Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Does a Teetering Iran Vindicate the Iraq War? - A Middle Eastern Domino Theory

The recent protests in Iran have added some cracks to the otherwise stable foundation of the Iranian Islamist regime. While the government is still overwhelmingly strong, the democracy movement has the ability to drastically change the political dynamics in the Middle East. Although far from a sure bet, the new Iranian revolution may very well be the second step in a modern day, Middle Eastern ‘domino theory’- preceded by the War in Iraq.

One of the more vocal criticisms of regime change in Iraq was that it unbalanced the region. Iraq kept Iran in line. By removing the Iraqi threat Iran was unleashed. However, as Robert Kaplan points out in a recent Washington Post editorial, this may have been part of the plan. (See here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/23/AR2009062303114.html?wpisrc=newsletter.) In the short-run, a rise in Iranian power is less than desirous; however, it may inevitably let loose a path to real change in the Middle East.

Because of the removal of the Iraqi threat, Iran made a grab for greater regional and international power. The regime was better able to flex its muscle and meddle in regional and foreign affairs without having to be preoccupied with its Western border. This led Iran to directly challenge America and Europe.

Iran’s power move, while seemingly bad for America, had two main effects. First, it caused rebalancing amongst the Arab states. The ‘moderate’ Sunni Arab states of Egypt and Saudi Arabia were now faced with a more imminent danger from Iran. Today, these two states now face numerous new threats to their rule, both domestically and regionally, from an unencumbered Iran. With one foe out of the picture, Iran can increase its focus on these remaining two contenders for regional hegemony. With an increase in Iranian-sponsored terrorism and a direct threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb, it is only natural that the various Sunni Arab states would need to join forces against the upstart Iran. This is beneficial because it pushes these countries closer to the United States, and enables greater strength and flexibility in the region.

Second, Iran’s excessive aggression promoted a pro-democracy movement. The Iranian revolution was born of disgust with the ruling clerics. Amongst the chief complaints, was Ahmadinejad’s bellicose language and antagonism of the West. While certainly not the only cause for revolution, the Iranian leadership’s aggression was a spark that helped incite the powder keg. The moderate reformers were unwilling to see an extremist such as Ahmadinejad lead their country into direct conflict with the U.S. It is unlikely that Ahmadinejad would have been as aggressive, and therefore as repulsive to his people, had Saddam Hussein still been in power.

One possible, fortunate outcome would be a spread of pro-democracy movements throughout the Middle East. As the Arab Street watches the tumult in Iran, it is natural to question the leadership of the remaining Arab despots. While no large movements have started yet, there is considerable talk in the Middle East about the need for reform. Kindred spirits in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria are realizing that they can fight for greater rights and freedoms and throw off the yokes of their respective regimes. Lebanon, for instance, has already rejected the Islamist movement of Hezbollah and turned towards the West.

To what extent the Iranian revolution spreads throughout the Middle East is still very much up in the air. The extent of the Iranian reformists’ success is, of course, a huge factor. The repressive measures of the Arab regimes will also play a role. Likewise, reform could come in many shapes- from wholesale regime change to more gradual, internal policy changes. However, this is a profound opportunity for real change in the region- change that has the chance of drastically altering global politics.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Environmentalism is a Luxury

In a time when global warming ceaselessly graces the front pages of the few remaining newspapers and is continuously hawked by the talking heads on twenty-four hour news networks, we are experiencing one of the coldest summers to date. (See Bloomberg News http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=as8EdCaoN0dQ). While the debate over the existence of global warming is largely and correctly closed, there are still many areas of debate that are still open and undecided. For instance, the extent of man's role in causing global warming, and hence his ability to mitigate it, is still open to discussion.

While such issues are being discussed at the margin, there is at least one issue that has been all together ignored. Most Americans, particularly the limousine-left of Hollywood, fail to see that environmentalism is a luxury. This missing concept is the source of much of the misunderstandings and failures to communicate with Third World countries. It also lies at the crux of disagreement between business and environmentalists.

Many environmentalists would dismiss such an argument on its face. The radical environmentalists argue that curbing global warming is a need. If we fail, the argument goes, so will our planet. Whether this is true or not and whether or not man actually has the capacity to make change is irrelevant and misses the key point. First of all, even by the most radical environmentalist standards there is little chance that those who are alive now will experience any catastrophic effects from global warming. Even in worst case scenario, it is our children or grandchildren that will be directly affected by our actions. While most people care about providing for our children, it is difficult if not impossible to claim that such forward planning is a need.

