evidence of antifreeze poisoning in his kidneys. Question: Should we accuse Tom of being an accessory to murder? After all, his antifreeze was the murder weapon.

The obvious answer to that query, of course, is no. Tom had no way of knowing how his product was going to be used. Similarly, while the government does maintain the roads, the postal service, the Patent Office, the international ports, etc., it has no earthly way of knowing what each American citizen will do with those resources; therefore, we cannot hold it responsible for the remote effects of its activity. If we’re going to credit the government for a man’s prosperous business, shouldn’t we also credit the government for the Unabomber? After all, Ted Kaczynski used the postal service to kill his victims.

No — the only person responsible for the actions of Ted Kaczynski is Ted Kaczynski. It doesn’t matter which government services he used to perpetrate his crimes. In like fashion, the most morally relevant cause of a business owner’s success is the initiative and hard work of the business owner.

A Quick Comment on a Certain Pro-Obama Super PAC Ad

So — it has been discovered that this ad, in which Mitt Romney is accused of contributing to a cancer patient’s death, is a steaming pile of horse dung. But even if it were absolutely true that the woman in question lost her health insurance coverage after Bain shut down her husband’s steel mill, the left would still have been wrong to launch that attack.

Why are certain people uninsured? Well, first of all, young and healthy customers have been priced out of the market due to state mandates that force them to buy coverage for medical care they don’t really need. Secondly, no one has thought to make employer-provided plans portable; thus, if you lose or change your job, you also lose your health plan. (This is the primary reason why we have people with “pre-existing conditions” who are having trouble finding plans that are affordable.) Third, people – like me – who buy plans in the individual market have to use after-tax dollars while people who get their insurance through their employer are using before-tax dollars. In other words, we suckers in the individual market don’t get cut the same breaks.

And you know what? All of these problems are addressed by conservative health care policy proposals. We want to offer healthy people low cost, high-deductible plans with health savings accounts that will allow them to budget and save for standard health care. We want to decouple health insurance from employment so people can change jobs without worrying that they will lose their current coverage. And we want to give people in the individual market the same tax breaks that are given to those who receive employer-provided insurance. So if you want to prevent people from prematurely dying of undetected cancer (or diabetes, heart disease, etc.), you need to vote for us. Obama? He doesn’t have the right answer.

The Hollow Republic

I think Yuval Levin finally nails down what I was trying to say in my first take-down of Obama’s Roanoke speech:

The president simply equates doing things together with doing things through government. He sees the citizen and the state, and nothing in between — and thus sees every political question as a choice between radical individualism and a federal program.

But most of life is lived somewhere between those two extremes, and American life in particular has given rise to unprecedented human flourishing because we have allowed the institutions that occupy the middle ground — the family, civil society, and the private economy — to thrive in relative freedom.

This difference of opinion about mediating institutions is no trifling matter. It gets at a profound and fundamental difference between the Left and the Right. The Left tends to believe that the great advantage of our liberal society is that it enables the application of technical knowledge that can make our lives better, and that this knowledge can overcome our biggest problems. This is the technocratic promise of progressivism. The Right tends to believe that the great advantage of our liberal society is that it has evolved to channel deep social knowledge through free institutions — knowledge that often cannot be articulated in technical terms but is the most important knowledge we have. For the Left, therefore, the mediating institutions (and at times even our constitutional forms) are obstacles to the application of liberal knowledge. For the Right, the mediating institutions (and our constitutional forms) are the embodiment of liberal knowledge.

Go forth and read the whole thing!

The Hollow Republic

Responding to Annoying Liberal Remarks on Facebook, XIII: On Epistemic Closure and Liberalism

I’m thinking, now, that I may have to stay off Facebook until well after the election. All it does is inspire incandescent rage at how utterly impervious to reason certain people are. Before I go, though, there is one last individual I need to (rhetorically) destroy. Said individual is a “friend-of-a-friend” with whom I have tangled TWICE in the past two days, and he is a textbook example of a concept known as “epistemic closure.”

What’s “epistemic closure,” you may ask? Basically, it’s a fancy term describing a reliance on too few sources of information. Liberals love to declare that we conservatives are sufferers, but such claims are patently ridiculous. We get exposed to liberal thought all the bloody time. We can’t avoid liberals even if we tried because of the left’s stranglehold on the engines of our culture. Can liberals, meanwhile, say that they’ve sat down to peruse the National Review? Well, the aforementioned “friend-of-a-friend” certainly can’t.

(Cut for extreme length.)

