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This 4th of July, let’s make a Grand American Bargain on health care

Perhaps the federal government shouldn’t be in the health care business.  But it is, as the direct provider of military and VA health care.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be in the health insurance business.  But it is, with Medicare and Medicaid.

Obamacare made health insurance a national entitlement, and there’s no way to backtrack once an entitlement has been given. We can’t go back to pre-Obama free health insurance markets because those markets no longer exist.  Insurance companies and many healthcare providers have been turned into government-controlled bureaucracies.  There is no competition except to lobby the government.

No matter what Republicans in Congress try to do to fix the mess that Obamacare has created, they’ll be blamed.  Not just by Democrats, but the 77% of people who (according to YouGov.com) believe that pre-existing conditions should be covered for everyone.  77%!  That’s about as close as a democracy can come to a national consensus.

So where do we go from here?  Perhaps there’s a Grand Bargain just waiting to be made:  Republicans accept the reality that health insurance is now a government entitlement.  Instead of trying to fix Obamacare, they extend Medicare to everybody.

In exchange, the Democrats agree to limit the federal government to a few well-defined roles in addition to health insurance: national defense, immigration, foreign policy, protection of individual liberties, and the assurance of equal protection under the law.

The feds could concentrate on doing a few things well — a refreshing change because the federal government currently does almost everything poorly.

Everything else would be left to state and local governments — or to the people themselves — just as our founders intended.  Even with the added cost of Medicare for all, this would allow us to finally reform federal taxes, fix deficit spending and pay off the national debt.

No longer would state and local governments have to beg for federal funds for state and local projects. No longer would they be burdened by federal regulations.  No longer would citizens be powerless in the face of the massive federal bureaucracy and taxation; they would have more control because they are so much closer to their state and local governments.

So, how about it, Congress?

This 4th of July weekend, negotiate the Grand American Bargain that will:

  1. Give every citizen access to health insurance
  2. Focus the federal government on the few responsibilities that were laid out by our Constitution, plus health insurance
  3. Return all other responsibilities to the people and their state and local governments

Will Trump surprise us with comprehensive immigration reform?

Is it possible that Donald Trump will surprise his doubters by becoming a transformational president with immigration reform?immigration2

His speech to Congress last week gives hope. This wasn’t candidateTrump, who won by being negative about almost everything.  It was President Trump, projecting the sense that he may actually be ready to work in positive ways to move the nation forward.

Just as the anti-Communist Richard Nixon surprised the world with his unexpected and historic recognition of China in 1972, the anti-immigration Donald Trump might be uniquely positioned now to achieve much-needed immigration reform.

Congress has been hopelessly deadlocked about immigration reform for decades — primarily because both Democrats and Republicans have shamelessly used the issue for “gotcha” politics — to villainize the other party, divide the country and scare supporters into donating money.

Congress is the problem.  Strip away the partisanship and inject a spirit of compromise, and there are common sense solutions that most Americans could embrace.

If the president leads the way, here are solutions that most reasonable people could support — and therefore force Congress to follow:

Sensible border security. For national security, terrorist prevention, and economic reasons, we must do a better job securing our borders. President Trump may now be realizing that candidate Trump’s “beautiful wall” is impractical and unnecessary.  The job can be done more efficiently with strategic fencing, electronic surveillance, employment verification, better visa enforcement, and improved vetting.

Work permits but not citizenship for those already here. Long-time illegal immigrants who have otherwise been law-abiding and are gainfully employed and self-sufficient should be granted work permits but not citizenship. Work permits would be an acknowledgment that the federal government — with its misguided policies and “nod and wink” lack of enforcement — encouraged many immigrants to enter the country illegally and/or to overstay their visas.

Citizenship for public service.   For those who otherwise qualify, military service or similarly meaningful public service should provide a path to eventual citizenship.

Be choosy.  Because of its freedom and values, America will always have more people wanting in than the country can absorb.  We can—and should—be choosy about who gets in. Our immigration laws can be based on what’s good for America instead of “political correctness”, family connections and lotteries. The immigrants we accept for work permits should be those who have skills our nation needs, a mastery of the English language, and an appreciation of American values.

Best swamp-draining idea of the year: Move some federal agencies out of D.C.