Secondly, most environmentally friendly actions cost money. Only recently have a significant number of such behaviors (such as purchasing CFLs) been proven to be the more cost effective option. This can, in part, explain the recent take-off of the pro-environment movement. Unless a behavior is the more cost effective option, individuals will need some ulterior incentive to spend their money.

This is often the case in modern America. Even when environmentally friendly actions are less cost effective, many Americans are willing to pay a premium for the products. A few extra cents for organic food or organic dry cleaning is worth it to those who can afford it. In other words, environmental consumers are gaining an indirect value from the organic or environmentally friendly product. At a minimum this value is simply ‘a good feeling’. If these products do not actually help the environment, the only value obtained is the cognitive notion that one is ‘helping the environment’. Alternatively, if these products do help the environment, then the extra money spent buys that same good feeling and helps avoid some environmental damage.

However, most people in the world cannot afford this extra premium. For them, the value of that good feeling or even the value of saving the environment is much lower than the extra cost. A rich New Yorker may be willing to pay double for his eggs if they are organic. The poor subsistence farmer who can barely scrape together a solid meal has no interest in ‘organic’ eggs. This is precisely why environmentalism is a luxury. More well-off individuals, and countries, can afford to pay more. They are able to pay for the benefits that they reap from being environmentalists. Whether these benefits are real or simply cognitive is irrelevant.

The failure to understand environmentalism through this lens drastically hampers political understanding. It explains why industrializing countries, such as China, are unwilling to change emissions standard; and subsequently why many Americans do not want to become uncompetitive by leading the way. It also explains why the Hollywood elite can justify buying hybrid Hummers and private jets (or explains Al Gore’s copious consumption of electricity in Tennessee). In order to accurately develop environmental policy, our leaders need to incorporate this understanding into their decision making process.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Little Obama That Could

Finally, Obama has realized the errors in his ways and has come out with criticism of Iran. (See the White House website for the transcript: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/The-Presidents-Opening-Remarks-on-Iran-with-Persian-Translation/). The majority of what he said was strong and appropriate.

He began with a strong criticism of the harsh, repressive actions the Iranian government has been taking to quell the growing revolution. He stated, “The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.” This, of course, was the easy part. Any sane person should easily be appalled by the tyranny of the Iranian regime. However, given his track record thus far, Obama should be commended for speaking out.

Obama also correctly emphasized that Ahmadinejad’s attempted ploys at blaming the West for the reformist uprisings are subterfuge and an attempt to direct the Iranian energy to a supposed foreign foe. As mentioned in a prior post (See here: http://anewrepublican.blogspot.com/2009/06/iran-and-ahmadinejad-are-stumbling.html), this is a prime strategy that the Iranian despot could use to diminish reformist momentum. If successful, such a strategy would portray the revolution not as an internal movement, but as a foreign dictated coup attempt. Obama was right-on in stressing that this was not the case.

Obama also spoke to the Iranian people’s right to have their votes counted and voices heard. He criticized Iran’s oppression and correctly pointed out that repressive actions will stand on the wrong side of history. Unfortunately, Obama did not go far enough in criticizing the sham of an election. While he voiced opposition to Iran’s method of dealing with revolution and voiced support for the general notions of freedom and democracy, he was silent on the real-world issues that started the revolution.

Furthermore, Obama offered no concrete discussion on what can and should be done. While apparently somewhat folding under Republican pressure (and common sense), Obama still seems to be covering his bases by leaving open a path to cordial relations with the Iranian leadership. As expressed earlier, Obama should have made concrete statements regarding the wrongness of the electoral fraud and pushed for actions that would right these wrongs.

While he did not go far enough, at least he is headed in the right direction. Most likely this is because he realizing the error in his ways. Unfortunately, it has thus far been too little, too late. But with Obama baby-steps seem to be the way to go. It is not too late to salvage his Carter-esque foreign policy. Hopefully, he will wise up quickly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran and Ahmadinejad Are Stumbling. Obama, Time to Step Up!

As the protests continue in Iran, President Obama is unsurprisingly mum. With domestic turmoil unlike any seen since 1979, the Iranian reformists are showing their displeasure with the iron-fisted theocracy and its stooge Ahmadinejad. The momentous rebellion (soon to be revolution?) is perfectly poised to bring about real change in one of the biggest threats to American security.