I first ran into the individual in question – whom I will dub “Close-Minded Liberal,” or CML for short – in a discussion about Chick-Fil-A. As you might expect, CML was absolutely convinced that everyone who lined up for a chicken sandwich on the 1st was there to express their gay-hating bigotry. I jumped in to make the demonstrably true claim (see also: yours truly, Andrew Klavan, Glenn Reynolds, the posters at Gay Patriot, and the many people quoted in articles covering the Appreciation Day) that many people who are, at the very least, sympathetic when it comes to the gay rights movement have also come out in support of Chick-Fil-A. I then noted that the most likely animating impulse for the huge turn-out was the over-reach of certain liberal politicians. His response, which he has since repeated many times, can be paraphrased thusly:

The people who are framing this as a free speech issue are misguided. This is a free market issue. People were exercising their right to free speech in boycotting Chick-Fil-A, and if it hurt Dan Cathy’s pocketbook, tough titties. The liberal mayors only complicated things.

I didn’t respond to this because I was already out of patience regarding the whole Chick-Fil-A issue, but here’s what I would’ve said if I wasn’t tapped out:

Let’s leave aside your laughable belief that your precious boycott did anything significant to hurt the chain’s sales numbers. (Even before the Appreciation Day was called, the restaurant here in Woodbridge was doing brisk business regardless of the bad publicity.) Instead, let’s tackle the other claims. First of all, you strongly imply that social conservatives are simply objecting to the idea of a boycott because they don’t understand what free speech actually means. This is false. We don’t dispute the pro-gay left’s right to hold a boycott. We do, however, reserve our right to comment on what that boycott – and in particular, the deeply misleading liberal commentary promoting it – says about your potential for fascistic overreach (not to mention your apparent inability to understand and tolerate people who disagree with you). Over and over again, I’ve seen people like you advance the following line of reasoning:

People who hate gays are against gay marriage.
Dan Cathy is against gay marriage.
Therefore, Dan Cathy hates gay people.

This is what is known as a converse error (if you’re in geometry class) or the fallacy of the undistributed middle (if you’re a logician). The majority of people who have doubts about gay marriage are simply religious people who hate and fear no one. Perhaps they are misguided – I, for one, am not completely convinced that’s the case – but your attempts to involuntarily baptize them all into the Westboro Baptist Church will guaran-damn-tee that you will persuade no one to rethink his position. It has also convinced many that your true intention is to quash each American’s freedom of religious observance. Sure — you technically have a right to hold a boycott and call us all bigots for disagreeing. But we have a right to worry out loud about what you might do, given your hostile attitude, if you were to gain real political power. It’s not an utterly unbridgeable gap between declaring a viewpoint anathema and acting to legally suppress it.

And actually, in reality, the left’s totalitarian impulse can no longer be described as merely “potential.” The Obama administration has already realized that potential through their contraception mandate. So if we’re being a little hypersensitive, such apprehension is certainly not based on nothing. The president and his coterie are telling me that I while I can worship God in a Catholic Church every Sunday, I certainly can’t live my faith the other days of the week. How can I not fear for my constitutional rights?

Which brings me to your attempt to minimize the role of Mayors Menino and Emanuel. I’m sorry, but no — there is good reason to believe that their actions are what primarily drove the turn out the other day. As far as I can tell from looking at the dates, Huckabee did not call for a Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day until after Menino announced his intention to block Chick-Fil-A’s expansion into Boston. There were complaints about the pro-gay left before, yes, but once the aforementioned politicians got into the act, that’s when the conservative response exploded exponentially — and rightfully so, because Menino and Emanuel were now proposing that municipal governments use their power to issue business licenses and zoning permits as a stick to beat people like Cathy for not toeing the liberal party line. Such actions would clearly violate the First Amendment, a fact already noted by several libertarian, conservative, and honest liberal commentators. The Chick-Fil-A flap is not over our right to free speech? Dishonest nonsense! You can’t arbitrarily put the mayors aside just because they inconveniently blow giant holes in your “Chick-Fil-A’s supporters are all gay bashers” narrative.

ARRRRRRRRGH! Rahm Emanuel does not represent the “free market,” you tool.

Okay — now let’s move on to the next dispute. My Facebook friend, who is a moderate liberal and a genuinely nice guy, posted one of those dumb Facebook memes that advances Obama’s Roanoke argument regarding our responsibility to the government, remarking in passing that he thinks both sides – liberal and conservative – have advanced points regarding said speech that are correct. CML immediately responded (and again, this is a paraphrase), “That’s impossible. The Republican viewpoint depends on being willfully ignorant regarding Obama’s larger point.”

