July 2009

27 Jul 2009

One other thing about the health care situation… When the wife and I returned from Russia a few years ago, we connected through Atlanta Hartsfield International airport. During the layover, we were struck by the juxtaposition of the trim bodies in St. Petersburg with the obese girths of the Americans waddling through the Atlanta airport.

People have long had easy access to doctors in our dollar-fueled economy. They have insurance through their employer that pays for most of their doctor visits (a relic of government laws stretching back to WWII). People can stay fat and know that the doctor is always there to provide low-cost medications to alleviate high cholesterol and other aches and pains that are often caused by carrying around an extra bowling ball or two in their gut or fanny. Given that health care rationing is inevitable even if we are spared Obamacare, I doubt many will feel the same way when it takes a year to get an MRI like it does in Canada. Just as people started saving when they realized that their house wasn’t a source of wealth any longer, they will probably start eating better and exercising when they realize that it will keep them out of an unpleasant health care system. Americans will be forced to do more in the area of prevention. I suggest everyone start doing it right now.

Of course, prevention isn’t 100%-effective. Accidents happen. People get cancer and have heart attacks despite healthy living. However, in general it’s a truism that eating right and exercising is healthier than being sedentary and overweight. A lot of medications would not have to be prescribed. People would get sick less often. They’d have fewer aches and pains. They won’t be tooling around the grocery store in those motorized carts because they’re too out-of-shape to walk the aisles.

Paul says in 1 Tim 4:8 that while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way. This is true and we shouldn’t make idols of our bodies. At the same time, when I see an obese preacher, I wonder how they can have self-control in their spiritual life if they lack self-control in their eating and exercise habits. I say this not as a superior life form: I’ve been 30 pounds overweight and I’m now about 15 points overweight. A box of donuts has often sounded tastier than chicken and fruit. However, one way we can love our neighbors is by staying out of the cluttered health care system once it becomes heavily rationed. We can show that our belly isn’t our god. We can have self-control.

It’s not rocket science to know that eating right and exercising (and I might add, using the means of grace) are part of living a healthy lifestyle. The trick to eating better and exercising is to find things that motivate you to do both.

Programs like Weight Watchers help you understand what you are eating. This motivated me. Weight Watchers has a formula where you count points based on the number of calories, fat, and fiber in a food. You get a certain number of points per day based on your weight, and can use the points in any way you please. You soon find that it’s better to spend 8 points on lean meat and lite bread than 12 points on a sliver of cake if you want to avoid your stomach growling all day. Weight Watchers remains with you after you move on from it. I still use its concepts. It’s second nature to do the math in my head (using the formula) on just about any food.

One of the consequences of our bubble economy was that people were eating out a lot during the boom. It’s surprising to see the extreme unhealthiness of most restaurant food. Check out the calories and fat in the foods at your favorite restaurant. It’s really hard to imagine how a restaurant can squeeze 141 grams of fat into a single burger, or 128 grams of fat into a chicken and broccoli pasta, and yet they manage it (a McDonalds hamburger has a paltry 9 grams of fat by comparison).

Exercise is the same as food: find something that motivates you. The best exercise is the exercise that you can and will do regularly. You may have to change it up every few months. Some people like to run. I don’t. Some like to power-walk or bike. Some like going to a gym with an ipod. Some like classes. There are tons of workout DVDs. My wife and I are doing P90X right now. It is kicking our behinds on a daily basis, but we have grown to like it and the instruction. I like its focus on ensuring that one gets plenty of protein. To survive it though, you have to follow the nutrition plan… French fries and pop tarts just don’t give you the fuel to get through it. The P90X people have other programs too, including a less-strenuous version of P90X called Power 90. It isn’t easy either, but real exercise isn’t. Get a heart monitor so you can ensure that you really are exercising. And get busy.

22 Jul 2009

“Obamacare” is a disaster in waiting. There is no way that tens of millions of people can be added to a system while achieving cost savings (unless there is heavy rationing). The cost estimate I’ve seen for Obamacare is $1.6 trillion. As Ron Paul has noted, you can triple that with most government programs (case in point, Bush’s prescription drug plan). The U.S. simply doesn’t have the money for “national health care.”

Few have noted that the existing system, although preferable to Obamacare, is also doomed. Fewer indeed have noted that the health care system is already largely socialized; more than half of health care spending is Medicare, Medicaid, etc. And even fewer than that have noted that Medicare and Medicaid account for the majority of the unfunded entitlements (i.e. the difference between benefits promised and what will be collected in taxes and premiums). Medicare, not Social Security, is the largest Ponzi scheme in the history of the world.

In fact, according to these guys, Medicare’s future liabilities are $89 trillion. Let me repeat that: $89 trillion. To give you some perspective on how massive that sum is, total federal tax receipts for 2007 and 2008 averaged around $2.5 trillion a year (so far this year, receipts are down over 30%). Obviously there is no way the U.S. will ever pay for future Medicare liabilities. It couldn’t do it if it taxed everyone 100% of their income. The figures keep climbing, too. The government is adding another ~$2 trillion to the debt this year alone.

What the government should do is repudiate (or at least restructure) its current debt. It should use this framework to overhaul the health care system. The government should phase out all entitlements– all of them– because all of them are unconstitutional, unsustainable, criminal Ponzi schemes. For all of you who were expecting your Social Security and Medicare benefits, well, what can I say? The government already spent the money and then some. Don’t shoot the messenger. The treasury is empty except for a colossal mountain of IOUs. It is simply immoral for us to find more foreign government suckers to buy our debt (which we can’t ever pay back) just so we can have our “right” to costly health care. We don’t have a “right” to ride the backs of Chinese peasants who are forgoing their own consumption to fund ours.