As Robert Kagan eloquently points out in the Washington Post (See here http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/16/AR2009061601753.html?wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter&wpisrc=newsletter) , Obama is acting in a pure realist fashion. His stated goal is to dialogue with Iran. Any behavior that annoys or upsets the current leaders of Iran is supposedly detrimental to Obama’s aims. So he chooses to remain relatively quiet about the gross abuses. Obama sides with the enemy because he wants to leave avenues open to dialogue when the protests flare out. This of course assumes that whatever happens in the short-run, the Iranian leadership will remain in power in the long-run.

He buttresses this by claiming to take the high ground. America does not want to meddle in Iranian affairs is his message. He states, “the easiest way for reactionary forces inside Iran to crush reformers is to say it’s the U.S. that is encouraging those reformers…. What I’ve said is, look, it’s up to the Iranian people to make a decision….We are not meddling.” This argument essentially assumes that reformist Iranians will be thwarted if they perceive the Americans as controlling and dictating the movement.

This, to some degree, may be true. However, the argument misses an important subtlety. The US is often criticized when it ‘helps’, but it is also criticized when it fails to help. The fact of the matter is, it is not about whether the US helps or not, but how it helps. There is a whole spectrum of actions the US government can take to show support and give assistance without leading the charge. A simple show of solidarity by outwardly condemning the Iranian election abuses would go far to strengthen the moral of the Iranian reformists. Any freedom loving individual would find much strength in hearing his fight recognized and legitimated. Beyond that, the US can offer political pressure on Iran and assistance in enabling the Iranian protestors to get their voices heard above the government censorship.

Any action in favor of the protestors can and will be used by Ahmadinejad to drum up anti-Americanism. The strategy is undeniably successful with parts of the Arab and Persian worlds. An America portrayed as colonial and imperialist, meddling in Iranian affairs can raise deep-seeded emotions. However, as he has shown, Ahmadinejad does not need America to do anything to use this tactic. The Iranian despot is already blaming the US for instigating the protest (See MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31380861/ns/world_news-mideastn_africa). If the bankruptcy of Obama’s Iranian policy wasn’t already clear, this puts the final nail in the coffin. Why bother trying to avoid meddling, if you are accused of it anyway?

The fact of the matter is, that the US has a huge potential to do a lot of good, and Obama is squandering it. John McCain and many others recognize this and are calling for more action. Obama seems so blindly obsessed with being the anti-Bush and pursuing his ‘talking’ policy that he is failing to see what is right before his nose. The Iranian regime is teetering; freedom needs a gentle push from America.

Monday, June 15, 2009

After GM the UAW Should Manage Universal Healthcare

In the 1950s the United Auto Workers (UAW) successfully pushed America’s auto companies into granting the unionized workers free healthcare for life. Sixty years later, in the wake of the collapse of two of the big three automakers, the Obama administration is pushing for near-universal healthcare for all Americans. Hopefully, the lessons of the past will be learned before we find the United States in the same position that the auto companies are in today.

The fact of the matter is that the excessive costs heaped on the auto companies by the UAW’s demands, overburdened the companies and ultimately brought about their downfall. GM and Chrysler were unable to remain competitive due to the expensive cost structure. According to the Economist approximately $1400 of every GM car goes to healthcare costs– far more than its competitors.

The union demands were shortsighted at best. Universal autoworker healthcare seems appealing on the surface. Seemingly, this is why the unions pushed for it in the 1950s. However, by forcing a system that reaped short term benefits, the UAW ultimately hurt itself, the auto companies, and consumers in the end. By greedily taking more than their fair share of the pie, the union bosses put an onerous burden on the autoworkers and auto companies of the future.

The healthcare debate today is running a parallel course. It is easy to think that universal healthcare is a great idea. Helping people stay healthy is noble and caring- two characteristics that are generally applauded in America. However, like the unions of yesterday the Democrats of today do not comprehend the huge impacts such a program will have on the country.

As has been discussed elsewhere, (See a prior post: http://anewrepublican.blogspot.com/2009/06/give-me-healthcare-or-give-me-death.html) a government run, universal healthcare program is inefficient and detrimental to the aim of providing good healthcare. Like GM’s shareholders, America’s taxpayers will unduly bear the burden of an excessive and expensive healthcare program. Like GM, American healthcare will slowly begin a drastic decline in quality. Unlike GM, however there will be no one to bail out the colossal failure to come.