Well, I leaped into the fray at once, because I can’t stand this new liberal meme that claims we all misunderstood what Obama said in my home state. Oh please, liberals. Let me call the WAAAAAAAAAAAmbulance. We conservatives understood him perfectly. Obama made the wholly banal observation that the government does a number of things that keep us safe and allow the economy to function in order to advance his perennial argument that the rich have a patriotic duty to accept higher tax rates. But as we logic freaks might say, “Non sequitur!” I already took apart much of this rhetoric a few posts ago, but since then, I’ve come up with a few more rejoinders. For example:

1. Many of the government services that liberals like to cite because they’re popular – like fire and police – are handled at the local level, not the federal level. How does it make sense for Obama to ask certain people to pay more federal taxes for things the federal government doesn’t even do?

2. In other cases, liberals commit another logical error: They automatically assume that because the government was involved in the moon shot (or some other genuine accomplishment, like the interstate highway system), we should support current and future government funding of any other “innovation” Obama and his buddies personally favor (like “green energy” or high speed bullet trains) or else be branded as “unpatriotic” and “selfish.” It is true that, in the 20th century, politicians tended to default to big government solutions. That was the high water mark for centralized, top-down “blue state model” thinking. And it’s also true that the government didn’t completely fail at everything it touched. (See also: the moon shot.) But you cannot therefore conclude that we would not have nice things like electricity and telecommunications were it not for the intervention of a 20th century-style federal bureaucracy — or that we won’t have nice things in the years to come if we slim that bureaucracy down to a more sustainable size.

3. Even if we stipulate that certain things must be handled by the federal government – and most conservatives do, by the way – that absolutely does not mean that our present government is discharging its obligatory tasks in a way that is efficient or financially smart. Duplication, waste and inertia are endemic in DC. Take something simple — like the weather. The NWS and the NOAA seem like obviously beneficial organizations. We all want to know when a hurricane is coming, right? But as SABR Matt has discussed here, here and here, even the NWS and the NOAA are weighed down with silly redundancies and out-dated technology. Why should we be satisfied with this? And why should we fork over more money to the alphabet soup when it’s clear it won’t be used wisely? I’m not saying that there aren’t excellent federal employees who honestly wish to serve the public good. I am saying, however, that the inherent characteristics of the federal bureaucracy often make it difficult for the sincere public servant to do his job. The federal government desperately needs to be audited and streamlined — and until that happens, Obama has no justification for holding his hands out.

4. Finally, while the government does perform critical functions that keep the economy moving, it also performs many non-critical duties whose consequence is to block economic growth. I was working as a secretary at a fairly large insulation company the year Sarbanes-Oxley went into effect, and holy crap was that a nightmare of epic proportions! Currently, businesses are forced to spend a great deal of time and many millions of dollars annually on crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s to avoid being hounded by government regulators — and it’s all because leftist consumer advocates and environmentalists want us to chase the utopian fantasy that is zero percent risk. In the same vein, if you’re currently unemployed and you decide you want to sell cookies out of your kitchen, hot dogs in the park, or lemonade on your driveway, forget it. The government will eventually come crashing down on you because you don’t have a “license.” Yet the arrogant left wants us to bow down and thank the government for making our prosperity possible? Bull. At best, the government harms as often as it helps. (By the way, Sarah Hoyt has written a very good post on this very subject entitled “Of Fists and Noses.” You should read it.)

Now, in dealing with CML, I didn’t say all of the above. After all, Facebook is hardly an ideal platform for lengthy explications of my political thought. What I did, do, however, was defend the idea that individual initiative matters. I noted that while thirty other students took AP Stats with Mr. W., my all time favorite teacher, only two students got 5’s on the AP exam. The students in my class all grew up in similarly situated families and had access to the same award-winning instructor, but only one other student and I got top marks. That seems to contradict this idea that we owe our success to others. In reply, CML insisted that Obama didn’t deny the importance of a successful business-person’s hard work and whined once again that I was missing the point. To that, I say, “Whatever, dude.” Granted, there was a throw-away line in there that mentioned individual initiative. But you have to take into account the overall tone of the speech — especially the passage at issue. When Obama says, “There are a lot of hard-working people out there!” he is outright mocking the ordinary (and justified) pride people take in what they’ve accomplished. When he says, “There are a lot of smart people out there!” you can hear the resentment and derision dripping from his voice. No — when I listen to that speech, I don’t hear a president who respects the business community. Even if I put the most charitable spin on this and accept that Obama didn’t completely abandon the traditional American understanding of prosperity and its roots, he certainly severely devalued said understanding.