So I’ve outlined what the government should do. What will it actually do? I’m guessing that it will do what it always does and take the path of least resistance (i.e. the one that’ll get politicians re-elected). The Republicans and Democrats will compromise on an awful non-solution or things will remain as-is. In either case, the government will keep trying to find suckers — the Chinese government, the Japanese government, mom’s mutual fund, etc. — to buy escalating piles of treasury debt. The promises will remain: “Don’t worry folks, your programs are safe.” Eventually there won’t be any more suckers to buy our debt, or perhaps escalating unemployment will trigger massive inflation as the government encourages the banks to start lending out their reserves (the reserves they gave the banks in exchange for worthless “toxic” assets). Don’t be surprised to see a full-fledged dollar crisis and massive inflation. Things will get ugly in a hurry. Eventually rationing will begin in earnest. People will slowly realize that all that Social Security and Medicare they were expecting just isn’t going to be there. Their money won’t buy anything. They’ll have full health care, but they won’t be able to get in to the doctor or get the treatment they want.

And the lies will continue until the bitter end.

20 Jul 2009

I caught about 5 minutes of a cable show about the 60s counterculture. In it, the actor Danny Glover informs us:

[Haight Ashbury of 1967] was about taking mescaline and [having sex]. It was about smoking weed and [having sex]. [I]t was almost like the revolution was now you can [have sex] every night whether it was having an orgy, whether it’s going to an encounter group. I remember going to the Grateful Dead’s ranch, where everyone would spend the whole weekend nude.

If that sounds like pure hedonism, it just shows how clueless you are. Glover continues:

But it’s hard to reduce it to that, because I don’t want to diminish any of my political commitment and what we were trying to do.

LOL! The documentary plays along with this pretentious conceit. These kids weren’t just there to get stoned and have sex. No sir, they had loftier goals. They were reevaluating societal mores and exploring their freedom.

Hopefully parents feed their kids heads with discernment to see through this wistful, juvenile nonsense. It’s amazing that anyone still sees the 1960s as meaningful, at least in a good way.

07 Jul 2009

We’ve all attended a nominal Christian funeral. The Michael Jackson memorial service gives us a glimpse of how it works for the non-Christian celebrity service. Some things are the same as the nominal Christian funeral: vague uplift, religious bits-and-pieces, Hallmark-card spirituality. But there are differences: Barbara Walters shows up. If the celebrity is black, Al Sharpton attends too. There are lots of people onstage in very expensive-looking clothing, wearing expensive-looking glasses and hairdos. These people walk in higher circles than the Starbucks crowd.

Instead of a focus on God’s goodness and His glorious promises, we see a focus on helping our fellow man. The vague uplift is all about feeding the starving and caring for others. It’s about creating good vibes. It’s about making ourselves feel better with no basis in anything other than our wishes. The vertical dimension — man before the living God — is absent.

I don’t wish to minimize the pain of a family in mourning, but it is sad to see people finding such pathetic and empty comforts. These are mud pies in a slum instead of a holiday at the sea. When we fall back on ourselves after something so momentous as a death, it’s even clearer that there’s nothing there.

05 Jul 2009

[T]he Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. -1 Cor 9:14-15a

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. -Romans 12:18

Liberals and progressives like to talk about harmony and peace and unity, and yet their philosophy is by its nature divisive because it involves spending other people’s money. It involves the use of involuntarily-provided funds. If I have a bad experience at a restaurant, I can avoid it. However, I have to continue supporting government-funded schools. I have to continue paying for other people’s abortions. I resent this greatly. If you talk to people, they resent their money being used against their will, too. They resent having to bail out GM. They resent bailing out banks. They resent lazy state workers in their plush offices. It wouldn’t bother them if they didn’t have to pay for it. Harmony is the fruit of emulating the Apostle Paul. Resentment is the fruit of liberalism.

If it were only that easy to just blame liberals, though. Alas, we have seen the enemy… Let me explain.

The state of Ohio has a $3.2B deficit. The majority of Ohio’s budget is for Medicaid and Education. Revenues are declining and the bills for all the big spending are coming due now that the bubble has popped. Half of the people I know have jobs that are either directly or indirectly funded by the government. My own family is included. One sister works in health care and says “Help Medicaid!” Another, a former teacher, is averse to education cuts. Another works at a library: “Don’t cut library funding!” I responded that the state is deeply in the red, and cuts around the edges won’t get it done. Deep cuts are needed. They listen, but they still don’t want their favorite program cut.

This is why I have resolved, as much as possible, to never again work for the government or in a heavily-regulated industry (i.e. one that will get bailed out when it gets in trouble). It is corrupting. Those who support limited government make exceptions for their pet area. It’s usually an area that benefits their own wallet or one where they have emotional attachment. Their defenses always stumble over the same rock: they want funds that many people, in some cases most people, would never voluntarily supply. This will always create disharmony and resentment. Everyone is ripping everyone else off, and no one is happy about it. The guy who wants his car company bailed out doesn’t agree that farmers should be subsidized. The farmer doesn’t agree that bankers should get a bailout. The banker doesn’t agree that college professors should live high on the hog at the expense of others. And so on.

They’re all correct. They just need to apply it to themselves. Until this is done by enough people, the budget problems will continue. It’s easy to blame “liberals” — they fully deserve it — but budgetary problems and resentments will never cease until “conservatives” and “libertarians” stop being part of the problem by desiring to protect their own state-funded filthy lucre. This is what really props up big government.

The late libertarian, Harry Browne, ran a memorable campaign for president in 1996. I didn’t agree with Mr. Browne on everything, but among his keen insights was a question: “Would you give up your favorite program if it meant you never had to pay income tax again?” It’s a question more people need to ask themselves.

Beware the corrupting influence of the state.