The bottom line is that nothing comes free. Providing ‘free’ universal healthcare is a complete misnomer. Ultimately, it is the taxpayer who will foot the bill (especially in a paygo system). Don’t be fooled by the claims of kindness and caring that Obama and his cronies try to instill in their healthcare plan. It is anything but. Universal, government run healthcare may help a couple of people in the short run, but it’ll hurt America– the taxpayers, the healthcare consumers, and the healthcare industry– in the long run.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Can Ahmedinejad’s Win Help the US Make Real Changes in Iran?

The outcome (so far) of the Iranian election is unsurprising to say the least. Ahmedinejad’s supposed landslide victory was too easily predictable in the authoritarian and cleric-controlled nation. The fact of the matter is that the sham of an election is only another indication of the backwardness and intense hard-line nature of the ruling Islamist elite.

Mousavi, a reformist only by Islamist Iranian standards, was doomed from the beginning. The ruling clerics who control the media and military forces clearly had no desire for open, free elections that could potentially divert the nation from their laid out path. The deck was heavily stacked in favor of the incumbent; even if, by all Western media’s indications, there was a dramatic increase in reformist minded voters, particularly students.

The state used every means to quash the challengers. The ‘failure’ of the text messaging services so relied upon by young reformist voters and the prevention of Mousavi supporters from entering polling stations are objectionable, yet unexpected, abuses of the electoral process. Even with these steps, it still appears that the electoral officials had to release bogus results to maintain Ahmedinejad’s dictatorship. It is foolhardy to even refer to Iran as a proto- or semi- democracy.

The US has to use the current unrest in Iran to its advantage. There is much upset with the fraud of an election. Students are protesting and rioting. Now is the time for the world to take steps to make real positive change in Iran. Since the US has been bold enough to thus far reject the results (See MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31342541/ns/world_news-mideastn_africa) it must capitalize on the situation. By allying ourselves with the anti-clerical and reformist movements in Iran, the US can gain a foothold to squeeze the clerical elite. While a toppling of the Islamist movement may not be feasible at the moment, the popular dissent may be useful in wringing greater concessions from the true leaders of Iran. America can lend support to the oppressed Iranian population and take steps to reduce the threats posed by the rogue nation. It is pertinent that we use this opportunity before Ahmedinejad is able to retrench himself and increase his power.

Winning hearts and mind is all well and good, but it needs to be supported with action. For every grandiose speech given, the United States has to make moves on the ground. We can’t simply just speak eloquently and hope everyone becomes friends. While America’s image may now be better in the eyes of the average Muslim than it was two years ago, this election has proven that this matters little. The people in these countries have little say over their rulers and their lives. America now must prove that it isn’t just a nice voice and a beach body, but a determined country that will act.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Obama Speaks to Islam - Part III

The third major flaw in Obama’s Cairo remarks (See the White House website http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-at-Cairo-University-6-04-09/) was in regards to his nuclear policy. He said,

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons….

There are a number of issues with this stated policy. First of all, there is absolutely no truth in the statement: “No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. As unfortunate as it may be for some of the less powerful countries, the global arena is not a democracy. Larger, more powerful countries, such as the U.S. not only have the right, but the duty to set rules and regulations of the world community. The United States, as leader of the world, has the responsibility to determine who can and cannot possess nuclear weapons. On its face, this is necessary for the United States to maintain the status quo of the international system. It behooves us to disallow enemies and others that may threaten the stability of the system from possessing weapons. This would be true for any hegemonic leader. However, in addition, the United States as a beneficent leader has a responsibility to protect the global community and maintain safety and security. This includes keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of dangerous leaders and nations.

The second issue regards Obama’s commitment to have a nuclear free world. This policy is both dangerous and foolish. Nuclear weaponry provides deterrence and disincentives for conventional war. One of the main reasons we have had relative peace since World War II is because of the nuclear threat. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) prevented the Cold War from getting hot. While there are certainly risks and fears with nuclear armed countries, the benefits drastically outweigh the costs. [This of course necessarily goes hand-in-hand with preventing rogue states like Iran from possessing nuclear weapons. Rogue states are inherently more unpredictable and also liable to sell weaponry, thereby increasing the threat of non-state (or non-sane) actors who are unable to be deterred]. The presence of nuclear weapons has forced the world leaders to build institutions and channels that encourage dialogue between adversaries. In economic terms, it increases the costs of war to such a level that any benefits (spoils of war such as territory or political gains) are no longer significant enough to merit a battle.