CML also tried to lecture me about how we owe our forebears for this wonderful system they created and all the infrastructure they established. My instinctive reaction? “Kiss my ass.” (Well — that’s a printable interpretation, anyway.) I am thankful for what previous generations have done for me; if I had a time machine, I would go back and thank them right now. But that’s not what Obama is asking us to do. Instead, he is using this “legacy of previous generations” horse dung to guilt the gullible into paying for his pet boondoggles. You see, he is just so eager to play venture capitalist — even though, as the whole Solyndra disaster reveals, he has no effing clue how to recognize a viable business model. And, oh yes — while he’s at it, he also wants us to pay for an overhaul of our health care system that is almost certain to do more harm than good. This doesn’t have jack to do with preserving “American values.” It has everything to do with enriching the president’s cronies at the taxpayers’ expense.

Along the way, I also stated, accurately, that we conservatives don’t object to paying taxes for those things that are necessary. CML then tried to claim that celebrating tax evasion is the new meme sweeping the conservative movement. This was news to me. Since Obama’s inauguration, I have been reading Commentary Magazine, The Weekly Standard, The American Spectator, and the National Review. I’ve also frequently visited Instapundit (the indefatigable conservative/libertarian aggregator), Hot Air, PJTV (& PJ Media), Townhall, The Daily Caller and the Breitbart Feed. What’s more, I’ve read conservative books – a lot of conservative books – and have gone to conservative political conferences. In all of those places, I have never read (or heard) even so much as a sentence praising tax avoidance. So I bluntly told CML he was imagining things and challenged him to present his evidence. What did he give me? Remarks by Senator Lindsey Graham as interpreted by Think Progress and one blog post. I’ll get to the blog post in a minute, but first I want to talk about Graham, because – unlike Obama – he is misunderstood. Here’s what he actually said a few weeks ago (and I should say here that the Huffington Post deserves credit for including enough context to contradict Think Progress’ screaming headline):

“As long as it was legal, I’m OK with it,” Graham said. “I don’t blame anybody for using the tax code to their advantage. I blame us for having it so complicated and confused. Pick a rate and make people pay it.”

In the meantime, anything within the rules goes, he argued.

“It’s a game we play,” Graham said. “Every American tries to find the way to get the most deductions they can. I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game.”

The senator’s solution to such gamesmanship is a major overhaul of the tax system, similar to the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan that calls for lowering rates while closing loopholes.

“I want to end the game,” Graham said. “I want to make it so simple that you know what you owe, and if you don’t pay, we’re going to whack the heck out of you…”

So what Graham is really advocating here is that we remove those cozy little tax shelters and make the tax code flatter and more predictable — yet Think Progress interprets this as “Lindsey Graham says it’s American to avoid paying taxes,” and CML interprets Think Progress’ interpretation as, “Lindsey Graham says tax evasion is awesome. Wheeee!” Good God, there are so many comprehension failures at play here that I’m pretty sure no additional comment is required.

And as for the blog post? This is when I concluded once and for all that CML deserves to be called a CML — and an imbecilic one at that. First, let me give you a chance to actually read it:

Why It Is Patriotic to Not Pay Taxes

Done? Did you laugh as hard as I did and immediately demote CML’s intelligence to moron status? The above blog post is an obviously sarcastic criticism of companies – like GM (a friend of Obama) – that engage in crony capitalism. And by the way, if you go to the homepage for that site, here’s are some of the other blog posts you might find:

Chick-Fil-A: Real Chicken, Real Hate
The Bigoted Boy Scouts of America
Republican Pattern of Lying

Hmm. Doesn’t seem like a conservative blog to me. But, to be fair, I heeded CML’s plea that I Google some appropriate strings to find more. Predictably, while I tried several variations of “It’s American/patriotic to avoid paying taxes,” I found diddly-squat beyond a bunch of liberal sites maliciously distorting the conservative argument.

Now here’s what I have seen within the conservative movement over the last few years:

This is a quite different complaint. The people who carry signs like this are not upset that they have to pay taxes; they are upset that they are being asked to pay more even though Obama and his appointees and friends have amply demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with their money. This is not a push for anarchy; it is a request, tartly phrased, that the federal government be called to account for all the tax payer dollars it’s put through the shredder. But, of course, for people like CML – people who live in the hermetically sealed Think Progress bubble – it is just so much more convenient to portray us all as selfish Randian individualists and raging homophobic bigots. It’s so tidy, you know, not to have to consider your opponents’ concerns as anything other than the ravings of lunatic idiots.

With all due lack of respect, CML: Screw off.