One of the best ideas for 2017 is to move some federal agencies out of Washington and relocate them to other areas of the country.

The idea comes from Paul Kupiec of the American Enterprise Institute, and it makes sense on so many levels.

The FBI and Labor Department are seeking new multi-billion dollar headquarters in metro Washington.  Mr. Kupiec suggests that they instead be relocated to cities like Detroit, Cleveland or Milwaukee.  These could be the first two steps in a gradual decentralization of the entire federal bureaucracy. What a great idea!

Some of the advantages:

National security: In this age of terrorism, it’s a huge security risk for so many federal offices to be clustered together in the Washington metro area.  And with today’s technologies, there’s no reason the various federal agencies couldn’t be scattered around the country.

Payroll costs: Federal employees in the D.C. area receive a 24.78% premium over the base federal pay scale because they work in a high-cost region, according to the Office of Personnel Management. Move them to smaller cities with lower costs of living, and we ought to be able to save 25% in payroll costs alone.

Construction costs:  There are plenty of vacant buildings in other parts of the country that could house federal agencies.  This would save billions of taxpayer dollars.  These bureaucrats are supposed to be public servants (not our masters), so they shouldn’t be housed in swanky palaces anyway.  And if new construction were actually necessary, the land and building costs would be considerably lower away from metro Washington.

Combatting elitism.  Moving federal bureaucrats out of D.C. would connect them to the real people outside of the beltway.  Having less money and power concentrated in one place could help repair the huge distrust that citizens have for the Washington elite.

Better journalism.  The Washington press corps doesn’t do a good job of reporting with so many agencies housed competing for attention there.  Put a federal agency in some other city, and the local media would surely provide more intense coverage.

Scattering the feds among cities outside the beltway wouldn’t mean we couldn’t eliminate some departments whose very existence violates the constitution, as suggested here.

And Mr. Kupiec’s wonderful idea would fit nicely with my call for a “telecommuting Congress” in which members of Congress would work from their home districts rather than Washington, as described here.

It’s not just Clinton or Trump; We have FOUR choices

Election 2016a

So many Americans are horrified about having to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

So, why don’t they consider voting for one of the two other candidates — the Green Party’s Jill Stein or the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson?

An incredible number of people don’t even know there are four choices, thanks to the media’s sloppy habit of mentioning only the two major party candidates.

Many other voters would prefer one of the other two candidates, but fear they would be wasting their vote.  “It’s all about the Supreme Court appointments,” they say.  “I’ll have to vote for ‘the lesser evil’ to defeat ‘the greater evil’.”

Well, a vote for Johnson or Stein might indeed end up being a wasted vote.  But it’s far too early to know for sure. Let’s not resign ourselves to “the lesser of two evils” too soon!

If ever we needed more choices than the Democrat and Republican nominees, this is the year.  So many people don’t want to vote for either one, and the platforms and campaigns of both candidates are awful.

Why not support Johnson or Stein now so they can debate Clinton and Trump on national television?  If  one of them (or both) makes the presidential debates, it could be the start of something really significant — even historic.

After the debates, if the third and fourth candidates don’t appear to have a chance of winning as  Nov. 8 approaches, we could always hold our noses and vote for the “lesser evil” of Clinton or Trump.

Rigged election? Thanks, media!

The 2016 Presidential election is being rigged, and the media is to blame.

Almost every election story makes it sound like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the only two candidates.

Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are almost never mentioned.  Most Americans have no idea who they are, and will be surprised to find their names on the ballot.

Journalists might defend themselves by citing the low name recognition of Libertarian candidate Johnson and Green Party candidate Stein.  But what comes first — media coverage or name recognition?

This is an exceptional year, with both Democrats and Republicans having nominated candidates who are viewed unfavorably by a solid majority of Americans.  This year, more than ever, voters would welcome knowing that there are other choices.

But too many journalists are lazy and blindly following the lockstep lead of other journalists. Heck, it’s easy to write about Trump’s latest stupidity and Clinton’s latest distortions.

“If it bleeds, it leads” is the familiar indictment of the media — and the leading two candidates are gushing from their self-inflicted wounds.  This election should be about issues, but because of the flawed character of Clinton and Trump it has become a race to the bottom.  And the “gotcha” media seem to be enjoying the circus.