Obama’s nuclear policy reeks of the simplicity that is present in so many of his policies. Since the detonation of a nuclear weapon is, of course, bad, it is very easy to simply state that nuclear weapons are bad and therefore unnecessary. This, however, is a partial analysis of the situation. It may seem appealing to those who do not like to fully explore the positives and negatives of a situation, but it leads to poor policy.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Obama Speaks to Islam - Part II

The second major issue with Obama’s speech (See the White House http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-at-Cairo-University-6-04-09/) was his over-the-top criticism of Israel. As he did with his discussion of the West’s relationship with Islam (See yesterday’s entry http://anewrepublican.blogspot.com/2009/06/obama-speaks-to-islam-part-i.html), he again pretended to portray the situation as one of two equally culpable sides. Obama used the same format in this discussion. First, he outlined historical grievances, namely the Holocaust, experienced by the Jews. Thankfully, his discussion here was correct and appropriate and took direct aim at Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial.

Obama then proceeded to give the Palestinian side of the coin. He spoke of all the suffering the Palestinians experienced at the hands of the Israelis. He said,

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations-- large and small -- that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
This is the hub of a huge disconnect. The display of ‘two-sides of suffering’ compares supposed Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israelis with Jewish/Israeli suffering at the hands of Germans. Only at one point does he mention the constant attacks Israel suffers at the hands of the Palestinians.

While understanding the historical context of Israel and the Holocaust is essential to comprehending the Jewish and Israeli psyche, it is not appropriate to pass it off as the sole story of Jewish/Israeli suffering. This is the story that the anti-Israeli Arabs want the world to believe; a story that the Iranian despot Ahmadinejad all too often tries to tell. This ‘poor me’ story roughly goes along the lines of “Well, the Germans hurt the Jews, so now the Jews hurt the Palestinians. The Palestinians have done nothing wrong!” By structuring his speech as he did, Obama willingly, or unwittingly, lent credence to this false argument. This way of thinking completely misinterprets the Israeli position. The Holocaust is a background story that may help to explain Israeli fear. However, today’s problems with the Palestinians stem from a long history of Arab desire to destroy Israel along with current antagonism and continued attacks. Regrettably, Obama fails to see this as he ignored Israeli suffering at the hands of the Palestinians and reduced the Israeli position to one of historical fear.

In his desire to be the ultimate moral relativist, Obama failed to accurately portray the Israeli side of the story. Perhaps he was just pandering to his Muslim audience. More frighteningly, he is backtracking on years of American support for one of our most staunch allies- and the only free democracy in the Middle East. Whichever it is, it is unfortunately feeding unnecessary fuel to the incessant fire of hatred directed at Israel.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama Speaks to Islam - Part I

Earlier today, President Obama spoke to the Muslim world in Cairo, Egypt. (See the White House for full transcript http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-at-Cairo-University-6-04-09/). In many ways he should be commended for his speech. He appeared to achieve his primary goals of assuaging mainstream Muslim anger towards the US and opening a ‘new’ dialogue between the West and Islamic world. He spoke tactfully to address mutual issues and brighten the Islamic world’s view of America. Furthermore, his discussion on democracies made some very strong points. To be intellectually honest, his successes must be praised.

However, there were a number of instances where his previous foreign policy gaffes and his harmful and misguided views of international relations seeped through. There were at least three major areas where his language was most unfortunate. First, Obama continued his regrettable apologetic tone and America criticism. Second, he was overly critical of Israel. Finally, he reemphasized a poor nuclear policy. These three issues will be discussed in the following three blog entries.

As he has done in the past, Obama overplayed America’s supposed mistakes and wrongs. While he was certainly not as intense as in past speeches, his words were embarrassing and degrading towards America. Throughout his speech, Obama claimed that he wanted to paint a picture of America and Islam on equal footing, as two brothers that had a shared and sometimes painfully history, but ultimately needed and wanted to work together. This is a fair and just goal and one that is appropriate if properly executed. However, Obama frequently appeared to put greater emphasis on the West’s alleged mistakes and misdeeds than Islam’s. For instance he began to address the historical relationship between Islam and the West by expounding on historical misdeeds completed by the West.
We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world -- tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.
He then seemingly attempted to show the Muslim harms committed against the West. He said,
“Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims.” It is important to note that this is explained only as violent minority. Obama’s attempt at painting a picture of two equally culpable parties fails. In his eyes, the West, as a whole, has harmed Islam; while only a few members of Islam have harmed the West. This unfortunately continues the slamming of America in order to appease the world community.