The Left’s SPECTACULAR Failure Re: Chick-Fil-A

So, yeah — today, I had a grilled chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A for lunch, and our free-standing restaurant here in Woodbridge (VA) was packed to the gills. Was this merely a local phenomenon? Apparently not:

Chick-Fil-A Restaurants Around Country Overwhelmed By Show Of Support

Here’s the thing: If I were to use one word to describe my attitude regarding gay marriage, I think that word would be “ambivalent.” On the one hand, I have quite a few gay friends and consequently feel sympathy for their position. Personally, I don’t see why, for example, we can’t allow a gay man to visit his life partner in the ICU; said gay man’s feelings are real and should be respected. And let’s face it — if Kim Kardashian can divorce her latest husband after a mere 72 days of marriage without becoming the target of near universal condemnation, it’s no wonder the “sanctity of marriage!” argument is now failing to pass muster. In truth, the straight majority has already done quite enough to radically undermine the marriage sacrament. Will our tiny gay minority really make the situation worse?

On the other hand, I am a faithful Catholic and therefore obligated to take the Church’s teaching on homosexuality seriously. 2000-plus years of Christian tradition is not something to casually dismiss — especially given the overwhelming vindication of that tradition on the issues of contraception and abortion. Are we really happier now that we’ve completely removed the procreative function from the sexual act? Thanks to the supposed “liberation” of the sixties and seventies, poverty has been feminized, families are crumbling, and our children are getting the short end of the stick. How can we trust that gay marriage won’t be as destructive as that first “revolution” in sexual mores?

Bottom line, when it comes to gay marriage, I’m a true moderate. I can see the merits of both sides of the debate and am willing to consider a compromise solution of some sort — one that gives a gay union some secular legal heft without mandating social or religious acceptance. Because I gotta tell ya: If you’re looking for outright approval, you’re going to be waiting a ridiculously long time. Every time gay marriage has been put up to a popular vote, it has lost. Every time. It doesn’t matter if the vote is held in a “blue” state, a “red” state, or a purplish swing state; the results are always the same. And no — that doesn’t mean your fellow Americans are all bigoted yokels. It means they haven’t found your argument persuasive.

Left wing gay marriage advocates have basically convinced themselves that the entire Christian right looks like this:

… when in reality, Christians who oppose gay marriage look more like my neighbors, my unassuming Korean boss, my relatives, and my priests — i.e., folks who would never dream of hurting anyone and generally aren’t hateful or “phobic.” I mean, really: Does this guy sound like he’s seething with rage?  Does this woman sound like she’s itching to string gay men up by their toenails? Please, leftists — be honest in your dealings with people who disagree with you. Cartoonifying your opposition only hurts you in the long run. 

And thus, I come back to Chick-Fil-A. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t agree 100% with Dan Cathy were I to have an in-depth conversation with him about gay marriage. But after a week of watching the Two Minutes Hate unfold on Facebook over Cathy’s remarks in re: marriage, I evolved into a firm supporter of the beleaguered CEO. I just don’t like deceitfulness, hypocrisy, or bullying, and the whole Chick-Fil-A affair has featured generous helpings of all three. The deceit came in every time a gay marriage booster conflated Cathy’s opposition to gay marriage with an outright hatred of gays. The hypocrisy and bullying, meanwhile, came in when certain high-profile politicians – who, by the way, wouldn’t dream of challenging a black mega-church or a mosque on this same issue – threatened to block Chick-Fil-A’s expansion into their territories. Are these men aware of this thing we have called the First Amendment? I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to use government force to shut someone up. Oh — and who exactly died and made you the boss of your constituents’ consumer choices, Rahm? Perhaps you should let people make up their own damned minds whether they wish to patronize Cathy’s chicken joint or not.

I’m betting a poll of Chick-Fil-A’s customers today would reveal attitudes very much like my own. The huge backlash against the anti-Chick-Fil-A rhetoric, I feel, reflects the average American’s impatience with moral busybodies who seek to dictate to us how we should live our everyday lives. As one of my Facebook friends remarked today, “Can’t I just order a chicken sandwich without it becoming a huge political affair?” Amen to that, brother! If you wish to personally boycott Chick-Fil-A over Cathy’s position on gay marriage, that’s your prerogative — but don’t attempt to force your opinions on the rest of us.

Responding to Annoying Liberal Remarks on Facebook, XII: The "You Can’t Argue With What’s In My Heart" Edition

Okay — so here’s how the most recent bit of Facebook liberal idiocy went down:

First of all, one of my liberal friends posted a link to a CBO report estimating that Obamacare will lower federal costs by $84 billion over eleven years.

In response, one conservative “friend of a friend” observed, quite reasonably, that:

The cost has gone up. It saved $200 billion over ten years back in March of last year. And then there’s the poll released today that shows 10% of companies are thinking of dropping their health coverage since Obamacare will force them to buy more comprehensive coverage than what they currently do. That will drive up costs by a bunch and isn’t accounted for in the current CBO estimate.

The original poster’s reply?