But most Americans don’t want to vote for either Clinton or Trump.  So shouldn’t journalists at least let voters know that there are other choices?

Journalists shouldn’t promote any particular candidate over the others, but when most Americans are rejecting the two major candidates, shouldn’t the media at least reveal that there will be four candidates on the ballot?

Even if 90% of a given story focuses on the latest misdeeds of Clinton and Trump, what would be wrong with just one small paragraph mentioning that Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are also running?

Unlike politicians, Michael Jordan wants to build trust between blacks & cops

Jordan, MichaelWith all the nonsense coming from the conventions of both major political parties about Black Lives Matter (and most other topics), it takes basketball great Michael Jordan to say something balanced and intelligent:

Jordan gives $2M to build trust between blacks, cops

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) –  Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he is giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around thecountry. “As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers,” Jordan said in a statement. “I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.”

Jordan’s father was killed in 1993 in a botched carjacking in North Carolina. Daniel Green and his friend Larry Demery were convicted of killing 56-year-old James Jordan along U.S. 74 and dumping his body in South Carolina. Both were sentenced to life in prison.

“I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late,” Jordan said in the statement. “I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers — who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all — are respected and supported.”

Jordan won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and became one of the most popular and respected basketball players in the world. After retiring, he became the majority owner of the Hornets in 2010.

“Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family,” Jordan said. “I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change.” Jordan said he chose the Institute for Community- Police Relations because its policy and oversight work is focused on building trust and promoting best practices in community policing. He gave to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s oldest civil rights law organization, to support its work in support of reforms aimed at building trust and respect between communities and law enforcement.

While Jordan said the contributions alone won’t be enough to solve the problem, he added: “I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference. We are privileged to live in the world’s greatest country — a country that has provided my family and me the greatest ofopportunities. “The problems we face didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be solved tomorrow, but if we all work together, we can foster greater understanding, positive change and create a more peaceful world for ourselves, our children, our families and our communities.”

Celebrate the 4th of July with a third voice at debates?

The 4th of July is about more than beer, barbecue and fireworks.

This year we celebrate the adoption of America’s Declaration of Independence, the birth — 240 years ago — of our nation. But most importantly, America in 1776 declared freedom not just for the nation, but for each of us as individual citizens.

Thomas Jefferson penned the immortal words:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Wow.  Here was a new nation that was willing to turn history on its ear.  Instead of making people beholden to the government, the founders made the government beholden to the people.  People would be free to pursue their own happiness. Government would be limited.  There would be no ruling class.

It was an idea so radical that freedom-loving people everywhere wanted to come to America.  And not just to come to America, but to become Americans.  They embraced freedom, worked hard, loved their country, and helped their neighbors.  Together — each in individual pursuit of happiness — they built the greatest nation in history.

But 240 years is a long time for any idea — even liberty — to maintain its passion.  Too many of us take for granted the freedoms that the founders fought so hard to give us.  It is easier to ask the government to provide our happiness than work for it ourselves.   Just as the founders feared, government keeps getting bigger and more intrusive.  Just as the founders feared, we have allowed a permanent ruling class of career politicians and bureaucrats to emerge.

It may too late for us to achieve a return to the values that made America great.  But there are signs in this election year that we the people are sick of ever-bigger government and sick of rags-to-riches politicians.

Many of us don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  In the name of public service, the Clintons have used politics to become enormously wealthy.  And Trump has used big government and politicians like the Clintons to feed his own wealth and ego.

There is a glimmer of hope in the form of the only third party that will likely be on the ballot in all 50 states.  The Libertarian Party stands for the things that made America great.  Personal liberty. Individual responsibility. Limited government.

But the Democrats and Republicans — with the cooperation of those who benefit from “politics as usual” — have rigged the system to ensure that third parties can’t win much support.

If the Libertarian ticket — former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico and former Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts — achieves at least 15% public support in the polls, they will be able to participate in this year’s presidential debates. If enough of us tell pollsters that we prefer the Libertarians, it could happen.

If Johnson and Weld participate in the debates, it would be up to them to win over voters. If it doesn’t appear that Johnson and Weld can be elected, we could still vote for either Clinton or Trump on election day.  But don’t we at least want the opportunity to consider a third alternative during the debates?

Here’s where you can learn more:  https://johnsonweld.com

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