He continued to disparage America in his discussion of Iraq. As compared to his discussion of Afghanistan, Obama portrayed Iraq as an unfortunate disaster that should never have happened. This streak of self-criticism continued with his discussion of post-9/11 policies. He stated,
The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.
For some reason, Obama thinks it is prudent to consistently point out polices that he, alongside his new anti-American, and Islamic friends dislike. He seems more interested in being popular and liked, than doing the right thing. Even if he is right (which he isn’t) regarding Iraq or Guantanamo, continually harping on them does no good. He has recognized this to some degree by thankfully deciding not to release the latest rounds of photos. However he continues unhelpful and unnecessary discussion and disparagement of the US.

All of this leads to a world view of America as weak and morally reprehensible. If Obama truly thinks that there are mutual misdeeds, then he should equally outline them both (or just avoid saying anything). However, by stating the message that both parties are to blame and then only displaying one side’s supposed wrongs sends a drastically different message. It reeks of regret and weakness, and fails to truly talk openly as supposedly desires. The job of the President is to protect America, not to criticize and undermine our world position. Unfortunately Obama can’t seem to help himself.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Give Me Healthcare, Or Give Me Death?

The state of US healthcare system is atrocious. It is in need of desperate reform. Unfortunately, the Republican Party lacks any coherent proposals to fix the broken system. This leaves the American people with a choice between the current unwieldy system or the big government, nationalized, nearly Socialist plan of the Left.

For years, the Democrats have been proposing state control of the healthcare system. They want to offer universal healthcare to every American on the taxpayers’ dime. While seemingly noble in aim, this is absolutely foolish. Not only will a government system crowd out the private industry, but it will be vastly inferior. As most know, the government does a substandard job at providing services, particularly services that can be supplied by the private sector.

Unfortunately, this is where the discussion stops for most Republicans. The criticisms of the Democrats’ model of universal healthcare are solid and well thought out. However, the Republican’s offer little in terms of a solution to the obvious problems in the healthcare industry.

A relatively clear-cut answer is to fall back on the free-market principles that form the base of American conservatism. While unquestioning defense of the healthcare industry often comes hand-in-hand with criticism of universal healthcare, this need not be the case. One of the bases of free market capitalism is the notion of competition. However, the current structure of the health insurance industry limits competition.

Contrary to other, non-health, insurance industries, the health insurance system is an employer-based system. This severely reduces the number of buyers of health insurance. A health insurance company only needs to pitch its product to a few large companies in order to capture a substantial portion of the market. This forces the insurance company to structure products that will appeal to HR representatives, not the insurance consumer. This limits the diversity of the products offered and gives the insurance companies greater market control. Health insurance consumers can veto bad insurance plans only by leaving their jobs. Certainly, this puts some limits on the downward movement of insurance quality- as competition remains at the firm level. However, it drastically reduces the specialization that would occur if each consumer were responsible for his or her own insurance.

The easy solution is to end the employer based health insurance system. Individuals would be responsible for finding their own health insurance. Companies, since they no longer have to pay for insurance, would increase salaries accordingly. This would leave individuals with the same amount of money as they previously had to purchase health care on the free market. Naturally, many new, specialized products would develop. This would allow individuals to spend more or less based on the type of care and services they want. Insurance companies would have to compete rigorously with each other to capture new, separate segments of the market. All this would lead to greater competition, lower prices, and increased services. Insurance companies that fail to deliver would find a swift exit from the market, thereby creating a marketplace of higher quality companies.

Critics of such a proposal argue that health insurance is far too complicated for the average American to purchase on their own. This, however, unfairly diminishes Joe Six-Pack’s ability to obtain the appropriate information that he would need. The average American is capable of doing their own taxes and finding homeowner’s or car insurance. For those that cannot, or do not want to be bothered, there are a myriad of brokerage services available. It is quite likely that insurance brokers would expand in scope as they aided individuals in searching for the right health insurance plan.

The answer to the health insurance issue is not increased consolidation and government regulation, but a move towards greater free market competition. Government controlled, universal healthcare will only deepen the systemic problems that already exist. A greater number of differentiated healthcare providers will facilitate cheaper, more universal healthcare, without sacrificing the quality of healthcare in America.