So we’re back to “Let them die.” Great. Including the couple that was shot at the Colorado movie. I’m sorry, my right-wing friends, but there’s just nothing you guys can say that will convince me we should let millions of Americans die because of this. And wasn’t it your side complaining about (made up) “death panels?” And your side that talks incessantly about a “culture of life?” And yet who is it that screams “Let him die!” at debates and wants to deny working Americans health care? I’m sorry, gang, but there’s just no way I can get behind that kind of approach to life. No way. No matter how you dress it up in anti-big-gubment rhetoric and complain about “socialized” this and that, it just isn’t gonna fly here. Take it elsewhere, because all the argument in the world will not change my mind or, more importantly, my heart.

Let’s take apart this completely unhinged statement one step at a time, shall we?

So we’re back to “Let them die.” Great. Including the couple that was shot at the Colorado movie. I’m sorry, my right-wing friends, but there’s just nothing you guys can say that will convince me we should let millions of Americans die because of this.

My visceral reaction to this is unprintable on a family blog. How do we go from opposing the Affordable Care Act to “letting people die?” Once again, in typical liberal fashion, you are arguing with a straw man. There is no one – NO ONE – who believes that our health care system is perfectly fine the way it is. There is no one who does not worry about rising health care costs — or about those Americans who may be slipping through the cracks. Disagreement only arises when we get to specific policy proposals. Those who oppose PPACA do not do so because they malevolently wish to deny working Americans access to health care. Speaking for myself, I oppose PPACA because I believe it to be a ridiculously bureaucratic “solution” that erroneously conflates access to health care with access to health insurance. I was uninsured from 2004 to 2006, and at no time was I ever denied care. I was still able to see my primary care physician. I was still able to see my rheumatologist. And when I landed in the hospital several times in the summer and fall of 2006, said hospital wrote off 75% of my expenses.

To be sure, privately insured patients tend to see better medical outcomes when you look at the averages, but the same cannot be said for patients on, oh, Medicaid, which PPACA seeks to expand despite the program’s desperate need for reform. Further, putting undue emphasis on broadening access to comprehensive health insurance ignores other avenues for change. For example, instead of introducing more third-party payers into the system, why not return some of the responsibility for health care to the consumer? If healthy and employed Americans could actually see how much certain things cost, they might hold off on visiting their doctors for cases of the seasonal flu, thereby freeing up resources for those in more urgent need. We definitely don’t want somebody to go broke because they developed cancer – or some other serious chronic illness – but I think mandating insurance coverage for standard “oil changes” is going way overboard.

I guess what I’m trying to convey here is that PPACA is not the be-all and end-all of health care policy in America. There are other ideas out there — ideas that, in my opinion, are based on sound economics. Oppose them if you choose, but please don’t imply that they don’t exist.

And wasn’t it your side complaining about (made up) “death panels?”

And what of the Independent Payment Advisory Board? Isn’t that 15-member body empowered to cut payments to Medicare providers? Please explain how that will not result, ultimately, in health care rationing for seniors.

And your side that talks incessantly about a “culture of life?” And yet who is it that screams “Let him die!” at debates and wants to deny working Americans health care?

Ugh! This leftist urban legend again! I urge you to actually go back and watch the video of the debate in question. When the moderator asked Ron Paul if the uninsured American in his hypothetical should be left to die, only one or two assholes in the audience shouted “Yeah!” — and they were met with nervous titters here and there, not thunderous applause. Again, I ask that you stop spreading vicious falsehoods about your opposition. Try engaging us in good faith for a change.

I’m sorry, gang, but there’s just no way I can get behind that kind of approach to life. No way. No matter how you dress it up in anti-big-gubment rhetoric and complain about “socialized” this and that, it just isn’t gonna fly here. Take it elsewhere, because all the argument in the world will not change my mind or, more importantly, my heart.

And here, my Facebook friend finally reveals just how mired he is in emotional thinking. Obamacare is right in my heart! How dare anyone challenge it using inconvenient facts!   

Well, pardon me for bursting your bubble, but as your other friend’s comment reveals, there are legitimate reasons to doubt that Obama’s pet legislation will actually do anything to control health care costs or improve access. Stick your fingers in your ears and shout “La-la-la! Republicans are EVIL and want you to DIE!” all you want, but don’t be surprised if we conservatives then throw up our hands and drop you from our reading lists. Assuming ill motives where none exist is an excellent way to lose friends and antagonize people. Indeed, that attitude is likely to earn you a punch in the face.

Dismantling the Warren/Obama Argument

There’s a line of argument that has really begun to irritate me, and Obama is only the most recent politician to promulgate it:

“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own…

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen…

“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.”

(Read more here.)

Allow me to call out the two ridiculous assumptions that lurk behind this rhetoric:

First of all, as I noted in Friday’s post, this is a reply to an argument no one has made. Everyone understands that a community can accomplish many things that a lone individual cannot. After all, why have people created publicly-traded corporations if not to access the resources of thousands of investors? Why do people band together in service organizations if not to maximize the impact of their generosity? Alexis de Tocqueville once observed in his famous description of the early American republic that:

“Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds, religious, moral, serious, futile, general or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found seminaries, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it is proposed to inculcate some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society. Wherever at the head of some new undertaking you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association.

“I met with several kinds of associations in America of which I confess I had no previous notion; and I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object for the exertions of a great many men and in inducing them voluntarily to pursue it.”

And does the conservative movement discourage this activity — this spontaneous formation of associations for the purpose of accomplishing some larger public goal? Of course not. Indeed, de Tocqueville is fairly well revered on our side of the aisle.

No – the real difference between Obama’s ideology and ours is this: Obama emphasizes the role of the government – and only the government – in providing for the common good. We conservatives, on the other hand, believe the government should be our last resort — that the voluntary associations that were one of America’s key features in de Tocqueville’s time can often achieve superior results depending on the problem at issue. The conservative creed does not suppose an atomized society in which each individual must go it alone. Indeed, even your most radical libertarians understand the theoretical importance of a police force at the very least (even when they criticize its alleged excesses). And as for those of us on the socially conservative end of the spectrum, I recommend you read It Takes a Family, in which Rick Santorum spends almost 500 pages emphasizing the importance of rebuilding our civic capital. Santorum may be a little too reliant on government solutions for the average conservative’s taste, but I think we generally agree with the former senator’s larger point — that broken families and broken neighborhoods are what make big government so attractive to so many and that the government does have at least a minimal role in ensuring that our aforementioned voluntary associations can survive and thrive.

To put it simply: Do we conservatives acknowledge that some taxation is necessary if we are to have things like fire houses and policemen and an Air Force? Yes. But we also believe in the principle of subsidiarity — i.e., the idea that any problem must be tackled by the smallest group that is competent to do so. Military research is certainly the province of the federal government; bullying in the schoolyard, however, should be handled by the local principal and not by federal or state mandates. And as for all the issues that lie between? Well, unlike the left, we believe there is room for legitimate debate — that we should be allowed to examine the effectiveness of every government program without being vilified as puppy-kickers who wish to starve Grandma.  

Now to the second ludicrous assumption: When Obama and his supporters proclaim, repeatedly, that the rich must “give back” and “pay their fair share,” they are implying that the rich don’t do so already — a viewpoint that is so overwhelmingly false that it makes me laugh. Let’s destroy this pernicious claim, shall we?

  1. Since the age of the so-called “robber barons,” the rich have poured millions of dollars into various philanthropic causes. Name any art museum, theater, hospital, university, research facility, or homeless shelter, and I guarantee I can produce a list of very rich people who helped to make it happen without being forced to do so by the dead hand of the federal government.
  2. According to the CBO, the hated “one-percent” earned 13.4% of the total income generated in the US in 2009 and paid 22.3% of all the federal income taxes collected. What’s unfair about this exactly? It seems pretty proportional to me.
  3. More importantly, if a man has a lucrative business, he doesn’t dump all the money said business earns into a private pool to swim in it all day. Obviously, he pays taxes (see the second point above), but his prosperity travels even further than that. Number one, he pays his employees (thereby acknowledging their contribution to his success) and buys new materials and equipment (thereby funneling capital to other economic ventures). Number two, this business owner may use his take-home profits to buy a house (thereby giving money to a cadre of realtors, architects and construction workers), shop for groceries (thereby giving money to point-of-sale clerks and farmers), or hire a tutor for his children (thereby giving money to people like me). The upshot? This man may make a million dollars before taxes, but most of that money will not stay in his pocket. It will be spread throughout his community.
  4. Lastly, the aforementioned business owner cannot compel anyone to pay for his product or his services. Consequently, if he is making money hand over fist, we can rely on that as a signal that he is adding value to many people’s lives just by making a living. Let’s say I spend several hundred dollars on a new laptop. The lucky computer company may get my money, but guess what? I get a laptop in return — and my life is incontrovertibly enriched. Give back? No — I’m not going to demand that the CEO of Dell “give back” because, in making relatively affordable laptops available to people like me, he or she already has. Similarly, I’m not going to insist self-righteously that the CEO of Walmart pay his “fair share” because providing the rural and urban poor the opportunity to buy groceries and other consumer goods on the cheap is a contribution to society that is quite sufficient.          

Do I think it’s nice when wealthy people go above and beyond what is legally required when it comes to their giving? Yes. Do I hope that most wealthy people will be inspired to do so by the call of Christian charity? Of course. But Obama is not appealing to the teachings of Jesus Christ — or, at the very least, he is doing so inaccurately. What Obama and his ilk are proposing is that we take by force the fruits of other men’s success — and they are attempting to justify their outright denial of the rich man’s natural rights by misusing the concept of a social contract. It is vacuously true that no man can achieve success wholly on his own — but if the reality that we all have teachers to teach us, policemen and firemen to protect us, and highways on which to transport our goods is reason enough for “society” to confiscate a man’s wealth, no one’s property is safe.

Responding to Annoying Liberal Remarks on Facebook, XI: Drive-By Rejoinders

When it comes to the memes that are disseminated on Facebook, I think I’ve reached the final straw. Therefore, what follows is a series of brief – and cranky – replies to the oh-so-deep political thoughts my acquaintances have shared with me in the past week.

1.

Sayeth the first friend (with the help of Stephen King):

“Rich people should acknowledge that they wouldn’t have made it without America — that they should give back in proportion to what they’ve received.”

Wealth creation depends upon the rule of law, so yes — a rich man should thank America for his good fortune. The thing is, I don’t think there’s anyone on my side of the political aisle who doesn’t acknowledge the importance of infrastructure, police, fire, education, etc. — nor has any conservative ever proposed that being an American means being “on your own.” You – and Stephen King – are setting up a straw man instead of debating the real thing. Real conservatives agree that the government does and should have the power to tax the populace to arrange for the establishment of the aforementioned public goods. We merely insist that our money be fully accounted for.

Let me put it to you this way: Imagine your son fell into some financial difficulty and came to you for help paying his rent. Wouldn’t you resent it if he came back a few weeks later and asked for more because he was stupid and bought an X-Box instead of settling things with his landlord? That is how I feel about the government. It keeps asking me for more and more of my tax money without explaining where the last check went. Millions and millions of dollars are being pitched into circular files like Solyndra, and no apology is ever extended when these ventures are revealed to be colossal wastes. Personally, I think all Americans – rich and poor alike – should scream “Not one cent more!” until the entire federal government is audited and streamlined. It is frankly psychotic at this point to let out more rope when the nation is already hanging itself. What’s more, it’s immoral. We have a duty to ensure that our government spending is sustainable. To do otherwise is to countenance massive generational theft.

Oh, and by the way: The rich are already giving back in proportion to what they receive — and then some. According to the CBO, the top quintile makes 50.8% of the before-tax income generated in the United States and pays 67.9% of our federal income taxes. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

2.

 Sayeth another friend (this time with the help of Mark Ruffalo):

“Why is it that Americans question putting more money into health care but don’t question how much we spend on the military?”

Hmm. Could it be the fact that the federal government would still run at a deficit even if we zeroed out the entire defense budget tomorrow?  Or that providing for the nation’s defense is actually a Constitutionally-enumerated power of the federal government while providing for cradle-to-grave comprehensive health insurance is not? Or that the Affordable Care Act – popularly known as Obamacare – doesn’t actually fix the true problems with the health care delivery system in America?

Once again, I don’t know of any conservative who is satisfied with our health care status quo. What we object to is Obama’s top-down, bureaucratic nightmare of a solution. Health care costs are spiraling out of control in part because, in the health care market, the usual price signals have been completely obscured by our reliance on third-party payments. Then there are the trial lawyers, whose activities guarantee that doctors will overuse expensive tests and procedures to cover their own asses. Does Obamacare address either of these issues? And by the way, it also doesn’t help that this disaster of a law apparently empowers the HHS to infringe upon my conscience rights as a Catholic. To this, I say hell to the no.

3.
And finally, from the same friend who quoted Mark Ruffalo above:
“GOP: Choose between Ayn Rand or Jesus Christ. Otherwise, you’re doing it wrong.”

Okay — how can you possibly be a professor of political science and not know how our two-party system works? Because our political infrastructure is not kind to third-party bids, both the GOP and the Democratic Party are forced to behave as coalitions in order to absorb as much of the electorate as possible. So yes — our tent houses both the Objectivists and the Christians, but that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize how such groups differ on the issues of the day. As a matter of fact, we argue quite fiercely amongst ourselves.

As for me, I choose Jesus Christ because I believe he is God. However, I don’t assume that living out the Gospel requires big government. I am called to care for the poor and vulnerable, yes — but the way I see it, that means I must support what truly works and not what makes us all feel good. The Great Society? Sorry, liberals, but multi-generational welfare dependency does not fit my definition of “working.” We need jobs, not an expansion of the dole.
*****
So yeah — every time I visit Facebook these days, I’m always all: